Bruins defensemen need help

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Bruins defensemen need help

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

UNIONDALE, N.Y. A couple of years ago injuries to Andrew Ference and Matt Hunwick sapped the Boston Bruins of much of their snap and transition in the middle of a promisingpostseason run.

All of the post-playoff dissections of that particularteam pointed to those injuries as theparamount reasons why the Bs dropped out of the playoffs in the Stanley Cup semi-finals in seven games against the Carolina Hurricanes. The Bruins are similarly gifted offensively again this season, but are once more being stymied by a couple of key absencesalong their blueline due to injury.

The Bruins punctuated a four-game losing streak with a brutally dismal and spiritually discouraging loss to the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum on Friday night a defeat that comes close to taking the cake, custard and pudding of bad losses this season.

It was the kind of dispiritingdefeatthat can make a hockeyteam search their collective soul for reasons why it happened in the first place.

I dont think our team has played as well since weve come back from out West. We had a good trip out there, but it seems like were a little out of synch, said Claude Julien, who has watched his team jump from a seven-game winning streak to a four-game losing stretch. Were not doing the little things well that we were doing before, and we need to find that part of our game again moving forward.

"There were some tough breaks in the game, but I think the team that really deserved the breaks won the game tonight.

For the second straight contestthe Bruins allowed their opponent more than 40 shots on net, and for the second straight game the normally defensively-sound Black and Gold members blew a two-goal lead. But this wasnt the Montreal Canadiens hell bent on revenge or overtime battles withworthyteams like the Penguins and Sabres battling for their postseason lives.'This was something to be ashamed of this late in the season.

It was a lowly Islanders team thats been playing much better hockey lately to be sure, but also a squadthats taken on ateam philosophy only Reg Dunlop or Oggie Oglethorpe would be proud of.Things fell apart in the third period against the Islanders in a span that saw Bostonlet in four unanswered goals, and featured a pair of pretty familiar-looking attributes in defeat:a defense folding with fatigue in the final 20 minutes and a defensemen unitexperiencing monumental difficulty breaking the puck out of their zone with consistency.

Its no coincidence thatfast-moving defenseman likeAndrew Ference and Steve Kampfer are out with injuries, and the Bruins appearvery much like the playoff team of two years ago that suddenly lost their mojo. With Ference and Kampfer on the shelf with injuries although it appears that Ference will rejoin the Bruins at practice on Sunday Matt Bartkowski has been thrust into the Bs lineup.

Its pretty clear that Bartkowski isnt ready for NHL prime time after several looks through this year, and that was hammered home when he didnt play a single shift after 4:42 of shaky play in the first period.That meant Zdeno Chara had to log 27 plus minutes of ice time, Tomas Kaberle was out for 24 minutes of ice time and both Johnny Boychuk and Dennis Seidenberg were over 20 minutes for a blueline corps thats lost some of their offensive snap, puck-moving crackle and defensive pop.

A little bit of stability and a little bit of familiarity with guys playing together on the back end would certainly help, said Julien. The defensemen hasnt been at the top of its game as a whole, and maybe once we get some guys back thatll help stabilize things a little bit.

Weve been off our game. Weve been out of synch moving the puck around and making things happen. Plays just arent happening as easily as they were in the past.

There were some positives, of course. Chara snapped an 0-for-21 drought on the power play with a one-time hammer from the top of the right faceoff circle, Kaberle notched his second assist in 10 games with the Bs on Charas power play strike, and Adam McQuaid blocked a Herculean seven shots.

But poor Seidenberg was once again in the wrong place at the wrong time, and watched helplessly as a Jack Hillen blast headed wide of the net, of course nailed the Bs defenseman in the hip and bounced past a flailing Tim Thomas for the game-winning goal in the third period.Seidenberg has been solid for the Bruins, and hasn't deserved the kind of buzzard's luck that's followed him around with bounces this season.

I was standing in front ofTimmy and it hit me in the midsection. I dont know what else to do, said an exasperated Seidenberg. I was trying not to let any guys get in front of Timmy or box him out. I dont think that shot was even going to be on net, and it hits me and goes past Timmy. Its very frustrating.

Seidenberg was in the right place doing the right thing, but it seems that the Bruins defensemen corps cant catch the break they need. Perhaps it will come in the form of good health -- and D-man reserves like Kampfer and Ference moving closer to a team looking for all hands on deck amid a four-game losing streak.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Penguins edge Sharks 3-2 in Game 1 of Stanley Cup Final

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Penguins edge Sharks 3-2 in Game 1 of Stanley Cup Final

PITTSBURGH - Nick Bonino's main job for the Pittsburgh Penguins is to get to the front of the net and create chaos. The well-bearded forward executed perfectly in his debut in the Stanley Cup Final.

Bonino took a pretty feed from the corner by Kris Letang and beat Martin Jones from in close with 2:33 remaining to lift the Penguins to a 3-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks in Game 1 on Monday night.

Rookies Bryan Rust and Conor Sheary staked Pittsburgh to an early two-goal lead before the Sharks tied it in the second period on goals by Tomas Hertl and Patrick Marleau. The Penguins responded by upping the pressure in the final period and it paid off with Bonino's fourth goal of the playoffs after he darted to the San Jose net in time to knuckle Letang's pass by Jones for the winner.

Game 2 is Wednesday night in Pittsburgh.

Matt Murray finished with 24 saves for Pittsburgh, which began its bid for the fourth title in franchise history by peppering Jones constantly in the first and final periods. Jones made 38 stops but couldn't get his blocker on Bonino's wrist shot. The Penguins threw 41 shots at Jones, well over the 28 he faced on average during San Jose's playoff run.

The Sharks made it to the first Stanley Cup Final in franchise history by rebuilding themselves on the fly. Two years removed from a brutal collapse from a 3-0 series lead in the first round against Los Angeles, San Jose ended a 9,005 day wait to play in the NHL's championship round by relying on a tough, aggressive style that squeezes opponents with a relentless forecheck while limiting chances in front of Jones.

Yet veterans Marleau and Joe Thornton - the top two picks in the 1997 draft held in Pittsburgh who had waited nearly two decades to make it to the league's biggest stage - insisted the Sharks were hardly satisfied after dispatching St. Louis in a cathartic Western Conference finals.

Maybe, but the Sharks looked a step slow - maybe two steps slow - while searching for their footing against the Penguins, who rallied from a 3-2 deficit to edge the Tampa Bay Lightning in seven games to advance to their first Cup Final since 2009.

Rust, who surprisingly made the team out of training camp and became an unlikely playoff star by scoring both of Pittsburgh's goals in Game 7 against the Lightning, gave the Penguins the lead 12:46 into the first when he slammed home a rebound off a Justin Schultz shot for his sixth of the postseason, a franchise record for playoff goals by a rookie.

Less than a minute later Sheary, who didn't become a regular until the middle of January, made it 2-0 when Sidney Crosby whipped a blind backhand cross-ice pass to Sheary's stick. The rookie's wrist shot from the right circle zipped by Jones and the Penguins appeared to be in complete command by overwhelming the Sharks in a way few have in months.

San Jose and its group of Cup newcomers regained its composure in the intermission and responded with a big surge. Hertl jammed a shot from just outside the crease between Murray's legs on the power play 3:02 into the second to give the Sharks momentum. Late in the second, Marleau collected a rebound off a Brent Burns one-timer behind the Pittsburgh net and then beat Murray on a wraparound to the far post that caromed off Murray's extended right leg and into the net.

Monday, May 30: Sullivan reminisces about coaching Thornton

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Monday, May 30: Sullivan reminisces about coaching Thornton

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while honoring and remembering those that paid the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freed on this Memorial Day.

*Here’s a hockey column from Mark Madden, which kind of proves his dopiness when it comes to pucks. He writes about Pittsburgh’s excellent shutdown pair of Ian Cole and Justin Schultz, who have averaged a whopping 15 and 13 minutes of ice time respectively in these playoffs. Yeah, that’s not a shutdown pair. That’s called a bottom pairing.

*PHT writer Joey Alfieri with another chapter in hockey’s version of the Never-ending Story: John Scott wants to make his own World Cup team with Phil Kessel.

*Mike Sullivan reminisces about coaching Joe Thornton, and playing for the San Jose Sharks, as his Penguins ready to take on San Jose in the Stanley Cup Final.

*In the interest of self-promotion, here’s me wondering what the heck the Bruins are doing on Sports Sunday last night on CSN.

*Apparently Alex Semin is going to stay in the KHL for this coming season. I don’t think anybody is too heartbroken around the NHL about this given the way things ended for him.

*Buffalo’s Mike Harrington says that Sidney Crosby returns to the Stanley Cup Final with a new kind of hunger

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Mike Zeisberger goes 1-on-1 with Joe Thornton, who says that the cat likes his Hillbilly Jim playoff beard.

*For something completely different: I haven’t yet read this Joe Posnanski piece on the play Hamilton and his daughter, but I’ll include it because everybody says that it’s great.