Bruins notes: Top line's an offensive no-show

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Bruins notes: Top line's an offensive no-show

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

TAMPA Milan Lucic and David Krejci did the big damage on Thursday night in Game Three with a nifty play in the opening minutes, but they couldnt follow it up strongly.

Instead they were the ones taking on damage Saturday afternoon in a forgettable performance as Bostons top forward group that looked as listless, disinterested and defeated as theyve appeared since the Montreal series.

Krejci was slammed hard by Marc-Andre Bergeron in Game Two, and that seemed to have long-lasting effects for the Czech Republic playmaker as he attempted to push his team to a 3-1 advantage in the series.

Instead Lucic, Krejci and Nathan Horton combined for two shots on net and a minus-5 on the night with the center taking it on the chin via the stat sheet rather than a literal hit on the ice. The line's best threat of the day came in the third period when Lucic had a good portion of open net to work with, but instead found Tampa goalieMike Smith's pads as the Bruins often did over the final 40 minutes of play.To say Bostons top there forwards were non-factors would be tremendously accurate in a game that could have so much more had any of them been able to get offensive work done either on the power play (0-for-2) or five-on-five.

The offensive no show from those three was one of the biggest head scratchers in a day full of them as the Bruins collapsed on a three goal first period lead, and limp back to Boston after losing a 5-3 decision in Game Four at the St. Pete Times Forum.

On top of that, David Krejci won only three out of his 12 face-offs in another lackluster game on the draw and showed little of the combination flairtenacity that usually emerges when hes at the top of his game.

Instead Krejci was largely invisible while finishing with a team-worst minus-3 and was one of the culprits among a team-wide breakdown over the final 40 minutes that looked all too familiar.

David had a tough night in the face-off circle, and I think that kind if identified the type of game he had tonight, said Claude Julien. That wasnt the type of game were used to seeing David play. I didnt feel our players a lot of our players did not play their best gamer tonight.

His line after two periods had no shots on net. But theres more than David on that line. I think it was a tough night for their line tonight. We know what impact they have for a hockey club when theyre on. Tonight was a tough night for that line.

So much for Tomas Kaberle turning the corner with the Bruins.

After showing something in a pair of wins against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the former Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman was right back in the Bs hamper with possibly the worst 11 minute performance in the playoffs to date.

Two amazing things stand out about Kaberles tough night in 11:35 of ice time during the 5-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning at the St. Pete Times Forum in Game Four: the Bs defenseman managed to finish at only a minus-1 and he could be in danger of becoming a healthy scratch in favor of Steve Kampfer if things continue along at their current rate.

Of course, there were plenty more bad plays to go around. Milan Lucic had a cringe-worthy turnover near the blue line that led to Simon Gagnes game-winner in the third period, and that capped off a totally absent game from Bostons top line of Lucic, David Krejci and Nathan Horton.

But it was Kaberle that was completely manhandled by Sean Bergenheim behind the Boston net for Tampas game-tying goal in the second period at the end of the 3:38 barrage that saw the Lightning tie the game.

I saw Bergenheim coming and I lost it between my legs. I have to be a bit sharper on that play. Its one of those games you have to learn from. We all have to pretty much forget about the second period, said Kaberle. We have to worry about playing a full 60 minutes and then we wont have any problems.

And it was Kaberle again in the third period that couldnt get on the same page with Tim Thomas when Ryan Malone and Simon Gagne rushed in for the game-winner while the Bs struggled to hang on for dear life.

Kaberle was suffering from the same malady that seemed to be infecting the rest of the team so acutely from the second period moving forward.

We had to continue playing the same way, said Julien. Somehow we started getting stretched out again. They started getting speed. They started getting momentum.

Kaberle certainly did nothing to stem the momentum, and the question becomes what to do with Kaberle and defenseman partner Adam McQuaid -- a tandem struggled to hold the fort in the final 40 minutes of Saturday afternoons collapse job in Tampa Bay.

The conventional wisdom is that the Bruins would never scratch Kaberle given that they surrendered two first round picks (Joe Colborne and an actual first round pick) to the Toronto Maple Leafs for the defenseman. But when it comes to winning and losing, the former Leafs D-man didnt do anything but hurt on Saturday.

The Bruins dropped their first game of the playoffs after scoring first, and now sit 7-1 in the postseason when scoring the first goal against their opponents.

Dennis Seidenberg blocked a game-high seven shots in 24:58 of ice time, but was also on the ice for a pair of Tampas goals including the Simon Gagne game-winner that came just moments after his final blocked shot of the game.

Patrice Bergeron potted a pair of goals to give him a team-high 14 points (4 goals, 10 assists) in the 12 playoff games hes appeared in, and his second goal was his first career short-handed goal in the playoffs.

The Bruins went 0-for-2 on the power play and are now 4-for-52 in the playoffs on the man advantage a 7.7 percent success rate. It is simply amazing that they stand two wins away from the Stanley Cup Finals given that horrendous statistic.

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

Young Bruins ‘acquitted themselves well’ in preseason debut

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Young Bruins ‘acquitted themselves well’ in preseason debut

BOSTON – It was an excellent night for the many varied Bruins prospects in the preseason opener against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The B’s eventually dropped the game in a 3-2 shootout loss at TD Garden, but not before some of their young players showed exactly what they can do.

“For sure it’s a lot of fun. Coming in here everybody’s a little nervous, but it was, once you’re out there, it’s just fun. It was good to see the young guys out there,” said former University of Denver standout Danton Heinen, who scored the tying strike in the third period on a redirect. “It was definitely adjusting. You don’t totally know what to expect and then once the game went on I kind of felt a little more comfortable. We started playing better as a team.”

Former first-round pick Jake DeBrusk set up the B’s first goal with Jimmy Hayes by executing a nifty give-and-go at the Columbus net, and young skaters Jakub Zboril and Austin Czarnik made the initial transition passes that led up to the goal. In the third period Danton Heinen redirected a Brandon Carlo point shot from the slot area, and scored in his first career game played at TD Garden in an impressive show of hand-eye coordination.

Carlo, Czarnik, DeBrusk, Zboril and Heinen all had strong performances on the score sheet and at both ends of the ice, and that’s exactly what the Bruins coaching staff wanted to see with NHL jobs potentially up for grabs in main camp.

“A lot of young players in the lineup, I won’t go through all of them, but I thought quite a few of them acquitted themselves well,” said Bruins assistant coach Bruce Cassidy. “They were given opportunities to do that. I think some of them certainly took advantage of it, and did a nice job.”

It was good that the young players stepped up and made a nice impression in the preseason debut because the veteran players will cut into their opportunities once the World Cup of Hockey crew gets sprinkled into the mix starting this week. 

Haggerty: Marchand signing is Bruins' biggest win in years

Haggerty: Marchand signing is Bruins' biggest win in years

BOSTON -- It’s no understatement to say that Brad Marchand's eight-year, $49 million contract extension is one of the Don Sweeney's and Cam Neely's biggest recent victories.

It’s also undoubtedly a big win for Marchand: He gets what he wants; i.e., staying with a Bruins team that drafted and developed him from a rookie fourth liner into an impactful 37-goal scorer over the last six seasons.

“Boston has become my second home. I absolutely love it there. I’m very excited about what’s ahead for our team,” said Marchand to reporters in Toronto, where he's still representing Team Canada in the World Cup of Hockey. “I really believe in our team and our group and what we’re working towards. It’s a place that I’m very excited about being for the next number of years and potentially my whole career.

“We’ll talk more about everything after the tournament, but for now I just want to thank everyone who’s involved in the negotiations, my agent, and their team. I’m just very happy that everything’s done now and we can move forward.”

Marchand, 28, clearly gave the B's a hometown discount. Had he gone to free agency, he probably could have gotten $1 million more per season than the $6.125 million average annual value of the deal he agreed to.

As for the Bruins, they were able to lock up one of their most important core players for the balance of his career.

Marchand scored a career-high 37 goals and 60 points last season and is continuing his ascendency toward elite player status by tearing up the World Cup of Hockey this month on a line with Sidney Crosby and Patrice Bergeron. The threat of him being wooed to Pittsburgh by Crosby, a fellow Nova Scotian, could have been very real had the Bruins dragged their feet in negotiations. But that wasn’t the tenor of the talks.

Let’s be honest: The way things have gone the last couple of years, it was very easy to envision the Bruins massively overpaying Marchand, given his expected value as a free agent. Or seeing Marchand and his agent, Wade Arnott, stringing them along before jumping to the highest bidder with the B’s left holding nothing, as was the case with Loui Eriksson.

Instead, Sweeney and Neely closed the deal . . . and at a team-reasonable rate. For that they deserve the kind of credit they haven’t enjoyed much of over the last couple of years as they've essentially dismantled an aging former Cup team while still trying to stay playoff-caliber.

“You’re going to have [free-agent defections] at every team," said Sweeney. "There will be [exiting] players. That’s just the way the league is built, parity, and being able to fit people in and out depending on how their roles are, and what you have in the pipeline to be able to take the place of players that are going to depart. That’s just forces of nature of the league itself.

“[But the] motivation was there from the get-go to try and find a deal with Brad . . . [You] realize that other players have left and the opportunity could be out there for him, and he’s very cognizant. He makes you very cognizant of it when you’re going through it.

“It’s a process that takes a long time to get through things. Great communication with their representatives -- with Brad’s representatives -- and it just felt like we would try and get to a good end point. The timing was obviously hard on Brad today, wanting to focus on the World Cup but, when you have a chance to get to the finish line you have to cross it. But it’s rightfully so not to take any attention away from what he’s doing right now because it’s important to him, but as was the contract to have it in place for all the parties. We got to the finish line and it’s really good for Brad and it’s really good for the Boston Bruins.”

It’s true Marchand might be a much different player by the time he’s 35 or 36 at the end of the deal. But it’s also true that a rising NHL salary cap will make this contract much more palatable as the years go by. The duo of Bergeron/Marchand is the most important, meaningful asset the Bruins have, and they needed to keep them together as a scoring, defending and special-teams threat every time they take the ice.

Marchand might not ever score 37 goals again like he did last season, but it’s no stretch to expect him to be around 30 or the foreseeable future. He has more short-handed goals than any other NHL player since joining the league in 2010-11, and the attitude and charisma he plays with on the ice is the kind of things that puts butts in seats.

Those players get paid and they get teams into bidding wars in the rare instances that they make it all the way to unrestricted free agency. So the Bruins scored a big victory in not allowing it to get to that point with a homegrown player who's come a long way from his early days as a detested agitator around the NHL.