Bruins' top line must execute


Bruins' top line must execute

By Danny Picard

BOSTON -- There's no hiding behind it. Right now, the Bruins just simply can't execute offensively.

When general manager Peter Chiarelli traded for puck-moving defenseman Tomas Kaberle at the trade deadline, he gave himself limited salary cap space to make another deal for a stud forward.

The thought was that Kaberle's puck-moving skills would be good enough -- especially on the power play -- to make the offense better. It put a lot of pressure and confidence into the guys up front.

And as we know, there's no more pressure than in the playoffs. Especially when trailing a series 2-0, a series you're supposed to be winning.

Montreal defeated the Bruins 3-1 on Saturday night at the TD Garden, taking a 2-0 lead in their first-round series, heading into Montreal for Games 3 and 4.

The blame could be pointed in a number of areas. But there's no denying that the Bruins have had a whole lot more offensive chances than the Canadiens.

Through the first two games of the series, Boston has out-shot Montreal 66-46, yet, the Habs are out-scoring the B's 5-1.

With 35 shots on Saturday night, the Bruins were able to score one goal. And make no mistake, it was a big one.

It came when Brad Marchand took a Mark Recchi pass and sent a feed of his own out front to Patrice Bergeron, who was going hard to the net with his stick on the ice.

Bergeron caught the pass, and found Montreal goaltender Carey Price down and out, cutting the Canadiens' lead to 2-1, 7:38 into the second period.

It was Boston's first goal of the series. And yet, it will stand as their only goal, entering Game 3 Monday night in Montreal.

With Bergeron's line stepping up on Saturday night, the spotlight then switched to the team's top offensive line, or at least, the line that's supposed to be the Bruins' best offensive trio.

For the second straight game, David Krejci, Milan Lucic, and Nathan Horton finished each as a minus-1, with no points to show for themselves.

Some would say inexcusable. Bruins coach Claude Julien said that he's not going to "talk about individuals in any negative way" throughout the playoffs. Seeing that there's not much positive you can say about the Bruins' first line, there isn't anything to say about them at all, other than, the execution has to be better, as soon as the first period of Game 3.

"We had to work pretty hard tonight, just to get that one goal," said Julien after the loss. "I don't think the Canadiens had to work as hard to get theirs. That's basically the difference right now in the games.

"The execution of one team, compared to the execution of the other one. I'm going to stand here and tell you that the execution isn't good enough. It needs to be better. And that's what we have to do from here on in."

Julien doesn't have to sit up on the podium and point the finger. We aren't stupid. Zero points and a combined minus-6 isn't what anybody in the Bruins' organization drew up when they prepared for their first-round series with Montreal.

Bergeon gave the B's a little presence in front of the net on Saturday, by going hard at the goal with his stick on the ice. The little things do work, and Bergeron's goal is a perfect example of that.

"It was there, but obviously not good enough," said Bergeron. "I mean, one goal's not going to beat Montreal."

And no goals from Boston's top line isn't going to get the job done either.

"I thought actually after Montreal's early 2-0 lead, we hung in there pretty good," said Recchi. "We didn't lose our composure, but we just didn't execute like we're capable of. That's the biggest thing all night, the execution wasn't there."

That's been the biggest thing all series. And it needs to change soon, especially with Krejci, Lucic, and Horton. If it doesn't, this one might not be coming back to Boston.

Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard.

McQuaid cleared to play, nearing return to Bruins lineup


McQuaid cleared to play, nearing return to Bruins lineup

BRIGHTON, Mass. -- It was a bitter pill for Adam McQuaid to sit out the first five games of this season, but it looks like the veteran Bruins stay-at-home defenseman is nearing a return to the lineup. McQuaid was cleared to potentially play in Saturday’s loss to the Montreal Canadiens after an upper body injury kept him shelved for the team’s first four games, and could be approaching a return in the next few days as Claude Julien mulls a number of possible lineup changes.

“It was obviously frustrating, but I’m where I’m at now and trying to move on from it. Looking forward to getting back into the lineup hopefully as soon as possible here,” said the 30-year-old McQuaid, who had a goal and nine points in 64 games for the Black and Gold last season. “The excitement level is high for me, and it is for everybody after a loss when you’re looking forward to getting back out there.

“It would have been nice to have started the season with the guys, but you can’t change that now. I’ve had some good practices, and I’m just trying to my game as simple as possible, and take it as it comes. Obviously guys have played some games and it’s been a couple of weeks for me, so I’ll just have to keep my game simple.”

The B’s bench boss indicated it was only a matter of time before McQuaid makes his 2016-17 regular season debut, but that he’s got plenty of things to decide prior to dropping the puck against the Wild.

“[McQuaid] was cleared last game. I haven’t made any decisions based for [Tuesday night vs. Minnesota]. There’s a lot of things that are up in the air, and I’ve just go to juggle those things,” said Julien. “Who knows? Hopefully tomorrow morning I’ve got a better picture [of injury situation], and if not then it will be game-time decisions. I wish I could have a better answer [on if McQuaid will play], but I’ve got no answers right now.”

With Colin Miller (minus-4), Joe Morrow, Torey Krug (a rough minus-3 against Montreal) and John-Michael Liles all minus players after the first five games of the season, there are ample options for Julien on which potential blueliner to bump up to the press box. McQuaid is just happy he’s getting closer to a return while skating with 23-year-old Rob O’Gara at practice, and he can get back to helping a B’s team that’s smack dab in the middle (ranked 15th allowing 3.0 goals per game) of the NHL for team defense this season. 

Monday, Oct. 24: Bergeron the best defensive forward ever?


Monday, Oct. 24: Bergeron the best defensive forward ever?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while giving The Walking Dead credit for delivering a pile driver to me as a TV viewer last night. I did not see all of that coming.

*Plenty of questions and answers about the Calgary Flames as they’ve looked a little shaky in the early going this season.

*PHT writer and FOH (Friend of Haggs) Jason Brough has the Edmonton Oilers straightening things out after the brutal loss to Buffalo.

*NHL captains like Steve Stamkos carry the heavy weight of tradition on their shoulders as they go about their business.

*The Hockey News wonders if Patrice Bergeron is the best defensive forward to ever play in the NHL. I’m certain he’s in the conversation, but that’s a big, bold statement that deserves some heavy consideration. After all, he never had to defend Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Bobby Orr, Mike Bossy, Gordie Howe or any other number of offensive stars. I certainly think he should be in the select club he would join if/when he wins his fourth Selke Trophy.

*Minnesota D-man Matt Dumba was nearly scratched by the Minnesota Wild, and he says that he’s never going to let that happen again.

*The Anaheim Ducks placed Simon Despres on long term injured reserve as they try to stay afloat salary cap-wise, and avoid dealing off a player in-season.

*For something completely different: The Boston Celtics break ground on a new practice facility adjacent to the new Bruins place.