Bruins' top line must execute

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Bruins' top line must execute

By Danny Picard
CSNNE.com

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.

Julien: 'A lot of problematic things' in Bruins loss to Avalanche

Julien: 'A lot of problematic things' in Bruins loss to Avalanche

BOSTON – The Bruins simply weren’t ready to play on Thursday night when the puck was dropped against the Colorado Avalanche at TD Garden. 

They fell down quickly by a 2-0 score, had a couple of completely inept power plays in the first period that sucked all the game’s momentum away from them and received some subpar goaltending from Anton Khudobin on the way to a 4-2 loss to the lowly Avs. About the only B’s person above reproach in this one was David Pastrnak after scoring a pair of goals in the second period to get Boston back into the game, but it all fell short in a very frustrating, lackadaisical loss to a Western Conference team that isn’t very good. 

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Needless to say B’s coach Claude Julien wasn’t too happy after a loss where the Bruins might have had more success with a smarter approach to holding the puck. 

“There were a lot of problematic things [in the loss]. No doubt that the power play could have helped us in the first period, and failed to do that. They’ve got to be better,” said Julien. “We needed some saves tonight, and we didn’t get them. [Anton Khudobin] has got to be better. 

“A lot of things here that we can be better at, and take responsibility [for]. But at the same time, you got to move on here.  It’s one of those nights that had we been smarter from the get go, we would have had a chance.”

Clearly it was about a lacking group effort when dissecting the loss, and the minus-3 for David Krejci on Thursday night marked back-to-back negative performances from the playmaking Czech center in big spots. The goaltending was shoddy with Anton Khudobin allowing four goals on 22 shots for Colorado, and unable to make plays on a couple of Colorado shots from outside the painted area that built up the Avs lead in the first place. 

But it was also very much about the inability of the Bruins to generate consistent offense outside of David Pastrnak’s offensive burst in the second period, and the complete breakdown of the Boston power play in the opening 20 minutes. The Bruins struggled to enter the zone in their first PP possession of the game, and then allowed a Nathan MacKinnon shorthanded goal after Torey Krug futilely dove at the blue line to try and keep the puck in the offensive zone. 

The Krug misplay at the offensive blue line gave MacKinnon a clear path the net, and he buried a wrist shot past Khudobin to get the one-sided loss rolling. Beyond the costly mistakes that ended up in the back of the net, the Bruins looked sloppy and slow-reacting in their breakouts and more than willing to settle for outside perimeter shots.

That doesn’t exactly make for a winning combo even when it comes against a flawed, underachieving team like Colorado, and especially when it comes less than 24 hours after a hard-fought road game in Washington DC. 

“I think we were still sleeping there early in the game and they were able to capitalize on their opportunities. We couldn’t claw our way back,” said Brad Marchand, who picked up an assist on David Pastrnak’s second goal of the night on a perfect dish for the one-timer. “I think it was definitely a mental [block]. You’re able to battle through that physical fatigue. It was more the mental mistakes and not being prepared right off the hop of the start of the game. Again, that’s kind of where we lost it.”

The sleepwalking Bruins lost Thursday night’s valuable two points as soon as the opening puck was dropped against the Avalanche, of course, and the Bruins never got out of lollygag mode at a time when intensity should have been automatic.