Bruins top line sleeps through another game

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Bruins top line sleeps through another game

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton were a top forward line that helped push the Bruins all the way to Stanley Cup glory last season.

But they might not make it through four games together this year if their ugly start to the season doesnt reverse itself quickly.

The Bruins suffered a highly uneventful 1-0 loss to the Colorado Avalanche Monday afternoon in a Columbus Day matinee special at TD Garden, and for the third straight game Bostons incumbent No. 1 line played like it really don't want to skate together anymore. The line was also out on the ice for Milan Hejduks game-winning goal in the third period after failing to spark the offense against a young, unproven Avalanche bunch.

Lucic has only six hits in three games and hasnt been the tower of fire-breathing intimidation he can be when playing with some genuine anger. Krejci has been average at best to start the season after leading the team in playoff goals last year. And Horton has been the most absent of the bunch in the early going.

Lucic said its a matter of supporting each other better on the ice, but its also about each player performing the little tasks that made them so successful last season. Things like moving in front of the net when defensemen are looking to take point shots, or simply helping a teammate scrape a puck out of the corner.

In three games, the trio of high-end offensive players has two points, a minus-six rating and 13 shots on net the kind of numbers that scream out trouble on a stat sheet and staleness to a coaching staff.

We have to support each other better and we just have to come up the ice together, said Lucic. Its the reason why we were successful last year, like . . . we supported each other throughout the ice and we made plays.

Lucic had a golden chance in the second period when he bombed through the slot and received a centering pass from Horton, but Colorado goaltender Semyon Varlamov knocked the puck away with his left shoulder. The Bs left winger actually had a couple of legit scoring chances on the Avs goalie, but the hockey gods arent likely to smile on players who arent leaving everything out on the ice.

Through three games Horton has exactly one shot on net and zero hits, which means hes been a physical and offensive no-show since the Bruins dropped the puck Thursday night against the Flyers. It was understandable if Horton got off to a sluggish start given his summer away from normal workouts and a slow progression during training camp, but hes been an invisible man in three straight games after becoming Bostons Game 7 hero last year.

Perhaps the concussion is making Horton tentative when it comes to throwing his weight around, but that didnt seem to be the case when he was scrapping with Habs players in front of the net during the preseason.

Given the trios performance or lack thereof and the teams offensive deficiencies in two of the first three games, it appears Claude Julien is weary of watching the sleepwalking hockey thats taking place with some of his top forwards.

If Horton, Lucic and Krejci dont right the ship in Carolina on Wednesday night then theres sure to be some changes coming to a Bs team thats barely out of the starting gate. Given that Lucic and Horton, in particular, have always spoken about how much they enjoy playing each other, perhaps the threat of line liquidation is exactly the kick in the pants that they need.

I think when your top line is supposed to be your top line, it should try and be that every night," Julien said. "So far I dont think theyre in sync and I dont think theyre working hard enough as a group. But its part of our job here to get those guys going. Whether its through breaking them up or whether its through meetings, weve got to find a way to get those guys going.

Right now I dont think those three -- any one of those three -- has found his game yet that we know they can play. Theyre certainly a little under-par right now.

Perhaps the golfing analogy is perfect for the Bs top line because if they dont start producing soon then Claude Julien is going to start scrambling up forwards to get things humming again.

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

Sunday, July 24: Dominic Moore mulls NHL offers

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Sunday, July 24: Dominic Moore mulls NHL offers

Here are the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while marveling at how good the Justice League and Wonder Woman trailers were this weekend.

*PHT writer Cam Tucker has veteran center Dominic Moore mulling a couple of offers as he looks for an NHL contract for next season.

*Jordan Eberle joined Canadian sports radio, and agreed that something needed to change with the Oilers after continually missing the playoffs.

*I will miss Jim Prior’s trademark “The Teams are ready, so let’s play hockey!” open to every game as a PA announcer, and I’ll miss his warm personality around the rink. It’s a sad day for the BU hockey program.

*The Arizona Coyotes continue to put together a very interesting D-men picture by signing Luke Schenn to a two-year contract. For my money, Schenn has long been one of the most overrated players in the NHL.

*The Hockey News’ Mike Brophy has some thoughts and observations about the NHL offseason as it continues to wind on.

*Good piece by FOH (Friend of Haggs) Dave Stubbs on Andrei Markov and his candid thoughts on everything from the Montreal traffic to the PK Subban/Shea Weber trade.

*Here’s a spot to track the travels and stories of the Pittsburgh Penguins amid their summer with the Stanley Cup.

*For something completely different: as mentioned above, here is the trailer for the Justice League that shows a much lighter, better touch with what should be a fun movie to watch. Hopefully this means it won’t be another pretty-looking, Zack Snyder funeral dirge.

 

Heinen looking to be dark-horse candidate for Bruins' roster

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Heinen looking to be dark-horse candidate for Bruins' roster

While much of the focus is going to be on the young D-men headed into Bruins training camp, it would be foolhardy to overlook a forward prospect Danton Heinen, who is in position for a real dark horse run at an NHL roster spot. 

The strong odds are that the former University of Denver star is going to be begin the season in the AHL for the Providence Bruins after putting up a couple of points in four games there at the end of last season.

Still, that certainly hasn’t stopped Heinen from setting his sights on an NHL spot out of this fall’s camp, most likely in a third- or fourth-line capacity to start things off, or perhaps at the top-six right wing spots that have given the Bruins some problems filling permanently over the past couple of seasons.

Either way, the 2014 fourth-round pick knows that his clock to fulfilling his dreams as an NHL player has started and that it’s up to him when he can start making that a reality.

“It’s something I’ve wanted to work toward my whole life, so I’m just going to try to keep getting better, have a good rest of the summer and then put my best foot forward to see what happens,” said Heinen, who had an assist and a sweet goal in the Friday scrimmage at development camp when he twisted D-man Cam Clarke around like a pretzel on a nifty rush to the net. “I just need to continue to get stronger this summer, and working on my skating to get a bit quicker.

“[The AHL] was a lot of fun to get in there and see what it was all about. It was a lot different than college hockey, and it was definitely good to get a taste of it. [Bruins officials] told me to have a really big summer getting faster and getting stronger, so that’s what I’ve been doing.”

The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Heinen, 21, continued to show in development camp last week, however, that he has the playmaking skills and hockey IQ to flourish while surrounded by more accomplished players and in tighter situations. It’s exactly what he showed while posting 36 goals and 93 points in his freshman and sophomore seasons for the Pioneers and it was what he showed while finishing last week as one of the best forwards in camp.

“He’s looked really good at [development] camp. He’s a smart player, he’s committed and I think you’ll notice him in training camp. It will be up to him, but I think he’ll definitely be pushing some guys [for an NHL job],” said Bruins assistant coach Jay Pandolfo, who was running the Bruins development camp. “He looked good [in Providence]. He fit in well. He’s the type of player that can play with good players because he’s got high hockey IQ, and he’s got really good skill.

“Anywhere you put him he’s smart enough to figure it out. You could tell in his first game there was a little bit of an adjustment for him, but the second time game it really looked like he’d been playing [at that level] for a long time. He’s a quick study, and he looked really good last year.”

The Black and Gold management hope he continues to look good at main NHL training camp in a couple of months, where he’ll undoubtedly be featured, and could be a lot closer than many people think as a polished skill forward coming out of a big-time college hockey program. 

Saturday, July 23: Hammer Time for VP pick Kaine with Caps

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Saturday, July 23: Hammer Time for VP pick Kaine with Caps

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while everybody is working for the weekend...or during the weekend.

*The vice-presidential candidate for Hillary Clinton, Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, made quite an impression while hanging out a Capitals game with MC Hammer. They call this guy boring, but that doesn’t sound very boring to me.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Bob Stauffer has the news that the Edmonton Oilers are parting ways with fancy stats lad Tyler Dellow. Boy, it seems like some teams are reversing course pretty quickly on some of these smarter-than-thou advanced statistics types, aren’t they? I certainly wish Dellow well and hope he finds another gig. But Instead of baselessly wondering whether the Oilers are going to continue down the fancy stats road (which they most certainly will), perhaps this is more a referendum on nonsensical stats-driven decisions like handing out that long term contract to a perpetually underachieving Benoit Pouliot.

*The New York Rangers have locked up Chris Kreider to a four-year contract at a reasonable number, and now he has the time with the Blueshirts to see how good he can be.

*Brian Leetch opens up to the Players Tribune about his NHL experiences playing with the New York Rangers, and all of his favorite experiences from a Hall of Fame career.

*PHT writer Cam Tucker says that Carey Price’s injury from last season is no longer a concern, according to Habs coach Michel Therrien.

*The Chicago Blackhawks will appear a whopping 21 times on national television across the NBC Networks next season.

*Incoming BU goaltender Jake Oettinger is among the names to look out for at the 2017 draft, according to the NHL Central Scouting bureau.

*Travis Yost says that the Carolina Hurricanes are on the rise thanks to winning the shot differential battle. I think it’s because they have an outstanding cast of young defensemen, who are helping them control the puck and win that shot differential battle. But they still need to score more if they’re going to really be a team on the rise, so we’ll see what happens there.

*For something completely different: for those that think I’m a Democrat because I am anti-Trump, here’s a story on the DNC machinery attempting to torpedo Bernie Sanders during the presidential campaigning over the last year.