Bruins top line sleeps through another game


Bruins top line sleeps through another game

By Joe Haggerty

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 Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs.

Friday, Oct. 28: Can Kane ignite Toews?


Friday, Oct. 28: Can Kane ignite Toews?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while probably remaining as the only person that hasn’t seen this David S. Pumpkins thing on Saturday Night Live yet. 

*Patrick Kane is hoping that he can help ignite Jonathan Toews, and the offense that’s been lagging in his game thus far. 

*PHT writer James O’Brien has the Detroit Red Wings rolling as the Bruins head into Joe Louis Arena for a potentially rough Saturday night showdown. 

*The new Las Vegas expansion franchise is apparently going to get a preview window for NHL free agency in June ahead of the other 30 teams. 

*Here are some early season adjustment possibilities for your fantasy hockey team if they’ve struggled out of the gate. 

*Big Rangers defenseman Dylan McIlrath was waived and clears through unclaimed by the other 29 teams this week. 

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Gary Lawless has the tangled path ahead for Jacob Trouba as he’s the last of the unsigned RFA players waiting to get moved somewhere. 

*I could have lived a perfectly fine life without having to read about Ulf Samuelsson becoming an up-and-coming coach in the AHL. 

*For something completely different: the Prince Museum has officially opened at Paisley Park in Minnesota. 


Pastrnak suspended two games for hit on Rangers' Girardi


Pastrnak suspended two games for hit on Rangers' Girardi

Bruins forward David Pastrnak has been suspended for two games by the NHL for an illegal check to the head of New York Rangers' Dan Girardi in Boston’s 5-2 loss on Wednesday night in New York.

Those around the Bruins, as you might expect, aren’t happy about the ruling on a hit that was definitely borderline and authored by a player who has barely registered any kind of hits in the first few seasons of his young career. 

Click on the link in the tweet below for a video of the hit and the NHL Department of Player Safety's explanation of the suspension, but this is the gist: Pastrnak “made head contact on a play where head contact was clearly avoidable” and the Bruins forward “unnecessarily extended up and into the head” of Girardi on the collision. 

Claude Julien took issue with the Pastrnak hit being labeled dirty and clearly didn’t quite understand why his young star was even having a hearing over a mid-ice collision that simply looked like a strong hit through the body as the main point of contact when viewed in slow-motion.

“To me I see a guy [in David Pastrnak] whose feet are still on the ice. Sometimes players are in vulnerable positions, and sometimes it’s their own doing other times it’s just a part of the game, and you do what you have to do there. But I don’t think there was any attempt to injure the player there. I just think that was an attempt to finish his check, but certainly not to injure,” said Julien. “His foot is on the ice. You can see the snow coming off his blade, so it’s not like he never slowed down with the foot that was on the ice. 

“He didn’t go full tilt. He tried to control his check. If you look at it in slow-motion it’s pretty self-explanatory: he doesn’t jump up and he goes through [the body]. When you go through body eventually the skates do come up with the flow [of the hit], but he didn’t jump up in the air and land on the guy.”

The two-game suspension is Pastrnak’s first brush with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety. Clearly, the DoPS felt that the 20-year-old did make contact with Girardi’s head and that it was Pastrnak’s responsibility to make sure there wasn’t any contact to the head in such a violent collision. While some might have argued it should have been a one-game suspension, the DoPS usually doesn’t go any less than two games in suspensions involving checks to the head. 

Some of it might come down to Pastrnak just being unfamiliar with exactly how to deliver a clean, hard body check in that situation, given his inexperience playing that kind of game. Conventional thinking was that his first-time offender status would have got him with a stern warning from the league. 

But there’s also a bright side to this entire Pastrnak suspension situation, believe it or not. 

It’s been plainly obvious Pastrnak is playing more of a physical game at close to 190 pounds entering this season, and it’s a part of the driving force behind his strong start with a team-leading five goals in seven games this season. The Bruins will miss him for the next two games, Saturday in Detroit and Tuesday in Florida, but they’ll benefit from a player in Pastrnak that’s no longer shying away from the battle or hesitating to stick his nose in there while playing a key top-six role. 

The Bruins  were facing an uphill battle against both divisional opponents prior to the NHL suspending Pastrnak for the games. 

The hit came when Girardi reached up to catch a puck in the neutral zone 10:55 into the second period and Pastrnak came in hard and sent his left shoulder into Girardi’s chin. Pastrnak received a two-minute penalty for an illegal check to the head. Girardi left the game as part of the NHL concussion protocol, but later returned with no apparent injury.