Claude has me seeing Green

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Claude has me seeing Green

By Michael Felger

A couple of thoughts for you on a Monday morning one Bruins, one Celtics.

I already like Tampas coach better than ours. While Juliens roll-four-lines approach had the Versus crew asking each other questions late in the game, Guy Boucher once again employed a lineup that didnt even HAVE a true fourth line. He dressed seven defensemen and only 11 forwards, mixing and matching the final two forwards (Nate Thompson and Adam Hall) with players from the top three lines. This is the norm for Boucher, not the exception.

Meanwhile, Julien had his fourth line of Greg Campbell, Shawn Thornton and Daniel Paille on the ice for an extended shift midway through the third period in Game 1.

With the Bruins down two goals.

With their first trip to the Stanley Cup Finals in two decades on the line.

Even the announcers took note, with Ed Olczyk asking sideline reporter Pierre McGuire, at what point do you start shortening your bench? McGuires answer was pretty simple. "Now," he said. Clearly, it was something they hadnt been used to seeing a coach rolling out his crashenergy line with this team in desperate need for goals late in a Stanley Cup playoff game. But thats Claude.

I mean, really. Is there another coach in the league who wouldnt have put Tyler Seguin back on the ice soon after the rookie did what he did to Tampa defenseman Mike Lundin in the first period? Seguin certainly has his problems defensively and along the wall and those problems were on display early in the first period but he had just torn the roof off the building and had turned a 3-0 runaway back into a game. Dont you think most coaches would have had Seguin back out there soon enough, seeing if a young, talented kid with fresh legs could create more pressure on the opponent?

Not Claude. Seguin didnt play the rest of the first period and was on the pine for the first 10 minutes of the next stanza. Nearly 15 minutes came off the clock before until he first saw the ice after the goal. He played only two shifts in the second period. He didnt see a second of time on the power play, which was once again atrocious (0-for-4).

Honestly, I wonder why they even dressed the kid. It makes perfect sense to sit him down if its a tight, one-goal game and the Bruins have to lock down in their own end. Fine. Dont play him. But he doesnt even get a sniff on the power play down two goals and no one clicking offensively? He doesnt get thrown back over the boards soon after the goal to see if he can build momentum? Maddening.

You also have to wonder if Boucher is in Juliens head a little bit, with the latter chafing every time someone mentions Tampas vaunted 1-3-1 neutral-zone trap. Of course, Boucher switched it up early in Game 1, going with a more aggressive forecheck and employing 2-2-1 looks. Regardless of what Julien says, the Bs clearly werent ready for it.

Just imagine. A coach who changes systems and alters his lineup on the fly. What a concept.

All that said, I think the Bruins should win this series. Note, I didnt say "will." I have no idea who will win this thing. It could go either way. But I didnt see the Lightnings advantage in top-end talent show itself on Saturday. I didnt look at that team and say, "Theyre just better." Not even close. If Tim Thomas can sharpen up and the defensemen can stop puking on their skates, the Bs will be just fine.

Then I can go back to ignoring the things that bug me about Julien.

I love how the Green Teamers are now rationalizing the Kendrick Perkins trade. Many of them will grudgingly allow that the trade may not have worked out (really?), but it still didnt have an impact on the Heat series. This is, of course, laughable.

The Perk trade had an impact on everything. Rondo got worse. Garnett wore down. Jeff Green didnt help Pierce. The Cs, who were holding the No. 1 seed in the East at the deadline, won only 15 of their remaining 27 games and lost home court to Chicago and Miami. And that didnt impact the Heat series how?

I wonder how perceptions change if the Bulls wipe out the Heat in the Conference Finals. Im not talking among the Green Teamers. Theyre hopeless, just awaiting instructions from above. Im talking about the rest of us. Normal people. Miami sure looked rough last night. The minions said the Celts lost because it was just the Heats time, that they had the two best players on the floor and thats what wins in the NBA. Really? I thought the best "team" won. At least that what they all told me when the Celts won three years ago. What if the Bulls, who dont own the two best players in the series, either, take down LeBron and Wade? Then what? Meanwhile, Perkins is getting ready for the Western Conference finals. Whoops.

Above and beyond all that, the simple fact is that the Celtics never looked like a championship caliber team the entire remainder of the season following the deadline when everyone considered them in that class before it. In the final two months they lost to seven different playoff teams -- Denver, Philadelphia, Memphis, Indiana, Atlanta, Chicago and Miami. Take out a five-game winning streak against five opponents who missed the playoffs, and the Cs werent even a .500 team following the deal.

I dont know how anyone could separate out the Heat series from the rest. Its ridiculous. The Cs werent the same team after the trade. Period. The players didnt buy in, and the team regressed badly. They werent good against anyone, including the Heat. Face it. Danny blew this one.

E-mail Felger HERE and read the mailbag on Thursday. Listen to him on the radio weekdays, 2-6 p.m. on 98.5 the Sports Hub.

Haggerty's Morning Skate: Phil Kessel emotional about reaching Stanlery Cup Final

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Haggerty's Morning Skate: Phil Kessel emotional about reaching Stanlery Cup Final

Here are all the links from around the hockey world and what I’m reading while picking the San Jose Sharks over the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup Final.

 

*Patrick Lalime hopped on sports radio in Ottawa, and said the Chris Phillips/Zdeno Chara defense pairing was the best he ever played behind.

 

*Don Cherry had a major problem with Steven Stamkos suiting up and playing in the losing Game 7 to the Penguins.

 

*Phil Kessel gets pretty emotional about finally getting to the Stanley Cup Final after years of struggle in Toronto.

 

*USA Today’s Kevin Allen says the gap between the No. 1 goaltender and the backup isn’t what it used to be.

 

*Speaking the Sharks, the trip back to Pittsburgh for the Cup Final brings back memories for Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau.

 

*PHT writer and FOH (Friend of Haggs) writer has the news about Dustin Brown getting stripped of the captaincy with the LA Kings.

 

*Bryan Rust was in the AHL to start this season, but much like Mike Sullivan and Matt Murray he killed it for the Penguins in the playoffs.

 

*For something completely different: It’s official that moving Jackie Bradley Jr. in the lineup wasn’t what killed his hitting streak.

Haggerty: Bruins putting a lot of their hopes in one roster fix

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Haggerty: Bruins putting a lot of their hopes in one roster fix

The improvement plan has become as clear as it’s going to be for the Bruins this offseason.

With Bruins general manager Don Sweeney locking up Kevan Miller to a four-year, $10 million deal this week and vowing to sign Torey Krug as well, the Bruins defensemen corps is going to look awfully similar to last season’s misbegotten group.

Almost identical, it would seem.

Sure, Sweeney said on Wednesday that the Bruins are actively seeking out “a transitional defenseman” that’s presumably a little better than 35-year-old journeyman John-Michael Liles, and can be paired with Zdeno Chara as a top duo for next season. It’s the No. 1 priority on the Bruins offseason shopping list just as it was last season once they shipped Dougie Hamilton to Calgary for draft picks and were instead saddled with a fearsome, crippling black hole at the top of their organizational D-man charts.

The trade market has been set to a degree by the Erik Gudbranson trade from the Florida Panthers to the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday night with Jim Benning giving up a Grade-A center prospect in Jared McCann, a second-round pick and a fourth-round pick in exchange for the 24-year-old top-four defenseman. Per a hockey source with knowledge of the situation, the Bruins were not involved in any talks for the towering Gudbranso. It sounded like the Panthers and Canucks were pretty locked in with each other on making a deal.

That’s an unfortunate product of Boston not being able to match up with the available center prospect that might have interested Florida and having dealt some of those 2016 draft picks on fruitless deadline rental deals for Lee Stempniak and Liles.

So, how difficult will it be to land Kevin Shattenkirk, or Jacob Trouba, or Sami Vatanen, or Tyson Barrie, or any other mobile blueliner able to play big minutes, move pucks and survive against the other team’s best offensive players while being sheltered defensively by Zdeno Chara?

“Time will tell on that one, you know? Either through free agency or through acquisition, it’s a matter of finding a trading partner or finding a match in the marketplace. We’re going to be aggressive,” said Sweeney. “We certainly have identified, we had our pro meetings … I’m not going to give my whole plan out to you today. But we have areas that we want to address in the depth of our organization more likely in the forward position, either on the right wing or the center, or again on the backend. We’re exploring a bunch of different things trade-wise. It’s difficult in this league, but I think that we’re in the position with two first-round picks to be either selecting really good players or to be in the marketplace.”

The Bruins had better hope it’s a miracle-working puck-mover that they bring to Boston because otherwise they are on course for bringing back the same old sorry usual suspects from last season. Miller and Adam McQuaid will be taking up a combined $5.25 million on the salary cap, Krug will have a salary in the range of $5 million per season after watching the B’s largesse in the Miller deal and both Chara and Seidenberg will trudge on as proud, aging warriors well on the back end of their careers after outstanding service in Boston.

That means many defenders, including Joe Morrow and Colin Miller, return. Defense was the clear weakness on the team, which finished 19th in the NHL after being in the bottom third of the league pretty much all season. It was inarguably the worst defensive group of Claude Julien’s 10-year tenure with the Bruins and had major difficulties in all areas ranging from tape-to-tape passes, to coverage breakdowns and good, old-fashioned lost battles in all of the danger areas.

So, with the plan to add one high-caliber “transitional defenseman” already laid out, it’s clear the B’s belief is that will be enough to substantially improve things on the ice.

At least that’s the theory before the bullets start flying next season and Sweeney gave a few perfunctory lines about the team improving in every area.  

“This is a results-oriented business, so we have to get better in areas. We have to improve our roster. I’ve said all along that we need to continue to improve our roster. We’ll be in the marketplace in every different way, shape, or form to try and acquire players that will continue to help us do so,” said Sweeney. “Talking with Claude and going over the time he spent with Butch [Cassidy], through my dealings with Butch, and realizing the development of a lot of the players that have been a part of our roster and success is the transition game and stuff that Butch has brought to the table.

“[It’s] how he saw the game, how he expects players to play and move pucks and work on it every day, is an area that I think he’s going to be an addition to our [coaching] staff and how he sees the game. I think I identified that if Butch was playing in this day and age now, he’d be a very welcome addition to our roster.”

So that’s the plan, folks. The big move of the summer is getting a defenseman they badly need, filling in a few roster spots, signing a good deal of their own players and then hoping for a better result next time around.

Isn’t there some kind of line about insanity and expecting different results with the same cast of characters year in and year out?