Felger: Bruins need to ratchet up their attack

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Felger: Bruins need to ratchet up their attack

By Michael Felger
CSNNE.com

Why is it we can't see the forest through the trees?

Ask Bruins Nation -- players, coaches, fans, media -- how the B's have fallen into a 2-0 hole in the Stanley Cup Finals and you'll get a variety of answers.

You'll hear about turnovers, possession through the neutral zone, toughness and the like. And while all have played a part, none of those issues top my list.

I start with the offense.

After Mark Recchi kicked in the go-ahead goal with 8:25 remaining in the second period on Saturday night, do you realize how many shots the B's generated the rest of the game?

Try six.

In 28:25 of play.

After getting smoked in the third period of Game 1.

After getting shut out in their previous game and managing just one goal in the game before that.

In their last nine periods of playoff hockey, the B's have now been shut out in seven of them.

Cam Neely once told his coach and the rest of us that the object of the game isn't to win 0-0. Unfortunately, it feels to me like Claude Julien and the B's still embrace that philosophy. Their idea of a "perfect" playoff game now seems to be a 1-0 or 2-1 final.

And the worst part is, you all buy it.

I don't know why. Don't you understand how few of those games the Bruins have actually won this postseason? Game 7 of the Tampa series was the aberration, folks. Haven't you been watching?

This is not an opinion. It's a fact.

When the Bruins have scored two goals or less these playoffs, they are 3-6. When they've scored three or more they are 9-2.

To repeat: The Bruins' chances of winning are three times greater when they manage three goals or more. They've now played 20 postseason games, and they've won just three times while scoring two goals or fewer. Yet you still believe the 2-1 game is the B's best chance to win.

Why? I sincerely don't get it.

Maybe we've just been beaten into submission by Julien's system, but the fact remains: You can't win a championship on scheme, structure and goaltending alone. Those things can win you regular-season games in droves and will even get you through some rounds in the playoffs. But they aren't the sole ingredients of championships. At some point, you have to put the puck in the net.

You have to have players who can do it, primarily, but you also need a system that gives those players the ice time and the freedom to do their thing.

This was my No. 1 question with the B's heading into the playoffs, and if they come up short in this series, it will be the No. 1 reason why.

Offense.

Both the players who are capable of doing it and the system that allows them to do it.

Why have you forgotten? It's what brought the B's back against the Canadiens. Down 2-0 heading up to Montreal, the B's scored four goals in Game 3 and five more in Game 4 to crawl back into that series. Then they went to Philadelphia in the second round and put seven goals on the board in Game 1. They wound up scoring 20 goals in that four-game sweep, an average of five per. Then against Tampa, they exploded for six goals in Game 2 to even that series and change the approach of the Lightning thereafter.

Now the B's are back to the point where two goals seems like an offensive explosion -- and it's killing them.

It's putting too much pressure on Tim Thomas and Zdeno Chara, and as Saturday night showed, both are human. Two of the three goals Thomas let up were bad. Chara has, for some reason, looked gassed in the third periods of these games. He didn't crack 30 minutes of ice time in either, but his play has steadily declined nevertheless.

Neither are to be blamed for the defeat. Instead, I blame the approach that forces them to pitch shutouts every night. They're not capable of it. No one is.

Now I hear that the B's need more toughness for Game 3 and that Shawn Thornton should be activated. Great. Let's throw him over the boards until he clocks Maxim Lapierre. It will make us all feel better, no doubt about it.

But how does that address the scoreboard? The B's need roof shots, not head shots.

Look, all the things Julien talked about after Game 2 are important. The B's can't turn the puck over in the neutral zone. They have to be better coming out of their own end. Thomas certainly can, and will, play better.

But maybe it's time for Neely to once again remind Julien about the other part of the game. The B's have to start scoring. David Krejci (averaging over a point a game since the Montreal series) has to get over 20 minutes of ice a night -- at least. So does Patrice Bergeron, who also has to start taking more chances offensively (he's just 0-2-2 in his last five). The defense has to get involved. When someone like Rich Peverley has Roberto Luongo dead to right, as he did in the third period Saturday, he has to bury the puck, not clang it off the post. Tyler Seguin, who played less than 10 minutes in each of the first two games, is still sitting there. Recchi, despite his flukey goal, still isn't helping.

Above all, there has to be a realization that going up by a score of 2-1 in the second period of a Stanley Cup Finals game isn't good enough.

There has to be an acknowledgement that low scoring games actually might favor the Canucks. They are 5-3 this postseason when scoring two goals or fewer.

If the B's try and win the series that way they're toast. Three goals seems to be the magic number. Against the Canucks, maybe it will be four. Whatever it is, the B's have to do everything they can to get there.

Maybe we'll find out at the end of the day that the B's just don't have the talent up front to score as much as they need to. That part we can accept, I think.

What we shouldn't accept is an approach that doesn't seem to recognize the facts.

Zero-to-zero isn't working.

And neither is 2-1.

E-mail Felger HERE for the mailbag, which will run on Fridays through the Finals. Listen to him on the radio weekdays, 2-6 p.m., on 98.5 the Sports Hub.

Haggerty: From top to bottom, still no urgency from Bruins

Haggerty: From top to bottom, still no urgency from Bruins

BRIGHTON -- The Bruins pulled the worst of their no-shows on Monday afternoon in the 4-0 shutout loss to the Islanders.

It was a lethargic, mediocre start in the first period that devolved into the bottom dropping out on the Black and Gold when they allowed three unanswered goals in the second. Then, to top it all off, they showed zero urgency or push to make a comeback in the final period. 

It was “unacceptable” in the words of the Bruins players from beginning to end with careless, elementary mistakes in the defensive zone and absolutely zero sustained push in the offensive zone despite a deceiving 32 shots on net.

So, where was the urgency for a Bruins team that’s barely ahead of the Maple Leafs and Senators in the Atlantic Division despite having played six more games than each of those two?

Apparently the Bruins were feeling a little cocky after playing a solid five-game stretch where they’d gone 3-1-1 and taken down the Panthers, Blues and Flyers while elevating their level of play. Heart and soul team leader Patrice Bergeron admitted as much on Tuesday morning as the Bruins cancelled practice and turned their attention toward righting the ship Wednesday night in Detroit.

It was frankly a little stunning to hear Bergeron admit that his Bruins team thought they could win just by showing up on Monday afternoon, but that’s exactly what he copped to in something of an apologetic way.

Brad Marchand said Monday postgame that the Bruins “just weren’t ready [to play]” against the Islanders, and it sounded like his linemate agreed with him.

“It’s about realizing that you can’t take teams lightly, or take the foot off the gas pedal for a period, for a game, or whatever. It hurts us every time we do it, so we have to learn and realize that it just cannot happen. Teams are too good and the points are too valuable for us,” said Bergeron. “You never want to do that, but at the same time maybe it was something that happened because it was a terrible start, and to not respond when they scored the goals. Maybe that’s what happened yesterday.

“As much as you don’t want it to happen, maybe we thought it was going to be an easier game than it actually was against them.”

On the one hand, it’s somewhat shocking to hear that admission from a player that’s always played with full work ethic and an effort level that’s never been questioned. But Bergeron was also a minus-3 in the 4-0 loss and was every bit as guilty as everybody else up and down the roster for the team’s most pathetic loss of the season at a time when results are all that matter.

Perhaps this shouldn’t be surprising, though, because the lack of urgency on the bench is mirrored by the lack of urgency upstairs in the Bruins management office right now. Bruins general manager Don Sweeney told the Boston Globe last week that he’s considering a move with the head coach along with a number of other things to spark a team treading water, but it doesn’t feel like a major move is on the horizon with this Bruins team.

Trade talks are still in the formative, discussion stages as GMs like Joe Sakic and John Chayka are overvaluing their players looking for a king’s ransom for guys like Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, Martin Hanzal and Radim Vrbata. While Claude Julien should be under the microscope with a team sleepwalking its way through perhaps a third season in a row without the playoffs, it also doesn’t feel like the Bruins are going to pull the trigger on that move until the offseason at the earliest.

This humble hockey writer still insists that this playoff-caliber Bruins team plays at times like a one that needs a swift kick in the backside. Perhaps Julien isn’t up for it after 10 long, successful years of battles with the same core group.   

So, what is there to do then besides make cosmetic moves like shipping underperforming Anton Khudobin down to Providence, or rearrange the deck chairs on a third and fourth line that it’s difficult to tell apart on most days in Boston?

If the Bruins front office wants to truly get to the bottom of their team’s lack of urgency on the ice, perhaps a look in the mirror might be in order. Because that same lack of urgency is playing out with a management group that’s watching their team sink into the Atlantic Division muck right now and seems gun-shy on making a move that could rattle cages.

“Right now where we are in the standings, we’ve got a lot of games to play but we’re still in a playoff spot,” said Julien. “We try and play with the expectations that we have, and that’s to do the best with what we’ve got. We’ve got a lot of new faces and we’re trying to build with what we’ve got here moving forward.”

Certainly nobody is talking about trading away their blue chip prospects like Brandon Carlo or Charlie McAvoy, but there are veteran players on Boston’s current roster that aren’t cut out for battling into the postseason with a young team. It’s plain to see when a middling hockey team can’t find the inspiration to go out and take care of business against a bad Islanders group on a sleepy Monday afternoon just a month after they made the same mistake against the same team on home ice.

The Bruins showed in a five-game stretch leading up to the Islanders debacle that they should be held to a higher standard - that of a team that should qualify for the postseason. But one question arose again and again watching the poorest of poor efforts play out on Monday afternoon: why should the Bruins players show any feet-in-the-fire urgency on the ice when it doesn’t feel like there’s much feet-in-the-fire urgency from upper management to improve the flailing hockey club?

Until that organizational dynamic changes, it’s difficult to see things getting much better, or worse, for a Bruins team that looks destined for the mediocre middle once again this season. 
 

Bruins cancel practice to 'regroup' after bad loss to Islanders

Bruins cancel practice to 'regroup' after bad loss to Islanders

BRIGHTON, Mass – The Bruins were supposed to hit the ice for the eighth day in a row on Tuesday following their empty 4-0 loss to the New York Islanders on Monday afternoon, but those plans were scrubbed.

The reeling Black and Gold instead cancelled practice, with only Matt Beleskey, Jimmy Hayes and Zane McIntyre taking the ice at Warrior Ice Arena and the rest of the B’s hitting the giant reset button after an embarrassing loss.

“I think it’s one of those [things] where you’ve got to regroup and recharge the batteries, and feel better,” said Patrice Bergeron. “Maybe a little bit of fatigue was part of it [Monday vs. the Isles] and you use a day like today to look forward, look at videos and be better the next day. It happens today and we have another game tomorrow [against Detroit].”

While it is true that the Bruins and Winnipeg Jets have played more games than anybody else in the NHL in this wacky season with a condensed schedule, the B’s leaders weren’t having it as an excuse with both the Maple Leafs and Senators holding an incredible six games in hand on Boston. Blown opportunities against bad opponents are exactly the recipe for missing the playoffs, as they have in each of the past two seasons, and the Bruins are tracking to do that again.

“All of the teams are in the same situation. It’s about managing and finding ways to be at your best every night and in every game. Yes, maybe [the condensed schedule] is part of it, but you can’t just put the blame on that. We’re professionals and we need to show up every game.”

The Bruins didn’t show up against the Islanders on Monday afternoon and basically pulled their second no-show vs. the Isles on home ice this season. There’s no excuse for that given the B’s current situation battling for the postseason. 

Maybe a day off the ice will improve that situation and maybe it’s simply rewarding a team that didn’t earn it on Monday afternoon, but the B’s have to hope it’s much more of the former than the latter.