The Hagg Bag: Panic attack

The Hagg Bag: Panic attack
March 17, 2011, 5:25 am
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By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

There were plenty of panicked Bruins fans on the heels of that four-game losing streak last week, and even a really peeved Islanders fan taking issue with my characterization of their terrible hockey team.

With the playoffs around the corner well pick up the Haggs Bag pace a little bit. So feel free to send me your questions at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com and perhaps well include you the next time around.

On to the Hagg Bag:

So what is the team up to with an evening off in Nashville? Y'all only get here every couple of years and most teams enjoy their visit.-- Buddy Oakes

First off, Im not surprised theres a guy named Buddy living down in Nashville. But Ive got to say that question, considering there's just about anything at your fingertips down there, kind of amazes me. Im going to wager a guess that the Bruins players ate some good barbeque, listened to some country music and took a picture with that Elvis statue down by the rink. But thats just a guess on my part. Enjoy the game tomorrow, Buddy.

Joe,Is it just me? This Bs team has been dreadful!! How in the world can they even sniff your top ten?They consistently lose 1-on-1 battles. Theyre slop, slop, sloppy with the puck, especially in their own end. They cant break their end on a rush cleanly to save their freaking lives! Im watching this team, frustrated as hell wondering how in the world theyre the No. 3 seed in the East? They have no identity, no rhythm. Its so troubling!What is it? The players?I know theyre deep and should be better than they show night after night recently. Is it Claude Julien? I dont get it. Either way they keep this up and theyre gonna draw a nasty first-round opponent and be one and done in the tourney. Someone will have to pay if that happens. It might be the best thing for this organization in the long term because it will give Cam the excuse to axe the GM and the Coach. Good riddance, I say!-- Kevin from Woburn

Its amazing how everything turns into a Fire Claude rant from disgruntled Bruins fans. How about getting a little less "gruntled"?

I wouldnt say the team has been dreadful, as much as they look like somebody filled up their ice skate boots with concrete. They look a little tired and a little discombobulated without a few of their fast-skating, fast-thinking defensemen. The Bruins miss Andy Ference in a big way and thats part of the reason they look sloppy offensively and defensively over the last few weeks.

The numbers dont lie: The Bruins are 61-34-13 with Ference in the lineup and only 17-17-8 without their oft-injured veteran defenseman. I do agree with you on one thing thought, Kevin. If the Bruins dont make it a significant distance into the postseason like, say, the Eastern Conference Finals there could definitely be an organizational price to be paid before next season.

But were a long way from there, and thats not something to exactly look forward to should it transpire.

Haggs,Do you see Tyler Seguin taking the place of Brad Marchand if Marchands suspended?-- Jesse

Yes, I do. Hows that for an answer, Jesse?

Haggs,I know this is Timmys Bruins team. But is Tuukka Rask closing the gap between them?

I think he permanently closed the gap when he won the starting goaltender job down the stretch last season, and then was Bostons only goaltender in the playoffs against the Sabres and Flyers. Yes, Tuukka Rask is the backup this season and has gone through a serious period of adjustment while getting only sporadic playing time. But Rask is a goalie that just about every other NHL team would love to have, and hes the heir apparent in Boston. Hes a 1A goalie to Thomas 1.

But all that being said, Tim Thomas is having one of the best seasons in the modern era of NHL goaltending. Hes going to get the nod through the entire playoff run, barring unforeseen disaster. And Thomas will have to play at his best if the Bruins are going to advance deep into the postseason.

Haggs,Do you think the recent "skid" is a result of complacency? Bad luck? Coaching?

I think its simply fatigue at the end of a long season, combined with a couple of defensemen injuries. Add in a slump for the Patrice BergeronBrad Marchand line, and you have a portion of your answer. The one thing Im glad to see: Bergeron and Marchand have been reunited with Mark Recchi after Julien tried to shake things up a bit by adding Rich Peverley with them.

The BergeronMarchandRecchi line has shown the kind of mojo this season that youd want to think long and hard about messing with, but now Bergeron is riding a seven-game scoring drought and Marchand hasnt potted a goal in over three weeks.

Give the Bs credit for scratching out a win against the Columbus Blue Jackets when they didnt deserve it, but they need Bergeron to again find his groove.

Joe,Does it make too much sense to place Marchand back on the fourth line (the entire line was much better with him there) and put Seguin in his spot? I can't take much more of Danny Paille, obviously a Julien favorite. I honestly believe if Claude had his way, which I don't think he does as far as Seguin's playing time is concerned (past two games not included), Paille would be in the lineup every night.Word will come down from upstairs, if it hasn't already (Cam), to get Seguin back in the lineup. Julien has to resist the urge to take a players' creativity away in the name of lockdown defense. I was not a Phil Kessel fan, but the speed and passing ability of this team of two years ago changed when he left. I've been a Bruins fan for 45 years and I'd be hard-pressed to name a team that passed and skated and was as fun to watch as that team was.Just sayin'.Phastphil

Okay Phastphil, I dont think the answer is dropping Marchand back to the fourth line. I think hes really found a home with Patrice Bergeron despite their recent struggles. I wonder whats going to happen to Tyler Seguin once the playoffs begin, and the shootout weapon becomes irrelevant. If Seguin isnt playing top-six minutes and getting regular power-play time, a couple of his real strengths arent being utilized like they could be. That said, having Seguin as the first Black Ace ready to fill in when the Bruins need offensive pop is a luxury.

Paille might be limited, but he plays hard, he plays tough, he plays fast and he wont make mistakes that arent going to completely undo the Bruins in the playoffs. Seguin has been much better since getting scratched in early February, and really seems to finally be understanding things at the NHL. But understanding and being physically strong enough to hack the NHL are two very different things.

Kessel wasnt all the way ready his first season in the NHL as a youngster, and Seguin is in that same space this year. Perhaps it would make it easier if you viewed Seguin in that vein.

Haggs,After hearing Felger getting nowhere with the Montreal radio station and then seeing Hab fans, media and players all saying how bad Chara was, I friggen snapped. I asked every one of those people about Mark Eaton, as you saw, but I honestly felt Chara was taking a beating that he did not deserve. No one would comment on what hypocrites they were being, and the population of Montreal shutting down 911 made my head explode. That is my explanation for all those tweets. Chara has been a clean honest player too long to have his rep trounced on by those asses up there.-Fitzy

In the interest of background, this was loyal reader Fitzy explaining why he firebombed every hockey insider with rants about Max Pacioretty throwing a dirty hit on the Islanders Mark Eaton earlier this season.

Fitzy, you friggen snap whenever you want to snap, my friend. Youve earned the right and nobody within this Hagg Bag is going to stick up for a Montreal fan base thats truly embarrassed themselves this season.

Haggs,Hapless? Lowly? As a journalist you should know the facts before using adjectives that seem to describe your talent and professionalism rather than the performance of a hockey team that in the last 3 months have been as good as your Bruins.Did you know that since December 16, which happens to be 41 games (half of a season), the Bruins and the Isles both have 49 points to lead the Eastern Conference?Yes, I do understand the Isles had 1 win in 21 games earlier in the season, I just feel the adjectives you used are very misleading and a incorrect representation of the up and coming New York Islanders.-- Barry

"Up and coming" Islanders? Really, Barry? Is Trevor Gillies "up and coming?" The facts are that the Islanders have been the laughingstock of the NHL since I started covering the league prior to the lockout, and that hasnt changed one iota under the doomed stewardship of Charles Wang. Might be time to start cheering for the Rangers there, Barry.

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