Haggerty: Bruins come out flat and never recover

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Haggerty: Bruins come out flat and never recover

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Its never a satisfactorynight in Bruins-land when the postgame conversation in the dressing roomturns to passengers or whether guys are going.

But, alas, that was their fate Thursday night, when they blew two one-goal leads and wound up losing thethird period, which normally has been theirwinning playgroundthis year. There were some close calls with pucks they couldn't quite get past Sabres goalie Ryan Miller and even a post struck, but the result was much more about bad energy than bad bounces.

From start to finish, I dont think theres much to say here except that we were totally flat tonight -- from the first player to the last, said coach Claude Julien. So its not about pointing to one or pointing to the other. We came out flat tonight and never seemed to find our game.

Even in the third period, you are coming in there tied and you got an opportunity, twenty minutes, to seal your fate. It just wasnt happening tonight.

Mark Recchi is usually the conscience of the team in moments of strife and struggle, and that was the case againin the wake of their first flat-line effort since getting embarrassed in the third period against Montreal at the Bell Centre.

Maybe it was the tired legs after playing their seventh game in a staggering 11-day span, which included some travel as well, or maybe it was simply underestimating a Buffalo team that appears to be playing out the string while testing Millers endurance for consecutive games.

But whatever it was, it wasnt a very Bruins-like effort on a night when the Canadiens were off and the Bs lost a chance to do some damage with one of the games in hand they've holding over the Habs.

We didnt have everybody going and thats what happens when you dont have everybody going, said Recchi. And when we got twenty people going, were just really tough to play against.

When we dont have everybody going on all cylinders and competing at the level we should, you know it just makes it hard for us. And I think we know that and weve been a lot better at it lately and more consistent and we just have to keep learning from these ones that when we do have these, that theres reasons why.

Who wasnt going in an effort Julien called flat, from the top to the bottom of the Boston roster? So glad you asked. Lets do a roll call:

A confidence-challenged Nathan Horton, who has only one goal in his last 18 games, continues to miss on golden chances and pass up Grade A scoring opportunities which would have most natural-born goal-scorers salivating. Horton was stuffed on a breakaway opportunity in the first period off a great lead pass from Marc Savard, and he turned into the passive version of himself shortly afterward for the rest of the night. Never was it more evident than during a first-period sequence when Savard flipped a pass to Michael Ryder in the slot, who then redirected the puck to Horton wide open in the left faceoff dot. But Horton decided to try and pass back to Ryder, and the play was broken up rather than giving the Bruins the scoring chance they had earned.

Its clear to Hortons teammates that he needs a slump-buster of some kind.

He battling with his confidence right now, and that stuff happens, said Recchi. What he really needs is one of those dirty ones. He needs a puck to go off his ass and go into the goal. Something like that, and then that old confidence will come back. Because hes getting the chances and its all there for him right now.

Credit Horton for standing in front of the net and creating the screen that allowed Dennis Seidenberg to score the games first goal, but it was also Hortons giveaway on a weak play that set up Cody McCormicks first goal for the Sabres.

Then theres David Krejci, who registered a single shot in 16-plus minutes of ice time and is saddled into a slump that has many wondering if hes simply playing through an injury of some kind. Krejci had the burst of skating speed on a couple of occasions that would make one think he's feeling okay, but hes also managed only 12 shots on net in 11 January games while putting up five assists and a minus-2.

Krejci has been the ultimate passenger over the last few weeks after looking like hed become Bostons No. 1 center in the opening weeks of the season, and he became a spectator on the third period when he was on the ice. His linemates have to be factored in, as well. Theres no doubt pairing Krejci with a still-learning Tyler Seguin has slowed some of his offensive progress, and Milan Lucic was another non-entity in his third game from an upper body injury on the other side of the Bs center.

But its clear Krejci isnt bringing much, and hes lagging far behind Patrice Bergeron and Savard in terms of making plays.

No hits from Lucic, who has talked a good game about returning to the physical roots that help unlock his game. But talk is cheap and the results werent there for Lucic and Krejci a pairing of players who are still trending downward despite their importance to the Bs success.

At least one frustrating goal surrendered by Tuukka Rask in an off night. He punched the ice after Nathan Gerbes game-tying goal in frustration a sign that he was mad at himself for committing so strongly toward a Tyler Myers shot on the right side of the ice before the Buffalo defensemen moved it cross-ice to Gerbe.

I think it was a struggle, said Rask. I think I obviously could have stopped all four of them. Not that I really had a chance. I played bad, not the greatest game, but it just happens, you know?

A rare off night for many of the young Bruins players that have been so good. Seguin hit the bench in the third period during one of his lesser performances during a better month of January. Brad Marchand had three giveaways as he didnt manage the puck well and really didnt contribute in any other area aside from decent penalty-killing. Steve Kampfer had a couple of difficult giveaways in his own zone, and was caught deep in the offensive end on a pinch during Buffalos final goal that put things out of reach.

Recchi has seen many young players come and go, and he knows the mental battles that must be waged before any youngster can achieve consistency in the NHL.

Its learning to be a pro, said Recchi. But its more of a mental challenge than it is anything. Most young players have played 70-something games in juniors, so maybe you get away with a little bit more. You just cant get away with it in the NHL. You should want to compete every night. Not wanting to let down your teammates -- thats the biggest thing. And you learn that . . . youre not going to feel good. First of all, youre going to feel good maybe 30 out of the 82 games, and the rest of them are mental games where you got to be mentally strong to battle through things. Do the right things for your teammates and if you do those then youll become a good pro and a consistent pro. Youll become more of a consistent player that people can rely on. The good news: The Bruins go right back to work on the road against Colorado and Los Angeles this weekend to get things back on the winning track.

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

Hayes knows he's a good player, wants to silence the critics

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Hayes knows he's a good player, wants to silence the critics

BOSTON, Mass. – There’s a long way to go toward a complete resurrection from last season’s misdeeds, but Jimmy Hayes made a nice little statement that he’s learned some lessons in Boston’s preseason debut. The Bruins lost the game, 3-2, in the shootout to the Columbus Blue Jackets, but Hayes scored one of the two goals for the Black and Gold as one of the few veterans in a very youthful lineup for Boston.

The Hayes goal was a nice give-and-go with Jake DeBrusk at the end of a nice transition play in the second period, and was the highlight of a night playing on the right wing with DeBrusk and center Austin Czarnik. The score and a team-high four shots on net for Hayes represent a good start for what he hopes is a gigantic rebound season after last year’s disappointment.

Clearly Hayes heard some of the unflattering chatter about him on sports talk radio and otherwise last season, and may even understand how his difficult season in his home city of Boston -- whether he actively expressed it to him or not -- might have been a factor in his buddy Jimmy Vesey ultimately choosing New York over Boston.

It appears the former Boston College standout is looking to change the conversation in Boston. 

“Yeah, sure am. I’ve got a lot to come out here and…[there were] a lot of comments about myself, but I know I’m a good player. I got to this level for a reason,” said Hayes, who dropped from 19 goals and 35 points with the Panthers to 13 goals, 29 points and a career-worst minus-12 for the Bruins last season.

“To be able to play at the NHL level and continue to play at that level on a consistent basis is what I expect out of myself. I do it for myself and our teammates, and to help our team win. I’ll continue moving forward.

“It’s funny being the old guy on the line. It’s nice to see those young guys and see how excited they are, and how excited I am to get back out there. That’s what I said to the guys, they still have the jitters and they still have them for the first preseason game. It shows that these guys want it and it’s been a lot of fun skating with those guys. They’ve got a lot of speed and to keep pushing the pace. Trying to keep up with them has been a lot of fun.”

There is still a long way to go for the 26-year-old winger, and his willingness to stick around the danger areas on Monday night was a welcomed one for a Bruins team that needs his 6-foot-6 body in front of the net. Hayes paid the price with stitches and a fat lip after taking a Dalton Prout high-stick to the mouth in front of the Columbus net that went uncalled on a Bruins PP at the end of the second period.

That’s all part of the big man’s game on the ice, however. It’s also the kind of battle and determined fight that Hayes will need to show much more consistently in his second season with the hometown Bruins if he’s truly looking to bounce-back from last year’s mediocre performance. 

Carlo 'arguably the best' defenseman for Bruins in preseason opener

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Carlo 'arguably the best' defenseman for Bruins in preseason opener

BOSTON – On a night when many of Boston’s young players stepped up nicely, perhaps none did more so than 19-year-old defenseman Brandon Carlo. The youngster was in a top pair role with John-Michael Liles against a decent Columbus Blue Jackets lineup that included Sam Gagner, Alexander Wennberg, Seth Jones, Brandon Saad and Sonny Milano, and had almost no miscues in his 20:16 of ice time.

Better than that, Carlo notched an assist on the game-tying score in the third period when his right point shot made it through traffic for Danton Heinen to redirect it past Curtis McElhinney from the slot. That left Carlo with an assist, a plus-1 rating and three shots on net in 20:16 of ice time to go along with some heavy battling around the net whenever Blue Jackets players tried to get too close.

“Arguably our best D, if not our best D. [He showed] real good decision-making, and his gaps are good. I can really only think of one time in the third period he kind of threw a puck away in the middle of a change, and ended up on his wrong side,” said Bruins assistant coach Bruce Cassidy. “It wasn’t a bad turnover, but it was just one that he could have made a little bit of a better decision.

“He didn’t handle the puck much in the game, that’s pretty good. He jumped up the ice, got his shot through when it was there, matched up well with whoever he was put out there [against], pushed back in front of our net. [There were] a lot of good things.”

It’s a big training camp for Carlo, who is more than likely earmarked for Providence unless he can utilize a stellar training camp performance to push over one of the seven veteran Bruins D-men with NHL contracts. That means potentially displacing Joe Morrow as the seventh defensemen on the roster, or forcing the Bruins to possibly deal Adam McQuaid or Kevan Miller if the Bruins feel he is ready for the day-to-day NHL grind.

The preseason opener was a good start that the 2015 second round pick was excited about, but things will certainly get more challenging for Carlo as the Bruins get deeper into this training camp.

“I just want to keep the same mentality, same energy. Show a little bit more physicality. I felt like I did that, but definitely could close a little quicker in a few instances overall. I just want to keep building on every game,” said Carlo. “There are some very strong guys on the puck in this league and throughout this game they had those guys out there definitely. Overall, you just have to compete just as hard as them.

“You’re dealing with NHL guys out there. [The Blue Jackets] had some pretty good guys in their lineup tonight and everyone is competing for jobs on both sides…so the speed was phenomenal. I loved it.”

The Bruins loved what they saw of Carlo in a pretty big opportunity right out of the gate this preseason, and now the teenager has set the bar if he wants to keep pushing with a hockey club that needs to upgrade their defense with strong, young players.