Haggerty: Bruins need to find motivation

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Haggerty: Bruins need to find motivation

RALEIGH The first step to addressing a problem is admitting that one exists in the first place. That seems to be what the Bruins need to do after a 3-2 loss to the Hurricanes at the RBC Center on Wednesday night that dropped them to 1-3 on the young season.

The Bruins fell behind by two goals before engineering a furious comeback attempt in the third period that fell just short, continuing a pattern of slow starts coupled with third period revivals arriving just a little too late in the game.

On Wednesday night it was a Tyler Seguin rush from the right side one of the few players that brought the goods from puck drop to final buzzer against the Canes that opened up the scoring for Boston in the third period, and finally seemed to act as the cattle prod to the behind the Bs needed.

With a power play thats 1-for-18 to start the season and some real issues finishing plays with three goals in their three losses on the season, it would be pretty easy to shrink down Bostons struggles into easily-digestible compartments.

Horton has struggled early, but showed signs hes starting to come out of it against the Canes while assisting on Seguins highlight reel goal. There are plenty of Bruins struggling to find their consistent playing level from last year, and the Bs coach is willing to work through it with them.

Were trying to find our A game. Weve got a lot of guys struggling right now and until we get everybody playing to their level its going to be a struggle, said Julien. I sense frustration in that room for that reason.

We need to look for more determination to turn things around. We have to fight through these things. They happen during the season, and the guys just have to get together and find a way to play some better hockey. They need to turn things around.

But it's a macro problem.

The Bruins have staggered out of the gate with very little emotional connectedness to the games, and even less urgency in their actions. Too many players just dont seem like their heads or hearts are fully committed to it yet, and the same shift-to-shift intensity seems to have been lost somewhere between the Cup ring ceremony and the field trip to Gillette Stadium last weekend.

Marchand has been trying to stir things up like its old times, but admitted that the whole Cup thing has created some kind of malaise thats difficult to bust out of.

Maybe we were on such a high with all of the Stanley Cup stuff and coming back in with all the hype surrounding us, it might have been tough to get up for a few of the games weve played so far, said Marchand. Thats our job and we have to do a better job of being prepared for these games and having better starts.

The players look and sound like they understand whats going on, but now its time to simply man up, roll up the sleeves and start going to work with the shift-by-shift work ethic that bred so much success last season. When a team sleepily ambles out of the game against young and hungry NHL clubs like the Avalanche and Hurricanes, its not inspiring much of anything from anybody.

Clearly this isnt the end all be ball of hockey games, but the Big Bad Bruins havent dropped the gloves with a single team in the first four games. While Shawn Thornton has invited several players to fight looking for that emotional spark in some of these sleepy games, its indicative of a team that yet properly focused.

Slow starts have characterized these games where the Bruins havent been emotionally locked into playing hockey, and thats where the change needs to be made for tone-setting catalysts like Milan Lucic.

They get up on us and were trying to scramble to recover, and thats our responsibility as players to prepare ourselves a little bit better as players to get ready for games, Lucic said. We need to set the tone early, and then carry it on the second shift to keep things going through the game. Its our responsibility as players to be ready to go when the game starts.

Dips in the season like this one currently experienced by the Bruins are where a veteran leader like Mark Recchi could circle the wagons, utter some magical words that only a future Hall of Famer could and set things off in a better direction. But Recchi is retired now and still trying to get the Bruins Starter jacket off after squeezing into it at the banner raising ceremony.

Its up to the current players in the dressing room that learned their lessons well during the Cup playoffs to straighten out this teams path.

Its on us. We have to find it in ourselves and recreate that emotion with every guy in here, Lucic said. It doesnt have to be up to Zdeno Chara because hes our captain or up to the other guys because theyre our alternate captains. Its on us as players to get more emotionally involved.

It almost seems like were focusing on the big picture you know, wins and losses rather than the little things like period-by-period and shift-by-shift like we did so well last year.

The Bruins know what the problem is, and they know that the Cup is now last years news. The turnaround should start with emotional catalysts like Shawn Thornton, Lucic and Marchand -- through actions on the ice that speak louder than words -- to bring each member of the team into a season thats already well underway without them.

Acciari glad to be back with B's after missing a month

Acciari glad to be back with B's after missing a month

BOSTON -- Noel Acciari missed a month of game action with a lower body injury, so it would have been perfectly acceptable to show plenty of rust in his game upon returning to the Boston lineup.

But the former Providence College standout didn’t look rusty, a step behind or out of place in any way as he played the fourth line energy forward role to a perfect fit after missing the last 13 games. Acciari did get in one game with the Providence Bruins prior to suiting back up for the Black and Gold on Saturday, and perhaps that helped him manufacture a couple of shots on net to go along with three thumping hits against the Maple Leafs.

The 25-year-old Acciari didn’t factor into the scoring at all for the Bruins, but that’s just as well given that his focus should be on killing penalties, being hard to play against and taking the body whenever the chance presents itself. Claude Julien reformed the B’s energy line that had so much success earlier in the season with Acciari, Dominic Moore and Tim Schaller, and didn’t hesitate tossing them back into the mix together while looking for energy and a spark for an offensively stunted team.

“It’s good to be back with my linemates, and you know, I think we kind of picked up where we left off, but there’s definitely things we need to work on. That’ll come with a couple more practices and games together,” said Acciari, who finished theSaturday loss with three registered hits packed into 11:35 of ice time. “Kind of getting back to our familiarity and kind of get back to where we were before I got injured.

“It was a good start tonight, but we definitely just weren’t clicking like we used to, but that’ll come. I think that will come. Like I said, a couple practices and just kind of getting some games in [are good things]. I thought we were pretty good tonight, but, you know, should get more pucks to score [goals].”

Clearly there is room for improvement for everybody including Acciari, but it was encouraging to see the fearless competitor again flying around on the TD Garden ice playing high intensity hockey for a fourth line that could use every little bit of that. 

Backes: "Offensive frustration is warranted at this point"

Backes: "Offensive frustration is warranted at this point"

BOSTON -- This may not come as a surprise, but the Boston Bruins are having some trouble putting the puck in the net.

Despite outshooting the Maple Leafs by an 11-2 margin in the first period and outshooting them by a 32-21 margin over the balance of the 60 minute game, the Bruins scratched for just a single goal in a frustrating, constipated 4-1 loss to Toronto at TD Garden. Clearly some of the offensive difficulty was caused by a solid Frederik Andersen, who improved to 6-0-0 in a career against Boston that’s beginning to take on Bruins Killer proportions.

But a great deal of the B’s struggles to finish scoring chances on Saturday night is a malady that’s dogged the Bruins all season, and marked the 20th time in 29 games this year that Boston has scored two goals or less. In most of these games the Bruins have dominated puck possession and outshot their opponents, but still have come away mostly empty handed in the goals scored department while dropping deep in the bottom third of NHL offenses this season.

“It seems like every game we’re out-chancing teams, but we don’t outscore teams. That’s where the biggest issue is right now. Our scoring is not there and if you don’t score goals you don’t win hockey games,” said Claude Julien. “Because of that we criticize everything else in our game, but our game isn’t that bad.

“If we were scoring goals people would love our game right now, but that’s the biggest part. There’s not much more I can say here except for the fact that if we don’t score goals it’s going to be hard to win hockey games.”

But the Bruins aren’t scoring goals consistently, their power play is below average while trending in the wrong direction and the team has been forced to watch steady offensive players like Patrice Bergeron suddenly slump in a concerning way. Clearly David Pastrnak is doing his part with 18 goals scored this season in 24 games, and others like Brad Marchand and Dominic Moore have also performed above, or beyond, their acceptable level of play.

But there are other players failing with the chance to make an offensive dent: Austin Czarnik has been on the roster for nearly two months, and has zero goals and two points in his last 15 games as the offense is again dried up on the third line. He missed wide on a shorthanded chance in the third period after a Moore centering pass set up him all alone in front, and was critiquing himself for fanning on a perfect dish to him in the slot.

Moments later the Leafs had an insurance score from James van Riemsdyk to make it a 3-1 game, and it was all over for the Black and Gold at that point.

Czarnik is an easy target because he’s young and inexperienced, but there is more than enough struggle and frustration to go around with a bunch of offensive players that can’t seem to get out of their own way. David Backes admitted it’s reached a point where the Bruins are frustrated when they can’t score enough to beat a team like Toronto, and that it falls squarely on the lead guys in the Black and Gold dressing room that are underperforming.

“I think offensive frustration is warranted at this point; we just haven’t done a good enough job scoring goals. We played a heck of a first period. We limited them to two shots and we had an opportunity to have a team that’s coming in here that’s a younger team, to really put them behind the eight ball,” said Backes. “Instead, they think they got a second lease on life and they were able to capitalize. All of the sudden, they were up 2-0 and we’re fighting an uphill battle again rather than -- we have that opportunity to play a heck of a first period and we don’t find a way – it’s easy to talk about, but it’s going out there and doing the job and putting it past or through the goalie, or however it needs to happen. “You’ve seen our goals; you want to do a study on it unless you’re Pasta [David Pastrnak] with the one-timer on the side, it’s been ugly, it’s been rebounds, it’s been greasy goals and that’s our equation and we need more of it, and we didn’t do it. They did a good job of being in front of their net and boxing out, eliminating those second chances. But, we’ve got good players in here that need to create more and find those second chances and win those battles, find those loose pucks, and throw them in the net.”

The Bruins have been talking seemingly all season about the need to get to the “dirty areas in the offensive zone”, and for players to jump all over the second and third chance opportunities currently going by the board unchallenged on goalie rebounds.

Now it’s about speaking with action for the B’s, and more specifically speaking volumes with goals and offensive finish instead of “chances” that aren’t doing much of anything if they’re not being snapped into the back of the net.