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.

Backes doesn't back down from criticism of those who ripped Team USA

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Backes doesn't back down from criticism of those who ripped Team USA

BRIGHTON -- He may not get the chance, since he's now 32 and has thrown (and taken) plenty of hits during his 11-year NHL career, but new Bruin David Backes said he hopes to play for Team USA again to “have a nice taste in my mouth”.

Clearly, his last experience left a bad taste: The Americans finished dead last in the World Cup of Hockey, which is winding down now with Team Europe and Team Canada playing for the championship.

What also left a bad taste for Backes were the passive-aggressive Tweets sent out by U.S.-born players like Phil Kessel and Bobby Ryan after the Americans lost all three games they played in the World Cup. And he isn't about to back down from the pointed criticism he directed at them.

“I was one of the guys called upon to go to the rink on a day off after we were eliminated . . . . one of four to stand up and answer the questions,” said Backes, who certainly showed his personal accountability by showing up to answer questions after Team USA had flopped on the world stage. “Rather than defer and plead the Fifth, I thought it was something we needed to address. I think it’s easy to sit back and sling mud . . . when you’re not a part of it.

“[You can] kind of make yourself feel good about it (by criticizing Team USA) for a second, but if I wasn’t selected for the team, or if I’m not selected to the Olympic team in two years, I’m still American, I’ve still worn that jersey, and I’m going to root for those guys and hope everything goes well. If it doesn’t, I’m going to be crushed like I was on the team. That’s how I think as a team guy and as a guy that’s worn that jersey proudly and how much it means to me.

"I just hope and wish the other guys had those same feelings. If you’ve got some vindication not being on the team, and the team failing or not accomplishing the goal, then you should internalize that and use it as motivation going forward. You don’t need to join in with the chatter that’s negative and keeps piling on. Those are my visceral thoughts on the subject.”

Backes was a healthy scratch for Team USA’s final game against the Czech Republic, a listless defeat that dropped the U.S. to the bottom of the World Cup standings. That’s a bitter pill to swallow for a competitor who clearly understands the importance of representing one’s country.

So it’s no surprise the Bruins center hopes he gets a chance to redeem himself by making the 2018 Winter Olympics team. Backes has skated for the U.S. in each of the last two Olympics.

“I hope (the World Cup isn't the last time I play for my country), but that’s out of my control,” said Backes. “If my services seem like I can help a team be successful, I’d love to put that jersey on and have a nice taste in my mouth for the last time I use it, or the next time I use it. But there are a lot of great players that are Americans, and the next GM, or whoever it is constructing the team, will have decisions to make. Whoever they pick, I hope [the team] goes and puts us back on top of the pedestal for whatever competition it is.”

Clearly the Bruins hope that as well, since it would be a clear indicator Backes is performing at an elite level a couple of seasons into his five-year, big-money contract with Boston.

Marchand: 'No place I'd rather play' than Boston

Marchand: 'No place I'd rather play' than Boston

The Bruins made it official on Monday -- mere minutes after the news had broken -- as they clearly couldn’t wait to announce an eight year, $49 million contract extension for Brad Marchand. who is finishing up his Team Canada gig at the World Cup of Hockey.

PROFILE: Joe Haggerty's preseason look at Brad Marchand

The deal averages $6.125 million per season, broken up between actual salary and signing bonus money. The Bruins were most definitely given a hometown discount by an elite player who snapped home a career-high 37 goals and 60 points last season, the most goals scored by a Bruins player since Glenn Murray in 2002-03. And everybody knows goal scorers get paid in the NHL, even if Marchand won’t be expected to score quite that many every year.

Marchand, 28, has also been the second-leading scorer in the entire World Cup of Hockey tournament, behind only Sidney Crosby, and continues to raise his profile in the NHL world beyond his customary agitator role. The “Nose Face Killah” could have waited for until free agency if he'd wanted to pick up every last nickel on the table, but it’s very clear he’s invested in the team that drafted and developed him, and with which he won a Cup five years ago.

"This is an extremely exciting day for me and my family," said Marchand, who now has a full no-move clause for the first five years of his next contract. "I would like to thank the Jacobs family, [president] Cam Neely, [general manager] Don Sweeney, [coach] Claude Julien, the coaching staff, my teammates and our fans for their continued support and belief in me. I have been a Bruin since the start of my pro career and there is no place I would rather play. I look forward to doing everything I can to help our team achieve success and bring the Stanley Cup back to Boston."

Marchand has been among the team’s leading scorers since joining the league in 2010-11, has been the NHL’s most dangerous penalty killer over the last five years, and pairs with Patrice Bergeron to anchor the top line. He’s also become much more of a leader in the last few seasons as other character veterans have been peeled away from the core group, and a hometown discount proves it one of the most meaningful ways possible.

It was clear Marchand was invested in the Bruins when he helped recruit free agent David Backes with phone calls this summer, and he was also present for the recruiting pitch to Jimmy Vesey at Warrior Ice Arena last month.

The Bruins players at training camp were happy to hear No. 63 was going to be in Boston for the long haul.

“Marchy is Marchy. I think everybody kind of knows what that means,” said Kevan Miller. “He’s been great for our organization and great for the fans and for this city. He’s been all in since Day One, and he’s been a guy that I looked up to.”

While the Bruins have confirmed the contract, Sweeney won't weigh in until later today. But one would expect there will be an appreciation for the skill of the player, and Marchand’s commitment to the organization after accepting less than he could have gotten on the open market.