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.

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.