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.

Saturday, Aug. 27: Adding toughness Habs' priority

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Saturday, Aug. 27: Adding toughness Habs' priority

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, after a busy morning celebrating my 3-year-old’s birthday at the trampoline park. Yee-ha.

*PHT writer Joey Alfieri says that adding toughness was a big offseason priority for the Montreal Canadiens.

*There’s at least one big fan of the Edmonton Oilers trade that brought defenseman Adam Larsson from the New Jersey Devils, and that fan’s name is Mark Letestu.

*Here’s everything you need to know about the Ice Guardians movie premiering this fall that takes a long, balanced look at the NHL enforcers.

*Roberto Luongo has an alibi for the robbery in Winnipeg with one suspect getting away in goalie equipment, and it’s funny as you would expect it to be.

*CSN Washington takes a look at the New York Rangers in their season previews for the Metro Division.

*I’m not entirely sure whether this “RIP Harambe” thing is genuine or meant to be ironic by the largely millenial group that seem so enamored with it, but I think it’s just stupid. I think the same with the crying Jordan meme…also stupid.

*For something completely different: a look at how Triumph the Insult Comic Dog learned how to poop on Trump’s politics.

 

Countdown to camp: Danton Heinen

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Countdown to camp: Danton Heinen

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From now until the beginning of training camp, Bruins Insider Joe Haggerty is profiling players who will be on, or have a chance to be on, the 2016-17 Bruins. Today: Danton Heinen.

Danton Heinen exploded into a high-profile prospect for the Bruins after finishing among the NCAA’s top scoring players a couple of years ago as a freshman along with a couple of guys named Jack Eichel and Dylan Larkin. 

Since then, Heinen has continued to produce offense at the University of Denver and continued to create offense that leads to points. Now, the 21-year-old Heinen will be entering the professional arena for his first full season with the Bruins and he’ll be attempting to transition from the prospect phase to a regular gig in the NHL. That’s the challenge for a talented player who appears headed into a very good opportunity in NHL training camp.

 

What happened last year

Heinen was every bit as explosive in his second season for Denver as he was in his brilliant freshman campaign. He improved on his scoring with 20 goals and 48 points in 41 games. Then Heinen signed with the Bruins at the end of his sophomore season and played in a couple of pro games in the AHL with Providence as a tune-up for this first full pro campaign with the Bruins organization. Heinen finished with two assists and a plus-1 rating in four games with the P-Bruins and showed the coaches in Providence that he was ready to play and produce with more talented players. If Heinen surprised a little bit as a breakout freshman two years ago, his sophomore follow-up in Denver last season proved to everybody that he wasn’t a fluke.

 

Questions to be answered this season

The real question surrounding Heinen is about his ceiling as an NHL player and just how good he can become as a player with the skills and playmaking abilities to be a top-six forward. He’s proven he can dominate at the collegiate level while admittedly playing with some pretty good teammates at Denver. Heinen showed at the end of the season in Providence that the pro scene might not be much different for him. At this point, Heinen simply needs to go out and prove it against the best players in the world and show that his speed, playmaking and hockey sense are all elite in the AHL or NHL. Heinen’s biggest obstacle might be his size. He'll need to survive as a targeted skill player despite not being much more than the 6-feet, 180-pound range for a forward. It’s about average for a playmaking wing in the NHL, but the hits and attention will be at a much more intense level than anything he faced in the NCAA world.

 

What they're saying

“He’s the type of player that he can play with good players because he’s got high hockey IQ and he’s got really good skill. I think anywhere you put him, he’s smart enough to figure it out. I think you’ll notice him during training camp. It will definitely be up to him, but I think he’ll push some guys.” –Bruins assistant coach Jay Pandolfo on Heinen during last month’s development camp where Heinen soared as a performer.

 
Outlook

While Heinen still has some things he’ll need to prove before he’s a regular contributor for the Bruins, he comes into the Boston fold as an experienced player following two very good seasons at the college level. So, Heinen should be a little closer to plug-and-play for Claude Julien than some of the other young players that have come through the system in the past couple of years. Heinen will still need to flash in camp while being handed a big spot to perform with high-end veterans Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Brad Marchand potentially off playing in the World Cup of Hockey. Heinen also has a much greater chance of winning an NHL job sooner rather than later after the Bruins lost out on the Jimmy Vesey sweepstakes and still have a top-six forward opening that somebody is going to fill. Heinen and Frank Vatrano are the two biggest favorites to fill that position, which became vacant when Loui Eriksson departed for Vancouver. Whichever winger loses that battle should be also be a strong candidate for a role on the third line, as well, barring any late veteran signings by the B’s. That set of circumstances leaves a very good situation for Heinen to potentially walk into with the Black and Gold, but he'll still have to show he’s fully capable of seizing his good fortune and good timing.