Haggerty: Bruins need to shed loser's mentality


Haggerty: Bruins need to shed loser's mentality

By Joe Haggerty

BOSTON Perhaps everybody should have seen this coming after the bar was set ridiculously low by the Bruins general manager and head coach over the past week of feverishplayoff anticipation.

Both Peter Chiarelli and Claude Julien happily agreed prior to last nights Game One that advancing past the second round of the playoffs the spot thats proven to be Bostons bugaboo over the last two Stanley Cup campaigns would signify a sufficiently successful postseason run.

We entered this year coming off of that disappointing end against Philadelphia and thats been an underlying theme of the year, to be able to respond, to be able to build from that, said Chiarelli in a conference call leading up to the playoffs. So the obvious answer is get past the second round but its more than that.

Its about how we play, its about how we compete and there a lot of variables that go in a playoff run and I expect us to have a successful one.

Well, pardon us for the bluntness but thats just a losers mentality.

Its all about the Cup, and only about the Cup.

That would be like the Red Sox saying theyre be satisfied with simply winning the A.L. East over the Yankees, or the Patriots declaring theyd be pleased as punch if they pushed it all the way to the conference finals.

It sounds so strange put in that context that the Bruins goals and aspirations seem to border on the ridiculous. It's tantamount to saying losing at some point is okay.

Its apretty simple concept: Bruins brass should say the Stanley Cup is the only barometer for success and failure; say the Stanley Cup is the only option.

Or say, as Bs president Cam Neely did to CSNNE.com earlier in the week, that the team is simply focusing on one game at a time against the hated Habs, and that the end result to the game-to-game approachshould becapturing the Cup. Insteam Neely stomped away red-faced and rankled from the B's management box following last night's crap sandwich of a game.

Chiarelli and Julien didnt say any of those things, though.

The fear now is that this skewed view of postseason hopes has infected Bruins players. That strangely passive approach to the postseason from the B's front office and brain trust seemed to spill over onto the roster in the opening night of the series as key players like Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Nathan Horton thought it was okay to simply disappear -- or never really appear at all -- in a 2-0 loss to the Canadiens at TD Garden.Many of the players seemed to indicate they played a "pretty good game" against the Canadiens in Game One, but "pretty good" doesn't get it done in playoff hockey.

Brad Marchand was one of the few Bruins really making things happen in the offensive zone as he finished with a team-high six shots on net and enjoyed several Grade-A scoring chances in the first two periods. But the Bs agitator couldnt pull the trigger on a wide-open chance by the right post after a brilliant cross-ice pass from Tomas Kaberle, and the Black and Gold didn't see another equally good chance for the remainder of the game.

It was a moment of rookie nerves affecting the natural scorers touch that allowed him to top 20 goals this season, and Marchand admitted afterward that he rushed a shot too open to be true.

It was a perfect pass. But I just tried to, I rushed it a bit, said Marchand. I should have tried to stop it and I would have had a wide-open net. But I just rushed it a bit.

It is frustrating. You feel like you kind of let the team down. You had opportunities like that and you didnt bury. You can say what if, but at the end of the day there is tomorrow and we have to be ready for that, focus on that and then be ready for the next game. We cant hang our heads here,

Atleast Marchand was skating hard and creating chances against an overmatched Montreal defensive pairing of Brent Sopel and Jaroslav Spacek. The Habs' twosome had some serious difficulty containing Patrice Bergerons line, one of Boston's few bright spots that could serve as a sign of good things to come.

Unfortunately there were more of Marchands teammates that were cool make that way too cool in their first game of the "new" season.

Sure Lucic finally got on the board with a pair of shots in the third period, but Bostons tone-setter was nowhere to be found during the opening 40 minutes -- either physically or on the scoreboard. More than once the 6-foot-3, 230-pound Lucic was blown off the puck -- or knocked on his backside -- by the 6-foot, 212-pound PK Subban. The entire Bruins first line was shut down by the Habs' rookie defender and Hal Gill in a dispiritingly quiet performance.

Both Krejci and Lucic had zero shots on net through two periods, as scores of Bs bodies stood around watching Zdeno Chara fire shots straight into Carey Prices CH logo on his chest for five of his 31 saves.

We didnt capitalize in the second period, said Julien of a period where the Bs outshot the Habs by an 18-6 margin. We had some great opportunities, but I think there are reasons for lack of goals. I dont think we did a very good job of taking away his Price's vision.

He saw a lot of shots tonight and he saw a lot of pucks. We definitely have to get better in that area if we plan on scoring some goals. We had some quality chances as well that we didnt capitalize on. When you get those quality chances, you have to make sure you bury those.

There was also the potentially toxic defensive pairing of Kaberle and Dennis Seidenberg on the ice for both of Brian Giontas Montreal goals, and the continued aimless wanderings of Kaberle away from the Boston crease.

The ex-Maple Leafs defenseman once again proved he could use an electric dog collar wrapped around his neck to zap him and keep him from straying away from the front of the net prematurely after making an ill-advised hard puck reversal behind the net in the first period.

Kaberle compounded his mistake by assuming Seidenberg was going to be able to handle the grenade tossed at him.

That led to Montreals first goal by Brian Gionta all alone in front of the net, and allowed the Canadiens to simply back into the packed-down prevent defense for the remainder of the game.

The loss wasnt the end of the world by any means. It wasnt a terrible effort by the Black and Gold. But it also wasnt nearly good enough to win in the playoffs and certainly wasnt strong enough to help achieve Chiarelli and Julien'sflawedcrusade: Conference Finals or Bust.

The Bruins need more bodies around the net, more traffic to make Price uncomfortable and more of a commitment from their best players to use their inherent size and strength advantages against the quicker, smaller Habs.

We had a lot of chances. Weve got to find a way, said Patrice Bergeron. Obviously Price is a great goalie, and he cant see the puck like that. Weve got to make sure we get in front of him and get some traffic. It doesnt have to be the prettiest goal, we just need to put the puck in.

Its clear Chiarelli and Julien are sticking with their modest postseason goals with job security in mind, but thats not working for anybody elseafter the first 60 minutes of what's sure to be a hotly contested series.

Its time to head back to the drawing board, and for Chiarelli, Julien, Lucic, Kaberle and the rest of the Bruins to reassess their Stanley Cup aspirations before they fall woefully short.

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

Injuries have created a muddled picture with Bruins goaltenders

Injuries have created a muddled picture with Bruins goaltenders

It’s hard to believe that it’s already come to this, but it might just be Malcolm Subban between the pipes for the Bruins on Tuesday night against the Minnesota Wild, and perhaps again on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.

The 22-year-old Subban has been pulled from two ineffective starts for the P-Bruins in four AHL starts this season (.846 save percentage and a 4.50 goals against average in four games) while coming back from last year’s fractured larynx injury. He's also a player the organization was uncertain enough about that they signed veteran backup Anton Khudobin to a two-year deal on the July 1 open of NHL free agency.

Subban attributed his start to a slow opening few weeks with a new P-Bruins roster of players, but that hasn’t stopped fellow P-Bruins goalie Zane McIntyre from putting up excellent numbers between the pipes in the early going.

But Khudobin went down with an injury mere minutes into Monday morning’s Bruins practice at Warrior Ice Arena, and Tuukka Rask been battling a nagging leg injury since the season opening win against the Blue Jackets.

So Subban was the last goalie standing on Monday as an emergency recall from Providence, and could be in line to play Tuesday night against the Wild if the Bruins medical staff can’t perform some Mr. Miyagi-style healing techniques on Rask or Khudobin.

“Khudobin got injured and couldn’t practice with us, but I haven’t heard anything yet [on an update],” said Julien following practice. “This is hockey. We deal with it on daily basis with the injuries. We wait for the news and then it’s about doing your job as it’s required. If we have to make some adjustments and have to have some different personnel, then we’ll deal with it when we have more of an update. Tuukka is still day-to-day, so nothing is changed there.

“We’re in a situation here where we’ll see what happens, and if [Subban] needs to go in goal then he’ll go in goal. It’s as simple as that. As a coach, there’s one thing that worries me and that’s ‘stop the puck.’ I’m not a goalie coach, so I’m just demanding on making the saves.”

Subban, of course, hasn’t been making the saves down in Providence early in the going there this season, and is entering the stage of his career where he needs to begin showing signs of being a potential No. 1 guy at the NHL level.

Fellow goalies from the 2012 NHL draft class like Andrei Vasilevskiy, Joonas Korpisalo, Matt Murray, Connor Hellebuyck and Frederik Andersen have all begun making their mark in the league, and Subban was selected higher than all of them except for Tampa’s Vasilevskiy. So in the final year of his entry level deal it’s high time for the 22-year-old to begin showing signs he can play in the league, whether it’s in Boston or elsewhere.

He admitted on Monday he might have been putting too much pressure on himself down in Providence while watching the injury issues play out with Tuukka Rask in Boston.

Subban was worried about the big picture of stringing together saves so he was the guy called up if the Bruins needed a goalie, and instead should have been focusing more on the present opponents at the AHL level.

“I put a lot of pressure on myself. I think anybody that knows me well knows that. I don’t like to let in goals no matter what happens, whether it’s breakdowns or not it’s my job [to stop the puck]. If there were no breakdowns then you wouldn’t need a goaltender,” said Subban. “I want to make every save and get a shutout every game. I think the biggest thing is just relaxing and playing, and knowing that it’s okay to let a goal in every once in a while.

“So I think in my position right now I’m supposed to be playing really well down there, and I think that go in my head a little bit. I was trying to get a shutout every game rather than going game-by-game and shot-by-shot. I was overthinking it too much. But collectively as a team we’re a new team and we were trying to get the chemistry together, and once we do that the D-zone will be better and the offensive zone game will come.”

If Subban does indeed get the emergency start on Tuesday night against the Wild, the Bruins just have to hope that it’s a better outing than getting pulled in his NHL debut against the Blues two seasons ago after allowing three goals on three straight shots to start the second period. They also have to hope that Rask or Khudobin get well quick given Boston’s shaky situation on defense in front of the goaltender, and the stretch they’re in of playing six straight opponents that qualified for last spring’s Stanley Cup playoffs.

If not then watch out below because every hockey person knows there’s no quicker way for a hockey club to really begin imploding than if the goaltending starts to become a major problem whether it’s because of injury, inconsistent performance or simply because of being a straight-up sieve.

McQuaid cleared to play, nearing return to Bruins lineup


McQuaid cleared to play, nearing return to Bruins lineup

BRIGHTON, Mass. -- It was a bitter pill for Adam McQuaid to sit out the first five games of this season, but it looks like the veteran Bruins stay-at-home defenseman is nearing a return to the lineup. McQuaid was cleared to potentially play in Saturday’s loss to the Montreal Canadiens after an upper body injury kept him shelved for the team’s first four games, and could be approaching a return in the next few days as Claude Julien mulls a number of possible lineup changes.

“It was obviously frustrating, but I’m where I’m at now and trying to move on from it. Looking forward to getting back into the lineup hopefully as soon as possible here,” said the 30-year-old McQuaid, who had a goal and nine points in 64 games for the Black and Gold last season. “The excitement level is high for me, and it is for everybody after a loss when you’re looking forward to getting back out there.

“It would have been nice to have started the season with the guys, but you can’t change that now. I’ve had some good practices, and I’m just trying to my game as simple as possible, and take it as it comes. Obviously guys have played some games and it’s been a couple of weeks for me, so I’ll just have to keep my game simple.”

The B’s bench boss indicated it was only a matter of time before McQuaid makes his 2016-17 regular season debut, but that he’s got plenty of things to decide prior to dropping the puck against the Wild.

“[McQuaid] was cleared last game. I haven’t made any decisions based for [Tuesday night vs. Minnesota]. There’s a lot of things that are up in the air, and I’ve just go to juggle those things,” said Julien. “Who knows? Hopefully tomorrow morning I’ve got a better picture [of injury situation], and if not then it will be game-time decisions. I wish I could have a better answer [on if McQuaid will play], but I’ve got no answers right now.”

With Colin Miller (minus-4), Joe Morrow, Torey Krug (a rough minus-3 against Montreal) and John-Michael Liles all minus players after the first five games of the season, there are ample options for Julien on which potential blueliner to bump up to the press box. McQuaid is just happy he’s getting closer to a return while skating with 23-year-old Rob O’Gara at practice, and he can get back to helping a B’s team that’s smack dab in the middle (ranked 15th allowing 3.0 goals per game) of the NHL for team defense this season.