Haggerty: Bruins need to shed loser's mentality

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Haggerty: Bruins need to shed loser's mentality

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

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

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.