Haggerty: Bruins' top line needs to perform

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Haggerty: Bruins' top line needs to perform

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

VANCOUVER On the surface Bostons top forward line had a pretty solid effort against the flying Canucks in Game One of the Cup Finals.

The Trio of David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton combined for 13 shots on net and appeared to be in on the action throughout the first round against Vancouver with a lull from the aforementioned forwards along with the rest of the team in decisive third period of the 1-0 loss at Rogers Arena.

Claude Julien correctly pointed out that the gaudy shot total wasnt reflective of the action on the ice in a general sense, but he easily could have been pinpointing Bostons big line failing to produce anything offensively in their very first try.

We managed 36 shots on net. That's just a number, said Julien. The scoring chances are what you have to look at. I think we can be better in regards to that.

Substitute 13 in for the 36 shots, and you have a valid summation of the first lines efforts amid a rowdy Vancouver atmosphere. A lot of high shot totals, but a real shortage of actual scoring chances.

The passable effort from Bostons top line definitely wasnt intense enough to win a hotly contested Stanley Cup Final game, and the trio knew it after reflecting on select moments from the game.

Checking the game video the next day confirmed it for all three players. The video never lies, and it was telling the Bruins they didnt use their assets properly and didnt always play their game of dump and punishment.

We have to just keep coming at them, said Krejci. We know we have some big forwards and Im sure their D is not happy when we put the puck deep. So we have to do that every single time. Eventually they turn the puck over, make a mistake and then we can make it count.

Its been our game all season. We have big forwards and we need to take advantage of it. Especially during the playoffs when you see these guys so many times, and depending on the day you might see them looking over their shoulder to see whats coming at them. Thats what we want. We want to make that happen.

Its the same feeling Bostons top line felt after disappointing Game One performances against the Canadiens and Lightning, and the reason the Bs fortunes ride heavily on their big offensive guns.

For me it was like the first game against Montreal. We were really excited and maybe even a little too excited, said Krejci. I didnt want to be too excited, but maybe I was and got a little carried away.

I think we tried to, but we didnt try hard enough. We have to get a little closer to the net and stay battling for those loose pucks. There were loose pucks in Game One especially on the PP, but the guys close to the net need to get there when shots are getting through. Maybe we can jump on the loose pucks and get some dirty goals.

The Bruins are 12-1 this postseason when getting at least one point from one of Krejci, Lucic or Horton, and that pattern is likely to repeat itself against a tough customer in Vancouver.

There is still plenty of hockey left, but our line has to score some goals if we want to win games, said Krejci, who fully embraces the responsibility of starting things up with his playmaking abilities. Thats what everybody expects from us, and as players thats what we expect. We have to get some more chances and bury some goals.

The big-bodied Lucic got into some nastiness with Kevin Bieksa and got flipped over on a hip check by Dan Hamhuis, but the 6-foot-3, 235-pounder never mixed it up close enough to the net. Its up to Lucic and the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Horton to bang bodies and create space near the painted area, and it never reached uncomfortable levels for Roberto Luongo when the threesome hopped over the boards.

It starts with physicality and perhaps even a little bullying of the Canucks, and that usually brings offensive results for Lucic and Horton once Krejci has some room to work his hands and playmaking mind.

I think that's what makes our line so productive is that we're just not all about scoring, said Lucic. We can go out there and maybe create momentum off hits and having a strong forecheck . . . doing other things like that.

Krejci is something of a perfectionist in all things, and is never fully happy with his effort no matter what the results say. Thats a good thing after Game One where the Bruins feel like they didnt fully have their feet on the ground. The plans for Krejci and Co. are pretty simple on the top line: generate plays in the offensive end and force the action to players like the Sedin Twins in their own end where they feel a little less sure of themselves.

We just need to be harder on the puck and protect the puck well. We need to take it down low. Weve got to work hard and not try to do too much with it, said Krejci. Weve got to just take it to the net. It might not be pretty goals, but the dirty ones count too. We need to find a way to get them.

Theyre good five-on-five. Theyre fast too and they like to go on rushes into the offensive zone and play a lot with the puck. I think we can take advantage of them, though, the Sedins in these guys. They dont want to play in their zone. I think theyre a minus for the whole playoffs.

Its good that the Bruins feel like they can exploit some of the weaknesses in Vancouvers game. Now its a matter of Bostons big guns going out and proving it before they fall into an 0-2 hole in the Cup Finals theyre not likely to climb out of.

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

Bruins' Zboril uses criticism and Twitter hate as motivation

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Bruins' Zboril uses criticism and Twitter hate as motivation

BRIGHTON -- It’s easy to see that Jakub Zboril , one of the Bruins' 2015 first-round pick, has come a long way in a year.

“I feel more comfortable,” said Zboril. “After last year, when all of the people saying something about what they didn’t like about me, it really pushed me forward. I told myself I wanted to be in better shape and so I worked really hard at it.”

The 19-year-old wasn’t in very good shape for last season's training camp after coming back from a knee injury, and that carried over into a junior season for the Saint John Sea Dogs (6 goals and 20 points in 50 games). That was a drop from his 13 goals and 33 points in 44 games prior to hearing his name called by the B’s on draft night.

Zboril was back at peak effectiveness in the playoffs for the Sea Dogs with a couple of goals and 10 points in 17 games, but the chain of events caused some to wonder if the Bruins had drafted something of a bust.

It seems ludicrous, considering Zboril is a 19-year-old talented enough to be selected 13th overall in the entire NHL draft, and even more so now that he’s showing much more in his second camp with Boston. It was some good and some bad for Zboril in his preseason debut against Columbus on Monday with a misplay leading to a goal against, but Zboril also kicked off the transition pass that helped the Bruins score their first goal of game.

“From last year I think he’s made big strides,” said assistant coach Jay Pandolfo. “He’s a young kid that’s only 19 years old, and he’s going to keep getting better. So that’s what you want. The structure in his game and the overall attitude [is better]. He was a little young last year. He’s in better shape. He’s done a lot of things that we got on him for last year, and he’s taken it and listened, he’s working hard. He’s done a good job.”

It’s a long shot for Zboril to crack the B’s roster this fall, so he’s likely headed back to Saint John for another junior hockey season after watching fellow prospect Thomas Chabot get a lot of the No. 1 D-man playing time last season. He quickly shot down any possibilities of playing in Europe rather than going back to the Quebec Major Junior League, and said there could still be plenty to learn in his final junior season.

“Right now where I am, I can just learn from myself and pushing myself,” said Zboril, of going back to junior. “What I can take from last year is that my role on the team changed, and I had to be more of a shutdown D. I had to show my defensive abilities, so I improved a lot from the year before. I think I can be more of a defensive defenseman too, so there’s that.”

Still, the so-so season last year had its impact in a positive fashion with Zboril really stepping up his game. But it’s also had its drawbacks as the Czech-born defenseman was forced to deactivate his Twitter account because of the harsh criticism and messages he was getting from hockey fans. Disappointingly, Zboril said most of it was coming from people in Boston that claim to be Bruins fans, and that it was like “people just spitting on you.”

“It was really pushing me down a lot,” said Zboril. “After some games when you know you weren’t playing really good, then you go on Twitter and you just see . . . people just spitting on you. So I had to delete it.”

Zboril said he’s much happier since getting off social media. But it’s a shame that a bright young prospect’s first impression of his future NHL city was the flaming dumpster of keyboard warriors that should forever be known as “Bruins Hockey Twitter.”

Wednesday, Sept. 28: Ex-Bruin Ruzicka in hot water

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Wednesday, Sept. 28: Ex-Bruin Ruzicka in hot water

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while fully ensconced in the Bruins' second exhibition game, on tap for tonight. 
 
-- It’s awesome to see Wayne Gretzky back in the mix with the NHL, and serving as “official ambassador” for the NHL’s centennial celebration. 
 
-- Tough times for former Bruins forward and former Czech national coach Vladimir Ruzicka, who was fined for some shady, fraudulent activity

-- Andrew Shaw announced his presence in Montreal with authority. The only thing missing from this WWE-type performance was a Hulkster hand to his ear before the threw a punch. 
 
-- A sad column from FOH (Friend of Haggs) Donnie Brennan, who says it’s time for Clarke MacArthur to retire after all the concussions. I remember writing the exact same thing about Marc Savard five or six years ago before he ultimately took one last big hit and retired. 
 
-- It sounds like old friend Vladimir Sobotka is going to stick in the KHL, and isn’t coming back to the St. Louis Blues as many suspected. 
 
-- For something completely different: A pretty fun Lyft commercial featuring David Ortiz, but how the hell did these people not recognize him?