Haggerty: B's need the power of change


Haggerty: B's need the power of change

By Joe Haggerty

MONTREAL Its time for Claude Julien to open things up and hope for the best before it's too late.

Julien has been the Bruins' coach for the last four years and built a playoff contender. He put the team back on the map.

But this season, Julien's style became predictable. His power play in particular, became stale. Despite its struggles, he made few changes. He's even stood firm as the Bruins' power-play unit sputtered in the playoffs without any moving parts, and only a predictable umbrella formation that foes like the Canadiens have seen over and over again.

Two games into what was expected to be an emotional series with the Canadiens, the Bruins still have done nothing on the man advantage.

But that's not all that's gone wrong for Julien's club.

Shockingly, Tim Thomas hasnt been good at all. With a .891 save percentage and five goals allowed on 46 shots, hes the backbone of what's become a leaky Bruins defense. Both Dennis Seidenberg and Johnny Boychuk's games look to be falling straight into the Stanley Cup dumpster after the first two games.

The questionable defense has allowed the Canadiens to build up early leads in both games, and the Habs seem poised to put a stranglehold on the series as they make their way from Boston back to the Bell Centre in Montreal.

Milan Lucic and Co. are legitimately incensed, and the hope is that theyre going to be able to finally do something about it. Maybe that's a good thing.

Were definitely upset. Were not happy with the results of the last two games, the first two games, said Lucic. The main thing is were fighting the puck and its almost like were shooting ourselves in the foot.

And I think thats the most upsetting part. But like I said we need to put that aside and we need to put our rally caps on and figure something out quick because were definitely running out of time.

It's a feeling the Bruins' power play has felt all too often. Over their first two playoff home games, the Bruins came up empty on all seven chances on the power play. The Bs have the right combos to provide firepower and defensive oomph when it comes to 5-on-5 play, but the power play is another thing entirely. It's one of the top items on the Bs checklist to improve as Julien and his team heads into a much-needed Game Three, and it's one of the biggest black marks on a coaching staff that hasn't been able to foster any kind of man advantage success.

Its tough when you only score one goal in the first two games especially at home and I think we just have to just bear down and find a way. Thats what it comes down to, said Julien. But like you said, its no secret now like the last two teams last year, when they were in trouble, were in trouble right now.

Lucic is normally a producer that rises to the occasion, and he said he had to find a way to rally and get his teammates' heads back in the series. One of those ways is to work harder for Stanley Cup-quality goal-scoring chances. The other is to re-connect with the fan base that wants him to be a physical threat on the ice -- especially against the Canadiens.

Will he live up to those expectations? Will he lead the Bruins out of their current postseason daze?

Who knows?

At this point, there really isnt much to count on as the B's are down 0-2. Perhaps calling Tyler Seguin into the lineup will turn things around and give the offense the spark it so desperately needs.

It certainly cant hurt the Bruins' cause at this point.

Perhaps Seguin's speed, blazing shot and skating speed can do some good against the Canadiens. Perhaps the change will give slumbering center David Krejci a slight boost. Perhapsit will have the same effect that inserting a benched Phil Kessel back into the B's lineup did four years ago against the Montreal Canadiens when the B's were in similar dire straits.Meanwhile Michael Ryder has amassed 24:36 of ice time in the first two games, managed two shots on net and exactly zero impact after Julien showed faith in his streaky winger after he showed nothing down the stretch this season. It's time for Ryder to hit the pine and then move on from Boston along with his overpriced contract.

Dumping Julien's tired umbrella formation on the power play would alsobe a step in the right direction for Boston, too. And running things through Krejci would make sense, but there's no way of knowing if it will be the PP's cure-all. Even if it were, it would depend on Julien's willingness to change -- something he hasn't shown all season. The biggest difference on the power play would and could be some additional player movement, some creativity and a little bit of the strange that opposing penalty killers aren't expecting.Truth be told: the movement on Boston's power play was actually pretty decent in Game Two without Zdeno Chara, and areliance on his 105.9-mphpoint blasts on one time shots as the PP's biggest weapon.Right now opponents know exactly what the Bruins are going to do on their special teams, and that's a bad thing. Seguin could be a wild card on that unit if Julienis willing to tie his team's fate -- and perhaps his own -- to a 19-year-old puck prodigy.

Perhaps Julien is just waiting. Perhaps he's expecting see the team he's seen all season. The one that, on paper, should win this series.

We have to play better and its pretty obvious that were the better team than weve shown, said Andrew Ference. It doesnt matter how many things look good on paper and everything else it doesnt matter at this stage of the year.

Its not about the numbers, its not about the number of shots, its not about the number of faceoffs weve won, at the end of the day its the outcome of the game that matters. And thats what we have to focus on, making sure that the outcome is in our favor.

Its time to win, or pack it in for the Bruins. Its as simple as that.

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

Rask: Last season 'something to rebound from' personally


Rask: Last season 'something to rebound from' personally

BRIGHTON, Mass. – While David Pastrnak, Tuukka Rask and David Backes are back from competing in the World Cup of Hockey in Toronto, that doesn’t mean you’ll see those players on the ice over the next couple of days. Perhaps the trio will practice on Monday in the fourth on-ice session at main training camp, but Bruins GM Don Sweeney confirmed that none of those returning players will suit up against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the B’s preseason debut at TD Garden on Monday night.

“Yeah…absolutely,” said Sweeney when asked if those three players have been ruled out for Monday night. “They’re going to get through the weekend here. Next week, we’ll evaluate [them] when they get on the ice. But, all those guys will not be on the ice until next week.

“It might be case-by-case for each guy. Those guys have been playing for a while at a high level. It’s unique for David Backes coming into the organization, so he’d like to integrate himself. I talked yesterday with all three of them just to get a read of where they’re at. But, sometime first of next week, they’ll be on [the ice].”

Both Pastrnak and Rask have checked in with the Bruins media over the last couple of days after returning from Toronto, and the Bruins goaltender, in particular, has plenty of motivation coming off a down statistical season. The 2.56 goals against average and .915 save percentage were well below his career numbers, and people like B’s President Cam Neely have pointed to Rask as somebody that needs to have a better season for Boston to rebound back into the playoffs this year.

“There were a couple of years where the standards pretty high, so obviously when they go down there’s something to rebound from. You kind of know where you can be. That’s where I try to be every year and I’m working on being there this year, and taking us to the playoffs and moving forward,” said Rask. “But every year is a new year where you’ve got to work hard, and set your goals to be at your best. More often than not you hope [being at your best] is going to happen, and I hope this year is going to be a great year for us.”

Clearly Rask wasn’t alone in his struggles last season behind a mistake-prone defense that allowed plenty of Grade chances, and that could be a repeating phenomenon again this season for the Bruins unless the defense is substantially upgraded along the way.

As far as the other three B’s players still taking part in the World Cup, it could be a while for Patrice and Brad Marchand as Team Canada has advanced to the final best-of-three series that could also feature Zdeno Chara if Team Europe is victorious. 

Sweeney: 'Helpless feeling' hoping World Cup players return healthy


Sweeney: 'Helpless feeling' hoping World Cup players return healthy

BRIGHTON, Mass. – It’s a bit of a helpless feeling for an NHL general manager watching their star players participate in an intense hockey tournament like the World Cup of Hockey that doesn’t directly benefit their respective teams.

Not helpless because of the tournament’s outcome, obviously, but helpless because players could return from Toronto dinged up, or even worse significantly injured.

Aaron Ekblad had to shut it down for Team North American with what many speculated was a concussion, and Pittsburgh goalie Matt Murray is out a month, or more, with a broken hand sustained playing for the same young guns team.

So, it certainly must have been an uneasy few moments for Don Sweeney when Brad Marchand was pulled from Team Canada’s last game for the concussion protocol after a nasty-looking collision with Team Europe forward Marian Hossa.

Marchand went through the testing, and ended up returning to the game no worse for the wear. But it could have been a lot worse for a Bruins team that can’t afford to be missing Marchand, Patrice Bergeron or Zdeno Chara, who are still playing for teams alive in the semifinal round of the tourney.

“I would expect all of us to have been in a similar situation. For everybody - any general manager, coaches, staff, you're concerned about [injuries],” said Sweeney, talking about the World Cup and Marchand’s close call. “I mean, especially when you realize the stakes are going to go up as the tournament goes along. The pride involved - it's a risk. There's no question, it's a risk.

“But you also want to see them play their best hockey and they're not going to hold back. Yeah, it's a definite concern. You've got your fingers and toes crossed.”

David Pastrnak and Tuukka Rask have already returned to Boston fully healthy. David Backes should be joining the team anytime now after Team USA’s rude dismissal from the tournament. But Sweeney and the Bruins still have their sensors out for the three B’s players taking part that aren’t quite out of the woods yet before returning to B’s camp in one piece.