Haggerty: Canucks quickly skating away with series

191545.jpg

Haggerty: Canucks quickly skating away with series

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

VANCOUVER Game 2 was a learning experience. There were some elementary things that both the Bruins and the Canucks learned about themselves after the B's lost a 2-1 lead and fell 3-2 in overtime on Saturday:

Tim Thomas had a difficult night. The first and third goals he allowed were mistakes. Though he had two standout periods in the second and third, Game 2 was evidence that the Bruins cant win games against the Canucks if Thomas doesnt don an S on his chest.

Alex Burrows proved it is indeed possible in the NHL to bite a mans finger in one game, and then completely dominate the next with dazzling offensive playmaking. Burrows factored into all three Vancouver goals, set up the tying score and turned relentless hustle into the overtime game-winner. He also undoubtedly earned the nickname Alex Bleeping Burrows in Boston just in time for Games 3 and 4 at TD Garden starting Monday night.

Theres even the surprise that the Canucks once again displayed thumping physicality and rattled off a game-high 40 hits against a Bruins club that prides itself on intimidation and inflicting punishment.

Mark Recchi showed he can still score on the man advantage, recording his first power-play goal since the month of January.

But there is one undeniable fact thatll likely be etched on the headstone for this years Bruins if they finally succumb to the Canucks in the finals: Speed kills.

The Bruins can talk about mismanaging the puck, throwing possessions away in the neutral zone, and making bad decisions, but the blinding skating speed and the instant-attack instincts of the Canucks produce those kinds of maladies in otherwise excellent hockey teams like the Bruins.

Neutral zone turnovers and our puck management were problems, said Bruins coach Claude Julien. I thought on our breakouts we needed to move the puck a little better. Puck management and 'D'-to-'D' passes weren't crisp or on the tape. We bottled a lot of pucks in our own end tonight. That allowed Vancouvers fore-check to be efficient.

So those are the things that I keep talking about. We're basically repeating ourselves with a lot of those things that are happening because of those two reasons I feel is hurting us right now: puck management and decision-making.

Those two things harped on by Julien were also clearly byproducts of being rushed and harried by a relentless Canucks attack that kept coming at them in unmerciful waves.

The overtime game-winner was a perfect example of speed destroying the Bs at the worst possible time. Patrice Bergeron won the faceoff to start overtime, but somehow the Canucks still managed to score the gut-wrenching game-winner just 11 seconds into the extra session.

All it took was one careless Andrew Ference chip through the neutral zone intercepted by Alex Edler. It turned into a Burrows breakout going in the other direction after a nifty Daniel Sedin dish.

That was it.

Tim Thomas flopped aimlessly outside of the crease trying to cut off Burrows, and it was game over before the Bruins really even knew what had hit them.

Youve got to give Vancouver some credit, too, said Milan Lucic when asked what went wrong against the Canucks in the third period and overtime. Theyre a team that doesnt give up and they fight to the finish. Its a game of momentum swings and thats pretty much it.

Perhaps the biggest telltale sign that the Bruins are getting encircled by the blazingly fast Canucks is the Bruins' noticeable fatigue in the third period of the first two games.

All season the Bruins have been aces in the final 20 minutes of games and shown the ability to finish strongly against the opposition. But Bostons defensemen and forwards are so worn down by the frenetic pace of the Canucks that theyve been outscored 3-0 in the third period and overtime of the first two games of the series.

Its not just the scoreboard, though.

The Bruins were outshot 11-5 in the third period and dominated for the second straight game by Vancouver in the final 20 minutes of regulation. Rock-steady performers like Zdeno Chara and Andrew Ference are making mistakes at the ends of games, and nobody in Black and Gold has anything approaching a burst in the third period.

The Bs goaltender couldnt or wouldnt pinpoint exactly what happened, but he saw a big difference in his team during the final 20 minutes amid a swarm of Canucks.

I dont know, said Thomas. If I knew the answer Id try to keep it all the time. I know there was a noticeable difference between the second and third periods. But Im just a goalie. Im worried about doing my own job as best I can right now.

One glimmer of hope for the Bruins: The physical tenor of the series will eventually wear down and slow down a Canucks team that looks like its playing a fast-forward brand of hockey.

Johnny Boychuk buried Ryan Kesler with a hit in the corner early in the first period and the Vancouver center was a shadow of himself skating around for the rest of the night. Raffi Torres and Kevin Bieksa both limped off the ice at points during the game, and Dan Hamhuis is still missing in action after his ill-conceived hip check of Milan Lucic in Game 1.

Boston knows that their best chance is to keep pounding away at the Canucks with the hope that the collateral damage will slow them down over the course of a seven game series, forcing Vancouver into turnovers as the body check count rises.

But the Bruins actually have to win a few games and elongate the series before it becomes an endurance test.

Right now the Bs are flunking the speed test administered by Vancouver just as every other NHL team has fallen victim to their pace this season. Speed kills in hockey, and the Bruins are two games away from being dead if they dont do something about it.

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

Amid signs his job might be in trouble, Julien says: 'I'm not quitting on this team'

Amid signs his job might be in trouble, Julien says: 'I'm not quitting on this team'

BRIGHTON, Mass – Roughly 12 hours after embattled Bruins coach Claude Julien bristled at a question about his job security and labeled it “shock journalism” in the heat of the moment after a tight loss to the Blackhawks, the B’s bench boss delivered a classy, heartfelt response to the same question.

Julien was asked about it in French by a reporter from the Montreal Gazette, but answered in English because of the “loyalty he feels to the people in Boston.”

In essence, Julien basically said he should be relieved of his duties if he’s deemed to be behind what ails the Black and Gold, but he’s going to keep working to fix things until that day comes.

It was exactly the kind of response you would expect from a coach who's taken the B’s to the mountaintop in his 10 years running the team and will always be respected and loved in Boston long after his coaching days are done.

“How do I deal with all of the rumors and all that is going on? I didn’t feel like [Friday night] was the appropriate time for me to answer that after a game where you’re emotions are pretty high. I wasn’t getting into that, but to be honest with you my job is to coach the hockey club,” said Julien. “Am I worried about my job? No, I’m not. Because it’s not my job to worry about it. My job is to fix things, and my job is to coach this team and do everything I can. If I become one of the reasons that we’re not doing well, then management has to make that decision.

“It’s not my decision to make. I’m not quitting on this team. I’m not quitting on anybody. I’m not quitting on management. I’m ready and willing to go through the hard times, and I said that at the end of last year. If it’s deemed my fault, then I shouldn’t be here, and that’s all I can say.”

While the Bruins roster is clearly less than perfect and has a larger dose of youthful players than in years past, Julien also freely admitted that they should be held to a higher standard after proving many nights that they should be a playoff team. That’s the mandate from Bruins ownership and that’s the challenge that Julien has willingly accepted.

It’s also the challenge that’s falling a bit short now as they’ve lost three crushing games in a row and have fallen behind the Ottawa Senators in the playoff standings, with Toronto also right behind them holding six games in hand.

“If we’re going with what we said we were going with and there’s going to be some growing pains along the way, so be it,” said Julien. “I think we put ourselves in a position earlier in the year where we could all of a sudden believe that we’re a playoff team...absolutely. I still think we’re a playoff team. Whether we can do it or not we’ll find out at the end of the year, but my job is to do everything I can to get us into the playoffs and that’s what I’m going to do.

“As far as the rumors are concerned, they’re out there and I know that. But I don’t worry about it because worrying is wasting a lot of my time. And my time is spent trying to fix things here.”

Julien and the Bruins are headed to Pittsburgh for a Sunday matinee against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and will have two games against the red-hot Pens headed into an All-Star break weekend that must feel like a well-earned oasis for Julien at this point in the season. 

Haggerty: Good, but not good enough, again the story for Bruins

Haggerty: Good, but not good enough, again the story for Bruins

BOSTON – The all-important results continue to elude the Bruins at the time when they need them most.

The Black and Gold lost their third game in a row, 1-0, to the Chicago Blackhawks at TD Garden Friday night when they allowed the game-winning goal with less than 90 seconds remaining in regulation. It was a simple defensive breakdown and some great tic-tac-toe passing with Marian Hossa finishing things off, but it also felt like a game where the Blackhawks coasted against a wounded Bruins team for 58 minutes before turning it on when it was winning time.

The winning goal was a cross-ice pass from Tanner Kero to Hossa, with the puck sliding right between the legs of Adam McQuaid in the slot, and Hossa picking a corner while giving Tuukka Rask zero time to react side to side.

“We had a game plan in place and our guys executed well, they were ready to play,” said Claude Julien. “One little mistake and it’s in our net, and you lose yourself a pretty important hockey game.”

So, now the Bruins have taken only one point in their past three games, have dropped behind the Ottawa Senators in the Atlantic Division standings and continue to skate around like they’re wearing the weight of the entire organization on their shoulders.

“At the end of the night it is another loss and that’s the biggest thing. Did your team play fairly well? I think so. I think we competed hard, but then again you’re dealing with some growing pains. We had an icing late in the game so that’s not necessary, but the winning goal that goes through three of our guys and in our net with a minute-and- a-half left,” said Julien. “We have to stand there again, and take the responsibility for our own actions. It’s unfortunate because that minute-and-a-half that was left in the game kind of tarnished everything we had done for the first 58 minutes.

“I thought we played pretty well against a good team. We had contained the guys that we needed to contain. We didn’t score any goals – I don’t think we did a good enough job there - we had some chances but again you got to find ways to score goals. That’s where we are at.”

Clearly, the Bruins didn’t give up a ton defensively and Rask had been solid for the first two-plus periods, but there was also a sense Chicago didn’t bring its best game either when Boston outshot the Blackhawks 17-6 in the opening period. It was also clear that, aside from a couple of good, early chances from Tim Schaller and Brad Marchand, along with a Joe Morrow breakaway chance, the Bruins offense wasn’t doing enough work to get closer to the Chicago net for any sustained pressure.

So, instead of a solid result with dark clouds swirling over Causeway Street that a big change is needed to jolt a stagnant team, the Bruins hang up another loss where they outshot their opponent and end up with nothing to show for it.

These are the kinds of losses that test morale and togetherness and could either be taken as a sign of things tightening up for the Bruins or of things continuing to spiral away from a team that just needs wins at this point.

“I’m sure everybody’s feeling down right now because we lost, but you can’t start pouting too much. You’ve got to move on,” said Rask, who allowed one goal on 22 shots in the loss. “[There’s a] big game coming up Sunday, and next week, so it’s a loss and we have to move on. [We have to] get ready for the next one. I’m sure guys are pissed today, but tomorrow’s a new day.”

Tomorrow is a new day for everybody on the Black and Gold including Julien, who is scheduled to still run practice on Saturday as the B’s bench boss before speaking to the media prior to the team leaving for Pittsburgh. So, it’s business as usual after another loss on Friday night in a classic Original Six matchup that’s clearly most of the luster from where it was at four years ago, but one can only sit and wonder how much longer business as usual cuts it for a hockey club that continues to flounder.