Haggerty: Canucks quickly skating away with series

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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

Bruins having 'very, very productive talks' with D-man Liles

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Bruins having 'very, very productive talks' with D-man Liles

The Bruins still hold high hopes for what free agency might bring them for a defenseman when the market opens Friday at noontime, but it also feels like Bruins GM Don Sweeney is under-promising while hoping to over-deliver. Either that or the Bruins really don’t have many good prospects at significantly improving their blue line group headed into next season.

For the first time Sweeney made a “defenseman-by-committee” reference during Thursday’s conference call to announce the four year contract extension for Torey Krug, and talked up positive contract talks with 35-year-old John-Michael Liles.

Yes, that’s the same Liles that was a minus-7 in 17 games with the Bruins after coming to Boston at the trade deadline for draft picks and Anthony Camara. One would expect it to be a one year deal at a very reduced rate along the lines of last year’s $2.75 million to bring Liles back in Boston if the Bruins can’t somehow land a bigger free agent fish like Jason Demers, or Brian Campbell.

There’s also the possibility of something shaking loose with Kevin Shattenkirk or Cam Fowler in trade discussions, but Liles was the only available defenseman that Sweeney addressed by name during his chat with reporters.

“We’ve talked to free agent candidates. I’ve mentioned John-Michael [Liles]; I think that we’ve had very, very productive talks there. We’re looking for balance; we’re looking for younger players to have an opportunity to emerge and grab a hold of that,” said Sweeney. “Whichever we can improve our team internally or externally, we’re going to continue to evaluate and pursue. The trade market … whether that materializes remains to be seen. And it’s not an easy process, nor is the free agency process.

“So we’re going to do the work to try and improve our team but it starts internally with our group. And our coaches are excited about what our young players are going to bring to the table.”

After signing Krug to a four year extension that will pay him $5.25 million per season and buying out Dennis Seidenberg’s contract, the Bruins still have $19 million to play with headed into Friday’s open of the free agent market. So the Bruins have the capital to be players on July 1 if they want to make a big splash.

It just remains to be seen whether the Bruins will be capable of making a big splash given the available players, and how many of the big named ones seem to be leaning toward NHL destinations other than the Black and Gold. 

Wyshynski: Eriksson is looking to really cash in

Wyshynski: Eriksson is looking to really cash in

Greg Wyshynski joins Michel Felger on Sports Tonight to discuss the recent Boston Bruins moves and other potential landing spots for free agents Loui Eriksson and Milan Lucic.

Bruins view newly signed Krug as an emerging leader

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Bruins view newly signed Krug as an emerging leader

With Bruins defenseman Torey Krug in the fold for four more years, a Thursday afternoon conference call with the 25-year-old defenseman and GM Don Sweeney was about what the young puck-mover can accomplish over the next few years. With Krug coming off a four goal, 44-point season and offseason shoulder surgery, it will be a slow and steady progression to begin next season once he’s cleared to play.

What isn’t in question is Krug’s leadership, toughness and gritty attitude to go along with his considerable offensive skill set, and those all made the $21 million contract a no-brainer from the Black and Gold end of things.

“Torey’s got a very, very unique skill set that’s important to our hockey club. He’s had a very, very productive three years. His role this year and his time on ice, in all situations, increased significantly. He was able to shoulder much, much more responsibility in all parts of the game. As a young player who is invested in the Boston Bruins organization, he wants to win, he does things the right way every time he comes to the rink,” said Sweeney. “He wants to get better; he’s not satisfied. All the things you want out of a young player to identify with, which is something we also acknowledge, that Torey has really been identified as an emerging part of our core leadership group.

“I think he’ll help tremendously to help all of our young players that hope to fall in similar fashion with the success that he’s had up to this point. We have a lot of work to do in front of us and Torey’s going to help us get back to where we want to be in trying to win a Stanley Cup.”

Krug has averaged 10 goals and 41 points over his first three seasons in the NHL, and averaged a career-high 21:37 of ice time last season as a de facto No. 2 defenseman behind Zdeno Chara. It was a big season because Krug survived, and continued to put up points, as a legit top-4 defenseman in the NHL, but the 5-foot-9, 181-pounder also needed his shoulder repaired after his first season of heavy duty usage.

So it bears the question of whether Krug will stay in one piece with the heavy top-4 duty over the next four years. Whatever the answer is to that question, the puck-moving defenseman will be a leader, a feisty character on the ice and somebody that’s going to serve as a good professional role model for the flock of young players expected to come through in the next couple of seasons.

The Michigan boy couldn’t be happier to be a part of all of it in Boston for the next four years.

“I think [the leadership thing] has been something that was instilled in me in a young age, you know, coming from my father. It’s always been authentic. If anyone tries to force it then people see right through that, and it just doesn’t happen. But for me and this team and this locker room I think I’m able to bridge that gap from the young guys to the older guys,” said Krug. “I relate to every single person in that locker room, which I think will help our team as we grow and we mature bringing in younger guys from Providence. Or guys that are just signed and helping them develop and helping them feel comfortable within the locker room because it can be intimidating.

“It’s tough to walk in the locker room, you know, when you have Stanley Cup Champions and Norris and Selke Trophy winners. So it can definitely be very intimidating and hopefully I can serve as that bridge to kind of ease that gap for those guys. As far as young defensemen goes, the one thing that Claude [Julien] helped me with when I first came up was making sure I was myself. I was here for a reason. I was able to do the thing I do well, and I wasn’t straying away from that to try to be someone that I’m not. So I think young defensemen, once they realize that and they realize that everyone in this organization is there to help them then they’ll begin to improve. They’ll become themselves as they will at the NHL level.”

With Krug having experienced a couple of years of late season collapses as one of the young leaders on this Bruins team, even more will be asked of him next season as the Black and Gold push hard to right the ship.