Haggerty: Forwards pull disappearing act

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Haggerty: Forwards pull disappearing act

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
VANCOUVER Its not good when you hear passenger talk after a Stanley Cup Finals playoff game.

That was the general message some of the Bruins players were sending after a largely lifeless 1-0 loss to the Vancouver Canucks in Game 5 at Rogers Arena.

Nobody used the word passenger -- a term reserved for those who give something less than 100 percent -- but its clear there was frustration that the Black and Gold have not been able to muster a consistent effort in the three games in Vancouver after dominating on the road all year long.

It seems like we never do things the easy way here, said Michael Ryder. Its always hard. Were a character group and we grind it out. Its all about work ethic and leaving everything we have out there on Monday in Game 6.

The Bruins enjoyed three power-play chances in the first period and got a couple of quality bids by Patrice Bergeron on one of those man advantages, but Roberto Luongo was able to stop Bergeron's first shot and then deflect a follow-up rebound off his blocker.

Other than that quick flurry, the Bruins got a whole lot of nothing out of their forward group in a game that could have given them the lead in the seven-game series.

Whether it was because of the fatigue from cross-country travel, or their inability to drown out the Rogers Arena crowd, or the absence of Nathan Horton, it appeared as though the Bruins' forwards didn't bring the same work ethic that won them Games 3 and 4.

They lost the battle in the faceoff circle, got smacked around (47 registered hits by Vancouver), and they werent willing to pay the price when it came to pressuring Luongo in between the pipes. Rather than stand in front when the shots were being fired from their defensemen, the Bruins' interior players were getting pushed to the side of the net by Vancouver's active defense.

Combined with the Canuck skaters tightening up their gap in the neutral zone, it spelled doom for Bostons offensive push.

It wasn't a good night for our whole team as far as creating good, quality scoring chances, said coach Claude Julien. We had some, but the thing that we need to do a lot better is get to that front of the net.

We had guys, again, there, but on the side of the net. We need to be a little more aggressive in that area than we were tonight. That's so huge for a hockey club and we need that.

Horton, of course, was one of the biggest players the Bruins had for hunting out pucks near the net. But Friday nights Game 5 was the first time Hortons absence from the lineup was so painfully obvious.

The Bs coach attempted to mix-and-match with Ryder, Rich Peverley and Tyler Seguin on that top-line right-wing spot in Hortons place, but none of them slotted in as well as Peverley did in Game 4.

Besides Bergeron, who was Bostons best forward with six shots on net, nearly every other center and winger on the Bruins roster could have been classified as a passenger after Game 5. Eleven forwards -- all but Bergeron -- combined for 10 shots on goal. Thats not anywhere close to creating enough offense in a Stanley Cup Finals game.

Ryder, Brad Marchand and Milan Lucic were the worst of the bunch. All of them were forces during the games in Boston, but they accounted for exactly zero shots on net Friday night and only Ryder had something approaching a good scoring chance with a shot that rang off the crossbar. Lucic went back to being an invisible man. And not only was Marchand not scoring or playing with speed, he wasnt even doing his duties as Boston's agitator.

The defense was more than passable, shutting down the Sedin twins and Ryan Kesler once again, but it got no support on the scoreboard.

I dont know how to explain it, said Lucic. Weve done it the hard way this year and this is something we have to earn. We didnt make the most of this opportunity. But the good thing is that we have another one, and we have to make the most of it.

At times we werent moving our feet and standing still. In Boston we were moving our feet to create speed and we didnt do that enough tonight. In the last five games on the road it seems like we havent had all 20 guys going like we do at home.

Even David Krejci, the Bruins' leading goal-scorer in the playoffs, struggled.

He was given over 20 minutes of ice time during the game and managed only a single shot on net while adjusting to a series of right wingers who couldn't replace the smiling guy who was there all year.

In fact, watching three different players rotating around on the right wing while Julien found a workable combination was reminiscent of last season when there was no suitable replacement for Phil Kessel. Remember how that turned out?

The Bruins have to hope for a different result when they take the ice Monday night for Game 6 in their own building, and then need to devise some kind of offensive game plan that will actually work in British Columbia.

That is, if they're able to force a Game 7.

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

Haggerty: Bruins putting a lot of their hopes in one roster fix

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Haggerty: Bruins putting a lot of their hopes in one roster fix

The improvement plan has become as clear as it’s going to be for the Bruins this offseason.

With Bruins general manager Don Sweeney locking up Kevan Miller to a four-year, $10 million deal this week and vowing to sign Torey Krug as well, the Bruins defensemen corps is going to look awfully similar to last season’s misbegotten group.

Almost identical, it would seem.

Sure, Sweeney said on Wednesday that the Bruins are actively seeking out “a transitional defenseman” that’s presumably a little better than 35-year-old journeyman John-Michael Liles, and can be paired with Zdeno Chara as a top duo for next season. It’s the No. 1 priority on the Bruins offseason shopping list just as it was last season once they shipped Dougie Hamilton to Calgary for draft picks and were instead saddled with a fearsome, crippling black hole at the top of their organizational D-man charts.

The trade market has been set to a degree by the Erik Gudbranson trade from the Florida Panthers to the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday night with Jim Benning giving up a Grade-A center prospect in Jared McCann, a second-round pick and a fourth-round pick in exchange for the 24-year-old top-four defenseman. Per a hockey source with knowledge of the situation, the Bruins were not involved in any talks for the towering Gudbranso. It sounded like the Panthers and Canucks were pretty locked in with each other on making a deal.

That’s an unfortunate product of Boston not being able to match up with the available center prospect that might have interested Florida and having dealt some of those 2016 draft picks on fruitless deadline rental deals for Lee Stempniak and Liles.

So, how difficult will it be to land Kevin Shattenkirk, or Jacob Trouba, or Sami Vatanen, or Tyson Barrie, or any other mobile blueliner able to play big minutes, move pucks and survive against the other team’s best offensive players while being sheltered defensively by Zdeno Chara?

“Time will tell on that one, you know? Either through free agency or through acquisition, it’s a matter of finding a trading partner or finding a match in the marketplace. We’re going to be aggressive,” said Sweeney. “We certainly have identified, we had our pro meetings … I’m not going to give my whole plan out to you today. But we have areas that we want to address in the depth of our organization more likely in the forward position, either on the right wing or the center, or again on the backend. We’re exploring a bunch of different things trade-wise. It’s difficult in this league, but I think that we’re in the position with two first-round picks to be either selecting really good players or to be in the marketplace.”

The Bruins had better hope it’s a miracle-working puck-mover that they bring to Boston because otherwise they are on course for bringing back the same old sorry usual suspects from last season. Miller and Adam McQuaid will be taking up a combined $5.25 million on the salary cap, Krug will have a salary in the range of $5 million per season after watching the B’s largesse in the Miller deal and both Chara and Seidenberg will trudge on as proud, aging warriors well on the back end of their careers after outstanding service in Boston.

That means many defenders, including Joe Morrow and Colin Miller, return. Defense was the clear weakness on the team, which finished 19th in the NHL after being in the bottom third of the league pretty much all season. It was inarguably the worst defensive group of Claude Julien’s 10-year tenure with the Bruins and had major difficulties in all areas ranging from tape-to-tape passes, to coverage breakdowns and good, old-fashioned lost battles in all of the danger areas.

So, with the plan to add one high-caliber “transitional defenseman” already laid out, it’s clear the B’s belief is that will be enough to substantially improve things on the ice.

At least that’s the theory before the bullets start flying next season and Sweeney gave a few perfunctory lines about the team improving in every area.  

“This is a results-oriented business, so we have to get better in areas. We have to improve our roster. I’ve said all along that we need to continue to improve our roster. We’ll be in the marketplace in every different way, shape, or form to try and acquire players that will continue to help us do so,” said Sweeney. “Talking with Claude and going over the time he spent with Butch [Cassidy], through my dealings with Butch, and realizing the development of a lot of the players that have been a part of our roster and success is the transition game and stuff that Butch has brought to the table.

“[It’s] how he saw the game, how he expects players to play and move pucks and work on it every day, is an area that I think he’s going to be an addition to our [coaching] staff and how he sees the game. I think I identified that if Butch was playing in this day and age now, he’d be a very welcome addition to our roster.”

So that’s the plan, folks. The big move of the summer is getting a defenseman they badly need, filling in a few roster spots, signing a good deal of their own players and then hoping for a better result next time around.

Isn’t there some kind of line about insanity and expecting different results with the same cast of characters year in and year out? 

 

Thursday, May 26: Will going with Fleury haunt Penguins?

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Thursday, May 26: Will going with Fleury haunt Penguins?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while still laughing at the #TeamFrich movement.

*Dave Lozo says that the decision by Mike Sullivan to play Marc-Andre Fleury could still come back to haunt the Pittsburgh Penguins.

*Miracle on Ice goaltender Jim Craig marvels at the evolution of USA Hockey from the Miracle days to the current system that just keeps on producing top talent.

*Mike from Woburn hates the Kevan Miller contract almost as much as I do.

*Speaking of the Kevin Miller deal, here’s a scenario where the big overpay for Miller might help them land another talented young player.

*In other hockey news, the Vancouver Canucks landed legitimate top-4 defenseman Erik Gudbranson while the ink was drying on the Kevan Miller contract.

*Chris Phillips is expected to announce his retirement from the Ottawa Senators after a long career in Ottawa as a defensive warrior.

*PHT writer and FOH (Friend of Haggs) Jason Brough says some tough decisions await the St. Louis Blues after dropping the conference finals to the San Jose Sharks.

*The San Jose media has decreed that it was worth spending a first-round pick for Martin Jones after he helped carry them to the Cup Final. For the Bruins it means that their first round pick will be No. 29 or No. 30 in the first round, so whoop-de-do for that.

*For something completely different: 21 scientists say that Tom Brady is right and the NFL is wrong about Deflategate.

 
 

Pandolfo ready to jump from player development to Bruins assistant

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Pandolfo ready to jump from player development to Bruins assistant

Jay Pandolfo grew up a rabid Bruins fan as a native of Burlington, Mass, and got to live out his youth hockey dreams playing in the Black and Gold at the very end of an excellent NHL career that included winning Stanley Cups for the New Jersey Devils. 

Pandolfo then was hired as a Player Development coach with the Bruins and was charged with working with their young prospects. Pandolfo responded as he typically does with a great work ethic and an open-minded, success-driven attitude, and did some very good things with young players Frank Vatrano, David Pastrnak and Noel Acciari the past couple of seasons.

So, it was a bonus for both the individual and for the team when Pandolfo was added to Claude Julien’s NHL coaching staff this week and it also bodes well for the further development of young players on the NHL roster. Perhaps Pandolfo can even coax a little more production out of young veteran forwards Jimmy Hayes and Brett Connolly, who were both lackluster given ample chances to consistently produce last season.

Pandolfo was also a part of the interview process two years ago when Geoff Ward departed from Boston’s NHL staff and the Bruins eventually hired Joe Sacco as Julien’s top assistant.

Clearly, developing the young players was a mandate with the hires of both Pandolfo and Bruce Cassidy to the NHL staff, and getting the coaching experience in the NHL is something he wanted to try after his retirement as a player.

“Coming out as a player, Jay expressed interest from day one to get into coaching, had been a part of the search process [last season] that Claude referenced earlier. I’ve spent an awful lot of time with [Pandolfo] in the last two years while he’s transitioned into a development role. He spent a lot of nights behind the bench in Providence. He watches a lot of video with our players in a development role,” said Don Sweeney, who also added that Pandolfo’s move to coaching would open the door for former Devils forward Jamie Langenbrunner to become more involved in the B’s burgeoning Player Development Department. “I don’t really think it ever left him that he wanted to take a crack at this. I think it’s sort of in him as part of his fabric to want to teach, to want to impart upon the players the knowledge that he knows what it takes to win.

“He’s won. I’ve trained with him in the summer; he knows exactly what it takes. I think that it’s in his blood. It doesn’t mean that he can’t transition back out in a year’s time if it’s something that he doesn’t want to do. But it’s something that he wanted to jump into right from the get-go.”

Both Pandolfo and Cassidy have the unique position of having already coached many of the prospects, either in the NHL or on the cusp of breaking through from Providence. Take it one step further, Pandolfo also has the unique perspective of having played with many of the B’s core group of veteran players. That experience can be a vital conduit between those players and Julien when normal brush fires crop up or when the head coach is actively looking to gauge the true pulse of his team.

“I think it’s a huge benefit. I think working with especially some of these young guys who will be coming up in Providence. Even getting to know the prospects that hopefully will be making the jump and whether it’s a year or two years, having those guys feel comfortable with coming into a situation,” said Pandolfo. “I’ve played with a lot of guys that are still on the Bruins, so I think being comfortable with those guys [is important], and those guys knowing me and being comfortable with them being able to bounce stuff off me. As an assistant coach, you know, a lot of times you’re a bit of a sounding board too for those guys. You know they can’t always go to the head coach for things, so you know they like to sometimes talk to the assistant, and get a feel for what everyone’s thinking.

“It’s a good situation. I played for Claude so I’m very comfortable with him. Working with Butch the last couple years has really helped me a lot and we’re real comfortable together. So it's a similar situation. I’ve known Joe for a long time and also working with Goalie [coach] Bob [Essensa] as well down in Providence on a regular basis and having a really good relationship with Don Sweeney the last two couple years, it’s a very similar situation. For everyone I think it’ll allow us to get close as a group right from the hop. I think that matters a lot when you’re trying to build a winning team.”

Clearly, the Bruins are trying to make adjustments to the coaching staff in the hopes things will be different than they’ve been the past two seasons. It remains to be seen how many more changes need to be made before the truly positive results start to return for the Black and Gold, and things begin to stabilize on Causeway Street.