Haggerty: It's time for the Bruins to step up


Haggerty: It's time for the Bruins to step up

By Joe Haggerty

WILMINGTON A word of caution to the Boston Bruins: Those Montreal Canadiens in their rear-view mirror are much closer than they might appear.

With the Habs crushing the Minnesota Wild, 8-1, Sunday afternoon, Montreal is only a point behind the Bs in the Northeast Division.

Boston still has a pair of games in hand on the Canadiens, but the hated Habs also come in for a gigantic visit to the TD Garden Thursday night thats going to be enormous on many levels given the rivalry, the standings, and the Zdeno CharaMax Pacioretty soap opera playing out over the last couple of weeks.

In many ways the Bruins simply havent been the same team since they were pounded at the Bell Centre and branded as the new Legion of Doom after Charas hockey play on Pacioretty in the treacherous stanchion area between the benches. Chara has certainly been a shadow of himself after getting cast as the mustache-twirling villain.

The NHL refs called a handful of questionable penalties on Boston in the first game after CharaPacioretty, and assorted NHL officials have awarded nearly twice as many power plays to Bostons opponents as to the Bruins (22-13) in the five games since the incident.

The quick whistles against the Bruins and the hesitation to bestow power plays with zero production when they actually do get penalties called in their favor -- on the new incarnation of the Big Bad Bruins has taken some of the teeth away from a Bs bunch that relies on physicality.

Lately there have been way too many scenes like the end of the first period Saturday night, when Milan Lucic was barking at ref Frederick LEcuyer on an uncalled high stick against the Maple Leafs.

But thats not the only factor.

The Bruins exhibited signs of mental and physical fatigue after embarking on the highly successful undefeated six-game road trip, and Saturdays listless loss to the Leafs capped off a stretch in which Boston played 12 road games out of 16 total games in February and March.

If you look at our travel over the last month-and-a-half, it hasnt been the easiest, said Mark Recchi. Weve been away a lot, on the road a lot, traveling late at night a couple of times and getting in really late. Eventually that is going to take a toll on your team.

Were over that now and we have a great opportunity here. We came out of it with a little bit of struggles, but at the same time we know we have a lot to build on. Were hitting the stretch drive, and I know we have the talent to do it.

While the Bruins have played their best hockey on the road this season, there is a limit to how long a team can sustain their legs, their fighting spirit and their compete level when long road trips pile up on one another.

The good news: the Bruins play 8 of their remaining 11 regular-season games at home and only embark on a quick one-day trip in their own time zone for each of their final three road games in New Jersey, New York and Philadelphia.

We need to make sure by the time the playoffs start that were flying at full gear, said Mark Recchi. Every team goes through stuff like this, and were glad that were going through it now so we have 11 games to correct it. We take pride in our goals against and playing well defensively, and its almost like were trying to do too much.

"Were going to be fine. Everybody believes in each other in here, and everybody goes through these stretches. If you look at our 10-game segments, we havent gone through a single one under .500 this year. Weve got 11 games to build things up again with three big games at home.

Whether it was the road weariness or the misplaced nerve, the Bruins dont have a choice now this late into the regular season. Its the middle of March and every NHL team no matter how good or terrible has gone through epic streaks and slumps in the roller-coaster regular season. But the Bruins need to pull themselves out of their currentfunk before the hard-charging Canadiens pass them by, and drop theminto the bottom half of Eastern Conference playoff teams.

Coach Claude Julien has made his commitment to whip the team back into shape, and do whatever possible to calm some of the mental gaffes and communication problems taking place between the defensemen and goaltenders. Tuukka Rask apologizing to Dennis Seidenberg was a good first step after going berserk on the Bruins defenseman following a screen on Saturday night, but it revealed a defensive unit that isnt all on the same page.

Itll be about how we respond in this coming week; thats what is important, said Julien. It has to start from here on in where we find our consistency. When you see us playing the way we are, I dont think that were mentally ready to play. If you assume everything is going to be okay then youre going to miss the boat. Theres a lot of work to be done from here to the end of the regular season to be prepared and to be a good playoff team.

At times during the year you have to trust that your players are professionals, and when you give them a day of rest then theyll be ready to get back to work. If the players arent doing it, then its up to the coach to start making adjustments. Thats what were doing, starting now.

Coming to the rink mentally prepared and willing to compete is the bare minimum for the Bruins, but theyre expected to bring a lot more starting this week as they skate for their very playoff lives in a suddenly life-or-death situation.

The real Bruins team will stand up for these last 11 games for better or worse in a season they have to make count. It all starts Tuesday night against the surprisingly hot New Jersey Devils at TD Garden, when the Big Bad Bruins had better show up.

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

Talking Points: Price a problem for Bruins once again


Talking Points: Price a problem for Bruins once again

BOSTON -- GOLD STAR: The Bruins have a very hard time beating Carey Price, and that was proven once again on Saturday night in Boston. The best chances for the B’s probably came earlier in the game with Ryan Spooner getting a couple of quality scoring chances in the early going, and Price making a very solid stop on a spinning David Pastrnak surprise shot from the high slot through traffic in the closing seconds of the second period. In total, Price made only 19 saves but didn’t give in when the Bruins really needed a mistake to open the door and let them back in. It certainly won’t go down as Price’s best, but it was another great example of why the Montreal netminder is so important to the success of his Canadiens team.

BLACK EYE: Torey Krug had a rough night in 22:29 of ice time. He was on the ice for three goals against, he had five of his shots blocked throughout the game and he was beaten in a race to the puck by Paul Byron for a shorthanded goal during a key sequence in the third period. Krug was also on the ice for the crucial final goal scored by Torey Mitchell when both the D-man and David Krejci were prime culprits in the play developing as it did. It’s certainly not helping Krug that he’s playing on his “off” side with Joe Morrow right now, and that he’s doing all of this while also still ahead of when he was supposed to return from major offseason shoulder surgery. Krug has been “okay” through the season’s first two weeks, but he wasn’t good at all on Saturday night in the loss to Montreal.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins had a decent first period and played to a 2-2 draw in the third period, so it was the “terrible” second period, in the words of Claude Julien, which ended up sinking the Black and Gold’s battleship. The B’s made plenty of mistakes in managing the puck, had some very long shifts on the ice where they couldn’t get an easy change and started making mental mistakes as a result of the overextended shifts. That turned into some very soft defense on Montreal’s first goal of the game, and a bad decision by John-Michael Liles to pinch with skilled guys Alex Radulov and Phillip Danault ready to make the Bruins pay at the other end of the ice. The second period was Boston’s bugaboo plenty of times last season, and it was again on Saturday night vs. the Habs.

HONORABLE MENTION: It’s tough to pick out players from the losing side that really stood out, but Dominic Moore certainly deserves some consideration for the way things have started out for him in Boston. He and Tim Schaller executed a beauty of a give-and-go before Moore finished with a flourish against Carey Price, and that goal gives the fourth line center a pair of goals in his first five games with the B’s. Moore finished with the goal and four shot attempts in 13:02 of ice time along with 6-of-12 face-off wins, and earned a take-down, along with an extra two minutes, for grabbing Alexei Emelin in a headlock and driving him into the ice.

BY THE NUMBERS: 2-8-1 -- the Bruins overall record against the Canadiens in their last 11 meetings, and that doesn’t include nine straight home losses to the Habs dating back to 2012.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "There's no consistency in my game for whatever reason. I've gotta make sure I'm working to get better, so that my teammates can count on me every single shift. It’s not there right now, and I’ll take the blame for that. I’ve just got to work through it.” -- Torey Krug, who struggled with a minus-3 rating in Saturday’s loss to the Canadiens. 

Bruins 4-2 loss marks nine straight to the Habs at home


Bruins 4-2 loss marks nine straight to the Habs at home

BOSTON -- The Bruins made things interesting with a couple of goals in the third period to keep things close, but another home game against the Montreal Canadiens ended exactly the same way they have for the Black and Gold over the last four years.

This time the B’s dropped a 4-2 decision to the hated Habs at TD Garden on Saturday night despite a late push, and have now failed in nine straight home games versus their arch-rivals dating back to a Jan. 12, 2012 win. Some may remember that as the night Montreal traded Mike Cammalleri in between periods of the game, and unfortunately most others remember it as a period of time when Boston could still beat Montreal at home.

It didn’t look good with the Bruins down by a couple of goals entering the third period after earlier second period scores from Brendan Gallagher and Phillip Danault. But that’s when the Black and Gold once again attempted to engineer a comeback as have become commonplace for them in this young season.

Dominic Moore scored on a nice give-and-go with Tim Schaller to get the B’s on the board in the third period, and then the Bruins traded special teams’ goals with a Paul Byron shorthanded strike and a Ryan Spooner power play marker. It looked like the Bruins had some momentum to potentially tie things up in the third, but bad things happened once again with David Krejci and Torey Krug as they had for most of the night.

A turnover in the defensive zone allowed Torey Mitchell to score a backbreaking goal while simultaneously getting a high-stick to the face courtesy of Krejci. The Mitchell goal gave the Habs a two-goal cushion lead in the third period, and made the Bruins 2-8-1 in their last 11 overall games against their arch-rivals from Montreal.