Haggerty: Road woes reign supreme


Haggerty: Road woes reign supreme

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins InsiderFollow @hackswithhaggs
BOSTON Its probably no surprise that the home teams are dominating in this years Stanley Cup Final like no either in recent memory.

The3,000-plusmiles that separate Boston and Vancouver represent the longest distance between two NHL teams ever engaged in a Cup Final, and the cross-continental travel has been grueling after the first five games of the series.

The long flights between the two cities seem to have been a factor -- maybe even more so than the matchup advantages given to the home teams that get the last line change, or the volume of the home crowds.

So far in the series, the home team has won every game and outscored the visiting team by a combined score of 17-3. The travel has to be partly to blame. But it's more than that, at least according to the Bruins.

Shawn Thornton talked about not playing with enough desperation in Game 5, and he regretted that his team gave a lackluster effort with the Stanley Cup on the line.

Zdeno Chara inspired the Bruins with a rare speech to the team between the first and second period of Game 3 after Nathan Horton went down with a severe concussion, and that gave them an edge in a pair of punishingly physical games in Boston. Chara said it was the edge that was missing from the teams game when they traveled to the West Coast.

We play a lot more on the edge in Games 3 and 4, said Chara. We have to bring the same approach for Game 6. Obviously its very important to be playing physical. We know what kind of team we have and what plays to our advantage. So we just got to get back to it.

Yet, for all the physicality the Bruins would like to bring, they aren't able to do it if they have tired legs, which is what seemed to be the problem in their Game 5 loss.

The Bs had enough energy and gas in the tank to hold down the high-powered Canucks offense, but the Black and Gold skaters had little left to give in the third period. It was the third time in three games in Vancouver when they seemed sapped in the third period.

That's usually when Cup-worthy hockey teams dig down into untapped reserves of energy and emotion, but the Bruins could not.

The Canucks have outshot the Bruins by a 32-26 margin in the third periods in Vancouver, and have outscored the Bs by a 3-0 margin while pulling away in the final 20 minutes in each of Bostons road games.

Thats the sign of a hockey team that's playing tired, and its likely the sign of an Eastern Conference team not used to the sheer amount of travel required going back and forth across the continent.

It just didnt seem like we had our energy, said Marchand. Everyone seemed a little slow and our legs just werent going. So we just have to make sure we leave everything on the ice next game, and if we go down, we go down fighting.

The Canucks have hired sleep consultants and gone outside the box to maximize their ability to withstand the rigors of their challenging schedule. And they're the team that is more used to long flights.

This is all new territory for a Bruins team that didnt have to fly more than three hours at a time for any other playoff series leading up to the finals.

The good news: Boston gets two off days before hosting the Canucks at home in Game 6, and Vancouver has looked exhausted for its two games in the Hub.

Everything in the series points to the Bs taking Game 6 in front of their excitable home crowd, but if they do, they will have to find a way to summon their legs for a winner-take-all Game 7. What makes that even more difficult? Just one off-day for the cross-country travel.

Its a problem the Bruins will have to solve if they hope to kiss the Cup.

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

Haggerty: Subban looking more like a 1st-round bust than NHL goalie

Haggerty: Subban looking more like a 1st-round bust than NHL goalie

BOSTON, Mass – Malcolm Subban says that he believes that he can still be a No. 1 goaltender in the NHL.

While that’s admirable on some level for the sheer, brazen self-confidence involved in saying this after getting yanked from a 5-0 loss to the Minnesota Wild at TD Garden, pretty much all of the evidence points out the contrary. Nearly two years after getting pulled from his NHL debut in against the St. Louis Blues after giving up three goals on six shots, Subban was pulled from Tuesday night’s appearance after giving up three goals on eight second period shots with the Bruins desperately in need of a quality start in goal.

He maintained a defiantly confident tone after another humbling NHL effort against Minnesota, and that’s a testament to the maturity and mental toughness of the person behind the goalie mask.

“It sucks. Obviously, I’m just trying to finish the game, let alone win one. Obviously it sucks, but what can you do now, right?” said Subban, who has now allowed six goals on 22 career shots faced in two starts. “Obviously I want to be a number one goaltender in the league. I was a high pick for a reason. I have the potential, and I just have to show it. Obviously I haven’t done that so far yet, but I think I’m getting closer to it. Honestly, I think I can do it right now. I just got to show it. Obviously, I didn’t [do it] today, but tomorrow’s a new day.”

Given the stunningly bad quality of his two NHL starts combined with a thoroughly pedestrian body of work at the AHL level over the last three years, there is literally zero tangible evidence Subban is tracking to be a franchise goaltender. Instead he’s the emergency goaltender called on by the Bruins only after Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin have both been shelved by injuries, and he’s now flunked the two pop quizzes when the NHL team needed him to come through.

Meanwhile, a sizeable selection of goaltenders taken after him in the 2012 NHL Draft class have already proven their NHL worth and broken through at the elite level: Matt Murray, Frederik Anderson, Connor Hellebuyck and Joonas Korpisalo.

Subban was hoping all along to break through this season in Boston, but things went south on him quickly with a Bruins team not playing well in front of him. The first goal was a fluttering Charlie Coyle shot that trickled between his glove hand and the top of his leg pad. The third goal was a softie low and to the glove side, power play strike authored by Ryan Suter. It added up to poor goaltending and shoddy defense, but it also added up to a Bruins goaltender that didn’t even give his hockey club a chance to win.

“It could be a combination of both. There are some goals – I’m not going to lie – there are some goals that we thought our goaltenders should have had. But I’m not here to talk about a goaltender who’s in one of his first few games because he let in a couple of bad goals,” said Julien. “We were terrible in front of him and we weren’t any better, and that’s the big picture. That’s more important.

“I don’t care who’s in net. I think when you have some injuries you need to be better in those situations and we weren’t good enough tonight. It doesn’t matter if Tuukka [Rask] is in net and we had injuries up front, or we’re lacking players here or there. You’ve got to let the system take care of the game. If you play it the right way, you have a chance to win. When you don’t, you don’t. That’s what happened [against Minnesota].”

There’s no question the defense in front of Subban wasn’t nearly good enough, and Adam McQuaid and Torey Krug in particular struggled to lock things down in the defensive zone. The wide open shots from the slot - like the Chris Stewart score in the second period that arrived 12 seconds after Minnesota’s opening goal - are indicative of a hockey club that’s not sticking to the game plan once things start to get a little wonky.

But this is about a player in Subban that should be entering the NHL stage of his career after being a first round pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, and anybody would be hard-pressed to see him as an NHL goalie after failing in each of his first two NHL starts. Combine that with the lack of dominance at the AHL level over the last three years, and there’s a better chance that Subban will be a major first round bust for the Bruins rather than suddenly develop into a late-blooming No. 1 goaltender in Boston.

The scary part is that Subban and fellow young netminder Zane McIntyre are all the Bruins have for Wednesday night’s game at Madison Square Garden, and perhaps longer than that if Rask can’t make rapid progress with his lower body injury.

Maybe Subban can be a bit better than he’s shown thus far, and the four goals allowed to Minnesota were not all his fault. The bottom line, however, is that Subban should be up for doing this job right now. Tuesday was a big chance for the young goalie to make a statement that he was ready for it.

Instead he looked like the same goalie that’s been pulled from two of his first four AHL starts this season, and plays like a goaltender that’s never going to truly be ready for the call in Boston.