Haggerty: Road woes reign supreme

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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

Saturday, Jan. 21: McKenzie on Julien's job security

Saturday, Jan. 21: McKenzie on Julien's job security

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while proud of my wife and daughter participating in today’s Women’s March.

*This is from a few days ago, but Bob McKenzie weighing in on the prospects for Claude Julien and his job security is always worth checking out.  

*The New York Rangers have themselves a rookie named Pavel that’s doing a pretty darned good job for the Blueshirts.

*What should the St. Louis Blues do with Kevin Shattenkirk as the trade deadline approaches and the seven-year, $49 million contract waiting for him in free agency is pretty daunting?

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Kevin Allen has a list of underperforming NHL stars, including Jamie Benn and Jonathan Toews, that may have been impacted by the World Cup of Hockey. Certainly Patrice Bergeron could have made this list as well.

*Blackhawks backup goalie Scott Darling may be earning some more playing time after the way he performed against the Bruins, according to Pro Hockey Talk.

*Good news with Ottawa Senators goalie Craig Anderson set to return to the team in a couple of weeks after tending to his wife in a battle against cancer.

*The struggles of Anthony Duclair with the Arizona Coyotes mirror the team’s issues this season as well. It’s interesting that Duclair has popped up in trade rumors with the Desert Dogs this season.

*For something completely different: the final Wolverine movie with Hugh Jackman is going to be extremely emotional with its characters.


 

Both Millers missing from Bruins practice, but trending toward return

Both Millers missing from Bruins practice, but trending toward return

BRIGHTON, Mass – While both Kevan Miller and Colin Miller were missing from Bruins practice on Saturday morning, both injured Bruins defensemen could be rejoining the team soon.

Colin Miller skated on his own prior to Saturday’s team practice at Warrior Ice Arena for the second or third time since suffering a lower body injury in the win over the St. Louis Blues. Claude Julien said his presence on the ice was proof that the puck-moving defenseman is “definitely on the mend”, and could be nearing a return to practice soon with Sunday marking the sixth straight game that he’ll have missed.

Kevan Miller is out with a concussion suffered last weekend in the win over the Philadelphia Flyers, and the B’s current three-game losing streak has coincided with his absence from the lineup.

Julien said Miller has actually been away from the team for the last couple of days while dealing with a virus, and that his recovery from the concussion symptoms was good prior to being knocked down by the illness.

“Kevan was actually feeling really well and then he got hit by a virus that’s kept him in bed for the last two days,” said Julien. “It’s nothing to do with his original injury. There was a possibility he could have been ready very soon, but that’s set him back a bit.”

Both are obviously out for Sunday’s matinee against the Penguins, but a return to practice at some point next week seems like a good bet for both players. Here are the line combos and defense pairings from Saturday’s practice with the Bruins focusing on getting a good result in Pittsburgh with the hockey club on a “mom’s trip” with 22 of the players’ mothers traveling with the team to and from the game:

Marchand-Bergeron-Vatrano

Schaller-Krejci-Pastrnak

Spooner-Nash-Backes/Hayes

Blidh/Beleskey-Moore-Czarnik

 

Chara-Carlo

Krug-McQuaid

Morrow-Liles

 

Rask

McIntyre