Morning Skate 328: Playoff clincher is first step

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Morning Skate 328: Playoff clincher is first step

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.comPHILADELPHIA It might have been a little sweeter for the Bruins to slap backs and fist bump each other for securing a playoff spot after finishing off a Flyers bunch looking a bit out of sorts on Sunday night.The Bruins punched their postseason ticket with the 2-1 victory at the Wells Fargo Center powered by power play goals and shimmering brilliance of goaltender Tim Thomas once again at the full height of his puck-stopping powers.The Bs basically can finish no less than the third seed in the Eastern Conference after vanquishing the Canadiens last week, and can still realistically push the Capitals, Penguins and Flyers for the top spot in the East if they can get scalding hot in their final seven games.It really appears that the top eight teams in the East are locked in, and now its a just a matter of the Canadiens, Rangers or Lightning as playoff opponents for the Bs in the first round should things remain close to their current standings.Its obviously awesome, said Mark Recchi, who got a big assist on Brad Marchands power play goal game-winner in the third period against Philly. Its a lot of hard work this right from Vermont to the start of training came to Prague and then here we are with seven games left. And were still working on it and we want to make sure were full steam ahead.We have three big games this week as well, and it just never seems to end.Nathan Horton has nine goals in his last 17 games, the power play seems to finally be living up to its might name and skilled cast of characters, and Tim Thomas has again dipped his goalie pads into the fountain of hockey youth he discovered at the beginning of the season.Its been a long haul for a Bs team thats had several low moments throughout the regular season the Claude Julien is in trouble talk leading up to the Atlanta Thrashers game in January, the third period collapse against the Montreal the Bell Centre, the March losing streak marred by the Max Pacioretty head slam into the stanchion but the Bruins have proven themselves one of the best teams that the East has to offer.Were focusing on what we can do right now. Were not focused on where were going to end up, but we know were probably not going to end up any lower than third, said Recchi. We want to make sure were playing well going into the playoffs and thats our focus right now. Where we end up is where we end up, and thats not something were too worried about right now. Its now were playing and what were doing going into the playoffs so that we can make sure were full steam ahead.It also remains instructive that the Bruins are an impressive 13-6-3 this season in games against the top 6 teams in the East including the Flyers, Capitals, Penguins, Lightning and Canadiens, and have risen to the occasion against their best competition. The hard part of the playoffs qualifying for them through an 82-game grind is in the rear view mirror after a playoff-style victory in Philly. For guys like Tomas Kaberle, its a feeling that hasnt been there in a long time.Its been a while. Its been six years, said Kaberle. Im happy for it, but its a long way and I know it. Even though we only have seven games left we really just have to keep performing.Thats right.Its about keep performing and expelling some of the playoff ghosts that have haunted the Black and Gold over the last few seasons.On to the links:I dont agree with ESPN.com'sPierre LeBrun on his opinions concerning Mark Recchi and his actions toward Max Pacioretty, but I respect his stance and the way he went toe-to-toe with Mike Milbury on it during Hockey Night in Canada.Broad Street Hockey takes a look at why the Flyers have struggled so much lately, and havent beaten a team currently in the playoff mix since late February.Bruce Dowbiggin of the Globe and Mail stands up for Theo Fleury as the ever-present haters attempt to take a piece out of him via Twitter. Also, was E from Entourage actually taking up a spot behind the New York Islanders bench last Tuesday night? Wow. Where will Johnny Drama wind up?CBCs Elliotte Friedman has the low down on Merrimack College superstar Stephane Da Costa making the jump to the NHL. On a side note, congrats to Mark Dennehy and the Merrimack program for an amazing season that ended last weekend during the NCAA Regional in Manchester, N.H.Another guy to follow on the Da Costa radar is Mike McMahon with the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune, who has been all over the Merrimack beat this season.You had me at "When Mr. Carrie Underwood Came to Nash-Vegas" in your headline.

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

Haggerty: Bruins would be foolish to deal away Carlo right now

Haggerty: Bruins would be foolish to deal away Carlo right now

There’s been smoke for weeks signaling trade talks between the Boston Bruins and the Colorado Avalanche, and things are reportedly heating up with the Bruins potentially reaching a tipping point with their subpar play on the ice. According to Bleacher Report columnist Adrian Dater, things may be progressing between the two teams because the Bruins are beginning to entertain the idea of trading away 20-year-old top pairing rookie defenseman Brandon Carlo.

Bruins Director of Player Personnel John Ferguson Jrwas expected to be out in Colorado scouting the Avalanche/Blackhawks game on Tuesday night, and perhaps getting a long look at players like Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene and Tyson Barrie among others.

The expectation is that 24-year-old Landeskog is in the middle of these trade discussions, and that he would be one of the players targeted by a Bruins team that could use more size on the wing, and more players that can put the puck in the net. Certainly Landeskog has done that in his brief NHL career after being a No. 2 overall pick, and has four 20-goal seasons on his resume prior to a disappointing, injury-plagued current season in Colorado.

The word around the league was that talks fizzled between the Bruins and Avs previously when Joe Sakic asked about the availability of the Colorado Springs native Carlo, and those discussions hit the same crunching roadblock that Winnipeg did in discussions with Boston about Jacob Trouba.

Perhaps that has changed in the last 24 hours after Cam Neely and Don Sweeney watched their Bruins completely no-show against the worst team in the Eastern Conference, the New York Islanders, on Monday afternoon. Now one would expect that Bruins management is getting desperate feeling that a third “Did Not Qualify” for the Stanley Cup playoffs could be in their future if they don’t make a bold, swift move to shake up their dazed hockey club.

But let’s not pull any punches here. The entire Bruins management group should be fired on the spot if they trade a 20-year-old, top pairing shutdown defenseman on an entry level contract like Carlo unless they are getting a bona fide superstar in return. Carlo, Charlie McAvoy and David Pastrnak should all be young, untouchable assets for a Bruins organization that is years away from legitimately holding a chance at a Stanley Cup.

Landeskog is not a bona fide superstar. He’s a good player that’s topped out at 26 goals and 65 points in the NHL, but he’s also the Captain on a horrendous, underachieving Avalanche team over the last three years.

If the price were right for Landeskog it would make all the sense in the world for the Bruins to deal him, but it’s a giant honking red flag that Colorado is looking to unload a player like him that’s signed for a reasonable $5.5 million price tag over the next four seasons. Teams don’t trade young players like that with term unless there’s more to the story, and that’s something the Bruins would do well to consider before giving up a player that could be a top-4 shutdown defenseman in Boston for the next 10 years.

Teams like the Bruins that are in reloading mode also shouldn’t be trading 20-year-old players for 24-year-old players that have already cashed in on their second contract. That’s exactly how the Bruins can get right back into salary cap trouble, and do it with a team that’s producing far less than the Peter Chiarelli groups that were at least still making the playoffs.  

Certainly the Bruins have other young D-men like Charlie McAvoy, Jakub Zboril and Jeremy Lauzon coming down the pipeline, but none of those defensemen are in the mold of a true shutdown D like the 6-foot-5 Carlo. With Zdeno Chara in the final few years of his career with the Black and Gold, the B’s are going to need Carlo to slide into that defensive stopper role given his size, strength, wing span and willingness to do the dirty work the D-zone.

That goes beyond the simple fact that rebuilding the back end with ALL of those young stud D-men is the best way to actually build the Bruins back up into a legitimate Eastern Conference power. 

It would be a giant mistake for the Bruins to ship away a player like Carlo with the hope Landeskog can put Boston over the hump for the playoffs this season, and perhaps ease some of the intense pressure currently weighing on Sweeney and Neely. That kind of desperate move smacks of doing it for all of the wrong reasons, and that’s one way to ensure that the Bruins will never escape the web of mediocrity that they’re currently caught in. 

Haggerty: From top to bottom, still no urgency from Bruins

Haggerty: From top to bottom, still no urgency from Bruins

BRIGHTON -- The Bruins pulled the worst of their no-shows on Monday afternoon in the 4-0 shutout loss to the Islanders.

It was a lethargic, mediocre start in the first period that devolved into the bottom dropping out on the Black and Gold when they allowed three unanswered goals in the second. Then, to top it all off, they showed zero urgency or push to make a comeback in the final period. 

It was “unacceptable” in the words of the Bruins players from beginning to end with careless, elementary mistakes in the defensive zone and absolutely zero sustained push in the offensive zone despite a deceiving 32 shots on net.

So, where was the urgency for a Bruins team that’s barely ahead of the Maple Leafs and Senators in the Atlantic Division despite having played six more games than each of those two?

Apparently the Bruins were feeling a little cocky after playing a solid five-game stretch where they’d gone 3-1-1 and taken down the Panthers, Blues and Flyers while elevating their level of play. Heart and soul team leader Patrice Bergeron admitted as much on Tuesday morning as the Bruins cancelled practice and turned their attention toward righting the ship Wednesday night in Detroit.

It was frankly a little stunning to hear Bergeron admit that his Bruins team thought they could win just by showing up on Monday afternoon, but that’s exactly what he copped to in something of an apologetic way.

Brad Marchand said Monday postgame that the Bruins “just weren’t ready [to play]” against the Islanders, and it sounded like his linemate agreed with him.

“It’s about realizing that you can’t take teams lightly, or take the foot off the gas pedal for a period, for a game, or whatever. It hurts us every time we do it, so we have to learn and realize that it just cannot happen. Teams are too good and the points are too valuable for us,” said Bergeron. “You never want to do that, but at the same time maybe it was something that happened because it was a terrible start, and to not respond when they scored the goals. Maybe that’s what happened yesterday.

“As much as you don’t want it to happen, maybe we thought it was going to be an easier game than it actually was against them.”

On the one hand, it’s somewhat shocking to hear that admission from a player that’s always played with full work ethic and an effort level that’s never been questioned. But Bergeron was also a minus-3 in the 4-0 loss and was every bit as guilty as everybody else up and down the roster for the team’s most pathetic loss of the season at a time when results are all that matter.

Perhaps this shouldn’t be surprising, though, because the lack of urgency on the bench is mirrored by the lack of urgency upstairs in the Bruins management office right now. Bruins general manager Don Sweeney told the Boston Globe last week that he’s considering a move with the head coach along with a number of other things to spark a team treading water, but it doesn’t feel like a major move is on the horizon with this Bruins team.

Trade talks are still in the formative, discussion stages as GMs like Joe Sakic and John Chayka are overvaluing their players looking for a king’s ransom for guys like Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, Martin Hanzal and Radim Vrbata. While Claude Julien should be under the microscope with a team sleepwalking its way through perhaps a third season in a row without the playoffs, it also doesn’t feel like the Bruins are going to pull the trigger on that move until the offseason at the earliest.

This humble hockey writer still insists that this playoff-caliber Bruins team plays at times like a one that needs a swift kick in the backside. Perhaps Julien isn’t up for it after 10 long, successful years of battles with the same core group.   

So, what is there to do then besides make cosmetic moves like shipping underperforming Anton Khudobin down to Providence, or rearrange the deck chairs on a third and fourth line that it’s difficult to tell apart on most days in Boston?

If the Bruins front office wants to truly get to the bottom of their team’s lack of urgency on the ice, perhaps a look in the mirror might be in order. Because that same lack of urgency is playing out with a management group that’s watching their team sink into the Atlantic Division muck right now and seems gun-shy on making a move that could rattle cages.

“Right now where we are in the standings, we’ve got a lot of games to play but we’re still in a playoff spot,” said Julien. “We try and play with the expectations that we have, and that’s to do the best with what we’ve got. We’ve got a lot of new faces and we’re trying to build with what we’ve got here moving forward.”

Certainly nobody is talking about trading away their blue chip prospects like Brandon Carlo or Charlie McAvoy, but there are veteran players on Boston’s current roster that aren’t cut out for battling into the postseason with a young team. It’s plain to see when a middling hockey team can’t find the inspiration to go out and take care of business against a bad Islanders group on a sleepy Monday afternoon just a month after they made the same mistake against the same team on home ice.

The Bruins showed in a five-game stretch leading up to the Islanders debacle that they should be held to a higher standard - that of a team that should qualify for the postseason. But one question arose again and again watching the poorest of poor efforts play out on Monday afternoon: why should the Bruins players show any feet-in-the-fire urgency on the ice when it doesn’t feel like there’s much feet-in-the-fire urgency from upper management to improve the flailing hockey club?

Until that organizational dynamic changes, it’s difficult to see things getting much better, or worse, for a Bruins team that looks destined for the mediocre middle once again this season.