Paoletti: Bruins-Flyers was a passion-less play

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Paoletti: Bruins-Flyers was a passion-less play

By Mary Paoletti
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- It was an unusually warm December day when the Flyers were in Boston.

Temperatureswere reported around 50 degrees and fans rolled into the TD Gardendressed in light layers; Black and Gold hoodies or hockey sweaters andscarves. Funny thing, though; the crowd wasn't heated. Not in temperament.

Therewas nothing unruly about Saturday night's spectators. Some forecastedpiano-string tension before meeting Philadelphia again. Those hatedFlyers. The team that made the Boston Bruins an answer to a triviaquestion.

"What club became the third team in NHL history to lose a playoffs series after winning the first three games?"

Yeah. That question.

MaybeBruins fans don't play trivia. Maybe they're content to go out withfriends, drink some beer and hope for -- but not need -- a win. Thatwas the vibe floating around as folks found their seats. A smatteringof boos were tossed toward the ice when the Flyers starters wereannounced during warm-ups. But it was nothing more than what Montrealreceived in November.

Boston's marketing department made aclever play. Minutes before puck dropped a montage rolled. "What aWeek!" the jumbotron declared. The slides showed a hell of a NewEngland sports recap: the Patriots beat the Jets, the Bruins beat theSabes, the Celtics beat the Nuggets, the Bruins and Celtics win againon the same night, the Red Sox sign Carl Crawford. "And it's notover . . . " the screen promised.

Was no one revved up enough about the damn Flyers?

Atleast the trick worked. The fans were properly roused by the week thatwas and broke into a chant just 30 seconds into the game "LET'S GOBRUINS! LET'S GO BRUINS! LET'S GO BRUINS!" And the rally cry wasrewarded with an early shot on Philadelphia's goal.

But as theB's quieted down so too did the arena. Instead of faces set with fiercedetermination, each section was littered with discontent.

There was that moment, though, during the second period . . .

TheBruins are down, 1-0. Braydon Coburn sends the puck from his Flyerszone down a long diagonal towards Boston's end. Andrew Ference and AdamMcQuaid race Philly winger Jody Shelley to the puck on the icing call.Ference moves to play the puck. McQuaid pulls up in a defenselessposition. Shelley is right behind him. Shelley throws his 230 poundsinto a thunderous hit on McQuaid, shoving him into the boards. McQuaidis down. He's not moving.

Fans rose in the wave ofindignation. A "FLYERS SUCK" chant rained down from the balcony andswelled to a deafening roar. A lusty chorus of boos met theannouncement of Shelley's five-minute major for boarding and gamemisconduct penalty and it felt like things would finally turn around.

It was only a moment. The power play proved fruitless and the mob grew restless.

Where was the energy? Where was the excitement?

Oneguy seemed worthy of emotion: Tim Thomas. It was the goalie's night. Itis his season. Thomas stopped 31 shots in Boston's 2-1 overtime loss onSaturday night but that burden doesn't rest on his shoulders. Nor doesthe crowd's frustration. His effort was a combination of body and willas he made save after save, each more inconceivable than the last, andthe fans loved him for it.

Their passion reflected the play. Youwonder why that rink wasn't rocking with full-tilt Philly hatred? TheBruins aren't playing complete hockey games right now. Maybe fansaren't compelled to stand and cheer for 60 minutes when the team isn'tgiving a 60-minute effort. It's hard to say.

But then again, as the sell-out crowd of 17, 565 filtered out into the cold night air, they weren't saying much.

Mary Paoletti can be reached at mpaoletti@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Mary on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti

Acciari glad to be back with B's after missing a month

Acciari glad to be back with B's after missing a month

BOSTON -- Noel Acciari missed a month of game action with a lower body injury, so it would have been perfectly acceptable to show plenty of rust in his game upon returning to the Boston lineup.

But the former Providence College standout didn’t look rusty, a step behind or out of place in any way as he played the fourth line energy forward role to a perfect fit after missing the last 13 games. Acciari did get in one game with the Providence Bruins prior to suiting back up for the Black and Gold on Saturday, and perhaps that helped him manufacture a couple of shots on net to go along with three thumping hits against the Maple Leafs.

The 25-year-old Acciari didn’t factor into the scoring at all for the Bruins, but that’s just as well given that his focus should be on killing penalties, being hard to play against and taking the body whenever the chance presents itself. Claude Julien reformed the B’s energy line that had so much success earlier in the season with Acciari, Dominic Moore and Tim Schaller, and didn’t hesitate tossing them back into the mix together while looking for energy and a spark for an offensively stunted team.

“It’s good to be back with my linemates, and you know, I think we kind of picked up where we left off, but there’s definitely things we need to work on. That’ll come with a couple more practices and games together,” said Acciari, who finished theSaturday loss with three registered hits packed into 11:35 of ice time. “Kind of getting back to our familiarity and kind of get back to where we were before I got injured.

“It was a good start tonight, but we definitely just weren’t clicking like we used to, but that’ll come. I think that will come. Like I said, a couple practices and just kind of getting some games in [are good things]. I thought we were pretty good tonight, but, you know, should get more pucks to score [goals].”

Clearly there is room for improvement for everybody including Acciari, but it was encouraging to see the fearless competitor again flying around on the TD Garden ice playing high intensity hockey for a fourth line that could use every little bit of that. 

Backes: "Offensive frustration is warranted at this point"

Backes: "Offensive frustration is warranted at this point"

BOSTON -- This may not come as a surprise, but the Boston Bruins are having some trouble putting the puck in the net.

Despite outshooting the Maple Leafs by an 11-2 margin in the first period and outshooting them by a 32-21 margin over the balance of the 60 minute game, the Bruins scratched for just a single goal in a frustrating, constipated 4-1 loss to Toronto at TD Garden. Clearly some of the offensive difficulty was caused by a solid Frederik Andersen, who improved to 6-0-0 in a career against Boston that’s beginning to take on Bruins Killer proportions.

But a great deal of the B’s struggles to finish scoring chances on Saturday night is a malady that’s dogged the Bruins all season, and marked the 20th time in 29 games this year that Boston has scored two goals or less. In most of these games the Bruins have dominated puck possession and outshot their opponents, but still have come away mostly empty handed in the goals scored department while dropping deep in the bottom third of NHL offenses this season.

“It seems like every game we’re out-chancing teams, but we don’t outscore teams. That’s where the biggest issue is right now. Our scoring is not there and if you don’t score goals you don’t win hockey games,” said Claude Julien. “Because of that we criticize everything else in our game, but our game isn’t that bad.

“If we were scoring goals people would love our game right now, but that’s the biggest part. There’s not much more I can say here except for the fact that if we don’t score goals it’s going to be hard to win hockey games.”

But the Bruins aren’t scoring goals consistently, their power play is below average while trending in the wrong direction and the team has been forced to watch steady offensive players like Patrice Bergeron suddenly slump in a concerning way. Clearly David Pastrnak is doing his part with 18 goals scored this season in 24 games, and others like Brad Marchand and Dominic Moore have also performed above, or beyond, their acceptable level of play.

But there are other players failing with the chance to make an offensive dent: Austin Czarnik has been on the roster for nearly two months, and has zero goals and two points in his last 15 games as the offense is again dried up on the third line. He missed wide on a shorthanded chance in the third period after a Moore centering pass set up him all alone in front, and was critiquing himself for fanning on a perfect dish to him in the slot.

Moments later the Leafs had an insurance score from James van Riemsdyk to make it a 3-1 game, and it was all over for the Black and Gold at that point.

Czarnik is an easy target because he’s young and inexperienced, but there is more than enough struggle and frustration to go around with a bunch of offensive players that can’t seem to get out of their own way. David Backes admitted it’s reached a point where the Bruins are frustrated when they can’t score enough to beat a team like Toronto, and that it falls squarely on the lead guys in the Black and Gold dressing room that are underperforming.

“I think offensive frustration is warranted at this point; we just haven’t done a good enough job scoring goals. We played a heck of a first period. We limited them to two shots and we had an opportunity to have a team that’s coming in here that’s a younger team, to really put them behind the eight ball,” said Backes. “Instead, they think they got a second lease on life and they were able to capitalize. All of the sudden, they were up 2-0 and we’re fighting an uphill battle again rather than -- we have that opportunity to play a heck of a first period and we don’t find a way – it’s easy to talk about, but it’s going out there and doing the job and putting it past or through the goalie, or however it needs to happen. “You’ve seen our goals; you want to do a study on it unless you’re Pasta [David Pastrnak] with the one-timer on the side, it’s been ugly, it’s been rebounds, it’s been greasy goals and that’s our equation and we need more of it, and we didn’t do it. They did a good job of being in front of their net and boxing out, eliminating those second chances. But, we’ve got good players in here that need to create more and find those second chances and win those battles, find those loose pucks, and throw them in the net.”

The Bruins have been talking seemingly all season about the need to get to the “dirty areas in the offensive zone”, and for players to jump all over the second and third chance opportunities currently going by the board unchallenged on goalie rebounds.

Now it’s about speaking with action for the B’s, and more specifically speaking volumes with goals and offensive finish instead of “chances” that aren’t doing much of anything if they’re not being snapped into the back of the net.