Haggerty: Frustrated Bruins need to regroup

691426.jpg

Haggerty: Frustrated Bruins need to regroup

WASHINGTON, DC Judging by the long faces, glassy eyes and finger-pointing taking place in the Boston Bruins dressing room following another formulaic playoff performance against the Washington Capitals, the Bs let a game they really wanted slip away.
Boston fired away 45 shots on net and worked to get a handful of chances close to the net, but didnt work nearly hard enough around the cage in a 2-1 loss to the surprisingly willing Capitals at the Verizon Center.
The Caps blocked 12 shots in the third period and showed the kind of blood-and-guts willingness that it takes to win playoff hockey games. The Bruins seemed to recline right back into some of the relaxed habits that have been dogging them since the start of the series.
Clearly there other forces against them as caterwauling Caps owner Ted Leonsis and Washingtons phalanx of fans, coaches, management and players curried a little favor with the league and Washington managed a 3-1 advantage in power plays along with a game-winning PP goal from Alex Semin.
But the bottom line was another postseason game went by with offensive no-shows from David Krejci, Milan Lucic, Patrice Bergeron, Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand. Rich Peverley is the only member of the top six forward fraternity thats made an impact offensively, and both of his goals have come off broken plays.
Krejci stood by his locker with watery eyes and a downcast head, and uttered the words frustration and panic over and over again as he searched for answers. The center said he felt good, but missed connecting on every pass coming his way near the front of the net. Krejci finished with zero shots on net despite a healthy amount of ice time, and seemed stuck in a pit of despair following the game.
I know hes a good goaltender, but we need to relax and do what we do during the regular season, said David Krejci. When we have chances we need to bury them rather than panic. Maybe we panicked too much, I guess? I don't know. I think we had so many chances we could have won the game. Thats the story of the game.
Seguin had chances and six shots on net to go along with it, but his ability to finish off scoring plays which has come and gone during the season has deserted him at the most important moments.
Marchand is a mere shadow of the rabble-rousing offensive playmaker from the regular season, and has been a big disappointment during the first round playoff series. By the end of the game it appeared the Marchand swagger was pretty close to gone, and he was simply firing the puck into Braden Holtbys chest as soon as it was on his stick in the offensive zone.
But perhaps worst of all was Bs goalie Tim Thomas rather pointedly throwing his forwards under the bus. The Bruins goaltender was asked what the Bruins problem was as he saw it, and the 37-year-old gave his position-playing teammates the kind of swift kick in the pants that he usually saves for Obamas health care plan.
"We had a lot of shots. But high-quality scoring chances? We didnt have many of those. You need people in front screening and tipping and that seems to be our problem in this series, said Thomas. We're not (getting bodies in front) enough. We did it in Game 3, but we havent done it consistently in the series."
Thomas was right, of course, but normally the goaltender is a little more circumspect when it comes to calling out his teammates for failing to get the job done. After all, Thomas was cleanly beaten by Semins stand-still wrist rocket from the left face-off dot during a second period power play. So Thomas wasnt better than his 22-year-old counterpart for the Capitals either.
But rather than blame each other for shortcomings in the series, the Bruins need to regroup at home while making some fine-tuning tweaks. Perhaps its time for Claude Julien to go back to the lines the Bruins played with for most of the season rather than forcing together forwards that havent really played with each other all season.
Its not secret that Marchand and Bergeron play better together after two years of success together, and thats what they should return to.
Maybe its time for Jordan Caron to enter into the series and utilize his 6-foot-3, 210-pound frame to carve out some space in front of the net for rebounds and tipped pucks. Caron is the closest thing they have to a Poor Mans Nathan Horton, and that seems to be what the Bruins are missing at the moment.
The Bruins remain hopeful they can get on the same page, and find whatever inspired them to actually look like the Stanley Cup champs in Game 3.
Weve been through so many situations throughout these last couple of years, said Johnny Boychuk. We know how to handle it. Being at 2-2 we have the group of guys in here that can battle through anything to get wins.
Its a best of three games series now with two of those games potentially set at TD Garden, and the Bruins know what they must do to win.
Its just a matter now of getting out there and actually doing it now that a great chance to control the series has gone by the boards.

Celtics-Cavs Game 4 preview: C's expect an aggressive LeBron

Celtics-Cavs Game 4 preview: C's expect an aggressive LeBron

CLEVELAND -- Marcus Smart made shots, Jonas Jerebko (10 points) outscored the entire Cleveland second unit by himself, and Kevin Love’s hot hand in the first half cooled off considerably in the second.

It was on so many levels the perfect storm for the Boston Celtics in Game 3 which ended with Avery Bradley getting a friendly bounce or two – OK, it was four bounces to be exact – that would be the difference in Boston’s 111-108 Game 3 win, which cut Cleveland’s lead in the best-of-seven series to 2-1.

But that perfect storm is now a thing of the past, which is why the Celtics are battening down the hatches for Hurricane James – LeBron James – in Game 4.

James scored just 11 points in Game 3 on 4-for-13 shooting.

Certainly, Boston’s defense had a role in James’ struggles.

But after looking to be a facilitator at the start of the game, James never flipped the switch to become a terminator.

So, as his teammates struggled with their shots in the second half, James didn’t ratchet up his aggression level to get buckets and in doing so, was just what the Celtics needed to get a much-needed victory.

Had Boston lost Game 3, this series being over would have been a mere formality with no team in NBA history has ever rallied from a 3-0 series deficit to advance to the next round of play.

But the Celtics are very much alive and well with a chance to even up the series at 2-2 with a victory tonight.

If they are to somehow find a way to beat the Cavs on their home floor a second straight game, it’ll most likely come after fending off a strong surge from James.

This season, James has been an offensive power following games in which he has scored less than 20 points in a game.

In the following game after he scores less than 20 points, James has averaged 27.8 points.

And his record in those games during the regular season was 10-3.

“He’s going to be aggressive,” said Boston’s Avery Bradley. “LeBron James understands how to play the game and he understands what his team needs from him. He’s most likely going to be a lot more aggressive. It’s our job to make sure we defend him as best we can; take other guys out of the game.”

Like Tristan Thompson who had 18 points but only took four shots (he made 3) to get it, as most of his scoring came from the free throw line after getting fouled.

“He had 12 free throws or something like that? He’s playing well for them,” Bradley said. ‘We have to try and limit him to less rebounds. It’s going to be hard. If we’re able to do that and guard the 3, I like our chances.”

Boston’s Al Horford anticipates seeing not just James but the entire Cavs roster try to be more aggressive at the start.

And that means as good as they did in Game 3, they’ll have to be even better tonight.

“On the defensive end, we feel there’s definitely a lot of room for improvement,” Horford told CSN. “We just have to come out and play.”

In Game 3, Boston fell behind by as many as 21 points but for the most part stayed within arm’s reach of the Cavaliers which was a major improvement over Games 1 and 2 in Boston.

And as the Celtics continued to climb back into Game 3, James’ lack of impact plays remained a mystery.

And while there are some who are quick to put Sunday’s loss on James, not surprisingly his coach sees things differently.

“We're all to blame,” said Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue on Monday. “We lost; it happens. For a guy who played great for five straight months, he's got to have a bad game sooner or later. He's human. He didn't shoot the ball well. It wasn't his ordinary game. But Kevin (Love) and Kyrie (Irving) had it going early and they played well, so it kind of got him out of rhythm a little bit in that first half. That's no excuse. Like I said, they played well, but we've just got to play better, be more physical.”

After reviewing the video from Game 3, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was once again impressed with James for the most part making the right basketball play most of the game.

“When you've got guys that are all on fire the way they are, the right basketball play is to find them,” Stevens said. “He just made it over and over.

Stevens added, “The guy is a tremendous basketball player. He makes the right play over and over, and he thinks the game, he sees the game. He's a really good defender. He can read situations. So, I thought he was pretty darned good. But like I said (following Game 3), I'm not going to be critical of the best player in the world.”

Indeed, Stevens has far more important things to worry about, like bracing his players for the impending storm known to all as LeBron James.