Haggerty's Bruins-Panthers preview

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Haggerty's Bruins-Panthers preview

SUNRISE, FL The Bruins need a win, plain and simple.

Theyre riding a season-worst three-game losing streak that brings back some of the worst memories of their seasons first month, and the Bs have been losing in ugly, pathetic fashion. Theyve allowed other teams to consistently get the jump on them and theyve been playing comeback hockey in nearly every game over the last two weeks.

For a team thats barely clinging to a one point lead over the Ottawa Senators, though they do have two games in hand, the Bruins know that the time for excuses and alibis is long gone.

All that matters when it gets to March and April is the result at the end of 60 minutes, and the Bruins have won only five regulation games since the beginning of February. So something has got to give, and it starts with defense and goaltending.

You can look at a lot of things and fix areas. Its about our execution and playing our game. There are too many breakdowns. Everybody needs to do their job on the ice and the breakdowns are becoming costly, said Claude Julien. When we have layers then those breakdowns dont end up in the back of the net.

As for the Panthers, theyve been in the Southeast Division drivers seat just about all year and the Florida Cats are trying to hang on for dear life as the Capitals and Jets make their claims for a divisional title. Jose Theodore will get the nod given his long, illustrious history against the Bruins and the Panthers 24th ranked offense in the NHL will hope for another charitable night from the Bs defense.

Boston has to make sure that doesnt happen, and somehow find a way to make sure Tampa was their seasons rock-bottom and that it doesnt get any worse.

When you get behind the eight-ball like we have, I dont know how many games weve done that, you put yourself in a tough, tough position. Teams have found their games defensively and can hold you down when youre down one, two, three or even four goals, said Chris Kelly. Its easy to go out there and say youre going to put all the pressure, all the scoring and all the defensive play on your shoulders.

But thats not going to help anybody out. Were at our best when guys go out there and do what they do best. Everybody brings a different aspect out there and thats makes us a great team. When players get away from that is when you struggle even more and get into a deeper hole. You need to stick together and play together, and thats the only way out of it.

The Bruins hope to start digging out on Thursday night on their final game of a three-game road trip thats been disastrous at the first two stops in Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay.

PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRED PUMPED: Brad Marchand has exactly two points in eight games during the month of March, and hasnt been his Little Ball of Hate self enough when the Bruins could use some emotional urgency. His forward line with Tyler Seguin and Patrice Bergeron has been restored at practice, and that should prove all of its forwards with the proper motivation tonight. As if a team riding a season-worst three-game losing streak needed motivation.

DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: Were not a team that relies on one or two guys to bail us out. Weve always been a group that does it by committee. We realize that what we have here, and what were all about, is that our strength has been as a pack. Its not as individuals. We need to play within our strength. Its not about one guy as much as its about all of us picking up our game and putting it in the right direction. Claude Julien talking about working together as a unit to get out of their slump rather than striking out as individuals.

KEY MATCHUP: The key matchup will be the Boston Bruins against brick wall Jose Theodore, who has been their kryptonite many times over the last ten years. Theodore is 15-13-3 with a 2.40 goals against and a .923 save percentage in 32 career games against the Bruins, but did fall to them earlier this season in the blowout loss just before Christmas. Itll be interesting to see how Jordan Caron matches up with David Krejci and Milan Lucic as the 21-year-old rookie shares some of his best attributes size, strength around the net and a willingness to play the body are similar to injured right wing Nathan Horton.

STAT TO WATCH: 3.75 the number of goals against average for the Bruins in eight games during the month of March, which ranks as the worst in the NHL this month.

INJURIES: Rich Peverley (right knee sprain), Tuukka Rask (groin strainabdomen strain) and Nathan Horton (mild concussion) are long term injuries for the Bruins. Peverley skated on his own for the first time on Wednesday. Max Sauve was sent back to Boston with a hip injury suffered Sunday and hes expected to be shelved for a lengthy period of time. Both Patrice Bergeron (lower body) and Adam McQuaid (upper body) skated on Thursday morning and are game-time decisions for the Bruins. For the Florida Panthers Dmitry Kulikov (knee), Scottie Upshall (sports hernia), Matt Bradley (upper body), Kris Versteeg (lower body) and Jack Skille (upper body) are out with injuries.

GOALTENDING MATCHUP: Tim Thomas will get the call for the Bruins, and hell be appearing in his 11th straight game for the Black and Gold including a pair of relief appearances. Thomas is 3-4 with a 3.74 goals against average and an .852 save percentage during the month of March, and appears to be battling fatigue hell need to overcome against the Panthers. Jose Theodore gets the nod for a hungry Florida bunch and will be attempting to resemble the goaltender that led the Panthers to a 2-0 shutout win over Boston on Dec. 8.

Celtics-Heat preview: Do C's need to bounce back from a win?

Celtics-Heat preview: Do C's need to bounce back from a win?

BOSTON – The final score on the Jumbotron Friday night said the Celtics beat the Phoenix Suns 130-120.
 
But there was a clear and undeniable sense of loss on the part of the Celtics, even if Friday’s victory was their third in a row and sixth in the past seven games.
 
The Celtics (47-26) hope to continue on their winning ways tonight against a Miami Heat team currently among a handful fighting for one of the last playoff slots, but are doing so without Dion Waiters (ankle) who has been instrumental in their surge after an 11-30 start to the season.
 
Beating the Heat (35-37) will require Boston to play better than they did against the Suns, a game Boston won, but in many ways had the feeling of defeat.
 
Yes, Devin Booker’s career-high 70 points was very much a blow – a huge blow – to the pride of a team that takes tremendous pride in its defense.
 
But the sense of a loss came in the form of purpose while playing as close to their potential as possible.
 
The Celtics fell short on both fronts Friday night.
 
Being just one game behind Cleveland (47-24) for the best record in the East, the Celtics understand getting as many wins as possible is the mindset right now.
 
But coach Brad Stevens knows that while winning is important, how the team plays is even more valuable.
 
“Like I’ve said before, I’m surprised at where we are record-wise because we’ve got to play at a higher level for 48 minutes,” Stevens said. “We just don’t do it.”
 
Is this Stevens’ way of trying to motivate his players after a not-so-great performance?
 
Or is he seriously concerned that his team isn’t as good as their record?
 
The Celtics, by their own standards, and to those of us on the outside looking in, know they are a better team than the one we saw on Friday night.
 
Not having Avery Bradley (sick) certainly hurt Boston’s efforts defensively.
 
Still, a Friday night’s game wore on, Booker’s confidence only grew and the Celtics’ desire to shut him down or at least slow him down, began to dissipate like an ice cube in hell.
 
And that’s a problem - a big problem - for a team that has to be connected at both ends of the floor for an extended period of time in order to play at the level their capable of and, most important, give them the best shot at emerging victorious in the postseason.
 
That’s why Stevens isn’t too caught up in the team’s chances of catching Cleveland, or whether they go into the playoffs riding a fat winning streak.
 
“I’m not going to get caught up in winning a couple of games in a row and all that stuff,” Stevens said. “I want to get caught up in playing well. We’ve shown ourselves capable of playing well, we have not sustained it throughout a game. And it’s been pretty consistent.”
 

Win vs. Islanders 'a nice building block' for Bruins

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Win vs. Islanders 'a nice building block' for Bruins

BROOKLYN, NY – It wasn’t particularly entertaining and it won’t be all that memorable down the ride aside from the timing and importance of the meeting between the Bruins and Islanders. But it was a solid 2-1 team win for the Bruins over the Islanders at the Barclays Center on Saturday night with the B’s grinding all the way down to the end while protecting a one-goal lead through much of the third period.

Nearly everybody across Boston’s roster contributed in the major victory over the team trying to bypass them in the wild card standings, and it was a beautiful thing. Anton Khudobin stepped up when Tuukka Rask couldn’t start Saturday night’s showdown with a lower body issue, and Riley Nash supplied both Boston goals from a fourth line that’s played some of their best hockey lately.

It was unlikely heroes all around for the Black and Gold in the tightly-wound contest, but that diversity of talent and production can be a very good thing for a team looking to make that playoff push.

“You have to stay with it. You have to stay in the moment and stay with the game no matter what’s happening during the game. That’s how you get results, and that’s how you find ways to persevere through adversity,” said Patrice Bergeron. “We just got back to playing stingy, especially in the neutral zone. We got away from it the last few games, and it was nice tonight to be back playing a low-scoring game like what we’re used to playing.”

When it was all said and done the Bruins only allowed 19 shots on net and also killed off six penalties in the kind of grinding defensive showdown that you haven’t seen all that much out of the Black and Gold lately. It was exactly what Cassidy was looking for to snap the four-game losing streak, and once again start pushing the Bruins upward into the playoff chase.

“That’s the type of win that goes a long way in the room when your goaltender is battling hard and fighting that hard to see pucks and find pucks and your D are blocking shots. And you kill that many penalties. It was a nice building block for us,” said Cassidy. “From the goalie on out, everybody was in there [in the win]. It was a tough game. It was a nice Bruins win. We had been doing it with offense earlier, and we’ve got to be able to do it both ways. You need to be able to win 2-1 hockey games, and it had been awhile.”

Now it’s simply up to the Bruins to be feeling good about their latest win while going back to basics, and looking for more next time around after ending their worst losing streak of the season.