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Bruins need to go on the offensive against the Capitals

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff  April 16, 2012 02:49 PM

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It could be worse for the Bruins.

Fellow Stanley Cup aspirants the Vancouver Canucks and Pittsburgh Penguins, both trailing 3-0 in their playoffs series, would gladly trade places with the goal-starved Black and Gold, who have found the Washington net dead-bolted and their series with the Capitals deadlocked, 1-1, heading into Game 3 Monday night in the nation's capital.

There is a bit of unease about the Bruins' first-round series with the Capitals. The series has turned a wee bit worrisome after Washington squeezed out a 2-1 double-overtime victory on Sunday at TD Garden to even the proceedings.

Obstructionist policy, all the rage in Washington these days, has been translated to the rink by coach Dale Hunter and the Capitals, who have limited the Bruins to two goals in two games. Washington newbie netminder Braden Holtby has stopped 72 of 74 shots in 144 minutes and 14 seconds of action. A big goalie clad in red, white and blue derailing a Bruins Stanley Cup title defense is too familiar a story.

Where did the goals go? That is the question the Bruins, a team that scored 260 goals during the regular season, tied for second in the NHL with Philadelphia and only trailing the Penguins, have to answer before they take the ice for Game 3.

Games in which teams scrounge around for goals like they're trying to dig up loose change in their couch cushions would seemingly play into hands of the Bruins, with their penchant for defensive responsibility and the presence of Tim Thomas in net. However, if they let Holtby continue to gain confidence and the Capitals to continue to believe they're engaged in a winnable series then goal-gridlock could backfire on the Bruins.

It might be time for Bruins coach Claude Julien to start tacking up flyers around the Bruins' locker room. They could read: "Missing: Scoring Touch of Top Two Lines. Last seen during the regular season. Please return to 100 Legends Way, Boston, MA as soon as possible. If found contact 1-888-GOAL or backofthenet@bostonbruins.com."

The Bruins top two lines have yet to register a point in the series. The trios of Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Rich Peverley and Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and Tyler Seguin going silent.

Both Boston goals, Chris Kelly's game-winner in overtime in Game 1, and Benoit Pouliot's net-crasher in the third period of Game 2, have come from the third line That line has all six of the Bruins points in the series, despite possessing only one of the team's six 20-goal scorers this year (Kelly).

It would help the Bruins if they got Seguin going.

The physicality of the playoffs seems to have muted Seguin's game a bit. In spite of a team-high eight shots on goal, he has not resembled the player who led the Bruins in goals (29) and points (67).

During the regular-season, it was clear that whatever line Seguin was skating on was the Bruins' most potent one. When Julien needed to recharge the batteries of a lagging Krejci, he put Seguin on his wing.

For all the talk of digging deeper, getting more dirt under the fingernails and tossing pulchritude aside to get more goals, perhaps it makes sense for Julien to pull Seguin off the Bergeron Line, which has the defensive responsibility of matching up with Alexander Ovechkin's line, and see if he can re-ignite his chemistry with Krejci and Lucic.

Perhaps, pairing up the Bruins two most individually skilled offensive players could crack the Capitals' defensive shell and jump-start two players the Bruins are going to need to lift Lord Stanley's chalice once again.

Krejci said after Sunday's loss that he and linemates Lucic and right wing Rich Peverley weren't clicking.

"I just don't think we're playing our game, especially my line. I don't know what it is, but we have to find a way to help each other out there," said Krejci. "It sometimes seems like the one guy is working and the two others are just waiting and hoping for the puck to get a scoring chance. It doesn't work like that. We got to help each other out there. If we do that we have good players, and we have good size so we should be able to get some scoring chances."

The buzz words in the Bruins locker room after Game 2 were net-front presence, crashing the net and screening. Shield Holtby from shots, so he can't shield them from the net.

The Bruins were more apt to blame themselves than credit Holtby, who had 43 saves in Game 2, for the paucity of pucks that have found the back of the net. Krejci shrugged off a question about whether a lack of familiarity with Holtby, who was playing in the AHL playoffs last year, has made him harder to solve.

"Obviously, he's played real well for them so far in the first two games, but in saying that a lot of our shots have come from the outside," said Lucic. "We haven't done that great of a job getting second, third shot opportunities -- pounces on rebounds -- and getting in his face. Can't take anything away from him; he's made the saves and stepped up big, and we just need to find ways to create more offense."

One way to do that is to reunite Krejci and Seguin. If Julien thinks it's too much of a risk, he could at least let them play together on the power play, which has sadly picked up right where it left off last postseason (0 for 6 so far).

With a Stanley Cup title to his name, Julien has proven that his way works.

But to make things harder for Holtby and the Capitals the Bruins need to get more offensive, unless they plan on getting the Flyers and Penguins to donate a few spare goals.

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The word

Christopher L. Gasper riffs on the news

Dearth

...That's what the Patriots have when it comes to picks in the 2013 NFL Draft, which starts Thursday. After all those years of stockpiling picks the way a survivalist does non-perishables the Patriots have just five picks in this year's draft, thanks to Band-aid trades for Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco and Aqib Talib. Five picks would be the fewest draft picks in franchise history. (Part of that is attributable to the trimming of the draft to just seven rounds in 1994). Further complicating matters is that two of the Patriots' greatest needs are at wide receiver and cornerback, positions where they have sustained draft droughts. With that in mind, I'm convinced the Patriots are going trade back out of the first round of a quanity-over-quality draft where you're just as likely to pick a Pro Bowl player in the second and third round as you are in the first round.

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