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Neely: Loss of Stars Taking Toll on B’s

December 6, 2018

Bruins defenseman Connor Clifton (75) and goaltender Jaroslav Halak scramble for a loose puck during a 5-0 blowout loss to the Panthers on Wednesday. AP PHOTO Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

By Steve Conroy

Boston Herald

BRIGHTON -- Cam Neely fully appreciates the situation that his Bruins are in right now.

The team’s best all-round player, Patrice Bergeron, is out of the lineup, as are three of the best defenseman in Zdeno Chara, Kevan Miller and Charlie McAvoy. They’ve been gone for a while and, with the possible exception of McAvoy, they’ve got a while to go before they’re available again.

And up until recently, Neely said, the B’s have gotten some admirable performances from rookies like Jeremy Lauzon and Connor Clifton, defending well and breaking pucks out cleanly.

“But it’s catching up to us right now,” said Neely before the B’s hour-plus practice at Amalie Arena on Wednesday.

That was pretty much inevitable, and it was obvious in the 5-0 no-show loss to the Panthers on Tuesday in Sunrise.

But while a defeat like that could have been somewhat expected somewhere along the way for the B’s in their current state, there were things that Neely’s seen in the last couple of games that have had him a bit bothered. And they have less to do with the kids and more to do with the decision-making of the high-end skilled players.

“I just didn’t like a lot of the way we were playing. We could certainly tighten and try to eliminate the amount of scoring chances we’ve been giving up the last couple of games,” said Neely.

“And then, you can’t beat guys 1-on-4 and 1-on-3. It’s not going to happen. Our power play’s got to do a much better job of understanding you’re not going to beat guys on a regular basis like that. You’ve got to be a lot smarter. If there’s no opportunity to carry the puck in, then you’ve got to chip it in and go get it. I just didn’t like the amount of turnovers we had, both on the power-play and inside our blue line 5-on-5. Those are mental mistakes that you can correct pretty easily I think.”

Neely didn’t mention any names of players trying to do too much, but you can assume he’s referring to the likes of Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak and David Krejci. Neely knows they’ve been trying to get something going for the depleted offense.

“I get that,” said Neely. “You’re offensive players and you’re relied on to help the team offensively and score some goals. But you start drifting away and start playing more individually and you’re trying to beat guys when maybe the smarter play is just chipping it in and going to get it. I think you’ve got to recognize what the situation is at that particular time and not force things. And I see some of those guys forcing too many plays and forcing too many individual (plays), trying to beat guys 1-on-3 at the blue line just doesn’t work in this league.”

Neely doesn’t want the impressionable youth to be exposed to that kind of play, either.

“It’s hard because we’re certainly looking to help grow the younger players and have them play the right way in this league,” said Neely. “And you expect younger, less experienced NHL players do make those types of of mistakes and you don’t want to see it on a regular basis from your players who’ve played a lot of games in this league.”

As of right now, there doesn’t appear to be any help coming from the outside, at least not yet. And for a day anyway, there was no call made down to Providence for some different young blood.

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