|10.06.10 at 10:33 am ET|
PRAGUE — There’s no hiding how mightily the Bruins struggled in the scoring department in the 2009-10 season. From Blake Wheeler to David Krejci to Michael Ryder, many players saw their point totals take a hit en route to the team finishing with an NHL-worst 2.39 goals per game. After the offseason acquisitions of Nathan Horton and Tyler Seguin, both of whom scored in Tuesday’s 7-1 victory over Liberec HC, the team appears — on paper, at least — to be in much better offensive standing than their squad of a season ago. Still, if the team is going to get to the Eastern Conference finals after being eliminated in the second round in two consecutive seasons, they’ll need some of their top scorers, like Ryder to return to form.
Last season wasn’t the first sign of a statistical speedbump from Ryder, who throughout his career has seen his numbers go up and down. In fact, almost amazingly, his points have never increased in consecutive seasons. In his six NHL seasons, his totals have been as follows: 63, 55, 58, 3, 53, and 33, the last two of which were with the Bruins. Though certainly accountable for last season, Ryder has hopes that the team can be more productive offensively. Should that happen, Ryder could be a big part of it.
“It was tough here for everyone,” Ryder said of what needs to change this season. “Even though I didn’t score like I wanted to, I was still third on the team. The whole team struggled to score and it was tough. The one thing we want to work on this year is that we want to produce more goals and try and get our offense going and still keep the defense as solid as it was.”
Ryder has been skating on the third line, centered by Tyler Seguin, with Jordan Caron and Daniel Paille the other wing candidates. The line, formerly made up of Ryder, Seguin and Blake Wheeler before Wheeler was moved to the second line, very much has an x-factor intrigue to it, as Ryder could be either the 27-scorer he was two seasons ago or the 18-goal man who drew the criticism of fans last season.
“We’re still getting adjusted,” Ryder said of his chemistry with the second overall pick. “There are little things we need to work on, like trying to get a feel for where each other’s going to be on the ice. I think that comes with practice. The more we practice and get used to each other, it will come and then after that we can get a little more of a feel for each other and make each other better.”
The 30-year-old winger hasn’t jumped off the page through camp so far, with Peter Chiarelli saying in a conference call last week that he didn’t “mind” Ryder’s preseason performance. Even so, Ryder has been commended by many, including Claude Julien, for looking better prepared and stronger at this point of the process than in seasons past.
Ryder identified strength and bulk as areas in which he aimed to improve over the offseason. As a result, he’s up to 197 pounds and taking a mentality of being more focused on being stronger on the puck. With this season being the last of his contract, he’ll be playing for both his contract and proving to the Bruins that sending him and his $4 million cap hit to Providence should be out of the question once Marco Sturm and Marc Savard return from their respective injuries.
|10.06.10 at 9:28 am ET|
PRAGUE — According to Steve Harris of the Boston Herald, rookie defenseman Matt Bartkowski was notified on Wednesday by general manager Peter Chiarelli that he would be the final player released from camp before the team opens the regular season with two games against the Coyotes (the team is allowed to carry an extra goalie overseas, but Nolan Schaefer will also likely be sent to Providence before the team begins play in North America).
Bartkowski, 22, did not dress in either of the team’s games against the Belfast Giants and Liberec HC, and after Wednesday’s practice seemed to take the right attitude.
“I don’t really worry about it. If it happens, I’m just going to take it and do what I have to do to work my way back up,” Bartkowski said. “All of the positives that I’ve learned here, I’m just going to take those down with me and work on them and earn my spot [in the NHL].”
The Bruins’ thinking with the Ohio State product is that Bartkowski will be better off getting as much as time as he can at his age, and with a crowded group at the NHL level, he will be able to continue to grow as a player in Providence. Bartkowski agreed.
“I’d rather play in Providence than sit in games up here. I think that would be better for my development. Yeah, it would be a little let down, but it wouldn’t be too bad.”
|10.06.10 at 9:19 am ET|
PRAGUE — The O2 Arena here in Prague is beautiful. Despite the media being treated like patients of Dr. Samuel James Loomis, it’s been an awesome place to take in the last couple of Bruins’ practices.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“How is his Czech? His English is good.” — David Krejci when asked by a reporter how well Claude Julien spoke the native tongue.
We’ve got some cultural differences on the way — I know it’s been a day or two too many without one of those — but today should be the first day of sight-seeing around Prague and Tom Cruise is rumored to be in town. So stay tuned for that.
For now, here are some shots of the beautiful setting of the Bruins’ first two regular season games.
|10.06.10 at 7:23 am ET|
PRAGUE — Though the lines saw a bit of tweaking as the game went on in Tuesday’s game in Liberec, they remained the same in practice on Wednesday. They were as follows:
Wheeler – Bergeron – Recchi
Paille – Seguin – Caron/Ryder
Marchand – Campbell – Thornton/McGrattan
|10.05.10 at 6:44 pm ET|
LIBEREC, Czech Republic — Blake Wheeler hasn’t really gotten a fair shake from fans in Boston. After a 21-goal rookie year with the Bruins, Wheeler turned in 18 in his second season and was often criticized by fans for his lack of physical play. This preseason, he’s shown a more physical edge that he had vowed in the offseason to return with. Fans didn’t take notice of his use of his size in his two preseason showings at the Garden, but it likely won’t be long before they do.
A strong camp from Wheeler has landed the third year forward on the second line with Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi. He picked up a goal in the team’s 7-1 victory over Liberec HC, and after seeing the five-point explosion from Bergeron should be licking his chops at the idea of skating with him as his center. Things are looking up for Wheeler, who prior to Tuesday had been skating with Tyler Seguin and Michael Ryder on the third line.
“I feel great on the ice. I feel like I’m playing with a lot of speed, and confidence is up there now,” Wheeler said. “Playing with Bergeron and Recchi really makes the game a lot easier. I think we had a really good game today and I’m excited to be playing with these guys and hopefully we can really get some good chemistry going.”
As for the aspect of physicality, Wheeler trusts that by utilizing his 6-foot-5 frame he can become the well-rounded player that made him a top-five pick in the NHL draft. In addition to setting up a tarp to shoot against in his garage, his main focus was toughening up.
“I felt that if I could be more of a presence physically, a lot of the other things in my game would follow suit,” Wheeler said. “Just consistency-wise, that’s something you can bring every night. No matter how you’re feeling, no matter how you’re playing, you can be a physical presence and contribute to the game that way. I’m just trying to focus on the things that I can control and let the rest follow suit.”
|10.05.10 at 6:06 pm ET|
LIBEREC, Czech Republic — Though Patrice Bergeron clogged the stat sheet with his gaudy numbers on Tuesday night (five points), it was a lower number that may have been the most positive sign for the Bruins as they crushed Liberec HC in 7-1 fashion. Tim Thomas was outstanding in net, sprawling around in his signature fashion and limiting the Czech club to one goal on the night.
Thomas came out of the gate particularly strong, stopping all 14 shots he faced in the first period. At the end of the night, Thomas, who is coming off offseason hip surgery, saw the light at the end of his recovery’s tunnel shining a little brighter than he had throughout the summer.
“I need to feel like myself, and it’s definitely coming. I’m working on it in practice, and I think it showed up in my game during this game here,” Thomas said. “… I guess when I’m playing and feeling comfortable, I’m not thinking. I actually felt way more in control than the Washington game, so I’m making steps in the right direction.”
Though coach Claude Julien agreed with the assessment that Thomas looked fluid in the victory, he also pointed to the offensive explosion and defensive stability put on display by the Bruins over the course of the night.
“When you play well in front of goaltender, it gives him confidence because all he has to do is worry about stopping the puck,” Julien said. “Our guys did a great job in front of him, and when he had to make the saves, he was there to make them. That’s what’s important, because if you’ve got your goaltender wondering if you’re going to be in the right position, then he’s second-guessing himself, and it was nice to play in front of him tonight because it gave him the confidence to make the saves he had to make.”
The Bruins’ preseason is now in the books. They will hold practices in Prague on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday before opening the regular season against the Coyotes.
STITCHES FOR PAILLE
Julien said after the game that Daniel Paille received 15 stitches on his lip after getting hit in the face by either a stick or a puck in the first period. Though the coach and reporters weren’t sure exactly what him (there were no replays except on scoring plays at the arena) nothing appeared remotely serious.
|10.05.10 at 3:15 pm ET|
LIBEREC, Czech Republic — Patrice Bergeron had five points and Tyler Seguin scored again as the Bruins finished their preseason with a 7-1 victory over Liberec HC in Liberec, Czech Republic.
Bergeron scored in the second and third periods, while also assisting Seguin’s goal, a snipe from the point on the power play, as well as tallies from Jordan Caron and Blake Wheeler. Trade acquisitions Nathan Horton and Gregory Campbell also picked up goals in the first and third periods, respectively.
Tim Thomas looked very sharp in net for the Bruins, playing the entire game and looking particularly impressive in a first period in which he made 14 shots. He allowed just one goal on the night, an Andrej Podkonicky strike into second period.
From the Liberec the Bruins will travel an hour south to Prague, where they will continue to practice before opening the regular season with two games against the Coyotes on Saturday and Sunday.
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