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NHL Power Rankings: Bruins can’t crack Top 10

10.14.09 at 10:56 am ET
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Interesting couple of weeks to start the NHL season, and now seems like a perfect time to drop WEEI.com’s NHL power rankings onto an unsuspecting public. In the Eastern side of things, meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Until somebody comes up and knows them off their pedestal, the Penguins are the rulers of everything they see in the hockey landscape.

Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have picked up where they left off in the second half of last season, and it’s really not even a close race. Teams such as the Flames, Rangers and Blackhawks are off to fairly decent starts, but they can’t hang with the Penguins once they turn up the dial. Likewise, there’s not a team even remotely close to the Maple Leafs in the NHL dumpster. The Leafs are getting blown out nearly every night, and Vesa Toskala has been an abomination between the pipes. The pressure ought to be nice and reasonable for a hungry Toronto fan base once Phil Kessel is healthy enough to play in late November, shouldn’t it?

Here are the WEEI.com hockey power rankings:

Pittsburgh Penguins1. 5-1-0 The Penguins already have big wins over solid teams after beating the Rangers and Flyers last week, and they have most of last year’s Stanley Cup-winning cast back. Let’s face it. The top spot should be theirs most of the year provided Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Co. remain healthy and motivated. Everybody else in the Eastern Conference has miles to go before they’re a match for Crosby’s Penguins.

Calgary Flames2. 4-1-1 The Flames might have topped this list had they not blown a 5-0 lead against the Blackhawks on Monday night. That stunning collapse brought attention to the simple fact that the Flames haven’t played much of the NHL’s iron. But the Flames are still tied for the most goals (24) without a ton of offensive production from Jarome Iginla or Olli Jokinen.

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Sluggish start dooms B’s on Columbus Day matinee

10.12.09 at 3:27 pm ET
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Once again the Boston Bruins underwhelmed on home ice. It was a lackadaisical start for the home team Bruins during their Columbus Day Monday matinee, and it took almost 30 minutes of hockey for the B’s to finally wake up. It was a case of “too little, too late” in Boston’s 4-3 loss to the Avalanche on the TD Garden ice. Perhaps it’ll be good for the B’s to get on the road for a while as they’ll do after competing a five-game homestand on Monday afternoon.

After spotting Colorado a 2-0 lead following a sleepy first period, the B’s stopped and started their way back into the game in the second period. Mark Recchi scored his first goal of the 2009-10 season and Blake Wheeler added an athletic score to get Boston back in the game, but the B’s let down again following their game-tying efforts.

Defensive breakdowns and soft play in their own zone helped the Avalanche pile on two more goals in the second, including a David Jones breakaway score after Andrew Ference made the elementary mistake of playing the body instead of the puck. Perhaps okay to do in certain situations, but not when that player — Ference in this case – represents Boston’s last line of defense during a sequence of 4-on-4 play.

Michael Ryder scored midway through the third period to give Boston a shot at tying the game, but the B’s sluggish started ended up proving too big a hill to scale this time. The defeat saddled them with a 1-3-1 homestand to start the season. Not exactly what anybody had in mind for a hockey built on so much promise headed into the NHL regular season.

“I think it’s one of those things were everyone realizes that things that worked for us in the past, things that we were comfortable doing and being successful at aren’t necessarily working for us right now,” said Wheeler, who scored one of Boston’s goals in the middling loss. “It’s one thing getting beat 2-1 or 1-0. We pride ourselves on defense and we are giving up quite a few goals here. It’s not the goalie’s fault at all.”

YOU’RE THE BEST AROUND, AND NOTHING’S GONNA EVER KEEP YOU DOWN: Johnny Boychuk. The AHL refugee has been waiting patiently for his shot with the Bruins, and he finally got it when Dennis Wideman went down with a left shoulder injury. Boychuck played with a Bruins-sized chip on his shoulder and didn’t allow himself to get bogged down in Boston’s end. He led Boston with three official hits and was a plus-2 on a night the B’s allowed four goals. David Krejci also played a pretty strong game for the Bruins and put his first two marks on the season tally with a pair of assists.

GOAT HORNS: Andrew Ference. The B’s defenseman hasn’t gotten off to a very good start this season and that continued Monday afternoon against the Avs. He did register one shot on net and a pair of hits, but his gaffe ended up leading to Colorado’s game-winning score. Ference also finished at a minus-1 for the evening. He was ineffective as a quarterback to the second power play unit and his breakout passes weren’t of the crisp tape-to-tape variety as well. Ference needs to turn things around and give Boston something better on the ir second defenseman pairing.

The veteran defenseman said following the game that he mistook Matt Hunwick for David Krejci on the ice, and the mistake prompted him to leave his position guarding Boston’s end. Not pretty.

Boston’s power play unit could very well get tossed in here as well as they are — in the words of Joe Namath — “struggaling.” The B’s man advantage is fruitless in their last 17 attempts, and is just 4-for-29 on the season good for a 13.8 percent success rate. Marco Sturm and Marc Savard were also both minus-2 for the Bruins in a loss that could best be termed as mediocre.

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Rask gets the nod in net for Bruins

10.12.09 at 1:05 pm ET
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Bruins rookie goaltender Tuukka Rask was the first goaltender off the ice during Monday’s pregame warmups, and that’s a sure indicator it’ll be Rask rather than Tim Thomas in the net for the Bruins Monday afternoon against the Avalanche. Rask made 35 saves in Boston’s 4-3 shootout win over the New York Islanders on Saturday night, and clearly impressed Claude Julien enough for a second consecutive start

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Wideman out for Monday matinee against Avalanche

10.12.09 at 12:31 pm ET
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Boston Bruins defenseman Dennis Wideman will miss Monday afternoon’s game with a left shoulder injury sustained during Saturday night’s game against the New York Islanders. Wideman hit the boards awkwardly in the third period of the shootout win over the Isles, and B’s head coach Claude Julien termed the blueliner “day-to-day” prior to Monday’s matinee against the Colorado Avalanche. Johnny Boychuk was a healthy scratch for the first four games of the season, but will dress and play in Wideman’s place in Monday’s lineup.

“It’s not a long-term injury and it’s being evaluated every day,” said Julien. “If he practices then it’s a good sign for Friday, so we’re going to evaluate him as we move on here. It’s nothing more than a day-to-day situation.”

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How The Bruins Broke The Slump

10.11.09 at 12:42 am ET
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There is a formula for success that works for just about every facet of life you can imagine: K.I.S.S – Keep It Simple, stupid.

This principle is especially pertinent in hockey. If players start pushing too hard, gripping their sticks and getting cute with the offense then there is a good probability that their team will not score. That was essentially the problem with the Bruins for the first 52 minutes in tonight’s 4-3 come-from-behind shoot-out victory over the New York Islanders.

The Bruins ended up with a respectable 30 shots but it took a flurry at the end to get to that point. As of 9:50 in the third period the Bruins had 17 shots with only three in the period. Not a good combination for a team looking to overcome a 3-0 deficit. Until that point the Bruins were flat, had problems controlling the puck and thus sustaining momentum against one of the lesser-skilled teams in the NHL. Read the rest of this entry »

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Islanders 3, Bruins 0 End 2nd

10.10.09 at 8:51 pm ET
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The Bruins went from mediocre to bad to really bad in nightmarish second period that saw them give up three goals while losing two key players.

Defenseman Dennis Wideman left the ice with three minutes remaining in the second period holding his left side. Wideman crashed into the boards while battling with Matt Moulson for a puck. Then two minutes later, Steve Begin left the ice limping after taking a shot to the foot. Begin returned to the bench for the start of the third but not Wideman.

Tuukka Rask looked as shaky in the second stanza as Tim Thomas did on Thursday night, and to be fair, in both cases neither netminder had much help.

The Bruins are not forechecking, they’re not skating consistently and odds are we’ll hear that from Julien in his post-game rant, which would be deserving if the Bruins don’t score 4-5 goals in the final 20 minutes.

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Bruins 0, Islanders 0, End 1st

10.10.09 at 7:53 pm ET
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The Bruins were outshot, if not outplayed, in the opening 20 minutes as the Islanders peppered Tuukka Rask with 16 shots while the B’s could only get off seven shots on Dwayne Roloson.

The Islanders were aided by a 5-on-3 for a minute, 38 seconds. But Rask, making his first start of the season, looked up to the challenge and didn’t allow many second chances.

The Bruins were 11-for-21 in face-offs for a 52 percent win rate.

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