|02.17.09 at 6:25 pm ET|
Despite the shot in the arm that would normally accompany an NHL deadline deal for puck-moving blueliner Matthieu Schneider, the Montreal Canadiens are continuing to navigate through some choppy waters as they tumble through the Eastern Conference.
Watching wunderkind goalie Carey Price struggle through each and every game has been bad enough, but the epic struggles of Montreal’s power play have been downright incomprehensible after lighting it up on the PP one season ago. Meanwhile at Habs practice on Tuesday morning, things got even worse for Les Habitants as the other shoe finally dropped on underperforming forward Alex Kovalev.
According to the Gazette’s Habs Inside Out blog, the enigmatic Canadiens forward is being kept home for the next two games against Washington and Pittsburgh because he hasn’t displayed the proper emotion and passion out on the ice while skating for his floundering Canadiens. Canadiens GM Bob Gainey said that Kovalev hasn’t demanded a trade, so this looks like a strict punitive hockey measure designed to light a fire under a notoriously moody, tremendously talented scorer.
Given Kovalev’s aversion to discipline back to Claude Julien’s days as the Habs coach, it should be interesting hockey theater going forward and could signal serious trouble for Boston’s arch-rivals.
According to the blog: Montreal General Manager Bob Gainey said he told Kovalev the team has no need of Kovalev’s services the way he’s currently playing. He added that Kovalev was tired and wasn’t playing with any emotion. The GM said Kovalev’s situation would be re-evaluated at the end of the week but wouldn’t commit himself to saying that Kovalev would be back in the lineup for Saturday’s home game against Ottawa.
|02.16.09 at 5:19 pm ET|
Injured Bruins winger Michael Ryder returned to the practice ice on Monday afternoon and took part in his first on-ice drills with the team since getting hit in the face with a high stick vs. the Ottawa Senators back on Feb. 5. Ryder suffered significant injuries to the nose and sinus areas of his face that ultimately required surgery. To protect himself during practice, Ryder skated with the team wearing a facial cage similar to the ones used by college hockey players and also confirmed that he’ll be wearing a protective visor for the rest of the season. The doctors described the facial injury as something akin to a “crushed egg-shell”.
Ryder estimated he is roughly 2-3 weeks away from returning to game action as he regains his “wind” following the inactivity. Ryder also said he’ll travel with the team through Carolina, Tampa and Florida and continue practicing with the team while he heals.
“It was good to be back on the ice with the team,” said Ryder, who said the cage would take some getting used to for breathing and sight purposes. “(The injury) felt good enough to get back out and skate. I was lucky that it wasn’t my eye. That was a major concern.
“You’ve seen a lot of guys get hit there and it can be really bad damage, so I’m just fortunate that it’s only a fracture and that it’s going to heal,” added Ryder.
|02.14.09 at 11:47 pm ET|
The B’s have now trudged through a season-worst four games without notching a win after Saturday night’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Nashville Predators, but they did accomplish something that every veteran team needs to manage when it clearly “isn’t their night.”
They grabbed a valuable point where there almost was none.
Trailing 2-1 in the waning minutes of a contest during which they hadn’t always played their best hockey, the B’s kept oressing on with the attack around the net and didn’t relent until they’d scored the tying goal with 1:16 remaining in the game. It was the exact kind of point-saving tally that an experienced, hardened playoff-caliber team will eke out during the second half of the season, and it’s something that the Stanley Cup-era New Jersey Devils made an art form out of.
It was — to borrow a phrase from everybody’s favorite used car salesman/college basketball coach John Calipari — a sterling example of ‘Refuse to Lose’. Or in the world of the NHL, ‘Refuse to Waste a Point’ is more like it.
Just as he was on Friday night against the Devils, Patrice Bergeron was also among the best Bruins skaters on the ice in Saturday’s loss at the paws of the Preds at the Sommet Center. Bergeron finished with three shots on goal and three hits, and set up Zdeno Chara’s game-tying score in the third period with a deft touch pass from behind Boston’s net. The huge score came with Manny Fernandez pulled out of the net in the frantic final moments in Music City.
Bergeron’s finesse around the net was an encouraging sign, but the skater’s willingness to both dish out and sustain physical contact is also a huge blinking neon sign of encouragement. It says to everyone that the 23-year-old’s concussion worries are squarely behind him.
Encouraging sign number two from Saturday night’s shootout loss: the chemistry exhibited by the Blake Wheeler/David Krejci/Vladimir Sobotka was again present in spurts and led to Boston’s other goal on the evening — a second period Wheeler score assisted by Krejci and Sobotka. It marked only the fifth goal produced by Krejci and Wheeler’s formerly prolific line in 10 games since the NHL All-Star break, but there have been plenty of hints in the last two games that their puck mojo is returning.
The score was a rebound/second effort score from Big Wheeler around the net, and it epitomized exactly what he’s been knowingly replying to people asking him about his recent struggles. When the pucks aren’t going in, Wheeler said it was time to simplify, hang around the net and try to get in on some dirty goals — and that’s exactly what he did to get Boston on the board in the second period.
Wheeler also successfully scored during the shootout, and continued what’s been a pretty fair level of success (4 for 7, a 57 percent success rate) when it comes to the post-overtime shootout sessions. It appears that the rookie’s combination of long limbs, good hands, careful stickwork and superior hand-eye coordination make him a pretty dangerous weapon during the shootouts.
Medical Ward: Still no Petteri Nokelainen (eye) or Chuck Kobasew (upper body injury) in the lineup for the Bruins. The B’s flew back to Boston following Saturday night’s game against Nashville, and word will likely come down at practice Monday concerning whether either player could be ready to take the upcoming Sun Belt southern swing through Carolina, Tampa Bay and Florida.
Player of the Game: For the second straight game Patrice Bergeron was one of the best Bruins on the ice and was doling out hits and physical play along with his normally heady play. The youngster is at his best when he’ combining the hit game and skill game in one package, and there hasn’t been any trace of hesitation or tentativeness in his game. Three hits, three shots attempted and a big, important assist for a player that finally looks up to speed.
Chara also deserved special mention for the game-tying goal, a team-high four shots attempted and a game-high 27:51 of ice time. It’s a ho-hum night for the Norris Trophy-worthy Chara for sure, but it’s still worth noting.
Goat Horns: Milan Lucic hasn’t had many games when you could say he wasn’t a physical presence for the B’s out on the ice, but Saturday night was one of the. One shot attempted, one hit registered and not much else to note for Big Looch on a night when he really didn’t distinguish himself. The PP unit was also again 0-for-4 and dropped to 5th in the NHL with a 22.1 percent success rate after last night’s contest.
Turning Point: As stated up above, the B’s did just enough to salvage a point and keep building on their Eastern Conference lead when Chara scored a game-tying goal with less than two minutes to go. The late score pushed the game to overtime, and stemmed some of the negative momentum that a pair of regulation losses had saddled the Bruins with. Bergeron’s heady play and pass from behind the net in the third period to Chara was exactly what the hockey doctor ordered.
|02.13.09 at 11:15 pm ET|
The biggest moral from last night’s 1-0 loss to the New Jersey Devils in the Garden State?
Be afraid. Be very afraid of facing this Devils squad in the playoffs. The skaters with the pointy tails and the hybrid pitchforks are big, skilled, experienced, gritty, strong to the puck and disciplined, and have a boatload of playoff experience. In the last two games against the Devils, who moved into sole possession of second place in the Eastern Conference with last night’s victory, the Bruins simply haven’t been able to find enough answers to eke out a win. Jersey’s skaters are clicking on all cylinders right now, and have won 9 of their last 11 in the middle of the NHL’s stretch run.
The Black and Gold had plenty to beam about, however, after suffering their third straight loss for the first time since late in October — even more so when you consider the Bruins had a number of Providence Bruins players skating in prominent roles against a pretty healthy Devils unit. Martins Karsums and Vladimir Sobotka provided plenty of jump, and Patrice Bergeron played one of his best games this season — and certainly his most physically involved game since coming back from his latest concussion. Bergeron finished the game with a team-high seven shots on net, and even laid a few hits on Devils players in an encouragng sign for the forward in the future.
Despite all that — and some pretty good chemistry between Sobotka and linemates David Krejci and Blake Wheeler — the Bruins outshot the Devils by nearly a 2-to-1 margin and still couldn’t solve the riddle of a determined and defensive-minded New Jersey outfit. The Devils have created mismatches with the Bruins all season due to their sheer physical size and strength around the net both offensively and defensively, and that was the case again last night when many of Boston’s shots originated from outside/perimeter spots in the attack zone.
Black and Gold fans have to hope that they can hold on to capture the Eastern Conference and the Devils remain in their current No. 2 spot when the season ends and seeding for the playoffs begins. A difficult matchup against New Jersey will get even trickier for the B’s when Martin Brodeur comes back from a detached biceps muscle in the next few weeks and gives the Devils their All-World goaltender along with the formidable lineup.
Medical Watch: The Bruins seemed to get through this game relatively unscathed, and may get Chuck Kobasew (lower body injury) back in time for Saturday night’s game against the Nashville Predators. Petteri Nokelainen is likely to stay in Boston while still recovering from the nasty eye injury he suffered from a high-stick Tuesday night.
Player of the Night: Got to give it to the former Boston College netminder Scott Clemmensen, who made 31 saves on the night and stood tall during a couple of good flurries by the Bruins in the second and third period. His save on a puck that skidded off Vladimir Sobotka’s skate secured the win for the Devils and handed him his second straight shutout aided by a gritty Jersey defense.
Goat Horns: Tim Thomas would be the first to admit he should have stopped the one and only goal of the night. It was a soft low liner of a wrist shot from the point by stay-at-home Jersey defenseman Bryce Salvador from the high point. The shot didn’t have a lot of body traffic in front of it, and the change up of a shot slipped right through the five hole between Thomas’s pads. You can count the number of goals like that on one hand that Thomas will surrender in any given season.
Turning Point in the Game: The Salvador goal was obviously the biggest turning point, but the play started with Boston’s best faceoff man, Patrice Bergeron, losing a draw to the grizzled, gritty John Madden in the defensive zone. Two quick mistakes for a team in their own zone are all it takes in a tight, playoff-style one goal game against an opponent like the Devils.
|02.13.09 at 4:23 pm ET|
WIth another playoff-style test against the big, punishing and physical New Jersey Devils tonight, here’s a bit of a scouting report from veteran defenseman Aaron Ward headed into the tilt amidst the scenic marshlands of Jersey. The red-hot Devils have won eight of their last 10 games and will be looking to hop over the Washington Capitals into second place in the Eastern Conference.
New Jersey and their jumbo set of forwards will no doubt again play their grinding, crash the net brute style of hockey against a Bruins team looking to make their own statement after Tuesday’s collapse against San Jose. With word that All-World goalie Martin Brodeur is close to returning after suffering a detached biceps muscle, the Devils are looking more and more like a pitchfork-wielding beast come playoff time.
Tonight should be a good preview of that.
Here’s Ward’s take on the game: “New Jersey is creeping on us right now. They’ve got the most momentum of any time in the Eastern Conference, and we have to help ourselves by stopping that momentum. I think they’re similarly built to us. They’re put together with the mindset that they’re durable players that play with an edge. Smart players that play with discipline. We’re looking at a team that in a lot of ways mirrors that kind of game that we’re trying to play as well.
“If anything losing a guy (like Brodeur) can help a team because it raises the responsibility of everybody else on the team. You can’t be relying on Brodeur and maybe some guys have had to step up and raise their defensive game with him out of the lineup. That’s only going to help them once they get to the playoffs and help players round out of their overall game.”
|02.12.09 at 5:19 pm ET|
According to a report in the San Jose Mercury News, the San Jose Sharks/Boston Bruins Tuesday night was the highest-rated regular season NHL game in Versus history. The game was highest-rated and most-watched regular-season game in Versus’ four year relationship with the NHL. Jumbo Joe’s return to Boston drew a 0.54 household rating nationally (550,000 viewers) and was 69 percent above the network’s average for the season.
|02.12.09 at 10:11 am ET|
Boston Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli announced today that the club has recalled forwards Martins Karsums and Vladimir Sobotka from Providence (American Hockey League) on an emergency basis.
Both players will join Boston for practice on Thursday at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington and accompany the team on their upcoming two-game road trip to New Jersey and Nashville. The two young players will ostensibly be taking the roster places occupied by forwards Petteri Nokelainen (eye) and Chuck Kobasew (upper body and lower body ailments), who both suffered injuries in Tuesday night’s loss to San Jose and significantly shortened Boston’s bench in the process.
Karsums skated in three games for Boston this year and earned his first career NHL point with an assist on Saturday, January 10 against Carolina. In 43 games for Providence this season, Karsums has tallied 17 goals and 24 assists for 41 points, and had most recently been playing for the Latvian National Team as they competed for a qualifying berth in the upcoming Vancouver Winter Olympics.
Sobotka has played in 19 games for Boston during the 2008-2009 season and recorded 1-2=3 totals. In 25 games with the P-Bruins this year, Sobotka tallied 12 goals and 15 assists. He split the 2007-2008 season between Boston and Providence. With Boston, he saw action in 48 regular season games and contributed one goal and six assists and added two goals in six postseason games. With Providence last year, he had 10-10=20 totals in 18 regular season games and added four assists over six postseason games.