|10.21.09 at 9:25 pm ET|
It wasn’t a puck masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but the Bruins managed to get two points in a 3-2 win they most definitely needed Wednesday night. With games against higher caliber competition coming Thursday night against the Flyers and Saturday night against the Ottawa Senators, a victory over the lowly, offensively challenged Preds — last in the NHL in scoring with 10 goals coming into the game – was a virtual must.
“We have to realize we have lots of room for improvement,” B’s coach Claude Julien said. “Our confidence isn’t where it should be right now, but I thought we gained in confidence as the game went on. We were better period by period.”
The B’s trailed through nearly the entire game before pulling ahead midway through the third period when the fourth line once again proved to be the dirty-faced savior. Steve Begin battled to keep the puck in the zone and then was rewarded when Daniel Paille wheeled around the net and found him wide open in the high slot. Begin put the hammer down on a one-timer past Preds goalie Dan Ellis, and the Bruins finally had sweet victory in their grasp. It was Begin’s first goal as a Bruin after thoroughly impressing everyone with his high-effort style through the team’s first eight games.
Things didn’t start out all that well as the Bruins didn’t pose even a threat in the first period while the new skaters settled in a collection of four reconfigured lines. The Predators took advantage of Boston’s transition phase in the first period, and Jerred Smithson scored Nashville’s first goal on pure grit and persistence around the Boston cage.
After a lifeless first 20 minutes, the B’s jumped on the Preds in the second and scored 26 seconds into the period. Rookie Brad Marchand, playing in his first NHL game, made a great tip pass to Michael Ryder on a 2-on-1 hustle play and Ryder flipped a backhanded bid top shelf for Boston’s first score.
Former BU skater Colin Wilson struck back for Nashville and potted his first career NHL goal to once again give the Preds a lead, but Boston fought back and finally showed a little ferocity. This time it was Patrice Bergeron. The 24-year-old center battled through traffic to attack the rebound of a Zdeno Chara blast, and his third effort finally squirted pads Ellis’ pads for the tying score. The line of Bergeron-Marchand-Ryder was clearly Boston’s best of the night and put consistent pressure on the Preds.
YOU’RE THE BEST AROUND AND NOTHING’S EVER GONNA KEEP YOU DOWN: Brad Marchand didn’t show a lot of his infamous rabble-rousing style in his debut, but he helped spark the Bruins by setting up Boston’s first goal of the game after a dreadful first period. It was appropriate that Marchand picked up a point in his first career NHL game, and his line was the most effective all night long for Julien. This also was the line that finished the night out for the Bruins during a frenetic final minute — the ultimate reward from the coaching staff for a job well done.
GOAT HORNS: The B’s power play. Still no life and not a ton of quality scoring chances for Bruins during their few attempts on the man-advantage. In fact, there were none. Zero shots on net in four minutes worth of power play time for the B’s in the win over the Predators. Why hasn’t Mark Recchi shown up much on the power play this season after being very effective last year?
|10.21.09 at 6:41 pm ET|
According to the pregame skate, the Bruins lines for Wednesday night’s game against the Nashville Predators should be as follows:
|10.21.09 at 12:13 pm ET|
The news just keeps getting worse for the Bruins, who announced Wednesday morning that top scorer Marc Savard was being placed on long-term injured reserve with a broken left foot. The injury is expected to keep Savard out for 4-6 weeks and leaves the team without two of its top-line skaters from the opening night lineup – Milan Lucic is out with a broken right index finger — for at least the next month.
“When he’s on his game, he’s good offensively and good defensively,” B’s coach Claude Julien said. “That’s why we use him on the penalty kill. He anticipates well and he reads the game pretty well. That’s why he excels when he’s on top of his game. That’s why I’ve always said he’s much more than a point-producer when he sets his mind to it.”
Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli revealed that Savard originally injured the foot blocking a shot during training camp, but managed to play through the injury until aggravating it in practice Tuesday morning at Ristuccia Arena. It was a seemingly harmless hit on the sensitive spot for Savard, and he spent the better part of Tuesday getting MRIs and CAT scans that determined he was playing through the early portion of the season with a broken left foot.
“It wasn’t hurting that much,” said Savard, who will be in a protective boot for the next two weeks. “I just re-aggravated it yesterday. We took some MRIs and it was broken. The best thing now is to shut it down for a couple weeks here and let it heal.”
The 32-year-old Savard was Boston’s leading scorer with seven points (4 goals, 3 assists) through the team’s first seven games, and this leaves Boston with a gaping hole on its first line and top power-play unit along with its scuffling PK squad.
The team’s core has been through injuries like these before — in 2007-08 the B’s lost Patrice Bergeron for the balance of the season and Savard for the last month — and Julien stressed that they’ll absorb the loss as a team. All that being said, the pressure drops heavily onto the shoulders of 23-year-old David Krejci. The slick, young, playmaking center will be expected to shoulder the scoring and power-play burden just as he did when Savard went down with a broken bone in his back at the end of the 2007-08 season.
“I think you have to lean on everybody when it comes to [filling in for Savard],” Julien said. “Is David a part of that equation? Absolutely. I think that to say that David Krejci has to replace Savard — I don’t know that you’d want to do that because first of all David Krejci just has to play like David Krejci. He was injured and got operated on over the course of the summer and has already played seven games, so it’s up to him to find his game.
“I don’t think he needs to replace Savvy as he just needs to play his game. If [Krejci] plays his game, then that will help us immensely.”
‘¢ Shawn Thornton is a “big question mark” and “very doubtful” for Wednesday night’s game against the Nashville Predators with an undisclosed injury, but the B’s coach said that he’s rapidly improving and could potentially be available come game-time.
“We put him on the ice early this morning and he skated on his own this morning. He’s very doubtful for tonight unless the trainers tell us that he’s ready to go when he gets here tonight,” Julien said. “That just goes to show you that he is a day-to-day player because morning to night time he could actually improve that much. He could be available anytime.”
‘¢ Dennis Wideman will play for the B’s in Wednesday night’s game against after missing the weekend road games against Dallas and Phoenix with an injured left shoulder.
“He felt good all week in both practices, and there’s no issues,” Julien said. “So he should be ready to go.”
‘¢ Expect to see Daniel Paille on Boston’s struggling penalty kill (a 69.7 percent success rate thus far this season) after he filled that role for the Sabres during his career in Buffalo. The B’s certainly are in need of some grit and experience in that particular area of special teams, and Boston is hopeful that Paille can provide it.
“He’s got speed. Obviously he’s got some grit, and it’s a job he did really well in Buffalo,” Julien said. “It’s something he really takes some pride in he should help us in that area. We certainly plan on giving him an opportunity to fill that role on our team.”
‘¢ Tim Thomas is expected to start in net for the Bruins for the third straight game.
Here’s an educated guess for the forward lines against the Predators assuming that Thornton can’t answer the bell:
|10.21.09 at 8:18 am ET|
There are a ton of cool success stories in the NHL this season, even if that hasn’t been the case in Boston thus far. The Avalanche, Oilers and Senators all have sneaked into the top 10 without marquee names or much fanfare, as the wins keep piling up for each of these surprise franchises.
Meanwhile, the No. 1 spot continues to reside with Pittsburgh, where the talk is about how boring the season’s first few weeks have been for an awesome hockey power that hasn’t been challenged by anything or anyone in the early going. Barring injury, there might not be a week this season when the Penguins aren’t waddling their way through the very top of the power rankings.
For big movers and shakers, we’re buying into the Thrashers, at least as quasi-real. Atlanta has moved up 11 spots from No. 26 to No. 15. The Flyers, on the other hand, have dropped seven spots from No. 6 to No. 13 after a three-game winless streak. Meanwhile, the Bruins sit at No. 19 behind many teams that have nowhere near the talent that sits on the Boston roster.
At least the Maple Leafs continue to stink.
As New England Sports Museum curator Dick Johnson wrote in my favorite Facebook quote of the week:
“The Maple Leaf situation reminds me of an old joke. … Dark brown is beef stock … light brown is chicken stock … and royal blue is laughing stock.”
Here are the WEEI.com NHL power rankings:
1. 7-1-0 (1 last week). No hangover for these Penguins after last year’s Stanley Cup championship. That seems to have only made a hungry bunch more determined and confident than ever. Pittsburgh is undefeated on the road and has taken down just about everyone in their path. The only question is how on earth defenseman Sergei Gonchar is a minus-2 on this dynastic club.
2. 5-2-1 (4) The Blackhawks have one incredibly weak link in Cristobal Huet but have been rolling otherwise. The Hawks are — in many ways — the Western Conference mirror image of the Bruins, but have done a much better job handling raised expectations and adversity in the early season. Who could have guessed that UVM’s Patrick Sharp would be their leading scorer with 10 points (5 goals, 5 assists) through eight games?
|10.20.09 at 7:03 pm ET|
The Boston Bruins made a counter-move Tuesday two days after the Chuck Kobasew deal and traded a pair of 2010 draft picks — a third round pick and a conditional fourth-round pick — for Buffalo Sabres forward Daniel Paille. The hard-edged, skilled Paille had 12 goals and 15 assists for 27 points in Buffalo last season and has one assist in two games for the Sabres this season.
The 25-year-old Paille had his best season for the Sabres in 2007-08 when he had 19 goals and 16 assists in 77 games. The move gives the Bruins a solid left wing with a cap hit of only $1.125 million that can potentially replace Lucic on the second line for the next two months while the hulking forward recovers from a broken right index finger. Paille will be a restricted free agent following this season.
According to the Bruins press release, it’s the first trade ever executed between the Boston and Buffalo organizations dating back to their Adams Division days as head-to-head rivals. The Bruins did trade the rights to unsigned free agent Andre Savard to the Sabres for fellow unsigned free agent Peter McNab, but that swap was never officially recognized as a trade by the NHL, according to the Bruins PR staff.
B’s GM Peter Chiarelli was also able to pull off the deal without raiding his treasure chest of nine first and second round draft picks in the 2010 and 2011 NHL drafts. Paille is expected to be available to play Wednesday against the Nashville Predators at TD Garden.
|10.20.09 at 11:37 am ET|
WILMINGTON — The lines are beginning to take shape in the wake of the Chuck Kobasew trade to the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday morning, and it appears that coach Claude Julien will be taking advantage of Johnny Boychuk’s versatility for the time being.
Rookie Brad Marchand has stepped in for Kobasew and is skating the left wing alongside Patrice Bergeron and — surprise, surprise – Michael Ryder. Vladimir Sobotka is filling in for the injured Milan Lucic, and is skating the left wing along with David Krejci and Blake Wheeler. Boychuk, who has played forward as well as defenseman during his pro career, is filling in for Shawn Thornton and skating the wing along with Steve Begin and Byron Bitz.
Thornton missed his second straight day of practice and is “banged up” according to Julien, but it didn’t seem like the B’s head coach was all that concerned about his brawler missing Wednesday’s game against the Nashville Predators.
“It’s maintenance. I think he’s day to day. He’s banged up a little bit and it was advised to us to give him another day,” said Julien. “With the number of players we’re just looking to put four lines together. One day it’s Hunwick, one day it’s Boychuk. The next day it may be somebody else. It’s never a bad thing anyway to do those things, so in a pinch it gives him a chance to practice at those positions.”
A situation like this shows why the B’s have so much value placed in both Boychuk and Matt Hunwick. Both defensemen have also shown a demonstrated ability to play the forward position, and give Julien all sorts of options when injuries can and do arise.
Thornton is missing from the second consecutive of practice after Julien said that it was a maintenance day for the forward Monday.
So the lines look like this:
Vladimir Sobotka — David Krejci — Blake Wheeler
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron — Michael Ryder
Byron Bitz – Steve Begin — Johnny Boychuk
–Andrew Ference also left the practice ice after an hour when he apparently took either a stick or puck to the face, and didn’t return to the Tuesday morning session.
|10.19.09 at 5:19 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Dennis Wideman missed last weekend’s two-game road trip through Dallas and Phoenix with an injured left shoulder, but skated with his teammates Monday morning at practice. The 26-year-old defenseman injured the shoulder after taking an awkward tumble into the boards during the second period of Boston’s shootout loss to the New York Islanders more than a week ago. He was optimistic that his shoulder would be healed up enough to suit up against the Nashville Predators Wednesday night at TD Garden, but wasn’t ready to pronounce himself a definite go.
“It feels good, but we’ll see. I’ll take another step and we’ll see how the next couple of days go,” said Wideman. “It felt pretty good today. It was a little different. That was probably the first time I missed a road trip with an injury and couldn’t go. So it’s a different thing. For as long as you play something like that is going to happen eventually.”
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