|10.29.09 at 9:30 pm ET|
It wasn’t pretty, but when is it ever against the New Jersey Devils?
The Bruins played an incredibly well-matched game against New Jersey in their second of back-to-back road games, but dropped a 2-1 decision in the final two minutes of Thursday night’s showdown with the Devils. Dainus Zubrus slammed home a loose puck behind Tim Thomas with 1:26 remaining to hand Boston their first regulation loss in four tries.
The B’s fell behind early when an errant puck bounced off the boards and got behind Shawn Thornton. The quick bounce of the puck allowed the Devils to break things out, and get in behind the B’s defense and a scrambling Thornton. Nicklas Bergfors carried the puck up the left side of the ice with speed, and unleashed a low liner at Thomas’ pads.
The puck sneaked between the B’s goaltender’s leg pads and trickled out into the painted area in front of the Boston goal. In a case of perfect timing, David Clarkson was crashing toward the cage from the right side and swept home the loose biscuit. It was a brief defensive lapse for the Black and Gold, however, as both Derek Morris and Zdeno Chara were able to prevent nearly certain goals later in the game with some very strong stick work in front of Thomas.
The Bruins finally tied things up in the second period immediately after time expired on their second power play of the game. Zdeno Chara leveled a bomb from the right point that whistled through traffic in front, and Devils’ goaltender Yann Danis kicked it off to the right. Marco Sturm corralled the rebound and shoveled a backhand shot toward the Devils net, but it ricocheted off sticks and skates before landing on Patrice Bergeron’s stick blade.
Bergeron flicked the puck into the vacated net, and the game was tied at 1-1. It was Bergeron’s fourth goal of the season, and his team-leading eighth point after enduring Tuesday’s two-year anniversary of his career-threatening concussion at the hands of Randy Jones. The scoring stayed that way until Zubrus’ gut-punch score with less than two minutes to go in the contest. To add insult to injury, Zdeno Chara had a deflection hit off the crossbar in the final seconds that could have tied the game and pushed things to overtime. In the end, the Devils were simply one bounce of the puck better than the hard-working Bruins.
YOU’RE THE BEST AROUND AND NOTHING’LL EVER KEEP YOU DOWN: Patrice Bergeron worked and persevered through last season when he clearly didn’t feel 100 percent, but it’s all paying off now. Bergeron tied the game in the second period, and is again developing that all-important nose for the goal. Bergeron trailed only Shawn Thornton with his four shots on net for a Bruins team that needs all the offense they can get right now.
GOAT HORNS: The first instinct was to go with Tim Thomas who was otherwise solid but allowed two pucks to squeeze through the goaltender’s pads — including the game-winner to Dainus Zubrus with less than 90 seconds to go in the game. The two goals were virtual carbon copies of each other, as Thomas slowed down each shot with his pads. But the reigning Vezina Trophy winner couldn’t quite close the sliver of an opening in time. In both instances, the puck slowed behind the B’s netminder and an attacking Jersey skater was able to bang home the loose puck. But the game-winner, it should be noted, was a tipped puck that changed direction before it hit the net.
The better choice for the horns is Boston’s still toothless power play that finished 0-for-2 tonight — although the B’s did score immediately following their second power play chance — and is sitting at a 14.3 percent efficiency for the season. That’s six goals in 42 chances. The B’s had plenty of good looks and chances against the Devils, but simply couldn’t finish. That’s beginning to become a pattern of concern.
|10.29.09 at 12:29 pm ET|
The Boston Bruins have taken points in four of their last five games and got another piece of good news at Thursday’s morning skate when the New Jersey Devils announced that legendary goaltender Martin Brodeur won’t be starting in net. Instead Brown University alum Yann Danis will earn his first start of the season. Brodeur had made all 10 starts for the Devils this season and sits with a 6-4 record along with a 2.58 goals against average and a .909 save percentage.
Danis hasn’t seen any action for the Devils this season, but was 10-17 with a 2.85 goals against average and a .910 save percentage for the New York Islanders last winter. Tim Thomas was first off the ice for the Bruins during morning skate, which indicates he’ll be getting the start for Boston.
–Look out for big glossy posters of Marc Savard and Marco Sturm sporting and showing off Winter Classic gear — including hats and T-shirts among other collectibles from the once in a lifetime hockey event — around TD Garden and the Bruins souvenir shop. Both players sat down for photo shoots hot on the heels of their Improper Bostonian photo session. Sadly, Chuck Kobasew was also going to be included in the modeling photos, but that was nixed when the scrappy winger was traded to the Minnesota Wild several weeks ago.
–The Bruins are intent on getting ugly and simplifying things with their still-struggling power play. Hopefully the B’s man advantage will get just as gruesome as the current numbers. The Bruins power play unit is 27th overall in the NHL with a 15 percent success rate, and has allowed a painful three short-handed goals in only 10 games this season. Meanwhile the Devils are succeeding in 85 percent of their penalty kills on the road and are a perfect 5-0 away from the swamplands of New Jersey this season.
“The power play is a simple thing to do. It’s just more work,” said Derek Morris, who becomes a key figure on the man advantage with Marc Savard out of the mix. “We’ve just got to work harder than we have all year. Right now we’re losing too many battles and we need to get some shots from the point to establish that early.
“[Savard] has a real calming sense out there [on the power play]. There’s almost a sense like we can relax and get to our spots and get set because he’s going to make a great play with it. Maybe we were a little too relaxed without him, so we know now that we have to simplify. Make a few ugly plays and get it out to [Chara] or whoever to wind it up and shoot it.”
|10.29.09 at 10:12 am ET|
A month into the NHL season things have begun to settle into a pattern, and observers can begin to decipher which teams are for real and which teams are simply pretenders not yet exposed by the NHL iron. The Colorado Avalanche, with 18-year-old wunderkinds Ryan O’Reilly and Matt Duchene providing the youthful pluck, have earned themselves the unquestioned title of Western Conference surprise story — and continue to pile up wins and respect against solid competition.
Plenty of attention has been paid to formerly anonymous Bruins backup goaltender Craig Anderson, who was loaned to the B’s from the Blackhawks organization in 2006-07 with Boston in dire need of goaltending behind Tim Thomas. Hannu Toivonen went down with an ankle injury early in the season, and the B’s went through Anderson, Joey MacDonald, Phillip Sauve and Brian Finley while riding Tim the Tank down the stretch during the one and only forgettable year of the Dave Lewis Era.
After playing the backup to Tomas Vokoun with the Panthers last season, Anderson has started every one of Colorado’s games on this young season and been the best goaltender in the NHL through the first month. The 28-year-old is 9-1-2 with a .940 save percentage and a 1.47 goals against average while backup netminder Peter Budaj has battled the effects of the swine flu.
Are the Avs for real? They’ll play Calgary, San Jose and the Blackhawks twice in the span of two weeks, and there should be plenty more answers when those ice chips settle down.
Without further ado, here are WEEI.com’s NHL power rankings:
1. 10-2-0 (1, last week). The Penguins finally dropped another game to the Devils last week, but there isn’t much that’s even a glint in the eye of the NHL’s ultimate tag team, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Triple Extra Large props to young defenseman Alex Goligoski, who signed a three-year deal with Pittsburgh this summer and has stepped into the puckmoving role with Sergei Gonchar out of commission. Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fluery is quietly off to the best start of his young career. Still no reason to boot them from their perch atop the league’s power rankings.
2. 10-1-2 (8) I finally believe in the power of the Avs. The Rocky Mountain hockey bunch haven’t lost in regulation in their last nine games. The miraculous Avs current run dates back to Oct. 8. Ryan O’Reilly and Matt Duchene have the rookie energy thing cornered, and both Wojtek Wolski and Paul Stastny are enjoying red-hot starts to the season. Perhaps the best kept secret on the team? Defenseman Kyle Quincey might be the best waiver pickup of the last two seasons as he was dropped by the Red Wings in 2007-08, and is playing over 25 minutes per game for the Avs along their blueline.
3.7-3-1 (2) No Jonathan Toews and no Brent Seabrook (concussion symptoms)? No problem. The Blackhawks have reeled off a pair of wins since losing both of their core players, and the Brothers Patrick (Sharp and Kane) have been pacing Chicago’s offense. Even the ever-shaky Cristobal Huet has jumped into the act and allowed one goal or less in three of his last four outings between the pipes. Read the rest of this entry »
|10.28.09 at 3:09 pm ET|
WILMINGTON, Mass. — A highly respected hockey voice recently stressed that the leadership of both Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi as two key pieces in the recent turnaround of the Bruins. It’s been those two players, along with captain Zdeno Chara, that have helped grease the wheels of Boston’s resurgence, but there’s also a growing measure of influence from the young voices within the dressing room.
The loss of players such as Stephane Yelle, P.J. Axelsson and Aaron Ward have no doubt left a vacancy in terms of veteran influence within the dressing room, but coach Claude Julien said he’s already convinced that those important breaches have been filled. Young players are stepping up, and emerging leaders are picking their spots to help push along the direction of the club.
To hear Julien explain it, Bergeron is something akin to those old E.F. Hutton financial commercials. When Bergeron speaks, everybody listens — and that’s only been amplified this season as the 24-year-old has again staked claim to his rightful place as one of the brightest spots on Boston’s roster. The Bruins have taken points in four of their last five games, and young skaters such as Bergeron have everything to do with that.
“We talked about the guys we lost in the last year: the Yelles, the Axellsons, the Wards. They were pretty good presences in the dressing room, but at the same time other guys have stepped up,” Julien said. “We’ve asked other guys to step up into those roles in the dressing room, and we had some guys that were ready to take over. It’s been good and getting better, and it’s a transition that needs to be made.
“There’s no point in naming one or two guys. For the most part, the young guys want to do their jobs. The older guys: Z and the Ferences and the Recchis have been there for a long time and they’re going to help out along the way. Bergie is a quiet leader and not necessarily the rah-rah type, but every once in a while he’ll speak. When he does, they listen because he doesn’t speak that often and he doesn’t speak for nothing. So you expect some kind of leadership from those guys, and Marco Sturm has also been a quiet leader. He speaks when it’s time to speak. What you see from them [in the media] and what we see behind closed doors might be a little different.”
The old Bergeron has appeared on the ice where he’s tied for tops in the team with seven points through the first 10 games, and that appears to also be shining through in Boston’s new leadership structure this season.
‘ Don’t expect Milan Lucic to begin dropping the gloves and transforming into the Incredible Looch when he returns from his broken right index finger. The hulking left winger has been working out and skating on his own, but said that it took at least “two months” for his finger to stabilize the last time he broke a knuckle/finger on his left hand.
That means Lucic won’t be slipping into fight mode for a minimum of several weeks, and probably longer, after the finger is healed enough to suit up again for the B’s.
“You’ve got to be smart about it, protect it a little bit and wait for [the finger] to solidify before you go back to everything you used to do before,” Lucic said. “I definitely didn’t fight right after I came back the last time, and it look a little bit before it was ready to go.”
Lucic had only the one fighting major came when he rearranged Jay Harrison’s facial structure in the blowout win over the Hurricanes in the B’s second game of the season. It may be quite some time before his next one, and there remains the question of how much Lucic will throw down given his value to the hockey team as a top line player and his value in dollars given his newly signed long-term contract.
‘ There’s been a lot of talk about the incoming Devils before they come into the TD Banknorth Garden Thursday night, and naturally most of the conversation centered around the trap and Martin Brodeur. Both coach and players paid tribute to the disciplined — albeit sleepy — trapping style that New Jersey has become synonymous with, and the legendary goaltender at the end of Jersey’s layered defense.
B’s goalie Tim Thomas called Brodeur’s hybrid style the “one-legged butterfly”, and said that he’s taken plenty from watching the four-time Vezina Trophy winner over the years. Just don’t ask Thomas if he ever watches Brodeur when he’s playing against him, because the reigning Vezina Trophy winner clearly doesn’t get caught up in the individual goalie matchups.
“The truth is he’s a great goalie that’s been fortunate enough to play with a good team in front of him for his entire career,” Thomas said. “You don’t win Vezinas without a good team in front of you, and the New Jersey Devils have been able to build up a strong core and keep them together the whole time through.
“If you don’t have the right team to play with, then it doesn’t matter what system you have. There’s nothing about his style. He just stops the puck. Everybody talks about my style, but he really has his own style, too. He has a way, way different style from everybody else than I do.”
How would Thomas describe Brodeur’s way different style of “stopping the puck?”
“One-legged butterfly. Half-butterfly. Watch him, he goes down on his right knee all the time. He goes into the butterfly, but that isn’t his first move,” Thomas said. “His first move is to go down halfway and then the butterfly is his second move. If you can do it and cover [the 5-hole] up enough enough, then it’s much easier to get up [tall] off one knee.”
|10.27.09 at 4:33 pm ET|
David Krejci always has acted as his own harshest critic, so who knows what was going through the Czech Republic native’s mind after mustering up a scoresheet doughnut in the Bruins‘ first four games. There were, of course, ready-made excuses after the 23-year-old underwent right hip surgery to repair an impingement last summer and missed the entire preseason.
He was instead dropped into the lineup on opening night after receiving a clean bill of health, and has been slowly kicking the rust of his game during the season.
It took a few games, but the playmaking pivot finally snapped out of his scoreless funk against the Avalanche with a pair of helpers. He’s been getting closer to the nearly point-per-game Krejci of old ever since that Oct. 12 loss. In fact, Krejci has a goal and four assists and sits at plus-5 in six games since the loss to the Avs — and finally smashed through with a clutch game-tying score in Saturday’s shootout win over the Senators.
“We all know that our guys got hurt and now it’s everybody’s job to step and be in the right spot,” Krejci said. “I think the last few games I’ve been feeling much more comfortable. We’re trying to play hard and make it hard for the other team. Keep it simple.”
The goal was Krejci’s first tally in 10 games this season and would seem to act as the final weight lifted off the young center’s shoulders as he reconnects with his game. But appearances can be deceiving. Krejci said he wasn’t even thinking of that score in terms of his first individual goal of the season, and he was instead looking at its importance in the grand scheme of all things team.
“All six of us did a great job [in the final minute against Ottawa] and I was in the right place at the right time,” Krejci said. “It could have been anybody else. I didn’t really take it as my first goal of the season. I took as it the tying goal in a game, and it was pretty exciting.”
The youngster is adjusting to his new role as center on the top line with Marco Sturm and Mark Recchi riding shotgun, and Krejci ticked off resurrecting the power play as the next order of business on the docket.
“It’s been tough because they’re so fast and I’m just trying to keep up with them, but it’s getting better and better every game,” Krejci said. “They’re different players [than Blake Wheeler and Michael Ryder]. We’ll see how it goes as we keep playing for each other. We’re going in the right direction now, and it’s about continuing to go in that right direction.”
Krejci is the Bruins player most similar to Marc Savard in both skill set and ability to elevate his teammates around him, but hasn’t worked much with the top power-play unit heading into Thursday night’s tilt against the Devils. He ranks well behind many of his teammates in terms of power-play ice time and is 10th on the B’s with an average of 2:15 of ice time per game on Boston’s man advantage.
Krejci may or may not see an increase in power-play time as his production continues to rise during the month of October, but his teammates are beginning to see the same old Krejci that flourished during last year’s breakout season. That’s just what the hockey doctor ordered with Savard on the shelf and all offensive hands needed on deck for the Black and Gold.
|10.27.09 at 12:27 pm ET|
WILMINGTON, Mass. — A full complement of Bruins players at practice on Tuesday morning with only Milan Lucic (right index finger) and Marc Savard (broken left foot) missing from the ice at Ristuccia Arena.
The lines were as they’ve been over the last week:
Shawn Thornton — Steve Begin — Byron Bitz
All seven of Boston’s defensemen participated in practice, and the B’s looked loaded for bear against a New Jersey Devils team firing on all cylinders after taking down the Pittsburgh Penguins last weekend. The penalty kill hasn’t allowed a goal in their last three games since inserting Paille and Marchand into the unit, and appears to have been patched up significantly by the B’s coaching staff.
*B’s GM Peter Chiarelli was hobbling around Ristuccia Arena on Tuesday morning, and utilized a pair of crutches to get around the practice facility. Chiarelli underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee on Monday, according to Bruins spokesman Matt Chmura, but isn’t expected to be placed on long term injured reserve. Good news for the Bruins as they couldn’t afford that kind of cap hit this season.
|10.27.09 at 1:26 am ET|
The gritty B’s rookie has attempted to engage several opponents in some post-whistle “conversations”, but has found that both players and referees aren’t giving the youngster a very lengthy leash. That is until he bumped into another mouth that roared in the form of a hirsute Scott Hartnell skating for the Flyers. Philly’s greasy, grimy troublemaker took one look at the 5-foot-9 Marchand — and it’s more like a Dustin Pedroia 5-foot-9 than a legit height listing — and beat him to the war of barb-wired words.
Hartnell told Marchand to “Go back over the rainbow where he came from” in a surprisingly cultured “Wizard of Oz” reference. The Flyers bad guy was essentially calling the Bruins rookie a Lollipop kid from Munchkinville in the process of talking a bit of hockey smack. Marchand responded by calling the stringy-haired Hartnell “a poodle”, and things were officially off and running for the Black and Gold’s motor-mouthed youngster.
“That was a good one,” said Marchand of Hartnell’s barb. “I even laughed a little bit.”
It seems that little trash-talking exchange might just have been enough to let Marchand escape his cage after understandably holding back in his first few NHL games.
“It’s been a lot of fun. Things are a lot faster and the guys are a lot stronger, but things have been good,” said Marchand. “When I came up here it’s a lot different than the American League. There’s a lot less people [talking smack]. Up here there’s a lot more respect, and there’s less time that I’ve been doing it. The refs tell you to shut up and head for the bench.
“Now that I’m out there getting a little more confident and getting used to things, I’ll probably start [chirping] a lot more.”
B’s followers can expect that plenty of insult trades will be flowing from Marchand provided he continues working hard and building chemistry with linemates Patrice Bergeron and Michael Ryder — a combination that’s sparked production and loads of quality minutes since Marchand arrived on the scene three games ago. The Nova Scotia native brings boundless energy and a healthy amount of skill to the table, but still hasn’t brandished too much of that trademark edge just yet.
The work ethic has also allowed Marchand to slide right into a prime position on Boston’s revamped penalty kill unit alongside fellow newcomer Daniel Paille, and the results have been immediate. Boston hasn’t allowed a power play goal since Marchand arrived on the B’s scene, and the youngster has skaken up a comfortable, veteran roster full of players with a jolt of youthful energy and passion. Whether it’s because Marchand is a lucky charm or actual difference-maker, the Bruins are a perfect 8-for-8 in penalty kills since his arrival. The rookie has totalled slightly over 15 minutes per game in his three Bruins tilts, and logged a healthy three minutes of kill time in Saturday night’s comeback win against the Ottawa Senators.
“One of the things that [Paille and Marchand] have really brought is speed and we’re able to pressure the puck all the way up the ice,” said B’s coach Claude Julien. “Paille was already a good penalty killer in Buffalo and we like him in that role. Just in that one day of practice Marchand was one of our best penalty killers in that power play/penalty kill [drill]. So we figured with that combination of speed and tenacity, he’d be a good addition to that. We’ve kind of minimized that [penalty kill] crew over the last few games.”
It’s probably not all that surprising that NHL referees aren’t familiar with Marchand’s chirpy ways on the ice or his uncanny ability to draw opponents into foolish penalties when the action intensifies. Julien has already reinforced within his young player that thriving with an edge and baiting opponents is something that originally earned Marchand his NHL promotion. It’s also part of the skill set that will keep the rookie in Boston.
There may be times when things won’t work out for a young guy adept at provoking a little rink rage, but Julien and Co. are more than willing to balance some growing pains with Marchand’s in-your-face style.
“At some point somebody has to start somewhere, and there’s some young guys — like [Matt] Duchene in Colorado — who are playing pretty well right now,” said Julien. “He’s got a year of pro under his belt and he’s a player that doesn’t get intimidated much.
“He’s got to be careful and make sure it’s the other guy going into the box — and not him. But I think he’s also got a lot of experience at that during his career, so he should be okay. If it’s an issue then there’s no doubt we would address it, but you don’t want to take away a guy’s strength. He can antagonize and draw other players into taking penalties. That’s just the way he plays. We’re not going to hold him back and take away from the things that brought him here. He brings energy, he’s in-your-face, he gets under other player’s skin and he can score goals too.”
Marchand could also afford to step up his aggression in the offensive end after flashing solid instincts during his first NHL game while setting up a sweet Michael Ryder goal against the Predators. The winger indicated that his first job is to get pucks in the hands of Bergeron and Ryder to make plays, but young Marchand can’t forget he’s got enough to skills to pay the bills. After all, the little bulldog of a hockey scrapper was tearing up the AHL with six goals in six minor league games prior to his first call to the NHL Big Show.
“I’m just trying to get the puck to Bergie and Ryder and let them do something with it,” said Marchand, who racked up 59 points as a 20-year-old with the P-Bruins last season. “I think it’s made it a lot easier for me skating with them. They’re two of the NHL’s best players and they’re always there supporting me and letting me know where they are. The biggest thing I do is get them the puck, and let them work it down low.
“I just forecheck hard and create turnovers so they can get opportunities. If I get the puck, then I’m trying to put it in the net.”
The Bruins’ 2006 third-round pick has already earned early respect from his veteran teammates for his tireless energy and unflagging work ethic. Perhaps that youthful exuberance was one of the few ingredients missing from the B’s dressing room. Mark Recchi, with 1,500 NHL games and plenty of teammates under his belt, is impressed with what he’s seen thus far out of Marchand, and buys into the notion of the rookie sparking his older teammates.
“He’s great. He’s a competitive kid and he got so much better as he went along in camp,” said Recchi. “He just works his bag off. That’s what you ask. Play with a little emotion and play with a little of that fire. That’s the kind of passion you want to see when the young kids come up.”
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