|10.18.09 at 8:40 pm ET|
Following a deflating 3-4 start to the season, the Boston Bruins finally reacted to mediocrity on Sunday night and traded Chuck Kobasew to the Minnesota Wild for the rights to unsigned draft choice Alexander Fallstrom, forward Craig Weller and a 2011 second-round draft choice in a deal that also obviously loosens up room under the salary cap. Fallstrom began his freshman year at Harvard University this fall and Weller had played the first five games of this season for the AHL’s Houston Aeros.
Following the trade, the B’s placed Milan Lucic on long term injured reserve with a broken right index finger, and recalled Guillaume Lefebvre, Brad Marchand and Vladimir Sobotka from the Providence Bruins. Marchand had scored five goals in six games with the P-Bruins after impressing B’s officials during this fall’s abbreviated training camp.
The deal was clearly done largely with the salary cap in mind as the Bruins were forced to head out on a two-game road trip through Dallas and Phoenix with the bare minimum 20 players. Once Lucic was hurt against the Stars, the B’s were forced to call Lefebvre up as an emergency forward and fly him the same day to Phoenix for a Saturday night game.
Clearing Kobasew’s $2.3 million off the books allows Chiarelli plenty of cap room to bring up extra bodies from Providence, and also allows B’s coach Claude Julien to introduce the bench to players that aren’t giving their full effort out on the ice. Kobasew had a single assist in seven games this season, and really hadn’t been much of a factor skating with Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi.
There wasn’t much roster competition when the B’s couldn’t afford to carry any extra players on their active roster through the first handful of games, and now Julien has that tool in his coaching bag. A quick calculation of the money saved by trading Kobasew, placing Lucic on LTIR — for which he must sit for at least 10 games or nearly a month’s time — and calling up the minor leaguers: roughly $1.15 million.
The hockey swap also clears Kobasew’s $2.3 million off the books for next season when the team has a number of players looking for new deals including Marc Savard, Blake Wheeler, Mark Stuart and Tuuka Rask. Minnesota’s second-round pick in 2011 adds to the bulging toy box of draft picks that Chiarelli and Co. have accumulated over the last two seasons, and gives Boston nine picks in the first two rounds over the next drafts.
The draft picks give Chiarelli an abundance of bargaining chips once big-time scorers become available around the trade deadline. Boston is clearly in the best position to wheel and deal at the deadline, and now has even more bargaining power with another pick. Those expecting another trade shoe to drop in the next few weeks may be disappointed, however, as it’s likely that this is more along the lines of preparation for the March 3 trade deadline.
NESN.com’s James Murphy originally reported that the Bruins were talking trade with the Minnesota Wild on a deal that centered around Kobasew. Chiarelli was unavailable for comment on Sunday night, but planned to meet with the media at the Bruins practice facility in Wilmington on Monday morning.
|10.18.09 at 5:34 pm ET|
Boston Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli announced Sunday afternoon that the club has loaned forward Guillaume Lefebvre to the Providence Bruins for the AHL club’s Sunday game against the Portland Pirates at 4:05 p.m. ET in Providence. Lefebvre was recalled by the Bruins for Saturday night’s game against the Phoenix Coyotes on an emergency basis — in place of the injured Milan Lucic — and played 11:01 in the club’s 4-1 loss in Phoenix last night.
|10.18.09 at 4:31 pm ET|
In the wake of the dismissal and questions behind the process involved, there’s been a bit of upheaval within the NHL player representation that included the Bruins. Andrew Ference was the player rep for the last two seasons and perhaps the biggest name behind Kelly’s firing, and he’s been replaced at the position by defenseman Mark Stuart ‘ with Dennis Wideman stepping up as the assistant player rep.
There had been whispers of discontent among some Bruins players about the dismissal and the actual process used by the NHLPA following the 3 a.m. setting of Kelly’s firing and in-house positioning for the position that’s taken place since the Kelly move. Several Bruins players are expected to be part of an NHLPA-sponsored conference call on Sunday afternoon where all of the issues will be broached, and the players will discuss their next step as an organization badly in need of a new leader and a revamped constitution — along with a complete reputation makeover.
Mark Recchi was one B’s player unhappy about the process behind Kelly’s sacking, and wasn’t all that shy about his disapproval. There had also been some philosophic discussions between the two players during the first few weeks of the season that some characterized as heated debate within the dressing room.
Both Recchi and Ference publicly stated that there’s no lingering animosity or negative feelings permeating through the Bruins dressing room since Ference decided to step down as player rep, but NESN analyst and former Bruins Mike Milbury seemed to hint that things may still be festering among the B’s concerning the NHLPA mess during his weekly visit with NHL Live! on XM Radio Thursday afternoon.
Milbury opined about the reported demise of the Lighthouse Project and Wayne Gretzky among other things, but his Bruins analysis proved the most interesting.
Here’s what Milbury had to say when Rob Simpson and Bill Jaffe asked the NBC and Hockey Night in Canada commentator what had to be done to improve a struggling B’s team:
MM:Everything. Huge expectations for the Boston Bruins. They’ve got a Vezina Trophy winner, a Norris Trophy winner and the coach of the year and they come out the gate with everybody dreaming of a Stanly Cup. Tim Thomas has been average and everybody has been running around like crazy. I can’t believe the kind of mental errors the Bruins have made. What made the Bruins so good under Claude Julien was how they were so disciplined and so structured that they could always find a way to win even if their offense might sputter.
Speaking of offense, it’s pretty clear that the Phil Kessel deal has had a negative impact on this team. They miss his speed and creative ability as well as his ability to score goals. Having said that with Peter Chiarelli, and I’m sure it doesn’t matter to the fans of Boston, but the front office is beginning to salivate when they look up to the Great White North and see what’s going on in Toronto. They see their record and begin to salivate a little.
Has Marc Savard played in both ends? MM:Actually, he’s been fine. He’s one of those guys that’s been okay. I can’t knock him. Lucic has been a guy that’s been a little off his game. They really need him as a sparkplug in my estimation. Marco Sturm has come back and played pretty well.
There’s no question the Bruins haven’t come out of the gate with the sense of structure and purpose that they’ve come out with in the past two years, and I will say that this NHLPA thing may have had an impact on their locker room. I don’t think it’s going to last forever, but Andrew Ference was in the middle of this thing and getting rid of Paul Kelly. There’s been a lot of heated debate in the Bruins locker room and some chatter about them even trying to move Ference at this point.
He’s been replaced as team rep, right? MM: Yeah, he’s been replaced as team rep, but he was replaced after Paul Kelly was deposed as the PA director. There was a lot of hot topics and discussion going around the Bruins locker room for a while, but who knows how much of an effect it had. The end result of all this that the Bruins have not come out with the kind of drive needed to get to where they want to be [as a team]. They’re not that talented that they can’t bring their work ethic and win hockey games.
|10.17.09 at 11:57 pm ET|
It’s time to take everything back that was said in complimentary fashion about the Boston Bruins following Friday night’s win over the Stars.
The B’s backslid from Friday’s triumph with a frustrating, offensively limp performance against a trap-happy Phoenix Coyotes bunch in a 4-1 loss at Jobing.com Arena Saturday night. Perhaps the most irritating aspect of the defeat was countless number of quality scoring chances Boston had early in the game, but they simply had no one to step up and finish the scoring plays.
Marco Sturm couldn’t put the puck move on a one-man breakaway in the second period, and eventually was tripped up by Phoenix defenseman Ed Jovanovski. There were several missed connections between Marc Savard and Michael Ryder close to the Coyotes net, and Chuck Kobasew also had a few cracks at the goal during a few prolonged periods of pressure in the second period.
With a compromised ability to finish plays at this particular juncture, the B’s instead need to play fundamental, disciplined hockey on the defensive side of things. They also can’t afford to falter on special teams. But Boston’s dysfunctional penalty kill again reared its head in the second period, and really crashed once defenseman Mark Stuart helped make it a one-goal game with a deep shot from the left point.
The B’s followed Stuart’s momentum-seizing strike with a bad Mark Recchi hooking penalty caused by the 40-year-old forward simply not moving his feet, and — just like that — the Coyotes jumped into a fate-shifting power play. The B’s PK unit fought and clawed to kill the penalty at such a delicate time, but a relentless Coyotes attack on Boston’s cage ended with Massachusetts native Keith Yandle pinching in and popping home a loose puck in front of B’s goaltender Tim Thomas.
Yandle’s whole scoring play was set up by Shane Doan’s heady skate pass across the crease amid a mass of bodies fighting for position around the cage, and following their good special teams fortune Phoenix was up and running. Bruins killer Scottie Upshall banged home a top shelf slap shot to the right corner 44 seconds later that effectively put the game out of reach for Boston, and furthered Upshall’s villain role with the Boston Faithful.
The B’s continue to be a bit of disjointed group after hitting both peaks and valleys during the young NHL season, but the team clearly needs to improve their penalty kill efforts and keep the emotional levels high. Easier said than done, but — as Claude Julien is fond to say — this hockey club still has some work to do.
YOU’RE THE BEST AROUND, NOTHING’S EVER GONNA KEEP YOU DOWN: Patrice Bergeron didn’t show up on the score sheet, but the center played with steely determination while throwing his body around and attempting to create some offensive buzz. Bergeron had five shots on net, and five others attempted that missed the Boston cage — and Bergeron also registered three hits while captaining a line that sustained fairly heavy pressure in the first two periods.
GOAT HORNS: Mark Recchi deserves some mention after very little in the way of offensive production and a pair of penalties over the course of Saturday’s game. The 41-year-old finished at a minus-1, took a hooking penalty during a pivotal moment in the second period that led to the Coyotes’ significant third goal and managed only a single shot on net. The two penalties take by Recchi were the real killer however. Aside from the individuals, a Bruins penalty kill cranking at only 69.6 percent success rate while ranked in the bottom handful of NHL teams isn’t worthy of much glory either.
|10.17.09 at 9:37 pm ET|
One night after regaining his physical mojo against the Dallas Stars, left winger Milan Lucic will be out of the Bruins Saturday night lineup with a broken finger on his right hand. Bruins coach Claude Julien told reporters prior to Saturday night’s game that he believed it to be a broken right index finger. The B’s have recalled rugged Providence Bruins winger Guillaume Lefebvre on an emergency basis for the road game against the Phoenix Coyotes Saturday night, and the winger was in the lineup.
No word on the severity of Lucic’s broken finger or how long that he’ll be out of action. It appeared that Lucic suffered the injury during the second period of Friday night’s win over the Stars, and the bruising left winger totalled less than 13 minutes of ice time. Lefebvre has one assist and a whopping 25 penalty minutes in four games for the P-Bruins this season. The big forward last played in the NHL for the Pittsburgh Penguins during the 2005-06 season.
|10.17.09 at 4:54 am ET|
Now that was more like it.
The Boston Bruins hoped to a man that hitting the road would allow the team to play a simpler, grittier style of hockey, and that’s exactly what happened in a tidy 3-0 beating of the Dallas Stars Friday night at the American Airlines Center. The B’s best players stepped up to the forefront and made the conscious decision to stop the half-hearted insanity rampant through the early season.
Marc Savard switched his identity from passer to sniper and scored a pair of goals — taking over the team lead with four goals in the process — and Tim Thomas made 27 tidy saves en route to his 13th career shutout. Thomas was at his best in the first period when he and the B’s penalty kill unit were forced to fight off a Patrice Bergeron high-sticking penalty just seconds into the game. Thomas was just as sharp again in the close-out third period when the two-time All-Star goaltender snuffed out a last-ditch attack from the Stars.
Three times during the game Thomas stoned James Neal, with potentially his best stop coming in the third period when he deflected an original slapper from the outside and quickly shifted his position toward Neal’s rebound attempt in front. Thomas flashed toward the right post and stuffed Neal’s bid with his leg pag while keeping his first shutout of the season intact.
Savard potted the two goals and also ended the B’s streak of power play futility at 0-for-17 when he sniped a man advantage score just 29 seconds into their only power play opportunity of the game. Zdeno Chara cleared the puck into the zone, and Michael Ryder battled behind the net allowing the puck to slide over toward Savard waiting by the right post. Savard smacked a bad angle shot from the side of the net, and watched with amusement as the puck pin-balled off Dallas defenders and right on past Marty Turco.
Patrice Bergeron added a tip-in goal and Ryder set up a Savard one-time score in the second period that accounted for the final score, but the game’s real star was the cohesive nature of the B’s defense. Under Julien the Bruins have been a structured, balanced, disciplined team playing with a purpose, and they’d gotten far away from that identity over the previous games. So, this time, the B’s skaters implemented their game plan, back-checked to an acceptable level and blocked shots all night long in front of Thomas.
The B’s now face the Phoenix Coyotes in search of a clean sweep for the road series, and have to be optimistic after impact players like Michael Ryder and Milan Lucic played less than 13 minutes in the Friday night win in Big ‘D’.
YOU’RE THE BEST AROUND AND NOTHING’S EVER GONNA KEEP YOU DOWN: Michael Ryder only notched one assist and leveled one shot on net in 12:15 of ice time, but set up Savard’s second goal of the season with a brilliant pass. Must be time for those questioning Savard and Ryder’s chemistry to reassess their evaluations after watching the new linemates gel against the Stars. Ryder forechecked, battled and played both ends of the rink in a very impressive performance. Ryder could be that much better as a hockey player if he gave in to his passing instincts a few more times.
GOAT HORNS: Mike Ribeiro finished with no shots on net, played to a minus-2 for the night and took the team’s only penalty that led to Savard’s first period power-play score. The Dallas forward has never fully matured from his days as a member of the Montreal Diving Team, and did nothing of significance on the ice for the Stars in Friday’s loss. No shots and no hits from Ribeiro equals little to no impact in the game.
|10.15.09 at 4:42 pm ET|
With four road dates packed into their next five games, the Bruins have a chance to prove that ancient hockey axiom correct. There’s a great and shining chance for the club to bond together on the normally cold and unforgiving road. Who knew that having a few team dinners at Fleming’s Steakhouse in unfamiliar locales could mean so much?
It’s obviously not all about some magical road solution waiting for the Bruins in Dallas and Phoenix. It’s more about things within the Boston dressing room that need to change. The B’s players need to shake themselves out of the snow-blindness caused by a flurry of preseason hype and media predictions that tabbed the Black and Gold as the trendy pick for the Stanley Cup finals.
There’s plenty the Bruins can do to turn things around after a 2-3 start to the season that lacked the passion and work ethic inherent in last season’s 116-point hockey team. The Bruins are simply beating themselves. It’s something that hasn’t been a major problem since the structured, disciplined Claude Julien took over the coaching reigns three years ago. It’s also something the Bruins are much too talented to be doing.
“We talked about it and addressed a lot of different things that we can do to get better a lot over the last few days,” Milan Lucic said. “We’ve talked about it a bunch. Now it’s time to not do so much talk, and go out and do it.”
It’s high time for Lucic and the B’s to slam down the preseason power rankings and the glossy magazine pieces, and instead strap on the hard hats and tool belts that allowed them to enjoy so much regular season success last winter. There’s plenty of hard work that goes into winning a Cup, and the B’s haven’t exactly dirtied their finger nails quite yet.
“We haven’t played Bruins hockey, and played the way that this team has grown its identity over the last couple of years,” said Mark Recchi. “We have to get back to it and realize how hard it is. Get our focus back. I really believe it’s not that far away. This is a little bit of a wake up call, and this isn’t a bad time to go through this.”
With that in mind, here are three things the Bruins can do turn things around just five games into their 82-game schedule:
1. Will the real Looch please stand up — The bruising 21-year-old winger might have been in too much of a lighthearted mood after becoming the B’s newest millionaire several weeks ago, and by his own admission lost some of his surliness over the last few games.
His numbers aren’t really that far off what they were last season. After five games last season, Lucic had three points, six shots on goal and 14 registered hits to open things up. After five games this season, Lucic has a pair of assists, four shots on goal and the same exact 14 registered hits. But many of those body checks haven’t been of the bone-thumping variety. There certainly haven’t been many defensemen forced to look over their shoulders while digging out pucks in the corner. That needs to change for Lucic and the Bruins immediately, and the B’s forward is well aware.
“The last two games I’ve feel like been getting better at creating, but for me it’s also more about getting on the puck quicker, turning pucks over and then creating scoring chances,” said Lucic. “I feel like I need to do a little bit more of that to get back to where I want to be. Talking with the coaches, and Peter [Chiarelli] and Cam [Neely], the one thing they always tell me is that when I keep it simple with that meat and potatoes-kind of game, I’m at my best. I have to play hard-nosed hockey.”
“I have to pick [the physical] part of my game up and boost the team up with some big hits to get them going. Maybe Wheels can get me going before the game. Maybe we can get some Indian leg-wrestling going in the locker room before the game start. We can just lock legs and see who wins.”
Blake Wheeler, who was taking his skates off right next to Lucic, shot back with: “Don’t worry, I’ll protect you out [on the ice].”
Indian leg wrestling or not, Big Looch knows what he needs to do and is looking to amp up his physical factor for the weekend road games against Dallas and Phoenix along with getting more involved offensively. Perhaps skating with David Krejci will rekindle a spark and bring out the intimidating side he flashed in last season’s playoffs when the two young skaters were paired together. The one big advantage to skating with Krejci is that the right-handed shooter’s first inclination for passes will be with the forehand to his left side. That bodes well for the fire-breathing winger bombing down the left side.
Just call it the Sleeping Bear Syndrome.
It’s no secret that the fear factor is thrown into the opposition when big No. 17 is playing mean, merciless hockey, and it’s paramount to Boston’s success. Lucic knows that he and his teammates are much better when there’s a certain attitude of aggression among the players. He also hinted that the mounting criticism of the B’s sluggish start might be the exact kind of kindling needed to get their competitive fire going. In short, Lucic needs to lead the way in bringing the rage back out onto the ice for the Bruins.
“It seems like right now we’re getting challenged by all kinds of people that are starting to doubt us,” said Lucic. “I think we should use that to our advantage and go against it. We need to play with that edge and physical presence to be successful. The best thing is for us to be aggressive and initiate it right off the start rather than sit around waiting for somebody to wake us up.”
2. Get the special teams back on track — Julien had a simple explanation when asked what could help out a B’s power play that’s managed success only 13.8 percent (4-for-29) of the time in their first five games. His answer was pretty straightforward and to the point: “Score.” Julien is obviously the kind of straight-shooter that has middle management written all over him, but he’s also got a point.
The Bruins need to score by any means possible on the man-advantage, and that means showing both intelligence and poise with the puck. But it also means showing a little desperation when that’s called for during potential tipping points on the power play. Derek Morris and the first power-play unit helped produce four power play scores in the B’s 7-2 thumping of Carolina, and stressed that they need to return back to what made them so successful in that particular game.
They, in essence, need to “go ugly early” in the man advantage and start hunting out those ugly goal situations. Getting position in tight near the net and redirecting pucks, or simply lurking around the cage wating for rebounds could make all the difference.
“When was the last time you saw us get a tip on a goal? Or get a rebound goal on the power play?” asked Morris. “Defenses are getting so good at blocking shots and getting in the shooting and passing lanes during the power plays, and we have to be a little more patient getting the pucks to our forwards.
“Then when we do get the puck down there, we’ve got to start looking for those ugly goals. Crashing the net and getting to that puck right at the split-second when the opportunity is there.
3. Thomas needs to shake off the slow start — The B’s goaltender isn’t going to admit to being a slow starter, but he hasn’t looked like his Vezina Trophy self during the preseason or first three regular season games behind an admittedly mistake-prone defense. A 4.01 goals-against average and an .868 save percentage are so far below Thomas’ norms that there’s no choice but to believe they’re aberrational. He was miles better than playing in the Dave Lewis system, and that’s truly saying something.
Just about at this exact point last season, Thomas stepped up and play shutdown hockey between the pipes in back-to-back games against the Oilers and the Canucks, and made 58 saves in back-to-back shutouts. The Bruins should be looking for much the same out of Thomas this weekend during their tour of the NHL’s southwestern outposts, and he’s up for the challenge.
“The numbers are a little bit distorted. I didn’t feel as bad as the numbers look in the two games that we lost,” said Thomas, who said he didn’t read anything into Tuukka Rask making back-to-back starts. “I haven’t felt really bad, but I’ve just got bad results. It is what it is. I mean … just … it is what it is. I haven’t seen too many goals allowed by us where you’d say ‘Oh, the goalie is struggling.’ ”
“Look at the patterns over the years. The other goaltender has usually played a lot because I haven’t always played that great at the beginning. I don’t like to get that label. Last year my stats were good, but the team wasn’t winning. During the lockout year, I had five shutouts in my first 10 games. You can’t say that’s the way it is every year.”