|10.14.09 at 2:07 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Marco Sturm admitted that there wasn’t much “comfort” in playing his off-wing on the right side over the Bruins first five games.
“[The left] is where I played the last five or six years, but I can go either way,” said Sturm. “I don’t know if it was comfort [on the right]. It was different. But we’ll see if we go on the left side and I notice a big change.”
The unfamiliar spot on the right wing didn’t stop Sturm from scoring a pair of goals and showing up as one of Boston’s best forwards right from first puck drop. A long spring-into-summer rehab from left knee surgery and an abbreviated preseason schedule due to groin problems did nothing to derail the German forward from starting the season healthy and strong.
So the Bruins slipped in a slight change at Wednesday morning’s practice, and effectively rewarded Sturm by shifting him back over to his natural left wing position on the B’s top line along with center Marc Savard. Michael Ryder was moved to the right wing spot on Savard’s right, and the playmaking center now has legit scorers on either side of him. Milan Lucic was “dropped” to second line left wing along with David Krejci and Blake Wheeler — a move that also allows Wheeler to switch back over to his strong side on the right.
It may not be an indictment of how Lucic has played in the early going, but it’s certainly a bit of a reward carrot for the strong, willful hockey displayed by both Ryder and Sturm through the last few games.
“It’s just a tweak. Never a bad thing just to see if it will help,” said Julien. “Maybe shake some things up, get some attention and spark something up. I don’t think it’s directed at anybody necessarily, except getting the best possible four line combinations.
“I think Lucic has had real good success with Krejci before, and they work really well together when he’s been on that line in the past. With Michael up there, when you look back at the last game I thought he was a really decent player. When he works hard he creates chances, and when he works hard he’s strong on the puck. Sturmy with his speed and with Savvy, you hope something will come out of that.”
Sturm certainly performed satisfactorly at right wing and had the confidence of the coaching staff on his off-side, but also couldn’t hold a smile in at the thought of moving back into his natural wing position. The 31-year-old forward has been one of the few Bruins “feel good” stories while bouncing back strongly from knee surgery. Some players need a year to regain their skating speed after going under the knife, and — because of the January surgery date for Sturm’s surgery — he’s already approaching that milestone just a few months into the season.
That means little-to-no-speed lost and no residual rust on Sturm’s game despite all the reasons in the world for it to be holding him back. Sturm has even surprised himself with his level of play in the early going after being away from the game for a lengthy period of time.
“I’m feeling great so far,” said Sturm. “I’m really happy with the way I’ve started. It’s better than I expected. I had a rough preseason and even when I came [to camp] I felt okay — but I knew I wasn’t there yet. But it came pretty quickly. I’m really happy about that.”
*Julien also noted some enlightening video sessions with some of his players over the last couple of days, and perhaps a few light bulb moments with a host of Bruins skaters that simply weren’t putting in a full day’s work on the ice. Some members of the B’s dressing are fond of saying that there are no passengers on the Bruins’ bus, and any unwanted passengers were put on notice up on the video screen by their Jack Adams trophy-winning coach.
“Some guys are trying to do too much. Some guys aren’t doing enough,” said Julien. “It doesn’t mean those guys that aren’t doing enough think that they’re not doing enough. That’s why you show those guys video, and — like anybody else and I know I’m that way — it’s a lot clearer when you see it.
“I know there are a lot of guys that walk out of there wide-eyed and say ‘Wow, I didn’t know how bad I was’ or ‘I didn’t know that I wasn’t working that hard.’ So now you’ve got their attention.”
*Dennis Wideman didn’t practice with the team Wednesday and remains “day to day” with a left shoulder injury, according to Julien. There’s been no determination made about his availability for the weekend road trip to Dallas and Phoenix, but he shouldn’t miss more than a maximum of those two road games. If Wideman can’t make the trip, it’s likely that B’s GM Peter Chiarelli will call for reinforcements at Providence.
“If he misses the weekend then that’s probably the most [he would miss]. ‘If’ that’s the case” said Julien of Wideman.
*And finally, courtesy of Yahoo’s Puck Daddy, your moment of hockey zen. That is a filthy mini 1-on-1 move. Can’t wait to hear Tom Caron describe it.
|10.14.09 at 11:23 am ET|
WILMINGTON — Looking to shake up a team that’s been stagnant through its first five games, Bruins coach Claude Julien jostled with the forward lines at practice Wednesday morning.
After the team was a few minutes late getting on the ice, Milan Lucic was wearing a gray practice jersey and skated on the second line with David Krejci and Blake Wheeler. Right wing Michael Ryder was bumped up to the top line with Marc Savard, and Marco Sturm has been switched back over to his natural left wing position alongside Savard and Ryder. The other two lines have remained intact.
Dennis Wideman still is off the practice ice with a left shoulder injury sustained last weekend against the New York Islanders.
It’s fairly easy-going set of shooting drills at the moment, and none of the punitive sense given off during Boston’s “bag skate” practice late last week after getting bombed by the Ducks.
|10.14.09 at 10:56 am ET|
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:
1. 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.
2. 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.
|10.12.09 at 3:27 pm ET|
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.
|10.12.09 at 1:05 pm ET|
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
|10.12.09 at 12:31 pm ET|
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.”
|10.11.09 at 12:42 am ET|
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 »