Archive for January, 2010

B’s need to be two-timers

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

BOSTON  –  Patrice Bergeron stood before reporters with a very somber face in front of his locker following Saturday’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Los Angeles Kings at TD Garden.

Good reason.

His Bruins, despite getting back the services of Marco Sturm and Steve Begin, still couldn’t find a way to hold a 2-1 third period lead and fell in a shootout. Yes, the Bruins captured one point but as Bergeron pointed out afterward, when you’ve now lost seven in a row and six straight at home for the first time in 85 years, that one point seems of extremely little consolation.

“Tonight was a good effort but we’ve got to find a way to get those two points,” Bergeron said. “We kept having some chances. We scored a goal, on the power play. I don’t think they were all over us with that 2-1 but they found a way to come back and tie it.”

Bergeron’s take on the 3-2 shootout which still leaves the Bruins on the outside looking in at the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

Bruins coach Claude Julien said the team is coming around.

Marco Sturm talked afterward about his first outing in seven games as he returned from a leg injury.

Struggling B’s sparked by Stuart

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

The losses are piling up. The Bruins are going to end January without a win in the TD Garden for the month and just eight points since the start of the new year. There have been stretches this month where the team has been wretched to watch, playing dull, flat-skated hockey that has resulted in some poor losses, such as the 5-1 defeats against Carolina and Ottawa. The Bruins now have 55 points through 53 games, would not qualify for the playoffs if the season ended today, and cannot score a goal to save their lives.

Yet everybody around the team insists that the Bruins are ready to turn the corner and turn back into a playoff team.

Now, if you have been sitting in the stands at TD Garden, you might not actually believe that. But the Bruins do and, at this moment, that is all that matters.

“We played a little bit more physical and a little bit more into it and that is why, overall, I feel like we are turning the corner and heading in the right direction,” coach Claude Julien said. “That is two games in a row now where we competed a lot better than we had in the past. This is what we have to build on and emotion is a part of that and the guys are wanting to turn the corner so they are getting a little bit more involved.”

There have been glimpses of the emotion and physicality that were trademarks of the 2008-09 Boston Bruins, a team that won the top spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Bruins have worked hard in their last two games but have been betrayed by some penalties and an inability to find the net on the power play.

The momentum swing against the Kings on Saturday night took place early in the second period. Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles’ rising star center and leading scorer, was passing his own blue line on a clearing pass when he met the shoulder of Bruins defenseman Mark Stuart. In a flash, Kopitar went from moving forward to being thrown backward, the type of hit that makes highlight reels. It was clean and the crowd roared.

“Yeah, I am pretty sure if it wasn’t clean I wouldn’t be sitting here right now because he could have taken my head off,” Kopitar said. “Maybe I am fortunate that he is not as tall as [Zdeno] Chara because he would have definitely taken my head off. It is one of those plays that happens in the game that caught me looking backward. I have not seen it in the replay yet but it wasn’t a dirty hit.”

Kings forward Wayne Simmonds was trailing the play and saw the hit develop. His first reaction was to go after Stuart for knocking his team’s best player off his keister. Stuart and Simmonds went at it for a few seconds and penalties piled up. Simmonds went to the box for two two-minute minors for instigating and unsportsmanlike conduct, a five-minute fighting major and a 10-minute misconduct. Stuart also took a penalty for fighting.

“I kind saw it coming before I saw him pinching up and I saw [Kopitar] looking at him from the side and he got caught and as soon as he got caught it was my first instinct to jump in there,” Simmonds said. “You know, when one of your teammates gets hit that hard you have to step up there and do something.”

The Bruins were not able to break through on the resulting power play (and remain quite snake bitten in that area), but the team definitely had regained some swagger. After that moment the Bruins scored two goals to regain the lead before Kopitar had his revenge in the third. It was not a full blown instance of a big fight and brawl that can help turn a team around, but it was also not the type of play that the Bruins have seen much of in January.

“It is definitely a big hit,” Bruins forward Michael Ryder said. “[Stuart] is a physical player and he is at his best when he does that. He made a great hit there on one of their top players and when you do that it kind of gets the team going and I think we built off that hit and made up the momentum from there.”

Looking back on last season, the Bruins really came alive after a game-long brawl with Steve Avery, Steve Ott and the Dallas Stars. Boston has not seen the same type of emotion-filled physical game this year. The Bruins lack a defining moment this season and the doldrums of near-miss losses has worn on the team psyche to the point that it has played some very mediocre hockey that has led to its longest losing streak in nearly 13 years.

The hit that Stuart put on Kopitar was a good reminder that these Bruins have what it takes to be big and bad once again. Did the team turn the corner back towards winnings ways? Not on Saturday, but it could be a start.

“We’ve got to keep working through this,” Julien said. “We’re the only ones who can do it, so it’s up to us to keep our heads up and keep working hard and competing hard hard and at one point you know that you may end up getting a break.”

Kings drop Bruins in shootout

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

Summary It took overtime and a shootout to decide the winner between the Bruins and Kings in front of a sold out TD Garden on Saturday night. In the end, it was the Kings who were able to claim two points as Jarret Stoll had the game-deciding goal in the shootout. Tim Thomas, despite 31 saves in regulation and overtime, took the loss for the Bruins while Jonathan Quick got the win with 27 saves. The Bruins have lost seven straight, their longest losing streak since the spring of 1997, when they went 0-7-0 from March 17 to April 3 of that year.

Marco Sturm returned to the ice after missing the last six games and scored a goal in the second period. Steve Begin also got back on the ice after missing five games and played forward on the fourth line.

The teams went back and forth with the Kings taking the lead into the second period off a goal by captain Dustin Brown set up by a shot from Anze Kopitar. It looked like another night where the Bruins would have trouble breaking through, but Boston found momentum in the second period when defenseman Mark Stuart leveled Kopitar with a hit on the blue line that led to a scrum with Kings forward Wayne Simmonds.

Sturm tied the game with a power-play goal later in the second, and Boston took the lead early in the third on the power play when Mark Recchi scored off a pass from the half-wall by David Krejci. The Kings came right back with a goal from Kopitar and the play was even through the rest of the third before overtime.

Three Stars

Marco Sturm — The Bruins forward scored his team’s first goal of the game after missing six games with a lower body injury. On the power play in the second period, he found himself camped in front of Quick with time and space off a pass from Marc Savard. He let a defender slide by, waited, waited and found the back of the net on Quick’s stick side.

Anze Kopitar — The Kings’ leading scorer is deadly with the puck from the right wing. Twice from the top of the circle he let go of wily wrist shots that found ways past Thomas. He was credited with an assist in the first period when his shot deflected off Dustin Brown and tied the game in the third when Thomas could not handle a screamer from a couple steps in from the blue line.

Jarret Stoll — The Kings center had the game winner in the sixth round of the sudden death shootout.

Turning Point

A flurry of penalties broke out early in the second period. At 4:58 in the second period, Bruins defenseman Mark Stuart laid Kopitar flat on the ice with a big hit as the Kings forward took a clearing pass at his own blue line. Kings forward Wayne Simmonds immediately took exception to the hit on the rising star center, and he and Stuart immediately went at it, with Stuart tackling Simmonds to the ice.

The result was that Simmonds went to the box with instigator, unsportsmanlike conduct, fighting and misconduct penalties (Stuart also went for fighting) that resulted in a four-minute power play opportunity the Bruins. Tim Thomas gave two minutes of that back with a high stick to Brad Richardson 29 seconds later and the Kings killed the penalties. Still, the Bruins gained momentum over the series of plays that later translated into a game-tying power play goal by Sturm in the period.

Key Play

Stoll turned TD Garden from a rocking venue to a silent arena in a matter of moments when he beat Thomas over the goaltender’s shoulder in the sixth round of the shootout. The Kings ended up winning the series 3-2 for the two points. Stoll’s goal followed up scores from the Bruins’ Marc Savard and Michael Ryder and the Kings’ Kopitar and Ryan Smyth.

Thornton, Sobotka make way for Sturm, Begin

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

BOSTON  –  The Bruins welcomed their leading goal scorer back to action on Saturday night when Marco Sturm strode onto the TD Garden ice against the Los Angeles Kings.

He missed the last six games with a leg injury, taking his 15 goals with him.

Steve Begin also returned after missing the last five games with a lower body injury. Shawn Thornton and Vladimir Sobotka were healthy scratches to make room on the 20-man game roster.

Thornton, with just one goal in 50 games, and Sobotka (4g, 3a in 43 games) have been very disappointing in their production as forwards and the Bruins are in desperate need of a jump-start to their offense. Entering Saturday, they had an NHL-low 128 goals.

But some of the focus before the game was on those injured Bruins who recently returned – namely Patrice Bergeron and Marc Savard.

“Patrice has been good for us all year,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “It hasn’t been an issue at all with him. He’s been our most reliable player from day one.”

To Julien’s point, the Bruins are 15-5-3 when Bergeron scores or records an assist. Bergeron entered Saturday with 21 assists, second on the team to Zdeno Chara’s 25.

Savard returned on Friday after missing eight games with a knee injury. He had an assist in the 2-1 loss at Buffalo. The team is 11-3-1 when he records a point in a game. (more…)

Bruins ready to bounce back against Buffalo

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

WILMINGTON — After a week of practice to get healthy and screw their heads on straight, the Bruins will travel to Buffalo on Friday to take on the Northeast Division leading Sabres. It is an interesting challenge for Boston as the Buffalo is 15 points ahead of the Bruins in the standings but has been in a bit of a funk for the last week, going 1-3-1 in its last five games. The Sabres did snap a three game skid by beating the Devils 2-1 in a shootout on Wednesday night in New Jersey and remain a very dangerous team in the Eastern Conference.

“They are a pretty good team, they are playing well,” coach Claude Julien said. “I saw them play yesterday against New Jersey. They are playing with lots of confidence, they got great goaltender which keeps them in the game. They gave up 40 shots last night and only gave up a goal. We are already challenged a little bit in the goal scoring department so we are going to have to work just that much harder to get past this guy.”

The Sabres goaltender is Ryan Miller who is expected to be the starting net-minder for Team USA in the Vancouver Olympics and is second in the NHL with a 2.06 goals-against average. As Julien said, with the Bruins scoring woes, it will indeed be a challenge. (more…)

Andrew Ference skates at Ristuccia

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

WILMINGTON — Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference, who has been out of the lineup since injuring his groin on January 5 against Ottawa, skated Thursday morning before the full team workout at Ristuccia Arena.

Ference did some light warm-up skating before being run through some shooting drills by the Bruins strength and conditioning coach John Whitesides. The defenseman has played in 42 games for the Bruins this season and has no goals and five assists with 16 penalty minutes and a plus/minus rating of -3. Ference battled injuries in the second half of the 2008-09 season and only played in 47 games for Boston though he did put up career-high offensive numbers with a goal and 15 assists for 16 total points.

The Big Bad Blog will have more news from Thursday’s practice as it comes.

UPDATE — Marco Sturm has come out with the full team and wore a yellow practice sweater and skated on a line with Patrice Bergeron and Byron Bitz. Sturm has not played (though he skated earlier this week) in a game since sustaining an injury on January 14 against San Jose. Veteran forward Mark Recchi is missing, presumably still on his way back from carrying the Olympic torch Wednesday night in his hometown of Kamloops, British Columbia.

Recchi to carry torch, Bruins look for confidence

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

WILMINGTON — When the Bruins came out to skate at Ristuccia Arena on Wednesday, veteran forward Mark Recchi was conspicuously missing from the ice at Ristuccia Arena. The first thought to come to mind was that coach Claude Julien and the training staff gave Recchi the practice off. Afterall, Recchi is 41-year old wingman has played 1,541 career NHL games and logged a lot of minutes this year, more than Julien figured he would be giving Recchi at the start of the season.

Instead of having an off day though, Recchi had a higher calling — he traveled to his hometown of Kamloops, British Columbia to carry the 2010 Vancouver Olympic torch and light the Olympic cauldron outside the city’s Hillside Stadium on Wednesday evening.

“It is a nice opportunity for him,” Julien said. “I think he has done a lot in his career to deserve that and also in the town where he is going to be running with it.”

Recchi played for Team Canada in the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan where the team finished fourth. The torch passes through Kamloops on Day 90 of its tour through Canada and will finish its journey on February 12 in Vancouver to kick-start the 2010 Olympic games.

Leading scorer Marco Sturm did not skate at Wednesday’s practice and it is looking unlikely that he will be available for the games on Friday and Saturday. Other than Recchi and Sturm, the rest of the Bruins skated and had a vigorous practice that was a notch up from the lively skate the team had on Monday.

Miroslav Satan joined the top line in white practice sweaters with Milan Lucic and Mark Savard. 10 games into his Bruins career the tall Slovak has two goals and two assists and six penalty minutes. Satan said that he sees similarities between this Bruins team and the last team he played for — the 2009 Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins.

“That is a good example,” Satan said. “It was the same thing. We slipped from the playoff position. At one point I think we were like the 11th spot. Then, all of a sudden things changed quickly and we had a good end to the year and a good end to the playoffs.”

Whereas the Penguins mid-season swoon last year was a product of the team quitting on its coach (who was fired and the team took off after that), Satan does not see it playing out like that this year in Boston.

“I don’t think that is the case here. I think it is more of injuries and mental mistakes that we do in the games,” Satan said. “We, the players, are responsible for it.”

Boston’s real problem right now is that it is stuck in its own head. The team has a lack of confidence which has created a vicious cycle. No confidence means the team has had trouble scoring goals (dead last in the NHL in scoring) and no scoring means the team is losing confidence.

“It is definitely in the head,” Satan said. “It seems like if it is late in a game we make a mistake and that creates another mistake . . . we have to learn to shake that off and know that if we make one it is not the end of the game.”

Patrice Bergeron agreed with the the assessment that part of the reason that the Bruins are having trouble lighting the lamp is because of a lack of confidence.

“It is pretty much about confidence right now,” Bergeron said. “When things are not going your way, the puck is not going your way, it is hitting skates that it is not supposed to. When you lose games like that, you know, confidence is getting away from yourself a little bit but we have to make sure as a team that we bring some emotion back and bring back some hard work. That is the only way we are going to get out it this.”

There are a couple examples of the Bruins getting snake-bitten with pucks off errant skates but the one Bergeron was probably referring to was last Saturday’s game against Ottawa when a goal was disallowed after going off Recchi and Senators goaltender Brian Elliot’s skates. Ottawa forward Jason Spezza ended up scoring the game winner a few minutes later.

Three out of four days into this long practice week, the Bruins are trying to get back into the right mental state of mind.

“We are looking forward to Friday,” Bergeron said. “We have had a good week of practice so far and we have worked hard and we know our game. Keep it simple and working through to get back in the winning column.”

Here is Wednesday’s practice participation by sweater color:

White – Satan, Savard, Lucic.

Grey – Michael Ryder, David Krejci, Blake Wheeler.

Yellow – Byron Bitz, Bergeron, Daniel Paille

Red – Shawn Thornton, Vladimir Sobotka, Trent Whitfield, Steve Begin

Defensemen – Zdeno Chara, Derek Morris, Mark Stuart, Dennis Wideman, Matt Hunwick, Johnny Boychuk, Adam McQuaid.

Goaltenders – Tim Thomas, Tuukka Rask.