|Bruins breakdown: The puck movers||02.27.10 at 5:29 pm ET|
The second to last installment of our Bruins breakdown at the break focuses on the portion of the team where the Bruins never seem to have enough — puck moving defensemen.
This group, consisting of Andrew Ference, Dennis Wideman and Matt Hunwick has not been the bright and shining beacon of hope that the Bruins would like to see from three relatively talented individuals. Injury and inconsistency has the Bruins thinking a trade for another puck mover at the deadline might be in order for the second year in a row.
Ference ‘ The problem with Ference is that his body is a ticking time bomb. He has not played in 60 games in a season for the Bruins since being acquired from the Flames in Feb. 2007. He played in 82 for the Calgary in 2005-06 and a combined 80 between the Flames and Bruins in 2006-07. Since then the his high is 59 for the Bruins in 2007-08. With 46 games played so far this year and 22 left to play, there is a chance for him to actually play in most of the Bruins games this season.
|Is Lucic really up to full speed?||02.27.10 at 12:42 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — With 22 games left and a playoff spot up for grabs, the Bruins would like to know that they finally have everyone on their roster healthy and ready to contribute to the grind.
For Milan Lucic, that may not exactly be the case.
The Bruins were running 2-on-1 drills midway through practice on Saturday. Lucic was paired with Michael Ryder who backhanded a pass from behind the baseline that deflected off of the blade of Lucic’s skate. It must have buzzed through his bad ankle and his leg because the hulking left winger winced momentarily before resuming his spot in the drill.
“It was all good,” Lucic said. “That type of stuff happens all the time. It feels good, better since before the break. That is what is seems what the break was good for.”
Lucic still keeps the ankle pretty heavily taped but says that it is a precautionary measure.
“You kind of have to because it is so easy to re-injure that you want to be safe,” Lucic said. “I don’t like being taped before every game and every practice. It is a little different, a little annoying but it is something that you got to do to get through this.”
Coach Claude Julien more or less agreed with his forward and said that if Lucic thinks he is fine, Julien is not going to second-guess him.
“You have to take his word for what he is saying,” Julien said. “I am not going to second-guess him but an ankle injury is an ankle injury. Those things don’t totally disappear but I haven’t heard him complain about it and it is effecting him. Our trainers seem to think he is good. I think what you are seeing is more of a guy who has had so many setbacks this year that it is going to take him a while to catch up. I think that is what we talked about when he came back.”
Baseball players will tell you that wrist injuries are some of the hardest to really recover from because they tend to linger. Baseball players use their wrists for just about everything they do and every year you will see a plethora of hamate bone breaks and sheath tendon tears (Dustin Pedroia had the former, David Ortiz the latter). In hockey, the ankle is a similar type of malignant injury because it is hard to come back from considering all the stopping and starting skating requires.
The Bruins company line right now is that Lucic’s ankle is fine, yet it is easy to wonder how fine it actually is. Even after the initial buzz from Ryder’s pass that Lucic said “happens all the time” he still looked like he may have been favoring it at the end of the practice, especially after a puck battle drill in center ice. The battle went back and forth (kind of a “keep away” type of drill) and the pair broke towards the goal and Lucic slipped in the offensive zone. He came up wincing after and did not look like he wanted to put too much weight on the ankle.
No matter how well the ankle is actually feeling, do not look for the young wingman to miss any time unless another dramatic injury occurs. For now the ankle is well enough to play on and Lucic do so, no matter if it is slowing him down or not.
— The practice lines were the same they have been the last two days.
Saturday participation by sweater color:
Grey — Blake Wheeler, Vladimir Sobotka, Michael Ryder
Red — Byron Bitz, Steve Begin, Lucic, Shawn Thornton
Goaltenders — Tuukka Rask, Matt Dalton
|Recchi leads by example||02.26.10 at 1:11 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — It was your typical late-season practice at Ristuccia Arena on Friday. The Bruins did some battle drills, some rebound drills, shooting drills with the foam pads. For the most part it is a matter of getting their work in, back to full speed after a week-and-a-half watching the Olympics.
Towards the end of the session the Bruins forwards worked on rebound drills in front of the net. Veteran Mark Recchi looked to be taking the lead in the drill, as well he should. With 1550 career NHL games and 557 goals, Recchi knows how what it takes to make a living in the crease.
“Yeah, you look at what he does and since the first day that he was here, the thing he does so well is he stands and he is a good screener in front of the net and gets a good tip in front of the net. What he does is he stands right in front of the goaltender and he is right in front of the goalie’s face and you always give yourself a good chance to score when you do that.”
With all his experience, Recchi is the perfect type of tutor for the younger players on the roster learning the nuances of what it takes for a good screen. Recchi, for his part, is not all that vocal as a mentor. He trusts that the younger guys will see what he does and mimic the veteran’s movements.
“You don’t even really have to ask him, you just look and see what he is doing and that is why he has as many goals as he does,” Lucic said. “I think he has told me and [Wheeler] and other guys how he does it and it is kind of nice to learn from someone like him to see how it is done.”
Recchi agrees that he is more of a leader by example than a vocal presence.
“They come and work at it,” Recchi said. “It is not so much talking but a matter of working. You have to be willing to go there and they actually have been unbelievable at it and have gotten a lot of those little goals because of it.”
Recchi said the trick to being successful in front of the net is developing a lack of fear.
“Yeah, you can’t be afraid,” Recchi said. “You are going to get hit with pucks, whatever. We got got great defensemen who try to hit it smart. Sometimes you are going to get slashed or cross-checked. You have to be willing to pay the price to go there. A lot of the time it is not even creating tips. It is rebounds, creating traffic, creating some other opportunities for other guys. That is one thing you have to think about. It is not about you it is also about all the other guys.”
Coach Claude Julien sees the work that Recchi puts in with the younger guys and appreciates having a veteran like that on the roster.
“That is what you hope to see,” Julien said. “You hope that your veteran players, especially a guy like Mark who has been around the block not once, but probably a few times, you know. He has been good with the kids. He is willing to share his knowledge and he is willing to share also what he would have wanted to know when he was that age and I think that has really helped our young players to be a little more hungry and willing to learn the things that sometimes you don’t always want to learn.”
Standing in front of the net is not an easy job in the NHL but Recchi has a way about him that proves contagious to the rest of the players.
“Coaches will always say, you know, when you can get your team to do some things that they may not like doing but they know will make us better, that is when you know you have your team going in the right direction,” Julien said. “I think that is part of what Mark does with some of those guys. It is like ‘hey, it is not fun to stand in front of the net and you may not like it, but if that is what is going to give you success then you should be willing to do it.’ That is what he has done and he has shared those tidbits with the players and it has been good.”
Does Lucic see a career as a coach in Recchi’s future?
“Yeah, I definitely think so,” Lucic said. “He knows the game, he is smart and, you know, he has played in every situation so he knows what it is like. I think definitely he could make a pretty good coach some day.”
For his part, Recchi has no interest in being a coach on the professional level. He owns 12.5 percent of the Kamloops Blazers in his native British Columbia and partners with other NHL players such as Jerome Iginla. Coaching may not be in Recchi’s future but that does not mean he will leave hockey behind.
“No coach,” Recchi said. “Maybe my kid. My boys is eight and maybe I would coach him. I like the management part more than I like the coaching part. I would like to build a team more than [coaching] them. I am part owner of the Kamloops Blazers so, I am able to watch it and be part of something like that, be part of some of the juniors teams. So, you know, we will see. I would like to get involved in organization at some point and kind of see where it goes from there. Before that I want to take time and see my kids and my family and see where it goes from there and figure it out. It intrigues me and something that I would really like to do but it is also very time consuming.”
Friday participation by sweater color:
Goaltenders — Tuukka Rask, Matt Dalton
|Ference: Time to go to war||02.25.10 at 7:04 pm ET|
Tying up the loose ends from practice. Andrew Ference is ready for the stretch run, Milan Lucic got to take in the festivities in downtown Vancouver and Claude Julien gives his thoughts on the break and the Olympics.
Ference was not sure if he was going to be able to play before the break but with Johnny Boychuk taking a puck to the face before the four-game road trip, he was pressed into duty sooner than he had envisioned. It took him a game or so to get back into the swing of things but said that he was ready to go.
“It was good. We didn’t have any back-to-back games, which was good. Had a chance to recover the next day and everything was good. Plus, we won, which makes a big difference,” Ference said.
Ference said his body held up well and it was just a matter of regaining his timing.
“They definitely had me ready to play. It wasn’t a situation where it made anything worse. It was just a matter of regaining the timing but everything worked,” Ference said “The first game I was pretty conservative. Just made sure that I didn’t get into any bad situations. Just the reaction time and being a little slower but just getting that first game out of the way and getting back to normal.”
The Bruins are as healthy now as they have been all season which will be a big benefit in the frenetic pace that will be the final month-and-a-half of the regular season. Ference said that it is not a time to hold back.
“I don’t think anybody is feeling sorry because it is going to be the same for every single guy in the league,” Ference said. ” We knew that going into this year, you know, everything Olympic year is tight,” Ference said. “That whole playoff run, so, you obviously have to take care of yourself and keep yourself in good health. Other than that you just have to go to war. You can’t try to conserve yourself or stay out of trouble during the game. You have to go full on, it’s a battle and on the rest days you rest. You rest hard.”
|Bruins breakdown: The top pair||02.25.10 at 2:00 pm ET|
The breakdown at the break continues and this time we are moving onto the men commissioned with keeping pucks away from the crease. Since Claude Julien took over behind the bench for Boston defense has been the name of the game in The Hub. Considering the Bruins scoring woes this year the only thing that has kept them in contention has been their ability to limit opponents chances.
Boston is fourth in the league in goals against with 2.42 and one of the reasons behind this is that its captain, Zdeno Chara, happens to be the reigning Norris Trophy winner. If a high tide raises all ships then a towering defenseman buoys all blue liners. We will also take a look at his partner, Derek Morris.
Note – Slight change in schedule. Will be doing the top defensive pairing Thursday then the other two pairings on Friday.
Chara — The questions about Chara are two-fold. One, how is he so good? Two, how do you quantify how good he actually is?
The first question has an easy answer — at 6-foot 9-inches and 255 pounds he is physically dominant on the ice. He skates well, has a long stick that he employs judiciously and, for the most part, has good positioning. Watch Chara play and it is easy to see why he is one of the best. Quantifying his play with advanced statistics is a little harder.
|Boychuck, Stuart and Bruins back to work||02.25.10 at 12:40 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Most of the Bruins have had two weeks to get healthy and clear their heads during the Olympic break before the final stretch of that will determine whether there will be spring hockey in The Hub. The players were happy to get back to hockey related activities on Thursday at Ristuccia Arena and are gearing up for the stretch run into April. When the regular season resumes on March 2 the Bruins will be on a furious pace as the final 22 games will be played in 41 days with only one break longer than one day between games.
“I can’t think of a better way to get back into it than to just jump in and play a bunch of games,” Mark Stuart said. “Looking at our schedule, it is every other day. But, it is going to be fun. It is going to be a month-and-a-half long Olympic tournament it seems like. Just playing every other day. But, the position we are in, we have to win a lot of games. It is going to feel like the playoffs, I think and that is always fun when it feels like that. We are looking forward to it.
Defenseman Johnny Boychuk was back at practice for the first time since breaking his orbital bone when he took a puck to the face in the Bruins’ last home game before the break against Vancouver. He wore a visor and participated in the full workout. Fellow blue liner Stuart also skated for the first time since breaking a finger in a fight with the Kings’ Wayne Simmonds on Jan. 30 which required surgery on Feb. 1.
“I got the cast off on Tuesday, so that was a good feeling,” Stuart said. “It is just a matter of getting some of the stiffness out. I have got to get the hands and stuff going and I am not going to push the shooting too much right away. I will probably give it a couple of days, and passing and stuff like that was good.”
Stuart said the the break was not due to an impact of his hand on Simmonds or the ice but rather that he grabbed the jersey and torqued the finger in during the fight. He said that he will probably wear protective gear on the hand “for a bit” but does not seem overly concerned about his prospects for the rest of the season.
|Bruins breakdown: The fast lane||02.24.10 at 12:22 pm ET|
We continue our Bruins breakdown at the break with the men in the passing lane. On Monday the centers got their attention and Tuesday was for the men riding shotgun. Wednesday is for the men who like to skate fast and hit hard — the left wings.
On Thursday we will look at the top three defensemen on the roster and the three back blue liners on Friday before finishing up with the goaltending situation on Saturday.
Without further ado . . . .
Sturm — Last September the Big Bad Blog took a look at what Sturm would mean to the Bruins offense this year. The idea was that Sturm would be able to fill in the goal-scoring production of the departed Phil Kessel and, if the rest of the team played to its 2008-09 levels, then the Bruins would still be near the top of the leading in scoring.
So much for that.
Last season the Bruins were second in the league in scoring with 3.29 goals per game, almost all of which was done without Sturm because of a knee injury. This year the Bruins have receded to below 2006-07 and 2007-08 levels when they scored 2.56 and 2.51 goals per game, respectively. At 2.35 goals per game this season the Bruins are dead last in the NHL in scoring with the next closest team (Edmonton at 2.43) almost a full tenth of a point ahead of them.
Call it the curse of Sturm.