|Bruins cannot close out Blue Jackets||01.21.10 at 10:02 pm ET|
Summary — The Bruins dropped a heartbreaker to the Columbus Blue Jackets, as they watched a 2-1, third-period lead disintegrate into a 3-2 loss in front of a packed house at the TD Garden. The Jackets’ R.J. Umberger tipped an Anton Stralman blast from the point past Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask with a little more than a minute left in the game.
Michael Ryder struck the first blow in the game off an open-ice dish from Trent Whitfield to give the Bruins an early 1-0 advantage in the first. Columbus struck back later in the period when Raffi Torres intercepted a weak clearing pass from defenseman Dennis Wideman and crossed to Chris Clark, who beat Rask with a slap shot from the high slot.
Boston outplayed the Blue Jackets in the second period and took the lead when Patrice Bergeron split a pair of defenders with a shot that beat Steve Mason low on the glove side. It looked like the Bruins were going to make the goal stand until Antoine Vermette busted down Rask’s door in the middle of the third to tie the game.
Steve Mason — Outside of the Umberger game-winner, Mason was the difference for the Blue Jackets on the night. He showed flashes of his former self from the 2008-09 season and was pivotal in stopping a plethora of B’s scoring chances in the first and second period and finished the game with 32 saves on 34 shots.
Antoine Vermette — The Bruins were never safe or comfortable when the Jackets’ first-line center was on the ice. He scored the tying goal and had a power-play goal disallowed (kicking) in the second period.
Patrice Bergeron — The Bruins’ points leader played a good all-around game and gave the Bruins the lead in the second period. The goal was his 12th of the year and added to his team high 32 points on the year.
The play that set up the Umberger game-winner was a phantom double-minor high-sticking penalty on Milan Lucic at the 18:29 mark in the third. Lucic was driving from the corner to the net when he was called for the penalty, setting up the power play. Columbus scored 15 seconds later after a timeout to break the Bruins’ back.
Late in the second period, the Blue Jackets were on their first power play of the game when it appeared that Vermette had beaten Rask with with a dribbling puck when the goaltender was out of position. Rask immediately protested that the puck had gone off of Vermette’s skate and the officials reviewed the play. It turned out that Vermette had indeed kicked the puck into the goal with his back skate and the goal was disallowed because of the center’s “distinct kicking motion.” The Bruins would eventually lose the lead, but the play kept the advantage on their side until the final half of the third.
|Savard shooting for next week, Sturm out again||01.21.10 at 12:06 pm ET|
Here are the notes from the morning skate at TD Garden.
— The Bruins recalled 24-year-old Drew Larman from Providence, which means that Marco Sturm, Steve Begin and Byron Bitz all will once again be unavailable for Boston Thursday evening when the B’s take on Columbus at TD Garden. None of the three forwards participated in the morning skate. Coach Claude Julien would not describe Bitz or Begin’s injuries because they could “be back at any time” and doing so would be a “liability.” Sturm left practice yesterday to prevent a setback with the leg injury he has been dealing with in the past week.
“He didn’t set himself back he just felt that he wasn’t ready so he pulled himself off before he set himself back,” Julien said.
There are no smoke and mirrors with the Bruins injury situation right now as the players who took part in the morning skate will be the ones to take the ice tonight.
“What you saw out there is what we got,” Julien said. “I don’t think there are any secrets there. We have got our 20 guys and that is what we will run with.”
— Marc Savard spoke the the media after the skate and said that he expects to be back in the lineup next Friday on the road against Buffalo. He sustained a Grade 2 partial MCL tear against Chicago 28-seconds into the first period on January 7th. Today was the second day that he has skated and he has been wearing a big brace on during his workouts.
“When I am actually out there and doing stuff and skating I am not thinking about it but when I stop I think about it for a bit. But, besides for that it feels pretty normal,” Savard said.
“Hopefully I am better for all of this and I finish strong,” Savard said. “I was out there today and I felt pretty good. I said ‘maybe I can come back Sunday?’ But that is not the case. I have got to watch it and make sure, you don’t want to come back on Sunday and hurt it again and be losing my mind. I am just going to work through it and have a good skate tomorrow and go from there.”
|Slumping Bruins look for a spark||01.20.10 at 7:35 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — There is a white board in the entrance hallway to the Bruins locker room in Ristuccia Arena where the NHL standings are updated in black marker every morning after practice. A few Bruins players watched as staff members filled out the Eastern Conference board, where Boston starts the day in seventh place with, two points ahead of the last playoff spot and three away from falling below the demarcation line for those who will be playing extended Spring hockey and those that won’t.
Much has been made of the fact that the Bruins have had an inordinate amount of injuries have derailed Boston this year after last year’s team was the Eastern Conference powerhouse throughout the regular season. The top line from last year is basically been non-existent this year with Phil Kessel in Toronto, Milan Lucic missing most of the first half of the season and Marc Savard out for the foreseeable future with a knee injury. But the Bruins struggles have not been all about injuries and schedule quirks. There are a couple players on the roster who have not been playing well of late, players who are important for Boston to put pucks in the net.
Two that immediately come to mind are Dennis Wideman and Michael Ryder. Wideman and the coaching staff know that he needs to bring up his intensity, his compete-level as they call it, if he is going to return to prior form as a productive member of the team.
“We are almost 50 games in now and you have to take charge of the situation and bring you intensity level up,” head coach Claude Julien said. “Because if you are going to play like a (number) five or six then that is the ice time you are going to get ice time wise. It is pretty simple. We have to do the right things for our hockey club and he needs to pick up his game. He knows it, he wants to, but he has got to understand that his intensity and his compete-level have to be higher.”
For the normally sharp-shooting defenseman, it may be his head that is getting in the way.
“It is probably more mental than anything,” Wideman said. “I have got to start practicing a little better and hopefully I carry if over into the game . . . I have been in slumps when I have not been scoring or playing this well, but never this long. It is tough to be confident you are playing that way.”
Wideman has 14 points on the year and has no reasonable shot of matching his career-high 50 points from last season, even if he does turn on the light and become a point-a-game player for the remainder of the season. His plus/minus of – 8 is tied for the worst on the team (Byron Bitz).
“When you are tied for the lead in the minus department of you hockey club you have to look at yourself and ask ‘is that really me?'” Julien said.
For a guy who averages around 23:00 minutes of ice time per game, that is a number that is not acceptable. Especially from a guy who should be the number two defenseman on the roster behind captain Zdeno Chara.
On the other hand is Ryder, who has 19 points (11 goals, 8 assists) and has been having trouble not just finding the net but also finding the puck to shoot. He has been held shot-less in two of the last four games.
‘It is always tough when you are supposed to score and you are not producing and you definitely take it upon your self where you just have to start doing it,’ Ryder said. ‘I’ve got to make sure that I play better.’
Ryder had 27 goals and 53 points last year and he will also be hard pressed to even approach those totals the rest of this season.
The Bruins have the potential on the roster to turn from where they are at now, a mediocre hockey club searching for a spark, to something more like what they were last year. If Ryder and Wideman can find their grooves and combine that with players returning from the infirmary, it would be a start in the right direction. Yet, as Julien said, the whole team needs to bring its compete level up.
“It is one of those things that, if you bring your compete level up, you have a chance,” Julien said. “We have a lot of guys out of our lineup but you have to hope that they guys that you have in your lineup, that their compete level is where it should be. We should make a game out of it. We didn’t make a game out of it last game and we look to rebound from that.”
|Sturm Practices – McQuaid Recalled||01.20.10 at 11:29 am ET|
WILMINGTON — A little rest can do a body good.
The Bruins resumed hockey activities this morning at Ristuccia Arena after taking Tuesday off to rest and recover after their grinding California road trip and quick turn-around Monday Martin Luther King, Jr. Day matinee loss to Ottawa. Wingman and leading scorer Marco Sturm was back on the ice after missing the Senators game but forwards Byron Bitz and Steve Begin were missing once again.
Sturm skated with Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi in yellow practice sweaters. The other lines for the day were: David Krejci, Blake Wheeler, Miroslav Satan (grey), Shawn Thornton, Milan Lucic and Vladimir Sobotka (red) and Daniel Paille, Trent Whitfield and Michael Ryder (white).
Adam McQuaid was recalled from Providence and was the seventh defenseman on the rink. The 23-year-old has skated in eight games for the Bruins this season without a goal or an assist with 14 penalty minutes.
UPDATE — Sturm ended up leaving the practice rink early. Head coach Claude Julien said that he will be questionable for tomorrow night’s game against Columbus.
|How The Bruins Broke The Slump||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 »
|Transcript: Claude Julien On Dale & Holley||10.01.09 at 3:45 pm ET|
Yes he will. He feels really good and he is excited about getting back in the lineup. I like what I saw from him this morning so there is no reason to hold him back.
Did last year’s deeper run into the playoffs help this team?
Well obviously, we are still hungry again. That is the one thing that we are and what’s unfortunate is that we talk about a Game 7 and overtime loss and also realized what that one goal could have done had it gone our way, who knows how far it would have brought us. We hopefully learned from that and came back obviously hungry. Expectations are a little higher for our club this year because of what he accomplished last year. But, the challegene is still there, I think the hungriness of trying to better is still there and I think it is up to us to go out there and show it.
The team won the Jennings Trophy for fewest goals allowed last year on the strength of Tim Thomas and your defensive philosophy. Is the team buying into the defensive philosophy this year as well?
Well it has been hard to assess that. Based on our training camp we never were able to get our team together. We had three games in three nights which made us carry about 35 players. I think we will get a better view of that now that our team is together and that starts tonight. I know for a fact that the players like it and they are very comfortable with it. It really eliminates a lot of grey areas. They were really proud of us being able to allow the fewest goals last year. So, what is it called, it’s the defense first approach. But the defense first approach means you do it well defensively, you recover the puck quicker and hopefully it results in a great offense, which it did last year for our hockey club.
Is it difficult to integrate new players, such as Derek Morris, into your system?
I wouldn’t say it is difficult but it is still an adjustment. You know, because in hockey, maybe a lot of people don’t see it, there is a very aggressive style of defense then there is a defense that tries that, I guess, keep teams to the outside. That’s what we do, try to keep teams to the outside and we that if we do that our goaltender is good enough that he will stop those shots. So, basically, it is sometimes about being a little more patient than about being aggressive. That’s what it has to be to adjust for a player like Derek Morris whose been used to playing a little bit more aggressive style. But, it is not a difficult one, but it is more of an adjustment.
We will see more defensemen getting in on the offensive act like we did last year? It seems to fit into the strengths of the defensemen this year.
Yeah it does and adding Derek Morris, who is probably a little bit more of an offensive defenseman if you compare him to Aaron Ward who was a stay at home defenseman who liked to block shots. Derek is a great puck moving defenseman who we will see on the power play as well. That will be one of it. The other part that we want to do better is our forechecks, sustaining it in the offensive zone and not retreating as quickly as we did last year and I think that’s what we got to do here is be a little bit more aggressive and stay on top of the puck more in the offensive zone and hopefully that will create a little bit or scoring chances for us as well.
Did you start to plan with life without Phil Kessel even before the trade was official, based on the information you had at the time?
Well I did and I will tell you why I did though, probably not for the reasons that you are talking about. We knew that if Phil Kessel had been here, he wasn’t going to be available to us till November. Even though David Krejci was ahead of the curve, Kessel wasn’t. He was basically a guy that was going to be ready when he was told he was going to be ready. So, we would have had to start without him for at least a month, maybe more. So, this was something that I had already planned on, preparing with our team without Phil Kessel in it.
Reading between the lines last year it seemed like there was tension with Kessel. Is that new to you, dealing with something like that in your career?
You would deal with that through your whole career. Players you have to convince to do stuff like that. But you know guys, it has maybe been blown out of proportion a little bit because it really wasn’t that big of an issue. I don’t think Phil and I butted heads last year. But then again, how could you when a guy is scoring 36 goals. I think he couldn’t have been happier, he went from 19 to 36. I think if there was a little bit of head butting it would have been the year before and the year before Phil was in a learning curve and we really wanted to mold him into a great player. I guess we had to earn his trust and really understand that we were trying to help him and not trying to punish him. And when he understood that concept I think that last year was much better and it has played out that way in the media and that is fine with me but I don’t think there were any issues with Phil. I don’t even remember bringing him into my office and having to read him the riot act, if that is what people are expecting to hear. But, he had a great season and he was a great player for us but unfortunately, like you said, he was one player we couldn’t afford anymore or he didn’t want to be here either and that was the front office’s decision and that is one I respect.
What are the strengths of David Krejci’s game and what is his upside?
David Krejci has got a lot of upside and part of that is he is a great playmaker. You know, we talked about Marc Savard being able to make some of those great plays well, David Krejci is in that area as well. I think he has great vision, he has got good hands, not only that but he is going to put points up on the board. He’s one of those guys that competes hard, he’s not afraid to get his nose dirty, as we call it in hockey. But, what I have seen from this player is that he keeps on getting better and better. He’s maturing and understanding the game more and more. What it takes to be a good pro and I think that’s what out organization liked about him.
|Sturm Will Be Counted On In Bruins Offense||09.29.09 at 10:43 am ET|
Before last year, it had been a while since the Hub of Hockey could say that its team was a legitimate offensive powerhouse in the National Hockey League. In 2006-07 the Bruins finished with 210 goals (2.56 per game), ranking them 25th in the league. The 2007-08 team was slightly worse, with 206 goals (2.51 per game), ranking 24th in the league, as Boston captured the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, due mostly to its tough, defensive-minded game plan.
Last season? The Northeast Division champions finished second in the league with 270 goals (3.29 per game) and regularly abused opposing goaltenders. They did so with a mixture of ascending youth (Phil Kessel, Blake Wheeler, Milan Lucic) and crafty veterans (Marc Savard, Zdeno Chara, Mark Recchi), finishing the campaign with astounding balance as seven players finished with more than 20 goals (six if you do not count Recchi’s 13 goals with the Tampa Bay Lightning before being acquired at the trade deadline). Chara and Lucic both came close to 20 (19 and 17, respectively).
It was all done without Marco Sturm.
The veteran wingman figured to be an important part of Boston’s goal-scoring mix going into last season, balancing the production between the proven producers and the aspiring young guns. Yet, because of injuries, Sturm’s force never materialized. He had been a staple in the the B’s scheme in those offensively challenged years (27 goals in each of 2006-07 and 2007-08) yet tallied only seven last year in 19 games before going down with a knee injury on Dec. 19 against Toronto. He went from the player kids idolized before the season with “The Perfect Sturm” posters to the quintessential Forgotten Man. One would be hard pressed to find many Sturm posters floating around TD Garden this time around.
Through the frustration of last season, Sturm stayed active with the team. It would have been easy to hide in the rehab room and disappear to the Land of The Lost, but he did not. He supported his teammates all year to the point where he actually designed the “Stay Hungry” hats that were the trademark of the Bruins’ postseason run. That is in the past, though. It is a new season, and Sturm is ready to go come opening night on Thursday against the Washington Capitals.
“It feels great. You know, it was a long time ago that I played to this crowd, so I really look forward to Thursday night and hopefully a good start,” Sturm said.
The big question for the Bruins this year is how to replace Kessel and his 36 goals after the young winger was traded to Toronto. The answer comes in a couple of variations, but it looks like Boston’s front office is counting on Sturm to make up for at least part of the slack. Mix the 31-year-old wingman with gains made by the young corps, and Boston probably will have the firepower to stay near the top of the league in the lamp-lighting category this year.
“We are confident with the team that we have here, no doubt,” coach Claude Julien said during media day on Monday at the TD Garden. “We have Marco Sturm back and healthy, so as a group we are a strong team. We feel stronger as well with some young guys having matured and Marco Sturm in.”
It appears that at the beginning of the year Sturm will be a direct fill-in for Kessel on the right wing of the first line with the Savard (center) and Lucic (left wing). Sturm plays a similar game to Kessel ‘ both are speedsters, have a good shot and have a nose for the back of the net. Savard is excited to give the pairing a shot.
“We lost Sturm all of last season and it looks like he is going to start on wing with us, so we are excited to have him,” Savard said. “He brings a ton of speed, like Kessel had, and he can finish when he has the opportunity. We are excited for that, we have a good mix and hopefully we can produce those goals that we are going to lose. It is going to have to come from a lot of people and I think we are capable.”
Sturm will have to earn it, though. No player on Julien-coached teams gets free passes for jobs well done in the past. The right wing spot is probably Sturm’s at the start, but as Julien said, “Nothing is carved in stone.”
“We’d certainly like, to a certain extent, put some speed again on that wing, and [Savard] is good at finding those guys so we will give [the speedsters] a try,” Julien said. “We are going to put the best lines together as we can possibly find and if that means tweaking them and moving them around, we will until we find the right combination. I think right now it is worth having a look at, and Marco has played the off wing before and he feels comfortable there. So, again, there is a guy who hasn’t played in a while, so we have to take that into consideration whether he’s on top of his game or whether he is trying to find it again.”
Make no mistake about it, there will be rust. Not many players in any sport can miss tw0-thirds of a season (as Sturm did last year with his 63 DNPs) and come straight out the next year as if nothing happened. NHL hockey, especially after the lockout and the new rules to open up the ice for skill players, is a flow game. Before going down last year, Sturm had lost his flow, probably due to his balky knee. Despite his plus-9 rating, it appeared that he was out of sync at times, either by making a bad pass or just being out of position.
It will be difficult, at least at the start, to come back as the same player he was in 2007-08. It is hard to get back into mental shape while in the workout room or during the summer. For that matter, Sturm has only played in two preseason games for the Bruins this year (with no goals and two assists). Not that it will stop him from trying to get in rhythm with Savard in the early going.
“You know, obviously with Savvy in the middle, playing on the right side I will have a lot of chances,” Sturm said. “He will give me the puck, so I have to use my speed, use my game, and the puck will come to me, I know that. So I just have to find the rhythm with him, and hopefully we click pretty soon.”
The Bruins feel that they have the talent to compete in the highest tier of the NHL this season and shoot for a Stanley Cup. If Sturm is on top of his game, they just may be right.