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Sturm Will Be Counted On In Bruins Offense 09.29.09 at 10:43 am ET
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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.

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Transcript: Bruins Media Day Press Conference 09.28.09 at 9:28 pm ET
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The Boston Bruins held their pre-season media today this morning. The session started with a press conference panel of owner Jeremy Jacobs, principal owner Charlie Jacobs, head coach Claude Julien, general manager Peter Chiarelli, and vice president Cam Neely. The transcript from the press conference is below.

Pressure to live up to last year’s 116 points within the sports culture of Boston?

Jeremy Jacobs: Simple answer? Yes. There is an expectation on my part and the community at large. I share the same goal, my ambition is to win a Stanley Cup and I think we have the personalities in place from management, coaching and players. So, I look for a great season and will be disappointed if there is anything less than that.

How impressed are you with the brain trust that has been put together in the front office? 

Jeremy Jacobs: I think he [Peter Chiarelli] has done a great job. We’ve extended our relationship and our contract and I expect that we are building on something. Every body here [the media] are all totally and justifiably critical when we stumbled at first but we got it going and stayed with it and I think the organization is working really well and I think there are personalities in place to run it.

On sending Brad Marchand and Zach Hamill down and the depth of the organization.

Chiarelli: I think both of them have had tremendous camps and I told Zach this morning that, we had talked about him playing at the rookie tournament and when some of the other guys just didn’t play. That was good thing that he did, you could see it in how he played in the main camp. I said that most importantly it was the work he did in the development camp, the summer camp, so you have to build on it when you go down to Providence. I told him he had a good camp. I told him he has to work on his battles when he goes down low and I thought the speed caught up to him a little bit at the end.

When I talked to Brad I told him that he had a very good camp and that he was on the right track and while his game is always simple, sometimes down in Providence it tended to get a little complicated and we tried to fix that and he tried to fix it during the camp. So, two young kids, both speak well for the future.

Those guys and the guys we assigned down on Saturday. I like our depth here. It is in different sorts, it’s not just a finesse player here or something but players that can fill in different capacities. 

On health situation at the start of the year.

Chiarelli: As of today, I haven’t talked to the training staff, but as of today I believe we will be pretty healthy at the start of the year unless something were to happen between now and then. You hear of a lot of these teams with groins and hips and, you know, it was a condensed training camp this year and we had maybe one more game than maybe we wanted to. So, I think Claude [Julien] can speak to this, but I think the off day yesterday was good and I think we will get some productive work in between now and the start of the year.

On having first five games at home.

Julien: Well, first of all I think the first part of the season is probably more important no matter whether you are on the home or on the road than most people think and it’s been brought to our attention every year that teams in good shape on Thanksgiving are usually the teams that end up in the playoffs. So, we are aware of that and the important-cy of getting off to a good start but even more so this year in front of our fans. No doubt the first five games in front of our fans will be crucial in their minds.

Filling Phil Kessel’s Shoes.

Julien: We are confident with the team that we have here, no doubt. We have Marco Sturm back and healthy so, as a group we are a strong team. We fell stronger as well with some young guys having matured and Marco Sturm in as I mentioned he was out most of last year. David Krejci is ahead of the curve right now and we’re hopefully looking forward to seeing him in the opener. All in all I think our team is in great shape. Tuuka Rask is going to be a great goaltender to support Tim [Thomas].

We’re very confident and I think this Kessel issue for us is in the past and we’re moving forward. 

Addition of ECHL Redding team helping the organization.

Chiarelli: We will providing some players there as those who won’t be on Providence. So, anytime you can expand your organization depth wise it’s going to help in the long run. I think we are probably going to provide two or three players there, so, it is a good addition. The last few years we have had east coast affiliates and I think they are affiliated with a couple other teams so they have good staff there and good for the development of our young guys.

On what the race for the conference will look like.

Julien: I am not one to look at these situations as a whole and just sit there and say that we have to be at the top. I think we have to work our way to the top, just like we did last year. There is nothing different except that the challenge will be bigger. There is more respect towards our team this year so obviously there are teams around our conference who are certainly improved. Philadelphia is one of those teams with [Chris] Pronger on the back end, they are certainly going to be a better team. I don’t think I am going to spend all my energy worrying about what’s on the outside. I think it’s important to worry about your back yard and for me it is about the preparation of our team. I have said all along that if teams want to beat us, they are going to have to adapt to us, because we are not going to adapt to others. We play our style of game and we feel confident with it and we will go forward with it as well.

Patrice Bergeron has an extra bounce to his skates this pre-season?

Julien: I think Patrice has taken off where he left off last year. You know, he went through a lot and we were patient and helped him along the way to find his game again but what he went through is something that you don’t want to see again and I think he had a great second half and even the playoffs. I have mentioned that before, he was one of our best forwards in the series. I think he was excited about it when he left here last year and is excited about coming back and I think that is a continuation of what you saw last year.

For someone who has played in the finals twice, what does this team need to do to reach that mark?

Neely: We just need to learn from last year. As a player you learn from the experiences you go through. I think when we got to the finals in 1988 it was the first time for a lot of us to be in the finals and I think a lot of us, including myself, were thrilled to be in the finals. Then, in ’90, we understood what happened in ’88 and we don’t look at it like we are excited to be in the finals. You have to remember two years ago, for a lot of our players it was their first time being in the playoffs and a lot of our key players, it was the first time for them. So, the learned from that series and took it a little bit further last year and what I always have these guys try to remember is how it felt to win those games and how it felt to lose that final game and you can learn from that. I think we have a lot of guys that know we should have gone a little deeper than we did and I think they’re hungry to get back to that challenge to go a little deeper.

Will the team be actively searching the waiver wire as the league wide roster cut deadline looms? 

Chiarelli: Waiver acquisition that we’d look at? You basically react to that. You have a general idea of who is going to be on and we will look at who is on today. We will see who is up there and I suspect we will see some activity as far as trading players, for teams that are under cap crunches. So, I will be fielding some calls but I don’t anticipate anything happening.

On Versus and Direct TV customers not seeing opening night.

Jeremy Jacobs: I think you are right, it doesn’t look good. The commissioner and everybody in the league office is doing what they can do but the situation is not within our control. We know how unhappy the whole hockey world is. I think the best thing is that everybody should be put on notice that if they want to watch our game with what the circumstances are, if they want to watch our game get to a location where they can see it from. Right now it does not look good to be broadcast. They are moving at glacial speed.

Giving Sturm a try out on the top line with Savard considering how the speedy Kessel played there. 

Julien: We’d certainly like, to a certain extent, put some speed again on that wing and Marc is good at finding those guys so we will give those guys a try. Like I mentioned through training camp there is nothing carved in stone. 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 as well 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.

With the stable situations in the front office and on the ice, what are the tweaking points that could be made during the season?

Chiarelli: Structurally I do not foresee anything. I mean, we always exchange ideas and philosophies where we hope to improve the communication between the management, the coaching staff and the team. We always look to improve. I can’t tell you anything that we haven’t told you already, I know there are some themes that Claude and I have talked about that we want to impress on the team all year. Besides that, I am happy where we are at. We always look to improve but there will nothing really significant from within the management group.

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Krejci: I’ll be a ‘game day’ decision for Oct. 1 opener 09.24.09 at 1:50 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — David Krejci had one of his best practices of the preseason on Thursday afternoon at Ristuccia Arena, and said afterward that he’ll likely be a “game day” decision for the Oct. 1 NHL regular season opener against the Washington Capitals at the TD Garden. The 23-year-old center said that crossing over to the right side remains the biggest area of difficulty he’s experiencing while taking part in a full practice workload, but he’s well ahead of the curve after undergoing surgery on his right hip last spring.

“I think the chances of me playing are a little better. Much better actually. But you know it’s going to be, I guess, a ‘game day’ decision. It’s going to be really close,” said Krejci, who less than two weeks ago said there was a 10 percent chance he’d ready for the season opener. “The doctors said it was going to be 4-6 months, and next week it’ll be four months. So I believe all summer I only took two weeks off when I went back home. I worked really hard to try and get back into shape. The doctors said it’s a good thing I didn’t take any days off, and it’s made the process faster.”

The Bruins clearly aren’t going to push Krejci out onto the ice before he’s ready, and B’s coach Claude Julien has stressed that the young center won’t see game action until he’s 100 percent ready and cleared by the training staff. That being said, the B’s bench boss won’t hesitate to throw his No. 2 center back out onto the ice against the Caps if he’s healthy enough to play.

Krejci hasn’t been restricted from anything during practice over the last week, and Julien said the only thing missing from Krejci’s is that short, confident skating burst that comes only with a clean bill of health in his right hip.

“We’ll just have to wait and see about Krejci,” said Julien. “He’s ahead of schedule and that bodes well. When last season ended we figured we’d be without him for a month to a month-and-a-half to start the season, and that was the diagnosis for his recovery.

“Now things are going well. We are talking about right now ’if’ Krejci can start the season. You don’t work all summer and go through all of training camp, and then think about taking a risk (with Krejci) by putting him in early. That for sure won’t happen. When he goes in it’ll be when we’re really confident that he’s feeling good.”

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High Expectations At ‘State Of The Bruins’ 09.17.09 at 10:55 pm ET
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Bruins Town Hall Meeting

David Krejci models the Bruins' Winter Classic uniform Thursday night at the TD Garden.

Bruins hockey used to be the sport in Boston. Before the Celtics dynasty, Red Sox fever and Patriots Super Bowl runs, the spoked-B was the name of the game in the Hub.

Perhaps it’s on its way to being so again.

About 2,700 showed up at TD Garden Thursday night for the “State of the Bruins” town hall forum, where season ticket holders were allowed to hold court directly with Bruins owners, management and players. The forum panel consisted of coach Claude Julien, general manager Peter Chiarelli, vice president Cam Neely, owner Jeremy Jacobs and his son, principal owner Charlie Jacobs. Along for the ride were Bruins stalwarts Milan Lucic and Patrice Bergeron as well as new defenseman Derek Morris.

The theme of the night?

High expectations.

Before the start of the forum, a three-minute video was played on the Garden scoreboard of the 2008-09 Bruins squad that won the Northeast division, the regular-season Eastern Conference crown and a playoff series for the first time in 10 years. It is just a taste of what Hub hockey fans have been craving, and the men on the stage Thursday evening could not agree more.

“We have higher expectations. But that is what we want, high expectations,” Neely said during the discussion.

Bergeron expressed that last season was left with some “unfinished business” while Chiarelli said it had a “hollow feeling.” The Bruins want to drive toward a Stanley Cup and the fans, if the attendance Thursday night was any indicator, will push them hard all year to quench that thirst for success.

“The message I got from just about everybody in management, and I share, is that we have higher expectations this year and we want to deliver,” Charlie Jacobs said.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Julien: ‘pretty sure that Savard is 100 percent’ at 2:11 pm ET
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Marc Savard has yet to appear in either of the first two preseason Bruins games, but B’s coach Claude Julien declared the No. 1 center as 100 percent after battling through a left knee issue in the first few days of training camp. Julien wouldn’t say when Savard will appear in a preseason game — the B’s play Saturday afternoon at home against the Rangers and Sunday night against the Canadiens in Quebec City — but confirmed that it’s now a coaching decision rather than a choice left up to the trainers.

Savard said that part of his goal heading into this season was to shed a few pounds and be a bit lighter and quicker on his skates, and he underwent a long-distance running and sprinting program that saw him run 4-6 miles four or five days a week. Warning bells were sounded when Savard needed to leave the ice early on the first day of training camp due to a little knee soreness, but the reports of it being anything serious were greatly exaggerated. 

“It’s just one of those maintenance things because I’ve  been skating hard on it,” said Savard of the left knee. “I want to get in (to a game). There’s always things in the real games that you can’t do in practice.”

The center has looked sleeker on the frozen sheet, certainly, but perhaps all of the hard work caused a little of the left knee discomfort at the beginning of camp. Either way, both Savard and Julien say that the 32-year-old center is ready to drop into game action at this point in training camp.

Savard’s motivation is a good thing to hear at this point in camp, and there shouldn’t any shortage of reasons for the playmaking center to come up with his best season as a Bruins player. He’s in a contract year with his four-year, $20 million set to expire after this season, and he’s already put it out there that this campaign is a resume tape of sorts for the Team Canada Olympic decision-makers this fall.

“We’ll see what kind of lineup I decide on,” said Julien of Savard’s chances of playing this weekend. “I don’t think it’s for any other reason than me picking out my lineup. It’s a choice of mine more than anything else. In Savvy’s case, I’m pretty sure he’s 100 percent. So it’s just a matter of when we decide to put him in.”

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Voice of the Bruins passes away at 90 09.15.09 at 4:59 pm ET
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Fred Cusick, the radio and television play-by-play voice for generations of Bruins fans, passed away according to a Tuesday afternoon report from the Boston Globe. Cusick was on tap to be inducted into the Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame on Wednesday night, and will be inducted posthumously.

The longtime announcer was perhaps best known for his trademark “Score!” call after Bruins goals throughout his 45-year association with the B’s. Cusick was the radio voice of the B’s from 1952-1970, and then moved over to the television side where he continued as play-by-play man until the conclusion of the 1997 season.

A large group of B’s officials shared their feelings on a day of mourning and remembrance for Black and Gold fans everywhere:

Principal Charlie Jacobs:
On behalf of the entire Bruins organization I’d like to extend my deepest sympathies to Fred’s family. For 45-years, half his life, Fred was the voice of the Boston Bruins. His memory will certainly live on in the hearts and minds of all Bruins fans, as one cannot recall some of the greatest moments in the history of this club without hearing his voice.

Senior Advisor to the Owner Harry Sinden:
What he was, was a Bruin. He was absolutely an admired, respected and beloved member of the Bruins family for many years. He is a huge, huge part of Bruins history. There’s no doubt of the impact he had on the
broadcasting of hockey. He was a pioneer and the way hockey games are broadcast really originated with Fred. A lot of the camera work that they use was at his suggestion. He had a number of ideas that he brought in and they still use.

Vice President Cam Neely:
It’s always a sad day when you lose a member of the Bruins family. Fred was one of the best play-by-play announcers in the business and he’ll always be remembered for his voice and 45-year career with the Bruins. On behalf of all the players whose names that Fred announced, I would like to send my condolences to Fred’s family. I hope that they can find some solace in knowing how much we respected Fred, and that we will always consider him part of the Bruins family.

Hall of Famer John Bucyk:
I’m terribly sad to hear about Fred. He was a great broadcaster and we spent a lot of years together, with him broadcasting our games when I played and then working with him in the booth. He is going to be dearly missed.

Current Bruins Play-by-Play Announcer on NESN Jack Edwards:
Those fortunate enough to inherit the position Fred Cusick created are merely playing on the land he cleared. None of us ever will have the impact he had in generating the fan base for this team. Fred was passionate and willing to share how much the game thrilled him every night, and he drew us in with those qualities. We have lost a great pioneer.

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Krejci says ’10 percent’ chance he’ll be ready for season opener 09.14.09 at 12:45 pm ET
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David Krejci termed himself doubtful for the Bruins season opening game against the Washington Capitals on Oct. 1 while discussing his recovery from right hip surgery on Monday morning. Krejci skated with the rest of his teammates for the first time during training camp, and spent nearly an hour on the TD Garden ice Monday morning.

The pivot said that the only time he still feels pain is when he crosses over on the right side. While the playmaking center still harbors a great deal of desire to be ready for the beginning of the season, he labeled it a “10 percent chance” that he’ll be ready to go when the puck drops on the NHL season.

“If I didn’t feel any pain then I’d be 100 percent and ready to play,” said Krejci. “I feel pretty good when I skate straight or when I cross over on the left side. When I cross over on the right side that hurts. It feels like it hasn’t healed yet.

“What do we have 17 days? Two-and-a-half weeks? I don’t know. I’ll say there might a little chance. Not a big one, but maybe a little one. I’d say…I don’t know, 10 percent. I can’t say there’s zero percent because I feel pretty good in the ice, and I don’t know how I’m going to feel one week from now.”

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