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Why the Bruins still fear Dennis Wideman 04.12.12 at 12:15 pm ET
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Dennis Wideman returns to Boston with the Capitals in the playoffs, and a point to prove. (AP)

Every Bruins fan remembers how ugly it ended for Dennis Wideman in Boston. Certainly, the talented defenseman does.

He was one of the scapegoats of the collapse against the Flyers in 2010 Eastern Conference semifinals.

He was the player fans came to the Garden to boo, expecting turnover after turnover, leading to scoring chance after scoring chance for the opposition. It wasn’t all bad as Wideman had back-to-back 13-goal seasons for the Bruins in 2008 and ’09, registering an impressive plus-32 on-ice rating in ’09. But the wheels fell off the next season. He had only six goals in 76 games and a minus-14. Things got even worse after a trade to Florida. He was minus-26 with nine goals in 61 games.

But look further and you see that Wideman can still do one thing – score on the power play. Eight of his nine goals with the Panthers came on the power play. In his two biggest productive years in Boston, he was instrumental on the power play with Zdeno Chara, scoring 15 goals.

But he’s been rejuvenated in Washington. He played in all 82 games this season for the Caps, with 11 goals and 35 assists and is on the No. 1 power play unit with Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and Mike Green. This year, he scored four of Washington’s 41 goals on the power play, accounting for 10 percent of the production.

So now, the offensive defenseman is in a fascinating position for revenge on all those who unleashed their venom on him. Wideman returns as one of the key cogs of the Capitals’ power play as Washington takes on Boston in the 2012 Eastern Conference quarterfinals.

“You would hope that when the player was here, we worked on making him a better player,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “He is a good player. I think he’s been a good player for years now. I know he had a tough outing here near the end but we still felt that when Dennis still here, we felt he was our best puck-moving defenseman at the time.”

As for his nightmarish 2010 end in Boston?

“He had a bit of tough year and all of sudden fans turned on him a little bit and it got a little bit out of control but he’s still a good player,” Julien said. “You just have to look at his stats this year and look what he does on their power play. He’s a still puck-mover, still a great offensive defenseman that has a lot of qualities to his game.”

Washington comes in after finishing 18th out of 30 teams on the power play this season, converting at a 16.7 percent clip.

“There’s got to be an element of respect there when you look at the players that they have on their power play. Now, Backstrom being back, who’s actually a pretty good playmaker, will certainly help their power play get better,” Julien said. “But they have the shooters, you know, Green and Wideman can shoot the puck well. Ovechkin as we know, Semin – they’ve got a lot of guys that can shoot the puck on that power play. We just need to respect that and continue to take our penalty kill as serious as we have in the past playoffs and continue to do a good job.”

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Bruins get Horton, Campbell for Wideman, picks 06.22.10 at 1:58 pm ET
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TSN’s Bob McKenzie has reported the Bruins have traded Dennis Wideman, the 15th overall pick in Friday’s NHL draft, and a 3rd-round pick in 2011 to the Panthers in exchange for forwards Nathan Horton and Gregory Campbell. A source told WEEI.com Sunday night that Horton expected to be traded and that the Bruins were close to acquiring him.

Nathan Horton and Gregory Campbell are coming to Boston. (AP)

Nathan Horton and Gregory Campbell are coming to Boston. (AP)

Horton, who was the third overall pick by the Panthers in ’03 and the answer to any draft-day trivia question involving Marc-Andre Fluery (he was the player the Panthers took after trading down two spots and giving the top pick to the Penguins), hasn’t put up numbers that scream “top pick” in his NHL career. He has had just one 30-goal season (31 in ’06-’07) and hasn’t totaled more than 62 points in any of his six seasons.

The Bruins will likely play Horton at right wing after he spent the last two seasons playing center for the Panthers. Perhaps a move back to his natural position will lead to improved offensive output.

The Panthers had been trying to unload Horton, who carries a $4 million cap hit in each of the next three seasons. In trading Wideman and his $3,937,500 cap hit, the deal comes off as a financial wash. Campbell is a restricted free agent after carrying an $800,000 cap hit last season. Additionally, by not taking a player with the 15th overall pick (or higher had they moved up), the Bruins won’t be committed to a performance bonus-laden contract. If the cap stays as $56.8 million the Bruins would currently have just under $5 million in cap space, not accounting for an estimated $3.75 cap hit for Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin.

Wideman was far from a fan favorite in Boston despite posting a plus-32 in the ’08-’09 season. Campbell, on the other hand is the son of NHL Director of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell. Should be an interesting exchange with Marc Savard on take-your-father-to-work day…

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Wideman’s season an odyssey 05.19.10 at 8:31 pm ET
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The roller coaster that the Bruins went through in 2009-10 was mirrored by one of their key players. It seemed as Dennis Wideman went, so went the Bruins and for a good stretch of the season Wideman was not going.

The defenseman played three less games than he did a year ago (79 to 76) but scored 20 less points, down to 30 from a career high of 50. When he is going good, Wideman can be an assist machine with his dangerous shot from the point, second only to probably Zdeno Chara in terms of effectiveness (Johnny Boychuk has Wideman beat in terms of pure power). He has never scored more than 13 goals in a season, not bad for most defenders especially considering the scheme that coach Claude Julien employs. Julien has been activating defensemen from the blue line in the last two years more often but the way the plays work is that it is usually from the off point that will crash the net while Wideman takes the shot. That makes for some nice helpers along the way but not always finding the back of the net.

After a decent start to the year, Wideman started having trouble after the Winter Classic. He registered a -12 and only four points between Jan. 1 and the Olympic break, with two of those points coming in the final game against Florida. It was no coincidence that the Bruins were absolutely wretched during that period. Wideman was a ghost on the ice except when he appeared just so he could turn the puck over at the blue line. Julien relies on his defense to get pucks at the net and play solid on the point and on the walls and Wideman was doing none of that.

“I think the last part of the season I played really hard, I played quite a bit better,” Wideman said. “The middle of the year got a little frustrating and I let it get to me a little bit too much. Going through a couple things and injuries and stuff like that and it just kind of compounded and lost some confidence and it took me a while to get it back.”

Wideman said that the injuries were not serious. A little bit of a shoulder tweak here, a wrist there. They bothered him but he said he did not miss any games because of them. Really, it was all about confidence, or lack thereof.

“Just some nagging stuff that I didn’t really talk about. Just some nagging stuff,” Wideman said. “I wasn’t really that just lost confidence and got completely frustrated with everything that was going on and had a problem rebounding. Then there was all the other stuff that was going on with throughout the year and just got frustrated and lost confidence.”

It was hard for the media to ignore Wideman in January because his play was just absolutely terrible. It came down to the point where Julien, who had mildly dissed to the media after practice one day, refused to answer any more questions on the defender or any other “specific questions on players.” That moratorium lasted all of one day as Julien ended up answering a question from this reporter about Trent Whitfield the next day, but the incident was the highlight of the low times for Wideman and the Bruins. For Wideman specifically, he knew things were going bad when the denizens of TD Garden started giving him the Bronx cheer.

“Probably the first game that I started to get booed there [was the worst],” Wideman said. “Around December at the end or something like that.”

Somewhere after the March 18 game against the Penguins, things started to pick up for Wideman. He still had a turnover problem but the hits were coming back (though he not known for his especially physical play) and observers could tell that he was more mentally in it when he started throwing his body around to block shots at the point. He picked up a couple points against Calgary in late March and ended up playing big minutes along with the other surviving defensemen when Dennis Seidenberg and Mark Stuart went down and Andrew Ference was still not healthy enough for games. Wideman’s confidence grew. He doesn’t know how, it just did.

“I don’t know, just played a couple good games and forget about the stuff that happened before and just build on it and build on it and a couple months stretch things just started to turn around,” Wideman said.

In the playoffs, Wideman was one of the Bruins top players. He blocked shots, he took shots, he moved the puck through the neutral zone. His signature play (which would have been more of a defining moment if the Bruins had one the game) was in Game 7 against the Flyers when he took a broken breakout, reset the rush himself and took the puck into the offensive zone, all the way down to the corner and centered it to Milan Lucic who was crashing the net for the goal and a 3-0 lead in the first period.

It was the last goal the Bruins scored all season.

Wideman ended the playoffs as almost a point per game player with 12 (a goal and 11 assists) in 13 games. He was a +3 though that number was higher before the Flyers comeback.

There are whispers that Wideman could be traded. That could be good for the Bruins, especially after the season he just had. But, when the good Wideman is around, the Bruins are definitely better. He knows he cannot control it but understands if that is the direction that Peter Chiarelli wants to go.

“I can’t control that. If he wanted to trade me then that is part of the game,” Wideman said. “It is never fun being traded, you want to stay with the team you are with, I love it here and I like Boston. I don’t want to but I can’t do anything about it if that is what the organization decides to do.”

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Savard triumphs in overtime to take Game 1 05.01.10 at 3:46 pm ET
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Marc Savard made a triumphant return, scoring the game-winning goal in overtime to lead the Bruins past the Flyers Saturday. (AP)

Marc Savard made a triumphant return, scoring the game-winning goal in overtime to lead the Bruins past the Flyers Saturday. (AP)

Summary — The Bruins and Flyers are off to the races in their Eastern Conference quarterfinals and it was Boston that came out a leg ahead in Game 1, taking it 5-4 in overtime on Saturday afternoon at TD Garden. Philadelphia came back from two down in the last ten minutes of the third period to send the game to extra time. Marc Savard scored the game-winner to clinch the series opener when he beat Brian Boucher in overtime. Tuukka Rask took the win with 32 saves while Boucher was the loser by allowing five goals on 46 shots.

There was bad news for the Boston right off the bat as forward Marco Sturm tried to check Matt Carle into the boards but Carle sidestepped and Sturm only registered a partial hit. As Sturm skated away he crumpled and fell in the slot and could not make it off the ice on his own and had to be assisted by trainers off the ice and down the tunnel.

Irony would then strike and so would the Bruins. Steve Begin, who took Sturm’s spot on line with with Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi, scored his first career playoff (in 30 appearances) goal at 2:39 when he caught a loose puck off attempts from Recchi and Bergeron on the right side of Boucher’s crease and snapped it top shelf for the early lead. It was only the second time in the playoffs (though second straight game) where the Bruins have scored the first goal of the game.

The Bruins would make it 2-0 at 12:54 on a quick snap-bang-slam play between Bergeron and Dennis Wideman. Bergeron won a face off to the stick of Wideman at the point and the center went straight to the net as Wideman wound up and put a slap shot on Boucher’s pads. The puck bounced up and Bergeron put it behind the goaltender for his second point of the game and third goal of the playoffs.

The Flyers cut into the lead at when Ryan Parent found the puck idling up the high slot after Mike Richards and Arron Asham put pressure on Rask at 7:38 of the second period. Parent skated in with a full head of steam and got every piece of it to send it screaming through traffic in front and rattle around the back of the net to make it 2-1.

But Boston insisted on keeping its two-goal advantage and used the power play to its advantage (Mike Richards, Daniel Carcillo and Marc Savard all for roughing at 9:58) when Johnny Boychuk hit a liner from the point that deflected off of defenseman Braydon Coburn’s skate straight onto the stick of Miroslav Satan on the right dot for the put back and a 3-1 lead at 11:43 in the second period.

Philadelphia gradually shook off the rust from its long layoff between series as the game went along and kept itself in the game and the Flyers finally broke down the Bruins penalty kill late in the second. Chris Pronger was the culprit as the puck was cycled to him in the high slot and he skated over to the right point and took a seeing-eye slap shot that went through Rask’s pads to make it 3-2 at 15:58. It was the first power play goal the Bruins had allowed all postseason through 21 opportunities.

David Krejci put Boston back up by two goals at 7:25 in the third when a shot by Satan got through traffic in front of the net and slipped through to crease level where the center could wait for Boucher to commit, which he did on Krejci’s second fake, and put it in the corner passed the goaltenders skate to make it 4-2.

Philadelphia stormed back with two goals four minutes apart in the back half of the third period. The first was a rebound put back by Richards at 12:37 to cut the Bruins momentum and keep the Flyers hanging around long enough to make it a contest. The strike would prove pivotal as Danny Briere tied the game at 16:38 when he took the puck straight down the middle of the ice, through the neutral zone and high slot and split Wideman and Matt Hunwick in half to shoot, rebound and score on Rask to knot it at four goals apiece.

Three Stars

Marc Savard– Had the game-winner in overtime.

Patrice Bergeron — Boston’s biggest engine propelled the team to a hot start with a goal and an assist in the first period and another in overtime giving him seven points (three goals, four assists) through seven playoff games.

Mike Richards — The Flyers’ captain had two assists and a goal as Philadelphia kept up with the Boston attack.

Turning Point –  Briere torched Matt Hunwick and Wideman by skating straight down the ice, through the slot and put a shot on Rask, picked up the rebound and put in in the net without ever really slowing down to tie the game at four at 16:42 in the third to bring the Flyers back from what seemed a certain defeat in the opening game of the series and eventually send the game to overtime.

Key Play – Savard scored the game-winner in overtime when he found the puck on the right circle and whipped it with vigor at Boucher who had little chance at the screamer that sent TD Garden into a riot.

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Lucic: ‘Last year we kind of looked past the second round’ 04.28.10 at 2:01 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — Milan Lucic and the Bruins are in the Eastern Conference semifinals for the second year in a row, and this time around they want to make sure they leave their mark, no matter which team they end up facing. If Washington beats Montreal Wednesday night, the Bruins will start the playoffs on Friday in Pittsburgh and play Game 2 on Sunday at Mellon Arena. If the Canadiens can pull off the upset, the Flyers will travel to Boston this weekend, though the official schedule has not been announced for that potential matchup.

Last year the Bruins had 10 days off between their first-round sweep of the Canadiens and the start of the semifinals against the Hurricanes. Coach Claude Julien admitted on Wednesday that Boston had definitely lost its playoff frame of mind and it took until basically Game 5 after the Bruins had fallen behind in the series 3-1 to get the edge back.

“There is no doubt that that will obviously help but what I mean by that is that we allowed ourselves to slip out of the playoff mode because we had so much time off and as hard as we might have tried as a coaching staff to give some days off and some practice,” Julien said. “It is almost the frame of mind has to be there and everybody’s mind needs to be in the right place. Ten days is a lot, no matter who you are, so it took us a while to get our game back and it was a little too late, obviously. We had to scramble back from it so, hopefully this short break is just the right time and from what I see our players are still enthusiastic and get excited about going on to the next round.”

Defenseman Dennis Wideman agreed that the Bruins did not deal with the long layoff as well as they could have.

“I think last year we had so much time off that we got into a mode that we lost some intensity and we didn’t carry over the intensity and the drive from the first round into the second because we just didn’t deal with the layoff well,” he said.

Yet last year the Bruins almost seemed like they could be a team of destiny. They rolled through the regular season with the No. 1 seed in the conference and Lucic said the team was guilty of the biggest of playoff sins — looking ahead.

“I think you can’t look too far ahead of yourself,” Lucic said. “Last year we were thinking too much ‘Stanley Cup finals, Stanley Cup finals, Eastern Conference finals,’ you know. Last year we kind of looked past the second round and the Carolina Hurricanes, and we will not make that same mistake again.”

Center Patrice Bergeron, who has grown into a definitive, if quiet, leader of the Bruins over the past year or so, said that since the Bruins did not face much adversity through the regular season and first round of the playoffs last year that perhaps they did not handle the tough times as well as they could have against Carolina.

“I guess it has changed that we have to work for every inch just a little bit more, and last year everything was going right in the regular season that when we faced a little adversity, maybe we weren’t expecting it as much,” Bergeron said. “I think we have faced a enough this year that we can handle it a little bit better maybe.”

Bergeron said that there are even lessons to be learned from the Buffalo series this year, as Boston had a 3-1 series advantage and the Sabres came out and won Game 5 decisively to send it back to Boston with a chance to force a Game 7 back in Buffalo. Last year the Bruins rolled over Montreal. Yes, it was a physical and emotional series (especially considering the seven-game drama in the quarterfinals in 2008) but the Bruins were never in doubt of losing that series whereas there were times against the Sabres when it looked like they were dancing on the edge of a knife.

“Well, we have experience,” Bergeron said. “This will be my second time in the second round and we are aware of the intensity increasing more again. You can see from the first round of the playoffs that it gets harder, and now that it is the second round it is even higher and it is not over until that fourth game is won. Like in the last series we were up 3-1 and they came up with a big win.”

Lucic has been the type of player who comes up big on the biggest of stages. When he was in juniors he  played on two Canadian Hockey League Memorial Cup teams with the Vancouver Giants, and he said that the pressure from being on that big stage at a young age was not incredibly different from what he has faced in the NHL playoffs.

“Obviously with it being a higher level it goes up another notch,” he said. “Playing in the Memorial Cup a couple of times, that is a lot of pressure to deal with at a young age. It is similar, pretty much the same as that, for sure. I was lucky enough to win two championships in juniors and learn and have that experience a little bit in junior to know what it takes to win. Like I said, you don’t look too far ahead and that you just take everything one game at a time, and that is the approach that I always have taken from my first NHL playoff game to the next one coming up.”

Read More: Claude Julien, Dennis Wideman, Milan Lucic, Patrice Bergeron Print  |  Email   | Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
Inside the Bruins locker room 04.27.10 at 3:27 am ET
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The Bruins react to their quarterfinal series victory over the Buffalo Sabres.

Read More: David Krejci, Dennis Wideman, Milan Lucic, Miroslav Satan Print  |  Email   | Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
Bruins slam the door on the Sabres 04.26.10 at 9:40 pm ET
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Summary — For the second straight season the Boston Bruins are headed to the Eastern Conference semifinals as they closed out their series against the Sabres with a 4-3 win at TD Garden on Monday night. Tuukka Rask earned the first series-clinching victory of his young career with 27 of saves while Ryan Miller was the loser, allowing four goals on 32 Boston shots.

The Bruins got on the board first with their fifth power play strike of the series. Mark Recchi shot from the right wing with David Krejci in the slot, slightly off-center from Miller. Krejci got enough stick on the puck to change its direction ever so slightly but enough to get it into the net for his second of the series at 13:39. It was the first time in the series that Boston scored the first goal of the game and entered the second period with a lead.

The Bruins took a two-goal lead early in the second period, again on the power play, this time a 4-on-3 with Zdeno Chara, Tim Connolly and Henrik Tallinder in the box. Krejci and Recchi were the culprits again, this time switched around as Krejci used the extra space to pick apart the Sabres triangle defense with a cross through the slot to Recchi on Miller’s doorstep for the pop in goal at 1:01.

The Sabres got one back in second period when an aggressive forecheck led to a couple snap passes to Patrick Kaleta wide open in front of Rask. Kaleta flipped it up and Rask had no chance to make it a 2-1 game at 6:34. The strike was Kaleta’s first of the series.

The teams traded goals within a minute of each other midway through the third period. The first was scored by Krejci on a snap shot to the side of Miller’s crease after receiving the puck from behind the goal line at 7:18. Former Boston College product Nathan Gerbe kept Buffalo’s playoff dream alive by bringing the Sabres back within a goal at 7:40 for his first career playoff strike.

Miroslav Satan got the goal back at 14:49 with his second of the playoffs when he beat Miller off a centering pass from Dennis Wideman that deflected off Milan Lucic as he passed through the crease. Thomas Vanek then brought the Sabres back yet again as Buffalo operated for the last two minutes with an empty net. He beat Rask at 18:47 to push the action to the final seconds of the game.

Three Stars

David Krejci — Opened the scoring with a tip goal passed Miller and put the helped on the second with a zip pass to set up Recchi. He added the game-winner in the third to cap his three-point night.

Mark Recchi — The veteran forward registered his 75th career postseason assist in the first period and scored his third goal of the series in the second. The strike was the 53rd of his playoff career.

Milan Lucic — Got two big assists in the third period for his first playoff points of the year in the Bruins biggest game of the year.

Turning Point – Krejci’s second goal of the game gave the Bruins a cushion that would prove essential as Gerbe brought the Sabres back within a goal 22-seconds later. The puck was pushed from behind the goal line by Milan Lucic to Krejci on the elbow of Miller’s crease for the snap shot goal at 7:18. Gerbe’s goal was unassisted after taking the puck off the half wall and turning with a whipcord to go far side on Rask to keep the Sabres playoff hopes alive.

Key Play – Satan’s goal sealed it as he crashed the net to put a Dennis Wideman centering pass into the net at 14:41 of the third. Lucic had cleared the way for the puck as he passed through the crease moments before and deflected the pass slightly to earn the primary assist on the play, his second of the period.

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