|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.
|Recchi strikes for first period lead||02.04.10 at 7:45 pm ET|
Neither the Bruins nor the Canadiens looked sharp in the early minutes of the first period at TD Garden. Boston had a couple power play opportunities in period when Brian Gionta went to the box at the :46 mark for hooking and then again when Jaroslav Spacek took an interference call at 9:13. The Bruins tied-17th ranked power play unit could not muster much against Habs goaltender Jaroslav Halak or the Montreal defense.
Boston looked a little tight in the early going and had trouble in making crisp passes out of its defensive zone. The Canadiens were up to the challenge though as they looked equally inept at sustaining offensive pressure and only managed to put five shots on Tuukka Rask.
As the period wore on, Boston was able to start asserting itself more and the defense clamped down and the offense started to put pucks on Halak.
Montreal continued to rack up penalty minutes and it eventually cost it a goal at 15:48 when Andre Markov went to the box for a delay of game. The Bruins set up their power play offense and Derek Morris was able to move the defense by sliding down the right wing before cycling back up to Dennis Wideman at the point. Wideman had plenty of time and space and released a slap shot towards the goal that deflected of Mark Recchi past Halak for the 1-0 lead.
First period shots:
Boston - 15
Montreal – 5
|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.”
|B’s pregame notes versus Oilers||10.31.09 at 11:24 am ET|
Here are a few quick tidbits to get everyone ready for the Saturday afternoon matinee between the Bruins and the Edmonton Oilers. The Oil are coming off a wild 6-5 shootout win over the Detroit Red Wings Thursday night and Dustin Penner already has five multi-point games this season. The key to Penner’s turnaround: dropping some extra weight this summer and shedding the doghouse he was locked in under former Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish.
–B’s defenseman Dennis Wideman is scoreless in his last five games, but played pretty solidly against the New Jersey Devils Thursday night. He’s a candidate for a breakout game against Edmonton.
–Michael Ryder will be playing in his 400th career game with the Bruins Saturday afternoon.
–Saturday afternoon’s tilt against the Western Conference Oilers touches off a 15 games in 29 days stretch thanks to the Winter Olympics-ified NHL schedule, and hands the B’s a pretty hefty challenge that will slowly gnaw away at their roster depth. The key, according to head coach coach Claude Julien, is building some momentum along the way. That momentum starts on Saturday afternoon, when the Bruins go on a mini-stretch of fives games in eight days.
“You’ve got to build some consistency and some momentum. You hope that you stay healthy through this stuff,” said Julien. “As a coaching staff, we need to know when to push on the gas pedal and when to back off. We need to make sure we keep getting better. We’ve had our rest. We’ve had our days. We need to make sure that when it comes time for game time that we’re ready to go.”
–No word yet on the starting goaltender, but it wouldn’t be a shock to see Tuukka Rask get the start after Tim Thomas started five of the last six games.
–A few trends with the Oilers: Edmonton is 1-3 overall on the road this season and sits at 1-4 when they allow the first goal in games this season.
–Penner is coming off a one goal, three assist performance against the Wings Thursday night and is averaging nearly two points a game with 7 goals, 9 assists in his last nine games.
|Injured Wideman not making the road trip||10.15.09 at 12:06 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Dennis Wideman didn’t practice on Thursday afternoon and will miss the two-game road trip through Dallas and Phoenix this weekend while recovering from a left shoulder injury suffered last Saturday against the Islanders. B’s coach Claude Julien confirmed that Wideman is out for at least the next two games, but said that “as we speak” the club didn’t have any plans to bring up reinforcements from Providence to replace the felled blueliner.
That could change, but — either way — the B’s will certainly miss the puck-moving defenseman that plays upwards of 25 minutes per game when healthy.
“He’s obviously getting better, but not good enough to make the trip,” said Julien. “He’s going to skate here [in the Boston area] this weekend, and we project that he’ll be back for the games after the weekend.
“The one thing Dennis brings to the team when he’s on his game is that he’s a great puck-moving defenseman. I don’t think we can say he’s a real physical defenseman because that’s not his makeup. But he can move the puck well and he’s great on the power play. I would just say you’re missing a pretty good defenseman.”
If the B’s do opt to pull out of the Providence farm as they prepare for a pair of home dates at the Dunk this weekend, sturdy defenseman Andy Wozniewksi and winger/center Vladimir Sobotka would be the players most likely to travel with the team to Big ‘D’. Certainly it would be safter to add another extra healthy body in case another player hits the injury ward against the Stars, and avoid potentially playing short-handed against the Desert Dogs.
|Sturm back to his natural left wing spot||10.14.09 at 2:07 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Marco Sturm admitted that there wasn’t much “comfort” in playing his off-wing on the right side over the Bruins first five games.
“[The left] is where I played the last five or six years, but I can go either way,” said Sturm. “I don’t know if it was comfort [on the right]. It was different. But we’ll see if we go on the left side and I notice a big change.”
The unfamiliar spot on the right wing didn’t stop Sturm from scoring a pair of goals and showing up as one of Boston’s best forwards right from first puck drop. A long spring-into-summer rehab from left knee surgery and an abbreviated preseason schedule due to groin problems did nothing to derail the German forward from starting the season healthy and strong.
So the Bruins slipped in a slight change at Wednesday morning’s practice, and effectively rewarded Sturm by shifting him back over to his natural left wing position on the B’s top line along with center Marc Savard. Michael Ryder was moved to the right wing spot on Savard’s right, and the playmaking center now has legit scorers on either side of him. Milan Lucic was “dropped” to second line left wing along with David Krejci and Blake Wheeler – a move that also allows Wheeler to switch back over to his strong side on the right.
It may not be an indictment of how Lucic has played in the early going, but it’s certainly a bit of a reward carrot for the strong, willful hockey displayed by both Ryder and Sturm through the last few games.
“It’s just a tweak. Never a bad thing just to see if it will help,” said Julien. “Maybe shake some things up, get some attention and spark something up. I don’t think it’s directed at anybody necessarily, except getting the best possible four line combinations.
“I think Lucic has had real good success with Krejci before, and they work really well together when he’s been on that line in the past. With Michael up there, when you look back at the last game I thought he was a really decent player. When he works hard he creates chances, and when he works hard he’s strong on the puck. Sturmy with his speed and with Savvy, you hope something will come out of that.”
Sturm certainly performed satisfactorly at right wing and had the confidence of the coaching staff on his off-side, but also couldn’t hold a smile in at the thought of moving back into his natural wing position. The 31-year-old forward has been one of the few Bruins ”feel good” stories while bouncing back strongly from knee surgery. Some players need a year to regain their skating speed after going under the knife, and — because of the January surgery date for Sturm’s surgery — he’s already approaching that milestone just a few months into the season.
That means little-to-no-speed lost and no residual rust on Sturm’s game despite all the reasons in the world for it to be holding him back. Sturm has even surprised himself with his level of play in the early going after being away from the game for a lengthy period of time.
“I’m feeling great so far,” said Sturm. “I’m really happy with the way I’ve started. It’s better than I expected. I had a rough preseason and even when I came [to camp] I felt okay – but I knew I wasn’t there yet. But it came pretty quickly. I’m really happy about that.”
*Julien also noted some enlightening video sessions with some of his players over the last couple of days, and perhaps a few light bulb moments with a host of Bruins skaters that simply weren’t putting in a full day’s work on the ice. Some members of the B’s dressing are fond of saying that there are no passengers on the Bruins’ bus, and any unwanted passengers were put on notice up on the video screen by their Jack Adams trophy-winning coach.
“Some guys are trying to do too much. Some guys aren’t doing enough,” said Julien. “It doesn’t mean those guys that aren’t doing enough think that they’re not doing enough. That’s why you show those guys video, and — like anybody else and I know I’m that way – it’s a lot clearer when you see it.
“I know there are a lot of guys that walk out of there wide-eyed and say ‘Wow, I didn’t know how bad I was’ or ‘I didn’t know that I wasn’t working that hard.’ So now you’ve got their attention.”
*Dennis Wideman didn’t practice with the team Wednesday and remains “day to day” with a left shoulder injury, according to Julien. There’s been no determination made about his availability for the weekend road trip to Dallas and Phoenix, but he shouldn’t miss more than a maximum of those two road games. If Wideman can’t make the trip, it’s likely that B’s GM Peter Chiarelli will call for reinforcements at Providence.
“If he misses the weekend then that’s probably the most [he would miss]. ‘If’ that’s the case” said Julien of Wideman.
*And finally, courtesy of Yahoo’s Puck Daddy, your moment of hockey zen. That is a filthy mini 1-on-1 move. Can’t wait to hear Tom Caron describe it.
|Wideman out for Monday matinee against Avalanche||10.12.09 at 12:31 pm ET|
Boston Bruins defenseman Dennis Wideman will miss Monday afternoon’s game with a left shoulder injury sustained during Saturday night’s game against the New York Islanders. Wideman hit the boards awkwardly in the third period of the shootout win over the Isles, and B’s head coach Claude Julien termed the blueliner “day-to-day” prior to Monday’s matinee against the Colorado Avalanche. Johnny Boychuk was a healthy scratch for the first four games of the season, but will dress and play in Wideman’s place in Monday’s lineup.
“It’s not a long-term injury and it’s being evaluated every day,” said Julien. “If he practices then it’s a good sign for Friday, so we’re going to evaluate him as we move on here. It’s nothing more than a day-to-day situation.”
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