|No Bread and Butter for B’s||10.24.08 at 12:43 am ET|
Not good times for the Bruins on a Thursday night when things looked so good early, but then the fat-and-happy B’s allowed a seemingly lesser Toronto Maple Leafs team to outskate, outwit and outlast them over the final two periods of a 4-2 loss at the TD Banknorth Frozen Sheet.
Things got off to a swimming start when Patrice Bergeron potted his first goal since coming back from a season-ending concussion last season and rookie Blake Wheeler shook off some rookie doldrums to the give the Spoked B’s a 2-0 lead. There was also some physical intimidation mixed in with the lamp-lighting as Dennis Wideman completely smoked Matt Stajan at mid-ice in the first period, and Milan Lucic shattered the large block of glass around the boards when he flattened Leafs defenseman Mike Van Ryn into the side wall.
The incident was voted Number One on ESPN SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays for the night, but the tumbling shards of glass also resulted in injuries to four fans while also causing a roughly 15 minute delay to replace the glass. In the balance of those few minutes the life seemed to get sucked right out of the Bruins, and they really couldn’t do anything right for the rest of the game.
The Leafs, on the other hand, went from being puck roadkill over the first 20:20 of the game to a nothing-to-lose bunch firing away on offense and watching Vesa Toskala and the Leafs ‘D’ shut down an easily satisfied B’s offense.
There were a multitude of postgame quotes about being outworked and outhustled in the Bruins locker room — the first time this season that the B’s dropped a stink bomb down at an NHL rink without their customary grit and sandpaper style. Two of the biggest culprits for the Thursday night breakdown seemed to be Phil Kessel and Marc Savard, who were kept off the scoreboard, registered only three shots on goal and each had a game-high two giveaways. Julien didn’t call them out by name, but you’ll get the drift. Heeere’s Julien:
“I think that some of our top guys tonight weren’t playing like our top guys. I’m not going to mention any names. I don’t have to. Everyone knows what I’m talking about. Your best players have to be your best players. I know it clichÃ© but it is what it is. Our best players were certainly not our best players. Everyone from top to bottom was flat. This is our bread and butter, our work ethic, and our commitment. We didn’t have our bread and butter tonight.”
To the Bruins credit, many of the players rang a similar tone in the Boston locker room including Milan Lucic, the author of the body check felt ’round the hockey world, who teamed with Savard and Kessel to form a pretty lackluster line thar could get busted up by an unhappy Julien if things continue as they have. One thing is for certain: the guys in the Bruins sweaters will do a fair amount of skating in practice on Friday.
The Good news: P.J. Axelsson appeared to be over his back spasms.
In the bad news department: The Bruins power play went 0-for-4 and was another areas that made Julien chafe visibly following the hockey game: “We had a chance with a power play to score the third goal. You have to learn to play with the lead. When you have the lead it doesn’t mean you can take the foot off the pedal. Tonight even though it was a 2-0 hockey game we had a couple breaks, a couple lucky bounces to get the 2-0 lead. We should have taken advantage of that and understood that we weren’t playing that well.”
|Shootin’ at the shootout||10.23.08 at 2:34 pm ET|
Since we’ve been discussing the shootouts so much, here’s last season’s shooting percentages and success rate for each of the Bruins players heading into tonight’s match-up with the Maple Leafs — if it should get to that point.
As an aside, there’s a strong Pucks with Haggs vote to put another team in the Toronto-area — as the reports have stated — to go along with the Maple Leafs. Hamilton would be perfect place and was the desired target if the Nashville Predators ended up moving, but any team that returns back into the motherland of Canada is a good thing for hockey and the NHL. Winnipeg and Quebec City would also be great places to relocate some of these warmer climate teams from the US that simply have never seemed like a good fit (Hello Nashville!) for a frozen sheet. Anyway, here are the B’s shootout stats from last season:
Phil Kessel — 5 scores in 13 tries for a 38.5 percent success rate. The five shootout scores were the third-most in the NHL least season and a clear indicator that this is a speciality for a guy with the hockey skills to pay the bills (for his career, Kessel is 10-for-23 with a 43.5 success rate with nine game-deciding scores).
Zdeno Chara — 1 for 2 for a 50 percent success rate, with the successful attempt a memorable wind-up slapper against the New York Rangers at the Garden last season (2-for-5 career for a 40 percent success rate).
David Krejci — 1 for 5 for a 20 percent success rate. Krejci is a guy that could be a future weapon in the shootout, and has already scored this season as well (and 2-for-7 career for a 28.6 percent success rate).
Marco Sturm — 1 for 8 for a 12.5 percent success rate (7-for-25 career for a 28 percent success rate).
Patrice Bergeron — 0 for 1 (8-for-24 career for a career 33.3 percent success rate).
Dennis Wideman — 0 for 1 (2-for-8 with a career 25 percent success rate).
Chuck Kobasew — 0 for 3 (and 0-for-8 in his career, perhaps it’s time to hang up his skates during the shootout).
Michael Ryder — 0 for 1 (and 1-for-11 with a career 9.1 percent success rate). Ryder’s numbers in the shootout actually makes it a real head-scratcher as to why Claude Julien opted to put him in the top three during Boston’s first two shootout losses this season.
Marc Savard — a career 2-for-12 with a 16.7 percent success rate.
P.J. Axelsson — 0-for-3 career in the shootout.
|A Canadian man and his stick||09.26.08 at 3:18 pm ET|
Let’s drop the puck on this Bruins blog, which will become “Pucks with Haggs” in the very near future, with one of my favorite B’s-related moments from last winter. I have the NHL Home Ice Package and religiously watch TSN’s Hockey Night in Canada every Saturday, and always look forward to the dapper Don Cherry’s Coach’s Corner in between periods.
With that as the preface, the best Bruins rant from “Grapes” came late in the season with the Black and Gold pressing for a playoff berth. Cherry caught a juicy bit of footage of center Marc Savard on the Bruins bench seemingly talking to his stick and patting the head of the stick like a pet schnauzer. Hockey players are obviously very in tune with their tools of the trade, but Cherry seems to be intimating that Savard was professing deep love to his hockey stick while waiting for his next shift.
I asked Savvy about this before the team departed for Halifax and here’s what he had to say: “I don’t really talk to my stick. It’s just been a habit my whole life because I really love my sticks. I do love my sticks, though, but I’m not telling them that I love them. I’m always checking my sticks and making sure they’re not broken and there’s no snow in the blade…or just taking care of it. I’m always taking care of her and making sure she’s ready to go. Maybe I was talking to Muzz [Glen Murray] beside me as I was fooling around with it. I didn’t really see it, but a bunch of my buddies that always watch Hockey Night in Canada told me about it [at this point defenseman Dennis Wideman chimes in from the next locker over and says that Savard taped the show and watches it all the time]…so I autographed a stick and sent it to him after the season was over. I signed it: To Don, take care of it for me.”
Was Savard really whispering sweet hockey nothings to his stick, or was he talking to Murray sitting next to him on the bench? You be the judge, and let me know what you think at firstname.lastname@example.org