|Tim Thomas, Nathan Horton lead Bruins in shutout win||10.10.10 at 12:34 pm ET|
PRAGUE — The newcomers made most of the offensive noise, but it was an old face in Tim Thomas who was the story as the Bruins picked up their first win of the season, a 3-0 shutout over the Coyotes at the O2 Arena in Prague.
A night after Tuukka Rask looked impressive despite allowing four goals, Thomas got the start and recorded his 18th career shutout. Additionally, the defense looked far more responsible in shutting down any of Phoenix’ offensive attempts throughout the night.
Former third overall pick Nathan Horton picked up two more points in the game, including his third goal of the season. Rookie Tyler Seguin took a pass from Michael Ryder in the third period and converted it into a breakaway goal, the first of his NHL career.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS
– Nathan Horton’s first two games with the Bruins could not have gone better. After getting the primary assist on Lucic’s goal and potting one of his own from the slot in the second period, he has now been on the scoring sheet for four of the Bruins’ five goals this season.
Bruins fans shouldn’t get too carried away — Horton’s scored 30 goals in his six-year career just once — but it could be time for this writer to rethink the 33-goals he predicted for the 25-year-old. Motivation was a question for Horton while he played for the Panthers, and both he, his teammates, and management have spotted a rejuvenated player in him. It’s pretty clear at this point that the Bruins won’t need Tyler Seguin to overachieve in order to have a top pick light up the stat sheet.
Horton said prior to the game that he and his linemates continue to get more comfortable with one another with each practice and each game, but the three of them have looked terrific to this point. The dynamic between he and Lucic is something to keep an eye on, as their styles of play are very similar and the two have moved the puck to one another well to this point.
– Unforced errors and turnovers grabbed headlines following Saturday’s game, but the cautious and responsible style of play that the Bruins have become known for in recent years made its return on Sunday. The Coyotes’ offense struggled to get going for long stretches at a time, particularly in the second period, when it took Phoenix about 15 minutes to get their second shot on goal of the period.
– The new third line, with Tyler Seguin skating between Mark Recchi and Michael Ryder, looks intriguing, but not for the reason one would think. Though Seguin had his first career goal on a breakaway that once again suggested his talents as a scorer will be too much to allow him to hit too big of a rookie wall, Ryder turning the corner from a down year last season could also help the Bruins big. Ryder sent Seguin a hail mary pass on the rookie’s goal.
– That would indeed be Mr. Tim Thomas with the shutout for your Boston Bruins. Thomas wasn’t spectacular, and at times could have been caught out of position, but the bottom line was that he made timely saves. As was mentioned above, the Phoenix offense had its fair share of lulls, but Thomas was ready for the spurts of pressure when they came.
In total Thomas, made 29 saves in the game, his first win of the season and his 18th career shutout.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS
– The defense was strong for the Bruins, but it can’t be an encouraging sign that the team has shuffled its pairings regularly throughout the first two games. Such was the case in the preseason, but it appears that Claude Julien needs to be careful with who he pairs with Matt Hunwick, who despite playing better on Sunday than he’ll probably be noticed, is a bit of a liability as he comes into his own.
|Lucic, Horton have the Bruins leading after two||at 11:40 am ET|
PRAGUE — Sure, there have been some things not to like about the Bruins so far in their young season, but that first line still looks awfully good. Milan Lucic, admittedly on a quest for his first 20-goal season, got one out of the way courtesy of a Nathan Horton feed. Horton later scored yet another goal on a wrist shot from in front of the net, ant the first line has now produced all four of the Bruins’ goals this season. Horton has been on scoring sheet for each of them after a two-goal performance Saturday.
The Bruins were sloppy in every area of the ice on Sunday, so they’ll they have plenty of reason to be excited by the solid neutral zone play displayed through the first 40 minutes of the game. Horton set up Lucic’s goal at the red line, hitting his streaking linemate in stride, and Lucic took it into the offensive zone and rifled a powerful slapshot past Bryzgalov from behind the circle at 12:12.
The Coyotes essentially gave Tim Thomas the first 15 minutes of the period off, producing just one shot on goal for the majority of the period. They finished the period strong with eight, and the shots on goal are now 27-16 in favor of the Bruins.
|Bruins shooting for success after 1||at 10:46 am ET|
PRAGUE — Though the game is scoreless after one, it appears the Bruins have taken note of what they should have been throghout the first two periods on Satruday: shooting.
The team jumped out to a 10-1 lead in shots on goal in the first seven and a half minutes of the game, with the totals reading 15-8 at the end of the period.
A night after the defense struggled with puck control and consistency, the Bruins once again moved pairings around throughout the first period. Dennis Seidenberg and Johnny Boychuk started the game as a pairing, but Boychuk was moved to a pairing with Zdeno Chara almost immediately. Seidenberg skated with Mark Stuart, with Andrew Ference and Matt Hunwick pairing up.
|Video: Coyotes in Prague||at 8:52 am ET|
PRAGUE — As any writer on this trip will tell you, stability regard internet connections has not been one of the more amazing parts of this European trip. As a result, this video is getting to you a day late, but here’s proof that the Coyotes are well-represented here in Prague. There was a massive pack of fans who made the trek from Phoenix outside of O2 Arena prior to the team’s 5-2 season-opening victory over the Bruins. Disclaimer: don’t watch this video if you don’t like howling.
|Thomas starting, lines shuffled for Bruins||at 8:40 am ET|
PRAGUE — A night after the Bruins lost their season-opening game in Prague to the Coyotes, 5-2, Claude Julien said that Tim Thomas would be starting in goal for Boston on Sunday. Tuukka Rask allowed four goals to Phoenix in Saturday’s losing effort, though one came from a flukey bounce off the boards and another came on a breakaway caused by a Daniel Paille turnover. Julien indicated that the team’s plan was to start Thomas in the second game anyway barring an overwhelming effort from Rask.
Additionally, Mark Recchi stated prior to the game that he would be playing on the third line with second overall pick Tyler Seguin and Michael Ryder. Daniel Paille and Adam McQuaid are the healthy scratches.
Recchi had played on Patrice Bergeron’s line, which at one point included Seguin, throughout camp and the preseason. Rookie Jordan Caron, another former member of the second line in preseason, will return to skating with Bergeron after being scratched in the opener. Blake Wheeler will remain the second line’s other wing.
The defensive pairings remain unknown entering the game, though it’s worth noting that they were changed during Saturday’s game, with the Dennis Seidenberg-Matt Hunwick pairing dooming the team early on and eventually being separated.
|Team loses, but Chara deal means Bruins win big||10.09.10 at 6:16 pm ET|
PRAGUE — It was hard to imagine Saturday being too bad a day for the Bruins when word came down that the team had inked captain Zdeno Chara to a seven-year contract extension that will begin following this season, the last of his current deal.
Still, that 5-2 loss sure did give the signing a run for it’s money, didn’t it? The game aside (read about it here), Saturday marked the second of two consecutive huge days for the Bruins’ future. In re-signing both Chara (seven years, $45.5 million) and center Patrice Bergeron (three years, $15 million), the team made sure two players who wear letters other than the spoked “B” on the front of their sweaters (Bergeron himself is an alternate captain at 25 years of age) would be in the fold long term.
What does it mean financially? Put it this way: This season, with the Chara carrying a $7.5 million cap hit and Bergeron with a cap hit of $4.75 million, the Bruins are paying $12.25 million combined for the two of them. When the new deals kick in for the two players, Chara will have a $6.917 cap hit for the first six years (he makes $4 million — less than the average annual value of the rest of the deal — in salary in the last year, which since he will be over 40 is not allowed to be factored into the cap calculation), with Bergeron taking up $5 million in cap space. Combined, that’s a grand total of $11.917 million for both of the players, a savings of about $333,000 for Bergeron and Chara. Imagine the cap going up (even if it’s slightly) in the future, and the Bruins seem to have had themselves a very productive couple of days.
So how did it all come together for the players? Chara’s agent, Matt Keator, told WEEI.com on Saturday that “it was not an easy negotiation,” and that it had “lots of moving parts.” Even so, much like Bergeron said a day before, Chara said — as, to his credit, he did in the week leading up to the signing — that he believed the end result would be him staying in Boston. General manager Peter Chiarelli felt the same way, saying he was “pretty confident” before departing for Europe last week that the players would sign on the trip.
“From our perspective, these are two very, very important pieces of our team, very important individuals on and off the ice. There’s uncertainty as you see some precessions as far as trying to retain these types of players,” Chiarelli said. “As they get closer to the free agent market, you never know what’s going to happen. It’s also an extreme show of good faith when both sides can get it done now, meaning both sides wanted to get a deal done. We want Z and Bergy to be a part of the Bruins for a while, and they wanted to remain with the Bruins. It’s a typical thing. When two sides want something to happen, it usually happens.”
Any longterm deal with Chara, 33, figured to be a tough one for both sides to hammer out given that any deal that goes past a player’s 40th birthday can be complicated as a result of the new cap calculation that came about following the Ilya Kovalchuk saga that grabbed headlines in the offseason. Kovalchuk’s 17-year, $102 million deal with the Devils was nixed by the league because its later years paid out little money in an attempt to lower the cap hit. Now, as a result, the above calculation applies to longterm contracts that go into a player’s 40’s.
“Obviously, Kovalchuk’s situation was a little extreme, and that maybe put the negotiations on hold for a little bit,” Chara said of the hitches that came up in negotiations. “I just knew that we would get this done and I would be a Bruin.”
That’s two top players in two days to accept deals to stay in Boston prior to hitting free agency. It could be a coincidence, but it’s more likely that the Bruins and Chiarelli are seeing a trend develop.
|Bruins lose opener, 5-2||at 2:38 pm ET|
PRAGUE — The Bruins are, quite clearly, one of the NHL’s elite teams on paper. They did everything they could for the first two periods of Saturday’s season-opener to suggest otherwise, and the glimpses of promise they did show in the third period proved to be too little, too late. The team showed all sorts of offensive and defensive weaknesses as they dropped the opener in Prague, 5-2, to the Coyotes.
Though he did allow four goals in the game, Tuukka Rask didn’t exactly struggle, as one of Phoenix’ goals came on the flukiest of plays and another came on a breakaway caused by a Daniel Paille gaffe.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS
– Matt Hunwick. To those on twitter during the game, the poor guy was the subject of about 80 percent of the tweets from either Bruins or fans, and for good reason. Beginning the game paired with Dennis Seidenberg, Hunwick was on the ice for all of the Coyotes’ first three tallies of the game, giving him a headstart on a terrible plus/minus.
– General sloppy play was the norm from the Bruins in all three areas on Saturday. Players up and down the roster, from Hunwick, to Blake Wheeler, to Paille, to newly re-signed captain Zdeno Chara, killed chances at offensive opportunities by either squandering the puck or holding onto it too long.
– The power play was unproductive, but when a team gets shut out it’s to be expected that they didn’t produce on the man advantage. At any rate, the team went 0-3 on the power play through the first two periods (they’d later get Nathan Horton’s second goal of the game on a man advantage in the third) and gave up a couple of real scoring opportunities to the shorthanded Coyotes.
The team, as is well documented, was the worst in the league when it came to burying the biscuit (2.39 goals per game), and their power play wasn’t much better. The Bruins finished the season with a 16.6 power play percentage, good for 23rd in the NHL. The additions of Seguin and Horton should improve both categories, but there wasn’t much from the team on the night to suggest it.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS
– These are going to be a bit redundant because Nathan Horton was so clearly the Bruins’ most valuable player for the Bruins on Saturday. Here’s the separate one dedicated just to Horton: He can’t be beat from in front of the net. He missed early on in the game by firing one wide at the gloveside of Ilya Bryzgalov, but beat the Phoenix goaltender with his lethal wrist shot on the next two chances. He tried to downplay the possibility of him being a 40-goal-scorer this year, but he’s the complete package.
– The first line showed what it’s made of. In addition to Milan Lucic’s physicality and David Krejci’s craftiness (he embarrassed Adrian Aucoin early in the third period at the blueline with a move that dropped the defenseman to the ice based on pure confusion), but Nathan Horton was allowed to do what he does best: fire off a wrister from the hashmark. Lucic hit him from behind the net to set up the team’s only goal of the game at 3:33 of the game.
– Gregory Campbell is going to be a difficult player for Bruins fans not to like. Following Horton’s first goal, he gave the Bruins a little more momentum in the third period by dropping the gloves with Coyotes center Vernon Fiddler. He took a bad slashing penalty with less than 10 minutes to go and his team trailing by two, but aside from that he came as advertised — a solid bottom-six forward who despite not having major strengths, has no major weaknesses.