|Bruins breakdown: The big boppers||02.27.10 at 7:59 pm ET|
The compliment to the puck moving defensemen are the boys who patrol the blue line and deliver more bruises than points. Size is an important quality to have in a NHL defender corps and in that department Mark Stuart and Johnny Boychuk deliver.
Stuart — The 2003 Bruins first round draft pick has been a model of consistency since breaking into the NHL full time in the 2007-08 season. He has played in all 82 games two years in a row and delivered solid, though not spectacular numbers.
Stuart falls into line with what late first round picks are usually supposed to do — become steady professionals and productive members of their teams. He spent three years at Colorado College picking up polish before making his Bruins debut in the 2005-06 season and after a two seasons spent on the highway between Providence and Boston finally cracked in as a regular.
Stuart is solid and at this point in his career could probably fit into any defensive second pair in the league. That was not the case until recently though as last year it was hard to judge whether he was a third defenseman or rather a fourth or fifth. At times he played like each. Before breaking his finger when he caught his finger in Wayne Simmonds jersey on Jan. 31, he was playing much more like a third defenseman than ever before in his career.
“I thought he was playing some of his best hockey,” coach Claude Juliens said of Stuart on Saturday. “Whether it was coincidence or whether we moved him up and given him more minutes. We really wanted to see how he would react to that and he did a great job of it and we needed that at the time. It was unfortunate, I thought he was playing some of his best hockey the last three or four games before he got injured.”
|Boychuck, Stuart and Bruins back to work||02.25.10 at 12:40 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Most of the Bruins have had two weeks to get healthy and clear their heads during the Olympic break before the final stretch of that will determine whether there will be spring hockey in The Hub. The players were happy to get back to hockey related activities on Thursday at Ristuccia Arena and are gearing up for the stretch run into April. When the regular season resumes on March 2 the Bruins will be on a furious pace as the final 22 games will be played in 41 days with only one break longer than one day between games.
“I can’t think of a better way to get back into it than to just jump in and play a bunch of games,” Mark Stuart said. “Looking at our schedule, it is every other day. But, it is going to be fun. It is going to be a month-and-a-half long Olympic tournament it seems like. Just playing every other day. But, the position we are in, we have to win a lot of games. It is going to feel like the playoffs, I think and that is always fun when it feels like that. We are looking forward to it.
Defenseman Johnny Boychuk was back at practice for the first time since breaking his orbital bone when he took a puck to the face in the Bruins’ last home game before the break against Vancouver. He wore a visor and participated in the full workout. Fellow blue liner Stuart also skated for the first time since breaking a finger in a fight with the Kings’ Wayne Simmonds on Jan. 30 which required surgery on Feb. 1.
“I got the cast off on Tuesday, so that was a good feeling,” Stuart said. “It is just a matter of getting some of the stiffness out. I have got to get the hands and stuff going and I am not going to push the shooting too much right away. I will probably give it a couple of days, and passing and stuff like that was good.”
Stuart said the the break was not due to an impact of his hand on Simmonds or the ice but rather that he grabbed the jersey and torqued the finger in during the fight. He said that he will probably wear protective gear on the hand “for a bit” but does not seem overly concerned about his prospects for the rest of the season.
|Sluggish start dooms B’s on Columbus Day matinee||10.12.09 at 3:27 pm ET|
Once again the Boston Bruins underwhelmed on home ice. It was a lackadaisical start for the home team Bruins during their Columbus Day Monday matinee, and it took almost 30 minutes of hockey for the B’s to finally wake up. It was a case of “too little, too late” in Boston’s 4-3 loss to the Avalanche on the TD Garden ice. Perhaps it’ll be good for the B’s to get on the road for a while as they’ll do after competing a five-game homestand on Monday afternoon.
After spotting Colorado a 2-0 lead following a sleepy first period, the B’s stopped and started their way back into the game in the second period. Mark Recchi scored his first goal of the 2009-10 season and Blake Wheeler added an athletic score to get Boston back in the game, but the B’s let down again following their game-tying efforts.
Defensive breakdowns and soft play in their own zone helped the Avalanche pile on two more goals in the second, including a David Jones breakaway score after Andrew Ference made the elementary mistake of playing the body instead of the puck. Perhaps okay to do in certain situations, but not when that player — Ference in this case – represents Boston’s last line of defense during a sequence of 4-on-4 play.
Michael Ryder scored midway through the third period to give Boston a shot at tying the game, but the B’s sluggish started ended up proving too big a hill to scale this time. The defeat saddled them with a 1-3-1 homestand to start the season. Not exactly what anybody had in mind for a hockey built on so much promise headed into the NHL regular season.
“I think it’s one of those things were everyone realizes that things that worked for us in the past, things that we were comfortable doing and being successful at aren’t necessarily working for us right now,” said Wheeler, who scored one of Boston’s goals in the middling loss. “It’s one thing getting beat 2-1 or 1-0. We pride ourselves on defense and we are giving up quite a few goals here. It’s not the goalie’s fault at all.”
YOU’RE THE BEST AROUND, AND NOTHING’S GONNA EVER KEEP YOU DOWN: Johnny Boychuk. The AHL refugee has been waiting patiently for his shot with the Bruins, and he finally got it when Dennis Wideman went down with a left shoulder injury. Boychuck played with a Bruins-sized chip on his shoulder and didn’t allow himself to get bogged down in Boston’s end. He led Boston with three official hits and was a plus-2 on a night the B’s allowed four goals. David Krejci also played a pretty strong game for the Bruins and put his first two marks on the season tally with a pair of assists.
GOAT HORNS: Andrew Ference. The B’s defenseman hasn’t gotten off to a very good start this season and that continued Monday afternoon against the Avs. He did register one shot on net and a pair of hits, but his gaffe ended up leading to Colorado’s game-winning score. Ference also finished at a minus-1 for the evening. He was ineffective as a quarterback to the second power play unit and his breakout passes weren’t of the crisp tape-to-tape variety as well. Ference needs to turn things around and give Boston something better on the ir second defenseman pairing.
The veteran defenseman said following the game that he mistook Matt Hunwick for David Krejci on the ice, and the mistake prompted him to leave his position guarding Boston’s end. Not pretty.
Boston’s power play unit could very well get tossed in here as well as they are — in the words of Joe Namath — “struggaling.” The B’s man advantage is fruitless in their last 17 attempts, and is just 4-for-29 on the season good for a 13.8 percent success rate. Marco Sturm and Marc Savard were also both minus-2 for the Bruins in a loss that could best be termed as mediocre.
|Wideman out for Monday matinee against Avalanche||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.”
|Ward out at least a week||12.01.08 at 11:07 am ET|
Bruins defenseman Aaron Ward will not be making the two-game road trip through the Sunshine State (Tampa Bay and Florida) after injuring his left foot/ankle during Saturday night’s game against the Detroit Red Wings.
Ward was viewed walking through the locker room during Monday morning’s practice with a protective boot on his left foot/ankle, but declined to elaborate on the extent of his injury. “He’s not making the trip to Florida, so he’s definitely out for this week,” said B’s coach Claude Julien, who wouldn’t get any more specific than to call it a ‘leg injury’. “Then he’ll be reevaluated when we get back, and hopefully from there he’ll be day-to-day.
“Our depth is being tested more and our experienced guys are getting whittled down a little bit,” added Julien. “It is something that we have to work with a little closer. You might see some D pairs like we saw [Saturday] night where it’s not always the same pair and it’s more mix-and-match. We want to make sure we have the right combination against the other team’s top lines.”
Ward was walking through the locker room area with a healthy limp after taking the boot off, but the new NHL rules on injuries are keeping the nosy Fourth Estate from differentiating between what’s likely a sprained ankle or foot for the veteran blueliner. Expect Matt Lashoff, Johnny Boychuk or Adam McQuaid to get the call from Providence, with the Pucks with Haggs money centered squarely on Lashoff. The youngster had been practicing with the team up until Thanksgiving and has already gathered a handful of NHL experience during his up-and-down career – with the only apparent problem being that the 22-year-old’s blueline puck skill set doesn’t match up with the fallen Ward as much as perhaps the rugged McQuaid does. Mark him as the dark horse candidate if GM Peter Chiarelli goes in a different direction.
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