|Sturm Will Be Counted On In Bruins Offense||09.29.09 at 10:43 am ET|
Before last year, it had been a while since the Hub of Hockey could say that its team was a legitimate offensive powerhouse in the National Hockey League. In 2006-07 the Bruins finished with 210 goals (2.56 per game), ranking them 25th in the league. The 2007-08 team was slightly worse, with 206 goals (2.51 per game), ranking 24th in the league, as Boston captured the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, due mostly to its tough, defensive-minded game plan.
Last season? The Northeast Division champions finished second in the league with 270 goals (3.29 per game) and regularly abused opposing goaltenders. They did so with a mixture of ascending youth (Phil Kessel, Blake Wheeler, Milan Lucic) and crafty veterans (Marc Savard, Zdeno Chara, Mark Recchi), finishing the campaign with astounding balance as seven players finished with more than 20 goals (six if you do not count Recchi’s 13 goals with the Tampa Bay Lightning before being acquired at the trade deadline). Chara and Lucic both came close to 20 (19 and 17, respectively).
It was all done without Marco Sturm.
The veteran wingman figured to be an important part of Boston’s goal-scoring mix going into last season, balancing the production between the proven producers and the aspiring young guns. Yet, because of injuries, Sturm’s force never materialized. He had been a staple in the the B’s scheme in those offensively challenged years (27 goals in each of 2006-07 and 2007-08) yet tallied only seven last year in 19 games before going down with a knee injury on Dec. 19 against Toronto. He went from the player kids idolized before the season with “The Perfect Sturm” posters to the quintessential Forgotten Man. One would be hard pressed to find many Sturm posters floating around TD Garden this time around.
Through the frustration of last season, Sturm stayed active with the team. It would have been easy to hide in the rehab room and disappear to the Land of The Lost, but he did not. He supported his teammates all year to the point where he actually designed the “Stay Hungry” hats that were the trademark of the Bruins’ postseason run. That is in the past, though. It is a new season, and Sturm is ready to go come opening night on Thursday against the Washington Capitals.
“It feels great. You know, it was a long time ago that I played to this crowd, so I really look forward to Thursday night and hopefully a good start,” Sturm said.
The big question for the Bruins this year is how to replace Kessel and his 36 goals after the young winger was traded to Toronto. The answer comes in a couple of variations, but it looks like Boston’s front office is counting on Sturm to make up for at least part of the slack. Mix the 31-year-old wingman with gains made by the young corps, and Boston probably will have the firepower to stay near the top of the league in the lamp-lighting category this year.
“We are confident with the team that we have here, no doubt,” coach Claude Julien said during media day on Monday at the TD Garden. “We have Marco Sturm back and healthy, so as a group we are a strong team. We feel stronger as well with some young guys having matured and Marco Sturm in.”
It appears that at the beginning of the year Sturm will be a direct fill-in for Kessel on the right wing of the first line with the Savard (center) and Lucic (left wing). Sturm plays a similar game to Kessel — both are speedsters, have a good shot and have a nose for the back of the net. Savard is excited to give the pairing a shot.
“We lost Sturm all of last season and it looks like he is going to start on wing with us, so we are excited to have him,” Savard said. “He brings a ton of speed, like Kessel had, and he can finish when he has the opportunity. We are excited for that, we have a good mix and hopefully we can produce those goals that we are going to lose. It is going to have to come from a lot of people and I think we are capable.”
Sturm will have to earn it, though. No player on Julien-coached teams gets free passes for jobs well done in the past. The right wing spot is probably Sturm’s at the start, but as Julien said, “Nothing is carved in stone.”
“We’d certainly like, to a certain extent, put some speed again on that wing, and [Savard] is good at finding those guys so we will give [the speedsters] a try,” Julien said. “We are going to put the best lines together as we can possibly find and if that means tweaking them and moving them around, we will until we find the right combination. I think right now it is worth having a look at, and Marco has played the off wing before and he feels comfortable there. So, again, there is a guy who hasn’t played in a while, so we have to take that into consideration whether he’s on top of his game or whether he is trying to find it again.”
Make no mistake about it, there will be rust. Not many players in any sport can miss tw0-thirds of a season (as Sturm did last year with his 63 DNPs) and come straight out the next year as if nothing happened. NHL hockey, especially after the lockout and the new rules to open up the ice for skill players, is a flow game. Before going down last year, Sturm had lost his flow, probably due to his balky knee. Despite his plus-9 rating, it appeared that he was out of sync at times, either by making a bad pass or just being out of position.
It will be difficult, at least at the start, to come back as the same player he was in 2007-08. It is hard to get back into mental shape while in the workout room or during the summer. For that matter, Sturm has only played in two preseason games for the Bruins this year (with no goals and two assists). Not that it will stop him from trying to get in rhythm with Savard in the early going.
“You know, obviously with Savvy in the middle, playing on the right side I will have a lot of chances,” Sturm said. “He will give me the puck, so I have to use my speed, use my game, and the puck will come to me, I know that. So I just have to find the rhythm with him, and hopefully we click pretty soon.”
The Bruins feel that they have the talent to compete in the highest tier of the NHL this season and shoot for a Stanley Cup. If Sturm is on top of his game, they just may be right.
|Krejci going full-tilt at practice during B’s camp||09.22.09 at 11:42 am ET|
WILMINGTON — Bruins coach Claude Julien wasn’t ready to announce when B’s center David Krejci would get into his first game action — or play during the exhibition season — but did give an update on the 23-year-old center coming off surgery for an impingement in his right hip.
Krejci is enduring a full practice workload with the rest of the team and taking part in all contact drills. Julien indicated that things are going well for the center, and Krejci estimated he had a “10 percent chance” of being ready for NHL opening night against the Washington Capitals on Oct. 1.
“What I can answer is that he’s getting better and better, and everything that’s going on is positive,” said Julien, who indicated that the B’s training staff hasn’t yet given him full clearance to play in games. “I can give you a date as far as when he’s ready to play in a game, but he’s practicing full-out and that bodes well. He’s taking contact and he’s taking part in full practices.”
–Marco Sturm was off the ice today for a scheduled maintenance day as he works his way back to full health with a surgically repaired left knee. Sturm was at Ristuccia Arena to take part in off-ice workouts and won’t be making the trip to Columbus with the B’s traveling party.
–The lineup for Tuesday night’s game in Columbus includes: Marc Savard, Patrice Bergeron, Mark Recchi, Johnny Boychuk, Drew Fata, Andrew Ference, Chuck Kobasew, Zach Hamill, Drew Larman, Milan Lucic, Derek Morris, Mark Recchi, Guillame LeFebvre, Vladimir Sobotka, Mark Stuart, Blake Wheeler, Shawn Thornton, Trent Whitfield and Andy Wozniewski. Tuukka Rask and Dany Sabourin will both make the trip, but Sabourin is expected to get the full 60 minutes between the pipes against the Blue Jackets.
|Julien: ‘pretty sure that Savard is 100 percent’||09.17.09 at 2:11 pm ET|
Marc Savard has yet to appear in either of the first two preseason Bruins games, but B’s coach Claude Julien declared the No. 1 center as 100 percent after battling through a left knee issue in the first few days of training camp. Julien wouldn’t say when Savard will appear in a preseason game — the B’s play Saturday afternoon at home against the Rangers and Sunday night against the Canadiens in Quebec City — but confirmed that it’s now a coaching decision rather than a choice left up to the trainers.
Savard said that part of his goal heading into this season was to shed a few pounds and be a bit lighter and quicker on his skates, and he underwent a long-distance running and sprinting program that saw him run 4-6 miles four or five days a week. Warning bells were sounded when Savard needed to leave the ice early on the first day of training camp due to a little knee soreness, but the reports of it being anything serious were greatly exaggerated.
“It’s just one of those maintenance things because I’ve been skating hard on it,” said Savard of the left knee. “I want to get in (to a game). There’s always things in the real games that you can’t do in practice.”
The center has looked sleeker on the frozen sheet, certainly, but perhaps all of the hard work caused a little of the left knee discomfort at the beginning of camp. Either way, both Savard and Julien say that the 32-year-old center is ready to drop into game action at this point in training camp.
Savard’s motivation is a good thing to hear at this point in camp, and there shouldn’t any shortage of reasons for the playmaking center to come up with his best season as a Bruins player. He’s in a contract year with his four-year, $20 million set to expire after this season, and he’s already put it out there that this campaign is a resume tape of sorts for the Team Canada Olympic decision-makers this fall.
“We’ll see what kind of lineup I decide on,” said Julien of Savard’s chances of playing this weekend. “I don’t think it’s for any other reason than me picking out my lineup. It’s a choice of mine more than anything else. In Savvy’s case, I’m pretty sure he’s 100 percent. So it’s just a matter of when we decide to put him in.”
|Savard: I want to finish my career in Boston||09.08.09 at 2:01 pm ET|
Marc Savard and Zdeno Chara were the two building blocks for Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli when the hockey executive first came onto the scene in Boston, and the 32-year-old center — entering the final year of a four-year deal he signed on July 1, 2006 – said that he’s hoping to sign another deal allowing him to finish his hockey career in Boston.
Savard was the B’s leading scorer with 25 goals and 63 assists last season, and has blossomed into an All-Star player under coach Claude Julien. Entering the final year of his $5 million per year deal with a great deal of financial uncertainty in the NHL’s future, Savard isn’t bothered by the unknown and is simply focused on driving the B’s toward a Stanley Cup.
Savard said he’s fully recovered from the left knee injury suffered in the playoffs against the Carolina Hurricanes, and he skated “10 or 15 times” before hitting the practice ice with his teammates at Ristuccia Arena for the first time on Tuesday morning.
“It’s a great city and I’ve enjoyed my time here so far,” said Savard, from the Bruins Foundation’s annual golf tournament at The International in Bolton, MA. “It’s a place that I’d like to finish if the chance comes and I’m excited to get the season going. Things keep getting better and our team keeps getting better, so that only helps everybody when that happens. I want to stay here. This is a place I love. I love the people. I love the fans. This is where I want to be.
“I’m not worried about the contract at all. (Peter and I) have a good relationship. Ever since I came to Boston I’ve given everything I had and if things work out well — and I think they will — then I’m going to be here for a long, long time.”
Savard was also visibly peeved when asked about getting snubbed by Hockey Canada when team officials announced the lineup for their Olympic Team Orientation Camp this summer. The crafty centerman was conspicuously absent from an admittedly talented roster of players, and that’s not sitting well with the two-time All-Star. Savard said that he shared an agent, Larry Kelly, with Steve Yzerman, one of the hockey minds charged with constructing the Canadian National Team, and that private campaigning with the Team Canada Executive Director for an invitation didn’t quite work for the skilled B’s pivot.
Savard has instead decided to turn the first half of the 2009-10 hockey season into a resume tape for Team Canada to watch what they might be missing out in Vancover come February. Though he was on the driving range at the International and excited for a day of golf with his teammates, Savard couldn’t hide the sting of disappointment at being left off the squad.
“I was pretty upset about it,” said Savard, who then cast his head down toward the ground as he talked about it. “I feel that I had a chance to at least go to the camp. I didn’t really come out and say anything. I had a lot of calls for a couple weeks after that. It’s something I didn’t want to talk about. I was pretty mad about it. I’ve had to prove myself over and over again. I’m hoping to get off to a good start. I still haven’t counted myself out, so I guess that’s all that matters.
“I’m going to go out and do what I do…try to prove somebody else wrong. I’m worried about the Bruins and winning games. I didn’t really talk to anybody (behind the scenes) but my agent had Yzerman as a player and he did most of the talking. I don’t know what happened, but I have to just keep trying to prove them wrong and have a good start to the season.”
|Lucic invited, Savard snubbed for Team Canada camp||07.02.09 at 12:44 pm ET|
It was a dream come true for Milan Lucic when the 20-year-old hulking winger found out he was among the 46 names invited to the Team Canada Olympic orientation/tryout camp this summer. The Vancouver, B.C. native had a career-best 42 points in 72 games for the Bruins during his second season in the NHL during 2008-09, and made a name around the league with his punishing body checks and physical presence at such a tender young age.
Marc Savard, on the other hand, was a notable name omitted from the preliminary Olympic list after getting plenty of support for the team during the NHL season after continuing to develop his two-way game under B’s head coach Claude Julien. Team Canada is loaded with talented centers among the 46 invitees, but most hockey observers would be hard-pressed to explain how St. Louis Blues center Andy McDonald is more Olympics-worthy than a two-time All-Star in Savard. Savard has averaged 89 points a season over the last four years and was a career-best +25 with the Bruins during a breakout year for the team.
Team Canada’s camp is scheduled from August 24-27 at the Pengrowth Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta, and 46 players were identified Thursday morning as candidates for upcoming international events in the 2009-10 season: the 2010 Olympic Winter Games and 2010 IIHF World Championship.
The 46 invitees include: CANADA’S MEN’S NATIONAL TEAM ORIENTATION CAMP ROSTER
Martin Brodeur (Montreal, Que./New Jersey, NHL), Marc-André Fleury
(Sorel, Que./Pittsburgh, NHL), Roberto Luongo (Montreal, Que./Vancouver,
NHL), Steve Mason (Oakville, Ont./Columbus, NHL), Cam Ward (Sherwood
Park, Alta./Carolina, NHL)
François Beauchemin (Sorel, Que./Anaheim, NHL), Jay Bouwmeester
(Edmonton, Alta./Calgary, NHL), Dan Boyle (Ottawa, Ont./San Jose, NHL),
Brent Burns (Ajax, Ont./Minnesota, NHL), Drew Doughty (London, Ont./Los
Angeles, NHL), Mike Green (Calgary, Alta./Washington, NHL), Dan Hamhuis
(Smithers, B.C./Nashville, NHL), Duncan Keith (Penticton, B.C./Chicago,
NHL), Scott Niedermayer (Cranbrook, B.C./Anaheim, NHL), Dion Phaneuf
(Edmonton, Alta./Calgary, NHL), Chris Pronger (Dryden,
Ont./Philadelphia, NHL), Robyn Regehr (Rosthern, Sask./Calgary, NHL),
Stéphane Robidas (Sherbrooke, Que./Dallas, NHL), Brent Seabrook
(Tsawwassen, B.C./Chicago, NHL), Marc Staal (Thunder Bay, Ont./N.Y.
Rangers, NHL), Shea Weber (Sicamous, B.C./Nashville, NHL)
Jeff Carter (London, Ont./Philadelphia, NHL), Dan Cleary (Carboneau,
N.L./Detroit, NHL), Sidney Crosby (Cole Harbour, N.S./Pittsburgh, NHL),
Shane Doan (Halkirk, Alta./Phoenix, NHL), Simon Gagné (Ste-Foy,
Que./Philadelphia, NHL) , Ryan Getzlaf (Regina, Sask./Anaheim, NHL), Dany
Heatley (Calgary, Alta./Ottawa, NHL), Jarome Iginla (St. Albert,
Alta./Calgary, NHL), Vincent Lecavalier (Île-Bizard, Que./Tampa Bay,
NHL), Milan Lucic (Vancouver, B.C./Boston, NHL), Patrick Marleau
(Aneroid, Sask./San Jose, NHL), Andy McDonald (Strathroy, Ont./St.
Louis, NHL), Brenden Morrow (Carlyle, Sask./Dallas, NHL), Rick Nash
(Brampton, Ont./Columbus, NHL), Corey Perry (Peterborough, Ont./Anaheim,
NHL), Michael Richards (Kenora, Ont./Philadelphia, NHL), Derek Roy
(Rockland, Ont./Buffalo, NHL), Joe Sakic (Burnaby, B.C./Colorado, NHL),
Patrick Sharp (Thunder Bay, Ont./Chicago, NHL), Ryan Smyth (Banff,
Alta./Colorado, NHL), Martin St-Louis (Laval, Que./Tampa Bay, NHL), Eric
Staal (Thunder Bay, Ont./Carolina, NHL), Jordan Staal (Thunder Bay,
Ont./Pittsburgh, NHL), Joe Thornton (St. Thomas, Ont./San Jose, NHL),
Jonathan Toews (Winnipeg, Man./Chicago, NHL)
|Bruins sign Steve Begin to a one-year deal worth $850K||07.01.09 at 6:48 pm ET|
The Bruins continued their flurry of July 1 activity by signing former Montreal Canadiens agitator Steve Begin to a one-year deal worth $850,000 on late Wednesday afternoon. The 31-year-old Begin registered 12 points (7 goals, 5 assists) and 42 penalty minutes in 63 games combined for the Canadiens and Dallas Stars last season, and is being brought into the B’s fold to provide a little extra grit and a lot of extra nasty into the bottom two lines next season.
For his part, Begin said that his experience playing for Julien with the Habs — where he enjoyed his best season under Julien with the Habs while scoring 11 goals and 12 assists along with 113 PIMs in 76 games — was one of the big things that attracted him to Boston.
“I know Claude Julien. He coached me in Montreal for two years and I know Claude, he’s a great coach. I know that Boston has some great players, so this was really an easy choice for me,” said Begin. “It’s going to be fun to have those guys on my side now. With Montreal those were games were always big (against the Bruins) so it’s going to be fun to come to the other side now.
“One day you’re on the one team and then another day you’re on the other team. Now I’m going to be on the right side (of the rivalry) now. (With Claude) he listens to the players and he knows how to play you and how to use you. I think if you look at (Michael) Ryder, a year ago in Montreal people thought he was done and now he’s playing for Claude and he had his best season last year. He gave me a lot of ice time and played me a lot.”
Being cast off by the Canadiens during the rough patch last might have also played into the decision to don the Spoked B as well, but Begin wasn’t biting on that one.
Bruins fans will remember Begin as one of Montreal’s hatchet men during the 2007-08 season, and the Quebec native memorably cross-checked Marc Savard from behind and broke a bone in the center’s back just prior to the playoffs — a questionable move that opened the door for David Krejci to finally establish himself as an NHL player. The B’s didn’t really have an “agitator” last season that provoked and got under the skin of the opposition, and that’s a role that the 6-foot, 193-pound Begin can play with aplomb.
“He’s a real physical guy. He’s not huge, but he’s big enough and he makes up for it in the way that he plays,” said Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli. “He’s got history with Claude and he’s just a tremendous, tremendous competitive player and person. He kills penalties, will fill a role and had some energy so I’m excited to get him.”
Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli confirmed the signing during a Wednesday night conference call and said that Begin effectively takes the roster spot formerly occupied by veteran center Stephane Yelle, who did a solid job with faceoffs and killing penalties on the fourth line in Boston last season.
With Steve Montador’s signing in Buffalo and the admission that Yelle’s term with the Bruins is over — along with Wednesday night’s announcement that defenseman Johnny Boychuk was signed to a one-way deal with the Bruins – that means at least two new faces will be into the Black and Gold mix this season.
“I guess if you look at it, Steve effectively replaces Stephane (Yelle) if you want to get to the nitty gritty. If you want to look at him and how he plays, he’s a versatile player, he’s a useful player and he’s a gritty player,” said Chiarelli. “So he’s a guy you can slide a little bit up the lineup, he’s a guy that can kill penalties and he’s a guy that will wear the emblem on his sleeve. There’s a lot of good things about him. Over the few years I’ve been here we’ve back-filled with these types of players, and we expect Steve to be one of those.”
Begin will join Byron Bitz and Shawn Thornton on a potential fourth line grouping that could become a thoroughly enjoyable trio of physical, gritty forwards capable of punishing and intimidating opposing lines in an Eastern Conference that seems to be getting bigger and nastier with each passing day.
“I like to finish my checks and I like to chip in once in a while, but it’s a bonus when I do. Mostly I bring a lot of energy and I’m a team guy. I’m working hard, skating hard and finishing my checks, and it’s all of the things that you saw Boston do with guys like (Shawn) Thornton. It’s the kind of game that I like to play.”
|Marc Savard set to play in Game 7, no Bruins lineup changes||05.14.09 at 12:01 pm ET|
Bruins center Marc Savard isn’t going to let a knee injury stop him from skating in Game 7 against the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night, and B’s head coach Claude Julien said that his crafty pivot will be in the lineup. Savard suffered a knee-on-knee hit from Carolina winger Chad LaRose in the third period of Game 6, and exited the game early after Julien sent him to the dressing room.
Julien indicated on Thursday morning following the pre-game skate that the Bruins will skate the same lineup that took the ice in an impressive 4-2 victory over the Candy Canes on Tuesday night. That means Byron Bitz, who impressed with his blue collar work along the back wall with puck possession, will again skate with David Krejci and Michael Ryder.
“We’ll have the same lineup tonight (as Game 6),” said Julien. “There shouldn’t be any changes.”
–Julien and his veteran players said that the most important key to success in the Game 7 setting is staying composed and keeping panic and chaos out of a game that can very easily spiral out of control.
The weight and pressure of season elimination can be a divisive influence that can pry a player out of their comfort zone and get a team out of their game plan — and Julien stressed it was important for his team to stick with the style of play that’s resulted in two straight wins leading up to Thursday night.
“It’s being composed. Being composed. You saw it in the game last night in Pittsburgh that they were able to come out and play their game and they were successful,” said Julien. “You’ve got to be composed. I thought even last year in Montreal in Game 7 during the first period in Montreal, we were the better team.
“But sometimes you need the breaks and then (the Canadiens) got another goal in the second to make it 2-0. Had we stayed probably a little more composed, we could have battled back and got ourselves back into the game. But we were a young team last year. You hope what the young guys learned last year was to handle the pressure situation of Game 7 much better.”
–B’s center Stephane Yelle is playing in his 12th career Game 7 tonight against the Carolina Hurricanes, which is tops among all active NHL players and ranks him second in NHL history with Glenn Anderson and Ken Daneyko. The key to success from a guy that’s been there nearly a dozen times:
“There’ll be chatter before the game like there always is, and if the young guys have questions then they’ll usually come and ask them,” said Yelle. “Sticking with the game plan and not panicking (is key). When you start panicking you tend to get away from what you should be doing, and usually you feel like there’s a ripple effect along the team and things turn to chaos. That’s when you lose sight of what you’re supposed to do.
“Different personalities will handle differently. I try to learn from my previous ones and go from there. My first year was Patty…Patty Roy and he had played in tons of them already. He was just a great leader and I followed him when I was younger being from Ottawa. I knew what he was all about. I just tried to watch him and see what he was doing (before Game 7).”
–Carolina winger Scott Walker has taken on the role of ultimate villian after sucker-punching Aaron Ward in the third period of Game 5 — and then subsequently skirting by with a simple $2500 slap of a fine — but said he’s not going to get rattled by the “Ulf Treatment” at the Garden on Thursday night.
“I played in the minors a lot and it gets rowdy in some of those barns, and obviously in Vancouver it was a lot similar to this. A little bit in the New Jersey it rowdy behind the bench, but you don’t really notice it that much. It’s such an important game in Game 7 that I don’t think the fans will affect the way they play or we play … or myself. It’s great for them that they’ve got something to yell and scream about, but I don’t think we’ll lose our focus or anything like that.”
–There seemed to be some indications out there that a potential Eastern Conference Finals Game 1 against the Pittsburgh Penguins would be scheduled at the TD Banknorth Garden on Sunday — likely Sunday afternoon. Stay tuned for that one because it could be another doubleheader if the Boston Celtics series goes to seven games.
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