|Morris has been a dead-on power play hit||10.06.09 at 3:50 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — It wasn’t a common sight last season, but there was at least one Bruins practice that involved the Boston defensemen corps firing pucks through bright orange traffic cones.
The traffic cones were placed near the right and left point areas in the attack zone, and the drill was designed to achieve pinpoint accuracy on the all-important power play blasts. The big gun shots from the B’s defensemen are oft-times the trigger to jolting Boston’s man advantage attack. With that in mind, there were times when a normally mighty power play lost some of it’s bite for the B’s last season when those point shots were nudged a little too far off the mark.
It wasn’t the sheer power of the long-range bids because guys like Zdeno Chara and Dennis Wideman have slappers capable of obliterating glass behind the net — with the assistance of some good wood, of course. But there were times when the shot would fade wide to either side, or an aggressive penalty kill would smother a shot with one brave sacrificial body.
“That’s the one thing that we lacked last year. At times we really had some trouble getting our shots through,” said B’s coach Claude Julien. “Teams are blocking shots and getting into the shooting lanes, and its getting harder to get shots off.”
Despite the intermittent bouts of wildness with their point shots, the Bruins still boasted a 23.6 percent power play success rate, and ranked fourth in the entire NHL. Only the high-powered units in Detroit, Washington and San Jose ranked higher last season.
|Big Looch is back at Bruins practice||at 11:10 am ET|
WILMINGTON — Milan Lucic is skating free and easy without any trace of a limp on the top line along with Marc Savard and Marco Sturm in Tuesday morning’s Bruins practice at Ristuccia Arena. Big Looch missed Monday’s session with a non-hockey related issue that was essentially a tiny facial abrasion that got slightly infected, and was addressed medically Monday. The original bump on his kisser wasn’t sustained playing hockey, and Lucic is back on the ice Tuesday morning.
The “personal day” for Lucic had nothing to do with his legs or his right punching hand. Both were thrown out as speculation after Lucic abused Jay Harrison in a bloody brawl Saturday night during their win over the Carolina Hurricanes. But neither theory was the actual case with Lucic, who appears good to go against the Anaheim Ducks Thursday night.
–The Boston Bruins/Carolina Hurricanes fight-filled Saturday night opener for NESN earned a 3.9 household rating, which marks the network’s highest rated season-opening broadcast in 25 years of covering the Bruins. NESN’s 3.9 rating was also the highest average household rating recorded in the Boston DMA (designated market area) during the game’s 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm window, beating all other broadcasts and cable networks during that time period.
The network’s previous high rating for a season opening broadcast came during a Bruins 2-1 win over the New York Rangers on January 23, 1995 when the network earned a 3.8 rating for its first broadcast coming out of a lockout shortened season.
|Turn up the volume: B’s ready from the start||10.04.09 at 12:23 am ET|
After laying an egg in their season opener against Washington, the Bruins knew they had to pick up the effort level on Saturday against Aaron Ward, Andrew Alberts and the Carolina Hurricanes, the same team that eliminated last spring in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
And there would be no slow start to this one, like on Thursday night when the Bruins fell down early and never really recovered.
The Bruins scored on four of their eight power play chances and routed Carolina, 7-2, before a pumped-up TD Garden crowd that was treated to nearly as many good brawls as goals. Milan Lucic and Shawn Thornton added to the festivities with their bouts against the Canes.
Here’s what the combatants had to say, or at least some of the key players and coaches.
|Bruins beat up Canes on and off the ice||10.03.09 at 9:51 pm ET|
With images of last year’s fist-filled Dallas Stars game dancing in their heads, the Bruins exploded on the score sheet and pounded the Hurricanes into submission in a 7-2 win at TD Garden Saturday night. The B’s came out firing after a disappointing opener against the Washington Capitals, and scored three quick goals against the Hurricanes in a dominant first period.
The buzzing B’s outshot the Hurricanes by a 21-7 margin in that first period and registered more shots in one energetic period against the Canes than during an entire lackadaisical game opening night against the Alex Ovechkin traveling band. Steve Begin, Derek Morris, Michael Ryder, Marco Sturm and Marc Savard all registered multi-point nights among 13 B’s names on the score sheet, and the victory was punctuated by a huge team-wide brawl at the end of the second period.
Last season’s work ethic finally kicked into gear one game too late, but all the telltale signs of last year’s team were evident in the effort toward power play opportunities and beating Carolina to every last loose puck.
“That’s mainly what we talked about yesterday all day and today. We talked about effort. If the effort was there a lot of things would fall into place,” said B’s coach Claude Julien. “We needed more than the 1o minutes we got the other night, and we more or less got 60 [minutes] tonight.
“For us this was an opportunity to redeem ourselves and show the fans what opening night should have been like. It should have been more like tonight.”
Milan Lucic cut open Jay Harrison’s forehead with a punishing right during the first brutal fight, and an Andrew Alberts cross-check to Marco Sturm following the ensuing face-off sparked on a team-wide scrum. As NESN’s Jack Edwards so aptly said last season during a rout of the Canadiens, the Bruins beat Carolina badly on the ice and they beat them up.
YOU’RE THE BEST AROUND AND NOTHING WILL EVER KEEP YOU DOWN: Steve Begin. The ex-Habs energy forward was single-handedly killing penalties, set up a pair of goals and amazed one and all with his hockey package of skill, skating speed and grit on the fourth line. Bruins fans are going to adore the former Montreal tough guy, and the love affair clearly started last night.
GOAT HORNS: Carolina’s blueline was pretty awful throughout Saturday night’s game without Joni Pitkanen, and there may not have been a slower pairing than Andrew Alberts and Aaron Ward. Both were minus-2 with bad turnovers all around the ice, and Alberts touched off the hockey pig-pile with a cheap cross-check. Alberts ended his night by picking a fight with Shawn Thornton, and getting beaten badly with a flurry of rights and lefts.
Here’s the Lucic/Harrison bloodbath courtesy of youtube:
|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.”