|Bruins fall silent to the Ducks after strong start||10.08.09 at 9:28 pm ET|
Thursday night might turn out to be one of the oddest games of the year for the Bruins, who appeared even in shot totals on the final score sheet but did nothing to control play over the final two periods of play. After a 1-o lead through the first 20 minutes — one that might have been more if the B’s could have finished a few more opportunities — the Ducks ripped off six, count ’em six unanswered goals in a 6-1 thrashing over the B’s at TD Garden.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment of the evening was how little fight the Black and Gold Bears had in them after taking a few punches from the Ducks during the decisive second period.
“When you’ve got to talk about the fourth line being your hardest working line all the time, then it doesn’t bode well for your hockey club,” said B’s coach Claude Julien. “I’m not going to start picking on individuals tonight because we had too many guys that were not going. I’ll just have to deal with the dirty laundry inside that dressing room.”
Once again the fourth line was probably Boston’s best all night and both Shawn Thornton and Steve Begin actually registered three shots on goal apiece after just one period of play. But the Bruins began practicing the art of undisciplined play in the second period, and the ageless Finn, Teemu Selanne, potted a pair of power play strikes in a throwback performance.
Boston’s only score turned out to be Marco Sturm’s first period strike created on a nifty backhanded saucer pass from playmaker Marc Savard. Sturm rifled a slapshot from the left faceoff dot that trickled through Ducks goaltender Jonas Hiller’s pads to give Boston a brief 1-0 lead at the 16:33 mark. The B’s followed with more offensive threats, but couldn’t put anything else past Hiller. The B’s also finished out a perfectly horrid evening by throwing up an 0-for-6 on the man advantage.
The B’s didn’t show a lot of fight after Corey Perry capped off Anaheim’s three-goal second period with a pretty one-man rush that had Boston’s defense standing still. That plume of smoke visible on television was steam coming out of the ears of Julien after another stink bomb thrown down so early in the season.
YOU’RE THE BEST AROUND, AND NOTHING’S GONNA EVER KEEP YOU DOWN: Teemu Selanne. The 39-year-old flying Finn hadn’t registered a point in Anaheim’s first two games, but did some major damage on the Ducks power play against the Bruins. Give Selanne’s teammates credits for setting him up with shots in places where he could do plenty of damage in tight close to the net.
GOAT HORNS: Matt Hunwick. He’s been off to a slow start coming back from surgery, and he’s looked pretty uncomfortable playing off his strong side at right defense paired with Mark Stuart. The Ducks scored their first PP goal on his interference penalty and he was caught standing still on Perry’s strike. He also allowed Evgeny Artyukhin to go wide on him for Anaheim’s fourth goal in the third period. Hunwick finished a minus-2 for the evening, and is still trying to find his game.
|Hunwick learning to stay within his game||10.05.09 at 2:23 am ET|
It ended up being nothing but an afterthought as the Bruins went all FEMA in shuttering the Carolina Hurricanes Saturday night, but it was a significant third-period goal for second-year defenseman Matt Hunwick in extended garbage time. The 5-foot-10, 187-pounder struggled to regain his feel early in the preseason, but all it took was one aggressive offensive play to conjure up images of the playmaking defenseman that carved a spot for himself by the end of last season.
Hunwick scored the seventh and final goal for the B’s in the rout over the Canes, and tasted a bit of on-ice revenge despite never making it past one playoff game against the Canadiens. Hunwick was crunched against the boards in that brutally physical Game 1, and the defenseman quickly bowed out of the series with a ruptured spleen.
That seemed like a million hockey years ago, though, as the 24-year-old logged time on the penalty kill and even earned a few power play minutes in the weekend rout. He’s still clearly not where back to the level he finished at last season, but he’s getting closer to form when he’s logging minutes on Boston’s man advantage in the third period while playing in Julien’s meritocratic team structure.
“It’s nice to know that my role on the team is appreciated, and I’m just going to keep doing the things that got me here in the first place,” said Hunwick. “I think physically coming into camp I felt great, and I think on-ice it took me at least a week to feel comfortable. During the summer you try to emulate what you’ll do [during the season], but it’s never the same. It took a little while [to feel good in camp] but it’s getting to the point where I’m feeling pretty good.”
Saturday night’s power play tally was a solid reminder of the dynamic, unpredictable presence that Hunwick can bring to the B’s defenseman corps when he’s playing with confidence and surety. It’s a look that’s pretty varied from the skill sets employed by the other members of Boston’s defensemen crew. Hunwick employs a loose, freelance style on the offensive end when it’s permissible, and picks crucial spots to pinch in from his spot near the blue line.
It’s exactly how the young defenseman converged on his power-play strike. Marco Sturm spotted Hunwick moving in toward the backdoor from his left point position, and the young defenseman didn’t miss his mark when Sturm zipped it on his tape at the far post. Perfect executive. Perfect offensive aggression. Pretty damned close to a perfect power play possession.
There was a legitimate, built-in excuse for Hunwick, of course, when he progressed a bit slowly in the preseason while coming off the splenectomy surgery. The blueliner endured a busy offseason that was probably a bit more jumbled than even he might have liked. Hunwick spent the first half of his summer gaining weight and muscle back after losing more than 10 pounds following his emergency surgery, and then spent several weeks waiting for a new contract with the Bruins.
It all worked out as Hunwick regained full health and was back near his playing weight by the time September arrived, and he worked out an amicable agreement with the Bruins for a two-year, $2.9 million contract. The deal served as a healthy pay raise for a defenseman that finished tied for top scorer among rookie defenseman in the NHL last season, but it also had its price. The shiny new contract perhaps raised expectations for Hunwick within a team that’s already living in a world of raised expectations this season, and the results have been a slow process.
“Practicing with his teammates certainly helped, and he’s just got to keep going about regaining that confidence,” said Julien of Hunwick. “With some guys they’re out there looking to justify their new contracts and other guys are going into their contract years. There are a bunch of different situations, but the bottom line is that you need to go out there and play.
“What you do as coaches is bringing them back and letting them know that you shouldn’t do more because you’re looking for a new contract. And you shouldn’t be putting more pressure on yourself because you’ve got a new contract, and think you should be helping the team more. You go out there, and you’re either rewarded or you will be rewarded for your play. Sometimes less is more. You’ve heard me say that quite a bit. With [Hunwick] he wants to show that he’s a big part of our hockey club, and all he has to do is play the way he did last year. For me, he was as good a defenseman as we had for a while there last year.
Julien recognized a player in Hunwick that was perhaps trying a little too hard to justify the extra zeroes in his bank account, but the young defenseman wasn’t any kind of lost cause. He was instead quick to say that it’s only a matter of time before Hunwick settled back into his second-half game, and his first goal of the season and 17:16 worth of ice time were both encouraging starting points.
|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.
|B’s talked about signing Shanahan||01.29.09 at 2:58 pm ET|
According to several hockey sources, the Bruins and current New Jersey Devils forward Brendan Shanahan discussed a potential one-year deal during the first few months of the hockey season — but both sides ultimately opted to go in different directions. The B’s decided to stick with the exciting young talent that’s performed so very well for them this season, and the right-handed shooting Shanahan inked a one-year $800,000 deal with the Devils. Shanahan and his Atlantic Division-leading Devils will be taking on the B’s at the TD Banknorth Garden (7 p.m.) tonight.
It’s been well-documented that the Bruins have been actively looking for a big, left-handed shot to A) replace the lefty shot they’re currently missing with Marco Sturm gone for the season and B) add another southpaw shot to an overabundance of right-handed shooters (Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Blake Wheeler, Michael Ryder, Chuck Kobasew) on the Black and Gold roster.
The 40-year-old Shanahan has the grit, size and the power play skills that could have made for a potent addition to Boston’s playoff roster, but the veteran winger ultimately didn’t fit the left-handed shooting mold listed in the Bruins’ want ad for a “have shot, will travel” kind of player.
To his credit, Shanahan wasn’t talking about specifics this morning with any of the teams involved in the pre-signing sweepstakes, but the Bruins clearly fit the 20-year veteran’s criteria: a northeast location and a competitive situation.
“There were a lot of teams in the mix, but I don’t think it’s appropriate to talk about other teams right now,” said Shanahan, who has two goals in three games since signing with the Devils on Jan. 15. “I’d be lying if I said there weren’t other teams in the mix that I was obviously interested in and curious about.”
|Sounds of the game… Bruins 3, Canadiens 1||01.14.09 at 10:57 am ET|
The Bruins appear to have re-discovered their mojo and they can thank their captain, Zdeno Chara, in large part for it. After dropping two straight to Buffalo and Minnesota, the Bruins stood 1-2 on their season-long six-game homestand. But then they rebounded to win an uneven 6-4 decision against Ottawa. They put together a dominant effort in a 5-1 win over Carolina and capped it off with a 3-1 win in a playoff-like atmosphere Tuesday night at the Garden against the Canadiens.
With Marco Sturm likely gone for the season with ACL surgery to his left knee and leading goal scorer Phil Kessel out for at least three weeks with mono, someone had to step up. Chara not only scored his team’s first two goals, he was a physical force on the ice, playing over 32 minutes and covering Montreal’s best player, Alex Kovalev. Our own Joe Haggerty looks further into how Chara is earning his ‘C’.
Add to the mix a boarding major called on Andrei Kostitsyn when he hit Aaron Ward and Tim Thomas coming out of the net to take out Kostitsyn, and you have all the makings of a regular season match-up between two ancient rivals that had everyone looking ahead toward the spring.
|Kessel out a month with mono||01.12.09 at 9:52 pm ET|
With Marco Sturm and Patrice Bergeron already on the shelf with injuries, the injured reserve list grew by one yesterday when Phil Kessel was put on the shelf with mononucleosis. The illness is believed to be about a month-long recovery process from the high-scoring winger with a team-high 24 goals, and leaves the B’s with a gaping hole on their top line.
The B’s brass has been resolute in their desire to fill any roster vacancies with in-house solutions, and — truth be told — things didn’t seem all that bad when it was simply Sturm and Bergeron on the injured reserve. The B’s have won all season with Sturm alternating between an ice-cold start to his season and injuries that nagged at him all winter long leading up to the knee issue. In Bergeron’s case, he’s laced up the skates and made it out on the ice and is weeks away — rather than months from a return to game action.
But there isn’t anybody capable of replacing a potential 40-goal scorer in Kessel over the next month when the Black and Gold will play 13 games and head into the stretch run prior to the playoffs. A large B’s cushion in both the Northeast Division and the Eastern Conference will allow them some patience in trying out some Providence Wanna-B’s — but the need for a trade may become an inevitability.
After playing in all 82 regular season games last season, Kessel skated in all 42 games this season and has potted a team-high 24 goals and added 17 assists. His 24 goals rank tied for third in the entire NHL and
he owns the longest point streak in the league, having accumulated points in 18 consecutive games from November 13-December 21, 2008.
Boston’s first round pick (5th overall) in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, the 21-year-old Kessel has recorded 54-53=107 totals in 194 career NHL games. He had played in 167 straight regular season games, dating back to January 9, 2007.
Along with Kessel’s trip to the injured reserve, the B’s assigned both South Boston native Kevin Regan and defenseman Matt Lashoff back to Providence and called both center Martin St. Pierre and Tuukka Rask back up to Boston. The move appears to be an admission that the “minor issue” involving Manny Fernandez won’t be sufficiently resolved by tomorrow night’s game against the Canadiens, but — then again — that situation seems to keep changing by the minute.
|Bitz, Karsums called up from Providence||01.10.09 at 7:53 am ET|
Boston Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli announced today that the club has recalled forwards Byron Bitz and Martins Karsums from the Providence Bruins (American Hockey League). Bitz gives the Bruins a skilled big body that can replicate a little bit of the unique size/skill set that Milan Lucic brought to the table before his injury (which will keep him out again today) and Karsums is once again called up to Boston in the never-ending carousel from Providence.
Yesterday morning Chiarelli voiced a preference to find in-house solutions capable of dealing with the potential loss of Marco Sturm for the season and Patrice Bergeron for an extended period of time, and the 22-year-old Karsums would seem to be getting his chance. Expect this to be a longer stint than the one-and-done experience earlier this season for Karsums, but Bitz is headed back for the Baby B’s once Lucic is healthy enough for a return.
Don’t discount the chance that the B’s could make a move outside the organization (trade, free agent signing etc.) if they don’t find another reliable scoring option with both Sturm and Bergeron out for the near future.
They will join the team today and be available for this afternoon’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Bitz has registered three goals and seven assists in 37 games for Providence this year. The 24-year-old scored 13 goals and made 14 assists in 61 games with the Providence Bruins last year. Before joining the P-Bruins in 2007, Bitz played four seasons at Cornell University with 28-60=88 totals and 155 penalty minutes in 124 career games.
The 6’5″, 215-pound Saskatoon, Saskatchewan native was originally drafted by the Bruins in the 4th round (107th overall) of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. This is the first recall of Bitz’ professional career.
Karsums is currently the leading scorer for Providence with 16 goals and 23 assists in 38 games, and ranks 8th in points overall in the AHL. Recently named an AHL All-Star, he will play for the Planet USA team in the AHL All-Star Classic on January 26.
He was recalled by Boston earlier this year and made his NHL debut against the Atlanta Thrashers on December 13. He tallied a career-best 20 goals and 43 assists in 79 games during his second professional season with the Providence Bruins last year and joined the P-Bruins in 2006 after playing three seasons of junior hockey with Moncton of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
The 5’10’”, 198-pound Riga, Latvia native was originally drafted by the Bruins in the 2nd round (64th overall) of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. The Bruins play the fifth game of a six-game homestand on Saturday,
January 10 when they host the Carolina Hurricanes at 1:00 p.m. ET.