|First period summary: Bruins-Leafs||03.09.10 at 7:40 pm ET|
Without two of their best players the Bruins look . . .
The forecheck looks good, the penalty kill is clicking right along and even the offense chipped in.
Boston is without Marc Savard (concussion) and Zdeno Chara (lower body injury) but so far it has controlled the pace and tempo against the Maple Leafs in Toronto. Granted, the Leafs have the second-to-last record in the league, but positive signs are encouraging nonetheless.
Mark Recchi Patrice Bergeron got the Bruins offense going right off the bat. Dennis Seidenberg hit a heavy slap shot from the point that banged off of Leafs’ goaltender Jonas Gustavsson chest protector directly back in front of the net while Gustavvsson was pulled to the left of the crease leaving the net wide open for Recchi to come in and sweep the puck in for the early lead at 2:47.
Boston then gave the Leafs a great chance to get that goal back when first Blake Wheeler (hooking) then Mark Stuart (tripping) went to the penalty box to give Toronto a 50-second two-man advantage. The Bruins have the best penalty kill in the league but without Zdeno Chara for the game (lower body injury), penalties could be problematic.
The Maple Leafs only managed one official shot with the two consecutive penalties and the Bruins recovered to dominate the on both ends of the ice throughout the period.
Boston gave the Leafs another opportunity on the power play when Milan Lucic went for hooking at 16:14 but the Bruins were able to kill it. Toronto is now 0-17 on the man-advantage against Boston this season.
Shots through the first period:
Boston — 10
Toronto — 5
UPDATE — There has been a scoring change and Patrice Bergeron will get credit for the goal as opposed to Recchi. Both players were right in front to bang on it and got to the puck at the same time. Recchi picks up an assist.
|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.
|B’s solid despite shootout defeat in Philly||10.22.09 at 9:58 pm ET|
The Boston Bruins hadn’t been able to put two solid games together this season, but they finally snapped that spell of inconsistency Thursday night in the normally unfriendly City of Brotherly Love. The B’s put together an imperfectly solid road game at the Wachovia Center and earned a point by getting to overtime before dropping the shootout decision in a 4-3 loss to the Flyers.
Young center Claude Giroux scored as the final of the three Philly shooters in the overtime shootout, and Michael Ryder rang iron on the left pipe with a high slot shot attempt to give the Flyers eventual victory.
The two Northeast sports havens have been building up a heated, hated rivalry over the last three seasons, and that bad blood spilled over into some pretty entertaining, intense hockey Thursday night. It seems that a little enmity draws some pretty solid play out of both teams, and Boston impressed despite their seemingly rag tag roster. Tuukka Rask was outstanding in goal with 36 saves overall, and never better than on a stunning stone-job on Jeff Carter when the Flyers sniper broke in short-handed in the final minute of play.
It wasn’t perfect, but there were plenty of positives with both Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci playing at a considerably high level in the absence of Marc Savard, and Matt Hunwick, Steve Begin and Derek Morris factoring into the regulation scoring. Perhaps the best trait out of the Black and Gold was the resiliency to come back three different times in the game — a characteristic that’s been a big part of the B’s units under coach Claude Julien. The B’s power play even got into the act early in the game when Morris scored on a bomb from the deep point area after Boston was held without a shot on the man advantage the night before.
With the loss, the Bruins fail to get over .500 for the first time this season, but can take perhaps a morsel of satisfaction that things finally seem to be spinning in the right direction for the Spoked B with a gritty, even road effort.
YOU’RE THE BEST AROUND AND NOTHING’S EVER GONNA GET YOU DOWN:Tuukka Rask made a game-saving stop on Jeff Carter during a shorthanded breakaway, but he was solid throughout with each of the 36 saves he made in the shootout victory. The 22-year-old fresh-faced rook was Cool Hand Tuuk when it mattered most in the pressure-packed minutes at the end of the game, and made a great stop with his right leg pad when Carter opted for the backhand flip. One could envision Rask being a heck of a playoff goalie after watching the job between the pipes against the Flyers.
GOAT HORNS:Mark Stuart was saddled with a -3 for the night and struggled at times when things began looking like a Chinese Fire Drill in Boston’s defensive zone. Adding injury to insult, Stuart took a Steve Begin stick to the chops on the Flyers’ second goal of the night and feel like a ton of bricks in front of the net just before Darroll Powe popped the goal past Rask. Not a banner night for Stuart, but clearly not all of it was of his own doing.
|Stuart confirms new position as B’s player rep||10.08.09 at 12:16 am ET|
WILMINGTON — Mark Stuart said it wasn’t official as of Wednesday morning, but confirmed he’ll be stepping into the NHLPA player representative role for the Boston Bruins in the next few weeks. The 25-year-old blueliner is actually one of the longest-tenured B’s going back to his first few rookies game with Boston in 2005-05, and he’ll be replacing veteran defenseman Andrew Ference as acting player rep.
“It’s not official yet, but I think so,” said Stuart, when asked if he was the team’s new player rep. “I’ve been the assistant for a while behind Andy, and he decided to step down. He put in his time and decided he didn’t want to do it anymore. I was the next guy in line.”
Stuart served as the assistant player rep along with Ference last season, and the young defenseman was the logicial first choice when Ference reportedly stepped down from the position this week. Stuart indicated Ference was giving up the post to spend more time with his wife and two children, but the B’s blueliner has also been under a burgeoning level of criticism for his key role in the dismissal of former NHLPA Executive Director Paul Kelly.
Ference was a part of the NHLPA ad hoc committee that investigated complaints about Kelly last summer, and ultimately made the presentation to the rest of the players before overwhelmingly voting to remove the executive director from his post. There appears to have been several reasons for Kelly’s dismissal — including reading unauthorized minutes from a players-only meeting — but there’s also been a continual stream of unsavory aspects to the swift union action.
According to a report in the Toronto Globe and Mail, Mark Recchi was poised to run for player rep against Ference after being highly critical of the process leading to Kelly’s firing. When Ference agreed to voluntarily step down from his post, Recchi backed off and Stuart was able to assume the position of player rep.
With all that in mind, the NHLPA is clearly at a crossroads. Mistrust and sabotage seem to be high on the list of adjectives used to describe the NHLPA after the sacking of Kelly, and that’s not exactly a sea change from the union’s past practice. Stuart recognizes that it’s an important time for the hockey player’s union to change both their perception and their process, and readily concedes there’s quite a bit of work ahead.
“Yeah, obviously there’s a lot going on. So it’s important to be informed and to know what’s going on,” said Stuart. “I think for everybody to get involved at some point [would be good] because it’s been kind of a mess as of late.
“It’s interesting to me. I wouldn’t have [taken] the assistant [job] if it didn’t. Stepping into this role means there’s some pretty big shoes to fill, and I need to just inform myself as much as I can. Be a lot more involved.”
There’s the matter of choosing another director to replace Kelly, and serious alterations to the union’s constitution following the ridiculous 3 a.m. setting that served as Kelly’s backdrop for his unceremonious dumping. Further down the hockey road, there’s a Collective Bargaining Agreement set to expire after the 2010-11 season and mandate to avoid another work stoppage at all costs.
One other thing Stuart wanted to confirm: there’s no divide in the Bruins locker room despite some differences of opinion on union matters. The turn of events leading to Ference’s departure and Stuart’s ascension have effectively put to bed any conflict over the issues — and it was reportedly a pretty level-headed conversation between all parties that ultimately led to the NHLPA position changes.
“Andy did some great work for us over the last two years. It’s a big time committment,” said Stuart. “He put in a lot of time over the last two years, and it was mostly about the time. As far as the locker room goes, there’s nothing going on. He stepped down and I’m taking over for him. That’s about it.
“Guys are getting more involved and want to know what’s going on, and I think that’s good. We need to work as a group. My role is like any leader — to be that voice between the guys in the group and the rest of the [NHLPA]. It’s not me just voicing my opinions on issues. It’s me coming to the group, getting their thoughts, forming an opinion as a group and then going from there.”
|Stuart ready to show his strengths on the ice||09.15.09 at 10:10 am ET|
There’s a word to describe just how mighty Mark Stuart is on the ice when he gets his physicality and aggression working for him, and starts intimidating opponents with his seismic body checks and ever-improving Aaron Ward-style forearm shiver.
Stuart, the Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer and Captain Caveman all have something in common: they are all ”caveman strong.”
So physically strong that sometimes the 25-year-old defenseman momentarily forgets just how much of a physical factor he can be in his own end with each and every shift. Stuart is still considered one of the kids on a young-ish Boston Bruins team, but he’s treated like something of a young veteran because he’s been logging D-man shifts with the B’s since he was a 21-year-old fresh out of Colorado College back in 2005-06.
“You always know what you’re going to get with (Stuart),” said B’s defenseman Dennis Wideman, who has been Stuart’s sometimes ’D' partner over the last two seasons. “He’s going to be working hard, shutting down cycles and punishing people. Then he hopefully gets the puck and you get it going.
“When Stuey gets angry you’d probably want to stay away from him because he’s a strong, strong man. Sometimes I think he doesn’t even know how strong he really is.”
It’s easy to forget some of the names that dotted the lineup for Stuart’s first NHL game on March 11, 2006: Marius Czerkawski, Tom Fitzgerald, Travis Green, Dan LaCouture, Brian Leetch, Marty Reasoner, David Tanabe, and the immortal Pat Leahy. Stuart experienced the post-Thornton trade dark times the Black and Gold went through before Peter Chiarelli and Co. cleaned up the franchise, and that gives him a little bit of perspective in a locker room seeking more leadership with influential players like Aaron Ward, Stephane, Yelle, P.J. Axelsson and Shane Hnidy having moved on to other hockey destinations.
Stuart is eagerly looking forward to taking on that challenge as his role on the ice is likely to expand this season.
“I think I do need to (step into a leadership role). There’s a few guys that need to do that because we lost a few pieces of our leadership, but we still have a pretty good group that’s obviously led by ‘Z’ and Mark Recchi, who has got a lot of experience in this league,” said Stuart. “But some of us that have been here three or four years really need to step up now because we never had to before.
“You’ve got to find a happy medium between being vocal and setting an example. Just be a hard worker. I obviously don’t think I’ll be making too many flashy plays, so I’ll just get it done with hard work. Then I’ll throw a few (verbal) things in there every once in a while.”
Though Stuart has been logging minutes in NHL games for the last four seasons, last year was something of a breakout campaign for the defenseman that played in all 82 games for the second straight season and posted career-highs in nearly every single statistical category. That in and of itself is an accomplishment for Stuart, who isn’t a defenseman that’s ever going to be judged on gaudy conventional statistics. Grime-covered stats like hits and blocked shots will tell some of the tale with Stuart, but many of the skills he brings to the table were honed and perfected while watching the rough-and-tumble Aaron Ward play a very similar style of ‘D’ over the last two seasons.
With Ward now taking defenseman shifts in his adopted home state of North Carolina after a trade to the Carolina Hurricanes, Stuart remains behind as the only pure stay-at-home, physical blueliner capable of riding even the strongest of forwards into the corners and moving bodies around in front of the net. All of these things are clearly a part of Zdeno Chara’s game as well, but he’s clearly more of a hybrid defenseman given his offensive skills and power play responsibilities. That being said, there may be more offensive upside with Stuart after putting together a career-best 17 points last season with 5 goals and 12 assists.
Stuart has always threatened with a booming slap shot from just inside the blue line, but he’ll have to pile up all his points during even strength situations. He said he concentrated on working with his hands over the summer to improve himself a bit offensively, but Stuart isn’t likely to electrify with one-man defenseman rushes up the ice.
With Patrice Bergeron, Derek Morris, Andrew Ference, Dennis Wideman, Zdeno Chara and Matt Hunwick all capable power play point men embroiled in an interesting competition for four point spots on the two power play units during camp, Stuart won’t be seeing much in the way of PP time this season.
“I think this year we’ve got an abundance of guys to choose from to stay on (the power play),” said Wideman. “This year if everybody stays healthy there’ll be a lot of pressure to stay on there, and if you’re not producing then there will be one, two or three guys ready to take your spot. There’ll be some healthy competition for the PP.”
Instead the 6-foot-2, 213-pounder will focus on what’s expected in the D zone, chipping in during the odd offensive moment that presents itself and continue cultivating himself as part of the young leadership group on the hockey club. Stuart should get a lot more playing time than last seasons 15:25 of ice time per game to flash all of those skills among a defensemen corps, where he’s much more one of a kind with his impressive feats of on-ice strength.
|Chiarelli: “There is no done deal”||02.28.09 at 4:45 pm ET|