|Bruins breakdown: The fast lane||02.24.10 at 12:22 pm ET|
We continue our Bruins breakdown at the break with the men in the passing lane. On Monday the centers got their attention and Tuesday was for the men riding shotgun. Wednesday is for the men who like to skate fast and hit hard — the left wings.
On Thursday we will look at the top three defensemen on the roster and the three back blue liners on Friday before finishing up with the goaltending situation on Saturday.
Without further ado . . . .
Sturm — Last September the Big Bad Blog took a look at what Sturm would mean to the Bruins offense this year. The idea was that Sturm would be able to fill in the goal-scoring production of the departed Phil Kessel and, if the rest of the team played to its 2008-09 levels, then the Bruins would still be near the top of the leading in scoring.
So much for that.
Last season the Bruins were second in the league in scoring with 3.29 goals per game, almost all of which was done without Sturm because of a knee injury. This year the Bruins have receded to below 2006-07 and 2007-08 levels when they scored 2.56 and 2.51 goals per game, respectively. At 2.35 goals per game this season the Bruins are dead last in the NHL in scoring with the next closest team (Edmonton at 2.43) almost a full tenth of a point ahead of them.
Call it the curse of Sturm.
|Bruins aim to tame faltering Panthers||02.12.10 at 9:08 pm ET|
Everybody wants to be on an island in south Florida in the winter.
Well, unless your name is Tomas Vokoun.
In a letter to their fans on Friday, Florida Panthers managing partners Cliff Viner and Stu Siegel had some direct words on what they think of the current direction of their hockey club:
Clearly, we are not satisfied with some of the players on this team that do not possess the characteristics we need to be successful. We must be accountable for that. Our task moving forward is to acquire players with the attributes, skills and qualities we want in a Panthers player. We must admit the significant shortcomings we have as an organization, and we must move quickly and efficiently to overcome these shortcomings and reshape this franchise on a much more solid foundation.
Translation? We are blowing the doors off this roster and starting from scratch.
The Panthers are having the direct opposite reaction to a horrendous streak than the Bruins. Where as Peter Chiarelli has been patient and waited for Marc Savard and Milan Lucic to come back healthy and productive and has been rewarded with three straight wins this week, Panthers general manager Randy Sexton cannot seem to wait to break up his roster. Heading into Saturday’s game Florida only stands six points from a playoff birth but it probably is looking at the teams ahead of it (like the Bruins) and has made the determination that the roster, as currently situated, does not have the talent or chemistry to break out of the funk.
That is where Vokoun comes in. The Panthers goaltender is having a good season and played well recently, despite Florida’s five-game losing streak. Vokoun is 5-7-1 in his last 13 games with a 1.77 goals against and .947 save percentage but is hampered by the fact that the Panthers are perhaps the worst defensive team in the league giving up 34.1 shots a game does not help the stalwart backstop. On top of that Florida is on an 11-game streak where it has scored two goals or less. Sound like the Bruins recent woes? Yeah, just about.
Without Vokoun, the Panthers would not even be sniffing a playoff spot and he may be the only player on the Panthers’ roster that might not be on the move. He has another year left on his deal and a no-trade clause. Sexton has stability at the most fickle position in the game and, if he is thinking clearly, should not mess with a good thing and build from the backstop on out. Trading Dominic Moore to the Canadiens for a second round pick on Thursday was a good start and there will probably be more trades on the way.
On the Bruins side of the aisle, things are looking better. The team looks to incorporate the lessons it has learned in the positive week before the Olympic break and continue them in Sunrise on Saturday. Twice this week the Bruins have broken the two-goal barrier that had been holding them back and Tuukka Rask has made them stand up (despite barely hanging on after being spotted a five goal lead on Thursday). Rask is 3-0-2 in his last five straight starts with a .942 save percentage and will likely start against the Panthers.
Miroslav Satan will miss the game after suffering a laceration on his hand in a first period hit into the boards on Thursday. Satan flew back to Boston and had the hand looked at and the report is that there is no tendon damage but rather just a fresh cut that will keep him out on Saturday. Coach Claude Julien could not comment on whether or not the cut will keep him from playing with Team Slovakia in Vancouver but suspected that Satan would probably play. Lucic and Shawn Thornton did not practice on Friday because of reported food poisoning but are expected to go on Saturday.
|Bruins hold off Lighting for third straight||02.11.10 at 10:16 pm ET|
Summary — The Bruins scored four first period goals en route to a 5-4 victory over the streaking Lightning at St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa Bay on Thursday. Michael Ryder had two goals and an assist in the first and Milan Lucic added to tip-in goals to pace the Bruins attack. Tuukka Rask won his third straight game for Boston with 30 saves and now has earned points in five straight. The Lightning came back on Boston with two second period goals and another in two in the third before the Bruins were able to put the game away.
Antero Niittymaki let in the four first period goals on 21 shots before being pulled for Mike Smith to start the second.
Ryder almost had a natural hat trick in the first. He got an assist on Lucic’s first goal with a shot from the point that the big forward deflected on its way passed Niitymaki. Ryder scored twice later in the period with the first coming courtesy of a give-and-go on the rush with Blake Wheeler and then another on the power play off a shot from Marc Savard to make it 4-0.
Lucic was credited for his second of the game in the second period when the Bruins made it 5-0. Lucic tipped a shot off a turn-and-blast from Zdeno Chara in the high slot that found its way through Smith’s pads.
The Lightning came back late in the second on the power play when Martin St. Louis picked up two goals in the final four minutes as the Bruins picked up a couple questionable penalties. Steve Downie scored the third and fourth goals for Tampa Bay in the third period.
Michael Ryder — The Bruins winger had his 15th career three-point game and has eight goals in nine career games against Niittymaki. His two goals give him 15 on the season.
Milan Lucic — The big bodied Bruin got credit for two goals on the night with deflections in front of the Lightning net. Lucic now has five goals on the year.
Martin St. Louis — Tampa Bay’s veteran forward had two second period goals and now has seven in the Lightnings’ last six games.
Boston’s third goal of the game was one of the best of the year for the Bruins. Ryder tipped a backhand tip pass to Wheeler who immediately gave it back to catch Niitymaki completely out of position. Ryder rammed the puck home and followed it with a trip/dive into the net to give the Bruins the 3-0 lead. Boston had taken 2-0 leads in its past four games but this was the first time in a long time that the Bruins were able to take a three-goal advantage in the first period.
Lucic scored his second of the game on a tip in the second period to make it 5-0. The goal become important as the Lighting would score four straight through the end of the second period into the third to make it a one-goal game with 8:51 left before the Bruins were able to put it away.
|Ryder and Bruins jump on Lightning||at 8:29 pm ET|
The Bruins have not been able to score four goals in a game for a while. Let alone four in a period.
The Bruins took a first period lead when Miroslav Satan beat Antero Niittymaki with helpers from Derek Morris and Marc Savard at 4:24. Satan took advantage of defenseless Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman who had lost his stick up the ice and was unable to support Niittymaki in front of the net. The Bruins have scored the first goal in five straight games dating back to last Tuesday against the Capitals. That streak includes four straight 2-0 leads starting last Thursday against Montreal.
Make it five.
Milan Lucic gave the Bruins the two-goal advantage at 11:21 when he may (or may not have) tipped a Michael Ryder shot from the point that was just enough to make it passed Niitmaki. Ryder’s shot went through both Lucic and Lightning defenseman Matt Smaby and it was not clear if Lucic actually got a stick on it though it definitely touched Smaby. At this point the officials are crediting Lucic with the goal, his fourth of the year.
Ryder would make up for it on one of the nicest looking goals of the year when he went give-and-go with Blake Wheeler in front of Niittymaki. Ryder had a backhand pass to Wheeler on the dot who returned it immediately for the easy one-timer into the net. Ryder followed the puck and climbed out of the goal with a fist pump and a three goal lead.
Ryder would make it 4-0 1:35 later on the power play (Steve Downie four-minute roughing 16:41). Savard skated from the left half wall and put a wrist shot on Niittymaki that the goaltender deflected to the back wall. It bounced back up for Ryder who deposited it in the top corner for the Bruins first four goal game in about a month. Ryder now has 15 goals on the year.
The Lightning would not get a shot on Rask for the final 13 minutes of the period and the Bruins head to the locker room with a sizable shots margin.
Shot through first:
Bruins — 21
Lightning — 13
|Bruins cannot catch a break||02.06.10 at 5:08 pm ET|
When things are going bad there is a no such thing as catching a break. Sometimes the break catches you.
The Bruins were skating to what was looking like a 2-1 win against Vancouver on Saturday afternoon when Canucks defenseman Sami Salo broke his stick trying to send a blast on Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask. The puck idled off the shot and was over-skated in a clearing attempt by Milan Lucic before Tanner Glass came in and found it in the high slot to send it back on Rask. Vancouver forward Pavol Demitra was in the perfect place to redirect it with the shaft of his stick to tie the game at two. Vancouver went on to win in a shootout.
“Bad luck, story of my season, [expletive deleted], nothing can go right. What can you do?” Lucic said.
Rask saw the play develop in front of him but the odd deflection was enough to get it passed him in his second straight start and second straight shootout loss.
“I saw it, I saw it,” Rask said. “But the guy tipped it in front of me and you can’t just stand there and wait for the tip. I try to be square for the puck and he just happened to make kind of a weird tip and he tipped it over my shoulder. That’s the kind of luck we haven’t gotten in the past couple of games. Just got to stick with it, and it’s coming.”
It is those type of plays that are really starting to wear on the Bruins patience. For three straight games Boston has played well only to see a seemingly innocuous play turn into the deciding factor in the game. On Thursday it was the Matt Hunwick’s penalty that led to the first on Montreal’s two goals in the final minutes of the second period that turned the game around. On Tuesday against the Capitals it was Blake Wheeler and David Krejci not being able to get the puck past Jose Theodore on a wide-open net and then watch as Washington comes storming back minutes later. Good games by the Bruins are turning into losses on a dime.
“It is disheartening. You guys watched that last goal. A guy breaks his stick, [Lucic] should be off on a break away, 2-on-1, and it just kind of flubs through his legs and skate and the guy turns and fires it away,” Savard said. “It is not even a clean tip, it hits his shaft and skips up in the top corner. It is just disheartening, like I said. We go through overtime trying to get the win but no break.”
The Bruins were good in the third period against Vancouver. They did not sit back and wait to lose the game, they were active in trying to put a third goal passed Luongo. The Canuck stoned them which allowed his team enough of an opportunity to catch the break that the Bruins have not been able to in their 10 game skid.
“I still thought we played well in the third with that 2-1 lead and then that mistake and that turned into a goal and that is the end of it,” coach Claude Julien said. “I really thought that we were playing well enough in the third that we could have won that game 2-1. When [Lucic] over-skated that puck and they just threw it at the net, those are the type of things where you say ‘you’ve got to be kidding me, give me a break here’ . . . right now it is just the way it is.”
So it is. The Bruins 10th straight loss turned on a broken stick, a breakaway that wasn’t and a tip off the shaft of Demitra’s stick. With all the breaks, it is a wonder that the Bruins cannot catch one. That is just how things work when a team is in the skids.
|Canadiens set to invade TD Garden||02.04.10 at 1:27 pm ET|
If there was ever a game for the Bruins to get back to their winning ways, Thursday night against archrival Montreal Canadiens would be it. Boston has fallen from fifth to 12th in the Eastern Conference standings during its eight game losing streak and has watched division opponents like the Habs leapfrog them in the standings.
Over the past three games the Bruins have played with good energy and decent emotion but have not seen the results on the scoreboard. The team has not had a positive seminal moment during the season, a game that defines the squad and sets the pace for winning hockey. With the Canadiens in town and all the fanfare that comes along with them, Thursday could be a good time to turn things around.
“There is a lot of history in it, the crowd always gets into it. It is kind of cool when they have all those Montreal Canadiens fans in the crowd. It always gets us excited every time we play these guys,” Milan Lucic said.
Yes, there is history between these two Original Six hockey clubs, but recent history between the players on each roster is not worth much going into Thurday’s contest. Last year Boston and Montreal hooked up for a memorable, fight filled battle in the Bruins last home game of the regular season and tensions and between the two were high during the Boston’s three game, first round sweep in the playoffs. Yet, significant agitators on last year’s Habs roster such as Mike Komisarek (Toronto), Saku Koivu (Anaheim), Georges Laraque (released late January) and Andrei Kostitsyn (knee injury, out till after Olympics) are not around as are several players from last year’s Bruins roster. Hence, there are not many hard feelings carried over between the players going into Thursday’s contest.
“I wish [there was carry over] but they have kind of revamped their lineup so a lot of those guys who we had the big rivalries with in the last three years are gone. I would not mind creating new ones, I suppose,” Bruins enforcer Shawn Thornton said. “We don’t like each other, we haven’t for years. I think it will be a fun game to play in, I think everybody will be up for it. So, I hope we will turn it around, yeah.”
The Bruins roster turmoil has had some effect on their goal output recently as they strive for chemistry on newly formed lines with the roster turnover or players returning from injury. As players such as Marco Sturm and Marc Savard get their health and timing back, the hope is that Boston can start generating more goals and find a way to win some games.
“We have not helped ourselves either with all the different line combinations but we are not the only team going through that and we are not going to make excuses but we have not had the same lines,” coach Claude Julien said. “The chemistry with injuries and the lines, it is a challenge and kind of have to fight through that and hopefully as we are getting a little healthier hopefully that comes back.”
At the same time, the Bruins goaltenders would do the rest of the team a big favor if they could completely shutdown an opposing team. Tuukka Rask was the first goalie off the ice after Thursday’s morning skate and will likely get the start against the Canadiens. He said that both him and Tim Thomas are always approach games with the notion that the goaltender might be able to steal a win for the team.
“We got to have that state of mind before every game. The past few games have been like that, we can’t let in any weak goals. We approach games that way that we are going to steal them and hopefully it is going to happen soon,” Rask said. “We really feel that we have been playing better and better here just without the results but I am trying to get the win here today.”
10 Bruins forwards participated in the morning skate with Mark Recchi, Savard, Sturm and Michael Ryder the missing men. On the blue line Boston had six skaters with Andrew Ference taking the ice and Dennis Wideman absent. Ference has missed the last 12 games with a groin injury. Mark Stuart will still be sidelined with a broken finger he sustained against the Kings last Saturday and is expected to be out until after the Olympics at the very least. It remains doubtful that Ference will play against the Canadiens which probably means that Adam McQuaid and Wideman will be on the rink when the puck drops barring a last minute change of plans.
|Bears looking for their bite||01.26.10 at 12:43 pm ET|
WILMINGTON ‘ The Bruins had a workout day at Ristuccia Arena on Tuesday, and the only players to take the ice were those returning from injury ‘ Marc Savard, Byron Bitz and Steve Begin. The three were put through drills by assistant coach Doug Houda that included precision passing and shooting exercises, while the rest of the team went through “dry land” conditioning with meetings that coach Claude Julien said included watching some video.
“We did some other things besides for dry land. You make sure that your days are constructive. We’ve played quite a few games and had a good practice yesterday,” Julien said. “Today was about working in a different direction and kind of build up towards the weekend.”
Part of what has been lacking in the Bruins game during during the month of January has been the physical spark that has spurred previous Bruins teams. Bitz, one of the bigger bodies on the team, was not sure how that aspect of the Bruins game went missing.
“There are a lot of things in our game, including that physical aspect, that we have gotten away from, the staples of what makes us a good team,” Bitz said. “I don’t know why. It is a good question and there is no easy answer. If we knew we would remedy it as quick as we can. It is something we are addressing and we know we have to be better at and we will.”
Part of the lack of physicality has been the lack of the presence of Milan Lucic. The hulking forward has only suited up for 19 games this year and is still looking for his timing in what will be his 10th game back from injury in Buffalo on Friday.
“There is no doubt that when your timing is off, you are getting there a little late or not at all,” Julien said of Lucic. “It is part of his game that you have to be patient with as a coach, because he has hardly played this year. I have said that before, when a guy doesn’t really start the season and comes in halfway though it is a big hurdle to jump over and catch the rest of the players in the league.”
Lucic did pick a fight last Thursday against Columbus forward Jared Boll, but overall, there has not been a lot of bite to these bears of late.
The Bruins need a significant moment soon, or the rest of the season will be lost to the fog in which they currently find themselves. Whether it be a big fight (or series of fights), a big performance or just a night when they break out of their goal-scoring funk and light the lamp with regularity. To this point in the season it has not happened and Bitz said the team might not realize it at the time when (if) it does.
“You know, I guess at the end of the year we will be able to look back and say that ‘Yeah, that game was a defining moment,’ but right now, I guess you never know when that moment is going to come,” Bitz said. “I think you will just have a role and job on the team and I think individually you have to worry about doing that and everything will take care of itself.”