|Bruins lose opener, 5-2||10.09.10 at 2:38 pm ET|
PRAGUE — The Bruins are, quite clearly, one of the NHL’s elite teams on paper. They did everything they could for the first two periods of Saturday’s season-opener to suggest otherwise, and the glimpses of promise they did show in the third period proved to be too little, too late. The team showed all sorts of offensive and defensive weaknesses as they dropped the opener in Prague, 5-2, to the Coyotes.
Though he did allow four goals in the game, Tuukka Rask didn’t exactly struggle, as one of Phoenix’ goals came on the flukiest of plays and another came on a breakaway caused by a Daniel Paille gaffe.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS
– Matt Hunwick. To those on twitter during the game, the poor guy was the subject of about 80 percent of the tweets from either Bruins or fans, and for good reason. Beginning the game paired with Dennis Seidenberg, Hunwick was on the ice for all of the Coyotes’ first three tallies of the game, giving him a headstart on a terrible plus/minus.
– General sloppy play was the norm from the Bruins in all three areas on Saturday. Players up and down the roster, from Hunwick, to Blake Wheeler, to Paille, to newly re-signed captain Zdeno Chara, killed chances at offensive opportunities by either squandering the puck or holding onto it too long.
– The power play was unproductive, but when a team gets shut out it’s to be expected that they didn’t produce on the man advantage. At any rate, the team went 0-3 on the power play through the first two periods (they’d later get Nathan Horton’s second goal of the game on a man advantage in the third) and gave up a couple of real scoring opportunities to the shorthanded Coyotes.
The team, as is well documented, was the worst in the league when it came to burying the biscuit (2.39 goals per game), and their power play wasn’t much better. The Bruins finished the season with a 16.6 power play percentage, good for 23rd in the NHL. The additions of Seguin and Horton should improve both categories, but there wasn’t much from the team on the night to suggest it.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS
– These are going to be a bit redundant because Nathan Horton was so clearly the Bruins’ most valuable player for the Bruins on Saturday. Here’s the separate one dedicated just to Horton: He can’t be beat from in front of the net. He missed early on in the game by firing one wide at the gloveside of Ilya Bryzgalov, but beat the Phoenix goaltender with his lethal wrist shot on the next two chances. He tried to downplay the possibility of him being a 40-goal-scorer this year, but he’s the complete package.
– The first line showed what it’s made of. In addition to Milan Lucic’s physicality and David Krejci’s craftiness (he embarrassed Adrian Aucoin early in the third period at the blueline with a move that dropped the defenseman to the ice based on pure confusion), but Nathan Horton was allowed to do what he does best: fire off a wrister from the hashmark. Lucic hit him from behind the net to set up the team’s only goal of the game at 3:33 of the game.
– Gregory Campbell is going to be a difficult player for Bruins fans not to like. Following Horton’s first goal, he gave the Bruins a little more momentum in the third period by dropping the gloves with Coyotes center Vernon Fiddler. He took a bad slashing penalty with less than 10 minutes to go and his team trailing by two, but aside from that he came as advertised — a solid bottom-six forward who despite not having major strengths, has no major weaknesses.
|Good morning, the Bruins are playing||at 6:18 am ET|
PRAGUE — After taking in the Bruins’ final skate before they take the ice for real against the Coyotes, it’s quite apparent that they’ve had enough of the preseason. It’s been a blast seeing Europe for some of these guys, but they’re ready to begin the process of making last season’s playoff collapse a distant memory.
Camp has been long enough. We’ve had the opportunity to do different things and try different things and get our team ready for the season-opener. Now it’s time to get going here. I think everybody’s anxious to get the regular season going.
“It’s a different feeling,” Nathan Horton said following the skate. “The preseason is nice, but this is a different feeling already this morning [in practice]. Everyone’s excited it’s finally here.”
Horton and second overal pick Tyler Seguin have both been cast as the offensive saviors for a club that finished last in the NHL with 2.39 goals per game last season. While both have impressed in the preseason — Horton more so than Seguin based on experience — Claude Julien cautioned those on hand Saturday morning to not place too high of expectations on the young scorers.
“I don’t think we should expect more [from Horton and Seguin] than we should expect from the rest of our team,” Julien said. “Those guys have come in and they know what their strengths are and what they need and want to do to help this team succeed. That’s basically what we need from those kind of guys. Horton’s a guy who can score goals, and I think he’s proven throughout the preseason that he can do that, and we expect him to continue doing that.
“A young kid like Seguin, with three goals in the last two games, I think he’s already proven that he can play at this level, and we have to give him that opportunity to keep growing with our hockey club without putting excess pressure on his shoulders. I think it’s up to us as a team to really come together.”
Horton, the third overall pick in the 2003 NHL draft, spent the first six seasons in the NHL with the Panthers, never once tasting playoff hockey. He’s voiced his excitement with the town and the organization since being acquired in June via trade, but he hasn’t been the only one chirping since the move. Prognosticators have been particularly high on Horton now that he’s a Bruin, and though he’s had just one 30-goal season to this point, some feel he could be a 40-goal scorer.
In chatting with Horton after the skate, it seemed as good a time as any to ask. Over or under 40 goals this season?
Horton, who smiles so much that this writer suspects it could just be his bone structure, grinned and responded, “I’m aiming [for it]. I’m trying my best.”
Horton, 25, will skate on the first line, centered by David Krejci with Milan Lucic on the left wing. The line makes for one of the more physical first lines throughout the league, with Horton having a reputation for his physicality and Lucic a fan favorite for his bruising style of play. As a result, Horton reiterated his stance that Lucic, 22, is “the ultimate hockey player.”
“We have a pretty tough team. You have to use it to your advantage. Any time you’re playing a team that’s tough, it’s hard to play against [them]. It’s not fun, and we want to make it like that tonight.”
The defensive pairings have been tough to get a read on due to how much they’ve been moved around, but here’s a safe bet for the forward lines for Saturday night.
Lucic – Krejci – Horton
Wheeler- Bergeron – Recchi
Paille – Seguin – Ryder
Marchand – Campbell – Thornton
Expect Tuukka Rask to be in net.
Here are the preseason leaders, courtesy of the Bruins.
1. Patrice Bergeron, 8
2. Tyler Seguin, 5
2. Zdeno Chara, 5
4. Matt Bartkowski, 4
Here’s one final big-picture quote from Julien this morning:
“Everybody has something that they excel in, as far as their roles are concerned, whether it’s goal-scoring, whether it’s physical play. If we put it all together and we do it well, we’ve got a pretty good hockey club.”
|Top line feels it’s still a work in progress||10.01.10 at 11:30 am ET|
BELFAST — The offensive lines, for all intents and purposes, seem to be just about set for when the Bruins begin the season next weekend against the Coyotes. Assuming nothing changes, the top line will be David Krejci between Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton, the second will feature Patrice Bergeron in the middle of Mark Recchi and Jordan Caron, Tyler Seguin will likely be in the middle of Michael Ryder and Blake Wheeler on the third line, and Gregory Campbell will center Daniel Paille and Shawn Thornton, with Brian McGrattan likely the 13th forward.
Time is running out for these lines to hit their stride and for players to get comfortable with one another. In Seguin’s case, he’s still picking up the little things needed to round out his game in his own end, plus there’s the adjustment to a couple of new linemates in a new league.
Considering that each of the team’s four lines has a newcomer on it, the line that has impressed most thus far in training camp has been that top line of Krejci, Lucic, and Horton. The former Panther in Horton has picked up a pair of goals so far in the preseason, and Krejci seems ready to shine as a No. 1 center. Factor in Lucic’s aspirations to score at least 20 goals this season without losing his physical mentality, and the makings seem to be there for something special. Even with the promise shown, nobody is satisfied yet.
“I don’t think we click together very well yet,” Krejci said Friday. “I think we’ve had some good shifts, some good chemistry on some shifts, but I don’t think we’ve brought it every shift. I believe that there is something and we’re going to try to find it in each shift when we go out there.”
Horton agreed. Though Seguin and Caron might not have gigantic expectations because of their age, Horton, 25, is expected to put up career numbers in his first season in Boston.
“I think we’re getting better,” Horton said. “Obviously, we need to get better, but we’re just trying to work on things, getting used to each other’s games. It will come, I think. We’ve got two more games to get ready for the regular season.”
Asked if players can get by on talent alone in the preseason before having to show more cohesion with linemates when it counts, Krecji didn’t feel the difference between an exhibition and a regular season game was substantial enough.
“It’s not really much different than the [regular season] games,” Krejci said. “Everybody works so hard, does the same things, but you’ve got to know how to use experience and buy some time. That’s what happened when Horton scored that goal against Florida at home, so little things like that could help, and hopefully that’s going to help us tomorrow and the first exhibition game in Czech. Then, hopefully we can carry it into regular season games.”
|Second period summary: Capitals 2, Bruins 0||09.29.10 at 8:34 pm ET|
With the second period wrapped up at the Garden, a couple of things have stood out that may be worth keeping an eye on in the Bruins’ final period of regulation before they depart for Belfast.
One thing that could easily be counted was the number of power play opportunities the Bruins had. That was four. The team applied good pressure on Capitals goalie Braden Holtby and moved the puck well for the most part, though some of their scoring opportunities were broken up by either blocked shots or one too many passes.
The number that is difficult to pinpoint is just how many times the Bruins either seemed to have beaten/fooled Holtby, tied in with how many times the Capitals netminder was badly out of position and didn’t pay for it. The team’s best opportunity of the period came when Nathan Horton fired a hard wrist shot past Holtby only to see it clank off the post.
The Capitals added a tally in the second, a Nicklas Backstrom redirect past Tim Thomas for the Washington captain’s second of the night.
Blake Wheeler collided with Holtby late in the period and immediately left the ice and walked down the tunnel, though he turned around and returned to the bench.
|Horton impresses despite bad bounce||09.26.10 at 12:59 am ET|
Tyler Seguin wasn’t the only player to have a nice night offensively and still want a play or two back. Nathan Horton, who scored the Bruins’ second goal in the second period Saturday night, fell victim to a tricky bounce that eventually led to a Radek Dvorak goal that tied the game in the third period of the team’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Panthers.
Behind Tuukka Rask’s net, Horton turned the puck over to Marty Reasoner, who fed it Dvorak.
“I don’t know [what happened],” Horton said. “I was skating back and it kind of hopped over my stick and it was a bad bounce, but hopefully that won’t happen during the year,” Horton said before cracking a smile.
Horton, the centerpiece of June’s trade that sent Dennis Wideman, the 15th overall pick in the draft, and a 2011 third-rounder to Florida, may have been given a pass given the skills he put on display Saturday night. In addition to his obvious strength, his goal was more or less a PSA on not giving him space or time to shoot given how easily he beat Scott Clemmensen from the hash marks with ample time to pick his spot top shelf.
“I just had a little bit more time I guess and I just tried to get a better shot, a better angle,” he said. “Just luckily it went in.”
In facing his old teammates, Horton was on the ice for 19:12, starting on the team’s projected top line with Milan Lucic and David Krejci and seeing time both on the power play and penalty kill. All in all, Horton saw positives and negatives on the night, but nothing too extreme.
“I mean, obviously, it’s still preseason, so it was pretty sloppy,” Horton said, “but we need to obviously work on things and get more comfortable with guys [we’re] playing with. But I think every fame is going to get better from here on in and just keep pushing hard, keep working and I think things will come together pretty quickly.
|Lucic-Krejci-Horton line surfaces||09.24.10 at 12:45 pm ET|
The Bruins split up into two groups that featured members of both of this preseason’s squads. Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask both took the ice, which is encouraging as we keep an eye on just how many days off Thomas gets as he recovers from offseason hip surgery.
Though it’s still preseason and the team likely isn’t done trying things out, the top two lines on the ice friday were Lucic-Krejci-Horton and Seguin-Bergeron-Recchi. It’s very difficult to imagine those not being the top two lines on Oct. 9 when the team opens the season in Prague against the Coyotes.
The other lines out there on Friday morning consisted of Gregory Campbell, Jamie Arniel and Brian McGrattan, as well as Jordan Caron, Ryan Spooner, and Max Sauve.
|Training camp underway||09.17.10 at 10:14 am ET|
After a couple weeks of captain’s practices and three days of rookie skating in anticipation of Wednesday and Thursday’s victories over the Islanders youngsters, the Bruins officially open training camp on Friday morning at the Garden with fitness testing. Peter Chiarelli, Claude Julien, and the players will speak following the session, so keep it here for their comments and news as it comes.
The team has optional ice at 1:30 Friday, but that will be closed to the public and the media. For those interested in getting their first look at Nathan Horton in a Bruins uniform, camp will be open to the public on Saturday and Sunday.
Wednesday and Thursday will mark the team’s first two preseason games, when they play the Canadiens in Montreal and Panthers in Rochester. They have two home exhibitions, taking place on the 25th and 29th against the Panthers and Capitals, respectively.