|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.
|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.
|Bruins shoot down Sharks||01.15.10 at 1:25 am ET|
Summary ‘ Zdeno Chara blasted a slap shot past Evgeni Nabokov in the fourth round of a shootout, lifting the Bruins to a 2-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Thursday (recap). Tim Thomas made 41 saves and stopped all four San Jose shooters in the shootout to help the B’s secure the victory and end a three-game losing streak. Daniel Paille scored in the second period to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead before Joe Thornton answered with a goal later in the second to draw San Jose even.
Tim Thomas ‘ A rock-steady, 41-save performance by Thomas helped the Bruins pick up a big win.
Zdeno Chara ‘ The captain went with his best mode of attack, an overpowering slap shot to score the only goal of the shootout.
Daniel Paille ‘ With the Bruins lineup becoming more depleted by the day, the steady forward raised his game, scoring one goal and creating several other chances.
After a scoreless opening period, Shawn Thornton intercepted a Doug Murray clearing pass near the San Jose blue line and quickly moved the puck to Paille, whose shot ultimately deflected off the skate of Dan Boyle and into the net to give the Bruins the lead in a game in which they needed a competitive showing.
With Dany Heatley in a position to secure the win for San Jose with the third shot in the shootout, Thomas stayed with Heatley’s back hand shot, snaring it with his glove. Chara then sent his blast past Nabokov.
|Bruins continue to come up short on offense||11.03.09 at 11:26 pm ET|
The timing is simply too coated in irony to ignore.
The Bruins dropped another game to the Detroit Red Wings by a 2-0 score and lost two straight games for the first time this season in the process, and haven’t scored a goal in exactly 132:58 and counting. Once again they completely whiffed with an 0-for-3 on the power play — which drops them to 0-for-their-last-17 power play chances — and couldn’t muster up any notable offense over the course of the game aside from a pair of early Marco Sturm opportunities and a few post-worthy bids.
The B’s are averaging 1.85 goals per game in the seven contests since Savard landed on long term injured reserve with a broken left foot, and that isn’t going to win a lot of hockey games.
Meanwhile, in Toronto, Phil Kessel played his first game for the Maple Leafs coming off shoulder surgery and fired a career-high 10 shots on net while playing 23:50 of ice time in the overtime loss — a good two minutes more than the ice time logged for any member of the Bruins in their listless loss to the Wings. Kessel was buzzing around the net all night and showing the kind of dynamic offensive presence that Boston is sorely lacking. The Black and Gold have to work ridiculously hard for their offense right now, and things aren’t getting any better.
The B’s are playing solid enough defense (exactly 2 goals per game in their last seven), getting pretty decent goaltending and playing with effort and grit in most instances, but they simply have no finish to their game. David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron can both give the Bruins quality play at the center spot, but they don’t have wingers capable of finishing with anything approaching a flourish. Bergeron led the B’s with four shots attempted on net Tuesday night, and the Black and Gold simply don’t have that one game-changing force able to lift them out of the goal-scoring doldrums.
YOU’RE THE BEST AROUND, NOTHING’S EVER GONNA BRING YOU DOWN: Got to give it Kessel. He didn’t score and finished a minus-1 for the game, but he squeezed off a game-high 10 shots and showed more offensive dominance in one game than many of the Boston forwards have all season. He showed some toughness shaking off a Matthias Ohland hit in the first period that bloodied his lip, and gave Toronto fans a preview of the explosive skill set the 22-year-old brought to the table for three seasons with the Spoked B. Give Shawn Thornton full marks for skating the entire game as if his pants were on fire. The fourth-line tough guy finished with a game-high nine hits, but he couldn’t spark a genuinely lifeless Bruins bunch.
GOAT HORNS: The power play might be taking permanent residence in this spot soon enough. The B’s have put up a pungent 0-for-17 on the PP, and went 0-for-3 with two cruddy shots on goal for the entire night. The B’s are 1-for-20 on the PP without Marc Savard and sit at a miserable 11.5 percent success rate. That’s 6-for-52 on the season, and a 2-for-44 mark without counting their four power play goals against the Carolina Hurricanes in the second game of the season.
|Lefebvre recalled from Providence Bruins||10.22.09 at 10:30 am ET|
Big winger Guillaume Lefebvre was recalled by the Boston Bruins on Thursday morning and is expected to be available for Thursday night’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers. Lefebvre played for the B’s against the Phoenix Coyotes last weekend on an emergency basis while replacing the injured Milan Lucic, but was sent back down to the Providence Bruins following that game.
Lefebvre had one assist and 42 penalty minutes in five games with the P-Bruins this season and didn’t register anything on the stat line during his one game with Boston last weekend. “Banged up” winger Shawn Thornton was going on the two-game trip with the team through Philadelphia and Ottawa, but Lefebvre’s recall might be a sign that Thornton isn’t quite ready to play.
Lefebvre has two goals and 4 assists along with 13 penalty minutes in 39 games for the Flyers, Penguins and the Bruins through his pro hockey career.
|Savard to miss 4-6 weeks with broken foot||10.21.09 at 12:13 pm ET|
The news just keeps getting worse for the Bruins, who announced Wednesday morning that top scorer Marc Savard was being placed on long-term injured reserve with a broken left foot. The injury is expected to keep Savard out for 4-6 weeks and leaves the team without two of its top-line skaters from the opening night lineup — Milan Lucic is out with a broken right index finger — for at least the next month.
“When he’s on his game, he’s good offensively and good defensively,” B’s coach Claude Julien said. “That’s why we use him on the penalty kill. He anticipates well and he reads the game pretty well. That’s why he excels when he’s on top of his game. That’s why I’ve always said he’s much more than a point-producer when he sets his mind to it.”
Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli revealed that Savard originally injured the foot blocking a shot during training camp, but managed to play through the injury until aggravating it in practice Tuesday morning at Ristuccia Arena. It was a seemingly harmless hit on the sensitive spot for Savard, and he spent the better part of Tuesday getting MRIs and CAT scans that determined he was playing through the early portion of the season with a broken left foot.
“It wasn’t hurting that much,” said Savard, who will be in a protective boot for the next two weeks. “I just re-aggravated it yesterday. We took some MRIs and it was broken. The best thing now is to shut it down for a couple weeks here and let it heal.”
The 32-year-old Savard was Boston’s leading scorer with seven points (4 goals, 3 assists) through the team’s first seven games, and this leaves Boston with a gaping hole on its first line and top power-play unit along with its scuffling PK squad.
The team’s core has been through injuries like these before — in 2007-08 the B’s lost Patrice Bergeron for the balance of the season and Savard for the last month — and Julien stressed that they’ll absorb the loss as a team. All that being said, the pressure drops heavily onto the shoulders of 23-year-old David Krejci. The slick, young, playmaking center will be expected to shoulder the scoring and power-play burden just as he did when Savard went down with a broken bone in his back at the end of the 2007-08 season.
“I think you have to lean on everybody when it comes to [filling in for Savard],” Julien said. “Is David a part of that equation? Absolutely. I think that to say that David Krejci has to replace Savard — I don’t know that you’d want to do that because first of all David Krejci just has to play like David Krejci. He was injured and got operated on over the course of the summer and has already played seven games, so it’s up to him to find his game.
“I don’t think he needs to replace Savvy as he just needs to play his game. If [Krejci] plays his game, then that will help us immensely.”
‘¢ Shawn Thornton is a “big question mark” and “very doubtful” for Wednesday night’s game against the Nashville Predators with an undisclosed injury, but the B’s coach said that he’s rapidly improving and could potentially be available come game-time.
“We put him on the ice early this morning and he skated on his own this morning. He’s very doubtful for tonight unless the trainers tell us that he’s ready to go when he gets here tonight,” Julien said. “That just goes to show you that he is a day-to-day player because morning to night time he could actually improve that much. He could be available anytime.”
‘¢ Dennis Wideman will play for the B’s in Wednesday night’s game against after missing the weekend road games against Dallas and Phoenix with an injured left shoulder.
“He felt good all week in both practices, and there’s no issues,” Julien said. “So he should be ready to go.”
‘¢ Expect to see Daniel Paille on Boston’s struggling penalty kill (a 69.7 percent success rate thus far this season) after he filled that role for the Sabres during his career in Buffalo. The B’s certainly are in need of some grit and experience in that particular area of special teams, and Boston is hopeful that Paille can provide it.
“He’s got speed. Obviously he’s got some grit, and it’s a job he did really well in Buffalo,” Julien said. “It’s something he really takes some pride in he should help us in that area. We certainly plan on giving him an opportunity to fill that role on our team.”
‘¢ Tim Thomas is expected to start in net for the Bruins for the third straight game.
Here’s an educated guess for the forward lines against the Predators assuming that Thornton can’t answer the bell:
|Lucic ready to remain in Boston ‘a long time’||10.08.09 at 10:02 am ET|
That being said, B’s winger Shawn Thornton told the rookie to forget about taking the veterans out to celebratory dinner. He’s expecting designer watches for all his teammates following the 21-year-old winger’s big contractual score.
“I want watches with that contract,” said Thornton. “Forget about dinner. We want Breitlings.”
All joking and designer watches aside, Lucic made it clear to Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli and head coach Claude Julien during last year’s exit interview meetings that he loved Boston. When it came time to think about his NHL future, he didn’t want to play hockey anywhere else. Not even in his hometown of Vancouver where the Canucks — among other NHL teams — would have made a run at the overpowering left winger had he reached restricted free agency.
“He expressed to me that he loved being a Bruin, and that he wanted to a Bruin for a long time,” said the B’s front office man. “I love the way Milan plays. I love the way he carries himself on and off the ice. He’s a very humble person and he deserves this.”
The B’s general manager didn’t immediately jump into extension talks with Lucic, and instead first dealt with David Krejci, Phil Kessel and the rest of his roster-building decisions over the summer. But once the team was solidified and Kessel’s situation was mercifully addressed, the two sides quickly found some mutual ground and finished negotiations on a three-year deal worth $12.25 million.
For Lucic, it’s a hefty reward for throwing his body the last two plus seasons and relishing the physical style that has come to define his game. The hulking forward has enough skill to skate with top-line players, and could end up being an annual 25-goal scorer when it’s all said and done. He’s one of the most ferocious, punishing physical forces in hockey. There aren’t many that combine those two brutish and beautiful skills into one player package, and there isn’t a better place than Boston to incubate such a talent.
What made this such a good fit for Lucic when there might have been a Kessel-esque $5 million plus per year offer sheet waiting for him on July 1?
“My first year here was a great experience for me, and the culture that we created in the room as teammates and the coaching staff wanting us to get better,” said Lucic. “Peter [Chiarelli] wants us to be competitive and be up there with the other three teams in Boston. Just the city itself is such a great sports town, and you want to be a part of that for a long time. I know I do.”
It’s a whopper of a raise for Lucic, who jumps from this season’s rookie salary of $685,000 to the $4 million mark next season, but it also continues a trend of huge second contracts for young NHL stars coming out of their entry-level rookie deals. Chiarelli said the second-contract phenomenon was something he continues to be uncomfortable with, but assured it was a league-wide issue likely to be addressed during the next CBA negotiations.
“Milan has been a very good performer for us. His skill set, his character set and his physicality are all tremendous assets to our organization, and typify what it means to be a Bruin,” said Chiarelli.
Lucic’s contract gives the Bruins roughly $42 million in salary dedicated to next season’s team with plenty of free agents hitting the market next summer. Blake Wheeler, Mark Stuart and Tuukka Rask will all be restricted free agents while Marc Savard, Derek Morris, Steve Begin, Andrew Ference and Thornton will all be unrestricted free agents come July 1. Per CBA rules, Chiarelli can negotiate with players like Savard, Ference and Thornton all through the year, but has to wait until Jan. 1 to potentially open talks with Morris and Begin.
Not all of Boston’s free agents will be returning given the expected movement downward of the $56.8 salary cap level for next season.
“It’s a difficult task because not only are you talking about the [RFA’s], but you’re also talking about other guys who are in the last years of their contracts and want to stay here,” said Chiarelli. “It’s not easy. There are a lot of uncertain things that you’re waiting to see happen, so you can plan better. We obviously just went through a lot of this stuff with Phil [Kessel]. I do my best and this is certainly a piece of the puzzle.
“It’s just my day-to-day business. We have to make the tough decisions, and act proactively.”
The pact also allows Chiarelli another round of winnable negotiations with Lucic, who will still be an RFA after the 2013 season when his three-year extension expires. It’ll be interesting to see how close Lucic gets to the hockey idol he’s most closely compared to — Cam Neely — and how his body handles the jarring physical style the 6-foot-4, 220-pounder plays over the next four years.
Savard has skated with Lucic on Boston’s top line for the better part of two years, and sees a young hockey pup that still has plenty of room to grow moving forward in his career.
“He’s your prototypical Bruins, I think,” said Savard. “It’s good for him and organization. They made a big step forward today. He’s a young leader right now and I think he’s going to take bigger steps in that role down the line.
“We’ve talked about [Lucic’s upside] a lot. I’m always going to push him for more, and I know he wants more. He’s always hungry and he always wants to help the team win. He wants to produce every night, and I think that’s a bonus. He’s a big guy for somebody to be taking them under their wing, but I’ve definitely taken him under my wing. I’d like to be here with him to continue watching him grow.”
With Lucic now in the books through the 2012-13 season, it might just be Savard’s turn to make a big contract announcement over the next few months. There’s no telling what Thornton will expect for gifts if that deal ever comes to fruition.