|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.
|Julien: Time for Bruins to show some determination||10.02.09 at 2:28 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Back to work for the Bruins at Ristuccia Arena Friday afternoon following a lackluster ice-breaker against the Washington Capitals on Thursday night.
Plenty of talk about the power play unit, and the definite lack of mightiness after going 0-for-5 with only a single shot on net during over five minutes of 5-on-4 action in Thursday’s defeat. But in Claude Julien’s mind, the power play’s lack of bite went back to a surprising lack of determination and will displayed all over the ice after the opening 10 minutes.
Heading into the season the Bruins talked about weathering opposing team’s best punches in the frenzied opening minutes of games, and then slowly winning the game’s tide over through three periods. That seemed to work in exact reverse in their first game as the Black and Gold skaters had nothing in the tank after an opening flurry against Washington that ultimately didn’t bear any fruit.
“I wouldn’t pinpoint it as [power play trouble],” said Julien. “There was a lot more than that going on [against the Caps] in my book. Your best players have to be your hardest workers, and yesterday we were getting outworked on the power play and losing battles.
The power play breakouts and set-ups were sound, but there wasn’t enough gritty desire to keep the puck in the zone or create the dynamic puck movement that the Capitals confidently called upon on the other side of the ice. Combine the misfiring power play squad with Andrew Ference, David Krejci, Matt Hunwick and Marco Sturm all coming back from summer rehab programs amid an abbreviated preseason schedule, and there was a perfect storm of disappointment against a Caps team looking in mid-season form.
“A lot of it is we have to understand that our work ethic has to get better, and that’s a starting point for us turning it around,” said Julien. “We have a lot of challenges that are a little bit out of our control. We have a lot of guys that maybe aren’t in synch right now, and as a whole it certainly makes it challenging for our team.
“But we have to take a step back and maybe concentrate on our work ethic, and then maybe we’re giving ourselves a chance. The rest should follow. I have to push those guys to want to work harder, and they have to want to work harder. And they do it on their own as well. It’s a push from all of us, and it’s what we have to do to at least get back on the right track. ”
–The Bruins were licking their opening night wounds Friday morning, but also readying for a Saturday night date with a Carolina Hurricanes squad that ended their season in a Game 7 overtime heart-breaker last spring. Claude Julien admitted that he’s never watched a full replay of the Game 7 film after the fact, but has endured more than enough replays of Scott Walker’s OT winner in the last three months.
Shawn Thornton stayed in touch with Canes defenseman Aaron Ward following his trade to Carolina, and pleasantries will be exchanged before the hate starts flowing on the ice. Thornton and his teammates remember exactly what happened during last year’s semi-finals after taking the Canes a bit too lightly, and that isn’t going to happen again after a soggy opening night.
“It happens all the time and it won’t be that weird because I’ve seen [Ward] in that jersey before. The tough part of the game is when guys get moved, but he’s home and it looks like he’s happy,” said Thornton. “I’ve talked to him a couple of times, but he’s not my teammate anymore and whatever happens out there, he’s on the other team.
“Obviously we haven’t forgotten that they knocked us out three months ago, so we have to bottle it up and use it in the right way. We’re not going to go out there running around like crazy and getting away from our game. But having a little bit of an edge and a little bit of nastiness to our game against the team that ended our season might be all right.”
—Dennis Wideman talked about the “too many men on the ice” penalty that started the ball rolling for Washington in the first period Thursday night. It was one of those instances where the puck-moving defenseman wanted to pull his pass back as soon as it left the blade of his stick, but that isn’t possible without Doc Brown and a time-traveling Delorean. Instead the 26-year-old defenseman threw the puck toward the Bruins bench at exactly the wrong time during a shift change, and Brooks Laich made Boston pay with their first power play strike of the game.
“A lot of times I’m making those passes when I see the black sweater out of the corner of my eye and then make the pass without really looking,” said Wideman. “After I passed it and looked over, I saw we were in the midst of a line change. I should have looked before I made the pass over, and that’s basically what happened. I kind of put it in a spot where he didn’t know whether to take it or just leave the puck. It’s one of those instances where I should have taken a look before I snapped the puck over there.”
|Bruins need speed burners for Game 6||05.11.09 at 6:14 pm ET|
WILMINGTON -With so much focus on the intensity and nastiness that has been cranked up as the result of Game 5 between the Bruins and Hurricanes, one small detail is getting overshadowed.
The Bruins finally found a way on Sunday to contain the speed of Carolina’s attack. Their reward was a plane flight Monday afternoon bound for Raleigh, where they play Game 6 on Tuesday night.
Duplicate Sunday’s effort on Tuesday and the Bruins will bring the series to a Game 7 back in Boston on Thursday night.
“I think our backs are still against the wall,” Milan Lucic said on Monday at the team’s practice facility at Ristuccia Arena. “They’re still up 3-2 going into their barn. There’s pressure in every game of the playoffs, it doesn’t matter what side of the fence you’re on. We’re the ones with our backs against it.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Don Cherry giving Byron Bitz some props||03.03.09 at 12:40 am ET|
A big smile quickly appeared on big Byron Bitz as he worked his way through the Bruins dressing room Monday morning at their practice facility in Wilmington, and rightfully so. The fourth-line grinder has made quite the healthy impression with his hockey smarts — something the Bruins scouting staff prides themselves on being able to spot — and gritty big man’s game, and those skills led the 6-foot-5 rookie to be featured during Hockey Night in Canada’s Coach’s Corner on TSN Saturday night.
Canada’s favorite hockey mouthpiece, dandy Don Cherry, started out in fine Grapes form by calling him “Byron Blitz” and then praised him as a good Saskatoon boy while showing some of the highlights from his successful two months in Black and Gold. The big-boned winger started out as a welcome banger with ideal size and strength along Boston’s fourth line, but Bitz has begun flashing some offensive skills over the last few weeks and has something that the B’s could always use: size, strength and steely fearlessness when it comes to throwing his big body into the areas of peril around the ice.
“At first he’s playing not to make mistakes when he gets here, and once he gets his confidence level and some games under his belt, he starts showcasing a little bit more of what he has, and that’s what I’ve been saying the last little while,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien of his big forward. “I think once this guy gets more experienced and more confidence under his belt, he’s going to score us some goals here and there, and he’s starting to show that right now.”
Bitz has three goals in his last three games, and has found lamp-lighting glory with tips and strong stick work in front of the net, a dogged willingness to chase loose pucks and rebounds around the net and an opportunistic approach when a crashing lane toward the net materializes before him. The 24-year-old has been the perfect big-bodied compliment to bare knuckles winger Shawn Thornton and center Stephane Yelle on Boston’s fourth line, but a little Coach’s Corner love had to be the — pun completely intended — cherry on top for “a good Saskatoon boy”.
It certainly looks as if Big Byron has carved himself a man-sized niche on this Bruins roster.
Here’s the full Coach’s Corner segment from Saturday, and stick around to watch Cherry’s ridiculous pro-Canada, anti-Russia rant about Alex Ovechkin’s boisterous celebrations following the goals that he scores. Hate to break it Don, but oversized personalities like Ovechkin and, yes, even Sean Avery are exactly what this game needs more of if it hopes to keep growing worldwide. Aside from that, the obvious Don Cherry bromance with Sidney Crosby is a little disturbing.