|Julien: ‘[Chara] can be better’||10.30.09 at 12:20 pm ET|
WILMINGTON, Mass. — Full practice at Ristuccia Arena on Friday morning with everybody seemingly healthy and accounted for, and all lines as they were in Thursday night’s loss to the New Jersey Devils.
The Bruins are working on tip drills and battles in front of the net, which factored heavily into just about all of the scoring between the offensively-challenged Devils and Bruins clubs in a 2-1 decision. A lot of focus on jamming the puck beyond the goaltender, and conversely getting the defensemen in the painted area to swat loose pucks away. More after practice as the Bruins prepare for a grueling fives games in eight days schedule that begins with Saturday afternoon’s matinee against the Edmonton Oilers.
–During the battle drills in front of the net Tuukka Rask let a shot slide by him into the goal, and immediately exploded with a fit of goaltender pique. Rask screamed at himself in Finnish and then slammed his paddle hard against the crossbar, and created a violent enough collision that he knocked his Gatorade water bottle off the top of the net. Temper, temper Tuukka.
–Zdeno Chara has been inconsistent through 11 games this season and certainly isn’t living completely up to his Norris Trophy standards while putting up six assists for the Black and Gold. The 32-year-old has had his “up” moments such as his 29:38 masterpiece against the New York Islanders when he notched an assist and a pair of shots on goal, but he hasn’t been able to sustain his play over a long stretch.
The blueliner was out working on his game before and after practice last week, and taking extra shots from the point positions while attempting to get a higher volume of shots toward the cage during the power play. When asked about his captain’s play after practice, B’s coach Claude Julien didn’t pull any punches and said that Chara needs to find his “happy zone” just like the rest of the team.
“[Chara] has been good, but can be better. He knows that,” said Julien. “He’s been good and there are some games where we’ve seen him be dominant like in the past. But we haven’t seen him be dominant night in, night out like he has been. He’s frustrated a little bit too. You saw him working on his shots, and he’d like to get his shots through a little better. But the thing that we like about players is when we see them trying to do something about it.
“That’s what he’s been doing. He’s been working on his shot and trying to find those seams. Eventually it’ll come, but he’s in that stage where he wants to be better – and he can better. I think his whole game has been, at times, up and down a little bit. Let’s put it this way: he’s never been terrible but there are some nights when he’s just been okay. When you talk about Z and having success, we’d like to see him where he was last year when he was a stellar defenseman and stingy. A defenseman that every team hated to play against. This is a game of momentum. Sometimes things fall right into place and sometimes it takes some time. Our whole team is working through that and trying to find that momentum, and I think he’s in that equation as well.”
|Bruins drop one to Devils in final minutes||10.29.09 at 9:30 pm ET|
It wasn’t pretty, but when is it ever against the New Jersey Devils?
The Bruins played an incredibly well-matched game against New Jersey in their second of back-to-back road games, but dropped a 2-1 decision in the final two minutes of Thursday night’s showdown with the Devils. Dainus Zubrus slammed home a loose puck behind Tim Thomas with 1:26 remaining to hand Boston their first regulation loss in four tries.
The B’s fell behind early when an errant puck bounced off the boards and got behind Shawn Thornton. The quick bounce of the puck allowed the Devils to break things out, and get in behind the B’s defense and a scrambling Thornton. Nicklas Bergfors carried the puck up the left side of the ice with speed, and unleashed a low liner at Thomas’ pads.
The puck sneaked between the B’s goaltender’s leg pads and trickled out into the painted area in front of the Boston goal. In a case of perfect timing, David Clarkson was crashing toward the cage from the right side and swept home the loose biscuit. It was a brief defensive lapse for the Black and Gold, however, as both Derek Morris and Zdeno Chara were able to prevent nearly certain goals later in the game with some very strong stick work in front of Thomas.
The Bruins finally tied things up in the second period immediately after time expired on their second power play of the game. Zdeno Chara leveled a bomb from the right point that whistled through traffic in front, and Devils’ goaltender Yann Danis kicked it off to the right. Marco Sturm corralled the rebound and shoveled a backhand shot toward the Devils net, but it ricocheted off sticks and skates before landing on Patrice Bergeron’s stick blade.
Bergeron flicked the puck into the vacated net, and the game was tied at 1-1. It was Bergeron’s fourth goal of the season, and his team-leading eighth point after enduring Tuesday’s two-year anniversary of his career-threatening concussion at the hands of Randy Jones. The scoring stayed that way until Zubrus’ gut-punch score with less than two minutes to go in the contest. To add insult to injury, Zdeno Chara had a deflection hit off the crossbar in the final seconds that could have tied the game and pushed things to overtime. In the end, the Devils were simply one bounce of the puck better than the hard-working Bruins.
YOU’RE THE BEST AROUND AND NOTHING’LL EVER KEEP YOU DOWN: Patrice Bergeron worked and persevered through last season when he clearly didn’t feel 100 percent, but it’s all paying off now. Bergeron tied the game in the second period, and is again developing that all-important nose for the goal. Bergeron trailed only Shawn Thornton with his four shots on net for a Bruins team that needs all the offense they can get right now.
GOAT HORNS: The first instinct was to go with Tim Thomas who was otherwise solid but allowed two pucks to squeeze through the goaltender’s pads — including the game-winner to Dainus Zubrus with less than 90 seconds to go in the game. The two goals were virtual carbon copies of each other, as Thomas slowed down each shot with his pads. But the reigning Vezina Trophy winner couldn’t quite close the sliver of an opening in time. In both instances, the puck slowed behind the B’s netminder and an attacking Jersey skater was able to bang home the loose puck. But the game-winner, it should be noted, was a tipped puck that changed direction before it hit the net.
The better choice for the horns is Boston’s still toothless power play that finished 0-for-2 tonight — although the B’s did score immediately following their second power play chance — and is sitting at a 14.3 percent efficiency for the season. That’s six goals in 42 chances. The B’s had plenty of good looks and chances against the Devils, but simply couldn’t finish. That’s beginning to become a pattern of concern.
|How The Bruins Broke The Slump||10.11.09 at 12:42 am ET|
There is a formula for success that works for just about every facet of life you can imagine: K.I.S.S – Keep It Simple, stupid.
This principle is especially pertinent in hockey. If players start pushing too hard, gripping their sticks and getting cute with the offense then there is a good probability that their team will not score. That was essentially the problem with the Bruins for the first 52 minutes in tonight’s 4-3 come-from-behind shoot-out victory over the New York Islanders.
The Bruins ended up with a respectable 30 shots but it took a flurry at the end to get to that point. As of 9:50 in the third period the Bruins had 17 shots with only three in the period. Not a good combination for a team looking to overcome a 3-0 deficit. Until that point the Bruins were flat, had problems controlling the puck and thus sustaining momentum against one of the lesser-skilled teams in the NHL. Read the rest of this entry »
|ESPN The Magazine reveals the ‘Full Chara’||10.07.09 at 5:42 pm ET|
Rumblings of the Zdeno Chara photo shoot in his birthday suit filtered through the B’s dressing room days ago, but this is the first photographic evidence of the minimalist photo spread with the Bruins Captain.
Can’t imagine what kind of grief the Norris Trophy winner is in store for when the magazine hits mailboxes and bookshelves all across the country. A fan base like Montreal, that boos Chara each time he touches the puck, could get awfully creative.
But at least it’s a tasteful nude rather than something with a series of Austin Powers-esque strategically-placed pieces of hockey equipment.
It’ll be interesting to see what noted art critic Shawn Thornton has to say about “The Full Chara” when he gets a look-see at the sneak preview. To check out the full gallery of athletes chosen for the body issue — including Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, Texas Rangers slugger Nelson Cruz and tennis player Serena Williams – check it out at ESPN.com.
|Chara, Bruins are ready for Ovechkin’s Capitals||10.01.09 at 12:21 pm ET|
It’s clear by the circumstances surrounding the Bruins season opener against the Washington Capitals that things have changed demonstrably for Boston in one season’s time. Big time.
The fact that the Black and Gold merit a national TV audience on Versus is one clue, and the marquee match-up against Alexander Ovechkin and the electric Caps is quite another. Milan Lucic was among the excited grouping of B’s forwards anxious to get things going in the B’s dressing room Thursday morning, and seemed poised to make a statement about Boston’s worthiness in the Eastern Conference scheme of things with millions of hockey eyeballs ready to bear witness.
“Everyone seems ready to go, and is pretty anxious for the puck to drop. Everybody can feel it in the air, and I think we’re all pretty excited to get things going,” said Lucic. “I see that we’re on Versus, so it’s big across the US and we want to start the season off right.
“When is the last time the Bruins had a chance to start at home? We’re excited to do that. We’ve obviously set the bar high for ourselves and we’re focused on being one of the top teams in the East this year. We need to just focus on ourselves and what we can do to get there this year.”
–The B’s have a couple of new mantras written on the walls within the Bruins dressing room that gives some insight into their goals for the upcoming season. Above the doorway from the dressing room to the hallway reads the painted slogan “Knowing is Not Enough: We Must Apply. Willing is Not Enough: We Must Do.” and above the lockers of goaltenders Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask reads a second painted sign that says: “We are What We Repeatedly Do. Excellence, Therefore, is Not an Act, But a Habit.”
–Confirmed with newly resigned B’s assistant general manager Jim Benning that Vladimir Sobotka does not have to clear through NHL waivers to rejoin Boston this season. Since the 22-year-old Czech Republic forward has been signed for less than three full years, he is exempt from re-entry waivers. It’s apparently an either/or scenario with the three years of service time or maximum of 70 games played as the ceiling, and Sobotka doesn’t have to fit into both criteria.
–Zdeno Chara always gets excited for the defensive challenge presented by high-powered offenses and NHL superstars like Alex Ovechkin, and the scoring threats don’t get any bigger than reigning Hart Trophy-winner Alexander the Great. The 32-year-old defenseman has learned not to get lulled into the one-on-one matchups against big time players like Ovechkin, but takes it as a personal challenge to bottle up the entire explosive Washington unit including Ovechkin, Mike Knuble, Alexander Semin and Mike Green among others.
“We know that [the Caps] have a skilled team and we have to be on top of our game. But it’s a team game and we have to play that way,” said Chara. “If you’re watching just one guy, then everybody else is getting the room. You have to play against them together as a team, and we know that we have to be disciplined as a unit especially when that first unit is on the ice.
“It’s good to have that challenging competition. You have to be on your best game, otherwise they’ll take advantage. That always brings the best out of me and the team. It’s not just me against Ovie, it’s our line against their line on the ice.”
–Claude Julien indicated that Steve Begin, Marco Sturm and David Krejci are all at full health for Thursday’s opener against the Caps and all will play — a scenario that became obvious when the B’s sent Vladimir Sobotka down to Providence on Wednesday afternoon. Begin will center a fouth line of Shawn Thornton and Byron Bitz, Krejci will center his customary line with Blake Wheeler and Michael Ryder, and Sturm will ride the right wing on Boston’s top line alongside Marc Savard and Milan Lucic. No shock that any of the three are playing as they’ve been skating over the last three days leading up to Thursday afternoon.
|Bruins brushing up on the power play||09.30.09 at 11:41 am ET|
WILMINGTON — The Bruins are putting the finishing touches on the team here at practice Wednesday morning at Ristuccia Arena as they ready for Thursday’s season-opener against Alex Ovechkin and the rest of the high-powered Washington Capitals.
A lot of power play work this morning, and a look into what’s going to be one of the more competitive aspects of the Black and Gold team this season. The Bruins legitimately have five or six players that could run the point on the power play, and B’s coach Claude Julien has been nearly giddy in the different options at his disposal in the early going. Both Zdeno Chara and Derek Morris lined up as the top points on the first power play until along with Marc Savard, Milan Lucic and Michael Ryder filling out the forward spots on the top unit. Marco Sturm was also hopping into the top unit and alternating with Lucic.
Andrew Ference and Dennis Wideman manned the spots on the second unit with David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi alternating with Chuck Kobasew as the manpower down low. The 5-on-3 work was even more impressive as Chara and Morris manned the points with Recchi working directly in front of the goalie with puck magicians Savard and Krejci working in the two corners. That’s the kind of PP combo that could make a lot of teams pay for spending time in the penalty box this season. One big change from last year: Bergeron has taken off the point and is working more off the half-wall where he can be a triple-threat ready to pass, shoot, or take it straight toward the net.
Despite the current configurations, Julien has been quick to advise not falling in love with the PP configurations as there could be a heavy “play the hot hand” philosophy on the man advantage with so many qualified players to choose from. The B’s bench boss is also reserving the right to plop the oversized body of 6-foot-9 Chara in tight by the cage if the situations calls for a an extra-big, extra-wide body during PP time.
Matt Hunwick is another player likely to find his way onto the PP units as a point man this season, but the young blueliner has been attempting to find his game through training camp. Julien hinted on Tuesday that some of Hunwick’s struggles may be the player’s attempts to justify the two-year contract he received over the summer, and may be a case of a player attempting to do too much. Either way, Hunwick wasn’t on the PP units Wednesday and will have to work his way back into the rotation.
“You’re likely to see a little bit of both. [Bergeron] may end up playing [the point] and he may end up playing up front too,” said Julien. “There are some players that are still trying to find their games a little bit, and we have to take that into account as well. Right now we’re trying to come up with the best combination to start.
“It allows us some versatility. I don’t when or if it’s really going to happen — but I suspect it will at some point — you can put a guy like Zdeno in front of the net. He’s a big net-front presence if you’ve got the right people on the back end. But a lot of things and decisions are based on the way players are going right at the time. If you have players on a roll or a hot streak, then you want to keep them on that streak by utilizing them in different place. Or maybe sometimes guys are trying to find their games , and it’s not good to put them in different kinds of positions when you’re trying to get them to simplify their games. There’s a lot of thinking that goes behind who should be where [on the power play] and who should be on it.”
|Turn up the volume: B’s ready for new season||09.29.09 at 9:14 pm ET|
The last time the Bruins played a game that mattered, Carolina’s Scott Walker was dancing in the West end of the TD Bank Garden following his game-winning OT goal in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
On Thursday night, the Black and Gold go about the business of trying to put that memory further in the past when they take on another team that was also eliminated in the same round of last spring’s Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Washington Captials, featuring Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and defenseman Mike Green, come calling in the 2009-10 season opener
We present the following audio morsels to get you ready and in the mood for the occasion.