Monthly Archives: January 2010

Postgame: Will a Bruins goal scorer please stand up?

Before the game, I said that it wasn’t going to be enough for the Bruins to merely compete; they needed to win.

They competed, and in many cases, OUT-competed the Buffalo Sabres in most aspects of the game. Boston was physical, caused turnovers, was pretty responsible defensively and showed tremendous effort. BUT – They can’t score. At all.  31 shots, including a 12 shot third period were not enough.

I was looking for Milan Lucic to bring his physical game – I’ll give him a B minus. He was there, but he looked more concerned with playing the puck (weakness) than doling out some back-alley justice (strength). His goal was great, but Boston can’t rely on their enforcer to fill the net. Of particular concern was the amount of rough stuff by Buffalo after the whistle that went largely unanswered; 3 first period penalties will have that effect on a team.

Marc Savard looked good given his eight game layoff – he flubbed a few passes, and hesitated a few times, but overall looked to have his wits (and more importantly his legs) about him.

Tuukka Rask looked pretty shaky all night – he was fighting the puck and had shoddy rebound control. He was able to pull himself together enough to keep Boston in the game, but is certainly capable of better play.

CLEARLY, the Bruins need a bona fide scorer (hmm, I think I said this last week….). Boston should get rid of Ryder, Wideman, and their own 1st round pick, which is currently 9th overall. This should fetch them something. Landing Kovalchuk, it appears, will cost at least that 9th pick, and someone like Bergeron or Krejci. I’m willing to part with Krejci if it brings Kovalchuk to Boston. It’s time for the front office to show that they care about the team, the town, and the fans. It’s time for a BIG move.

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Bruins v. Sabres — Pregame notes:

OK – the Bruins are facing their toughest character test of the season thus far. Currently in the midst of a 5 game losing streak where they have looked listless, lost and downright bored, Boston absolutely needs a win tonight; it won’t be enough to simply compete.

The return of Marc Savard from a partially torn MCL should provide a spark to the sputtering offense. Savard will most likely center the top line along with Milan Lucic and Miro Satan. The tandem of Lucic and Savard is a key component of the Bruins offense – Lucic uses his physical play to open up ice for Savard’s creativity. Let’s hope we see a physical Milan Lucic early on tonight.

Goaltending is another area which needs a marked improvement. Tuukka Rask will be in goal tonight, giving the struggling Tim Thomas the night off. I’m not sure what’s going on with Timmy, but he’s been out of position A LOT lately.

Tonight’s keys are pretty cliché: Stay out of the box, limit odd-man rushes, and most importantly for Boston, out-physical the Buffalo Sabres. I’ll be back after the game with my reactions.

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S.O.S.

A couple quick thoughts while I’m in the car — Just finished watching the game on my last day in Arizona. Even through the  14″ screen on my laptop, the Bruins showed a total lack of heart and seemed genuinely disinterested in fighting for their playoff lives.

I’m really worried about the future of this team. Yes, I know they’ve had a ton of injuries but that’s no excuse for not showing effort. The Olympic break cannot come soon enough.

Now having lost 4 game in a row, the Bruins must understand the need for a big trade in the next few weeks. Getting Kovalchuk would require sending Rask to ATL and God help Peter Chiarelli if he makes that move. I’d like to revive the Tomas Kaberle sweepstakes to get some help for the awful Dennis Wideman.

The practical fan now knows that this team, if they make the playoffs, will struggle to make it out of the 1st round.
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

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West Coast Trip: Part 2 – Sharks

The three and a half hours of sleep I received before work this morning were well worth it — Around 1:30 a.m. (on the East coast), big Zdeno Chara bore down San Jose Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov and unleashed his 105 M.P.H. cannon from 20 feet out.

Zdeno Chara's shootout goal at HP Pavillion

Chara’s lone goal in the shootout completed a 65+ minute effort for the Black and Gold last night in San Jose and gave the Bruins a 2-1 victory at the HP Pavillion.

From the opening puck drop, Boston was able to match the Sharks intensity as both teams traded scoring chances and engaged each other physically. Noteworthy last night was the performance of Milan Lucic who stood out in the 1st last night with two very strong plays: one, a big hit along the side boards in the defensive zone, and later he did a great job of controlling the puck in the offensive zone up against the boards. He was able to put a good deal of pressure and torque on that injured ankle, which is great news. Even from a few thousand miles away, I could see a desperation, an energy, and a willingness to do anything to win that has been lacking from Boston’s play for the better part of this season. Key injuries to key players have caused Bruin players to rely not on skill, but on sheer determination. When Mark Recchi is your top-line Center, you know it’s gonna be a grind-em-out type of evening. That’s precisely what I saw.

Perhaps Boston’s exemplary effort was rewarded with a little luck; over the past week, I’ve been saying that the Bruins will need opportunistic offense and A+ goaltending. They received both last night. Daniel Paille capitalized on a San Jose turnover when his rebound bounced in off of Shark D-man Dan Boyle in the 1st and Tim Thomas had a very strong game and was as competitive as I’ve seen him all season; even though he was twice aided by the goalpost. Of his 41 saves last night, probably five could be considered difficult, which is a credit to the defensive system installed by Head Coach Claude Julien and his staff. Boston did a good (not great) job of clearing the front of the net and keeping the Sharks shooters to the outside. I will say that Boston did an above average job of clogging up passing lanes on everyone except Joe Thornton who, like Marc Savard, can thread the needle with the best of them.

All in all, last night was the most exciting win for this team since the Winter Classic. I only hope they can sustain that effort and intensity. Boston goes for win number two on this road trip tomorrow afternoon in Los Angeles. I will be able to catch the first two periods on my laptop during my layover in Denver. I’ll post periodically during my week vacation in Arizona. Go Coyotes!

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West Coast Trip: Part 1 – Ducks

Jonas Hiller and the Ducks celebrateWhat a frustrating game last night.

As I mentioned in my last post, the Bruins are severely undermanned (not in quantity, but quality) and will need to be extremely opportunistic in order to win games. The inconsistency in the lines and the minor league call-ups on defense mean that the Bruins will invariably give up more opportunities than they generate, and when those chances come around, the Bruins NEED to bury them.

Overall, Boston had a strong game last night against a strong Anaheim team, but were just unable to put the puck in the net when they had to. Michael Ryder hit his 15,000th post this year and David Krejci was robbed in the crease — both in the 3rd. Games like last nights emphatically highlight the need on this team for a proven goal scorer who is actually producing goals at this time. Ryder is considered by some to be a “proven” goal scorer but hasn’t touched 30 goals for nearly four years.

Having said that, Boston just needs to focus on staying in playoff position until their injured stars return. I think that the Olympic break will do this team a world of good, since they have no real momentum that would be in jeopardy of dissolving at this point in time. They just need to heal up for the post-season.

Tonight, it’s off to San Jose to face Joe Thornton and the Sharks.

Perennially amongst the leagues elite (regular season) teams, tonight’s game should be a much tougher task than the one the Bruins left behind in Anaheim. Tim Thomas is slated to get the start. Dennis Wideman is day-to-day with Can’t-Hit-The-Net-itis — but seriously, he hurt his leg blocking a shot last night.

The only way to win tonight is to outhit and outwork San Jose, especially in front of the goaltenders, on both ends of the ice.

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Can the Bruins grab Kovalchuk?

Ilya Kovalchuk could be on the move

The Bruins could really struggle to play .500 hockey for the rest of the year unless they can make a serious trade, and obviously I’m talking about Ilya Kovalchuk.

The loss of Marc Savard to a torn MCL could force Boston to use one of their valuable draft picks they received in the Kessel trade far earlier than they imagined. In fact, as bad as Toronto is playing, the Bruins may not want to part with those picks at all.The dilemma they face is that by doing nothing right now, I see no way that they can make a serious run in the playoffs, but they will most likely have one of the top 5 draft picks next year. Or, they could put together a package of players and picks to snap up Kovalchuk while Boston still has time to right the ship this season.

As it stands right now, the Bruins have two 1st’s and three 2nd’s in the 2010 draft with the lowest of those picks being 46th overall(thanks to Kirk Luedeke for the info).  In a perfect world, I would package two second round picks, and some combination of Michael Ryder (10-7=17), Blake Wheeler (11-15=26) and the God-awful (IMHO) Dennis Wideman (3-11=14) for Kovalchuck (25-22=47). Ryder is due $4M per season, Wideman 3.8M and Wheeler 2.8M. By moving two of those players, Boston will have between $6.6M-$7.8M to put towards a contract for the talented Russian.

Kovalchuck currently makes $6.3M this season and will most likely ask for upwards of $10M for the rest of his career. I’m no salary cap guru, so I’m not one to say what options are viable and which ones are not, but it does not appear that $10-12M is out of reach for Boston, especially if they want to be considered serious Cup contenders.

It’s nice to speculate about the ins and outs of potential trades, but the fact remains that the Bruins will need to find a way to remain competitive, with or without Kovalchuk, until the walking wounded come back to health. Incredibly, as of January 8th, the Bruins had lost only 77 man games to injury (4th FEWEST in the league), but boy, have they been costly. Patrice Bergeron, Milan Lucic, Marc Savard, Andrew Ference, etc… Too many key players at key positions are getting hurt, one of top of the other.

That’s not to say that the Bruins are done by any means.

During their last game against the Rangers, I saw a Bruins team that was very hungry for the puck, showed great tenacity and gave a full 60 minute effort. Unfortunately, the talent is simply not there and they were bested by a mediocre New York squad. The biggest problem facing the Bruins right now is the inconsistency of personnel on the squad; too many times has Boston been forced to dip into its farm system down in Providence in order to field a full roster. Currently, Trent Whitfield is centering the 4th line and Adam Mcquaid is part of the No. 2 defensive pairing, not to mention Miroslav Satan playing the 1st line even though he was sitting on his couch eating Borscht at this time last week.   There’s no way to expect any team to be able to have consistent performances under these conditions. The effort looks as though it will be there, but the lack of familiarity with the NHL level of play will invariably lead to mistakes, turnovers, and goals against.

The next month or so will be a struggle, but Bergeron comes back in two weeks and Savard won’t need surgery. Until then, the Bruins effort will need to be high and the goaltending will need to be top-notch. We’ll see how it all shakes out. That’s it for now!

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Bruins lose Savard; at least Toronto’s still losing…

In October, head coach Claude Julien stated that the Bruins would be a better playoff than regular season team this year. Let’s hope he’s right. It’s not so much that the Bruins have played poor hockey; currently 5th in the East; but perhaps they finally have been overcome with key injuries – Bergeron, Ference, Lucic and now Savard.

Milan Lucic did return last night against Chicago,but from my seat in section 309, he looked labored and lost out there. On many occasions he was unable to join the rush and often struggled to make it to the bench. I was disheartened to see that he had no interest in the physical game last night; it’s not as though that could be attributed to “rust” since there’s no real skill involved. This showed me that his ankle is still in rough shape. I was left wondering why he came back at all, but I guess his services, however limited, are needed.  I still expect him to play tomorrow, but only due to the rash of other injuries on the team.

After losing Savard last night, Boston was still able to get the jump on the NHL leading Blackhawks, but by the end of the period Chicago’s incredible skill became apparent and they completely turned the tables on the Black and Gold. Chicago reminded me a lot of last year’s Bruins team during their remarkable December; fast, physical, impossible to move off the puck and extremely opportunistic. They can really bring it.

As of right now, and notion of a Stanley Cup in Boston hardly bears mentioning and will remain so until the Bruins can show a sustained effort for a 15 or so game stretch at some point. Perhaps that point will never come. Boston will make the playoffs and with (fingers crossed) everyone healthy, perhaps, perhaps they can prove their coach right and make a run into early June. As of right now, all I have to look forward to is next year’s number draft pick, which currently sits at No. 3. Oh, and by the way, is anyone surprised that Phil Kessel has been called out up in Toronto for not playing hard enough? Anyone with a brain could have seen that one coming.

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