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.
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!
What 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.
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.
Sources are confirming that Marc Savard has signed a 7-year extension that would keep the center-man in Boston through the ’16/’17 season.
The deal is worth a reported $29 million with an annual cap hit of $4.2 mil/year.
The Bruins struggled out of the gate this season while Savard was on the shelf with a broken foot. Since he has returned, the Bruins have vaulted from 11th in the Eastern Conference to as high as third. Clearly, the Bruins need Savard and Boston’s poor early-season play was great leverage when the two sides sat down to discuss this extension.
Top notch move by the Bruins here. I’m glad to see them spending the type of money (on the right players) that should keep the Bruins in championship contention for the foreseeable future.
Milan Lucic has been placed on long term injured reserve and will miss the next 10 games. The Boston Bruins have recalled Guillaume Lefebvre, Brad Marchand and Vladimir Sobotka from their AHL affiliate in Providence.
Lucic suffered a broken finger last week in Boston’s 3-0 win in Dallas.
Now, this is purely speculation on my part (and it’s my blog so I can do whatever I want), but it s0unds like Lucic’s injury may require surgery. This is not good news for a Boston team that is struggling to find it’s identity.
Lucic was held out of Saturday night’s game against Phoenix, a 4-1 loss for Boston.
Vladimir Sobotka nearly made the team out of training camp and will have no trouble fitting into to the Boston system where he played 25 games last season.
At this time, there is no reason to believe that the Kobasew trade with Minnesota had anything to do with Lucic’s injury, since the players acquired in the Minnesota trade will (most likely) not be playing with the Bruins any time soon.
Chuck Kobasew has been traded to the Minnesota Wild.
Boston will receive a 2nd round draft pick in 2011, forward Craig Weller and the rights to unsigned prospect Alexander Fallstrom who is currently playing college hockey at Harvard University.
Kobasew has yet to score a goal and has tallied just one assist through his first seven games. Kobasew has been largely ineffective thus far, and has simply had a dismal start. I applaud the Bruins front office for making this trade.
Craig Weller RW, who has skated in just 95 NHL games over 7 seasons will most certainly be sent to Boston’s AHL affiliate in Providence.
Alexander Fallstrom is described as a prototypical power-forward who uses his size and strength to sniff out tough goals in front of the net.
All in all, I think that the Bruins are doing a great job of adding draft picks and young prospects without sacrificing any of their current talent. Bravo!