Posts Tagged ‘Buffalo Sabres’

Scratching Our Heads

March 29, 2011

michael ryder bust

A recently familiar note will appear next to Michael Ryder’s name in the box score for tonight’s game at TD Garden versus the Chicago Blackhawks.

Healthy scratch.

It would seem that Claude Julien and the Bruins have been listening to Mike Milbury of late and that the once seemingly infinite number of chances Ryder has had to prove himself worthy of a spot at forward in the line-up for the team has finally found a limit. Milbury, in a recent NESN broadcast, flew into a mini-rant about the floundering winger and labelled him a “bust” and suggested the team cut bait on the winger at last. Not really a revelation to anyone, of course, except to those whom Ryder’s teasing one-game-in-ten flashes of effort and offensive skill gave hope that he might find a way to finally become a more productive player on the team.

Not the case, however.

The infuriating winger will likely be benched once again tonight in favor of Daniel Paille, himself a healthy scratch for much of the season unless injuries or the youthful indiscretions of Tyler Seguin forced Julien to play him. That, in itself, speaks volumes. A winger being paid $4 Million dollars to score goals sitting on the sidelines in favor of a truly marginal, defensive minded player whom the Buffalo Sabres decided was a “bust” last season. Welcome to true ignominy, Michael. Welcome to total irrelevance.

No one’s wasting any time feeling bad for him, however. He’s had ample opportunity to show he was worth his paycheck. Chance after endless chance to at least show the effort and the desire to compete that we get glances of from time to time. The skill that once potted him 30 goals in the NHL. He’ll probably see some ice at some point before the season ends but it will only be to rest others in preparation for the upcoming playoffs in which, hopefully, he will remain in the press box. Put it this way; If the Bruins are dressing him it will be a sign things have gone horribly wrong.

Even with a bit of garbage time to close things out, however, his totals for 2010-11 will hover somewhere close to the underwhelmning 17 goals, 21 assists and a minus -5 he’s sitting on now (pun intended). Many of those points came in short bursts of surprising productivity which would, just as quickly, dry up and blow away. Pathetic numbers, really, when you consider how much ice time Claude Julien would give him at times earlier in the year, including a good deal of power play time. Pathetic for anyone considered an offensive player in any professional league.

So it certainly appears the curtain will close now (his contract is up after this season) on the Michael Ryder era in Boston without anyone, fans or players or management, understanding the mystery of why the guy could never pull it together. Why there were so many no-shows. Perhaps they knew the truth up in Montreal when they let him go prior to him signing with the Bruins. That he was a bust and always would be.

Hey, even a blind nut finds a squirrel once in a while, right?


Savard In Game 6?

April 26, 2010

Could Marc Savard be available to play in Game 6 of the Bruins-Sabres playoff series tonight at the TD Garden in Boston?

Kevin Paul Dupont seems to think so. In an interview last night on Comcast Sportsnet, he opined that Savard was looking good in practice Sunday morning and could provide the Bruins the emotional lift they need at home to close out the series against the Sabres. “I say he’s in,” said the Hall of Fame hockey writer to Michael Felger in his on air appearance on Sports Sunday.

Will this be a reality or is it one man’s wishful thinking? I don’t know and neither will anybody until the last possible moment, I’m betting. Best not to get out hopes up, I think. Yes, it’s true, the B’s need to win tonight and not let this go back to Buffalo. And, yes, they need to pull out all the stops. Will that include Savard?

Dupont reiterated his ideas this morning in his Globe Column.

The bet here is that Savard is wearing his familiar No. 91 tonight, provided all his medical mojo is found to be in order this afternoon. Not only could he contribute on the power play, where extra space on the ice would limit his risk of getting hit, but Julien also would have an easier time spotting him into even-strength situations. Home team, remember, gets last change.

The thing to remember here is that Dupes, as good as he can be, is not above a bit of attention seeking behaviour, saying something outlandish or inflammatory that he knows will draw attention to himself and his column. Whether it’s the goofy nicknames or calling for Bettman’s resignation or stripping Joe Thornton of his captaincy, it’s sort of the way Dupont operates. He’s not going on anything here other than his own opinion that, needing an emotional spark, this is what the Bruins will do.

Whether management, coaching and medical staff agree remains to be seen.


Update: Definitive word from the Garden.

Marc Savard will not play in Game 6.

Nice try, Dupes.

Bruins Forfeit Game 5

April 24, 2010
claude julien boston bruins

Claude Julien and The Boston Bruins: Not In Attendance For Game 5

Because that’s what it is when only one team shows up for a game, right? A forfeit?

Sorry to be so hard on the boys, folks, but that’s the way Game 5 at the HSBC Arena in Buffalo last night seemed to me. I mean, I don’t mind losing a game if it’s hard fought and you get beat in an honest match. That’s going to happen. Look at the Capitals being unable to close out Montreal last night at home. Finishing off a series is a tough thing to do. What I do mind is when my team bends over in a spread legged stance and lets the other team have it’s way with them. Sorry for the crude analogy, friends, but it is what it is.

The Bruins were done in that game as soon as the second goal was scored. Maybe they were done when Paul Gaustad showed some snarl on the opening face-off. Certainly no one on the B’s showed any aggression in return. All night long the Sabres were nasty, in the Bruins’ faces and there was little or no return battle until the last second ticked off the clock and Zdeno Chara decided enough was enough and went after Gaustad with a vengeance.

Little late, Z.

Luckily, the NHL decided not to suspend Chara as a result of the incident, which is actually a break for the Bruins given how hard the league looks at stuff that happens in the last 5 minutes of games. Peter Chiarelli apparently had to submit a written request to league officiating to have the instigator recinded, likely based on the wicked slash Gaustad laid on Z to initiate the throw down. Bit of luck, there, folks, beacuse if Chara had been sitting for Game 6…? Oh, man.

They were lifeless in the snarl department the rest of the night, though. The score sheet had the Bruins throwing 24 hits in the game and I do think that’s being generous because it seemed like less. In contrast, the Sabres threw 35. Probably would have been more but the way their opponents turned meek and started going through the motions in the second period, they obviously realized they could back off. Hits are the best measure of how into a game a team is, how much desire and will they have to get ugly and get the job done. In the two wins in Boston they threw 38 and 46 respectively. Last night there was less hitting and more skating around after the whistle with their heads down. Their body language had “loser” written all over it.

I’d like to be in the Bruins locker room before a game like this and hear what the Claude Julien has to say to his team on the subject of agression. Does he not believe in being a hard, hitting, scrapping team on the road, fearing it will only inspire the local crowd and boost the home team? Does he tell them not to fight on the road? Because if there was ever a time to show some nasty to the Sabres and maybe send a message it was last night.

Nothing happened, though, not until the game was over.

What worries me is that this sort of a stinker can easily swing momentum back to the Buffalo side. It could inspire the return of the characterless sort of play that plagued the Bruins all during the regular season. It sets a dangerous tone when you don’t show up in a game. It’s the sort of thing that can be contagious. Bad habits return and the team goes flat.

My hope is that the hometown crowd on Monday night at the Garden won’t let that happen. That they’ll be rockin’ and rollin’ just like they were on Wednesday and the team will play up to their previous level. I hope, I hope.

Because they let one slip away last night and now there’s only two more chances to make it right.

If they’re smart, they’ll only need the one.


Come Out Fighting

April 21, 2010

I think it’s time for some scrapping tonight.

I know. You’re saying, “But, Ken. The Bruins are up 2-1 in the series and looking great. Why do they need that emotional boost right now?”

Strategy, that’s why. Tonight’s Game 4 of the Bruins-Sabres series at TD Garden is the most critical game of the series for the Bruins, I think. Up 2-1, now is exactly the time you need to take control of this series and the way to do that is come out with authority and shove some muscle into the Buffalo Sabres faces. Come out and establish some testosterone amped macho dominance right off the drop of the puck.

Why? Because it’ll do a couple of things. It’ll get the crowd right into it and make the Sabres feel the full weight of the hostile enviroment they’re in. If the building erupts and gets loud early it will only help the home team. Secondly, I truly believe the Bruins play better when they’re “awake” in a physical contest. They’re never more into a game than when there’s a brawling atmosphere. A look back at the Montreal series last year will show you that. A look at almost any game where things get nasty. The team turns it up when the going gets ugly like that.

Thus, I say, use that as a tactic to maintain momentum tonight. The game is simply too important to risk coming out flat and letting Buffalo get the edge. You can’t keep coming back against a team with goaltending that good. You have to grab the bull by the horns early and take control of the game. A few good punches in the right directions should help do just that.

So Shawn Thornton, maybe it’s time to challenge the manhood of Paul Gaustad again. Milan Lucic, maybe see if Adam Mair is interested in a rubber match. Adam McQuaid, find out if anyone over there can match the kind of balls a rookie like you is showing out there. Steve Begin, just grab anybody. You can’t let Vladimir Sobotka do all your scrapping for you. Challenge these guys and see if any of them are man enough to step up to the plate. My guess is, given where they are in the series and the way they’ve been knocked around physically, the answer will be yes.

Which will be a huge mistake for them.

But they don’t need to know that until the game is over, eh?


Buffalo Bound

April 15, 2010

boston bruins buffalo sabres

Once more into the breach, dear friends.

Tonight in Buffalo, at the HSBC Arena, the Boston Bruins begin their 2010 Stanley Cup Playoff run against the Buffalo Sabres. Though the expectations are far lower than they were last year and there isn’t the hated Montreal Canadiens to make our blood boil, it still remains the most exciting time to be a hockey fan, in this city or any other.

I recall it was the crazed enthusiasm and mad-dog fury of the Bruins-Canadiens series of the past two years, the team’s return to serious playoff contention, that finally pushed me to take my hockey writing from just doing the odd piece here and there on other websites and focus it here in a little something we now call HGW. Suddenly, after years of pain and misery and failure the B’s seemed relevant again and there was just too much to talk about to be confined elsewhere. Hockey Gone Wild was born.

This season has been a bit more difficult, I must admit, but no less interesting in terms of stories to talk about. From the ongoing injury woes, the struggling play and questions of character, Don Cherry’s rantings, the Matt Cooke incident, the clawing their way into the playoffs and the Draft Lottery, there have been no shortage of stories on our plates this year. All of that now is prologue to what begins this evening. Tonight the slate is wiped clean and everyone starts with a 0-0 record.

With that in mind, some previews and predictions for the Bruins-Sabres and the remaining series:

Boston Bruins vs Buffalo Sabres – The series might start and end with Goaltending. It’s often the story in the NHL Playoffs but in this series it might be the most prime example available. Ryan Miller and Tuukka Rask ended the season as the two highest ranked netminders in the league in terms of GAA and Saves Percentage. Tuukka, a rookie who started almost 30 less games than Miller, had the slight edge in numbers with his 1.97 GAA and .931 Sv% compared to Miller’s 2.22 and .929. We all know, though, from watching the Winter Olympics in Vancouver how good Ryan Miller can be when the stakes are high. His play throughout that tournament was spectacular and, should his game elevate to that level in this series, the Bruins’ woeful offense will be sorely tested. As will the seemingly steady, unflappable resolve of rising star Tuukka Rask.

It’s a great story, really, a great match-up. The two teams are actually very evenly matched when you look at it. Though the Sabres scored a few more goals in the regular season (didn’t everybody?) they gave up almost the same amount. They remain two teams built on defense and goaltending and grinding play. Zdeno Chara, towering defensemen and key player on the Bruins, will be mirrored by his Buffalo counterpart, rookie Tyler Myers. The Sabres might have the edge in scoring with guys like Vanek and Roy and Pominville but the B’s might be the better penalty killing team and we know how important specialty teams are in the post season.

In the end, so much relies on the goaltending. From a Boston perspective, Tuukka Rask need to play well for them to have a chance. They also need elevated play from their key players, Patrice Bergeron, David Krecji and Milan Lucic. They need someone on the wing to step up and be consistently productive. Is it too much to ask for Michael Ryder or Marco Sturm or Blake Wheeler to find their scoring touch again? Maybe so. Any way you slice it, it’s going to be a grinding series and, hopefully, a lot of nasty fun to watch. I’m going to stay with my homeristic hopes and call it for the locals because to think otherwise is too much of a buzz kill. Bruins in 7.

Montreal Canadiens vs Washington Capitals – The Montreal Men’s Skating Choir versus the powerhouse, beast of the east, high scoring, high flying Caps. The Habs by once again falling to that 8th and final playoff spot in the east have not done themselves any favors this season. They merely earned the privilege of being the cannon fodder for the hungriest, most talented team out there right now. The wee little appetizer before the main course. No contest here, folks. Capitals in 4.

Los Angeles Kings vs Vancouver Canucks – Everyone seems to like the Hawks coming out of the West but I think I need to go against that grain a little bit and look at Vancouver. I like this team a lot, I really do. There’s serious depth at forward with the Sedins, Ryan Kesler and a group of excellent wingers to complement them. If defense is a minor weakness, well, there’s Roberto Luongo to offset that. The Kings might be a rising team but this will not be their year having to face such an excellent Canucks team in the first round. Vancouver in 5.

Nashville Predators vs Chicago Blackhawks – The Predators made the playoffs, did they? This, to me, is the West’s verion of Habs/Caps. No contest. I mean, Nashville is a team that scored 225 goals and gave up 225 goals. That’s some glaring mediocrity for you right there, that is. The Hawks, meanwhile, are just too talented and they want this badly, I think. As long as they don’t take the Preds too lightly (like I am right now…) they should steamroll on to the next round. Blackhawks in 4.

Alright, then. Enough talk. Let’s play some damn hockey!


Where’s Tuukka?

March 29, 2010

tuukka rask bruins goalie

The Globe reports that Tim Thomas was the first goalie off the ice this morning, usually a guaranteed indicator of who will be starting the evening game.

It begs the question, if Tuukka Rask is healthy, that is. What exactly is Claude Julien doing with his starting goaltending situation at this, the most critical juncture of the season?

This is no time to be experimenting or attempting to foster competition amongst his netminders, if that’s the case this evening. Granted, Thomas was excellent in the B’s 5-0 shutout of Calgary at home on Saturday but one game does not a season make. It had become clear to absolutely everyone before that that Tuukka Rask had taken over the number one job in Boston and was providing the stability in net the team desperately needed down the stretch with a playoff berth very much in question.

Rask’s numbers, by the way, leave his position as the team’s current and future starter very much not in question. His GAA of 2.11 lead the entire NHL and his saves percentage of .927 is just a couple thousandths behind Ryan Miller for the league lead in that category, as well.

So why aren’t the two facing each other tonight?

Is it just that the Bruins are playing two games in two nights, heading to New Jersey after the Sabres game, and Julien feels like he’s going to have to use them both, so why not go with Thomas tonight and hope to ride a little hot streak? I feel like it’s too much of a gamble right now, to be honest. I mean, if that was the thinking, then Tuukka should have started against Calagry, right? Why would you want your back-up goalie stating two games in a row?

The bottom line is it’s no time to be wishy washy about your Number One, with so few games left and the team hanging onto the final playoff spot in the East with ragged claws. Julien is leaving himself wide open for criticism should the move backfire on him and Thomas, as has been the pattern in this inconsistent season he’s having, falter tonight and play a less than stellar game.

This should be a match-up of the league’s two best goalies at the Garden this evening and, with all due respect to Tim Thomas, it’s not. He may be the reigning Vezina winner but the simple fact is that he is no longer the best goalie on his team. Period. To most hockey devotees in Boston, it’s clear that Tuukka Time has arrived and whatever post-season hopes the Bruins have rest squarely on his Finnish shoulders.

Whether or not Claude Julien agrees with that seems somewhat in question at the moment.

And that’s not a good thing, folks.


Update: Hate to say “I told ya so…”

At 6:08 of the second period, with the Bruins down 3-1, Claude Julien came to grips with the realization that every idiot on the streets of Boston (and this idiot earlier in the day right here) told him about and tried to make him understand prior to tonight’s game. That starting Tim Thomas for the second straight game was ill-advised at best and borderline insane at worst.

The overwhelming applause from the crowd when the switch was made might have been the first clue that everyone besides Julien had this one figured out long before the change became embarrassingly necessary. Nothing against Thomas, who we all like and who wasn’t at fault for all three goals, but it could not be more obvious who belongs in net for this team down the stretch and who should have started tonight against the Sabres.

Early in the second period, Julien tried to correct his mistake.

Desperate much, Claude?

Good. Because this one’s on your head.