Julien looking for boost in quality chances
CHICAGO - Four games into the 2011-12 season, and prepped to face the Blackhawks here last night, the Bruins could point to the “goals against’’ column in the NHL standings and take some solace in the “7’’ posted there. A 1.75 goals-against mark isn’t such a bad way to start a season.
But “could’’ and “some’’ weren’t quite cutting it for Claude Julien. The Bruins coach, though evenhanded in his assessment of his squad’s 1-3-0 start, made it quite clear after yesterday morning’s brief workout at the United Center that he needs more offensive pop from his defending Stanley Cup champions.
“We’re definitely a solid team, but we are beating ourselves offensively,’’ said Julien before the Bruins earned a 3-2 shootout win. “Our offense is under pressure to score right now, and that means getting pucks in the right areas, executing.’’
A team’s shot volume often can be deceiving, simply because there are shots and then there are shots. Julien noted that many of his club’s opponents last year often amassed hefty shot totals, but the Bruins typically made little of the number because many, if not most, were not quality scoring chances.
Julien isn’t disappointed by the Bruins’ shot volume thus far, but he isn’t pleased to see the lack of quality scoring chances they have been producing.
“So we’ve got to take some of our own medicine there,’’ said Julien. “If we take 40 shots and they aren’t quality chances, then we aren’t getting what we want.’’
Defenseman Dennis Seidenberg tops the Boston roster with a total of 18 shots in five games. Fellow blue liner Zdeno Chara has 13. Up front, sophomore center/wing Tyler Seguin leads the way with 16 shots, one of them good for his first goal Wednesday night in Raleigh, N.C., followed by Brad Marchand (14) and Patrice Bergeron (12).
However, Boston’s two premier wingers, Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton, were virtual no-shows in the first four games. While others may be nursing a Stanley Cup hangover, those two have been skating migraines, each posting a mere one assist apiece.
Horton entered the evening averaging but one shot per game, while Lucic posted a total of nine shots. Clearly not the snap, crackle, and pop expected of a team’s top-line wingers, although Horton scored last night and Lucic landed three shots on goal.
Seguin looks strong this year, is playing with more confidence, and was at his more familiar center position for a second straight game. A pivot throughout his junior career, though no stranger to playing along the wall, he played almost exclusively at wing last season and started there again this year, shifting to the middle on the No. 1 line when David Krejci suffered a core injury last week in practice.
Asked yesterday morning if he felt Seguin eventually would shift to full-time pivot duty, Julien again noted that the 19-year-old still has a learning curve to complete. “Down the road, there’s probably a better chance of seeing him [at center],’’ said Julien. “But right now, there’s probably a better chance of seeing him in both positions. When he’s on the wing, he has to win battles along the boards, and that’s something he’s getting better at.’’
Julien also noted that it’s crowded at center when Krejci is healthy, with the likes of Bergeron, Chris Kelly, and Gregory Campbell. “Pretty hard to move anyone out of that position,’’ said Julien.
Dropping the gloves
Greg Campbell had Boston’s first fight of the season, squaring off in the first period with forward Jamal Mayers. It was mostly a wrestling match, with Campbell gaining leverage on Mayers to end the bout . . . The Bruins finished with the victory, but ended the night with 0:00 time leading the game . . . Still a lot of regulars in the lineup who still don’t have a point: Campbell, Chara, Seidenberg, Jordan Caron, and Benoit Pouliot . . . Seidenberg led both sides with a beefy 30:10 of ice time . . . The Bruins again were blanked (0 for 3) in 5:08 of power-play time. They did look better on the advantage, especially on their first opportunity when they landed three shots in the first minute of the advantage . . . Julien said Krejci’s status is day to day and that the club is looking for the slick pivot to return next week. But the coach sounded vague in that assessment.
McQuaid still hurting
As expected, Adam McQuaid, still experiencing head and neck pain from a fall in Raleigh Wednesday night, was not in uniform. Julien said he had no further update on the big blue liner, who celebrated his 25th birthday last week. McQuaid will be checked out by team doctors today or tomorrow, according to Julien . . . Dan Carcillo, who signed with the Blackhawks as a free agent in July, suited up for only the second time this season. He was suspended for the first two games of the season, his penance for a verbal tirade he directed at on-ice officials at the Garden, when his Flyers faced the Bruins in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. He began on the left side on a line centered by Patrick Kane, who has shifted to the middle to start this season after spending his first four years at right wing.
Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli, here for the morning skate, zipped up to Dubuque Friday evening to scout a couple of 2012 draft prospects in the USHL. Adam Michelletti, son of broadcaster Joe Michelletti, is Dubuque’s director of hockey and business operations. The younger Michelletti hoped to follow his dad’s career path and play one day in the NHL, but a series of concussions forced him to quit the game well before he entered Boston College . . . A relaxed Julien led a guided tour of the dressing room after the workout, playing kind host to three children. The tour over, the kids about to leave, the smiling Julien reached for a large basket of bubble gum and said, “Here’s the exit candies.’’ . . . The Bruins have an 11 a.m. workout scheduled today in Wilmington, Mass. . . . Veteran wag to Chiarelli as he sat in the United Center stands, watching his squad practice: “So, what’s it going to be, trades? Demotions? Tirades?’’ Chiarelli: “No, sorry. I got nothing for you. Living up to my nickname, I guess.’’ Peter The Patient.