It’s a hit-and-miss beginning for Morris
In last season’s playoffs with the Rangers, Derek Morris didn’t see much of Alex Ovechkin. In the first round, New York coach John Tortorella deployed his top shutdown pairing of Marc Staal and Dan Girardi whenever the Washington sniper was on the ice.
Last night, in the Bruins’ 4-1 loss to the Capitals, Morris had a face full of Ovechkin for most of the game.
Morris, the Bruins’ most significant offseason acquisition, opened the 2009-10 season as Zdeno Chara’s partner. Whenever a goal-scoring machine like Ovechkin rolls over the boards, Morris will be out there with the captain.
“I think at times, we played well,’’ Morris said after last night’s 4-1 loss. “But we got away from it at times. We turned the puck over a lot in the neutral zone. We didn’t get our chips by their D, things like that.
“We did that at the start of the game. We had a lot of pressure early. For some reason, we got away from it.’’
In the first period, Morris and Chara were on the ice when Brooks Laich scored a power-play goal. They were also on the ice in the second, during a bad line change, when Ovechkin took a drop pass from Alexander Semin and wristed a shot through Tim Thomas to make it 2-0.
But Morris busted up two chances for Ovechkin. In the second period, Ovechkin drove one-on-one against Morris and tried to spin off the defenseman. Morris held his ground and thumped Ovechkin off the puck before he could complete the spin. In the third period, Ovechkin slipped behind the defense, took a stretch pass, and tried to race away. Again, Morris played the body and prevented Ovechkin from taking a shot.
“On those plays specifically, we kept him to the outside, played him hard, and didn’t allow him to get any shots,’’ Morris said. “He’s a guy that wanders all over the ice. With one play, he came all the way down the right side, then all the way across to the left side, then they rimmed it up that side. I don’t know if it’s a set play.’’
But with David Krejci, Marco Sturm, and Steve Begin deemed healthy enough for the opener, Sobotka was sent to Providence on Wednesday.
It was the second straight year Sobotka was demoted on the eve of the opener.
The Bruins have no spare forwards and one extra defenseman in Johnny Boychuk, giving them 21 players on the active roster.
“He was upset,’’ said general manager Peter Chiarelli, who can save some cap dollars by assigning Sobotka. “He understood, but he was upset.
“It’s happening all across the league. These things happen. He’s a good competitor. I think he showed in the second half of camp that he can play at this level. You’ll be seeing him again.’’
Sobotka, due to earn $625,000 this season (he’ll be a restricted free agent at season’s end), projected to be the 13th forward.
But with the Bruins opening 2009-10 with a five-game homestand, Sobotka can be recalled from Providence easily in case of injury.
Sobotka would most likely have remained on the NHL roster had the Bruins opened on the road.
“We are carrying 21 players, and without a doubt if we could carry 22, he would certainly be here,’’ said Claude Julien. “At the same time, he’s going to go down there and either play a lot or hopefully we’ll see him back soon.’’
Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at email@example.com.