Up and down
WILMINGTON - Matt Hunwick’s mood was somber as he left the ice yesterday morning, a look that wasn’t so much of concern as it was blank.
“I don’t have a whole lot to say,’’ he said after practice at Ristuccia Arena.
And after the weekend he just endured, can you blame him?
The defenseman made several costly turnovers in the Bruins’ 5-1 loss at Montreal Friday night, the most glaring a giveaway behind the net that scooted under Tim Thomas’s glove and right to Michael Cammalleri for one of the forward’s three goals. That, coupled with his deteriorating play as of late, was enough for coach Claude Julien to bench him as a healthy scratch the next night in the Bruins’ 7-2 shellacking of Toronto.
Hunwick was in the press box in a suit, something he had done nearly two-dozen times last season, while eager defenseman Johnny Boychuk was on the ice with the big club for the first time since Oct. 17. Boychuk made the most of his ice time with the first goal of his career.
“You know, some nights you don’t have it. Some nights you don’t feel comfortable, and that happened to me that night,’’ Hunwick said.
So did he think his confidence was waning?
“To be honest with you, I didn’t at the time,’’ he said. “Obviously, that was a tough game in Montreal. We’d like to play better in those situations. But overall, I hadn’t questioned my confidence.’’
Julien said the move wasn’t about Hunwick’s struggles as much as it was about giving Boychuk a chance after all the work he’s put in. Julien also wants to create a competition on the blue line, knowing Hunwick “can be a better player than he’s shown so far.’’
“It’s not unfamiliar territory for him,’’ Julien said. “He had to battle for a spot last year, and I thought he did a good job of that, and he’s going to have to keep battling to keep his spot. He earned it based on his play last year, but right now he’s struggling a little bit, and right now Johnny Boychuk deserves an opportunity.’’
Hunwick’s shot at redemption could come very soon. Dennis Wideman (upper-body injury) is considered day to day.
“We don’t play until Thursday, so if you’re going to ask me, ‘Is [Wideman] in?’, I think so,’’ Julien said. “But I can’t stand here and say for sure that he’s in. It’s maintenance, and we’re hoping everything goes well enough that there’s no issues by the time Thursday comes around.’’
And if that’s the case, there’s hope that the Hunwick benching will have its desired effect.
“Our team played great on Saturday night, so you can’t argue with the decision,’’ Hunwick said. “But I’m not going to go out and think about all those times I was scratched last year. I always bounced back well and that’s what I’m looking to do this year.”
“I think I talked on the phone until like 12:30 [a.m.],’’ the wide-eyed defenseman said with a laugh. “I talked to my parents, then I talked to some friends. I think I got about 400 e-mails.’’
Boychuk, who has been a healthy scratch on numerous occasions this season, is lauded in the locker room for his laid-back humor and positive attitude. So there was plenty of praise for him this weekend, and now he has a few days to enjoy it.
“I just figure, if you’re going to be negative, you’re just going to put yourself behind the 8-ball,’’ Boychuk said. “Keeping positive always helps everybody, no matter what.’’