BOSTON – The Bruins leading scorer hasn’t scored an important goal seemingly since the fall of the Berlin Wall, so head coach Claude Julien might try an old remedy to break out winger Marco Sturm from his prolonged slump.
During practice at TD Garden today in preparation for Monday night’s Game 6 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series with Buffalo, Sturm skated in a familiar place – left wing on a line centered by Patrice Bergeron and flanked on the other side by Mark Recchi.
Sturm finished the regular season with 22 goals, but scored just once (in that meaningless regular-season finale at Washington) in his last 17 games of the regular season. Through five games against the Sabres, he’s pointless.
Most of Sturm’s success since his arrival in Boston in November 2006 has come skating alongside Bergeron, so if anyone is going to break Sturm from his slump it’s the veteran Bruins pivot.
“It’s still on me,” Sturm said with a laugh when asked if the pressure’s on Bergeron to get the speedster going. “But I know him and I know he’s going to get me the puck, and he and Rex, I’ve just … like I played in the past, I’ve just got to relax and have fun and use my speed.”
Injuries and ineffectiveness forced Julien to utilize an endless number of line combinations during the season, including stints featuring Sturm as part of Bergeron’s trio. Other than a swap of Daniel Paille and Milan Lucic done during Game 2 and Game 4, this would be the coach’s first major line alteration of this series.
“There’s not a ton of reasons behind it more than there’s familiar faces and [we] just felt that it was time to try it out for today and we’ll see what we decide for tomorrow,” Julien said.
The term “squeeze the stick” has been used as much as oxygen in the Bruins’ dressing room this season, but Sturm admitted today he has been pressing.
“It’s in your head. You try and try hard, but sometimes when you try too hard it goes the other way. That’s the way it is, but hopefully I can respond (Monday) with those two guys,” Sturm said.
Watching Sturm up-close skating with other lines, Bergeron hasn’t been too worried about his long-time teammate. The center can see the winger has been working hard and just can’t seem to get the puck through to the back of the net. Bergeron’s always been in Sturm’s corner, and now he’ll have a chance to set him up for some scoring chances.
“He’s that type of guy that’s always pretty positive and always looking at things the right way. And the only thing I can do is be behind him and support him and tell him how good he is, because he really is a great player,” Bergeron said. “To me, it’s one of those things sometimes it happens, the puck doesn’t go in. But obviously you need some results sometimes, but at the same time he’s been playing great, been playing well, and hopefully (Monday) we turn that around.”
There’s a lot of hope that Sturm will find his form. The only things that matter through are results. And after Lucic and Paille both achieved a measure of success to Bergeron’s left, Sturm will be expected to do the same. If he doesn’t, Julien might just be out of solutions to get the forward going.