Bruins 2005-06 rookie review

By Janine Pilkington

It was a season Boston Bruins fans would likely rather forget. What began as promising, with the Bruins in a prime position following the NHL lockout, quickly transformed into an exercise in Murphy’s Law, where it seemed everything from injuries to poor managerial decisions would plague the team. The season mercifully ended on April 15 with the Bruins near the basement in the standings and suddenly in the market for a new GM. But amidst the rubble, the team was able to salvage some positives. The 2005-06 rookie class shouldered a great deal of responsibility, and it is their performance that brightened an otherwise forgettable season for the black and gold.

Any other season he might have grabbed more attention, but Brad Boyes is one of many rookies in 2005-06 who was overshadowed by the phenomenal play of Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin. Finishing third in the league in scoring among all rookies, Boyes collected a total of 69 points (26 goals, 43 assists), 30 penalty minutes and +11 in 82 games, and was a key component to Boston’s otherwise stagnant offense. His innate playmaking abilities carried over to the NHL level, and though he’s not a flashy player by any means, he’s a player who always seems to be in the right place at the right time. He has excellent vision and in addition to his offensive abilities, is also defensively responsible. The hardworking and motivated Bruins rookie is the complete package.

As injury and trade dissected the Bruins’ offense, Boyes was awarded with more playing time. He clicked with linemates Patrice Bergeron and Marco Sturm, a trio that would make up the majority of Boston’s offense. A natural center, Boyes won 54 percent of his faceoffs, but he also spent part of the season on the right side. He had point streaks of six, seven and eight games, with one that included a hat trick in mid-March against the Hurricanes. Boyes played in all 82 games and averaged just over 15 minutes a game.

In the net, Finn Hannu Toivonen made his NHL debut and did not disappoint. As Bruins starting goaltender Andrew Raycroft struggled to regain his Calder Cup winning form, Toivonen quickly jumped in and earned his place on the team. The poised and confident rookie demonstrated his quick reflexes, flexibility and the ability to make timely saves. He appeared in 20 games before his season was cut short by an upper ankle injury in early January. In those 20 games he earned a 9-5-4 record with a 2.63 goals against average and .914 percentage. In his second appearance of the season, Toivonen was left to mop up a 4-0 deficit when he took over the net for Raycroft in the second period, and though he stopped 17 of 18 shots, Boston’s offense offered little help and they dropped the 5-1 decision to Ottawa. The next time he faced Ottawa, he would earn a 3-0 shutout. He would have his finest stats versus the Senators, and perhaps somewhat ironically, it would be during a game against Ottawa that he would sustain his season-ending injury.

Of Toivonen’s five losses during regulation, four were by a margin of one point, and seven of his games went to overtime. He faced one shootout which resulted in a loss to the New Jersey Devils. Toivonen was placed on injured reserve in early January and though he appeared to be healed near the end of the season, the Bruins took no chances and officially closed the book on his rookie year.

Milan Jurcina bounced back and forth between Boston and Providence in the early games of the season, but eventually he settled into a regular roster spot in Boston, where he would average a little over 16 minutes on the ice. Jurcina was a late round draft pick from 2001 (8th round, 241 overall), a player who has improved tremendously in the last couple of seasons. A big, sturdy defenseman at 6’4 233 lbs, Jurcina began to use his body more, but he could be also undisciplined at times, and many of his 54 penalty minutes were due to holding or stick infractions. Jurcina is more of a stay at home defenseman, though he does have a rocket of a shot and some offensive instinct.

He recorded his first NHL point on Nov. 25 versus the Flyers, an assist on a Joe Thornton goal. He would remain off the score sheet until early January, when he had back to back two goal games versus Tampa Bay and San Jose. His play was impressive enough to earn him a spot on Team Slovakia in the 2006 Winter Olympics. Team Slovakia remained unbeaten only to lose to the Czech Republic in the quarterfinal match, and Jurcina finished with an assist and eight penalty minutes in six games. After he returned to Boston, Jurcina suffered a shoulder injury during the month of March and missed a number of games. He completed his rookie season at 11 points (6 goals, 5 assists), +3 and 54 penalty minutes in 51 games.

Rookie defenseman Andrew Alberts received a brief introduction to the pros with a playoff stint in Providence following his final season at BC in 2005. Alberts began the season in Boston and assumed a prominent role on the team’s blue line, often averaging 15 minutes a game. The 6’4 218 lb defender is an agile skater, with a powerful stride, but one of his greatest assets is his strength. Alberts punished opposing players with his powerful hits, some so jarring that he was targeted for roughing penalties. As a rookie adjusting to the NHL and with the new rules in place, it was sometimes tough to find the balance between what was and wasn’t acceptable, especially with regards to contact. Alberts grew frustrated on the struggling Bruins team, and earned some brief downtime in Providence to work on his game.

He returned to Boston, rejuvenated, after a handful of games and continued to be a force on the Bruins’ blue line. When Boston suddenly found themselves with an extra defenseman, Alberts spent some time playing forward, and with drastically reduced minutes. By March he was back on the blue line, averaging roughly 15 minutes a game. The rookie defenseman has very little offense to his game, and didn’t make an appearance on the score sheet until he registered his first NHL point, an assist, to a PJ Axelsson goal in mid November. He wouldn’t score his first NHL goal until March 12, in a game against the Buffalo Sabres. Alberts finished the season seven points (1goal, 6 assists), +3 and 68 penalty minutes in 73 games.

Injuries to key players and lack of depth on the roster really hurt the Bruins the 2005-06 season, and they recalled many of their Providence players to try and fill in the holes. Ben Walter earned a brief call-up with very minimal playing time, while goaltender Jordan Sigalet served as an emergency backup for a handful of games.

Mark Stuart found his way to the lineup late in the season, earning two points (1 goal, 1 assist) and 10 penalty minutes in 17 games. Stuart registered his first assist on March 16 versus Ottawa and his first goal on April 10 versus Washington. He’s a player who has come a long way since the beginning of the season, looking much more confident on the ice, and in Boston he averaged nearly 18 minutes of ice time.

Also joining the team late in the season was center Yan Stastny. Stastny was originally drafted by the Bruins in 2002, but he was traded to the Edmonton Oilers in August of 2005 for a draft pick. He played most of the season with their AHL affiliate in Iowa, before returning to the Bruins organization as part of a three player trade for Sergei Samsonov just prior to the trade deadline. Stastny played 20 games in Boston with a total of four points (1 goal, 3 assists) and 10 penalty minutes.

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