BOSTON –- You have to give Marco Sturm credit for strategizing.
Back on Feb. 9, the Boston winger beat Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller with a wrist shot past the blocker side in a victorious shootout for the Bruins. Given a penalty shot just 3:20 into Monday night's game against the Sabres, Sturm tried to beat Miller to the 5-hole.
Miller closed off the shot and denied 39 other Boston attempts on goal in Buffalo's 3-2 victory.
“Try to look 5-hole and try to get him to move a little bit, and that’s it,” Sturm said of his approach to the play that could have given Boston an early lead. “I had a shootout against him in Buffalo and I just wanted to try something else and I just couldn’t find the hole.”
Miller used his mind as much as his physical ability to keep the game scoreless.
“I was just trying to go out and challenge it,” he said. “I figure Sturm usually sets up from the other side. He was trying something different on me. I haven’t seen him go 5-hole in a while, so I was thinking that was a possibility. He also is so fast he could have changed things up on me. I think he wanted to catch me by surprise, but I was able to at least be kind of on his wavelength there.”
Getting scoring chances wasn't the problem; they were plentiful throughout the night. Sturm led all players with seven shots on net, including several from prime scoring areas.
With Boston down 3-1 late in the second period, Sturm got behind defenseman Steve Montador and failed to score on an open shot on goal and then a poke at the rebound.
Sturm, who hasn't scored in 2 1/2 weeks, was asked if frustration is creeping in. “It’s getting there,” he said. “But I’ve got to see the positive and know, obviously I’m not happy, but I’ve just got to look forward here, stay positive and it will go in. I got good chances and that’s a good sign. [Miller] played well too. Miller played a really solid game and kept them definitely in the game.”
Sturm’s goal in a March 11 win at Philadelphia was his 21st of the season and second in as many games. It looked like he could approach the 30-goal mark. But he has now gone nine games without scoring, and has recorded just one assist over that stretch. Nine games is his second-longest drought of the year (he went 12 games without a goal in October and November); if Sturm doesn’t mean “streaky” in his native German, it should.
If it’s any consolation, Sturm is willing to acknowledge his up-and-down tendencies –- not just this season, but for his entire career –- and thinks he knows how to solve the problem.
“I think it’s all in the head,” he said. “When you struggle a little bit, the stick’s getting a little tight [in your hand] and you’ve just got to stay loose. So hopefully when I get the first one back -- like I did all my career -- it will bounce in again. And I’ve just got to find a way to stay positive.”