HALIFAX, Nova Scotia - Last night’s first-period power-play goal read Joe Corvo from Zdeno Chara. It is a sequence that, if it repeats throughout the season, will be just fine with the Bruins.
“First of all, I like the way he competes. He competes hard,’’ coach Claude Julien said of Corvo after his team’s 7-3 win over the Canadiens at the Halifax Metro Centre. “You saw his shot. He used his shot quite a bit. On that power play, once we get all our players in place, he’ll certainly be a big asset there.’’
On the goal, Chara had blasted a slap shot wide of the Montreal net. Corvo, pinching on the play, was in perfect position to retrieve the rebound. Before goalie Peter Budaj could recover, Corvo had slipped the puck into the net at 7:58.
The Bruins bosses hadn’t seen Corvo in game action during camp before last night. During the first period of the Black and White scrimmage in Providence last Tuesday, Corvo complained of groin tightness. He sat out the first two preseason games, then made his Bruins debut last night alongside Chara.
“The first period, I was a little bit scatterbrained, a little bit uptight,’’ Corvo said. “I settled down a bit. Conditioning-wise, I think I have a little bit more to go in terms of getting in game shape. I felt pretty good. The speed of the game wasn’t too overwhelming, so I thought it was a good first game.’’
What comes naturally to Corvo is offense. He is a defenseman who pushes the puck with pace. In the offensive zone, especially on the power play, Corvo can walk the blue line and release his slap shot whenever lanes open.
The defensive side is where Corvo will require more time. In Carolina, Corvo - he mostly was paired with shutdown man Tim Gleason - played man to man under coach Paul Maurice. Julien teaches a collapsing zone in which defensemen are instructed to hold their ground and not run around. Corvo acknowledged there were several instances last night when he chased the puck that was carried too high instead of sagging back and playing his position.
“It wasn’t that bad,’’ Julien said. “I think he’s going to catch on pretty quickly. When he does catch on, he’s going to realize it’s a lot easier. A lot less running around. At the end of the shift, you’re not as tired as when you’re running around. When you’re playing zone, you let them come to you instead of you chasing them all the way up the ice and everywhere else in the zone. He’ll get used to it like everybody else has.’’
Matt Bartkowski might have the inside line on the No. 7 blue-line job. The left-shot defenseman has been steady in all areas - skating, checking, shooting - in all three zones.
During his promotions last season, Bartkowski was jumpy with and without the puck. In camp, he has been more poised and polished with the puck.
“He feels more comfortable,’’ Julien said. “He’s been around these guys and around this team in the playoffs. That’s certainly something that’s helped. He watched us get through the playoffs and skated as an extra every day. But there’s no doubt in my mind that practicing at that level and being pushed by some of our coaches that way certainly helped. He adapted with the caliber and the intensity that’s needed at the NHL level.’’
Steven Kampfer, the preseason favorite for the job, dressed last night alongside Zach McKelvie. Kampfer laid an open-ice wallop on Erik Cole in the first period. While Kampfer can land the occasional tooth-rattler, his game is more about puck retrieval and transition.
With a two-year gap in his development curve because of his Army commitments, McKelvie has been trying to cram every bit of learning into his first pro camp. It doesn’t hurt to be paired with Dennis Seidenberg.
“There’s a lot of little things they do that you never learned in college,’’ McKelvie said of his veteran teammates. “Just the angles they take, their stick position - lot of little things that if you can pick up on those, they should really help your game out.’’
McKelvie most likely will be assigned to Providence among the next wave of cuts. There, the 26-year-old will see just what he needs to make up for his inexperience: repetitions.
If anything, McKelvie needs regular ice time to regain the timing, touch, and pace that he missed while serving at Fort Benning, Ga. What will help the rookie is his skating. McKelvie is one of the smoothest-moving defensemen in camp.
“With the 2 1/2 years I had off, I think reps is really the most important thing,’’ McKelvie said. “My ultimate goal is to make this team. By getting more reps, I’m not only helping myself, I’m helping this organization.’’
Horton in lineup