|08.24.11 at 4:29 am ET|
With captains’ practices just two short weeks from commencing, WEEI.com will be looking at the questions facing the defending Stanley Cup champions in the 2011-12 season.
This time last year, there were plenty of questions on the mind of any Bruins fan. Much like the 2003 Red Sox, the 2009-10 Bruins left a bad taste in fans’ mouths from the heartbreaking fashion in which they were eliminated the season before. As a result, the B’s went out and added a couple of big names (Nathan Horton and Tyler Seguin) with the hope that the team that came so close to the conference finals the year before was just a player or two from something special.
So, with all of the anticipation for the 2010-11 campaign came plenty of questions. Would Tim Thomas bounce back from a subpar season, and would hip surgery make a difference? (That one was answered pretty quickly.) Then there was the question of whether Michael Ryder and Blake Wheeler would turn in performances better than their underwhelming 2009-10 campaigns. While Wheeler wasn’t around to completely answer the question, Ryder gave as strong a “kind of” as one could by being a healthy scratch at points of a regular season that matched his 18 goals of a season prior, while also being one of the team’s playoff heroes. People wondered how Horton might go about adjusting to a hockey market, whether Claude Julien was the right coach for the team and whether Tuukka Rask could once again be the best goalie (statistically speaking) in the league.
Many of those questions were answered emphatically. Now with a Cup ring thanks largely to his decision to go with a defensive super pair of Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg, Julien not only is the right coach for the team but should be considered one of the best coaches in the league. Thomas was the best goaltender this side of any body of water, Ryder and Wheeler have moved on, and Horton played his best when it mattered most. Now that last year’s questions have been answered and captains’ practices are a short two weeks away, it’s worth taking a look at what questions surround the Bruins as they begin their title defense.
First up is a question that will likely be discussed plenty leading into the season: What will Seguin do in his second year?
There are several truths regarding Seguin. He’s the Bruins’ most talented player. He’s essentially their only hope when it comes to those pesky shootouts. He’ll always be compared to Phil Kessel. And, until he is one of the 10 best scorers in the league, people will question the reason why, and such questions will likely be accompanied by some sort of finger-pointing at the coach.
|08.19.11 at 8:23 pm ET|
LOWELL — Milan Lucic was sporting a borderline foreign look as he threw out the first pitch at the Lowell Spinners’ game Friday night at LeLacheur Park. After last being spotted celebrating the Bruins’ Stanley Cup championship at the team’s parade, the barbaric beard worn by Lucic and his teammates was nowhere to be seen. Instead, Lucic had a light beard no longer than his buzz cut.
“It’s actually too long now. It needs to be shaven,” Lucic said. “There’s times when you look back and you kind of miss [the playoff beard], but it’s definitely nice to have a clean face after that run.”
Not only does Lucic have a clean face, but he has a clean bill of health, something he did not have during the playoffs. Lucic, who had developed a reputation as a big playoff performer (he has six goals in the last eight games in which the B’s could eliminate an opponent), was forced to deal with injuries throughout the team’s playoff run. Though he did not miss a game in the postseason, he dealt with a sinus infection and broken nose over the course of the playoffs, and suffered a broken toe when rookie Tyler Seguin hit him with a slapshot in practice during the Eastern Conference finals.
While Lucic’s toe injury did not require surgery, he was operated on for his broken nose, an injury that dates way back to March 4 of 2010 (the biggest break, Lucic says, came during a fight with Colton Orr). Now walking without the limp that he sported over the last two rounds of the postseason and breathing better than ever, Lucic is ready to enter his fifth NHL season without hindrance.
“It’s nice to finally be breathing out of both nostrils again, I will say that,” Lucic said. “I felt the most effects from it in the first series against Montreal this year. I had a sinus infection, and I was feeling under the weather, and that kind of sucks. It really did suck, but it’s great now, everything’s fixed now, so it’s all good.”
Things are also good for Seguin, a man whom Lucic says he harbors no hard feelings. Though Lucic didn’t enjoy the pain at the time, he said the 19-year-old redeemed himself by playing a huge role in the series in which he injured his teammate. The highlight of the playoffs for Seguin, who was playing in place of the then-concussed Patrice Bergeron, came when he had a four-point (two goals, two assits) period in the B’s 6-5 victory over the Lightning in Game 2 of the conference finals.
“I’ve got to get him back,” Lucic said with a laugh before adding, “I told him after he had that big game in Game 2 where he had two goals and two assists that I’ve forgiven him for that.”
The 23-year-old Lucic, who led the Bruins with 30 goals in the regular season, said the excitement over winning the team’s first Cup in 39 years has not subsided, and that he is still in the process of realizing what the B’s accomplished.
“I think it sinks in more as time goes on, but it’s still pretty fresh in our minds,” Lucic said. “I don’t think it will truly sink in until next season actually begins, maybe even halfway through, because then you start to realize once you get into the grind and get into things, you realize how hard it was and how hard you worked to actually win it last year and get yourself in that position. Even though it’s been two months and a bit, it’s still definitely fresh in my mind and I’m definitely enjoying it.”
There were reports prior to Lucic’s day with the trophy that he would have to celebrate in seclusion due to angry Canucks fans, but after holding a public celebration, Lucic said his day was nowhere near what some had made it out to be. Lucic, his girlfriend and his family brought the Cup to the Serbian Orthodox Church in East Vancouver before embarking on a harbor cruise with the trophy. Lucic said the day was far more happy than hostile.
“To be honest, I don’t know who wrote that article that blew that whole thing way out of proportion,” Lucic said. “I still had a public event where five or six hundred people came by and had their picture taken with the Cup, so it was a lot of fun.”
Lucic is back in Massachusetts for good and will be in attendance when captains’ practices (optional skates put on by captains) commence in early September. He said he has kept in contact with Nathan Horton and that the right wing’s “head is all good” after suffering a playoff-ending concussion in Game 3 of the finals.
|08.18.11 at 4:02 pm ET|
The Bruins announced their national television schedule on Thursday. Unless noted as being on NBC, all games will be on Versus. Games marked “non-exclusive” will also be shown on NESN, while games marked “flex game” could become NBC games.
October 6 vs. Philadelphia, 7:00 PM
October 12 at Carolina, 7:30 PM
November 7 vs. New York Islanders, 7:00 PM (non-exclusive)
November 21 at Montreal, 7:30 PM (non-exclusive)
November 25 vs. Detroit, 1:00 PM (NBC)
January 4 at New Jersey, 7:30 PM
January 22 at Philadelphia, 3:00 PM (NBC)
February 5 at Washington, 12:30 PM
February 8 at Buffalo, 7:30 PM
February 15 at Montreal, 7:30 PM
February 19 at Minnesota, 3:00 PM (NBC)
March 4 at New York Rangers, 3:00 PM (flex game)
March 11 at Pittsburgh, 7:30 PM (flex game)
March 27 vs. Tampa Bay, 7:30 PM (non-exclusive)
April 1 at New York Rangers, 3:00 PM (flex game)
April 3 vs. Pittsburgh, 7:30 PM (non-exclusive)
April 7 vs. Buffalo, 3:00 PM (flex game)
|08.18.11 at 4:10 am ET|
Roberto Luongo is used to be critiqued, but it was his criticism of another that intensified the spotlight already being shined on Vancouver goaltender in the Stanley Cup Finals. Luongo infamously said after the Canucks’ Game 5 win that he would have stopped the Maxim Lapierre goal that B’s netminder Tim Thomas allowed go give Vancouver a 1-0 win. Now, he’s saying he regrets criticizing the eventual Conn Smythe winner.
Speaking with Jean-Francois Chaumont of Radio-Canada.ca, Luongo said in French (translated by Stuart St-Amant of CanucksArmy.com) that if he could go back, he would not make the same comments about Thomas.
“Yeah, for sure,” Luongo said when asked whether he regrets his words. “If I could do it again, I wouldn’t say it. I didn’t want to create the buzz that it did. After the fifth game, I had never been so emotional and I got carried away.”
The differing styles of the technically proficient Luongo and the unorthodox Thomas made for an interesting storyline in the finals. Though Luongo was among those praising Thomas leading into the playoffs, his comments when asked about the Game 5 goal were regrettable. Thomas, whose aggressive play out of the net had yielded complaints from the Canucks for the duration of the series, was just outside of the crease as he tried to stop a shot from Kevin Bieksa at the point. When the shot missed the net wide and ricocheted off the end boards and back in front by the opposite post, Lapierre put it in before the Vezina winner could get back.
“That’s not hard if you’re playing in the paint,” Luongo said at the time. “It’s an easy save for me, but if you’re wandering out and aggressive like he does, that’s going to happen. He might make some saves that I won’t, but in cases like that we want to take advantage of bounces like that and make sure we’re in a good position to bury those.”
While media and fans were drawn to Luongo saying it would be “an easy save” for him, the Canucks goaltender took issue with the fact that his whole answer — in which he said Thomas could make saves he couldn’t — wasn’t being heard. In saying that at the airport the following day, Luongo took things a step further, adding that Thomas had not said anything nice about him despite that fact that he was “pumping his tires.” Thomas abstained from a war of words, but did say prior to Game 6 that he “didn’t realize it was my job to pump his tires.”
In the final two games of the series, Luongo allowed six goals (he was pulled after 8:35 in Game 6), while Thomas allowed two goals, including a shutout in the Cup-clinching Game 7.
|08.10.11 at 8:38 pm ET|
The gamble the Bruins took when they loaded their two best defenseman onto an unstoppable top pairing in the postseason paid off, and on Tuesday one member of that pairing took the Stanley Cup where gambling is the norm.
Dennis Seidenberg, who was among the Bruins’ biggest contributors throughout their run, took the trophy to Atlantic City, where fans took pictures of it and the 30-year-old held a private cocktail party with what NHL.com said was “about 100 friends and family.”
Here’s a video from Caesars Palace, courtesy of NHL.com:
And here’s a picture sent our way from Caesars Entertainment:
|08.08.11 at 3:13 pm ET|
MIDDLETON — On Friday, we kicked around the discussion of which Bruin should receive the second “A” now that alternate captain Mark Recchi has retired. While the opinion here is that it should go to defenseman Andrew Ference, the Stanley Cup champions are deep with candidates.
The two other most deserving candidates in this scribe’s opinion are forwards Shawn Thornton and Milan Lucic. We asked Thornton about the idea of potentially wearing an “A” for the first time in his career prior to Monday’s “Putts and Punches for Parkinson’s” golf tournament at the Ferncroft Country Club, and his response seemingly echoed everything his reputation would suggest: that he doesn’t need anything extra on his jersey to be one of the most respected guys in the Bruins’ dressing room.
“It’s tough to talk about because I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t get talked to about that stuff, so if it happened to be me, the recognition or even the consideration for that is an honor in itself. I haven’t had one in the NHL ever, so it doesn’t stop you from doing your job.
“It’s tough to talk about,” he continued. “Would I like to have it? I guess everybody would, it’s an honor. Do I need it? No, probably not. Whatever the decision is, it will be for the best of the team. There’s a lot of leaders on the team. There’s a lot, a lot of leaders on the team and a lot of guys deserving of it.”
One thing that might prevent Thornton from getting the distinction is the fact that healthy scratches could keep him out of the lineup, as they did once Patrice Bergeron returned in the Eastern Conference finals. Still, Thornton’s selflessness and leadership should definitely have him in the discussion.
|08.07.11 at 12:50 pm ET|
Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli confirmed to the Boston Globe’s Fluto Shinzawa what many have figured since Savard was shut down for the season in January: if he retires, he won’t get the money due to him over the six years remaining on his contract. That means he’s better off coming to camp each year, failing his physical, getting his money, and giving the B’s the cap space since he’ll be on long-term-injury reserve.
‘If Savvy retires, he would not be entitled to the benefits of the contract,’’ Chiarelli told Shinzawa.
By coming to camp each year and failing his physicals, Savard would still make the $21.05 million owed to him. The Bruins would be allowed to exceed the salary cap by his cap hit ($4.007 million) each year, as they did last season when they entered the season over the cap and later added defenseman Tomas Kaberle‘s money with Savard shut down for the season.
Again, this has seemed like the logical route for Savard to take since the season ended. While it may be a bit odd for him to show up each season without having a realistic chance of playing, it would be the smart thing to do financially for Savard and his family. Shinzawa notes that Savard would get the money from insurance, as Alexei Zhamnov did with the B’s.