|09.13.11 at 2:44 am ET|
Around this time last year, it didn’t seem there many people banking on big things from Tim Thomas. The veteran goaltender was coming off both a down year and offseason hip surgery. In fact, much of the discussion regarding the Bruins’ goaltending situation was generally around how Tuukka Rask would follow up a season in which he led the NHL in both goals against average and save percentage.
What a difference a year and a shelf-worth of hardware makes.
Now, Thomas is coming off a both healthy and historic season, and rather than wondering whether he’s physically capable of being a dominant goalie — something he admitted he pondered before the hip healed — the 37 year-old can think about the coming season rather than how his body will hold up.
“Actually, I feel good,” Thomas said Monday. “I didn’t have any injuries that I had to deal with, which is pretty amazing considering the amount of games we had. Physically, it’s not even an issue, so I haven’t had to think about it. It’s nice.”
Thomas delighted season-ticket holders at Monday’s State of the Bruins when he said that he had no choice but to repeat the type of season — which was of record-breaking variety thanks to an all-time best .938 save percentage — he had a year ago.
While fans got a kick out of Thomas’ statement, the Michigan native said afterwards that holding themselves to their own standard is something the Bruins must do as they defend their championship.
“I think that goes for not just me but for the whole team,” Thomas said. “When you’ve won the Cup and you’re at the pinnacle, there’s nothing higher, so you need to shoot for it again.”
But could Thomas really repeat the type of season he put together last season? He started 55 regular-season games, beginning the process of claiming the No. 1 job with a shutout (one of nine on the season) in the second game against the Coyotes in Prague.
This time around, it’s Rask that’s all healed (he had arthroscopic surgery on his knee) and trying to get a few more starts. Thomas laughed at the idea that the No. 1 goalie discussion could come up this early, as he was asked whether his historic season left him assuming he’ll be the Bruins’ top netminder.
“It’s pretty much only a label that you guys put on it, anyways,” Thomas said. “We just consider ourselves goaltenders on the team. One of the goalies is going to get more playing time, but we’re both just teammates.”
Along with his .938 save percentage, Thomas had an NHL-best 2.00 goals against average and a 35-11-9 record in the regular season. He started each game of the postseason, narrowly surprising his regular season numbers with a .940 save percentage and 1.98 goals against average. For someone who’s welcomed the challenge of repeating such a campaign, Thomas did note that his lackluster 2009-10 season, which followed his first Vezina season, may have prepared him for learning how to follow a great year.
“I’ve had experience,” Thomas said. “I had the year after the Vezina. Coming off that was hard enough. Now, winning these, I’m starting to get some experience with dealing with success, and hopefully that helps going forward.”
|09.12.11 at 11:59 pm ET|
One petitioned player will be on the Stanley Cup, but what about the others?
Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli confirmed Monday night that center Marc Savard‘s name will be on the trophy, which is good news for a guy who hasn’t had much of it.
Due to his latest concussion, Savard played in only 25 regular season games last season (41, or one Stanley Cup finals game are required to get one’s name on the trophy). The Cup will be engraved this week, with 52 names (including the players) allowed.
“It’s not an easy task, it really isn’t,” Bruins president Cam Neely said of trying to narrow down the list while also seeking approval for petitioned players who don’t meet the required games. “You’d like to get as many on there as possible, but it was important to have Savvy on there, and fortunately enough it worked.”
While the Bruins know Savard will be on the Cup, they aren’t sure about defenseman Steven Kampfer, who played in 38 games in the regular season. Both Savard and Kampfer had injuries last season (Savard a season-ending concussion and Kampfer a lower-body injury during an AHL stint late in the regular season), but Chiarelli said they don’t know whether the young defenseman will get his name on the trophy.
“I’m going to know that shortly,” Chiarelli said. “I’ve had discussions [about it]. Those are tougher arguments, unfortunately. I’ll probably know that by the end of the week.”
Obviously, the feel-good story is for Savard to get on there, and the powers that be absolutely made the right decision in allowing Savard’s name. With that being said, it’s pretty crazy to imagine Kampfer not getting on the trophy given his contributions as a blueliner capable of logging 20 minutes a night in the middle of the season. Shane Hnidy is far less likely to get on there.
|09.12.11 at 9:56 pm ET|
The Bruins’ rookies defeated those of the Islanders, 8-5, Monday night at Nassau Coliseum. It was the first rookie game of the preseason, with another to follow Tuesday night in New York.
Both Ryan Spooner and Jared Knight, the two players in rookie camp who figure to push the hardest for a roster spot, had two goals apiece for the Bruins in the victory. The B’s also got goals from Dylan Hood, David Warsofsky, Yannick Riendeau and Carter Camper.
Last year, Jordan Caron figured to compete for a job on the Bruins and came out with a hat trick in the first rookie game. Knight and Spooner showing their chops early on this year should come as no surprise.
|09.12.11 at 12:19 pm ET|
BOLTON — We have a Brad Marchand update, and it’s that it doesn’t seem anything has changed.
Marchand, a restricted free agent who has yet to sign, was at the Bruins’ annual golf tournament Monday, which to his credit is the latest sign of him doing everything he can to remain involved despite the uncertainty surround when his deal will get done.
He’s been at captains’ practices, the golf tournament, and was at the team’s DVD premier over the summer, but the biggest two questions remain unanswered: will he be signed before training camp opens Friday, and, if not, would he really show up for camp without a contract? Marchand was once again noncommittal in answering the latter.
“I’m not looking that far ahead right now,” he said. “It’s just day to day.”
With Friday just four days away, he doesn’t need to look too far ahead. The clock is ticking for Wade Arnott, Marchand’s agent, and Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli to get something done.
[UPDATE: 8:30 pm] Chiarelli weighed in — barely — on the matter after the team’s annual State of the Bruins meeting with season-ticket holders.
“He’s obviously a good player, and he’s a god kid, and we want to get him signed,” Chiarelli said. “I’ll leave it at that.”
Asked whether he would expect Marchand to show up for camp without a contract, the general manager didn’t say.
“It’s something that I’d have to discuss with the agent and the player,” Chiarelli said. “We’re not at that point yet.”
One thing that may have shaken up the market a bit is the contract that agent Alec Schall was able to get for Flyers forward and former second overall pick James van Riemsdyk. The winger got a six-year, $25.5 million deal, and his regular season production last year (21 goals, 19 assists) was right on par with what Marchand did (21 goals, 20 assists). It’s hard to imagine the Bruins giving Marchand that kind of money or such a lengthy deal.
“No, not at all,” Marchand said when asked whether he felt he was worth more than JvR. “Everyone’s in a different place, with a different team and different dynamic. He’s a great player, and he’s going to have a great future. It’s a great deal for him, but that isn’t really any of my business.”
|09.12.11 at 12:02 pm ET|
BOLTON — One of the more interesting tidbits to emerge from Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli in the days following the Bruins’ Stanley Cup championship was that Nathan Horton, who was shut down after his Game 3 concussion, had also been playing the latter part of the postseason with a separated shoulder.
On Monday, Horton talked about the shoulder for the first time of the preseason, saying that his recovery from the injury was just as big a deal as that of his concussion.
“It definitely was my shoulder too, as well as my concussion,” Horton said. “Now I feel good, I feel a lot better than I did. ‘¦ We still have another month before the season starts, so I’ll be ready to go.”
Horton added that when he had to take a little longer before beginning workouts, it was because of the shoulder.
“I think so,” Horton said when asked whether the shoulder limited him more in the offseason than the concussion. “For a little bit there, for sure, I could have started a little bit earlier, but I took some time off. I guess that’s what happens during the playoffs, right? The season’s so long. Everyone battled through a lot of different injuries. I guess that’s what it’s all about. You want to do that, you want to be able to battle through. In the end, that’s all that matters. We won the Stanley Cup because of people battling through injuries.”
Horton suffered the injury in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals, but it certainly wasn’t the notable thing he did in the Bruins’ 1-0. Horton scored the lone goal of the game, taking a pass from David Krejci and tipping it past Dwayne Roloson in the third period to send the B’s to the Stanley Cup finals. After a hit from Canucks’ defenseman Aaron Rome ended his postseason, he was able to remain around the team to celebrate the team’s championship.
|09.12.11 at 11:37 am ET|
BOLTON — Bruins forward Shawn Thornton said Monday at the team’s annual golf tournament that he doesn’t care much for the connections some have made between hits to the head (including those sustained in fights) and the suicides of NHL players Rick Rypien and Wade Belak, as well as the death — an accidental overdose — of Rangers enforcer Derek Boogaard.
“It kind of [expletive] pisses me off that people take this opportunity to try and exploit a certain part of the game,” Thornton said. “I think those are very, very sad instances, but I don’t think taking it as an opportunity to exploit part of the game is the way to go. Remember the people, the men they were, not what they did for a living.”
Both Rypien and Belak had been battling depression prior to their deaths. Belak was recently retired, but was found dead late last month after hanging himself. Since then, the risks of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (something players suffering multiple blows to the head are subject to) has been brought up by those wondering whether there could be a connection between blows to the head and eventual depression.
Last season, Thornton led the Bruins with 122 penalty minutes.
|09.09.11 at 7:01 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — This time of year, hockey players are used to mostly talking shop. The usual stuff: what shape they’re in, what they learned in the previous season, etc.
This year’s different, though. As hockey starts up again, the game can move on from, but not forget, what has been a devestating summer. Gregory Campbell had to remember fallen friends, smiling only when he could talk shop.
“When he got on the ice, he was like a robot. That guy blocked more shots than anybody I think I’ve seen in my life,” Campbell said of Karlis Skrastins, one of the former NHL players who died in Wednesday’s KHL plane crash. “He had wrist guards, and literally armor underneath his hockey equipment. He was such a warrior on the ice. It was almost contridictory, because he was so gentle off the ice and such a good person.”
Yet as far as anecdotes can take someone mourning multiple losses, Campbell often found himself repeating one word that was used far too often over the summer: tragic.
The sad streth for the sport began during the conference finals, when Rangers tough guy Derek Boogaard died of an accidental drug overdose. Jets forward Rick Rypien committed suicide in August, and newly retired enforcer Wade Belak hanged himself two weeks ago. It was already a gloomy time for the game, but the most horrific blow came Wednesday when a plane carrying the entire KHL team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl killed 43 people, including nine former NHL players.
Given the astoundingly large number of players who perished over the offseason, it’s hard to find a player throughout the league who wasn’t personally impacted by the tragic events the summer held. On Thursday, Zdeno Chara grieved over the loss of close friend Pavol Demitra. On Friday, it was Campbell’s turn.
“I feel like the whole hockey community is really a family, and the longer you play the game, the more players you meet, the more players you play with,” he said. “That’s one unique thing about sports, is you do get to interact with so many different people along your career. … For the hockey family, so to speak, to lose as many members as we did in one summer is really just tragic. I don’t think that there’s ever been a summer like this.”
The summer, which featured Campbell’s day with the Stanley Cup, already had a dark cloud of it prior to Wednesday, as he was close friends with Belak (“I still kept in contact with him,” Campbell said) from the two seasons that they were teammates in Florida. Then Wednesday’s plane crash occured, taking the lives of former Panthers teammates Ruslan Salei and Skrastins.
“Karlis was just the nicest man that I’ve ever met in my life,” Campbell said. “He was really, really soft-spoken. Quiet, but just a gentle, kind person.”
“Rusty was a jokester. He was always the first guy at the card table, one of the louder guys on the team,” he said of Salei. “Guys would tease him as a grumpy old man, but that was in a total joking manner. At heart he was a really good guy, and that was his way of expressing his affection to other people.”
A player with strong family values (he had father Colin on the ice in Vancouver when the B’s won the Stanley Cup), Campbell expressed his sympathies to the families of all the players who died too young. As hard a summer as it’s been for the game, he does feel there is a lesson to be learned amidst the sorrow.
“On the hockey front, we really have to appreciate it and have respect for what we do and how lucky we are,” Campbell said. “More importantly, on the life side of things, you have to appreciate life and appreciate what’s important in life. In sports, there’s often lots of ups and downs, but that doesn’t compare to the times you spend with your family and the people close to you. That’s what you have to appreciate and savor.”