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Thank you, Dominik Hasek

10.04.10 at 9:13 am ET
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PRAGUE — There’s no way anyone going on this Belfast-Prague-Liberec-Prague excursion wasn’t psyched out of their minds for the trip. There’s also no way a writer whose dealings with foreign cities stopped at Quebec wouldn’t have some reservations about new territories and a new language.

This one just didn’t think he’d have his, “I’m a goner” moment so soon in.

So we arrived on Sunday night, and it was beautiful. I actually slept for a little more than 14 hours as soon as I got to the hotel and got up just before 10 a.m. for the 11 a.m. practice. I called a cab, wrote down the address for the arena, which was about 15 minutes away tops, and enjoyed some very limited conversation with the driver, who knew just a few words of English. Either way, I would soon be at Tesla Arena.

No I wouldn’t.

About 15 minutes into the ride the cab pulls into some sketchy alley-ish place. There’s a mechanic on the right, and a guy smoking a cigarette down the street.

“Yes?”

“No,” I say calmly, though I’m naturally worried.

The cab driver points to the address I had written down. “Yes.”

“Sorry, but no,” I say, growing more concerned with each passing second. “Hockey.”

“Okay?”

“No ‘okay.’ Hockey,” I say, air-stickhandling. “Hockey.”

“Okay?”

By now I figure I have seen my family and friends for the last time. That guy down the street is smoking his cigarette and wondering what the hell is going on. Or is he? Maybe he’s in on the ruse too. I try again.

“Hockey, please. Hockey.”

“Okay?”

That’s when I remembered the conversation I’d had a day earlier with my last cab driver about Czech players.

“Dominik Hasek! Jaromir Jagr!”

“Hockey?”

“Hockey.”

He drove me to the arena, which was maybe 45 seconds from where we were, and I have just now gotten the blood back in my face.

Read More: European Trip,

Tim Thomas to get the start in net Tuesday

10.04.10 at 8:58 am ET
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PRAGUE — Claude Julien said on Monday that Tim Thomas would be in net for the Bruins when they square off with HC Liberec at Tipsport Arena in Liberec. Thomas, who had offseason hip surgery, has played in one preseason game thus far, the team’s exhibition with the Capitals last Wednesday at TD Garde.

“I feel pretty good,” Thomas said Monday of his preseason. “It’s a building process and it’s coming along. I’m trying to make games every day. You might not get that every day, but if you get it the majority of the days, then you’re doing a pretty good job and I think that’s what I’m accomplishing.”

As for the recovery from the surgery, the team brought him along rather slowly in training camp despite the fact that he was able to participate in captain’s practices in September. Any health concerns seem to be a thing of the past, with the team’s chief concerns likely centered around how ready he is for the season.

“I haven’t heard anything on the negative side of that and I think it’s just slowly bringing him into the groove of things,” Julien said. “Obviously, anybody who started off a little late and had some days off is maybe not caught up quite yet to the rest of the team, but we’re working with him in order for him to be that. I think health-wise he’s doing pretty good and he’ll play for him tomorrow in that game. We’ve got to help him overcome that little hump there and get him as ready as he can be.”

KEEPING UP WITH APPEARANCES

Thomas is rocking a whole new getup when it comes to his equipment this season, going with an all-white look rather than his usual golden getup. He tops off the atire change with a white mask that has some traces of a light grey, the only coloring being an American flag on the back.

“I’ve been told for years that white makes you look bigger,” Thomas said. “… Hopefully I look bigger than ever.”

That’s a change from the typical American person, who generally seeks the help of vertical stripes to look as thin as they can.

“Yeah but I’m hoping that if the pads look bigger it will make my stomach look smaller.”

Read More: European Trip,

Welcome to Prague

10.03.10 at 1:12 pm ET
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PRAGUE — After a wonderful three days in Belfast, the Big Bad Blog is now in Prague for the week (the Bruins came, too). The team flew out at noon Belfast time and arrive just a couple hours ago, picking up one hour in the time zone change. We’re now a quarter of a day ahead of you guys, so expect to wake up each morning with a heaping plate of news ready for you. Here are some pictures from the trip from Belfast to Prague, including some of the Czech media going batty for David Krejci (from Czech) and Zdeno Chara (Slovakia).

The Bruins will be playing three games while in the Czech Republic. They’ll have an exhibition game on Tuesday in Liberec before opening the regular season at 02 Arena with a pair of games against the Coyotes on Saturday and Sunday.

Read More: David Krejci, European Trip, Zdeno Chara,

Tying up loose ends in Belfast

10.02.10 at 10:10 pm ET
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BELFAST — The first leg of the overseas Bruins trip is unfortunately done with, as the Big Bad Blog departs Belfast but will continue to bring all the unfathomably good stuff from Prague over the next week.

There was a lot of stuff to blog in the three days that I’ve been here, so naturally some tidbits I came away with fell through the cracks. Here are a couple:

– Meet Wayne Hardman. He covers the Giants and loves the crap out of hockey. He’s a real die-hard for the sport over in Northern Ireland, something I was not sure existed. He’s so committed that he commutes two hours every day to do what he calls more of a “passion” than a job.

– Speaking of that name, an enforcer in Belfast is referred to as a “hard man.” Gross.

– People use expressions we’d be familiar with, such as “how are you?” and the other basics, but when it comes to the really informal, youthful way of asking someone how they are, throw “sup” out the window. Instead they say, “What’s the crack?” Gross.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

It’s tough to pick. There were a few good ones each day, but in the end Shawn Thornton and Tyler Seguin may have ended up tying one another with their quips following Saturday’s game:

– “I guess like that?” – Seguin, after a reporter with a very heavy accent asked him how he’d been handling the Northern Irish accents. Seguin apologized several times for not understanding him (he wasn’t alone — the media scrum was just as confused), and when he finally realized what he was asking, it was the only logical answer.

– “I definitely wanted one, but oh well. Me wanting a goal and [not] getting one is pretty much my life story.” — Thornton when asked if he was content with not scoring a goal in front of his family (he had two assists).

Read More: European Trip, Shawn Thornton,

Video: The scene in Belfast before the game

10.02.10 at 9:31 pm ET
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BELFAST — I never claimed to be good with a flip cam, but if Bruins fans want to see how they measure up to hockey fans over and Belfast, take a look at the scene before the Bruins’ game with the Giants. One shot that was edited out but will be in the extended version Blu-ray: Some guy had a Philadelphia Phantoms jersey.

Read More: European Trip,

Bruins react to an honest scare

10.02.10 at 5:53 pm ET
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BELFAST — The Bruins went into Belfast, beat the best squad the Elite League could put together by a four-goal margin (5-1), and Boston fans have two more Tyler Seguin goals to ogle over. So what’s the problem?

The problem is that they didn’t beat the Giants select team as handily as the score might suggest, as the Belfast squad played them very tight through the first period and and half. Though the team reacted to falling behind, 1-0, in the second period by firing off three quick goals and adding two more in the third, they admittedly were given a run for their money on Saturday night.

So what went into the jittery play out of the gate? For starters, the Odyssey Arena crowd — which holds 7,100 people — may have given the TD Garden (17,565) a run for its money when it came to decibles before the game. When the Bruins — scratch that, “Legendary Boston Bruins” — were announced, the place went nuts, and the fans seemed to know their stuff. The biggest cheers went to Zdeno Chara and Mark Recchi, but all of the players were showered with support.

“It was really loud,” Milan Lucic, who scored the Bruins’ fourth goal, said after the game. “I got a little bit of goosebumps there at the start of the game. I’ll be honest, it was a little nerve-racking to start the game.”

And did that carry over once the puck was dropped?

“It kind of looked like we were nervous, too. It almost looked like we were trying to do too much and they were just playing simple and kind of just getting the puck out every chance they got,” he said. “Obviously, they gave us a little scare by scoring that first goal, but I think it was a good finish to that second period and we were able to play more consistent in the third period.”

At the end of the first period, it seemed almost comical that the Bruins could find themselves in such a tight game with an opponent of such a lesser league. The Giants, who got their lone goal in the second period from Jade Galbraith, actually had the two best scoring opportunities of the period.

“They did, for sure,” Tuukka Rask said of the Giants having solid opportunities on him. “Right in front, but you could tell that they didn’t have the patience that maybe the NHL guys would have to hold onto that puck and find the extra corner to put the puck in. They definitely had some chances, and they really deserved them too.”

Once the Bruins got things going — it all started with Seguin and Michael Ryder crashing the net to produce the rookie’s first of the game — there was no looking back. It was clear they were the better team, and even when the Giants outplayed them for stretches early, the clear difference in talent remained apparent. Even so, it seemed to take the Belfast goal being scored to act as the splash of water to the face that the Bruins needed.

“I try to just keep the game tight all the time, and I think the guys woke up after their first goal and realized that we can’t afford to lose this game, because the skill level should be on our side for us to win that game,” Rask said. “They got the first goal, got some energy, but then the skill level came up. We scored three goals in like a minute or so, but give credit to them. They really battled and they wanted to win that game.”

All in all, the Bruins made no lie about what they ended up going against, whether or not they were expecting it. Shawn Thornton, who had two helpers in the game, didn’t see why the Giants wouldn’t have played as well as they did.

“This isn’t taking anything away from them, but a lot of those guys have never had the chance to play in the NHL or get an NHL game, and this is probably as close as they’re going to get, so I knew they’d be giving it all they had,” Thornton said. “I’ve played with a number of those guys, I’ve played against them and I know they character of them. A few years ago I was in the same shoes as them, not thinking I’d ever get a game. When you get a chance to show what you have, you’re definitely going to show what you have.”

Nobody should be surprised with how hard the Giants came out playing on Saturday night. From Claude Julien to every player asked about it in the locker room, the Bruins have said time and time again that they were expecting the best game of the Elite League players’ lives. Even so, it sure was interesting to see it last as long as it did.

Read More: European Trip, Shawn Thornton, Tuukka Rask,

Tyler Seguin scores two as Bruins take Belfast game, 5-1

10.02.10 at 4:13 pm ET
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BELFAST — The Bruins got some huge cheers from the Odyssey Arena Saturday night, but after the Belfast Giants took a 1-0 lead on them in the second period, the team made it clear they would end their Northern Ireland trip with more than just fanfare.

Tyler Seguin, Zdeno Chara, and Brad Marchand all scored over the space of a minute following the Giants’ goal, their lone tally off of Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask. Milan Lucic added one of his own in the third, with Seguin tacking on another on a penalty shot to give the Bruins a 5-1 lead that they would hold for the rest of the game.

The game featured no fights, though Shawn Thornton, who has received plenty of attention given his mother’s return to Belfast (her place of birth) did pick up two assists for the Bruins.

From Belfast the Bruins will travel to the Czech Republic, where they will play first three games. They’ll have an exhibition game in Liberec on Oct. 5 before opening the regular season with two games against the Coyotes in Prague on Oct. 9 and 10.

Read More: European Trip, Tyler Seguin, Zdeno Chara,
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