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Wide ice an overseas obstacle

10.01.10 at 10:04 am ET
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BELFAST — Sprints from side to side along the blue lines and center ice at the Odyssey Arena appears to be a bit more of a tiring affair than usual for the Bruins, and it’s not because of jet lag. Because the Bruins are playing in Europe, they will have to get used to European ice, which is wider and thus makes for a more offensive game.

“You have to really adjust your defensive game,” captain Zdeno Chara said Friday. “You know that the opponent has way more ice to take. You can’t be running out of your position. You’ve got to play more as far as dots on the ice. You can’t get too carries away running to the boards.

“There’s probably an extra 10 feet on each side, so there’s going to be way more room for forwards. As a defenseman, you still have to play that structure and tight defensively.”

Though the defensemen have to be much more careful to prevent a high-scoring game, David Krejci and the forwards have enjoyed how spacious playing in the offensive zone is.

“There’s so much room,” Krejci said. “We did some drills today in the corners. Back in Boston, it’s so tight, you don’t have much room. Here, you’ve got so much room and a little more time, too. It’s going to take a little more time to get used to, so you don’t have to move [the puck] too quick. You can hold it a little bit longer — not too long — but a little longer and make some smarter plays.”

As for getting used to new ice, a new time zone, and not falling apart in the process, Nathan Horton doesn’t think the team has lost any steam since arriving at around 10:30 a.m. local time (5:30 a.m. EST).

“I think everyone felt better today,” Horton, who slept for two hours on the plane but joked that “you can’t doze off” when films such as The A-Team and the Jaden Smith remake of The Karate Kid were being shown. “I think it was a better practice overall, and I think we’re getting better every day.”

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

Apple doesn’t fall far from tree for Thornton

10.01.10 at 9:32 am ET
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BELFAST — Shawn Thornton has a reputation on the ice as a guy who is in his element when his hands are bare. In the locker room, he’s got a reputation as the nicest guy you’d meet, and with such a sense of humor that taking his words literally could confuse the common man (an Irish cameraman almost tried placating him Thursday when he sarcastically complimented him on having the brightest lights ever).

In spending some time with Thornton’s mother, Christine, who is visiting Belfast for the first time since she was four years old, it’s quite clear where he gets his sense of humor from. In fact, she said time and time again Friday while watching the Bruins practice at Odyssey Arena that, “now you see where he gets his sense of humor from.”

There were quite a few members of the Mills (Christine’s maiden name) in attendance on Friday, with Thornton’s mother often standing up to take a picture of her son and jokingly venting frustration over Thornton’s not looking at the camera. Here’s a snapshot of the family members in attendance (Christine is second in from the left). To clear up any confusion that may be caused by the picture, Thornton is not related to any NESN or Boston Herald employees.

Read More: European Trip, Shawn Thornton,

That was a long day

09.30.10 at 5:03 pm ET
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BELFAST — Was. Past tense. As in screw what time it is back in the states, this day — as fantastic and eye-opening as it’s been — should come to an end for the sake of re-energizing to do it all again. And I can’t wait. Let us recap.

The day started Wednesday morning with media day and pushed right on through until late Thursday (Belfast time). Not a lot of sleeping on the flight, but that’s what happens when you can have all the crackers, bacon egg and cheese sandwiches, and Diet Coke you can dream of.

The end of the plane ride was pretty fascinating in that I was surprised that the quote of the entire trip would come so early on. In doing the whole rundown of local time, weather, etc. when the plane landed, the pilot said the weather was “a little sketchy.” That would still have me confused now if I didn’t see a “Humps for 200 yards” traffic sign 10 minutes later.

For those who haven’t been to Belfast or even Ireland before, it’s amazing. Plus there are a bunch of cows all over the place. From a hockey standpoint, the team doesn’t seem dazed or confused from the travel at all, which is a good sign. The team held a productive practice and it doesn’t seem to be lost on them that though they’re overseas to open the season, they’re also being given their final two chances to shape up following an ugly loss to the Capitals Lite at TD Garden on Wednesday. There seems to be a good amount of accountability in that regard, so it should be interesting to see the Bruins go full-speed ahead in Belfast and then in Liberic before finally playing two in Prague with the Coyotes.

Bruins skate at 11 a.m. Friday, 5 a.m. your time, so look forward to waking up to a whole new batch of Belfast goodness.

Read More: European Trip,

Julien toys with Thornton in Belfast

09.30.10 at 4:33 pm ET
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BELFAST — There is no overstating just how big a hit Shawn Thornton has been since landing with the Bruins in Belfast on Thursday morning. Photographers and writers were eagerly awaiting his arrival as they stopped and asked him questions while he was still in the airport.

All of the hoopla, of course, is because Thornton’s mother was born in Belfast, hasn’t been there since she was six or seven by Thornton’s recollection, and will be in attendance — with 19 other family members — when the Bruins play the Belfast Giants/Elite League All Stars on Saturday. It will be a big moment for both Shawn and his family.

That’s where some of Claude Julien‘s humor came into play. Julien said in Thursday’s preference that while discussing how ecstatic Thornton was to head to Northern Ireland, coach told his forward he would be doing so in a different capacity than expected.

“I think there’s no doubt he was the happiest of the bunch [when he found out the Bruins were going to Belfast,” Julien said. “This will eb his claim to fame right now, being here in his mom’s hometown. He’s been excited. I’ve seen it in his face for a few days, so I told him he’d enjoy watching the game from the stands on Saturday.”

How did he take the news?

“He lost his smile there for a few seconds until he realized I was joking around.”

Thornton is currently switching in and out of the fourth line with Brian McGrattan.

Read More: European Trip,

The Bruins aren’t the only ones excited…

09.30.10 at 3:55 pm ET
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BELFAST — Phone calls out on whether the folks at Belfast will erect a statue of Shawn Thornton have yet to be returned (the Northern Ireland media has gone bonkers for the forward whose mother was born in Belfast), but in the meantime here’s a little something to show their excitement for the Bruins to take on the Giants.

Read More: European Trip, Shawn Thornton,

Bruins have sleeping in the aisles to thank for energetic practice

09.30.10 at 3:02 pm ET
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BELFAST — If you expected the Bruins to roll into Belfast falling over themselves with fatigue, as unlikely as it would seem given the last two days and jet lag, you were somehow wrong.

Just a few hours after arriving at their hotel, the team tore up the ice at the Odyssey Arena in a high-energy practice. One of the highlights of the skate, which was a truly entertaining hour and a half, was a drill in which a skater would take a penalty shot. Players would essentially bet sprints on whether they would score, lining up on one wall to signify their faith in the scorer and the other to support the goaltender. Players laughed throughout the drill — hearing it from teammates as they would shift from wall to wall based on the shooter — but by the end of it had skated plenty.

Though one might think a practice in which players were both sprinting tirelessly and in high spirits would be impossible after a five-hour flight that came with a five-hour time-difference, that’s simply what came of Thursday’s skate.

“I think guys are trying to compensate for the tired legs and stuff and trying to get the most out of it,” defenseman Andrew Ference said. “Coach has had this planned out for a while, what the day was going to look like, just to try to get over the jet lag as quick as possible. We knew the practice was going to be a good one to get the legs going, and I think guys took it seriously. We want to get on the right foot as quick as possible here.”

Asked if he was able to get any shuteye on the plane, Ference said he employed a tactic used in his WHL days.

“I think all the guys that played in the Western League (slept) on the floor. We’re used to sleeping on the floor of the bus.”

Seriously?

“Oh yeah. The Western League guys are pros at that. I grabbed a towel that was as thin as paper and got down there for a bit.”

To sleep on the floor during a flight with a plane full of teammates may be a sign of faith that pranksters would refrain from tapping their feet or employing other tactics to disrupt one’s slumber. Ference wasn’t worried about such shenanigans interfering with his rest, but for a different reason.

“Z’s part of the Western League boys,” he explained, “so if anybody messes around [they to deal with Zdeno Chara].”

As for how Ference did at choosing in the penalty-shot fiasco, he ended up skating quite a bit after the shooters got off to a hot start.

“I’m a good guy, so I bet on the gaol-scorers every single time,” Ference said in defense of himself. “Well, maybe the goalies won’t think I’m a god guy, but I believed in our goal-scorers every time. It was probably about half (right) and half (wrong) I think.”

Read More: Andrew Ference, European Trip,

Cultural differences: Part 1

09.30.10 at 9:46 am ET
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BELFAST — I was champing at the bit to make up a “cultural differences” series when I saw this poster outside the playhouse in Belfast. You know that really popular play “Movin’ Out”? You know why it’s set to Billy Joel music? Because Billy Joel sings everything. Everybody knows all his songs. He can play “Zanzibar” live and everyone in the house will know every word, even though the song was never a single. He definitely has enough hits to last an entire play.

Well, our first cultural difference encountered has a lot to do with that. This is a poster for the play “Sunshine on Leith.”

The Proclaimers. Even a bad music aficionado couldn’t name five songs by them. Must be a short play. Off to practice now, check back here for some interesting stuff.

Read More: Cultural differences, European Trip,
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