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Chara named a finalist for Messier Leadership Award

06.02.09 at 10:27 am ET
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Boston’€™s Zdeno Chara, Pittsburgh’€™s Sidney Crosby and Calgary’€™s Jarome Iginla are the three finalists for the 2008-09 Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award presented by Bridgestone, the National Hockey League announced today. The 6-foot-9 Bruins defenseman is also a 2008-09 finalist for the Norris Trophy given to the best defensmean in the NHL for last season. 

The Messier award recognizes an individual as a superior leader in hockey and as a contributing member of society. It honors an individual who leads by positive example through on-ice performance, motivation of team members and a dedication to community activities and charitable causes.

Mark Messier solicits suggestions from club and League personnel and NHL fans in compiling a list of potential candidates. However, the selection of the three finalists and the ultimate winner is Messier’€™s alone.  The winner will be announced Thursday, June 18, during the 2009 NHL Awards that will be broadcast live from the Pearl Concert Theater inside the Palms Hotel Las Vegas on VERSUS in the United States and on CBC in Canada.

Messier, a six-time Stanley Cup champion and 16-time NHL ® All-Star in his 25 NHL seasons, is widely viewed as one of the greatest sports leaders of all time. Among his numerous hockey and humanitarian honors, the naming of the Mark Messier Skyway at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey for his 15 years of dedication and commitment to help raise millions of dollars to benefit children with cancer and other serious blood disorders is one of the most special.

Since Chara was named captain of the Bruins before the 2006-07 season, the Black & Gold have gone from missing the playoffs in his first year, to winning 41 games and qualifying for the 2008 postseason in 2007-2008,
to capturing the best regular season record in the Eastern Conference by going 53-19-10 this past season. He has been named a finalist for the Norris Trophy as the league’€™s top defenseman for the second straight year and his goal totals in his three seasons with the Bruins have gone from 11 to 17 to 19.

In addition to his on-ice achievements, Chara has been extremely active off the ice as well. Last offseason, he visited Tanzania and climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro to focus attention on Right to Play, the international charitable organization that uses sport and play to enhance child development in areas of disadvantage. Chara also raised $24,000 for Right to Play by winning the Hardest Shot competition at 2009 NHL All-Star Weekend after getting his competitors, the competitors’€™ respective NHL clubs, the NHL and the NHLPA to contribute to a pot to go to the victor’€™s charity of choice. Chara won the competition with a record-setting 105.4 MPH blast.

Report: Jacques Martin named new coach of Canadiens

06.01.09 at 12:15 pm ET
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According to an ESPN.com report, the Montreal Canadiens have hired Florida Panthers GM Jacques Martin as their new head coach and will hold a Monday afternoon press conference to make the announcement. The former coach of the St. Louis Blues, Ottawa Senators and Florida Panthers still had three years left on his GM deal with the Panthers, but multiple sources are reporting Martin’s hiring by the Habs.

The Habs had a coaching opening after GM Bob Gainey fired Guy Carbonneau midway through the 2008-09 hockey season. Gainey took the coaching reigns after Carbonneau’s departure, but the Montreal GM was expected to return solely to his front office duties for next season.

Read More: Bob Gainey, Jacques Martin, Montreal Canadiens,

Stanley Cup memories from an assortment of Bruins

06.01.09 at 11:47 am ET
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While the Bruins players obviously would have rather been reminiscing while amidst a seven-game Stanley Cup Finals series against the Detroit Red Wings, most of the B’€™s skaters were huge hockey fans growing up in Canada, Europe or the United States.

With the Bruins roster ranging in age from 41-year-old Mark Recchi to soon-to-be 21-year-old Milan Lucic, each played on the Spoked B roster has a different, favorite Stanley Cup memory etched in their mind when it comes time for the playoff journey to the Cup.

Things change, obviously, when players grow to adulthood, the NHL turns into a business and it becomes increasingly difficult to watch pro hockey as a fan once their own Cup dreams have been dashed in the playoffs ‘€“ but here’€™s a sampling of favorite Stanley Cup playoff memories from a host of Bruins players dotted across the current roster.

Most of them seem to be centered around hitting a post in a crushing defeat or glorious overtime game-winners, but somehow Shawn Thornton managed to combine a difficult hockey moment with a hockey media conspiracy theory. Here go the Bruins with their Stanley Cup memories:

Marc Savard ‘€“ I think I liked Gretzky’€™s hat trick in Toronto (in Game 7 in 1993) when he was playing with LA against the Leafs. And I liked the Doug Gilmour wraparound goal (in double-OT in 1993) on (Curtis) Joseph because I was a Leafs guy. I liked anything Gretz did because he was my idol.

Chuck Kobasew ‘€“ It had to be 1994 with the New York Rangers. I was a diehard Vancouver Canucks fan growing up, so that was a big one for me. I think it was Game 7 when they hit the post in the third period ‘€“ I think it was Trevor Linden there ‘€“ that was a crushing moment’€¦that one sticks out in my mind.

Tim Thomas ‘€“ You know what? I don’€™t have a huge one until the Red Wings won their first one again (in 1997). I grew up watching the Red Wings, but I was always watching the IHL team growing up (in Flint) so I had Turner Cup memories rather than Stanley Cup memories growing up. It was the Flint Generals and Steve Penney and Rick Knickle were the goalies, and then Steve Penney ended up being the goalie in Montreal. Didn’€™t Steve Penney end up beating Boston in a series at some point?

Patrice Bergeron ‘€“ The one that hurt most was definitely 1996 when Colorado won it and they had just left Quebec City, you know? They had a great team the year before in 1995 and they lost in the first round, and they won the next year in Colorado. I guess I was happy at the same time because it was still the Nordiques, and (Colorado) kind of became my second favorite team because they were still kind of the Nordiques.

One more year and that was it. We knew (a Stanley Cup) was coming, but we didn’€™t know when. It would have been better if it wasn’€™t such a good team because we knew (the Cup) was coming. It happened when we were on the verge of winning when they left.

Shawn Thornton ‘€“ I don’€™t have any (Stanley Cup memories) because I was a Leafs fan and they never got close. I have a memory of Wayne Gretzky clipping Dougie Gilmour (in 1993) and there was no penalty call and then he scored. That was the one that I remember and it isn’€™t a great one.

Whether it was a penalty or not, I was a young kid and I got caught in the Toronto media trap and I was bitching just like everybody else. I haven’€™t seen the game since then so I don’€™t even know it was a penalty or not. I think I went to the Skydome to watch that game with my folks and there was a big crowd there and everybody was up in arms. Obviously I couldn’€™t get tickets to Maple Leaf Gardens because they cost too much (money). 

Blake Wheeler ‘€“ The one I really remember is the Steve Yzerman goal against St. Louis (in double-overtime of Game 7 in 1996). I don’€™t even know why it’€™s the one that sticks out in my mind, but I was pretty young and it was a school night and my mom let me stay up late to watch it.

Detroit was always my team growing up, so it was a pretty big thrill and a big highlight when I was watching that one. We didn’€™t have a team in Minnesota for a while and my dad was from Michigan, so we were fans of all the Detroit teams. It was the time (of game), who shot it and the way it went and everything involved ‘€“ it was overtime ‘€“ it was really exciting.

Milan Lucic ‘€“ I was young back in 1994 when the Canucks made it all the way to the Finals. That was good. I remember it was (Gelinas or Lafayette), I don’€™t remember who it was, but he hit the post that sent it into overtime in Game 7 and it was kind of a bummer for us in Vancouver.

Another thing I remember most was watching the Flames make their run when they beat Vancouver in the first round and then everybody in Western Canada jumped on their bandwagon. They were a team that worked hard and played hard every night, and they played 26 out of a possible 28 games and obviously the fell a little bit short. If you ask the guys around here (from that team) they’€™re still bitter about it. That’€™s another playoff series when you look at a team that really worked around, and you can take a lot from them.

Jacobs: ‘We hired (Chiarelli) for the rest of his professional career’

05.27.09 at 11:46 am ET
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The Bruins father-and-son ownership tandem of Jeremy and Charlie Jacobs just finished up a Wednesday morning conference call with reporters, and here are the highlights:

Charlie expressed hope that “it could have been done at this point” but the Jacobs’ still expect a contract extension to be completed with Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli this summer. Chiarelli is heading into the final year of a four-year deal that he signed in May 2006, and has certainly earned a significant raise in pay while leading the B’s hockey team out of a post-lockout haze.

The Jacobs’ indicated that both Chiarelli and Bruins Vice-President Cam Neely were among a contingent of B’s brass currently in Toronto at the NHL scouting combine prior to next month’s draft in Montreal. Both executives are interviewing potential draft candidates during the event, and Jacobs hasn’t talked face-to-face with Chiarelli about a deal in “about a week”.

“We want to see him around long term and we think that’s his objective as well,” said Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs. “When we hired Peter, we didn’t hire him for 4 years. We hired him for the rest of his professional career and it needs to be looked at that way. That’s been our style before. Peter has grown immensely in the last few years and he’s done an admirable job.

“We’ve seen the stops and starts, but he’s been on an upward trend.”

The ownership duo also reaffirmed that it will be up to Chiarelli to award Claude Julien and his coaching staff with contract extensions after what Charlie termed a “Jack Adams worthy season for the entire coaching staff”.

–Jeremy Jacobs also all but announced that the NHL Winter Classic will be held at Fenway Park on Jan. 1, 2010, but said that it’s ultimately an official announcement for the NHL. Basically, it’s up to the league to make the final call. Sources confirmed to WEEI.com months ago that the game would be at Fenway Park, and several reports have the Washington Capitals and the Philadelphia Flyers as the two prospective teams challenging the Black and Gold on New Year’s Day.

Jacobs couldn’t contain his excitement when discussion moved to the sure-to-be event of the winter season in Boston next year.

“The Winter Classic is owned by the league and it’s their production, and therefore it is theirs to announce. I have to say that everything I’ve seen acts like, looks like, smells like it’s gonna be in Boston,” said Jacobs. “I don’t know anybody else that’s gone through the search and process that they’ve gone through. Traditionally the league announces (the Winter Classic) in July. From everything we can tell, it’s going to be the biggest classic ever.

“First of all I really want this in Boston. I think our fans want it and I think our environment wants it. I think it’ll be the biggest Winter Classic that they’ve ever had and I think it will be the most successful and most demanded. I also know that we’ll only be able to accommodate our season ticket holders at that point. So there’s going to be tremendous demand for tickets from corporate sponsors. I think it’s going to be a barnburner. I think it’s going to be tremendous if it happens. When they announce it sometime in July and when you see the rink going up at Fenway, then you can conclude that it’s going to happen.”

–Father and son both deemed the season a success despite a “bittersweet ending” to the campaign in Game 7 against the Carolina Hurricanes, and handed out a vote of confidence to the management, coaching staff and players currently dotting the organization’s roster.

“I was extremely proud of the management. I was extremely proud of the coaching. I don’t think anything was wanting in that group. They know that they have something to build on for next year, and they feel — as I feel — that they have an organization that can move forward and play a role in the Finals of the National Hockey League,” said Jacobs. “I hope and I believe that this was a growing experience for some of them. The expectations at the Stanley Cup level are obviously much higher than they are during the regular season.

“I think they are up for doing it. With all of the accolades that they got, I think that they felt they underachieved at the very end. I’m really proud. They had a great year and I’m awfully happy with what they got done.”

–Jacobs also opined that he didn’t think the salary cap was going to move significantly for the 2009-10 season, but that doesn’t seem to rule out a drop of $1-2 million within the cap for next season.

Read More: Charlie Jacobs, Jeremy Jacobs, Peter Chjiarelli,

Jacobs expected to address Bruins media on Wednesday morning

05.26.09 at 9:27 pm ET
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The Boston Bruins announced on Tuesday afternoon that the B’s father-and-son ownership tandem of Jeremy and Charlie Jacobs will address the media in a Wednesday morning conference call. The Jacobs’ will “discuss the Bruins’€™ 2008-2009 season and outlook for next year.”

It’s expected that the two main voices in Bruins ownership will also clarify the contract situation concerning B’s GM Peter Chiarelli, who is entering the final year of a four-year deal with Boston. There’s been no indication that an extension announcement concerning Chiarelli is impending, and it’s unclear what — if any — sticking points are holding up a new pact for the Sporting News NHL Executive of the Year.

Protracted contract squabbles with an NHL executive that’s turned the Bruins franchise around in three short years would be an extremely short-sighted move by Bruins ownership, as would allowing Chiarelli to enter the final year of a four-year contract signed back in May, 2006. The guess here is that Chiarelli would have no shortage of suitors next summer should Delaware North allow it to get to that point.

Rask looking forward to next year. Will it be in Boston?

05.26.09 at 9:46 am ET
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PROVIDENCE, RI — The Bruins organization’s 2008-09 season full of promise and wonder came to an official close yesterday afternoon when the Providence Bruins dropped a 5-2 decision in Game 5 to Chris Bourque and the Hershey Bears at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence.

The P-Bruins seemed to have some of the same defenseman problems that plagued Boston in the playoffs beyond steady blueliners Johnny Boychuk and Jeff Penner, and it was a pretty one-sided affair despite Providence still hanging around in the third period thanks to some superior goaltending from Tuukka Rask (33 saves).

One other observation about the P-Bruins: 22-year-old Mikko Lehtonen is going to be a pretty good player in the NHL someday soon. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound forward was a big nuisance in front of the net during the game, squeezed off four shots and scored a goal on an NHL-level top shelf wrister from the left faceoff circle when the game was still in question in the third period. Lehtonen was part of a group of promising young Providence players that will be heard from when Boston Bruins training camp rolls around next fall.

In the meantime, Lehtonen — and perhaps Rask if he can be pried out of Finland – will be a part of Boston’s annual rookie development camp this July at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington.

“You’ve got to look at it starting with Tuukka. He’s come a long way in a year. He was very good last year and I think he’s only gotten better and he’s matured a lot this year. I think Brad Marchand got better,” said P-Bruins coach Bryan Murray. “I think Mikko Lehtonen probably was under the radar, but had a fantastic season. Jeff Penner, you almost forget he’s a first-year player because of the way he played as a rookie. I could go on and on.

“That says a lot for our future development here in Providence and with the Boston Bruins,” added Murray.

The 6-foot-2, 170-pounder was pretty peeved after the game — a great sign for a Finnish goaltending product, as sometimes it’s difficult to find a pulse on many of the European netminders — and didn’t seem to want to elaborate much on his plans for the offseason.

The hockey season started on a sour note when Rask didn’t make the big club out of training camp – a virtual certainty given Rask’s cap hit north of $3 million for this season — and the ending wasn’t much better when he allowed a pair of third period goals en route to a 5-2 defeat.

Rask finished 33-20-4 in 57 games for Providence this season with four shutouts and a .915 save percentage and a 2.50 goals against average, and the 22-year-old bumped that up to a .930 save percentage and a 2.21 GAA during the Calder Cup playoffs. The young goalie was pleased with his final year of minor league hockey seasoning, and will be readying himself for a Spoked B Boston sweater next season.

“I think I really stepped up enough from last year; I’m better and more consistent,” said Rask. “Overall I’m happy with what I did this year and I want to keep growing next year. Obviously when you feel like you’ve had a great camp and expect to stay there — and then you get sent down (to Providence) — it’s frustrating. But you need to keep battling and bounce back.

“You can’t just stay in and be sad every day. It’s your job and you’ve got to work hard. It took a few weeks to get over it, but after all of that it was a great season.”

Does he feel like he’s ready to take on the role as backup to Tim Thomas next season in the NHL?

“Why not?” said Rask, who said he’s still focused on gaining size and muscle headed into next season. “I played in a couple of games there and I don’t feel like I sucked. So why not? I’m going to take a couple of weeks off (in Finland) and let my body recover from all of the games that I played. I’m really looking forward to next year.”

Read More: Boston Bruins, Mikko Lehtonen, Tuukka Rask,

Kessel undergoes succesful surgery on his left shoulder

05.21.09 at 11:39 am ET
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Boston Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli announced on Thursday morning that Phil Kessel underwent successful surgery today to repair a torn rotator cuff and labrum in his left shoulder.  The surgery was performed by Dr. Peter Asnis and Dr. J.P. Warner at Mass General Hospital, and will force Kessel to miss approximately six months.

The six-month recovery window from surgery would put him back into the Bruins lineup around November 20, which would have caused Kessel to miss exactly 19 games last season. It should be noted that Zdeno Chara underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum following the Bruins’ playoff loss to the Canadiens in 2007-08, and was ready to begin the NHL regular season after missing all of training camp.

Either way, it looks as if Kessel is going to miss some significant time at the beginning of the 2008-09 hockey season.

Kessel established career highs in goals, assists and points this year after tallying a team-best 36 goals, 24 assists and 60 points in 70 games. Kessel became the club’€™s first 30-goal scorer since 2005-2006 and had the longest point streak in the NHL this season after tallying a point in 18 consecutive games from November 13 – December 21, 2008 (14-14=28 totals during this span).

He appeared in all 11 postseason contests for the Bruins and contributed six goals and five assists.

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