|10.10.10 at 1:37 pm ET|
PRAGUE ‘ In the Czech Republic’s capital city, Tim Thomas got a fresh start to the young season.
Coming off a lackluster 2009-2010 campaign, not to mention off-season hip surgery, the 36-year-old Bruins goalie put on an impressive show against Phoenix on Sunday as he stopped every puck that came his way and earned his first victory of the year.
Amid the howls of Coyotes fans and the growls of the Bruins faithful clad in black and gold, Thomas made the job look seemingly effortless ‘ and for nearly the entire game, it was. The Bruins defense, led by Captain Zdeno Chara, kept the pressure off Thomas and redeemed itself after allowing five goals the night before. For their part, Phoenix had just 29 shots on Thomas the entire game and worse, no goals to show for it.
Thomas could be seen lounging in the crease for much of the first two periods while most of the action was taking place across the ice. He almost looked bored, his arm resting up against the goal as his teammates took shots at Coyotes goalie Ilya Bryzgalov. Thomas said it wasn’t a symptom of boredom, but rather a symptom of his age.
“I’m 36,” Thomas said after the game. “That’s going to happen all the time.”
In May, the Bruins goalie underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left hip. That, after a season in which he went 17-18 and 23-year-old hotshot Tuukka Rask seemed to garner all the praise in Boston.
It explains why Thomas was so nervous before Sunday’s game in Prague. But all things considered, it also explains why the victory felt so good.
“It’s been a long road, but it feels great to get a shutout right off the bat,” he said.
|10.10.10 at 12:34 pm ET|
PRAGUE — The newcomers made most of the offensive noise, but it was an old face in Tim Thomas who was the story as the Bruins picked up their first win of the season, a 3-0 shutout over the Coyotes at the O2 Arena in Prague.
A night after Tuukka Rask looked impressive despite allowing four goals, Thomas got the start and recorded his 18th career shutout. Additionally, the defense looked far more responsible in shutting down any of Phoenix’ offensive attempts throughout the night.
Former third overall pick Nathan Horton picked up two more points in the game, including his third goal of the season. Rookie Tyler Seguin took a pass from Michael Ryder in the third period and converted it into a breakaway goal, the first of his NHL career.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS
– Nathan Horton’s first two games with the Bruins could not have gone better. After getting the primary assist on Lucic’s goal and potting one of his own from the slot in the second period, he has now been on the scoring sheet for four of the Bruins’ five goals this season.
Bruins fans shouldn’t get too carried away — Horton’s scored 30 goals in his six-year career just once — but it could be time for this writer to rethink the 33-goals he predicted for the 25-year-old. Motivation was a question for Horton while he played for the Panthers, and both he, his teammates, and management have spotted a rejuvenated player in him. It’s pretty clear at this point that the Bruins won’t need Tyler Seguin to overachieve in order to have a top pick light up the stat sheet.
Horton said prior to the game that he and his linemates continue to get more comfortable with one another with each practice and each game, but the three of them have looked terrific to this point. The dynamic between he and Lucic is something to keep an eye on, as their styles of play are very similar and the two have moved the puck to one another well to this point.
– Unforced errors and turnovers grabbed headlines following Saturday’s game, but the cautious and responsible style of play that the Bruins have become known for in recent years made its return on Sunday. The Coyotes’ offense struggled to get going for long stretches at a time, particularly in the second period, when it took Phoenix about 15 minutes to get their second shot on goal of the period.
– The new third line, with Tyler Seguin skating between Mark Recchi and Michael Ryder, looks intriguing, but not for the reason one would think. Though Seguin had his first career goal on a breakaway that once again suggested his talents as a scorer will be too much to allow him to hit too big of a rookie wall, Ryder turning the corner from a down year last season could also help the Bruins big. Ryder sent Seguin a hail mary pass on the rookie’s goal.
– That would indeed be Mr. Tim Thomas with the shutout for your Boston Bruins. Thomas wasn’t spectacular, and at times could have been caught out of position, but the bottom line was that he made timely saves. As was mentioned above, the Phoenix offense had its fair share of lulls, but Thomas was ready for the spurts of pressure when they came.
In total Thomas, made 29 saves in the game, his first win of the season and his 18th career shutout.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS
– The defense was strong for the Bruins, but it can’t be an encouraging sign that the team has shuffled its pairings regularly throughout the first two games. Such was the case in the preseason, but it appears that Claude Julien needs to be careful with who he pairs with Matt Hunwick, who despite playing better on Sunday than he’ll probably be noticed, is a bit of a liability as he comes into his own.
|10.10.10 at 11:40 am ET|
PRAGUE — Sure, there have been some things not to like about the Bruins so far in their young season, but that first line still looks awfully good. Milan Lucic, admittedly on a quest for his first 20-goal season, got one out of the way courtesy of a Nathan Horton feed. Horton later scored yet another goal on a wrist shot from in front of the net, ant the first line has now produced all four of the Bruins’ goals this season. Horton has been on scoring sheet for each of them after a two-goal performance Saturday.
The Bruins were sloppy in every area of the ice on Sunday, so they’ll they have plenty of reason to be excited by the solid neutral zone play displayed through the first 40 minutes of the game. Horton set up Lucic’s goal at the red line, hitting his streaking linemate in stride, and Lucic took it into the offensive zone and rifled a powerful slapshot past Bryzgalov from behind the circle at 12:12.
The Coyotes essentially gave Tim Thomas the first 15 minutes of the period off, producing just one shot on goal for the majority of the period. They finished the period strong with eight, and the shots on goal are now 27-16 in favor of the Bruins.
|10.10.10 at 10:46 am ET|
PRAGUE — Though the game is scoreless after one, it appears the Bruins have taken note of what they should have been throghout the first two periods on Satruday: shooting.
The team jumped out to a 10-1 lead in shots on goal in the first seven and a half minutes of the game, with the totals reading 15-8 at the end of the period.
A night after the defense struggled with puck control and consistency, the Bruins once again moved pairings around throughout the first period. Dennis Seidenberg and Johnny Boychuk started the game as a pairing, but Boychuk was moved to a pairing with Zdeno Chara almost immediately. Seidenberg skated with Mark Stuart, with Andrew Ference and Matt Hunwick pairing up.
|10.10.10 at 8:52 am ET|
PRAGUE — As any writer on this trip will tell you, stability regard internet connections has not been one of the more amazing parts of this European trip. As a result, this video is getting to you a day late, but here’s proof that the Coyotes are well-represented here in Prague. There was a massive pack of fans who made the trek from Phoenix outside of O2 Arena prior to the team’s 5-2 season-opening victory over the Bruins. Disclaimer: don’t watch this video if you don’t like howling.
|10.10.10 at 8:40 am ET|
PRAGUE — A night after the Bruins lost their season-opening game in Prague to the Coyotes, 5-2, Claude Julien said that Tim Thomas would be starting in goal for Boston on Sunday. Tuukka Rask allowed four goals to Phoenix in Saturday’s losing effort, though one came from a flukey bounce off the boards and another came on a breakaway caused by a Daniel Paille turnover. Julien indicated that the team’s plan was to start Thomas in the second game anyway barring an overwhelming effort from Rask.
Additionally, Mark Recchi stated prior to the game that he would be playing on the third line with second overall pick Tyler Seguin and Michael Ryder. Daniel Paille and Adam McQuaid are the healthy scratches.
Recchi had played on Patrice Bergeron’s line, which at one point included Seguin, throughout camp and the preseason. Rookie Jordan Caron, another former member of the second line in preseason, will return to skating with Bergeron after being scratched in the opener. Blake Wheeler will remain the second line’s other wing.
The defensive pairings remain unknown entering the game, though it’s worth noting that they were changed during Saturday’s game, with the Dennis Seidenberg-Matt Hunwick pairing dooming the team early on and eventually being separated.
|10.09.10 at 6:16 pm ET|
PRAGUE — It was hard to imagine Saturday being too bad a day for the Bruins when word came down that the team had inked captain Zdeno Chara to a seven-year contract extension that will begin following this season, the last of his current deal.
Still, that 5-2 loss sure did give the signing a run for it’s money, didn’t it? The game aside (read about it here), Saturday marked the second of two consecutive huge days for the Bruins’ future. In re-signing both Chara (seven years, $45.5 million) and center Patrice Bergeron (three years, $15 million), the team made sure two players who wear letters other than the spoked “B” on the front of their sweaters (Bergeron himself is an alternate captain at 25 years of age) would be in the fold long term.
What does it mean financially? Put it this way: This season, with the Chara carrying a $7.5 million cap hit and Bergeron with a cap hit of $4.75 million, the Bruins are paying $12.25 million combined for the two of them. When the new deals kick in for the two players, Chara will have a $6.917 cap hit for the first six years (he makes $4 million — less than the average annual value of the rest of the deal — in salary in the last year, which since he will be over 40 is not allowed to be factored into the cap calculation), with Bergeron taking up $5 million in cap space. Combined, that’s a grand total of $11.917 million for both of the players, a savings of about $333,000 for Bergeron and Chara. Imagine the cap going up (even if it’s slightly) in the future, and the Bruins seem to have had themselves a very productive couple of days.
So how did it all come together for the players? Chara’s agent, Matt Keator, told WEEI.com on Saturday that “it was not an easy negotiation,” and that it had “lots of moving parts.” Even so, much like Bergeron said a day before, Chara said — as, to his credit, he did in the week leading up to the signing — that he believed the end result would be him staying in Boston. General manager Peter Chiarelli felt the same way, saying he was “pretty confident” before departing for Europe last week that the players would sign on the trip.
“From our perspective, these are two very, very important pieces of our team, very important individuals on and off the ice. There’s uncertainty as you see some precessions as far as trying to retain these types of players,” Chiarelli said. “As they get closer to the free agent market, you never know what’s going to happen. It’s also an extreme show of good faith when both sides can get it done now, meaning both sides wanted to get a deal done. We want Z and Bergy to be a part of the Bruins for a while, and they wanted to remain with the Bruins. It’s a typical thing. When two sides want something to happen, it usually happens.”
Any longterm deal with Chara, 33, figured to be a tough one for both sides to hammer out given that any deal that goes past a player’s 40th birthday can be complicated as a result of the new cap calculation that came about following the Ilya Kovalchuk saga that grabbed headlines in the offseason. Kovalchuk’s 17-year, $102 million deal with the Devils was nixed by the league because its later years paid out little money in an attempt to lower the cap hit. Now, as a result, the above calculation applies to longterm contracts that go into a player’s 40’s.
“Obviously, Kovalchuk’s situation was a little extreme, and that maybe put the negotiations on hold for a little bit,” Chara said of the hitches that came up in negotiations. “I just knew that we would get this done and I would be a Bruin.”
That’s two top players in two days to accept deals to stay in Boston prior to hitting free agency. It could be a coincidence, but it’s more likely that the Bruins and Chiarelli are seeing a trend develop.