|10.09.10 at 6:18 am ET|
PRAGUE — After taking in the Bruins’ final skate before they take the ice for real against the Coyotes, it’s quite apparent that they’ve had enough of the preseason. It’s been a blast seeing Europe for some of these guys, but they’re ready to begin the process of making last season’s playoff collapse a distant memory.
Camp has been long enough. We’ve had the opportunity to do different things and try different things and get our team ready for the season-opener. Now it’s time to get going here. I think everybody’s anxious to get the regular season going.
“It’s a different feeling,” Nathan Horton said following the skate. “The preseason is nice, but this is a different feeling already this morning [in practice]. Everyone’s excited it’s finally here.”
Horton and second overal pick Tyler Seguin have both been cast as the offensive saviors for a club that finished last in the NHL with 2.39 goals per game last season. While both have impressed in the preseason — Horton more so than Seguin based on experience — Claude Julien cautioned those on hand Saturday morning to not place too high of expectations on the young scorers.
“I don’t think we should expect more [from Horton and Seguin] than we should expect from the rest of our team,” Julien said. “Those guys have come in and they know what their strengths are and what they need and want to do to help this team succeed. That’s basically what we need from those kind of guys. Horton’s a guy who can score goals, and I think he’s proven throughout the preseason that he can do that, and we expect him to continue doing that.
“A young kid like Seguin, with three goals in the last two games, I think he’s already proven that he can play at this level, and we have to give him that opportunity to keep growing with our hockey club without putting excess pressure on his shoulders. I think it’s up to us as a team to really come together.”
Horton, the third overall pick in the 2003 NHL draft, spent the first six seasons in the NHL with the Panthers, never once tasting playoff hockey. He’s voiced his excitement with the town and the organization since being acquired in June via trade, but he hasn’t been the only one chirping since the move. Prognosticators have been particularly high on Horton now that he’s a Bruin, and though he’s had just one 30-goal season to this point, some feel he could be a 40-goal scorer.
In chatting with Horton after the skate, it seemed as good a time as any to ask. Over or under 40 goals this season?
Horton, who smiles so much that this writer suspects it could just be his bone structure, grinned and responded, “I’m aiming [for it]. I’m trying my best.”
Horton, 25, will skate on the first line, centered by David Krejci with Milan Lucic on the left wing. The line makes for one of the more physical first lines throughout the league, with Horton having a reputation for his physicality and Lucic a fan favorite for his bruising style of play. As a result, Horton reiterated his stance that Lucic, 22, is “the ultimate hockey player.”
“We have a pretty tough team. You have to use it to your advantage. Any time you’re playing a team that’s tough, it’s hard to play against [them]. It’s not fun, and we want to make it like that tonight.”
The defensive pairings have been tough to get a read on due to how much they’ve been moved around, but here’s a safe bet for the forward lines for Saturday night.
Lucic – Krejci – Horton
Wheeler- Bergeron – Recchi
Paille – Seguin – Ryder
Marchand – Campbell – Thornton
Expect Tuukka Rask to be in net.
Here are the preseason leaders, courtesy of the Bruins.
1. Patrice Bergeron, 8
2. Tyler Seguin, 5
2. Zdeno Chara, 5
4. Matt Bartkowski, 4
Here’s one final big-picture quote from Julien this morning:
“Everybody has something that they excel in, as far as their roles are concerned, whether it’s goal-scoring, whether it’s physical play. If we put it all together and we do it well, we’ve got a pretty good hockey club.”
|10.09.10 at 5:18 am ET|
PRAGUE — As anyone who’s been there will tell you, Prague is a beautiful city. The people are friendly, the food is delicious, and it’s a great town to walk through. Reading about it would suggest that pickpocketing would prevent one from taking too many strolls, but this writer’s experience has suggested far to the contrary.
That isn’t to say that a North American doesn’t run a risk of losing some cash on the streets of good ol’ Praha, as third-line winger Daniel Paille can now attest to. Walking to the team’s hotel, located in downtown Prague, Paille and sports psychologist Max Offenberger, who is travelling with the team, were ticketed Thursday for jaywalking. The offense cost Paille and Offenberger 200 Czech Crowns apiece.
Do you know how much money that is?
Very, very little. It’s a little more than $11.
Though he was fine with the fine, Paille was caught off guard when approached by the two heroic officers who put an end to his reckless steps.
“We were walking across the street and the cops were right on the corner,” Paille said. “They let us walk to the corner of the street and gave us a ticket.”
So they just let it happen? They didn’t try to stop you?
“Oh yeah. They were right there. I had heard that they gave tickets for jaywalking, but I wasn’t actually sure how serious they were about. Yeah, they’re pretty serious,” Paille added with a laugh.
After dealing with the two officers, one of whom was English-speaking, the other “having no clue” what they were saying, Paille would like to put his law-breaking days behind him. One can only hope that the mild-mannered Paille hasn’t developed a reputation around Prague.
“I don’t think so. Not for jaywalking, anyways,” Paille said. “It’s kind of funny how it all turned out, but obviously it’s a good story.”
TYLER SEGUIN’S OTHER GIFT
Seguin is considered one of the top young talents in the league without having played in a regular season game. His skills make him projectable as eventually being one of the league’s premier scorers, but Saturday morning revealed another talent of his: impersonating Daniel Paille just well enough to fool this reporter.
In chatting with Paille about his own development, I asked him if he feels that at age 26, he’s reached his potential yet, or if the former 20th overall pick has a ways to go before arriving at his ceiling.
“Obviously, it’s something that I’ve been looking forward to, that I’d want in my career,” Paille said of becoming a better offensive player. “I’m definitely looking to help out offensively throughout this coming season.”
With my head in my notepad, writing down his comments, I ask him what he thinks of skating on the third line. What does he make of Seguin?
“Oh, he’s a beauty.”
Heh? Players throughout the locker room have spoken highly of Seguin and his scoring touch, but practically busting out a classic from The Tubes for the rookie? Really? I look up to see a grinning Seguin passing by and pinch-hitting for Paille in the discussion.
|10.08.10 at 12:32 pm ET|
PRAGUE — There are plenty of determining factors that go into whether a team looks to sign a player, whether in free agency or through the process of re-upping their own guys. One factor that can turn an enticing player into a heaping bowl of plutonium is the three most dreaded words in all of sports: history of concussions.
Patrice Bergeron, who on Friday agreed to a three-year extension with the Bruins worth $15 million, unfortunately is quite familiar with concussions, having suffered a brutal Randy Jones hit from behind on October 27, 2007. Just 10 games in, Bergeron was done for the season and would not return until the following campaign.
“I still remember that arena being so quiet as a coach, and the players. Really it seemed to rattle the whole bench. The first thing you want to do when the game is over is not even talk about the game, but go and see him and make sure that everything’s fine, because it was a real close call. It was one that could have easily ended his career,” Claude Julien said on Friday. “The thing that we really wanted to do was make sure that the person was taken care of first and foremost.”
Julien added that despite Bergeron wanting to return for the playoffs that season, much like Marc Savard did this past season, the Bruins decided that taking the entire season and offseason to get his health in tip top shape was the safest route for a guy who was just 22 years of age and dealing with such a serious injury.
“We were going to be as patient as we needed to be, we were going to be as supportive as we needed to be,” Julien said. “He never played the rest of that year. I know at one point he wanted to come in and play in the layoffs, but at that point we made a decision that it would be better off not to and wait a little bit more.”
Bergeron spoke on Friday of how much the team looking after his wellbeing rather than trying to get as much production as they could meant to him. Sitting at his press conference at O2 arena in Prague, he made it clear just how respected and valued the team’s treatment of him feel in the post-concussion process.
Of course, the Jones hit would not be the last of Bergeron’s dealings with concussions. A December 2008 collision with Dennis Seidenberg, then of the Hurricanes, left him once again flat on the ice with what would later be determined to be his second concussion in the span of 15 months.
Julien said that it was natural to “start worrying again” after the Seidenberg collision, but gave Bergeron much-deserved credit for letting things like his two-way style of play, as well as his leadership, define who he’s been as a player rather the concussions. As the Savard situation has illustrated all too clearly, concussions are a messy affair, and one that makes projecting the future almost impossible. With Bergeron primed for a big season and still with room to grow offensively, the Bruins couldn’t have hoped for a better result in wake of two of the darker moments in recent franchise history.
|10.08.10 at 10:02 am ET|
PRAGUE — The Bruins’ town hall meeting from last month was pretty interesting in that season ticket holders voiced their grievances with the 2009-10 Bruins and stated how they want the team to improve in the coming season. Though the way their opinions were phrased provided the checkmark for the entertainment column, nothing they said really went against what management or the players were trying to do. For example, an older season ticket holder got up and said that he had been watching hockey his entire life and pleaded with the players in attendance — Zdeno Chara, Mark Recchi, and Patrice Bergeron — to finish their hits. Much as was the case with the other requests, the players agreed, as Recchi and teammates had a discussion about making toughness on the ice a priority in the coming season.
“One thing we were talking about, all of this us this morning [is that] we’re a tough team. When you look at our team, we’ve got a big, physical team. If you don’t play that way every night, you’re not going to get that respect factor,” Recchi said. “If we learn to play every night as a presence on the night, physical, skating in your face, what your goal is as a team is by the second half of the year for teams to go, ‘Jeez. I don’t want to go play them, because you know they’re going to come and work their tails off, you know they’re going to finish every check, they’re going to be physical every night, and they’re big and they’re fast.’
“You want to get that reputation. That ‘Jeez, we’ve got to go play them. No matter what, they’re going to work.’ That’s important. If we can get that consistency, we’ll be a real tough team.”
Recchi said he still gets the same jitters and experiences the same sort of emotions for opening night at this stage of his career as all the others. One thing that has changed since his first game in the NHL is his look.
“I got called up from Muskegon to play in Toronto,” Recchi said of his debut with the Penguins in the 1988-89 season. “I had a mohawk. All the rookies got shaved a week before, so I remember it perfectly.”
After hearing of Recchi’s former hair style, a reporter noted that mohawks are fashionable in Prague, and that perhaps it might be appropriate if he sported one for the team’s games on Saturday and Sunday. Recchi simply smiled and took off his baseball cap to reveal how much his hair has thinned over the years.
“I don’t know if I can even grow one anymore,” the 42-year-old Recchi said.
|10.08.10 at 9:18 am ET|
PRAGUE — The all-knowing Mark Recchi can speak of the goings on of the NHL with expertise, no matter what the individual subject may be. He’s seen it all, done it all, and knows when he sees something unfolding the right way. Entering his 20th season in the league, Recchi saw just that when word came down that his center in Patrice Bergeron had inked a three-year extension that will keep him in Boston until 2015.
“It’s awesome for Patrice and he deserves it. He’s a wonderful kid and he’s a great person for the organization to keep here,” Recchi said. “I think it’s a great deal for both [sides]. He could have tested the market and gotten a lot more [money] and a lot more years. It just goes to show you the commitment that Bergy has to this organization and to the guys in this dressing room that he was willing to do this.”
Indeed, a cap hit of $5 million for a player who, despite having a history with concussions, has appeared in the preseason to be primed for a monster year, would suggest that Bergeron could have potentially made more money on the open market. Bergeron cited his comfortability with the organization and confidence in the Bruins’ future as the reasons that he had decided he would sign an extension with the Bruins “no matter what” the final offer was.
Bergeron and captain Zdeno Chara had been the team’s two big names entering the final year of their contracts, with Michael Ryder, Marco Sturm, Mark Stuart, and Recchi also unrestricted free agents at season’s end. With the team having yet to agree with an extension to keep Chara around, Recchi pointed to Bergeron’s signing as a commitment from both sides to keep the team’s top players together for years to come.
“Basically we’ve got the core guys. I’m sure Z at some point will get done, but their core guys are locked in, and a lot of teams can’t say that,” Chara said. “A lot of teams have to make a lot of changes throughout the year every summer, and the Bruins are going to be fortunate when they don’t have to. Guys are willing to accept a little bit less to stay and be part of something they think is really good. Give credit to the organization that guys like Bergy trust Peter that he’s going to continue to build a good team.”
Asked where Bergeron falls among the young leaders that he has played with throughout his career, Recchi spoke very highly of his center. Bergeron was mentored well by Martin Lapointe, whom, along with Glen Murray and Recchi, he thanked for showing him how to handle the profession. Recchi said that it has been “awesome to watch him evolve into” the player and person he is today, and didn’t feel that at 25 years of age Bergeron is too young to mentor youngsters as they funnel in.
“The way he handles himself professionally on and off the ice is incredible. He’s a great kid, and we have some young players that should watch him every day. Tyler [Seguin] should watch how he prepares, watch how he works, watch how he does everything, and watch how competitive he is.”
|10.08.10 at 8:34 am ET|
PRAGUE — Patrice Bergeron boasted both a new contract (three years, $15 million) and optimism for the direction of the franchise as both he and general manager Peter Chiarelli adressed reporters in a press conference following Friday’s skate. Now 25, Bergeron will play out the last year of his current contract at a $4.75 million cap hit before coming in at $5 million in each of the next three seasons. Bergeron’s camp and Chiarelli negotiated the deal throughout the offseason, but the center made clear that he knew the outcome of the negotiations long before the agreement was reached.
” I knew it was going to get done, because at the end of the day I was the one who was going to say yes no matter what. I just wanted to stay in Boston and I think Peter and the Bruins knew it all along.”
Sitting alongside Bergeron, Chiarelli sang the center’s praises, summing hip his value to the team as being more than statistical output.
“He’s got a lot of elements to his personality, to his game, that are terrific, really,” Chiarelli said. “When you look at this work ethic in practice, look at him doing the drills, day to day showing up and getting them right and leading the charge, he’s a consummate professional and a terrific player and a terrific young man.”
|10.08.10 at 3:42 am ET|
PRAGUE — The Bruins and center Patrice Bergeron have agreed to a three-year contract extension worth $15 million. The deal will carry an annual cap hit of $5 million, making him tied with Tim Thomas for the team’s highest cap hit in the 2011-12 season (captain Zdeno Chara remains unsigned following the coming season). RDS was the first to report the story.
Bergeron was set to become a free agent at season’s end, and after a very impressive preseason, the Bruins avoid the risk of seeing the 25-year-old center put together a career year and leave via free agency. Chara now becomes the team’s top priority regarding contracts, as he is in the final year of a five-year, $37.5 million deal signed back in 2006.
Bergeron’s career high for points in a season is 73, which he recorded in 2005-06, his second NHL season. In 73 games last season, Bergeron picked up 52 points before adding 11 more in 13 postseason games.
Both Bergeron and general manager Peter Chiarelli are set to address the media today, so stick with the Big Bad Blog for everything from both sides following the Bruins’ noon skate (6 a.m. EST).