|10.27.09 at 12:27 pm ET|
WILMINGTON, Mass. — A full complement of Bruins players at practice on Tuesday morning with only Milan Lucic (right index finger) and Marc Savard (broken left foot) missing from the ice at Ristuccia Arena.
The lines were as they’ve been over the last week:
Shawn Thornton — Steve Begin — Byron Bitz
All seven of Boston’s defensemen participated in practice, and the B’s looked loaded for bear against a New Jersey Devils team firing on all cylinders after taking down the Pittsburgh Penguins last weekend. The penalty kill hasn’t allowed a goal in their last three games since inserting Paille and Marchand into the unit, and appears to have been patched up significantly by the B’s coaching staff.
*B’s GM Peter Chiarelli was hobbling around Ristuccia Arena on Tuesday morning, and utilized a pair of crutches to get around the practice facility. Chiarelli underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee on Monday, according to Bruins spokesman Matt Chmura, but isn’t expected to be placed on long term injured reserve. Good news for the Bruins as they couldn’t afford that kind of cap hit this season.
|10.27.09 at 1:26 am ET|
The gritty B’s rookie has attempted to engage several opponents in some post-whistle “conversations”, but has found that both players and referees aren’t giving the youngster a very lengthy leash. That is until he bumped into another mouth that roared in the form of a hirsute Scott Hartnell skating for the Flyers. Philly’s greasy, grimy troublemaker took one look at the 5-foot-9 Marchand — and it’s more like a Dustin Pedroia 5-foot-9 than a legit height listing — and beat him to the war of barb-wired words.
Hartnell told Marchand to “Go back over the rainbow where he came from” in a surprisingly cultured “Wizard of Oz” reference. The Flyers bad guy was essentially calling the Bruins rookie a Lollipop kid from Munchkinville in the process of talking a bit of hockey smack. Marchand responded by calling the stringy-haired Hartnell “a poodle”, and things were officially off and running for the Black and Gold’s motor-mouthed youngster.
“That was a good one,” said Marchand of Hartnell’s barb. “I even laughed a little bit.”
It seems that little trash-talking exchange might just have been enough to let Marchand escape his cage after understandably holding back in his first few NHL games.
“It’s been a lot of fun. Things are a lot faster and the guys are a lot stronger, but things have been good,” said Marchand. “When I came up here it’s a lot different than the American League. There’s a lot less people [talking smack]. Up here there’s a lot more respect, and there’s less time that I’ve been doing it. The refs tell you to shut up and head for the bench.
“Now that I’m out there getting a little more confident and getting used to things, I’ll probably start [chirping] a lot more.”
B’s followers can expect that plenty of insult trades will be flowing from Marchand provided he continues working hard and building chemistry with linemates Patrice Bergeron and Michael Ryder — a combination that’s sparked production and loads of quality minutes since Marchand arrived on the scene three games ago. The Nova Scotia native brings boundless energy and a healthy amount of skill to the table, but still hasn’t brandished too much of that trademark edge just yet.
The work ethic has also allowed Marchand to slide right into a prime position on Boston’s revamped penalty kill unit alongside fellow newcomer Daniel Paille, and the results have been immediate. Boston hasn’t allowed a power play goal since Marchand arrived on the B’s scene, and the youngster has skaken up a comfortable, veteran roster full of players with a jolt of youthful energy and passion. Whether it’s because Marchand is a lucky charm or actual difference-maker, the Bruins are a perfect 8-for-8 in penalty kills since his arrival. The rookie has totalled slightly over 15 minutes per game in his three Bruins tilts, and logged a healthy three minutes of kill time in Saturday night’s comeback win against the Ottawa Senators.
“One of the things that [Paille and Marchand] have really brought is speed and we’re able to pressure the puck all the way up the ice,” said B’s coach Claude Julien. “Paille was already a good penalty killer in Buffalo and we like him in that role. Just in that one day of practice Marchand was one of our best penalty killers in that power play/penalty kill [drill]. So we figured with that combination of speed and tenacity, he’d be a good addition to that. We’ve kind of minimized that [penalty kill] crew over the last few games.”
It’s probably not all that surprising that NHL referees aren’t familiar with Marchand’s chirpy ways on the ice or his uncanny ability to draw opponents into foolish penalties when the action intensifies. Julien has already reinforced within his young player that thriving with an edge and baiting opponents is something that originally earned Marchand his NHL promotion. It’s also part of the skill set that will keep the rookie in Boston.
There may be times when things won’t work out for a young guy adept at provoking a little rink rage, but Julien and Co. are more than willing to balance some growing pains with Marchand’s in-your-face style.
“At some point somebody has to start somewhere, and there’s some young guys — like [Matt] Duchene in Colorado — who are playing pretty well right now,” said Julien. “He’s got a year of pro under his belt and he’s a player that doesn’t get intimidated much.
“He’s got to be careful and make sure it’s the other guy going into the box — and not him. But I think he’s also got a lot of experience at that during his career, so he should be okay. If it’s an issue then there’s no doubt we would address it, but you don’t want to take away a guy’s strength. He can antagonize and draw other players into taking penalties. That’s just the way he plays. We’re not going to hold him back and take away from the things that brought him here. He brings energy, he’s in-your-face, he gets under other player’s skin and he can score goals too.”
Marchand could also afford to step up his aggression in the offensive end after flashing solid instincts during his first NHL game while setting up a sweet Michael Ryder goal against the Predators. The winger indicated that his first job is to get pucks in the hands of Bergeron and Ryder to make plays, but young Marchand can’t forget he’s got enough to skills to pay the bills. After all, the little bulldog of a hockey scrapper was tearing up the AHL with six goals in six minor league games prior to his first call to the NHL Big Show.
“I’m just trying to get the puck to Bergie and Ryder and let them do something with it,” said Marchand, who racked up 59 points as a 20-year-old with the P-Bruins last season. “I think it’s made it a lot easier for me skating with them. They’re two of the NHL’s best players and they’re always there supporting me and letting me know where they are. The biggest thing I do is get them the puck, and let them work it down low.
“I just forecheck hard and create turnovers so they can get opportunities. If I get the puck, then I’m trying to put it in the net.”
The Bruins’ 2006 third-round pick has already earned early respect from his veteran teammates for his tireless energy and unflagging work ethic. Perhaps that youthful exuberance was one of the few ingredients missing from the B’s dressing room. Mark Recchi, with 1,500 NHL games and plenty of teammates under his belt, is impressed with what he’s seen thus far out of Marchand, and buys into the notion of the rookie sparking his older teammates.
“He’s great. He’s a competitive kid and he got so much better as he went along in camp,” said Recchi. “He just works his bag off. That’s what you ask. Play with a little emotion and play with a little of that fire. That’s the kind of passion you want to see when the young kids come up.”
|10.26.09 at 12:59 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — After helping the Bruins penalty kill turn things around in their last three games, winger Daniel Paille was missing from Monday morning’s practice at Ristuccia Arena. No injury for the gritty former Buffalo Sabres forward, however, as Paille was allowed to travel back to his home in the Buffalo area to pick up his belongings and tie up the loose ends of life after last week’s trade.
“He just went back home to get his stuff,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “He came with a suitcase from Florida, so we thought we’d send him home to get his stuff.”
*A lot of talk about the Bruins simplifying their efforts during the last handful of games, and now the results are flowing for the B’s while taking five of their last six available points. Derek Morris got off to an inconsistent start, but he’s put things together during their recent stretch and now leads Bruins defensemen with a goal and 6 assists. The blueliner has looked very much like the puck-moving, offense-minded guy that Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli had in mind when the team inked him to a $3.3 million contract this summer.
“We all had a meeting and we talked about it. We said we can sit here and make excuses for why we’re losing games, but the fact of the matter is it’s not going to help us. We’re not going to have [Savard, Lucic] for at least a couple of weeks,” said Morris. “I think we’ve simplified our game a little bit, and we’ve worked harder and simpler because of it. We’ve been rewarded because of it.”
*Mark Recchi didn’t want to talk much about being named to the four-person NHLPA subcommittee charged with the task of investigating the Paul Kelly firing and the circumstances surrounding the exec director’s quick removal. Recchi has been one of the more vocal individual players against the hasty action by his union, and the 41-year-old said that things are player union dealings will be handled behind closed doors from this point going forward.
Recchi joins Rob Blake, Chris Chelios, and Nicklas Lidstrom on the four-person investigative body, and intends to roll up his sleeves and get the union headed in the correction direction after a tumultuous last few months.
“We’re going to have things to go over, but we’re really not going to comment on it,” said Recchi. “It’s going to be done quietly. We’ve got a lot to review and a lot to go over. The players have emplaced a lot of trust in us, and we intend to reward them for that. It’s a huge [responsibility]. This is an important time for our union, and we need to — for once and for all — get our things in order.”
|10.25.09 at 9:29 am ET|
When things are all said and done this season for the Bruins, there will be a series of hard-fought, memorable character wins deposited in the bank if the Black and Gold hockey club hopes to find glory and success on the frozen sheet. The kind of accomplishment that followed them until it came to an abrupt end against the Carolina Hurricanes during the semi-finals of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Saturday night’s 4-3 shootout win over the Ottawa Senators in Boston’s first divisional game of the season should still register in their collective minds months later. When the Spoked B team is jostling for playoff position and drawing upon the confidence-building moments that make up a successful season, their amazing two-game comeback with less than 90 seconds remaining will be the benchmark by which all others are measured. The victory will also be used as reassuring proof that good things do, in fact, happen to a hockey team when they simply, obstinately refuse to give quarter.
Twice the B’s pulled goaltender Tim Thomas ‘ who was brilliant in making 27 saves during a typically frenetic victorious effort ‘ in the final 1:28 of the game and the valiant Bruins twice scored goals to erase a 3-1 deficit and force an overtime session.
It seems that the Spoked B skating club has finally found some of the puck mojo and groovy hockey vibes that smiled kindly on them nearly all of last season, and the results have been impressive without key movers and shakers like Milan Lucic and Marc Savard.
In fact, one could argue that the injuries and difficulty is exactly what snapped the Bruins out of their extended autumnal hibernation and pushed them into their current fight or flight state of mind. That development of adversity has allowed the Bruins to push two straight games into overtime against solid playoff-level Eastern Conference teams, take five of a possible six points in their last three games and begin to reveal some of the players that have opted to step up in the team’s time of dire need.
Mark Recchi performed the hockey ecquivalent of CPR back into a flagging bench when he simply did what he’s done hundreds of time throughout the 1500 games that make up his NHL career. Recchi stepped into the danger area in front of the Sens net, and tipped a Derek Morris shot with less than 90 seconds to go in the third period to make it a one-goal game. It was pure ‘Wrecking Ball’ type stuff as he jostled with Ottawa defenseman Anton Volchenkov for prime position right in front of the painted area and simply flicked his wrist ‘ with stick in hand ‘ to reposition a Morris blast from well beyond the faceoff circles.
Morris also stepped up and again set up the game-tying goal with only 22 seconds left when he again threw a puck toward the net from his left point position. This time Morris read the seams and openings within the Senators defense perfectly and found David Krejci perched at the backdoor of the Ottawa cage. Krejci simply poked a pop-fly shot over Sens goaltender Brian Elliot as he attempted to smother the shot, and scored his first goal in 10 games with the Bruins. It was the perfect moment for Krejci to get in touch with his scoring abilities.
After standing tall with 27 saves between the Boston pipes, Thomas was perhaps the biggest player that stepped up his hockey game and made a series of show-stopping saves through the first 58 minutes of the game. Thomas’ heroics and acrobatics allowed the B’s to loiter within two goals of the Sens, and made the third period heart-stopper a possibility. No save was better than Thomas’ seemingly prototypical leaping, flopping headfirst dive at a seemingly certain Daniel Alfredsson goal at the end of the second period.
The Swedish forward got behind the B’s last layer of defense on a shorthanded attempt ‘ the second straight game that the Boston power play unit has allowed a dangerous offensive sniper to waltz in on an odd-man rush ‘ but Thomas literally took the challenge head on and threw himself head-first at the high-scoring forward shooting at the far post. The puck glanced off Thomas’ body, darted in the other direction and disaster was averted. The B’s reigning Vezina Trophy, perhaps more than anybody, is the player that has no choice but to elevate his game if the Bruins hope to stay afloat without 2/3 of their top line healthy until December.
Thomas did it on Saturday night with more than a little help from Morris, Recchi and Krejci among others ‘ and is going to need plenty more assistance along the way until the B’s cavalry comes through. With things seemingly beginning to come together for the Black and Gold, here are three things we learned in Saturday night’s compelling comeback triumph over the Ottawa Senators.
ZDENO CHARA IS BEGINNING TO MAKE HIS PRESENCE FELT
The reigning Norris Trophy winner has been off to something off a slow start considering the ridiculously high level of play set for himself, but the 6-foot-9 defenseman is another key factor in ‘Operation Stay Afloat in the Eastern Conference.’ Chara didn’t step into Saturday night’s scoresheet and has experienced difficulty getting his wind-up boomer through the pile of shot-blocking bodies in the early going, but he was the presence that Boston needed when it mattered.
Chara played a season-high 28:04 of ice time, finished at a +2, fired three shots on net and finished with three registered hits while forming with a rock-solid Morris to form the defenseman tandem that Claude Julien and Peter Chiarelli envisioned when they inked Morris to a $3.3 million contract. Chara has five assists and sits at a +3 for the season, and appears to be turning the corner when it comes back to regaining his form.
THE OLD DOG STILL HAS A FEW MORE TRICKS
Recchi is the oldest player in the NHL this season at 41 years old, but he’s far from a hockey relic and proved it on Tuesday night. Recchi played in his 1,500th NHL game on Saturday night and has enjoyed a career that spans seven teams and a pair of Stanley Cup winning squads atop his crowded pro hockey resume.
The winger actually leads an incredible list of active games played leaders as he stands in front of Rod Brind’Amour (1413 games played), Mike Modano (1401 games played) and Nicklas Lidstrom (1338 games played) in terms of NHL seniority, and there’s no replacement for places Recchi has been and the things that Recchi has seen.
Recchi sits first in active career points, assists and games played while continuing to ply his trade for the Spoked B, and he’s second in active goals scored after potting his 547th career goal at the 1:28 mark of the third period. The Bruins defenseman have experienced a difficult time getting shots through traffic in the early going, which has nullified some of Recchi’s ability to tip and redirect pucks from the ‘courage areas’ around the enemy cage.
But that all changed in the final seconds of Saturday night’s game when Morris found a little daylight, and gave Recchi the kind of juicy, lead point shot he’s been looking for all season. That goal stemmed the tide of momentum rising against the B’s and reversed it Boston’s way while making a comeback possible for the never say die Bruins.
With so many older, veteran players like P.J. Axelsson, Stephane Yelle, Aaron Ward, Shane Hnidy and Chuck Kobasew now picking up hockey paychecks at new addresses this season, Recchi becomes an important force of leadership and experience for a largely young Boston hockey club. Veterans step up when things look bleakest and times are the most trying, and Recchi is most definitely stepping forward at this early juncture of the season.
SOBOTKA IS BACK TO HIS GRITTY, CONFIDENT SELF
After a strong preseason and a demotion to Providence to start the year, it took Vladimir Sobotka a bit of time to regain his bearings in Boston ‘ but it appears the acclimation process is close to over for the talented young Czech Republic native.
Sobotka set up Boston’s first goal when he teamed with Daniel Paille to win puck battles and keep possession in the offensive zone. Sobotka followed that bit of gritty tenacity with a nifty little drop pass to Blake Wheeler at the left faceoff dot, and Wheeler ripped a quick-release shot past Elliot for a goal that gave Boston a 1-1 tie in the second period. Sobotka was hustling all over the ice and playing with pants on fire intensity while registering a game-high seven hits in only 12:23 of ice time Saturday night.
The combination of skill and board-rattling toughness is exactly what Sobotka brings to the table when things are going in the right direction for the 22-year-old, and that was the case Saturday night. Sobotka also appears to be forging some pretty good chemistry with Wheeler during their week skating together, and that bodes well for the foreseeable future with both players skating together.
|10.22.09 at 9:58 pm ET|
The Boston Bruins hadn’t been able to put two solid games together this season, but they finally snapped that spell of inconsistency Thursday night in the normally unfriendly City of Brotherly Love. The B’s put together an imperfectly solid road game at the Wachovia Center and earned a point by getting to overtime before dropping the shootout decision in a 4-3 loss to the Flyers.
Young center Claude Giroux scored as the final of the three Philly shooters in the overtime shootout, and Michael Ryder rang iron on the left pipe with a high slot shot attempt to give the Flyers eventual victory.
The two Northeast sports havens have been building up a heated, hated rivalry over the last three seasons, and that bad blood spilled over into some pretty entertaining, intense hockey Thursday night. It seems that a little enmity draws some pretty solid play out of both teams, and Boston impressed despite their seemingly rag tag roster. Tuukka Rask was outstanding in goal with 36 saves overall, and never better than on a stunning stone-job on Jeff Carter when the Flyers sniper broke in short-handed in the final minute of play.
It wasn’t perfect, but there were plenty of positives with both Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci playing at a considerably high level in the absence of Marc Savard, and Matt Hunwick, Steve Begin and Derek Morris factoring into the regulation scoring. Perhaps the best trait out of the Black and Gold was the resiliency to come back three different times in the game — a characteristic that’s been a big part of the B’s units under coach Claude Julien. The B’s power play even got into the act early in the game when Morris scored on a bomb from the deep point area after Boston was held without a shot on the man advantage the night before.
With the loss, the Bruins fail to get over .500 for the first time this season, but can take perhaps a morsel of satisfaction that things finally seem to be spinning in the right direction for the Spoked B with a gritty, even road effort.
YOU’RE THE BEST AROUND AND NOTHING’S EVER GONNA GET YOU DOWN:Tuukka Rask made a game-saving stop on Jeff Carter during a shorthanded breakaway, but he was solid throughout with each of the 36 saves he made in the shootout victory. The 22-year-old fresh-faced rook was Cool Hand Tuuk when it mattered most in the pressure-packed minutes at the end of the game, and made a great stop with his right leg pad when Carter opted for the backhand flip. One could envision Rask being a heck of a playoff goalie after watching the job between the pipes against the Flyers.
GOAT HORNS:Mark Stuart was saddled with a -3 for the night and struggled at times when things began looking like a Chinese Fire Drill in Boston’s defensive zone. Adding injury to insult, Stuart took a Steve Begin stick to the chops on the Flyers’ second goal of the night and feel like a ton of bricks in front of the net just before Darroll Powe popped the goal past Rask. Not a banner night for Stuart, but clearly not all of it was of his own doing.
|10.22.09 at 6:39 pm ET|
Bruins forward Mark Recchi has been one of the players vocal about the process behind the dispatching of NHLPA Executive Director Paul Kelly last summer, according to a TSN report, and now he’ll be a member of a four-player committee set to conduct an investigation of the union’s internal operations.
In addition to the 41-year-old Recchi, the player reps voted by a 25-5 margin to conduct an internal investigation of the Kelly firing and the B’s forward will be joined by Chris Chelios, Rob Blake and Nicklas Lidstrom on the investigative committee. The four-player committee include interviews with current PA employees, discussions with former PA executives Paul Kelly and Glenn Healy, plus the possibility of an extensive look at email correspondence over the past several months.
|10.22.09 at 10:30 am ET|
Big winger Guillaume Lefebvre was recalled by the Boston Bruins on Thursday morning and is expected to be available for Thursday night’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers. Lefebvre played for the B’s against the Phoenix Coyotes last weekend on an emergency basis while replacing the injured Milan Lucic, but was sent back down to the Providence Bruins following that game.
Lefebvre had one assist and 42 penalty minutes in five games with the P-Bruins this season and didn’t register anything on the stat line during his one game with Boston last weekend. “Banged up” winger Shawn Thornton was going on the two-game trip with the team through Philadelphia and Ottawa, but Lefebvre’s recall might be a sign that Thornton isn’t quite ready to play.
Lefebvre has two goals and 4 assists along with 13 penalty minutes in 39 games for the Flyers, Penguins and the Bruins through his pro hockey career.