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‘Grapes’ gives B’s some love

11.23.08 at 7:53 pm ET
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Everybody knows that Don Cherry has always harbored a soft spot in his heart for the Spoked B of the Boston Bruins — the team that gave him his first shot behind an NHL bench — and the inimitable Grapes gave the Big, Bad B’s a couple of screaming one-timers during the must-see Coach’s Corner on Hockey Night in Canada last weekend.

First Dandy Don — decked out in a Looney Toons tie in honor of the Grey Cup held in Montreal last weekend – tosses a few deserved attaboys at Marc Savard for potting his 600th career point last week, and then praised the B’s center for the all-around game he continues to play for Coach Claude Julien in Boston this season. He’s built on last year’s All-Star worthy season with a campaign that currently has him ranked second in the NHL in assists (19), third in points (27) and third with a sterling +13 mark for the season. This from an undeniably gifted skater/playmaker that was a minus player in all but one season before coming to Boston, and is currently still a -61 for his career. Three more years of a Julien/Savard combo might just see him break into positive territory.

The Savard kudos continues a growing back-and-forth mutual admiration society  between the crafty center and the God Father of blustery hockey talk in the Great White North.

A little later on Cherry also ladles some puck love for the “great Canadian spirit” that defenseman Andrew Ference displayed when he powered right through the pain of a broken tibia in his right leg to still clear the puck during a PK situation against the Canadiens. As B’s fans will remember, Ference was hit in the right leg with an Andre Markov slapper, dropped to the ice in obvious pain, and then battled several times to regain his footing. The felled blueliner then cleared the puck from Boston’s zone once he got back on his skates.  Ference was diagnosed with fractured tibia several days later, but — even after repeated viewings – it simply doesn’t get any less compelling watching the blueliner battle to get to his feet and do his job before gingerly skating off the ice.

Courtesy of the wonderful world of youtube, Cherry’s bon mots on Savard start at about roughly the four minute mark and Ference is at roughly the 5:50 mark…enjoy.

Read More: Andrew Ference, Boston Bruins, Don Cherry, Marc Savard

Julien ordered Lucic to keep the gloves on

11.22.08 at 9:06 pm ET
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MONTREAL, QUEBEC — Bruins coach Claude Julien, who continued his march toward the Jack Adams Trophy by coaching the pants off Habs coach Guy Carbonneau in a big statement game last night, seemed fairly agitated after a tense, playoff-like game that ended with a thrilling 3-2 shootout win over the Montreal Canadiens. Julien admitted that he (rightly) told Milan Lucic not to drop the gloves and go berserk when enforcer Georges Laraque came calling for a throwdown. Instead, Big, Bad Looch got the last laugh with a game-tying second period goal which he immediately followed with a little post-score posing, primping and styling for the angry masses in Montreal.

While Julien’s hockey Gandhi move undoubtedly had something to do with the current state of Lucic’s hand after pummeling Nick Boynton in Friday night’s win, the B’s head coach also seemed to take some exception with Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau’s calculated decision to send his noted enforcer after Boston’s 20-year-old, second-year winger.

“He’s probably the toughest guy in the league, and I know Georges Laraque was [goading Lucic] because he was told to. Georges is not that type of guy and he respects the young kids and knows what that is all about. There was no way that was going to happen. [Shawn] Thornton was there ready for Georges and that never happened either. My tough guy was ready for their tough guy and it’s as simple as that. I told [Lucic] not to fight, and if you were wondering…it was me.

“I don’t send guys to fight. When guys go out and fight they do it on their own. That’s all I’m going to say. I know for a fact that [going after Lucic] was said and [Laraque] had a job to do tonight. He was to shadow Lucic and that was his job. It’s as simple as that. For us I think Lucic is a good player and if they want Georges to shadow him then that means more ice time for Georges and good for him.”

Lucic clearly seemed a bit non-plussed to be answering questions about why he refused to drop the gloves with Laraque after the big Canadiens winger skated nearly side-by-side with the Incredible Looch on four different shifts in the first period. It seemed as if the 6-foot-3, 240-pound Laraque was doing everything possible to entice the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Lucic into a fists of furty competition. Looch does lead the B’s with 48 penalty minutes on the season, but he wasn’t biting this time.

Thornton is pretty familiar with the job requirements for a tough guy/enforcer, and he empathized a bit with the plight of Lucic, who obviously didn’t want to be seen as backing away from a physical confrontation with Laraque.

“I’m sure it’s[difficult],” said Thornton. “He did a good job of staying disciplined. He did his job. [Lucic] got a goal and we got two points out of it. I think that’s the most important thing that we got the two points.

Did Thornton expect that Laraque was going to make himself Looch’s Siamese Twin out on the ice for nearly the entire first period, and practically big for a fight?

“I don’t know. I thought we did a good job and [Lucic/Komisarek] was a good fight and that was the end of it. Obviously they didn’t feel the same way, but whatever. If the guys wants to do that then it’s his barn and he can do whatever he wants. But Lucic did a good job staying disciplined and helping us get the two points.”

Each time Lucic headed to the bench following his shift, the Bell Centre crowd let him have it with hoots, hollers and chants of “Luc-cic”. The Carbonneau move seemed to be devised to quiet the spirited, physical Looch in a must-win game for the Habs, but instead Lucic finished with revenge on a hockey dish served cold: a goal and nine hits in 15:10 of ice time. Carbonneau’s game plan of intimidation and frontier justice might be considered trash barrel material the next time the two Old Time Hockey rivals tangle.

Here’s a word-for-word transcription of the terse Lucic interview with the assorted Canadian and Boston media after the game:

What happened with Laraque? ML: Nothing.

What did he say? ML: Nothing.

Is that the first time in your life that somebody shadowed you like that? ML: Yeah.

How does it feel? ML: Okay. If that’s what they want to do then they can do it.

Did Claude tell you not to fight:? You’re a first line player and he isn’t so it’s a bad match-up. ML: I don’t know. You’ll have to ask him.

Did he also tell you not to talk about it? ML: No, I just don’t feel like talking about it. That’s about all I have to say.

When you scored you seemed to ham it up a little bit there. ML: Yeah, a little bit. It’s nice to score when the fans are on you a little bit there.

Do you enjoy when the crowd gets on you like that? Is that a fun environment for you to play in? ML: Yeah, it’s fun if they’re on you like that or they’re not on you like that. It’s a fun building to play in. 21,000 people in the crowd and they’re always whooping it up. It’s a tough building to play in, and we’re just happy to get the two points.

I guess this guy is seething in his Patrick Roy Canadiens sweater after Lucic and Laraque didn’t rumble at the Bell Centre, or perhaps Carbonneau dreamed this up and showed it to the Habs skaters before Saturday night’s game:

Read More: Blake Wheeler, Boston Bruins, Claude Julien, George Laraque

First blood at the Gahden

11.21.08 at 9:30 pm ET
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There’s a reason they call it drawing first blood.

The Bruins have scored the first goal an amazing 15 times in their 20 games thus far this season, and it’s allowed the Black and Gold to truly go on the offensive and attack other teams with previously unseen aplomb. In those 15 games the Bruins have built up an impressive 10-3-2 record. 

So during a rare Friday evening tilt in the Hub — the first in over 30 years for the Bruins – when a first place hockey team easily could have been caught sleepwalking through an anti-climactic match against the lowly Florida Panthers — with perhaps a wandering eye cast toward the Montreal Canadiens tomorrow night at the Bell Centre — the Big Bad B’s simply took care of business in a tidy 4-2 win. A victory so convincing that it saw restless B’s fans doing the wave in the third period of a blowout win that registers as Boston’s seventh straight at the TD Banknorth Garden.

The attention to detail is part of a mantra that Bruins coach Claude Julien obviously stressed to his team prior to the game, with an eye toward an Ottawa Senators team that bounded purposefully out of the gate last season before collapsing and crawling into the playoffs. While there aren’t any Ray Emery-style problem children in the Boston dressing room to spark turmoil, the staunch marching orders to avoid any “fat cat” syndrome were clearly understood, processed and performed to a ‘T’ on the ice last night.

The B’s players are so intent on the nightly task at hand that veteran and past Stanley Cup winner Aaron Ward is now simply refusing to mention the dreaded ‘P’ word (playoffs) in relation to the Black and Gold. You won’t hear the words “NHL” and “playoffs” coming out of Ward’s mouth until April or so…Ward refused to utter “playoffs” last night in context with the Bruins, and said he’d only be talking about “the NBA or the NFL playoffs” for a nice long time.

Ward obviously has been around long enough to know that something pretty special is starting to take place on Causeway Street.

“One of the things they preached at the beginning of the year was positioning,” said Ward. “Teams that have really positioned themselves well by Thanksgiving have a tendency to really…uh….put themselves in a favorable position with…uh…I don’t want to use the word. You can fill it in. Put themselves in good position for…it’s kind of an omen, I can’t say it…for the end of the year. I don’t want to say the ‘P’ word.

“For us [Friday night's win] was a job we talked about from the top down. Claude talked about it and the players talked about it,” added Ward. “We had a discussion about it at the pregame skate amongst the players. About where we are and our state of being. We can’t rest on our laurels at any point this season. We’ve got to think about the here and now. The ‘P’ word is not going to be mentioned…at least not in this [locker room] stall.”

Ward’s words — minus any onerous ‘P’ words – seemed to be right in line with the message that Julien delivered to the esteemed Fourth Estate after the game. It was something about staying inside the warm, welcoming and comfortable bubble the Bruins have built for themselves while setting the standard of excellence in the Eastern Conference with 30 points through 20 games.

“I don’€™t think we feel too good about ourselves, and the one thing we do realize, and, you’€™ve got to remember guys, we can start reading what you guys are writing, and we can believe everything. Or we can stay in our little bubble and understand what got us to where we are and realize that those kinds of things are what’€™s going to keep us there,” said Julien. “I’€™m saying that because our team has not had to face this kind of situation for a long time, and we have to learn to be able to handle this. 

“Being in first place is great, but the minute you get comfortable ‘€“ and I can use the Ottawa Senators, 15-2 last year, and I can use other examples as well ‘€“ this is a humbling game, and we just have to make sure that we understand what it takes every night,” added Julien “That’€™s the kind of message we keep giving our team: don’€™t get too high, don’€™t get too low, but don’€™t start believing everything you read.

The Bruins effectively outshot, outlasted and outclassed an underwhelming Panthers hockey club. They also won the inevitable game of fisticuffs that appeared once the game got out of hand in the second period. Milan Lucic and old friend Nick Boynton engaged in a tough guy scrum at center ice that spilled plenty of blood from both sides.

Both players got a few shots in, but Boynton left the ice after Lucic opened up a cut along the former Bruins defenseman’s forehead following a series of vicious right and left-handed mixture of jabs and haymakers. Boynton’s face was a bloody mess by the end of the brawl. That decision easily went to the Big Looch, which makes him 2-0 in fights on the season after bloodying Boynton and knocking Mike Komisarek out of the Habs lineup with a shoulder injury. There has to be, however, some extra credit given to the steely Boynton for hanging in and getting a few licks of his own in amid the flurry of Lucic fists, which were also red with blood by the end of the exchange.

 

 

Aaron Ward also tangled with Keith Ballard after the veteran defenseman came in hard — and perhaps a bit low — on Marc Savard in the middle of the second period. It was business as usual for Ward, who again showed that this Bruins team isn’t going to timidly back down or fail to protect a teammate when something isn’t sitting well with the B’s bench.

“I thought the hit was late, and then not only was it late but I also thought the hit was low,” said Ward. “It was my first reaction.”

Hunwick continuing to improve

The blueline education of Matt Hunwick continued last night, and the young defenseman kept impressing with an assist and an eye-opening +3 on the evening. That makes it three straight games Hunwick has registered at last one point with a goal and three assists over that short span. While the man he was replacing on the rearguard, Andrew Ference, was playing the best hockey of his career by his own admission, “Huddy” hasn’t been too shabby either as the puck-moving, offensive interim solution along the blue line.

Hunwick’s performance continues to exemplify the impressive organizational depth that the Bruins have built up for themselves. Their roster goes well past the 20 skaters dressing on a nightly basis and extends to another 3-5 players capable of stepping in without a beat when the inevitable injury bug beckons. All told, Hunwick has a goal and three assists along with a +7 in eight games this season and was given a bit of time on the power play unit Friday night as a reward for his consistent efforts.

“We talk about confidence and the experience. He’s getting better and a lot of has to do with because he’s playing. A lot of it starts in practice and he’s been patient and working hard,” said Julien. “Now he’s got a chance to play and when you’ve got some games where you’ve got a lead you can use him even more. That’s the way that you develop players. He’ll be getting those opportunities if he responds, and lately he’s been responding.”

The Kids are all right

The impressive early returns on David Krejci continue to pour in, and no solitary play was more indicative of the 22-year-old’s patience, stick-handling and creativity than his second period goal which pushed the B’s lead to 3-1. Krejci found the puck on his stick along the right side with a good deal of open ice in front of

him, but — rather than make a mad impetuous dash toward the net as many NHL youngsters might in that frantic situation — the young centerman instinctively pulled the puck back, slowed the throbbing tempo to a hockey crawl and then deftly slid a cross-ice pass over to Chuck Kobasew.

Kobasew fired at the net and the loose puck promptly kicked right back to Krejci for the easy putback goal — a simple, elegant, dare I say nifty hockey play that continues to scratch away at what’s promising to be a great surface for the young Czech Republic skater.

“That’s David Krejci,” said Julien. “He controls the play so well and he controls the pace of it too. I’ve seen players in the past that were so good at that. I remember J.F. Sauve from the Quebec Nordiques was one of those guys that would make those plays to slow things down.  John Chabot, who’s an assistant coach with the Islanders was one of those players too. They’re gifted with the stick and they find seams. Savvy does it a bit for us too. He’s a good players and he’s just starting to grow into the player that we all expected him to be.”

While Krejci has impressed with the way he’s conjured up magic tricks with the puck, Kessel continues to simply burn away hapless defenders with his rare combination of speed and dead-eye shot. Kessel got behind the Panthers ‘D’ after a great tape-to-tape pass by Savard, and beat Tomas Vokoun with a forehand for the game’s first goal — an easy-as-pie pseudo penalty shot for the sniping scorer.

“I’m not doing anything different,” said Kessel, when asked what’s improved for him this season. “The pucks are finding the back of the net now, and they weren’t before. That’s about it. There’s no magic formula.”

With Friday night’s score, Kessel has a team-high 10 goals in only 20 games and seems well on his way to becoming Boston’s first 40-goal scorer since Glen Murray sniped 44 tallies for the Black and Gold way back in 2002-2003 en route to a 92 point season.

Hard to believe it’s been that long since the Bruins had a 40-goal scorer. Or maybe it isn’t given the recent history of the Bruins Crew.

“It seems like he and Savvy are feeding off each other,” said Ward. “It’s the old [University of Michigan hockey coach] Red Berenson thing, If you have speed you’ve got to use it. Especially now with the rule changes we as defenseman can do nothing about it.”

Read More: Aaron Ward, Boston Bruins, Chuck Kobasew, Claude Julien

Sounds of the game… Bruins 4, Panthers 2

11.21.08 at 9:10 pm ET
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The beat rolls on for the hottest team on ice. The Bruins dispatched of the over-matched Florida Panthers, 4-2, in the first regular season Friday night NHL game in Boston in 31 years. The win also helped the Bs tied the New York Rangers for first place in the Eastern Conference. Listen to them talk after, and you get the sense that they know they can play even better. A great thought for fans of the Black and Gold and a scary thought for the rest of the NHL.

Patrice Bergeron said the Bruins didn’t give the Panthers much early on.

Bergeron and the Bruins will now focus on their arch-rival Canadiens Saturday night in Montreal.

Dennis Wideman said the Bruins can still play better.

Head coach Claude Julien said despite the success, the Bruins won’t be reading their clippings.

Julien said his team is learning to handle success.

Tim Thomas said the team is aware of how well they’re playing but keeping things in perspective.

Former Bruin Nick Boynton, sporting stitches on his brow and chin from a fight with Milan Lucic, said there’s no getting around the fact that the Bruins are for real.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Dennis Wideman, Nick Boynton, Patrice Bergeron

Wheeler putting the “blinders” on

11.21.08 at 11:37 am ET
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From the time young athletes take their first learning steps in the world of the team sports, the mantra to be “unselfish” with the puck or ball is impressed straight into their impressionable minds. Everybody loves to play with a guy that passes the puck, or so we’ve been told umpteen times by the skilled guys lighting the lamps all over North American on a regular basis.

That preaching of unselfish play and keeping everybody involved is the ideal that all aspiring athletes should strive for, but in world of professional hockey a little “me generation” selfishness might not be such a bad thing. Big-wheeling winger Blake Wheeler is having a tremendous rookie NHL season and ranks among the fresh-faced best in the NHL among a handful of scoring categories, but there’s still oodles of room for the 6-foot-4 forward to improve going forward.

One area that Bruins management and coaches clearly see as an easy one for Wheeler to correct: be a little more selfish when the moment calls for it. That’s right…you heard correctly. Wheeler has freely passed the puck around in a dizzying two-man game with center David Krejci throughout the entire first 19 games of the season, and ranks 11th on the team in shots attempted despite ranking third on the team with his six goals scored (behind only Phil Kessel and Marc Savard).

To put in perspective, Wheeler (with 25 shots attempted in 19 games) has been outshot by rough-housing fourth liner Shawn Thornton (30 shots in 19 games) during the first quarter of the hockey season, and is averaging little more than a single shot per hockey game. That’s a number he can certainly improve on, and it’s something both player and coaching staff have already taken note of.

“He’€™s got a lot of skill and he certainly is going to improve as time goes on. He’€™s somebody that personally I’€™d love to see shoot a little more at times,” admitted Bruins Vice-President Cam Neely during a conversation with WEEI’s ‘The Big Show’ this week. “At times I see him looking for the pass and he’€™s not a very selfish player, but at times you have to be a selfish player in this game.”

There it is. Some good old-fashioned necessary selfishness in the game of pro hockey, though it’s hardly a self-centered puck philosophy when a team wants a skilled scorer like Wheeler to pull the trigger a little more often. The 22-year-old is scoring a whopping 24 percent of the time that he shoots, and that should mean more goals for a team that’s already third in the NHL in goals scored this season.

Wheeler, who is tied with Dallas Stars’ rookie Fabian Brunnstrom for fourth among NHL rookies with six goals on the season, is acutely aware of looking for his own shot a bit more often — particularly when he’s in around the net with his big and still-developing frame — and is actively developing a little more of a shoot-first instinct when he’s carrying the puck around the net.

“It’s always been my nature that I’ve always loved helping my linemates score and seeing them get on the score sheet,” said Wheeler. “It’s one of those things where maybe I shouldn’t be looking around so much around the net and instead I should just put the blinders on. There’s a few times probably in every single game where I have a good shot at the net, and if I can put it on net then we can have guys come crashing in afterward.

“It’s another part of the game that I can improve on,” said Wheeler. “It’s never been really pushed on me to play [unselfishly], but I’m trying to see the ice really well and I’m always looking for my linemates to help build chemistry. That’s when the game is the most fun. When you have a lot of chemistry and you’re moving the puck around. I think when I get into trouble is when I use my peripheral vision too much and I’ll see a guy open and try to force it to him. There are times when a shot is definitely the better play.”

Notes and One Timers

Marco Sturm is expected to miss his second straight game with an “upper body injury”, and has been termed a day-to-day injury situation by Bruins head coach Claude Julien. The Bruins will face-off against the Florida Panthers at the TD Banknorth Garden (7 PM) in a rare Friday night game. It’s the first Friday night game in Boston for the B’s in over 30 years, dating back to a Dec. 23, 1977 game against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Goaltender Tim Thomas is expected to get the start for the Black and Gold. Thomas was on the Planet Mikey show last night, and you can hear that interview here. Among other things, he discussed literally standing on his head and making saves against teammates at practice during his minor league days. Why am I not shocked by this?

Zdeno Chara, P.J. Axelsson, Michael Ryder and Marc Savard all sat out Friday’s morning skate, but all are expected to be ready to go when the puck drops against the Florida Panthers. 

Neely on the Big Show

11.20.08 at 4:10 pm ET
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Many loyal Bruins followers took heart a little over one year ago when the Boston Bruins ownership and management announced that NHL Hall of Famer Cam Neely was joining the Black and Gold front office as a Vice President, and would carry a strong voice in the day-to-day operations of the then-beleaguered hockey franchise.

Unlike many figurehead alumni that can potentially skulk around the building and smile for photo ops while hanging on their former club’s payroll, Neely has intensely dug into the fray with both hands — as he does with just about everything in his life — and the prototypical power forward has had a Jedi Master-like effect on promising players like his young apprentice Milan Lucic and the skilled Blake Wheeler.

At the time of his hiring, Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli was wholeheartedly on board with the move and his ability to evaluate hockey talent — both on the Bruins and within the league — has already provided dividends to the B’s front office. Bruins fans knew that the proud, almost-regal Neely was going to do everything possible – short of dropping the gloves and pummeling mediocrity with those powerful fists — to get the Boston hockey club headed in the right direction.

Well, it’s time for Chiarelli, Benning, Neely and Co. to take a bow – and perhaps start talking contract extension with the Jacobs Family — and continue promoting the brilliant, rugged, compelling product they’ve pieced together on the ice. In that vein, here’s the transcription of an interview Neely gave with 850 WEEI’s “The Big Show” yesterday afternoon that covered a whole range of subjects. Here’s the interview:

So much has been made of Tim Thomas, but a lot hasn’t been made about the depth that you have this year and that you’re able to throw three lines out there. How has that made a difference? CM:Well, I think it’s made a big difference and I would even make the argument that we can throw four lines out there. Our fourth line has contributed in a number of different ways and the other night we actually got a couple of goals from them as well. I don’t know how many other teams can say that.

We have three lines that we’re talking about that can create offense and give other teams fits in the offensive zone, and then our fourth line we’ve seen over the course of the season will actually carry play against the fourth lines of other teams.

Are you surprised that the team has had the success that they’d had thus far despite the fact that a number of veterans have struggled a bit in the early going? CM: From an organizational standpoint we looked at last year’s playoffs as an extraordinarily big learning curve for a lot of the young guys on this team. For them to understand what it takes to play in this league on a regular basis, and then this year come in with the attitude that ‘we did a little bit more than was expected, but we’ve also got to keep reaching for that next rung on the ladder.’

The young guys have certainly come in and done that. Some of our older or veteran players maybe haven’t found their stride yet, but they’re contributing in different ways and maybe just not yet necessarily on the score sheet. You guys brought up the depth part of it and it does really show the depth we have as an organization. The younger guys have been able to contribute and you’ve seen that Claude has really shuffled the deck with the lines over the course of the year to reward some of the younger guys with ice time. He’s done that without taking away how he distributes the ice time.

With all of the success that you’ve had thus far, do you have an eye ahead to getting past the first round of the playoffs and how does that manifest itself early in the season? CM: From a player’s perspective, you don’t want them thinking too far ahead about the playoffs. You’re thinking about how you’re playing today and what do I have to do to get ready for tomorrow. That’s the mindset that Claude and the coaching staff have in that locker room to focus on who your opponent is that night and then who you’re playing next.

From a management perspective, you’re certainly looking at how this team is shaping up heading into the second half of the year and then into the playoffs. We’ve got a really good hockey club here that can make some noise in the playoffs, and we’re always constantly looking at how we can improve and that doesn’t matter how well we’re doing in the standings right now.

Knowing that the fans in Boston really enjoy the physical brand of hockey and that you’re playing that style, how much is that going to play into getting fans back into that building? CM: You have to win and that’s obviously staring you right in the face. But I can tell you this, we know what our fans like and what kinds of players they like. You can go back to that Dallas game and that was an entertaining hockey game that’s got everything that our fans love about the game of hockey.

One of the things that happened is when the league expanded you tried to cater to a newer fan, and unfortunately to a degree the older cities, the Original Six cities, kind of have to suffer along with that. We’re trying to get that back a little bit about how our fans grew up watching [the game]. For example, if I’m introducing my children to the game now then it’s not the game that my father introduced me to, nor is it the game that maybe my grandfather introduced to my father.

It’s a little different in that generation, but it’s very clear when we’re talking to our scouting staff that we’re looking for Bruins-type players. Obviously you want skill because skill helps you win hockey games and win championships, but we want that skill but also with an element of what a Boston Bruin really is.

So you’re talking about the physical aspect of the game, but you’re not going to go back to the Don Cherry fighting videos? CM: Yeah, I don’t know if the league is going to let us go back to that.

Talking about Blake Wheeler, he’s so young and he seems to be getting better all the time. CM: He’s got a lot of skill and he certainly is going to improve as time goes on. He’s somebody that personally I’d love to see shoot a little more at times. At times I see him looking for the pass and he’s not a very selfish player, but at times you have to be a selfish player in this game. He protects the puck well and he’s got a good shot. 

He’s a guy in our organization that we’re fortunate to have. He wasn’t one of our draft picks, but we ended up getting him for nothing and he’s going to end up being a very good player for us. I know people around here appreciate watching a player like that.

What is it going to take for people outside this area to recognize how good a job Tim Thomas has done? CM: It’s an interesting question and something we really don’t have an answer for. To be left off the ballot was really shocking to a lot of us especially considering that he played in the All-Star game last year, so you would think he’d automatically be on the ballot this year.

A lot of it has to do with, quite honestly, the lack of success that the team has had over the last couple of years while Tim has been playing here. If you’re not really showcased in the playoffs then people begin to forget pretty quickly what you did in that season. I know Tim’s making a lot of noise this year with how he’s played and statistically he’s among the leaders if he’s not leading them. I think it’s going to make people sit up and notice Tim Thomas, but having said that — let’s be honest — players generally make names for themselves playing in the playoffs. If the way Tim’s playing now continues through the season and then into the playoffs, then people will notice what type of job he’s done for us.

How much of it is also perception that he’s a lifelong backup or journeyman? CM: There’s no question. You in the media would probably know better than me what the perception of somebody is.

Clearly Thomas is your Number One goaltender, correct? CM: Claude is going to go with the guy that he feels will have the most success against a certain team, and as you saw on the West Coast trip…he went with Tim because of how he played in Edmonton and Vancouver. We are fortune that Manny plays very well for us whenever he’s in the lineup and he gives the guys the same kind of confidence as when Tim is in the lineup. It’s not a bad problem right now to have when you have two goalies that can win you a hockey game.

I think the other aspect of who’s going to play is who’s hot, does somebody need a rest or what kind of success have they had against the opposing team.

You’ve got to really hope the success just keeps on coming for a team that’s white-hot right now. CM: It’s exciting and I know a lot of people are excited and there’s a lot of talk away from the building about the Bruins, which is nice. I certainly know through the years that this is a very strong hockey market and they’ve been anxiously awaiting a reason to come back. It’s nice to see them bet back in the building, and it’s a style of play that our fans are excited to watch, we’re winning some hockey games and it’s good to see them back.

People argue that it’s a baseball town, it’s a football town, it’s a hockey team…it’s a winning town. If the team is winning then the base is already there to build on, and people are already seeing the difference. There’s also a lot of afternoon games coming up, which is great around the holidays. CM: When I first got here it was really the first time – I remember we didn’t have any afternoon games in Vancouver — but I thought it was the best thing in the world that you just get up in the morning and go play.

The type of fans in that building you’re able to get a lot of kids into the building, and the youth hockey players from the area. I think it’s fantastic and those guys are fun for the family and quite frankly the players love playing in those games as well because they see all the families in the stands. And every player remembers what it was like to go into a building to watch their first hockey game.

“Slap Shot” night at the Garden Friday

11.20.08 at 11:50 am ET
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Everybody get out your Reggie Dunlop sweaters and Oggie Ogglethorpe wigs…the Bruins have decided to host an “Ode to Slap Shot” night during this Friday night’s game against the Florida Panthers. No word on whether Dickie Dunn will be ghostwriting the game story on Pucks with Haggs. Here’s the press release from the Bruins:

Throughout the Bruins/Panthers game on Friday, November 21, the Boston Bruins will honor what many say to be the greatest hockey movie of all time, Slap Shot.

The first 10,000 fans in attendance on Friday will receive Hanson Brothers style glasses, courtesy of TD Banknorth. A lucky fan will also receive the ultimate Slap Shot prize pack featuring Hanson staples: grape and orange sodas, aluminum foil and a toy car set. The winner will also have their seat upgraded.

Steve Carlson, who played the character of Steve Hanson in Slap Shot, will be introduced during the first intermission and will participate in an on-ice contest with a fan. Following the contest, Carlson will be available to sign autographs through the second period and subsequent intermission in the concourse behind Loge 6 on Level 4. Carlson will be available to the media at 6:00 on press level nine behind section N18.

Fans are also encouraged to wear a Chiefs jersey in honor of the hockey club portrayed in Slap Shot.

WHO: Boston Bruins
         Steve Carlson aka Steve Hanson

WHAT: Celebrate Slap Shot with Steve Carlson autograph session, Hanson Brothers glasses giveaways courtesy of TD Banknorth, prizes and trivia

WHEN: Friday, November 21, 7:00 p.m.

WHERE: TD Banknorth Garden
              100 Legends Way
              Boston, MA 02114

Fans interested in learning more about Boston Bruins players, or ticket options, should visit the team website at www.bostonbruins.com (http://www.bostonbruins.com/ ) or call 617.624.BEAR.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Dickie Dunn, Reggie Dunlop, TD Banknorth Garden
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