|10.05.10 at 6:44 pm ET|
LIBEREC, Czech Republic — Blake Wheeler hasn’t really gotten a fair shake from fans in Boston. After a 21-goal rookie year with the Bruins, Wheeler turned in 18 in his second season and was often criticized by fans for his lack of physical play. This preseason, he’s shown a more physical edge that he had vowed in the offseason to return with. Fans didn’t take notice of his use of his size in his two preseason showings at the Garden, but it likely won’t be long before they do.
A strong camp from Wheeler has landed the third year forward on the second line with Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi. He picked up a goal in the team’s 7-1 victory over Liberec HC, and after seeing the five-point explosion from Bergeron should be licking his chops at the idea of skating with him as his center. Things are looking up for Wheeler, who prior to Tuesday had been skating with Tyler Seguin and Michael Ryder on the third line.
“I feel great on the ice. I feel like I’m playing with a lot of speed, and confidence is up there now,” Wheeler said. “Playing with Bergeron and Recchi really makes the game a lot easier. I think we had a really good game today and I’m excited to be playing with these guys and hopefully we can really get some good chemistry going.”
As for the aspect of physicality, Wheeler trusts that by utilizing his 6-foot-5 frame he can become the well-rounded player that made him a top-five pick in the NHL draft. In addition to setting up a tarp to shoot against in his garage, his main focus was toughening up.
“I felt that if I could be more of a presence physically, a lot of the other things in my game would follow suit,” Wheeler said. “Just consistency-wise, that’s something you can bring every night. No matter how you’re feeling, no matter how you’re playing, you can be a physical presence and contribute to the game that way. I’m just trying to focus on the things that I can control and let the rest follow suit.”
|10.05.10 at 6:06 pm ET|
LIBEREC, Czech Republic — Though Patrice Bergeron clogged the stat sheet with his gaudy numbers on Tuesday night (five points), it was a lower number that may have been the most positive sign for the Bruins as they crushed Liberec HC in 7-1 fashion. Tim Thomas was outstanding in net, sprawling around in his signature fashion and limiting the Czech club to one goal on the night.
Thomas came out of the gate particularly strong, stopping all 14 shots he faced in the first period. At the end of the night, Thomas, who is coming off offseason hip surgery, saw the light at the end of his recovery’s tunnel shining a little brighter than he had throughout the summer.
“I need to feel like myself, and it’s definitely coming. I’m working on it in practice, and I think it showed up in my game during this game here,” Thomas said. “… I guess when I’m playing and feeling comfortable, I’m not thinking. I actually felt way more in control than the Washington game, so I’m making steps in the right direction.”
Though coach Claude Julien agreed with the assessment that Thomas looked fluid in the victory, he also pointed to the offensive explosion and defensive stability put on display by the Bruins over the course of the night.
“When you play well in front of goaltender, it gives him confidence because all he has to do is worry about stopping the puck,” Julien said. “Our guys did a great job in front of him, and when he had to make the saves, he was there to make them. That’s what’s important, because if you’ve got your goaltender wondering if you’re going to be in the right position, then he’s second-guessing himself, and it was nice to play in front of him tonight because it gave him the confidence to make the saves he had to make.”
The Bruins’ preseason is now in the books. They will hold practices in Prague on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday before opening the regular season against the Coyotes.
STITCHES FOR PAILLE
Julien said after the game that Daniel Paille received 15 stitches on his lip after getting hit in the face by either a stick or a puck in the first period. Though the coach and reporters weren’t sure exactly what him (there were no replays except on scoring plays at the arena) nothing appeared remotely serious.
|10.05.10 at 3:15 pm ET|
Bergeron scored in the second and third periods, while also assisting Seguin’s goal, a snipe from the point on the power play, as well as tallies from Jordan Caron and Blake Wheeler. Trade acquisitions Nathan Horton and Gregory Campbell also picked up goals in the first and third periods, respectively.
Tim Thomas looked very sharp in net for the Bruins, playing the entire game and looking particularly impressive in a first period in which he made 14 shots. He allowed just one goal on the night, an Andrej Podkonicky strike into second period.
From the Liberec the Bruins will travel an hour south to Prague, where they will continue to practice before opening the regular season with two games against the Coyotes on Saturday and Sunday.
|10.05.10 at 2:31 pm ET|
LIBEREC, Czech Republic — The Bruins enter their final period of the preseason holding a 3-1 lead over Liberec HC, with goaltender Tim Thomas continuing to impress and Jordan Caron perhaps getting a boost of confidence following the team’s third goal.
Patrice Bergeron made it a 2-0 lead for the Bruins when he intercepted a blind pass in the neutral zone, deked, and gently slid in an easy-looking — albeit impressive — goal. After Andrej Podkonicky put Liberec HC on the board with a goal of his own on Tim Thomas, Bergeron assisted the Caron goal in which a top shelf wrist-shot grazed the Liberec goaltender Pinc Marek’s left shoulder on the way in.
Perhaps most importantly, the end of the period is signified here at Tipsport Arena with what can only be described as the sound of wood splintering in an old rocking chair.
|10.05.10 at 1:45 pm ET|
LIBEREC, Czech Republic — It’s a non-NHL exhibition game, the Bruins are in a foreign country and have allowed a few big scoring opportunities to the lesser squad. Sound familiar? Though it is a bit similar to the Bruins’ first period on Saturday against the Belfast Giants, the team at least has a 1-0 lead to show for its efforts this time around. Nathan Horton once again found his way to the hashmarks and fired off a wicked wrister on a goal that was assisted by local(ish) heroes Zdeno Chara and David Krejci. It was Horton’s third of the preseason, and if you’d like to imagine what it looked like, think back to his goal at the TD Garden against the Panthers and you’ve got the gist.
Tim Thomas has stood on his head to this point, looking very impressive in a period in which the defensive pairings were constantly changing. Offensively, the second and third lines saw some changes as the period progressed, with third line wing Jordan Caron seeing some time with his former linemates in Mark Recchi and Patrice Bergeron.
It’s hard to imagine Claude Julien is thrilled with the team’s offensive output thus far, so some more line shuffling could take place despite it being the team’s final preseason game before the Bruins take on the Coyotes for two regular season matches in Prague on Saturday and Sunday.
|10.05.10 at 1:01 pm ET|
LIBEREC, Czech Republic — We are just a few minutes away from the puck dropping for the Bruins as they take on Liberec HC in Tipsport Arena in Liberec, Czech Republic. David Krejci continued his man-of-the-hour by getting far and away the biggest applause from the Liberec fans, with teammate Zdeno Chara the only other Bruin to get more than a round of applause.
A couple of notes:
– This place is known for creating a “White Hell” in which fans dress all in white to create an intimidating backdrop. The comical part is that this arena looks just like the Whittemore Center, and, much like UNH’s “White out the Whit” campaign, the participation in “White Hell” just enough substancial enough to make it work.
|10.05.10 at 8:50 am ET|
PRAGUE — The Bruins will only have to scratch two skaters Tuesday night — Brian McGrattan and Matt Bartkowski — in addition to goaltender Nolan Schaefer as they gladly abide by the European 22-man limit when they face Liberec HC at Tipsport Arena. Claude Julien cautioned members of the media not to read into Bartkowski’s second consecutive sitting as him being “done,” while McGrattan, who is still in on a tryout, remains up in the air. It would be surprising if he were to not end up the team’s 13th forward.
As Julien said on Monday, Tim Thomas will make his second preseason start in the game. Here is how the offensive lines should shake out.
Lucic – Krejci – Horton
Recchi – Bergeron – Wheeler
Paille – Seguin – Caron/Ryder
Marchand – Campbell – Thornton