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Sounds of the game… Maple Leafs 4, Bruins 2

10.23.08 at 8:04 pm ET
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The Bruins shot out to a two-goal lead over the Leafs Thursday night before their home crowd, but listen to Dennis Wideman, and even the leaders knew trouble was brewing. He was right. The Bruins were done scoring and, despite Patrice Bergeron’s first goal since Oct. 13, 2007 against San Jose and his first since a serious concussion, the Bruins fell, 4-2, to Toronto.

Dennis Wideman knew even with a 2-0 lead, the signs were not pointing in the right direction.

Patrice Bergeron on his first goal back.

Milan Lucic said the Bruins didn’t have killer instinct.

Read More: Bruins, Maple Leafs, Patrice Bergeron,

Bergeron pots his first goal of comeback

10.23.08 at 5:51 pm ET
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Everybody is happy when Patrice lights the lamp

Everybody is happy when Patrice lights the lamp

 

Things have come full circle for the kid that many consider to be the Heart and Soul of the Bruins. Patrice Bergeron scored his first goal tonight since returning from a career-threatening concussion that limited the young Bruins center to only 10 games last season. The score came in Bergeron’s seventh game of the season at the 15:32 mark of the first period, and was a redirect of a Shane Hnidy shot from the right point. It was Bergeron’s first goal since scoring at San Jose on Oct. 13, 2007.

The score also marked Hnidy’s first assists of the season. 

 The goal comes almost a year to the day from a hellacious hit-from-behind at the hands of Randy Jones and the McFilthy and McNasty Philadelphia Flyers on Ocrt. 27, 2007. The crumpling blow left Bergeron with a severe concussion and whiplash normally associated with car wreck rather than a hockey collision. The Jones hit ended Bergeron’s season and put his career in jeopardy, but all that seems like a murky puck memory after Thursday night’s goal.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Patrice Bergeron, Philadelpia Flyers, Randy Jones

Shootin’ at the shootout

10.23.08 at 2:34 pm ET
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Since we’ve been discussing the shootouts so much, here’s last season’s shooting percentages and success rate for each of the Bruins players heading into tonight’s match-up with the Maple Leafs — if it should get to that point.

As an aside, there’s a strong Pucks with Haggs vote to put another team in the Toronto-area — as the reports have stated – to go along with the Maple Leafs. Hamilton would be perfect place and was the desired target if the Nashville Predators ended up moving, but any team that returns back into the motherland of Canada is a good thing for hockey and the NHL. Winnipeg and Quebec City would also be great places to relocate some of these warmer climate teams from the US that simply have never seemed like a good fit (Hello Nashville!) for a frozen sheet. Anyway, here are the B’s shootout stats from last season:

This is what a shootout trigger man is supposed to look like...

This is what a shootout trigger man is supposed to look like...

Phil Kessel — 5 scores in 13 tries for a 38.5 percent success rate. The five shootout scores were the third-most in the NHL least season and a clear indicator that this is a speciality for a guy with the hockey skills to pay the bills (for his career, Kessel is 10-for-23 with a 43.5 success rate with nine game-deciding scores).

Zdeno Chara — 1 for 2 for a 50 percent success rate, with the successful attempt a memorable wind-up slapper against the New York Rangers at the Garden last season (2-for-5 career for a 40 percent success rate).

David Krejci — 1 for 5 for a 20 percent success rate. Krejci is a guy that could be a future weapon in the shootout, and has already scored this season as well (and 2-for-7 career for a 28.6 percent success rate).

Marco Sturm — 1 for 8 for a 12.5 percent success rate (7-for-25 career for a 28 percent success rate).

Patrice Bergeron — 0 for 1 (8-for-24 career for a career 33.3 percent success rate).

Dennis Wideman — 0 for 1 (2-for-8 with a career 25 percent success rate).

Chuck Kobasew — 0 for 3 (and 0-for-8 in his career, perhaps it’s time to hang up his skates during the shootout).

Michael Ryder — 0 for 1 (and 1-for-11 with a career 9.1 percent success rate). Ryder’s numbers in the shootout actually makes it a real head-scratcher as to why Claude Julien opted to put him in the top three during Boston’s first two shootout losses this season.

Marc Savard — a career 2-for-12 with a 16.7 percent success rate.

P.J. Axelsson — 0-for-3 career in the shootout.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Chuck Kobasew, David Krejci, Dennis Wideman

Notes from a Wilmington frozen sheet

10.22.08 at 10:59 am ET
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A few notes from practice this morning:

–Swedish winger and the longest-tenured Bruin P.J. Axelsson skated at practice this morning, and related afterward that he felt good. Axie has missed three games with unspecified muscle spasms, but it’s hoped he’ll be ready to go against the Maple Leafs in a big divisional “four-pointer” Thursday night.

“I felt good. We’ll see how it reacts and how I feel tomorrow morning,” said Axelsson following practice. “It’s not nice [to miss games], but at least I’m making progress.”

–B’s goaltender Tim Thomas said his wife told him this morning [quick Haggs' aside: you've got to love the

Timmy!

Timmy!

 ultimate hockey family where the wife is telling her NHL player/husband what’s going on between the pipes around the league] about the Toronto Maple Leafs switcheroo in net on Wednesday night during their overtime shootout. For those that weren’t in the know or didn’t happen to be in the booming Metropolis of Toronto last night, coach Ron Wilson lifted Vesa Toskala after the overtime, and instead placed 41-year-old veteran Curtis Joseph between the pipes solely for the shootout.

Thomas said he had heard of similar moves before in the AHL and Claude Julien thought that Edmonton turned the trick last season with Mathieu Garon and former UMass-Lowell netminder Dwayne Roloson. Thomas admitted that it might make sense in some instances. One of the biggest questions Thomas had was, who gets the loss when that happens?

Logic would dictate it would be CuJo after losing to the Team Formerly Known as the Mighty Ducks in the shootout, and this time logic wins. Toskala gets zeroes across the board after allowing two goals through the first 65 minutes of hockey, and Joseph gets an OT loss after hopping onto the ice cold turkey for the shootout session. The Leafs are coming to Boston on Thursday, so perhaps the B’s will get to see this for themselves tomorrow night.

“I’ve heard people talk about doing it when the shootout first started. Does CuJo get the overtime loss, and then Toskala gets a no-decision? CuJo must have known beforehand and been loosening, so he’d be ready to go  in for the shootout. You’ve got to loosen up your muscles, and I think you’re not worried too much about the mental part of it. Especially at CuJo’s age. You’re worried about making sure your body doesn’t pull a muscle.

“Being a goalie in that situation would be kind of weird. I don’t think it would be too much pressure because they’re putting you in there because they think they’re going to lose to the other guys anyway in the shootout. Know what I mean. It’s an easy opportunity to be a hero. In a way it’s kind of relief if you’ve played well in net [like Toskala] and it’s a 2-2 games when you come out.”

After winning the shootout, we do the Dance of Joy

After winning the shootout, we do the Dance of Joy

–Patrice Bergeron was among several Bruins that addressed the B’s alarming 0-3 record in shootouts thus far in the young season — a campaign in which they seemed as if they had a pretty good chance to improve on last season’s 6-7 record in OT shootouts. Bergeron admitted that it might be time to mix things up a little bit among Boston shooters — Bergeron himself has gone to the five-hole tuck move several times already in the young season — but also felt that the Black and Gold had the makings of a good shootout team. Also credit Julien for bumping David Krejci into the top three shooters, as the 22-year-old scored in the final round of the top three to extend the shootout two more rounds in last night’s eventual loss. It was a crafty little quick shot that Ryan Miller clearly wasn’t ready for as he slowly made his way down the slot.

“Things haven’t worked out for us [in the shootout] the way we would like them to. You’ve got to keep working at it,” said Bergeron. “We’ve won some games in shootouts and we have a lot of talent up front, and the back side can do a lot of things out there too.

“Because we didn’t so well in three games doesn’t mean that we can’t start getting good results. Yes, I am trying to create some new moves and sometimes it takes a while to get them ready for the shootout. I think practicing it is one thing out on the ice, and then bringing it into the games is something that’s a little different. You just have to go out there and take whatever the goalie is giving you.”

After all this shootout talk, it’s clearly time to include the best shootout goal of all-time. This one comes courtesy of former Boston College winger Ryan Shannon, who perfected the spin-o-rama move with the Vancouver Canucks last season and used it to help win a game for them against the Chicago Blackhawks. The best part was the shove in the back from the Bullin Wall that he got after scoring the goal. Shannon is toiling with the Binghamton Senators in the AHL right now, so maybe it’s time to make a move and bring the shootout specialist back to the Hub for specialist duty. You can never have enough spin-o-ramas. Enjoy the video and let me know what your favorite shootout move/goal is.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Claude Julien, Curtis Joseph, P.J. Axelsson

Bruins promoting Cancer Awareness on Thursday

10.21.08 at 11:11 pm ET
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The Black and Gold will host another “four-point special”, as WBZ Radio stalwart Jonny Miller likes to call it, on Thursday night when the Toronto Maple Leafs come to town. Aside from the game being another chance for the B’s to pile up some points against their divisional rival, it will also mark the Bruins’ turn to host Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Night at the Garden. Listed below is the inside scoop on the event from PWH’s friends at the NHL office:

 

To celebrate the start of the 2008-09 season, the National Hockey League (NHL) and the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) will host their annual Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Month in October.  The league-wide initiative includes numerous activities that involve all 30 clubs, players, management and fans, as well as the creation of Hockey Fights Cancer-themed merchandise, all with the goal of raising awareness and funds for this important cause.

 

During October, each NHL club will host a Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Night in its arena.  Clubs will team with local and national cancer organizations to promote cancer awareness and raise funds for hockey’s most important fight.  Clubs will hold on-ice presentations, 50/50 raffles, promotional giveaways, contests and discount ticket offers.  Tickets and arena suites will be donated to Children’s Hospitals and cancer-affiliated programs, and young patients will be involved with in-game opportunities including rides on the ice resurfacer, puck-drops, radio booth visits and player meet-and-greets.  There also will be on-line, live and silent auctions of signed items, including helmets, sticks, jerseys and other team merchandise.  Several clubs will continue to promote awareness by participating in local hospital visits and fundraising runs and walks. 

 

Lavender, which represents awareness for all cancers, is the designated color for this year’s initiative and will be worn by the hockey community throughout October  Members of the hockey family, including NHL coaches, broadcasters and team personnel, will wear a commemorative Hockey Fights Cancer tie at games in October.  The lavender tie features blue and pink stripes and an embroidered Hockey Fights Cancer logo.  Also, in support of this initiative, all NHL players will wear a Hockey Fights Cancer decal on their helmets during all regular-season games in October.

 

Additional one-of-a-kind apparel has been created to support Hockey Fights Cancer, including a lavender ladies’ scarf, which features a hockey stick pattern throughout and the Hockey Fights Cancer logo at two ends.  Ladies’ and men’s Hockey Fights Cancer team-specific caps also will be available.  The ladies’ lavender garment-washed cap, designed by New Era, features a team logo on the front and an embroidered Hockey Fights Cancer logo on the side.  The men’s cap is Reebok’s official 2008-09 Draft Day cap with the Hockey Fights Cancer embroidered patch on the side. 

 

To further promote this initiative, the NHLPA and the NHL, together with Getty Images, NHL Images and Greystone Books, will publish Reflections 2008 – The NHL Hockey Year In Photographs.  The second of an annual visual celebration, the book chronicles the highlights and candid, behind-the-scenes images from the 2007-08 NHL season.  Copies of the book, autographed by team captains, will be auctioned on nhlpa.com and nhl.com in October. 

 

Hockey fans will be able to purchase the commemorative tie, scarf, caps and book at shop.nhl.com, team stores and the NHL Powered by Reebok store in New York City.  A portion of the proceeds will benefit Hockey Fights Cancer. 

 

“Last year we passed the $10-million milestone for money raised for cancer research through Hockey Fights Cancer,” said Bernadette Mansur, Executive Director of the NHL Foundation.  “We thank everyone in the NHL family for their generosity and we will continue to raise money and awareness for this important fight.”  

 

“Each season, through Hockey Fights Cancer, the hockey community increases efforts to build awareness of a disease that has affected us all,” said Devin Smith, NHLPA Director, Marketing & Community Relations. “October signifies the dedication that Players, clubs and fans have to find a cure in hockey’s greatest fight.”

 

About Hockey Fights Cancer

Hockey Fights Cancer is a joint charitable initiative founded in December 1998 by the National Hockey League and National Hockey League Players’ Association.  It is supported by players, NHL member clubs, NHL alumni, the NHL Officials’ Association, professional hockey athletic trainers and equipment managers, corporate marketing partners, broadcast partners and fans throughout North America.  The goal of Hockey Fights Cancer is to raise money and awareness for national and local organizations involved in cancer care and research.  To date, Hockey Fights Cancer has raised more than $10 million.

Deep postgame thoughts

10.20.08 at 8:17 pm ET
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Here’s some deep hockey thoughts Haggs-style following the Bruins’ 2-1 shootout loss to the Penguins in the home opener at the TD Banknorth Garden last night. Good lively crowd in the house to celebrate a team that’s played very well early in the season, and they were rewarded with a pretty crisply played early season hockey game. Anyway, off to the scattered thoughts from a puck-addled brain:

This is Zoolander's fierce face...

This is Zoolander's fierce face...

*First off, P.J. Axelsson won’t be making the trip to Buffalo for Tuesday night’s game against the high-flying Sabres (wonder what it’s like on Chippewa Street these days with both the Sabres and the Bills just tearing it up right now). The Swede with the Zoolander-esque fashion sense will miss his third straight game tonight with unspecified muscle spasms. No word on when Axxy will be ready to return, so no need to question Zoolander about it. 

*Interesting mood for coach Claude Julien after the game, as he seemed fairly agitated and conveyed a feeling that his team didn’t get their just reward for the impressive effort they put in. The shots were pretty even up when both teams ended 55 minutes of hockey still deadlocked, but the B’s had 4 power play opportunities and frittered away several really good shots in the early going. You couldn’t help but feel that Julien was lamenting the one that got away in another solid effort in regulation followed by a shootout loss. Could this be a familiar fate for the Spoked B’s this season?

“There are a couple of guys on the other team that lead the league in scoring, and they only scored one goal,” said Julien, refering of course to Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. “We can go on about this if you guys want, but I thought this was a hard-fought game with great goaltending on both ends. There were good chances and the scoring chances were pretty even. We came up short in the shootout and I think that’s where we need to get better. We need to finish, especially in the shootout. But as far as the game is concerned, if you ask me my opinion I thought we were the better team tonight.”

*Huge ovation for Patrice Bergeron during the smoke-machine aided entrance to the ice by each of the

Everything was "awesome" for Patrice last night...

Everything was "awesome" for Patrice last night...

Bruins players during a brisk and fairly frill-less pre-game introduction ceremony. Bergeron quickly lifted the stick up in the air with one hand in acknowledgement of the welcoming cheers as he skated on the ice, and then the 23-year-old proceeded to play his heart out in a very strong game — perhaps his best of the young season thus far.

“The crowd reaction was awesome,” said Bergeron. “I knew the fans in Boston were awesome, and they’ve been great with me through my injury. And even before that. I couldn’t wait to get back out there. It was awesome to be in the Garden and out on the ice. Yes, I played in exhibition games twice on the ice, but it’s not the same as a regular season game.”

There were many strong scoring chances among his team-high seven shots on the night, and both he and Marco Sturm were able to forcefully pin down the Penguins defenseman — who clearly miss both blueliners Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Whitney as they recuperate from injuries – in their own end pretty much all night long. When the Pens did manage to break out, the Bergeron-inspired pressure caused a handful of nuetral zone giveaways and did much to disrupt Pittsburgh’s offense. Much has been made of Bergeron’s “slow start” after missing nearly all of last season with post-concussion syndrome, but the B ‘s Assistant Captain has been making huge contributions all over the ice aside from the utterly obvious goal-scoring statistic. Bergie also won 60 percent of the 20 faceoffs taken over the course of the evening as well.

“He’s frustrated because he’s had some good opportunities and he hasn’t been able to score,” said Julien of Bergeron’s mindset after putting up four assists in the team’s first five games. “But that’s a normal thing. When you haven’t played in a year it’s going to take a little time. When he finds his touch we’re going to have a pretty good player.”

*Toward the end of the second period Julien switched up his lines and placed the red-hot Phil Kessel and playmaking Marc Savard on the same line together, and the results were instant and unmistakable. While the duo didn’t pot the game-winning goal to break up the tie, Savard thought he had a goal in the third period when he played the give-and-go to perfection with Kessel. Savard fed the puck to Kessel behind the net to start the plate, and Kessel slid a nifty pass from behind the net to Savard all by himself in the high slot area. Penguins goalie Danny Sabourin managed to get a bit of his blocker on the puck and deflect it away, but that doesn’t mean we’ve seen the last of Kessel and Savard skating together on the same line in the future.

“Claude put us together at the end of the second period there, and I think he brings a lot of speed to the line. I am able to use him wide when he stays wide and obviously he’s a big force,” said Savard. “It seems like that’s what [Julien] wanted tonight and it seemed to work. In the third, I thought I scored when I got it to Phil behind the net and he got it to me in the slot. I even raised my stick, and I don’t know how it didn’t go in. It must have hit his glove or something.”

For the record, Savard recorded two shots in the third and Kessel one after the two were paired off.

*No respect for hard-nosed Mark Stuart. At one point during the pre-game team introductions he was skipped over and then the blueliner moved to the back of the line. The Bruins PA never get around to announcing his name as he skated through the smog from the smoke machine during the intros. No respect, I tell ya…no respect.

*Bruins Captain Zdeno Chara looked as if he just picked up right where he let off last season. Big Z had four minutes more of ice time that anybody else on either Boston or Pittsburgh, and quietly skated for 30:47 on a night that seemed to grind away at everybody.

PHWA gives to charity

10.20.08 at 5:33 pm ET
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Who knew us Professional Hockey Writers were so philanthropic? Here’s a release from the Bruins about a partnership between the PHWA (which I’m a proud member of) and the B’s to raise money for charity. And all it cost us media members is a measly $5 for top shelf food in the Garden’s press room. I’ll be back with some postgame thoughts after the B’s game with the Penguins, which is currently tied 1-1 with 4:30 to go in the second period.

BOSTON BRUINS FOUNDATION AND BOSTON CHAPTER OF THE PROFESSIONAL HOCKEY WRITERS ASSOCIATION TEAM UP FOR CHARITY

BOSTON, MA – The Boston Bruins Foundation and the Boston Chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association (PHWA) have partnered to make a donation to a charity of their choosing at the end of the 2008-2009 season.

Two and half hours before every Bruins home game, there is a press meal served in the Will McDonough Press Room at the TD Banknorth Garden for working members of the media.  Those members of the media who wish to dine in the Press Room will be asked to make a $5.00 donation and 100 percent of the donation will go to the Boston Bruins Foundation. At the end of the year, the Bruins Foundation and the Boston Chapter of the PHWA will mutually agree upon a charity to which they will donate 100 percent of the proceeds collected throughout the season.

“The Boston Bruins Foundation is very happy to work with the Media that covers the Bruins to help our community,” said Director of Development, Boston Bruins Foundation Bob Sweeney.  “By contributing a small amount for a meal in the Will McDonough room before each game, the Boston Chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association and the Bruins Foundation are going to be able to make a sizeable donation at the end of the year.”

“The Boston Chapter of the PHWA is proud to be part of this endeavor with the Bruins Foundation and looks forward to helping out a worthy cause,” stated Matt Kalman, President of the Boston Chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association.

The Bruins host the Pittsburgh Penguins in their 2008-2009 home opener tonight, October 20, at 7:00 p.m. ET at the TD Banknorth Garden (TV: NESN, RADIO: WBZ1030 AM).

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

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