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Ward out at least a week

12.01.08 at 11:07 am ET
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Bruins defenseman Aaron Ward will not be making the two-game road trip through the Sunshine State (Tampa Bay and Florida) after injuring his left foot/ankle during Saturday night’s game against the Detroit Red Wings.

Ward was viewed walking through the locker room during Monday morning’s practice with a protective boot on his left foot/ankle, but declined to elaborate on the extent of his injury. “He’s not making the trip to Florida, so he’s definitely out for this week,” said B’s coach Claude Julien, who wouldn’t get any more specific than to call it a ‘leg injury’. “Then he’ll be reevaluated when we get back, and hopefully from there he’ll be day-to-day.

“Our depth is being tested more and our experienced guys are getting whittled down a little bit,” added Julien. “It is something that we have to work with a little closer. You might see some D pairs like we saw [Saturday] night where it’s not always the same pair and it’s more mix-and-match. We want to make sure we have the right combination against the other team’s top lines.”

Ward was walking through the locker room area with a healthy limp after taking the boot off, but the new NHL rules on injuries are keeping the nosy Fourth Estate from differentiating between what’s likely a sprained ankle or foot for the veteran blueliner. Expect Matt Lashoff, Johnny Boychuk or Adam McQuaid to get the call from Providence, with the Pucks with Haggs money centered squarely on Lashoff. The youngster had been practicing with the team up until Thanksgiving and has already gathered a handful of NHL experience during his up-and-down career – with the only apparent problem being that the 22-year-old’s blueline puck skill set doesn’t match up with the fallen Ward as much as perhaps the rugged McQuaid does. Mark him as the dark horse candidate if GM Peter Chiarelli goes in a different direction.

Read More: Aaron Ward, Adam McQuaid, Boston Bruins, Claude Julien

It all starts in the center square for the Bruins

12.01.08 at 12:08 am ET
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The Bruins braintrust has seemingly stockpiled centers over the last three years, and their designed efforts to create a competitive, diverse group of pivots has paid huge dividends this season. Boston’s group of centers are potting their fair share of goals this season, and — more importantly — the quartet is setting up other Black and Gold skaters all over the ice in a high-octane hockey attack. Top line center Marc Savard is quietly enjoying perhaps the best season of his All-Star career, and is on pace for the first 100-point season of an admittedly impressive pro hockey body of work filled with offensive bursts, breathtaking moves and high assist totals.

Patrice Bergeron has been, by head coach Claude Julien’s own admission, the B’s best faceoff man this season and is again taking draws after recovering from a muscle pull that temporarily had Julien resistant to using him in the faceoff circle. Bergeron has been slow to return to the full dominant form he displayed prior to sustaining last season’s infamous hit-from-behind that led to a concussion, but he’s fearlessly tipping pucks in front of the net, backchecking to break up the opposition’s flow with fervor and purpose and helping out tremendously on both of the B’s special teams units as well.

Then there’s David Krejci, who has now jump-started a pair of slumping Boston wingers (Marco Sturm, Michael Ryder) by deftly getting the skilled skaters in touch with the puck in places that can only be described as their “happy zones” on the ice. Krejci’s ability to create and make others around him markedly better is obvious in the resurgence of both players, and the results were immediate in both cases. His fingerprints are all over the solid rookie season enjoyed by Blake Wheeler as well. The two young players have clicked famously while skating together, and the pairing could be a solid power (Wheeler) and puck possession (Krejci) partnership for a long time to come, with the Czech Republic native also capable of scoring goals when the situation arises. Krejci is one of an astounding eight Bruins on pace to score 20 goals this season.

Krejci slid into the No. 1 center spot when Savard went down with an injury toward the end of last season, and flashed glimpses that he would someday be a top-line, assist-collecting superstar in the finest hockey league in all the land. There has been nothing this season that should dissuade anyone from feeling that continues to be the case with the slick pivot, and he simply keeps getting better with each and every game.

The best part about him? Krejci will always dissect his game in the postgame locker room to the point that he’ll berate himself if he feels like he wasn’t 100 percent  effective in a given game. There’s an element inside the youngster that burns to be great, and it’s a commond bond that many of the young Bruins share in common. The 22-year-old doesn’t dwell on those memonts of dissatisfaction as he might have earlier in his career bouncing between Boston and Providence, though, and now he instead “feels like he belongs on the team.” In other news, David Krejci is just plain good.

Stephane Yelle anchors a fourth line and adds veteran intangibles along with another quality penalty killer, and it’s a testament to Boston’s center depth that Phil Kessel and Petteri Nokelainen (natural centers before this season) have both slid over to wing positions with good success. Nokelainen continues to win a ridiculous amount of faceoffs that he takes, and is sometimes sliding in to take draws when he skates with Yelle and Shawn Thornton. Vladimir Sobotka similarly proved that he belonged in the NHL last season when he banged bodies, agitated and flashed enough offensive skill to deserve a full-time job in ‘The Show.’ There simply hasn’t been any room for him with Boston this season, but he’s the first center on call if the injury big hits. One of Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli’s goals when he arrived in Boston was to make the Bruins a strong, formidable team up the middle, and he’s done that with at least seven quality center candidates between Boston and the Baby B’s in Providence.

“I think we’€™ve got good depth down the middle. I can tell you there’€™s a guy in Providence right now that is also a real good player in [Vladimir] Sobotka,’ said Julien, referencing a skater that impressed the B’s coach once again during this fall’s training camp and has played well in the AHL. “I think we’€™ve got some real good depth in the middle, and we’€™re pretty happy about that.

“It’€™s been a real key for our club this year, being able to play four lines and feeling comfortable because those guys do a good job down low on our own end,” added Julien. “As you’€™ve seen, I’€™ve put our fourth line against other team’€™s top lines at times and they responded well. That’€™s been a huge help for our hockey club this year having that depth down the middle.”

Cherry calling out Looch, or just Don Being Don?

11.30.08 at 12:25 pm ET
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Don Cherry is always nothing if not outspoken, but did he step over the line and invite the ire of a top-of-the-world Bruins Nation after his weekly edition of Coach’s Corner yesterday evening on Hockey Night in Canada? Grapes was doing his usual eight minutes of hockey bluster thing and going through his observations for the week, and then he stopped to applaud rugged New York Islanders defenseman Brendan Witt.

Cherry gave Witt an attaboy and called him a warrior for taking on “Lucy” when the Isles played the Bruins last weekend. Grapes was pointing out that Witt was showing courage in dancing with Milan Lucic during a blowout loss before a frenzied Garden crowd last Friday, but there seemed to also be a potential dig at Lucic.

Co-Host Ron MacLean quickly corrected Cherry and said Lucic, but it caused me to wonder whether Cherry was purposely mispronouncing Looch after the “L’Affaire Laraque” in Montreal last week. Grapes can sometimes be at a loss for names and bungle anything that doesn’t sound like a name out of the Mississauga phone book, so pure Grapes error is more likely. In fact, Dandy Don butchers at least a couple of names in the Coach’s Corner segment before even getting to Lucic. Cherry has always been complimentary of Looch in the past, and just last week he had a few bon mots for both Marc Savard and Andrew Ference.

All that being said, one has to wonder if there’s any possibility Lucic was using his heightened platform as CBC’s High Priest of Hockey to take a veiled shot at the Big, Bad Looch.

Here’s the video, and you decide whether Cherry’s gaffe was purposeful, or simply his always motoring mouth moving faster than his brain. It should be noted that Cherry later goes on to call Looch a monster, which he most certainly is when he laces up the skates. The Lucic/Witt portion begins around the 6:15 mark of the youtube video:

Read More: Andrew Ference, Boston Bruins, Brendan Witt, Don Cherry

Sounds of the game… Bruins 4, Red Wings 1

11.29.08 at 9:38 pm ET
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Make sure to keep your June open, and not just for the world champion Boston Celtics. The Boston Bruins may be forcing the Green to share the spotlight come late spring. There’s a long, long way to go in the NHL season but the way they handled the defending Stanley Cup champs Saturday night at the Garden made believers of everyone, including the defending champs. The Bruins are right now legitimate Stanley Cup contenders. Our own Joe Haggerty has much more. Here was the reaction from the locker rooms on Saturday.

Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said they hit their stride when they stopped taking penalities.

Marc Savard said the B’s outworked the Red Wings in the third.

Blake Wheeler said this was a measuring stick game.

Dennis Wideman said the Bruins kept the Red Wings out of the middle of the ice.

Chris Osgood said he’s impressed with the Bruins.

Read More: Blake Wheeler, Boston Bruins, Chris Osgood, Dennis Wideman

B’s are too legit to quit

11.29.08 at 6:11 pm ET
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Proving that they’re completely undaunted by the Four Stanley Cup titles captured since 1997, the Bruins weathered the first period storm by the Red Wings and came away with a decisive 4-1 victory over the reigning champs from the Motor City.

The Bruins coaching staff and players stressed before the game that it was important not to stray too distantly from their system — whether they’re playing a gritty, dump-and-chase Eastern Conference also-ran like the New York Islanders or a roster full of puck possession players with otherworldly skills like the Detroit Red Wings — and that the name-of-the-game is to make teams adjust to the Black and Gold Way.

Not the other way around.

The 21st Century Big, Bad B’s can drop the gloves and pound away with the strongest and most ruthless goon-filled opponents; they can play the speed and precision passing games with the European-style teams that favor puck possession and dangle over simply duking it out; and they can be effective against any other style of hockey in between those disparate puck poles. The Bruins finished the month of November with an 11-1-1 record and 23 points, which marks their best month of hockey since they piled up 24 points in December of 1978 with an 11-2-2 record for that month. That, my friends, is the return of Old Time Hockey in Boston.

“It was a great challenge for us, that’s for sure,” said Zdeno Chara. “We know that they’re one of the best teams on the West side and that this would be a good measuring stick for us. We want to play our game, we want to play hard and we did that for most of the game.”

What did Big Z learn about his Bruins team tonight as he wore the Captain’s ‘C’ in the intimidating Back-in-Black third jersey, collected his 7th assist of the season and laid out a pair of hits while constantly reinforcing a pounding, physical presence around the skilled, dainty Wings playmakers?

“That we can beat anybody in this league, and that we can play anybody in this league,” said Chara. “We haven’t done anything and we’ve just beat a few teams. We need to keep pushing forward and we can’t get satisfied with the results we have. We need to keep playing our game and the results will take care of themselves.

“The most important thing for us is that the other team is adjusting to us rather than our team adjusting to them,” added Chara. “Sometimes in a game you make small adjustments, but most of the game we’re playing the system and not changing a whole lot. It’s just a matter of being disciplined and playing your game.”

Above and beyond the time-honored system chatter, the Bruins offense has also become Public Enemy Number One in the upside-down world of goaltending, as they’ve banished two straight starting goaltenders (Joey MacDonald, Ty Conklin) from their comfortable crease during blowout victories at the Garden.

What does that mean?

It means that the Bruins finally proved last night that this nice little 24-game run to start the season isn’t a phase, a hot streak or anything temporary — this edition of the Black and Gold is deep, dangerous and deadly and, barring any injuries, is likely to keep scoring wins and hockey TKOs this season. Having both Andrew Ference and potentially Aaron Ward out with injuries – in addition to post-concussion difficulties that currently have Marco Sturm on the shelf – are certainly posing a legit test of the Bruins and their impressive depth, but it’s hard to imagine anything derailing this hockey train headed for good things. 

They’re Deep and they’re spectacular

Once again the scoresheet was dotted with seven players that enjoyed multiple point games, and featured another banner game from the trio of Michael Ryder, David Krejci and Blake Wheeler.

Ryder showed determination, strength on the puck and plain old offensive chutzpah when he dangled through a pair of defenders with the puck, blazed down the right side of the ice and slid a pass back to a wide open Blake Wheeler for Boston’s initial score. The entire left half of the net was wide open and Wheeler buried a shot in the top left corner for the eighth goal of a banner rookie campaign. The two helpers give Ryder four points in two games since joining up with Krejci and Wheeler — a trend that will likely keep the forwards together if things stay bountiful for the B’s.

“[Ryder] just won two battles, and that’s the name of the game: winning battles,” said Wheeler. “He gave us a 2-on-1 and that’s how you score goals in this league…by winning battles. The last two games Rydes has been awesome and hopefully for the rest of the season this is the guy that you see. Because he’s been really, really, really good.”

Each member of the Krejci/Ryder/Wheeler combo finished the night with a +2 and once again proved that any of the Bruins’ top three lines can strike at any time. Apparently Ryder will have to do some work to make more of an impression on Wings head coach Mike Babcock, however, as the Wings bench boss couldn’t remember the oh-so-anonymous guy that finished with a pair of assists and a +2 against his club when all the ice chips had settled. 

“[The Bruins] have good players.  I think they are starting to come of age.  They have been drafting high for a long time and it starts to show after a period of time,” said Babcock. “That Kessel kid can really fly.  Savard is more committed than he has been in the past.  Lucic is a big body and really skates. 

“I thought that the Krejci line with Wheeler and who was the other guy there on the line tonight?  It doesn’€™t matter any way I thought they were effective against us tonight.  Bergeron is a great two-way player, with Axelsson.  Oh and Ryder was with them mostly.  That’€™s three good lines.”

The single hottest Bruins’ offensive player doesn’t reside on that red-hot line, however. That honor goes to Phil Kessel, who scored Boston’s second goal on a screaming wrist shot from the top of the point in the first period, and marked his ninth consecutive game with at least one point.

That gives Kessel the longest active streak currently going in the NHL, and marks the third-longest point streak in the league this season. Kessel was on a pace to finish with 41 goals and 24 assists before heading into Saturday night’s statement victory, and the lightning-legged youngster continues to give Boston the sniper they’ve longed for since rigor mortis set in on Glen Murray.

Making due without Ward

The Bruins have displayed a breathtaking show of depth over the16-4-4 start, and that’s going to have to continue holding true after another injury hit Saturday night.  Veteran defenseman Aaron Ward exited the game with a leg injury after only three shifts and 3:43 of ice time in the first period. Ward had skated in hard and laid a physical check on Detroit defenseman Derek Meech, and he didn’t return after immediately skating off the ice.

“It’s a leg injury,” said Julien. “You guys all saw when he hit the boards there that he came out limping. There’s not much we can do here. He’ll be evaluated tomorrow and hopefully when we practice on Monday we can give you a better assessment of his injury.”

Ward’s injury forced the Bruins blueline corps to play Iron Man hockey for roughly the last 50 minutes of the hockey game, and — in the words of Dennis WidemanClaude Julien was basically pairing ‘D’ according to “who was sucking the least amount of wind on the bench.”

It’s too early to speculate on the seriousness of Ward’s leg problem, but another Matt Lashoff call-up seems almost automatic after practicing with the team and acting as a healthy scratch up until last Thursday. With Andrew Ference out with a broken right tibia and now Ward potentially gone with a leg injury, the B’s backliners will have to each step up and fill the shot-blocking bravery, physical persona and off-ice leadership that Ward provides on a daily basis.

“[Ward] eats a lot of minutes up and he plays against the other team’s top line,” said Dennis Wideman, who played a Herculean 28:36 of ice time in the win over the cooked Wings. “He’s a good defender and he’s a guy that shuts teams down. He finishes a lot of checks in his own zone and he blocks a ton of shots, and he’s tough to play against. He does a really good job of shutting other team’s down, so obviously somebody else is going to have to step up and do that.

“Of course there’s a challenge if we’re down another D,” added Wideman. “Somebody will be coming up from the minors. Last year we had a lot of injury problems on defense, and Providence does a really good job of getting guys ready to come up here. There’s a lot of skill, and just like when [Matt] Hunwick stepped in when Ference got hurt and did a great job…we expect whoever they call up will do the same.

Manny, Manny, Manny

It seemed somewhat out of place to hear the “Manny, Manny, Manny” chants cascading through the sellout crowd of 17, 565 at the Garden on Saturday night, but Bruins goaltender Manny Fernandez is beginning to feel the same kind of fan affection that’s been showered on Tim Thomas over the last three years. Fernandez made 29 saves and won both ends of back-to-back games — the first time this season that the veteran netminder has been entrusted with both ends of a back-to-backer.

Julien noted how well Fernandez has been playing in giving the former Minnesota Wild ‘tender the start against the Red Wings, but the Boston bench jockey also wanted to give Thomas some time to recover from an illness that bothered him this week. 

“Well me personally, again my teammates the way they’€™ve been playing, I can’€™t say enough- the way they’€™ve been putting it in the net, getting the outside shot, I mean anyone who gets to play on a team like that ‘€“ it’€™s amazing it’€™s an easy game to play,” said Fernandez. “You just concentrate on the first shot and they clear the rebounds and they’€™ve been really effective and they came out really strong tonight.”

Read More: Aaron Ward, Blake Wheeler, Boston Bruins, David Krejci

Felger: Why the Bruins are my team

11.29.08 at 11:31 am ET
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Here’s the weekly Barbara Walters “I’m going to make you cry”/Ron Burgundy “I’m trapped in a glass case of emotion” moment from Mike Felger’s must-read mailbag this week where he opens up about the Bruins, and delves into the unbelievably wholesome reasons why the Black and Gold have always been his hockey team.

Things got a little dusty in the home offices of Pucks with Haggs when the Comcast SportsNet “Mohegan Sun Sports Tonight” host/Boston sports media version of Larry David busted out mention of the table top hockey game, as I had one of the Bruins/Canadiens versions as a youngster as well until my dad, the famed Stump from Stoneham, stepped on and completely crushed the ice surface during a late night, lights out stumble to the bathroom.

Ah, the memories of an angry dad with a throbbing foot and a busted hockey game…anyway, here’s Felger. For those interested, by the way, I’ll be on “Sports Tonight” with Felgie next Thursday to talk Bruins and Red Sox, so set your DVRs to stun.

Also, get your hockey questions ready for me, Felger and any other WEEI personality, or any member of the Boston Bruins organization (within reason, any crazy/offensive/restraining order material questions will be immediately discarded), and I’m going to do my best to get answers for you in the “Pucks With Haggs” Mailbag set to debut next week. Send me good questions at jhaggerty@weei.com, and I’ll get you some good answers…But for now, here’s Felgie

Felger,
Keep up the good work on Comcast reminding everyone on that station (especially Dick…erson) which sport rules in this part of the country. 

People around here play hockey, their kids play hockey, their Dad’s played, and so on.  You don’t see the best college basketball programs, or team USA for that matter, littered with Mass/New England guys like in hockey.

The Bruins crush the Celtics in the ratings, even in championship seasons like last year. You’re the berries, Felger. Stay strong, and get that Montreal Canadians-loving Tanguay to talk some more Bruins with you!
Dan Gorman

A: A couple of things.

 

1. The Bruins used to win the ratings battle with the C’s, but not recently. Last Friday, for example, the teams went head-to-head, with the C’s-Timberwolves drawing a 4.4 and Bruins-Panthers earning a 2.1. If the Bruins start contending for titles again, those numbers will certainly tighten, but the B’s aren’t there yet.

 

2. Yes, I am the berries.

 

And 3. It’s taken no time at all for my latent Bruins chronic-ness to come frothing to the surface. I can’t help it. That team is in my blood like no other around here. Why is that, you ask?…..What, you didn’t ask? Too bad.

 

Here’s my story: Of course, it comes from childhood. Growing up and playing hockey as a kid in Milwaukee, I had no team, so I had to pick one. The Bruins were it. It all stems from a table hockey game my father bought us when I was six. My brother was the Canadiens and I was the Bruins. That’s all it took. My family would go see the B’s in Chicago at the old stadium, the greatest hockey building ever, through the 70′s (I remember being at an overtime win in the playoffs in 1978 — either Park or McNabb with the game-winner).

We watched on TV when we could, which was sparingly in those days. Anyway, I think if you’re a true fan, the teams you rooted for when you were young (call it 13 and younger) are the teams you are stuck on for life. If you change allegiances, even after moving to a particular city, you’re a fraudulent sports fan. Or a chick (sorry, girls).

For example: I like the Red Sox. They are an interesting team to cover and I want them to do well. But they’re my second-favorite team. If they ever played the Brewers in the World Series, it wouldn’t even be a choice in my mind. And that’s even though I’ve lived in Boston (20 years and counting), longer than I did Milwaukee (16 years).

Same thing goes for the Celtics. They’re a likable team, and it’s good for the league that they’re on top again. But I was at the MECCA all those years in the 80′s when the Bucks had their hearts ripped out by Larry Bird. So I see that green uniform and I can’t help but feel some animosity. Still. I can’t help it. If I felt any different I wouldn’t be a real fan.

I wouldn’t expect any of you to move to Detroit and suddenly start rooting for the Pistons, would I? I don’t care how long you lived there. You couldn’t do it. This is the world according to Felger. Why am I telling you this? I have no idea. Back to the point: I’m glad the Bruins are good again.

Bruins turn Islanders into carved-up turkeys

11.28.08 at 4:14 pm ET
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What are all the inflammatory Bruins-haters going to point to now that the easy-to-slam punching bag — after a strong two-goal performance in a 7-2 win for the Bruins over the Islanders – isn’t quite such a stationary target any more?

Easily satisfied critics searching for something with a little juice have gone hard after winger Michael Ryder since he entered the Black and Gold fold this off-season, and things only got worse when the Bruins took off as a team — while leaving Ryder behind in a sad little cloud of ice chips. The Bruins piled up a 9-1-1 record during the month of November heading into Friday afternoon’s tilt against the New York Islanders, but Ryder’s mad bomber wrist shot managed only one goal during those 12 days of team hockey dominance.

“When they want you to score and that is the role they see you in, it can be tough when you’€™re not scoring,” said Ryder, who had the grin of a man that had just shed a 30-pound monkey off his shoulders. “I just need to make sure I keep going to the net and shooting pucks and eventually they will start going in.” 

The unforgiving cold metal of the red pipe and the lighting-fast action of a goalie’s gloves had become the bane of Ryder’s puck existence while the righty shooter accumulated only three goals in his first 22 games. 

Ryder was inked to a three-year contract this summer — amid criticism that the Bruins were wasting money on a disappointment fleeing from Montreal and Canadiens’ coach Guy Carbonneau’s “maison de chien” – with the idea that he would fire goal-scoring wristers in bunches for the Spoked B’s, and it was the one glaring thing that really wasn’t clicking at overwhelming capacity during Boston’s storybook first two months.

He was certainly playing good two-way hockey and getting himself involved physically, passing the puck and firing away at the net with impunity from his customary happy zones around the net (Ryder is second on the team with 66 shots fired this season), but he wasn’t lighting the lamp and he wasn’t getting it done on the power play. Sensing it was time to shake things up with a player he’s coached at the junior, minor league and pro level, B’s coach Claude Julien once again pushed the perfect buttom at the precisely correct moment. He lifted Ryder off the first power play unit in favor of the active, rugged Chuck Kobasew, and he played the former Habs forward on a line with crafty centerman David Krejci and rookie wonderboy Blake Wheeler.

Problem solved…that was easy.

The kids apparently sparked the 28-year-old Ryder, who potted a pair of goals in the drubbing of the Islanders during their traditional day-after-Thanksgiving matinee at the TD Banknorth Garden. The first was a thing of hockey beauty as it came after a bad Islanders turnover in their own zone. An errant New York outlet pass ended smack dab on the blade of Ryder’s stick and he simply took a step in, fired a wrist shot at the top right corner of the cage and beat netminder Joey MacDonald under the crossbar. The goal was officially ruled an unassisted tally for Ryder, but Krejci was a big factor as he jumped up and screened the Isles goalie directly in front of the net as the puck careened toward the goal.

The second goal was a protypical Ryder strike with the forward’s quick release and dead-shot accuracy on display as he whistled a shot from the high slot that beat Isles rookie goalie Peter Mannino’s glove hand.

“[Ryder's scoring] means more depth obviously in that area. We know that one of his strengths is scoring goals and we like him to play to his strengths,” said Julien.”We’€™ve been saying for numerous weeks now that he’€™s had some great chances, it’€™s not from lack of trying, or from lack of work.

“I think he was snakebitten, personally, for a while. But at the same time he was still playing other parts of the game really well, he was being physical, strong on the boards, good defensively,” added Julien. “You can jump on a guy for one dimension of his game but you also have to recognize the other things he’€™s been doing.”

It is uncanny that both Ryder and Marco Sturm squelched their offensive struggles almost immediately after being getting in touch with the deft offensive instincts displayed by Krejci throughout the early going.

It’s a hockey fun fact that wasn’t at all lost on Julien.

“Whoever you put [David] Krejci with it seems to get them going so he’€™s done a great job and whether that’€™s intentional or not, Sturmy [Marco Sturm] started scoring goals, now we’€™ve got [Michael] Ryder,” said Julien, who watched Ryder, Wheeler and Krejci each pile up a +3 after an afternoon’s worth of hockey. “We’€™ve got Koby [Chuck Kobasew] also scoring on Bergy’€™s [Patrice Begeron] line, so we got scoring from our different lines tonight and that was good to see as well.”

The only problem with Ryder’s goal-scoring binge? Those easy-to-please critics will have to find something shiny and new to rail on now that the goal-scoring punching bag is no more.

 Foes are impressed

The Bruins and their 15-4-4 start are obviously beginning to pry open unbelieving eyes all over the world of the National Hockey League, and they’re duly impressing alumni that have since moved on to other NHL barns. Old Friend Bill Guerin was leading a scrappy Islanders squad that visited the Garden yesterday, and he came away a believer when it comes to a Big, Bad B’s squad that’s trampling the Eastern Conference like an in-his-prime Godzilla stomped all over Tokyo.

“[The Bruins] played great tonight.  They have a scary combination: they’€™ve got size and talent,” said Guerin, who was stoned by goalie Manny Fernandez on a breakway attempt in the third period that became a huge momentum-shifting turning point during the game.  “A lot of their big guys have real good talent to go along with it.  You don’€™t see that a lot.  They have got a lot of tough players to play against.  Everybody on their team does something.  They had a good game today.  You have to tip your hat to them.” 

Strong words from a Massachusetts-born veteran forward that tallied 66 points for a 2001-02 Bruins squad and finished the regular season with 101 points and the Eastern Conference’s best record that season. Of course, the B’s also fell tragically in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs that season, but we won’t be making big mention of that.

Deep is the Word

The Bruins debuted their “Black Friday” third jerseys during Friday’s noontime tilt against the New York Islanders, and the skaters responded by finishing with an amazing seven players notching multiple-point games. Ryder finished with the aforementioned two goals, and Dennis Wideman, Blake Wheeler, Krejci, Matt Hunwick, Phil Kessel and Marc Savard all finished Friday’s afternoon beatdown with two points apiece on the full scoresheet.

“That’€™s the perfect world for any team when you can throw any line out there and you have confidence that they’€™re going to be successful and that’€™s kind of been the staple of our team this year,” said Wheeler, who potted a goal and squeezed off two shots in another strong game for the first-year player in 11:22 of ice time. “That we have four lines that can pretty much cycle through all four of them and they’€™re going to go out there and ge the job done and that’€™s the biggest testament to our success this year.”

 Looch Celebrates a Milestone

Milan Lucic played in his 100th game as a Boston Bruin Friday afternoon, and he came up just a goal short of the elusive Gordie Howe Hat Trick against the down-and-out Isles. Looch made a nice backhand pass that set up Phil Kessel’s 12th goal of the season in the waning moments of the third period, and — of course — the butt-kicking, brawny Bruins winger dropped the gloves with Islanders Big Guy Brendan Witt in the immediate aftermath of a Dennis Wideman scored that had made it a 5-1 hockey game.

Here’s the post-Thanksgiving Lucic/Witt fisticuffs courtesy of youtube, with a fairly close judge’s scorecard decision going to the Big, Bad Looch:

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