|09.30.10 at 7:35 am ET|
BELFAST — The European trip to kick off the Bruins’ 2010-11 season can be viewed as being about a lot of things. From seeing new places to seeing unfamiliar teams in preseason and getting a good deal of team bonding in, there are plenty of story lines that run congruent with the team’s 10-day trip. Just days away from the Bruins’ exhibition game with the Belfast Giants in Northern Ireland, one player comes to mind for embracing his family ties and soaking up the tradition. That player, of course, is Shawn Thornton, but should there be more?
Thornton’s mother, born in Belfast, flew in on Wednesday to stay with her cousin while her son is in town. Given all the excitement throughout his relatives, the veteran forward is expecting 20 family members to both show him around and attend Saturday’s game. Reallocation of the players’ tickets certainly came into play as a result.
“There’s a lot of guys who did not need tickets for this game. Thank God,” Thornton said with a smile. “I’ve got the most.”
Yet while Thornton is eager to see family members, some of whom he’s never met, there’s another Irish relative he’s excited for, and one Bruins fans might be a little more familiar with: Quebec’s own Patrice Bergeron.
“My grandfather was born in Northern Ireland. He came over a long time ago with his parents. It’s been a long time, but it’s going to be pretty special to go there,” Bergeron said of the surprising bloodlines.
Born and raised in Quebec and a star of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League as a teenager, there isn’t much about Bergeron’s upbringing or time in the game that screams “Northern Ireland.” Though Bergeron isn’t sure if he actually still has any relatives in the area, Thornton can assure him that he has at least one.
“I mean, we’re Irish brothers,” Thornton said. “I call him Patrick Cleary, not Patrice Bergeron, so we’re probably related back from back there at some point.”
And thus perhaps the most unlikeliest of connections, even by sarcasm’s standards, is made. Both players are Canadian-born, of course, and neither have been to Belfast before. Though they’ll be there for just three days before departing for Prague on Sunday, the anticipation isn’t lost on either of them.
“It will be good to see some family,” Thornton said. “I’ve met some of them — they used to come over and visit my grandmother over time — so it will be good to see them again and hopefully get some local knowledge of the city.”
Bergeron, whose father’s last name actually is Cleary, is definitely excited for the trip, though it’s unlikely he’ll play the role as resident Belfast expert like Thornton hopes he will. Asked if he and Bergeron would embrace the culture heavily through the wearing of scally caps to truly reflect their Irish heritage, Thornton didn’t hide mask his pride a bit.
“I’ve got tons of them. We’re going to look for some while we’re over there, but I’ll be bringing a few just in case,” he said.”
Especially in the case of Prague, many players have some places in mind when it comes to sight-seeing. Bergeron spoke of how beautiful he found the city when he last played there in 2004 representing Canada in the World Championships.
For the Belfast leg of the trip, Thornton has put forth an effort in looking up interesting spots to take teammates during the team’s three days in Northern Ireland. That doesn’t mean he still won’t rely heavily on the natives in his family to direct him.
“I’m sure I don’t retain as much information as I should when I [research places], so I’ll probably just play it by ear when I get over there,” Thornton said. “I’ve got aunts and uncles that will be taking me around. I’m sure their knowledge of it is better than what I can find on Wikipedia.”
|09.29.10 at 10:35 pm ET|
And finally, it’s off to Europe.
The 24 hours leading up to Wednesday night’s red-eye, 5 1/2-hour flight to Belfast, couldn’t have been more hectic for the Bruins.
They played Tuesday night in Washington and lost to the Capitals, 3-2, in a tense game that featured third-period rough-housing between Gregory Campbell and Alexander Ovechkin.
They hopped on a plane and had to come to Boston for the team’s annual media day Wednesday morning.
They then went home to finish up packing for a 12-day trip to Europe and came back to play the same Capitals team at TD Garden.
So it was hardly a surprise that in their final North American preseason tuneup before getting on a plane for Belfast, Ireland and their season opener on Oct. 9 in Prague, the Bruins dropped a 4-1 decision to the Capitals.
Tim Thomas saw his first action of the preseason and played all 60 minutes, allowing four goals on 24 shots. Niklas Backstrom scored the first two goals before the Capitals built their lead to 4-0 early in the third period.
Mark Recchi scored his first of the preseason midway through the third on a power play, with assists from Patrice Bergeron and Michael Ryder. The Bruins left immediately after the game for Logan Airport, where they caught a charter flight to Belfast. They will play an elite area team in Ireland on Oct. 3 before opening with the Phoenix Coyotes in a pair of games Oct. 9 and 10.
The Bruins finished their NHL portion of preseason with a 1-3-1 mark, while the Capitals, who did not travel superstar Alexander Ovechkin to Boston, remained perfect at 4-0-0 in preseason.
|09.29.10 at 8:34 pm ET|
With the second period wrapped up at the Garden, a couple of things have stood out that may be worth keeping an eye on in the Bruins’ final period of regulation before they depart for Belfast.
One thing that could easily be counted was the number of power play opportunities the Bruins had. That was four. The team applied good pressure on Capitals goalie Braden Holtby and moved the puck well for the most part, though some of their scoring opportunities were broken up by either blocked shots or one too many passes.
The number that is difficult to pinpoint is just how many times the Bruins either seemed to have beaten/fooled Holtby, tied in with how many times the Capitals netminder was badly out of position and didn’t pay for it. The team’s best opportunity of the period came when Nathan Horton fired a hard wrist shot past Holtby only to see it clank off the post.
The Capitals added a tally in the second, a Nicklas Backstrom redirect past Tim Thomas for the Washington captain’s second of the night.
Blake Wheeler collided with Holtby late in the period and immediately left the ice and walked down the tunnel, though he turned around and returned to the bench.
|09.29.10 at 7:43 pm ET|
Tim Thomas faced six shots and stopped five as Nicklas Backstrom beat the veteran goaltender on a one-timer in front of the net midway through the period.
With teammate Tuukka Rask in sweats up in the press box halo looking on, Thomas looked solid, if not spectacular in his first preseason action this fall.
The Bruins managed just five shots on Capitals netminder Dany Sabourin.
The highlight of the period came two seconds in when Bruins center Gregory Campbell dropped the gloves with Capitals center Matt Hendricks. Just 24 hours earlier, Cambell got into it with Alexander Ovechkin as the two exchanged pleasantries at the Verizon Center.
Ovechkin cross-checked Campbell, who later came back at Ovechkin with a hard hit into the boards. The rough stuff continued and escalated in the third period.
Ovechkin didn’t make the trip so Hendricks was the stand-in and delivered the message at the earliest possible moment – the opening face-off.
As for the most anticipated talent in these parts since Joe Thornton, Tyler Seguin centered the line with Blake Wheeler and Michael Ryder. He played 5 minutes, 13 seconds and didn’t get a shot on goal. He was on the ice for the Backstrom goal and finished the period with a -1.
|09.29.10 at 5:47 pm ET|
A night after the Bruins kept some of their stars out the lineup on the road, the Capitals are doing the same on Wednesday at TD Garden. Here’s the Capitals’ roster for Wednesday night:
Forwards: Matt Bradley, Boyd Gordon, Eric Fehr, Nicklas Backstrom, Jason Chimera, Matt Hendricks, David Steckel, Steve Pinizzotto, Andrew Gordon, Jay Beagle, Matthieu Perreault, Marcus Johansson
Defensemen: John Erskine, Karl Alzner, Brian Fahey, Jeff Schultz, John Carlson, Tyler Sloan
Goaltenders: Dany Sabourin, Braden Holtby
The Bruins forward lines are as follows:
The defensive pairings are Zdeno Chara with Dennis Seidenberg, Andrew Ference with Johnny Boychuk, and Matt Hunwick with Matt Bartkowski. In net for the Bruins is Tim Thomas, who is seeing his first preseason action.
|09.29.10 at 4:17 pm ET|
This summer, it came to light that the Bruins were among the teams accused by the league of circumventing the salary cap with the signing of Marc Savard to a seven-year, $28.5 million deal. Though the deal was structured so that the latter years of the deal carried lower salaries and thus brought the overall cap hit down, it does not go past his 40th birthday and seemed to be a far cry from the 17-year Ilya Kovalchuk deal that was rejected before being tinkered with and finally accepted in an agreement that dropped the Savard investigation.
“I think they threw out a wide net and tried to be as inclusive as possible of everyone that they thought had extended contracts,” Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs said. “Whether they thought it was fair or not, I don’t know, but I didn’t feel there was any problem with it. If we have to stand scrutiny, that’s what we have to do.
“I think all the contracts have to be looked at that way, and at least from Boston’s standpoint, I think the commissioner made a valued judgement on this and I think clearly the arbitrator agreed on the Kovalchuk one, so he was right there, but fortunately he put an end to it. It was a very expensive situation, though.”
As for how the team will approach deals in the future, even with the NHLPA and the league reaching an agreement to prevent future circumvention, Jacobs noted that there’s still plenty of reason to be cautious with contracts and how they fit within the CBA.
“I think Boston is going to be a lot more sensitive to that,” Jacobs said. “Boston’s going to be very aware of the circumvention areas, and there’s a lot of things that can go into that terminology, circumvention. We’re sensitive to it.”
Jacobs had a few other interesting comments during his media scrum, with the Rangers’ demotion of Wade Redden bringing up the possibility of the Bruins sending a big-money player to the AHL when Marco Sturm and Marc Savard return from long-term injured reserve.
|09.29.10 at 12:29 pm ET|
The Bruins made six more cuts from camp on Wednesday, sending Joe Colborne, Zach Hamill, Steven Kampfer, Jeff LoVecchio, Jeremy Reich, and Wyatt Smith have been assigned to Providence. Though Colborne was expected to require some more seasoning in the AHL anyway, the move to send Hamill down significantly narrows down the team’s options regarding the third-line center.
“It wasn’t easy,” coach Claude Julien said of sending the former eighth overall pick to Providence. “Zach is a player that has progressed every year so far, and he’s getting there. For him, maybe it’s a disappointment, but for us, we were really impressed with how much he’s gotten better over the course of the few years. He’s pretty close, and to the point where I don’t think as a coach I’d even hesitate to give him a call and use him because there’s going to be some injuries.
“All he has to do is go to Providence and continue to show that he’s a good player and try and be as dominate a player as he can down there. If he has a good season, there’s no reason to believe that he wouldn’t be back. ”
With the competition seemingly down to second overall pick Tyler Seguin and Blake Wheeler, Claude Julien indicated Wednesday that Seguin may be the preference, though the team will get looks at both players in the three final preseason games. Seguin will center a line with Michael Ryder and Wheeler vs. the Capitals on Wednesday at TD Garden.
“I think it’s getting clearer. Obviously, with Colborne and Hamill being gone, there’s a bit of a competition in a way to see who’s going to end up there. We’d like to see Tyler play in that position tonight and really give him that chance. We know he can play the wing, we’ve seen him play the wing with some players, and be pretty successful, so more than likely you’re going to see him [at center] and we’ll see how he handles it tonight, especially against a Washington team that is usually a pretty good team. If not, we’ve got a couple of preseason games over in Europe where we can rotate him and Blake in and out.”
Here is the rest of the roster for the game:
Goaltenders: Nolan Schaefer, Tim Thomas
It is expected that Thomas will start in net on Wednesday night. It will be his first preseason action.