|01.13.09 at 1:56 pm ET|
Here’s a transcript from an NHL-sponsored Conference Call that the league held with Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas in anticipation of the NHL All-Star Game next weekend in Montreal. Thomas tackles a number of subjects including his long and storied path toward NHL stardom as well as the match-up against the Canadiens looming tonight.
It should be noted that — as he has all season — Thomas deflected questions about his contract status and progress he may or may not be making on a contract extension with the Black and Gold. It should also be noted that TT gives a great shout-out to New Bedford Standard Times hockey writer and FOH (Friend of Haggs) in the last few questions of call. Here’s Timmy:
Q. I’m sure nothing can compare to your first selection, but the success of the team this year, does that give you any more satisfaction to go this time?
TIM THOMAS: Yeah, it does. First of all, the selection is nice, too. Like last year I was kind of a replacement, so this one is nice because I was picked outright. But second of all, you know, when you can go there and you’re the team that everyone’s looking up to this year, that everybody’s chasing, it definitely gives you a little bit of inner confidence.
Q. You were a late replacement last year. I know that affected some family vacation plans. Did it knock out anything this time?
TIM THOMAS: No, no. Nope, I didn’t plan anything this year just in case. Was just going to kind of take it as it went.
Q. Regarding the Canadiens, you had a couple of big wins close together earlier this season. They’ve been coming on lately, getting their game together. This seems like old times now with you and them. I’m wondering about your perspective toward playing MontrÃ©al when both teams are hot right now.
TIM THOMAS: Well, I don’t know. At this point of the year I think you kind of have to treat every game the same as you would any other game. Now, having said that, you know it’s MontrÃ©al, and we do have a history. They’re exciting games and stuff.
But I think as much as possible, I think the mood in the locker room, you have to be ready to show up and do the same things you’ve been having success with all year long, and the things you’ve been having success with against the MontrÃ©al Canadiens this year also.
Q. Is that amplified by the fact when you guys had such a bad time with MontrÃ©al last season, a lot of it was because you just saved up your worst for them?
TIM THOMAS: Maybe we were a little bit too nervous, and then we got sick of it and we actually tried too hard. Then we got mad, and we got so mad that we took too many penalties. I think that’s more what I’m referring to, is that we made the game into too big of a deal possibly last year.
Yes, it’s an important game, but it shouldn’t be so important that it takes you out of your style of game. We should play them the same way we played against the Red Wings, the same way we’ve played the MontrÃ©al Canadiens twice this year. I think the playoff series helped a lot.
Q. Last year was your first full year with the Bruins. Before that you had sort of shuttled back and forth between Boston and Providence.
TIM THOMAS: It was my second full year. This year is my third full year.
Q. I’m saying last year was your first year that you spent the full year with the Bruins.
TIM THOMAS: No, it was the year before. I played 66 games the year before.
Q. Where have you come from? What are some of the things that are going well for you now?
TIM THOMAS: Well, I think I’ve said this before, but it isn’t like I’ve appeared out of nowhere. The whole time I was hiding in plain sight. I mean, I was a two-time All-American in college. I won a championship in Finland at age 23. I’ve had a really good record in the AHL.
During the lockout year in Finland with at least five other NHL goalies in the league, I was the No. 1 goalie in the league that year in Finland with 15 shutouts out of 54 games played. In my mind it isn’t like I’m playing better than I played in my whole career. It’s kind of me continuing. Now, do I think I’ve gotten a little bit better in the past few years, of course.
But I’ve tried to get better every year in my career. It wasn’t like I went from a guy who couldn’t play street hockey to playing in the NHL. That’s my point. I’ve just kind of been there all along, plugging along. Just with goalies, for you to get your chance it’s much harder because there’s much fewer positions. It just took me a long time to get my chance.
Q. How has Claude Julien’s system sort of helped you out? How have you benefited from the system he put in?
TIM THOMAS: Well, I think playing with the same team for a couple years in a row, now this is the second year with the coach, but even last year, he just comes in and he lets everybody know what they’re supposed to be doing. It sounds like such a simple thing, but it’s overlooked.
You’d be surprised at how many systems there are, hockey systems, where the players really don’t know what they’re supposed to be doing. He’s made that very clear, what it is that each individual on the ice is supposed to be doing. That makes it much easier for a goaltender because I know where my D are supposed to be, I know which guy is supposed to be going to get that guy. It’s not perfect; it’s hockey.
Something may happen to where it doesn’t always work out as planned and then we have to improvise. Knowing in my zone on the ice where all of my guys are supposed to be, it helps out a goalie. I know kind of where most of the chances are going to be coming from.
Q. You just talked about the system. Let’s talk about the people plugged into the system. Aaron Ward, excellent defenseman. Andrew Ference, same thing. Matt Hunwick, Shane Hnidy did a great job. Can you talk about the kind of depth on the team, what kind of confidence booster that is?
TIM THOMAS: Well, not just the defense, but at forward we’ve had incredible depth. When people have gotten down, other people have gotten the chance and they’ve stepped up and did a great job. I mean, as a team I think we’re fortunate those guys have stepped up and been able to play such key roles. I think that’s a credit to Matt Hunwick and Shane Hnidy, and Matt Lashoff has gotten his chance.
Q. Next year is an Olympic year. I saw where you played in World Championships in ’93, ’99, ’05 and ’08.
TIM THOMAS: There’s one other, too. ’01 or something. Five times.
Q. You can look at yourself right now in the statistics page of NHL.com and see you’re right there at the top of All-American goalies and nearly all goalies in the world. What would it mean for you to have a chance to play for the United States in Vancouver next year?
TIM THOMAS: It would be awesome. I mean, my dream since I was five years old wasn’t to play in the NHL, it was to play in the Olympics. The 1980 Olympics was the end of my five years old, I would have been turning six right afterwards. It made a huge impression on my life.
Jim Craig was basically the reason I started to play goalie or certainly cemented the fact that I wanted to play goalie, from watching him at those Olympics. I mean, it’s something I’ve been thinking about since age five when I was playing street hockey or pond hockey. I was thinking about the Olympics really, not the NHL, because in Michigan we didn’t get all that much coverage of the NHL. It would be huge. It would be a huge honor. I hope I get the chance.
Q.Part of playing in the All-Star Game isn’t all that serious. It’s fun to be there, fun to be honored. Sometimes these scores get into the double-digits. What is it like to be a goalie in the All-Star Game when you have matador defense, all kinds of great passing.
TIM THOMAS: Well, you got to keep in mind that they’re gonna score. These are the best scorers in the world. Actually, you know, they’re some of the best D in the world there, too. They’re probably not going to be blocking as many shots and stuff like that. Having been there, playing in the third period, I happened to get in during a tight part of game.
I think actually I was fortunate enough to have a little bit better defense than a couple of the other goalies had, the way it worked out. But it’s still fun. It’s even more of a challenge. Last year I think I was a little bit nervous. I had a great time, enjoyed myself. But I was a little bit nervous being on that stage. I think this year I’ll enjoy it probably even more because I think I’ll be able to relax a little bit more, soak it in a little bit better.
Q. How has Manny being around for the full season helped or changed your approach or mindset, both in terms of maybe knowing you don’t have to carry the load for 70 games and also him not just being the type of guy who goes in every four or five games to provide a rest, that he’s sort of a better caliber goalie than that?
TIM THOMAS: Well, I’ve been fortunate enough over the years to have had good relationships with lots of goaltenders that I played with. I’ve actually played kind of in tandem like this with Raycroft like this in Providence, where we both pretty much played half and half.
I did get used to it then. For a few years I haven’t played in a goaltending tandem like that. Last year we had Alex Auld. He was great, took a lot of the pressure off of me. But I still played more games percentage-wise than I’m playing this year. What I’m saying is I have had experience playing in a tandem like this before. B
ut the good thing about playing with Manny this year is we’re pretty much the same age with pretty much the same experience level. We’ve been able to help each other out, ’cause through a season, players don’t always have their A games. When that happens, I think as goaltenders we can see it in each other. We either settle each other down if that needs to be or kind of try to fire each other up if that’s what needs to happen. I think we’ve done a pretty good job of that this year.
Q.I know you’re sort of focused on the here and now, but have there been any talks with your representatives and the Bruins specifically wanting to stay in Boston versus there’s probably going to be a few teams out there who would want to give you a big raise this summer when you become a free agent?
TIM THOMAS: Mick Colageo, he was on the conference call earlier. He can attest to this. Basically this whole year I’ve been going on a blanket no statement on anything relating to that area. Sorry.
Q. You said earlier that you need to treat tomorrow’s game as if it was any other game. Since the Canadiens are your northeast rival, do you see that game as a four-point game or is it too early to think about a northeast title or an Eastern Conference title?
TIM THOMAS: We always look at people we’re playing in our division as four-point games. That hasn’t specifically been brought up against MontrÃ©al this time, but it might be mentioned in the coaches meeting in the morning.
We definitely look at it this way because it’s just the way it works out. It’s different than playing, say, a Western Conference team because the points mean more. Maybe I should have said we got to treat it like any other division game. Maybe that would have been better.
|01.13.09 at 12:38 pm ET|
There’s always a bit more life in the catacombs of the Old Garden when the Montreal Canadiens are in town for a Northeast Division showdown, and that’s again the case this morning on Causeway Street. The Habs are looking for revenge after a pair of beat downs in their last two epic games against each other, and the B’s are beginning to really deal with some roster and depth issues as the injury/illness bug continues to creep up and crawl through the team.
–Center Patrice Bergeron again skated before practice this morning — along with Andrew Ference and Milan Lucic — and that makes three consecutive days that the 23-year-old has laced up the skates and got the heart rate up and the blood pumping without any evidence of headache or setback.
This is music to ears of the Bruins’ fan base and, more importantly, to Bergeron himself.
“It’s great to be back out on the ice. I’m very happy,” said Bergeron, who pumped his heart rate up to 155-160 on the bike before he was cleared to get back on skates. “When I talked to you guys the other day
I didn’t know it was going to be that quick. It’s just skating for now and taking some shots and we’ll see further on. It’s just good to be back and a relief that I have a chance to skate again.
“I don’t want to have any setbacks, so we’re taking it slowly and surely,” added Bergeron. “If I feel good, then I feel good.
–Bruins coach Claude Julien had Martin St. Pierre and Milan Lucic both alternating turns with Chuck Kobasew and Marc Savard on the B’s top line during the morning skate and it really appears to be a mix-and-match game for Claude Julien with Phil Kessel removed from the lineup for the near-future. Lucic is a game-time decision with his undisclosed injury after sailing through the morning skate, but — either way — there won’t be a much-anticipated bought between Looch and Big George Laraque with the Habs’ enforcer out of the lineup tonight.
Facing the loss of 21-year-old star forward Phil Kessel to mononucleosis for a minimum of 2-4 weeks while also balancing significant injuries to Marco Sturm and Patrice Bergeron, Bruins coach Claude Julien said that the Bruins will do what they’ve always done best: survive.
“He’s no different than any of the guys that we’ve lost [to injury] so far,” said B’s coach Claude Julien, whose team will face a highly motivated Montreal Canadiens squad tonight at the TD Banknorth Garden. “Every time you lose key players like that it’s a big loss. But we’ve had a lot of practice with it, especially last year. We survived it, and we’ll survive it again.
“We have to rely on the guys at our disposal to play solidly and to play well.”
–The search for Manny’s name plate ended at the Garden this morning as it stood there firmly in place along with his mask and all of the rest of his equipment in the Boston dressing room. Julien said that Fernandez is dealing with, as GM Peter Chiarelli confirmed yesterday, “general soreness” and something “very minor” that has the veteran puckstopper currently on day-to-day status.
No word on the whereabouts of his much-discussed Ristuccia Arena name plate, but there appears to be a burgeoning request by the Bruins Faithful to have it appear on EBay – and available to the tip-top bidder — after a wee little piece of laminated paper with the goalie’s name on it sparked an avalanche of message board trade rumors on the great HFBoards yesterday afternoon.
“Hopefully we’ll see him on the ice tomorrow. That really is the situation with Manny,” said Julien, attempting to close the case of the ‘tender name plate.
|01.12.09 at 9:52 pm ET|
With Marco Sturm and Patrice Bergeron already on the shelf with injuries, the injured reserve list grew by one yesterday when Phil Kessel was put on the shelf with mononucleosis. The illness is believed to be about a month-long recovery process from the high-scoring winger with a team-high 24 goals, and leaves the B’s with a gaping hole on their top line.
The B’s brass has been resolute in their desire to fill any roster vacancies with in-house solutions, and — truth be told — things didn’t seem all that bad when it was simply Sturm and Bergeron on the injured reserve. The B’s have won all season with Sturm alternating between an ice-cold start to his season and injuries that nagged at him all winter long leading up to the knee issue. In Bergeron’s case, he’s laced up the skates and made it out on the ice and is weeks away — rather than months from a return to game action.
But there isn’t anybody capable of replacing a potential 40-goal scorer in Kessel over the next month when the Black and Gold will play 13 games and head into the stretch run prior to the playoffs. A large B’s cushion in both the Northeast Division and the Eastern Conference will allow them some patience in trying out some Providence Wanna-B’s — but the need for a trade may become an inevitability.
After playing in all 82 regular season games last season, Kessel skated in all 42 games this season and has potted a team-high 24 goals and added 17 assists. His 24 goals rank tied for third in the entire NHL and
he owns the longest point streak in the league, having accumulated points in 18 consecutive games from November 13-December 21, 2008.
Boston’s first round pick (5th overall) in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, the 21-year-old Kessel has recorded 54-53=107 totals in 194 career NHL games. He had played in 167 straight regular season games, dating back to January 9, 2007.
Along with Kessel’s trip to the injured reserve, the B’s assigned both South Boston native Kevin Regan and defenseman Matt Lashoff back to Providence and called both center Martin St. Pierre and Tuukka Rask back up to Boston. The move appears to be an admission that the “minor issue” involving Manny Fernandez won’t be sufficiently resolved by tomorrow night’s game against the Canadiens, but — then again — that situation seems to keep changing by the minute.
|01.12.09 at 10:42 am ET|
Just days after Patrice Bergeron vowed to return to the Bruins this season, the 23-year-old center skated on the ice at Ristuccia Arena for roughly a half-hour this morning. There’s still no timetable on Bergeron’s return, but getting back on the ice is a significant step in Bergeron’s progress. The B’s center also skated briefly yesterday as well. Bergeron was joined by Shane Hnidy — with a visor attached to his helmet protecting the still-massive shiner on his left eye — as well as Milan Lucic, Aaron Ward and Andew Ference for some turns on the practice ice before the rest of the team conducted regular practice.
–Julien also indicated that Manny Fernandez wasn’t on the ice today, and is dealing with a minor injury “issue”. Julien indicated that Fernandez won’t be a scratch for tomorrow, and that likely means Kevin Regan’s one-day dress rehearsal with the Bruins will have him back down in Providence tomorrow. The sheer mathematics of a Boy Goaltender from Southie coming up with enough game tickets to satiate family and friends is mind-blowing. Then add in the fact that it’s against the hated Habs. I simply can’t wrap my simpleton journalistic head around it.
For what it’s worth, Fernandez’s nameplate was also missing from its usual location within the Ristuccia Arena dressing room this morning — which should send Bruins conspiracy theorists into orbit. Kevin Regan was moved into the vacant locker in between Tim Thomas and Fernandez, and it looked as if Fernandez’s nameplate had been yanked from its spot. Could mean nothing, or it could mean that the wheels are in full spin toward dealing Manny Fernandez for a top flight defenseman or for some help/healthy bodies at forward. Stay tuned.
|01.12.09 at 7:29 am ET|
Boston Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli announced today that the club has recalled goaltender Kevin Regan from the Providence Bruins (American Hockey League) on an emergency basis. Regan will join the club today and practice with the team at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington at 10:30 a.m. in place of injured goaltender Manny Fernandez.
Fernandez appears to be out for today’s practice with what coach Claude Julien termed a “minor thing”.
Regan, a South Boston native, has appeared in 14 games this season for Providence and posted a 6-4-1 record with a 3.33 Goals Against Average and .875 save percentage. Regan played four years at the University of New Hampshire from 2004-2008, finishing as the Wildcats’ all-time leader in wins and the only goaltender in school history to record back-to-back 20 win seasons. His 2007-2008 honors included a unanimous selection as Hockey East Player of the Year, finalist for the Hobey Baker Award for the nation’s top collegiate player, First Team All-American, Fist Team All-Hockey East and the Walter Brown Award as the top American-born player in New England.
He made his professional debut lat year with the Providence Bruins at the conclusion of his college season and earned a 3-0 shutout on April 12, 2008 against Manchester.
The 24-year-old Regan was drafted by the Bruins in the ninth round (277th overall) in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.
The Bruins conclude their six game homestand Tuesday night, January 13, against the Montreal Canadiens at 7:00 p.m. ET.
|01.10.09 at 10:35 pm ET|
Rookie Blake Wheeler is going to be in Montreal two weeks from now at the NHL All-Star weekend as part of the Young Guns game between the rookies and the sophomores, but he appropriately called the decision to omit linemate David Krejci from the YoungStars game as a “head-scratcher”.
Well, the head-scratching festivities kicked up another notch when the 22-year-old puck prodigy notched a goal and collected assists on a pair of highlight-reel passes in a 5-1 taming of the Hurricanes at the TD Banknorth Garden yesterday afternoon. You can find sound from the postgame locker room here.
Krejci himself didn’t seem altogether surprised — after the game — that he wouldn’t be playing in the NHL main event All-Star game, but wasn’t quite sure how his NHL All-Star YoungStars invitation blew off the doorstep of his Boston Garden mailbox. Milan Lucic will be returning to play for the second-year players after taking part in last year’s rookie game, and a group of five new players (Brandon Dubinsky, Bryan Little, Mason Raymond, Andrew Cogliano, Devin Setoguchi) were hand-picked ahead of the wunderkind playcaller to take part in the showcase event for the game’s youth movement.
Kudos to the NHL for skipping over a creative, skilled magician on the ice capable of executing breathtaking passes and stickworking mastery while making teammates around him better — the exact kind of hockey player that the league should be trying to show off at each and every possible turn.
Or maybe not since — as it stands right now — Krejci is in the NHL’s top 10 in both assists and overall points and has been one of the key factors in Boston’s offensive explosion this season. He won’t be among the galaxy of NHL stars in Montreal, and the youngster has made peace with it after some initial diappointment.
“There wasn’t even a thought from me about going to the big [game], but when I heard about the second-year players going [to the YoungStars game] I’m not going to lie to you…I thought I was going to go,” said Krejci. “But they didn’t pick me, so I’m just going to enjoy my four days. Honestly the All-Star game is the All-Star game. The Young Stars game is something else and it was a bigger deal to me. I would go if I were invited, but I wasn’t. So I’m making plans for the weekend.”
So while Krejci makes some All-Star break plans apart from five of his teammates and a head coach that were all invited to take part in the Mid-Winter Classic festivities, the nifty young center took out any Young Guns frustrations on the unsuspecting Hurricanes yesterday. The first goal was a simple play with Wheeler carrying the puck on the sideboard and then connecting with Krejci as he came bombing down the slot. The center showed off his quick hands and scoring ability by simply flipping a backhanded shot under the crossbar to open up the B’s scoring.
A Stephane Yelle redirect made it a 2-0 lead and then Krejci uncorked a spin-o-rama pass to a wide open Michael Ryder right in front of the Carolina net, and — just like that — the rout of the ‘Canes was on. That particular pass from Krejci and the behind-the-back effort that led to Ryder’s second score later in the second period also led to plenty of “ooohs” and “aaahhs” among the sold out Garden crowd. The passing clinic put on by Czech Republic youngster even turned Boston’s bench boss into an admiring fan during Krejci’s afternoon of Hockey Skill 101.
“I think that second goal that [Michael] Ryder scored, that play. I kind of just looked at my assistant coaches and just kind of shook my head,” said B’s coach Claude Julien. “You don’t stop those guys from making those plays when they’ve got that kind of ability. He’s a pretty smart player and I think the most important thing with him is that he seems to be gaining more and more confidence all the time.
“He seems to be wanting to control the play a lot more. I think it’s about taking advantage of his play like that and riding it.”
While Julien certainly feels that Krejci, Dennis Wideman and Phil Kessel were all similarly deserving of some kind of NHL All-Star honors after an amazing first half of the hockey season, he was clear about where the team’s priorities should stand with regard to individual recognition. It’s all about getting closer to raising Lord Stanley’s Cup during the first week of June rather than playing in some hockey exhibition half-way throught he grueling NHL season.
“I think we make way too much of that whole All-Star situation. I mean, unfortunately the way it’s set up right now, there are disappointments everywhere, not just our hockey club,” said Julien. Does [Krejci] deserve to be there? Sure. So does [Phil] Kessel, just to name a few, so does [Dennis] Wideman, and there are a lot of guys. That would make six on the all-star team, and two more with the [YoungStars game], and now we have eight guys going.
“I think what’s important right now is that they are being recognized. Whether they are there or not it’s about thinking about what’s more important right now: our hockey team here and what we’re doing or is it that little nomination. That obviously them not being on the team is one thing, but being mentioned by everybody goes to show that they probably deserved to be there, and that should be good enough.
Good Debut by Bitz
It was a bit of a surprise when word filtered out that hulking Providence forward and Cornell alum Byron Bitz was making his way to Boston for yesterday’s game, but it made a great deal of sense with intimidating force Milan Lucic out of the lineup with an undisclosed injury. The 6-foot-5, 215-pound Bitz is another player that wasn’t afraid to throw his weight around in Providence, and that was exactly his role skating on the fourth line with Stephane Yelle and Shawn Thornton on the fourth line.
Bitz rocked a few Hurricanes with thunderous body checks and even picked up his first career assist while clearly showing he could keep up with the speed of the NHL game. It clearly served as another successful call-up from the deep well at Providence, and both Bitz and Martin Karsums picked up their first career NHL points yesterday.
“Everyone’s so welcoming when you come up,” said Bitz, whose parents made it from Western Canada in time to catch yesterday’s victory. “Everyone’s giving you the congratulations and the handshakes, but the coaches were good. They went over the systems before the game, which are pretty similar to what we do down in Providence anyway, so just a little bit of a refresher, and then just go out there and play.”
And then, of course, there’s the first career fight for B’s defenseman Matt “One Punch” Hunwick, who blew up Carolina forward Justin Williams in the neutral zone and then dropped him with a big right handed shot in the ensuing fracas.
|01.10.09 at 5:15 pm ET|
The Bruins have followed up two straight losses with two straight wins, dominating the Carolina Hurricanes, 5-1, at TD Banknorth Garden on Saturday. Michael Ryder scored twice as the Bruins improved to 3-2 on their season-long six-game homestand, which concludes on Tuesday night against Montreal. Some other notes… Byron Bitz played his first NHL game, becoming the third Bruin to play his first NHL game this season,
joining Blake Wheeler (Oct. 9 at Colorado) and Martins Karsums (Dec. 13 vs. Atlanta). Bitz recorded his first NHL point with an assist on Boston’s third goal tonight, becoming the second Bruin this season to record a point in his first NHL game (Wheeler, goal on Oct. 9 at Colorado). Martins Karsums recorded his first NHL point with an assist on Boston’s second goal today ‘¦ It came in his second career NHL game. Zdeno Chara recorded an assist on Boston’s third goal ‘¦ It is the 200th assist of his NHL career. Carolina’s Sergei Samsonov played his 700th NHL game today ‘¦ It came against the team that drafted him (second pick, eighth overall, in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft) with a pick that the Bruins received from Hartford in the Glen Wesley trade. Without further delay, here’s what they had to say.
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