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Deep postgame thoughts

10.20.08 at 8:17 pm ET

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:

*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

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.

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