Notes from a frozen sheet
|11.03.08 at 12:04 pm ET|
A light practice for the B’s this morning with only a handful of guys twirling around on the ice (Blake Wheeler, Chuck Kobasew, David Krejci, Michael Ryder, Tim Thomas and Manny Fernandez) and everybody else getting in a quick work out and then bolting into a crisp November afternoon in New England.
A bit more of a media presence at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington this morning with several local news stations getting some reaction after Saturday night’s compelling, in-your-face win over the Dallas Stars. Every player to a man agreed that playing Bruins’ hockey isn’t necessarily about being the aggressor, and is perhaps more about standing up for teammates when they’re the victims of the cheap shots that have become much too par for the NHL course.
For a while B’s management and coach Claude Julien have preached the importance being a passionate, hard-hitting team that is difficult to play against, and Saturday evening was compelling evidence that they’ve at least partially reached their objective — and added more skill and scoring potential to the mix for good measure this season.
“We showed a lot of emotion. We’re not a team that can really float through games and not show a lot of emotion,” said B’s defenseman Andrew Ference, who changed the momentum of the third period with a jaw-dropping open ice hit against Steve Ott in the third period of Saturday night’s win and then followed by immediately duking it out with Vogue intern Sean Avery. “There are teams that can get away with winning those dull kind of games. But I think we have a lot of guys who play really well with emotion and play really well when they’re physically involved.”
Bruins coach Claude Julien wasn’t ready to jump into the Delorean and crown his team as the successor to the Big, Bad Bruins of yore from twenty and thirty years ago, but his comments continue to suggest that the Black and Gold won’t shy away from physical entanglements when they’re warranted — or smashing timid teams off the puck with their teeth-chattering style.
“I think we want to be a hard team to play against. First and foremost it’s being a physical team and finishing our checks, and I think we’ve got guys that are capable of doing that,” said Julien. “We’re not going to back down from that. I don’t think we’re trying to live back in the 1960’s and 1970’s because the rules have changed and we’re not allowed to do a lot of that kind of stuff.
“But we can still play a tough game within the parameters of what is allowed,” added Julien.
The B’s don’t lace on the skates for real again until Thursday night at the Garden, but it should be another intense effort following a listless 4-2 loss to the Leafs the last time the B’s played them — a hockey contest that will likely forever be known as the “Lucic Glass Shattering” game.
“We’ve been gone on the road a lot and all over the map since training camp, so it’s nice to have a few days at home to practice,” said Zdeno Chara. “It’s important [to carry over the intensity] when you have a few days off like this without a game. You don’t want to be too relaxed. Last time we played against Toronto we didn’t have our best effort and we lost to them. We want to make it an even series with them.”
–While the B’s are off to a solid start, it’s been a bit of slow going for towering Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara as the Captain recovers from off-season shoulder labrum surgery. Big Z — a noted conditioning freak and cycling enthusiast during the summer — missed nearly all of the preseason while rehabbing the repaired shoulder and has collected only three assists along with a -1 in Boston’s first 12 games. Chara has battled with consistency and turned the puck over at inopportune times while looking a step behind the hockey action through the first dozen games — the kinds of things that a player typically exhibits when he’s shaking rust off and testing out a surgically repaired part of his body.
The 31-year-old Chara also still hasn’t really brandished his boomer of a slap-shot from the point that annually registers as one of the hardest in all of the NHL, and — according to coach Claude Julien — is probably just recently starting to feel like his 6-foot-9 brain-beating behemoth self again.
“I think he’s one of those guys that’s coming along and getting better,” said Julien. “I think he’d be the first one to say that he’s not at the top of his game yet. He’s come off an injury and surgery over the summer, and in his book he’s a little behind where he normally is because of the way he trains.
“For the last little while you’re starting to see the Zdeno that we’ve all seen in the past because of his physical presence, his good stick and he’s breaking up a lot of plays,” added Julien. “His game is really starting to come along. The one thing that’s encouraging is that he’s going to keep getting better, and what that means for us is that he’s going to create more scoring chances. He’s got a good shot and it’s going to get better. It’s one of this situations that’s made him a bit of late departure.”
–Chuck Kobasew skated again with the team and is getting very close to a return to the Bruins lineup — an addition that will add more scoring skill and grit to the lineup but might also necessitate a roster move to clear up space. The B’s are one spot under the maximum of 23 players on their roster, but a young player like Vladimir Sobotka — or perhaps even Blake Wheeler — could be tapped for a return to Providence upon Kobasew’s return. B’s coach Claude Julien is understandably hesitant, however, to bust up a team that’s playing pretty good hockey as of late.
“We’ll wait and see how these next two days go. We’ve got a team that’s playing pretty well right now. We have to see whether he’s 100 percent,” said Julien. “If we’re going to put him in then he’s got to be 100 percent. We’ve got a couple of days to evaluate him and make a decision on what we see.”