Archive for January, 2009

Zdeno Chara shooting slappers for a good cause

Saturday, January 24th, 2009

MONTREAL, Quebec — Two-time reigning Hardest Shot champion Zdeno Chara will be giving this afternoon’s NHL Hardest Shot competition a little bit of a philanthropic bent when he rears back and fires his trademark heavy slapshot. Big Z issued a charitable challenge to the five other competitors in this year’€™s Hardest Shot contest, and each of the five competitors accepted.

Each contestant will wager $1,000 of their own money and the winner of the contest will then donate the funds to the charity of their choice. Additionally, each of the player’s respective teams agreed to contribute an additional $1,000 apiece and the NHL contributed $6,000, bringing the total ante for a cause up to to $18,000.

“It is great to see the individual players, their teams and the league come together to benefit worthy causes and add a little extra competition to the all-star contests,” said Chara. “Hopefully this is
the start of a tradition that will continue in future all-star games. With everyone working together to help out charities and increasing the stakes of the competitions, it’s a win-win situation for all involved.”

The other five competitors in the contest are up-and-coming Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Webber, Canadiens tough guy and Milan Lucic punching bag Mike Komisarek, New York Islanders power play specialist Mark Streit, Tampa Bay Lightning center Vinny Lecavalier and Oilers D-man Sheldon Souray, who is thought to be Chara’s biggest competition in the event.

Chara will be shooting for the Right To Play organization. Right To Play is an international humanitarian organization that uses sport and play programs to improve health, develop life skills, and foster peace for
children and communities in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the world.

Chara recorded triple-digit blasts of 100.4 MPH in 2007 and 103.1 MPH in 2008 to win the Hardest Shot titles the last two years.

Joe Thornton still thinking about Boston

Friday, January 23rd, 2009

MONTREAL, Quebec — San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton has played only one game as a visiting player at the TD Banknorth Garden, and admitted to the assembled media at the NHL All-Star Game this weekend that he’s already circled the Feb. 10 statement game against the Black and Gold. Playing Boston is apparently pretty high up on his pucks “to do” calendar for this season. In his only other visiting game in Boston way back in 2006, Jumbo Joe was ejected only 5:13 into the first period after rising up in anger and blasting Hal Gill from behind with a hit menacing enough that he was booted out of the game with a game misconduct.

The youtube clip above features the classic call from 850 WEEI’s own Dale Arnold, who did everything but have Joe Thornton twirling his mustache and tying the damsel to the railroad tracks after wall-papering the boards with the 6-foot-7 gentle giant body of Gill.

Despite all that, the 29-year-old is excited about the prospect of his front-running team in San Jose taking on the Big, Bad B’s in their own backyard in a soon-to-be-hyped Stanley Cup preview between the Western Conference-leading Sharks and the Eastern Conference-leading B’s.

“You do things day-to-day, but you circle those kinds of games,” said Thornton, who is just outside the NHL’s top five in scoring with 55 points and is tied for second in the NHL with 43 assists this season. “I haven’t been back there [in Boston] since I got kicked out. So it’s going to be fun going back and seeing it all again.”

While this particular matchup against the Bruins won’t be nearly as emotionally charged as the contest back in Jan. 2006 — a game that was in front of his old coach, many of his former teammates and a good deal of the Boston brass that shipped him out of town for three Sharks players and an immediate membership to the Northeast Division basement — it’s lining up to be everything that a statement game should be between two teams that are seemingly on a collision course this spring.

Has the 6-foot-4, 235-pounder allowed himself to think of a Stanley Cup Finals against the Spoked B? Has that been a fleeting thought in his hockey-addled brain given the way that the two teams have jumped ahead of everybody else this season?

Of course it has for Jumbo Joe…you betcha by golly wow. .

It’s a scenario that’s obviously way, way, way down the paved puck road, and Thornton will have to do something he’s never done before in his much-ballyhooed 10 years in the NHL: carry on a team on his back to the Cup Finals. But the potential is strong for it to happen this season, and could all begin with that game circled in red ink on his Inspirational Thoughts wall calendar for the 2008-09 season.

“Oh if [our playoff fortunes] allow it, it would be awesome,” said Thornton, who is wearing the ‘C’ for the Western Conference All-Stars during this weekend’s festivities. “But we’d have to win in the Finals to make it even more special. But it’s a long, long way to go. It would be kind of neat to see them in the Finals.”

For the record the only players still with the Bruins from Thornton’s era in Boston are Patrice Bergeron, Tim Thomas, P.J. Axelsson and Mark Stuart.


A new version of penalty +/- for Bruins players

Friday, January 23rd, 2009

Interesting stats here that I dug up over at the excellent Kukla’s Korner, which basically gives a +/- number for drawing and taking penalties for each and every player in the NHL this season. Los Angeles Kings forward Dustin Brown leads all players with a +31 and Vancouver Canucks forward Shane O’Brien is the league’s worst with a -22.

Here are each of the Bruins individual ratings with Phil Kessel a team-best +10 despite sitting out the last few weeks with mononucleosis. It’s understandable that both Dennis Wideman and Patrice Bergeron are also among the top B’s skaters, but a little surprising that both Petteri Nokelainen and P.J. Axelsson are also among the team leaders.  The lowest four spots on the team were all reserved for the defenseman corps as Matt Hunwick, Zdeno CharaMark Stuart and Aaron Ward rounded out the bottom of the team.

One surprise here was the -5 and the mere five penalties drawn by rookie Blake Wheeler this season — a statistic that tells a couple of different things. Some of it is surely the  lack of respect factor given to rookies in a league full of veterans that get the benefit of the doubt calls, but it also reveals a big, athletic power player that needs to continue taking it hard to the net as he gains confidence, strength and power.

Here’s the list of players:             

       Player              Team      Pos    Draws   Pen   +/-
BOS #81 KESSEL         BOS       R        15        5      10
BOS #37 BERGERON    BOS      C        10        5       5
BOS #6 WIDEMAN        BOS     D        13        8       5
BOS #29 NOKELAINEN BOS     C        10        5       5
BOS #11 AXELSSON     BOS     L         10        6       4
BOS #46 KREJCI           BOS     C          9         6       3
BOS #73 RYDER           BOS     R        12         9       3 
BOS #47 ST. PIERRE     BOS     C          5         2       3 
BOS #16 STURM          BOS      L          5         4       1 
BOS #30 THOMAS       BOS      G         3          2       1 
BOS #35 FERNANDEZ  BOS      G         2          1       1 
BOS #60 SOBOTKA      BOS      C         4          3       1 
BOS #43 KARSUMS      BOS      R         1          0       1 
BOS #61 BITZ              BOS      R         1          0       1 
BOS #34 HNIDY          BOS      D         9          9       0 
BOS #22 THORNTON  BOS      L        19        21     -2 
BOS #18 YELLE            BOS     C          6          8     -2 
BOS #91 SAVARD        BOS     C        17        19     -2 
BOS #12 KOBASEW      BOS     R        11        13     -2 
BOS #21 FERENCE       BOS     D         5           8     -3 
BOS #17 LUCIC           BOS      L       20         23     -3 
BOS #49 LASHOFF      BOS     D         1           5     -4 
BOS #26 WHEELER      BOS     R         5         10      -5 
BOS #48 HUNWICK     BOS     D        4           9      -5 
BOS #33 CHARA         BOS     D      13         20      -7  
BOS #44 WARD           BOS     D        4         11      -7  
BOS #45 STUART        BOS     D        8         17      -9

New Hagg mailbag is up

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

Since the crack web master staff haven’t yet cranked out a flipping, flashing “Read Me” billboard for it just yet on the home page (but they will and it’s going to pop like you read about) I just wanted to let all the loyal puckheads out there now that there’s a new and improved Hagg Bag up and running today. Plenty of trade chatter, goalie talk and even a little Tecmo Bowl reminiscing in this week’s installment. Feel free to contribute to the next one in two weeks with random thoughts or calculated questions by shooting me an email at

Vladimir Sobotka, Martin St. Pierre, Matt Lashoff sent to Providence

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

With the NHL officially on break for NHL All-Star weekend in Montreal, Boston Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli announced today that the club has assigned forward Vladimir Sobotka, forward Martin St. Pierre, and defenseman Matt Lashoff to the Providence Bruins (AHL).

The move signals that at least some of the battered B’s (Bergeron, Lucic, Ference) could be ready to return following the All-Star break, and that Aaron Ward didn’t have any additional problems with his charley horse issue following last night’s OT tangle with the Maple Leafs. As far as the Baby B’s go, both Sobotka and St. Pierre had their moments — both good and bad — but Lashoff continues to confound with his inability to become more of a factor out on the ice. The compete factor has certainly been raised a bit, but he hasn’t shown any of the D-man offensive skills that are on full display down in Providence.

This appeared to a big season for Lashoff heading in, and there hasn’t much pay-off in Boston as of yet…

It should also be noted that St. Pierre will now be available to play in the AHL All-Star Game in Worcester next week — a nice little hockey treat for some of the good things that he’s done while up wielding his wildly oversized stick with the Bruins over the last month.

Here’s some info from the B’s release:

Sobotka has played in 19 games for Boston during the 2008-2009 season and recorded 1-2=3 totals. In 19 games with the P-Bruins this year, Sobotka tallied 11 goals and 12 assists.

He split the 2007-2008 season between Boston and Providence. With Boston, he saw action in 48 regular season games and contributed one goal and six assists and added two goals in six postseason games. With
Providence last year, he had 10-10=20 totals in 18 regular season games and added four assists over six postseason games.

Sobotka was originally drafted by the Bruins in the 4th round (106th overall) in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.

St. Pierre has seen action in 14 games for Boston this year and recorded 2-2=4 totals. He netted the shootout-tying goal during Boston’s 4-3 shootout victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday night. In 32 games with the P-Bruins this season, he registered a 10-28=38.

The 25-year-old St. Pierre has appeared in 35 NHL games in his career ‘€“ 21 with Chicago, 14 with Boston ‘€“ and has tallied three goals and five assists. Signed as a free agent by the Blackhawks on November 12, 2005,
St. Pierre was acquired by the Bruins on July 24, 2008 in exchange for Pascal Pelletier.

Lashoff has seen action in 16 games for Boston this season, registering one assist, and has played in 18 games for Providence with 4-12=16 totals. He split last season between Boston and Providence and appeared in 18 NHL games, registering 1-4=5 totals and appeared in 60 games for
the P-Bruins, tallying 9-27=36 totals. The 22-yearold Lashoff was originally drafted by Boston in the first round (22nd overall) of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft and has appeared in 43 NHL games in his career.

The Boston Bruins return to action after the NHL All-Star Break on Tuesday, January 27th when they host the Washington Capitals at 7:00 p.m. ET.  Five Bruins will participate in this weekend’s NHL All-Star
festivities, with Zdeno Chara, Marc Savard and Tim Thomas suiting up for the Eastern Conference All-Stars, head coach Claude Julien coaching the Eastern Conference All-Stars and rookie Blake Wheeler participating in the 2009 YoungStars game. Milan Lucic was selected to play in the YoungStars game but he will be unable to participate due to injury. The All-Star festivities will be televised nationally in the U.S. on VERSUS
on Saturday, January 24 at 7:00 p.m. ET (SuperSkills Competition) and Sunday, January 25 at 6:00 p.m. ET (All-Star Game).

Defensemen engineer come-from-behind win

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

The Bruins closed out the first half of their regular season schedule with a bang last night by scoring two third period goals in a 4-3 shootout win at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. Dennis Wideman and Zdeno Chara brought the B’s back from a two-goal deficit in the third period, and Michael Ryder snapped Boston’s two-game losing streak with a game-winner in the shootout.

With the win firmly in hand, the majority of Bruins players will be off until the regular season grind resumes again on Monday morning. Marc Savard, Zdeno Chara, Tim Thomas, Blake Wheeler, Milan Lucic and Claude Julien will all be traveling to Montreal for All-Star weekend, but Lucic won’t participate due to a shoulder injury.

Boston ready to close out first half in victory

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

The Bruins haven’t lost three games in a row this season thus far, and they’re certainly not looking to do that as they finish off the pre All-Star Break portion of the schedule with a tilt against the blue-collar, hard-driving Toronto Maple Leafs. The Leafs impressed the Bruins with their hard-nosed style earlier this season, and it should really be a grinding battle between a pair of weary, bloodied-but-not-beaten opponents at the Air Canada Center.

The B’s have outscored the Leafs by a 19-12 margin in taking three out of four games this far this season, but this is a far different Black and Gold team than the one that fired up the red lamp eight times against Toronto back on Dec. 18. Should be an interesting battle on the frozen sheet with Aaron Ward potentially returning this evening after missing Boston’s last three games with possibly the worst charley horse known to man.

Ward looked like he a little “Eye of the Bruin” going on when he was huffing and puffing his way through conditioning/testing drills at the end of practice Tuesday mornings, so expect a bucket load of patented Ward forearm shivers if he does skate tonight.