Archive for March, 2009

Phil Kessel could be in lineup next Tuesday vs. Senators

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

Phil Kessel was out for the  weekend games with an undisclosed injury, and wasn’t on the practice ice for this morning’s pre-game skate — which means he’ll miss his third straight game tonight. 

But Bruins coach Claude Julien indicated that Kessel may be a possibility for next Tuesday’s road game against the Ottawa Senators. The problem is believed to be a shoulder injury suffered March 10 against the Columbus Blue Jackets, but the B’s bench boss remains tight-lipped about the nature of Kessel’s injury. Julien also indicated that the winger will rejoin the team on the practice ice at some point later in the week.

“I think we’re going to see him come back with the team at some point this week, and I guess we anticipate that he should be playing again early next week,” said Julien with a smile on his face. “It’s still undisclosed. We’re in the business of protecting our players, and you guys are in the business of exposing them. We’re going to stick with keeping them from being exposed.”

Kessel has missed 8 games this season with a bout of mono and this current injury, but still leads the team with 31 goals scored on the year.

Patrice Bergeron was happy to accept the PHWA nomination for the Masterton Trophy, and took it as another encouraging step back in his return from last season’s concussion issues. Bergeron has been noticeably picking up his play over the last six weeks of hockey, and boasts 3 goals and 11 assists in his last 19 games dating back to a Feb. 14 road game against the Nashville Predators.

The 23-year-old center has shown all of the trademark characteristics of a Masterton nominee — perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey — during a season-long journey returning from a potentially career-ending concussuon last season. Bergeron said that he took to cooking and reading books in English during his time out with injury — in part to keep his brain working — and derived a great deal of inspiration from reading “The Way of the Peaceful Warrior” during his recovery.

“I’ve been through a lot over the last year and [the nomination] means a lot,” said Bergeron. “It’s been a long process, but I’m happy that it’s behind me. I feel like my game is coming back, and I’m just happy to back out there with the guys helping them try to win every game.

“Now it’s about getting back to my game and being back to where I’m out there having fun every day during practices and games,” added Bergeron, who added that he’s using a different foam and shell inside his Reebok helmet and finally gave in to the B’s equipment guy’s requests that he start using new shoulder pads. “I think I’m pretty close. It’s just a matter of getting a couple of bounces and the puck going in and getting that confidence. Other than that, I am feeling pretty good out there.”

Bergeron nominated for Masterton Trophy by hockey writers

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron, after coming back from last year’s devastating concussion injury, is the Boston chapter of the PHWA (Professional Hockey Writers’ Association) nominee for the 2009 Masterton Trophy. The Masterton honors the player who, “best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey”, and Bergeron showed all those and much more in returning to the ice this season after missing nearly all of last year with the head injury.

Bergeron continued to show that perseverance when he suffered a second concussion against the Carolina Hurricanes this season, but he again battled back from another head injury to play his best hockey in two years down the stretch. The 23-year-old has seven goals and 28 assists in 59 games for the B’s this season. Phil Kessel was last year’s Boston nominee for the Masterton Trophy, and the young winger went on to win the NHL Masterton Trophy after returning fron testicular cancer last season.

Bruins sign Riendeau to entry-level deal

Monday, March 30th, 2009

The Bruins have signed Quebec Major Junior Hockey League forward Yannick Riendeau to a three-year, entry-level contract. The 20-year-old forward doesn’t have outstanding size at 5-foot-11 and 178 pounds or skating speed, but he led the QMJHL in scoring this season with 58 goals and 68 assists while playing for Drummondville this season. Riendeau went undrafted through his junior hockey career, but scored a whopping 19 points in sweeping four games from Lewiston during the QMJHL playoffs.

Riendeau’s contract with the Bruins organization will begin next season.

Some afternoon links on a Monday off the ice

Monday, March 30th, 2009

With an off day for the Bruins after taking four perfect points over the weekend and opening a seven point lead over the Washington Capitals (and eight points over the suddenly-reeling New Jersey Devils), here’s another edition of afternoon links.

Just coming off the radio co-hosting the Dale and Holley program with Dale Arnold on 850 WEEI, and there was quite a bit of email interest in the upcoming Bruins 7th player Award. The award has always been part popularity contest and part unsung hero, and this season shouldn’t be any different. Earlier in the year I thought that Blake Wheeler would be a shoo-in after going from relatively unknown rookie bound for Providence to a potential Calder Trophy candidate.

But Wheeler cooled off as he hit the rookie wall over the last few months, and David Krejci has been an important player for the Bruins all season long — even when his scoring tailed off a bit following the All-Star break. Krejci is second on the team with69 points and leads the entire NHL with a +/- of +36. 

Matt Hunwick has the third-most points of any B’s defenseman(6 goals, 18 assists for 24 points) this season, and has given the Boston coaching staff needed depth along the blueline all season. That Hunwick has done his damage in only 46 games this season speaks to how good he’s been while in the lineup. Also, remember this is a former sixth round draft pick that was one of the last cuts in training camp, and that means — for a guy manning the first power play unit — he’s gone way “above and beyond expectations” this season.

Several people emailed the show this morning/afternoon about Dennis Wideman being another candidate for the 7th Player Award, but Wideman was expected to be the puck-moving complement to Zdeno Chara along the back line — and he’s moderately exceeded expectations. Not to the level of guys like Krejci, Wheeler  and Hunwick, however.

My vote goes to Krejci…now on to the links.

–Just when you think NESN play-by-play guy Jack Edwards has pulled out everything  in his “Spooned it down the River by the Half-Wall” dictionary, he took it to a new level with last night’s call on Milan Lucic burying Randy Jones behind the Flyers net. It’s pretty difficult to determine what Edwards actually said over the hyena-like cackling, but here’s the verbatim transcript: “Lucic hammers him! Down goes Jones! And how’s this for irony: The crowd wants a call for a hit from behind! AH-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA!”

–Helmet tip to Yahoo! blogger Puck Daddy for unearthing this interview with noted Bostonian and Red Sox fan Jeremy Roenick, which is notable for a couple of different things: first the reverential treatment given to Curt “Superstar” Schilling when his picture pops up and secondly the long pause while J.R. decides whether to bury Wayne Gretzky or give him his proper due after their very public feuding while Roenick was skating for the Coyotes.

–Speaking of awards, here’s a good story in the Toronto Sun about Zdeno Chara’s very real candidacy for the Norris Trophyawarded to the league’s best defenseman. Chara doesn’t have the best offensive numbers among candidates that include Nik Lidstrom and Mike Green, but 6-foot-8 “Z” is the ultimate shutdown blueliner capable of putting the clamps down on superstars like Evgeni Malkin and Alex Ovechkin.

Heard an argument over the weekend that the Norris Trophy should be given to the best all-around defenseman in the league — with more weight given toward players like Chara that make defending the puck priority number one – and that a Bobby Orr Trophy could/should be added for the best offensive defenseman in the NHL. Don’t think too many people in Boston would quibble with something like that.

Bruins show that playoff glow in win over Philly

Monday, March 30th, 2009

In beating down the Flyers on Sunday night, the Bruins flashed a pretty solid glimpse of the playoff hockey team they can potentially be: tough as nails, ready to fight, intimidate and punish their opposition, skilled and dangerous on all four lines with quick strike ability and superior goaltending at the back end of their defense.

The B’s also showed that — with David Krejci again doing his playmaking thing while racking up three assists and creating countless scoring chances against the Flyers — they’re at the very least a quality playoff hockey team.

But the Spoked B could ascend to something much higher on the hockey food chain this spring if Krejci can channel his Sunday night effort and recapture the first-half magic that saw him on pace to score 100 points. 

In many ways Krejci is the key to what this team will ultimately accomplish once the “tournament” begins, and Sunday night was a giant stride in the right direction. There were plenty of right directions for Krejci and his Black and Gold teammates in a 4-3 playoff-style win over a motivated Flyers bunch at the Wachovia Center.

The B’s battled to plug up a multitude of leaks in their defense during Saturday night’s fast break win in Toronto, but managed to tighten things up in Philly despite allowing 48 shots to a physical Flyers bunch.

The biggest difference for the defense on Sunday night? The goaltending.

One night prior, those mistakes in the D-zone ended up in the back of Boston’s net and put a bold face on miscues that might have otherwise been covered up. Instead the offense did its job with a resurgent Krejci at the controls feeding pucks to Milan Lucic and Dennis Wideman, and Thomas was outstanding. Krejci notched his first three-point game since Jan. 10 and looked every bit the Bruins boy wonder. To put Sunday night in perspective, Krejci had four three-point games in the month of December, and then didn’t have one in all of February and most of March.

But the slick 22-year-old center from the Czech Republic had flirted with signs of busting out recently, and was only being held back by the typical maladies that gnaw away at a natural scorer during a snakebitten stretch: unforgiving posts, sprawling goaltenders and the occasional unfortunate bounce of the puck.

As superb as Krejci was dishing out goal-scoring opportunities in the offensive end, Tim Thomas was equally brilliant between the pipes after getting a rest on Saturday night in favor of Manny Fernandez. Thomas made a season-high 45 saves in a game that saw near-constant pressure from the Flyers’ skaters, and was at his best when Philly descended on a 5-on-3 advantage in the second period.

Mike Richards blasted away on a shot from the high point that whistled through Mike Knuble in front of the net, but Thomas was able to pull his Human Wall act in front of the net and knock the puck away. Scott Hartnell picked the puck up by the right post and spotted a wide open net to shoot for as he flicked in a sure power-play goal. But Thomas jumped right back into the play and essentially head-butted Harntell’s shot with his mask as he stretched and flopped back into position. Thomas’ mask went flying off after the “save” and a whistle immediately stopped the play dead.

The Flyers still had time left on the power play, but were essentially extinguished in their power play attempt following Thomas’ acrobatics.

Krejci, Thomas and the rest of the Bruins have seven games remaining in their regular season schedule, but last night was proof positive that the Black and Gold Bears are ready for the playoff battles to commence once things snap into place over the next two weeks.

Injury Ward:Marc Savard, Andrew Ference, and Dennis Wideman among others took heavy hits while making plays against a Flyers team looking to leave an impression on the Bruins, but everyone finished the game in one piece. There may be an uptick in Advil consumption among the skaters on Monday morning, however.

Players of the Game:Krejci and Thomas. Both players are unassailable keys to the Bruins fortunes when it comes to capturing the Cup, and there were encouraging signs all over the Wachovia Center frozen sheet on Sunday night. Krejci has scored in five of his last seven games and has a goal and seven assists over that seven game span. A good deal of the Flyers’ pressure came from the perimeter, but Thomas was spectacular when he had to be.

Goat Horns:The Bruins were rolling four lines and looked strong in the third period of back-t0-back games against the Leafs and Flyers. There weren’t any goats on a night when the Bruins battled for every last inch they gained during the game.

Turning Point:The Flyers took an early 1-0 lead and had a sellout crowd on their side during the first period in Philly, but Steve Montador stemmed some of tide after dropping the gloves with Flyers tough guy Daniel Carcillo. Carcillo got the better of Montador in the fisticuffs, but the Bruins weathered the emotional storm and got back on top later in the first period during a 5-on-3 advantage.

Good signs and goals aplenty in Toronto victory

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

It wasn’t the sleekest defensive performance of the season, but there were more than few things reminiscent of the first half Bruins in Saturday night’s win over the Leafs.

The skilled and scrappy Bruins offense poured it on with seven goals and tagged on a couple of fighting majors for good measure in a 7-5 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre that was high on entertainment value and short on goaltending and suffocating D.

A few things stand out after the ice chips settled on Boston’s 47th win of the season — a point in puck time that means the B’s are officially in the final two week sprint toward the NHL regular season finish line:

–A lot of people, including this humble hockey scribe, recently praised Mark Recchi for his ability to stand in the danger areas close to the goal posts and use his phenomenal hands to tip and redirect pucks, and it was in evidence again Saturday night. Big time.

Recchi had a pair of goals in the win, and both were the residue of Recchi’s trademark courage and optimal positioning in front of the net. The first was a redirected Matt Hunwick shot and the second was a beautiful tip of a Marc Savard shot from directly in front of the right post. The scores give Recchi six goals since arriving in Boston, and he has truly worked out exactly as Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli could have hoped.

–Matt Hunwick picked up three more assists in another solid night at the D position, and he seems to getting more and more comfortable with each passing day. In several instances Hunwick pinched and rushed up into the offensive zone to keep the puck embedded deep in Toronto’s zone while maintaining pressure on a scuffling Maple Leafs defense. “Munch” has a goal and four assists in his last three games and is a +4 during that time period. A quick little flip pass from the right point set up Shawn Thornton’s goal from the high slot in the second period.

Manny Fernandez survived a horrific first period to get his first win since the beginning of January, but the game did keep a string intact that Fernandez would like to snap. The B’s goaltender has allowed four or more goals in five of his six games since coming back from a back injury in early February, and appears to be battling a crippling lack of confidence between the pipes. After consulting with a pair of pretty knowledgeable goaltending experts during the game, Fernandez was simply backing way too far back into the net during the first period and wasn’t challenging shooters early in the contest until it was too late. Man-Fern did get better as the game went along, and B’s coach Claude Julien ultimately made the right call in what many considered a risky coaching move placing Fernandez back in net.

David Krejci and Blake Wheeler both showed up on the scoresheet and contributed mightily to the win, a requirement given the absence of Phil Kessel from the lineup due to an unspecified injury. Both young forwards played hard, simple games with their respective lines, which is exactly what Julien was preaching over the last week of practice. Krejci finished with a goal and an assist on Saturday night, and enjoyed his first multi-point night since he scored two points against the Carolina Hurricanes back on Feb. 17.

Injury Ward: With Kessel back in Boston getting looked at for what’s believed to be a left shoulder injury, the Bruins pushed Steve Montador up to a forward spot and had him skate with Shawn Thornton and Stephane Yelle on the fouth line. Dennis Wideman took a painful shot off the chest during the game, but returned for his next shift without incident.

Player of the Game: With Kessel out of the lineup, somebody had to step up and fill the offensive void. Recchi made the big splash with two courage goals in front of the cage, and both Wideman and Hunwick added three assists apiece while keeping the puck moving through all three zones. Hunwick, in particular, is impressing with his all-around performance at this late point in the season. The rookie is third among Bruins defenseman in scoring this season, an amazing jump from a training camp where he was the last blueliner cut before the season. After making some adjustments to the PP – including inserting Hunwick and Wideman on the top unit — Boston’s special teams are taking off.

Goat Horns: Aaron Ward logged 22:06 of ice time, but he didn’t have a very good night in his own end with five official giveaways — including one that led directly to a Maple Leafs score in the second period. Ward finished with a -2, and won’t be putting this one on his Greatest Hits compilation tape.

Turning Point: Alexei Ponikarovsky scored first in the second period to give Toronto a 4-3 lead, but the Bruins struck back with four unanswered goals in the final 11 minutes of the period. Recchi started with a power play goal to tie it, and then Thornton, Krejci and Wheeler finished things off for the Spoked B.

Limited playoff tix available for purchase on April 2

Friday, March 27th, 2009

Got a few email requests asking when Bruins home playoff tix were going on sale. Ask Pucks with Haggs/Big Bad Blog, and ye shall receive.

The Boston Bruins announced today that a limited number of tickets for the club’€™s first two home playoff games of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs will go on sale at 11:00 a.m. on Thursday, April 2.

Here’s the relase from the Bruins:

Tickets will be available for purchase at the TD Banknorth Garden Box Office, on www.bostonbruins.com, and via Ticketmaster.

Given the limited number and high demand for tickets, the Boston Bruins and TD Banknorth Garden encourage fans to purchase tickets through www.bostonbruins.com and Ticketmaster. The Bruins and TD Banknorth Garden will release the procedure for purchasing tickets at the TD Banknorth Garden Box Office early next week.

The dates and times for the two games will be determined by the National Hockey League once the final seeding for the Stanley Cup Playoffs are set.

The Bruins have already clinched the Northeast Division title, and are currently atop the Eastern Conference standings with nine games remaining in the 2008-2009 regular season.

Boston will return to action this weekend when they travel to take on the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday and the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday.

Fans interested in learning more about Boston Bruins players, or ticket options, should visit the team website at www.bostonbruins.com or call 617.624.BEAR.