Archive for March, 2009

Kessel out this weekend with “undisclosed injury”

Friday, March 27th, 2009

WILMINGTON — Just when it seemed that the Bruins were enjoying a full complement of healthy, productive skaters, winger Phil Kessel will be out for this weekend’s two games against the Toronto Maple Leafs and Philadelphia Flyers with “an undisclosed injury”.

“He’s not going to play this weekend,” said B’s coach Claude Julien, who wouldn’t answer questions as to whether this is an ongoing injury or something the 21-year-old would play through in the upcoming playoffs. “We’re going to assess it as an undisclosed injury that will be reassessed next week. We feel at this stage it’s better to be cautious rather than reckless and we’re going to give him the weekend off.”

Kessel took a big hit against the boards courtesy of Columbus defender Jan Hejda back in a March 10 loss that appeared to hurt his shoulder, but Kessel returned to that game  in the third period and hadn’t missed any games since the Blue Jackets game. It’s unknown if this “undisclosed injury” has anything to do with that particular hit or with his shoulder. Kessel had scored 4 goals and 2 assists in the five games since that night against the Blue Jackets, so it wouldn’t appear that the right shoulder was bothering him.

Chuck Kobasew quietly moving up the scoring charts

Friday, March 27th, 2009

WILMINGTON — Take a guess at the Bruins player with the most goals since everybody’s favorite NHL All-Star weekend in Old Montreal back in late January.

Phil Kessel or Michael Ryder? Nah. Both have had injuries and illness knock them off their normal scoring pace.

Marc Savard? The B’s playmaking center has been remarkably consistent and seems again on pace for a 90 plus point season, but again that would be an incorrect answer.

The rookie wonder twins of Blake Wheeler and David Krejci? Once again the answer is no. Both Krejci and Wheeler have tailed off over the last few months amid the long grind of an 82 game season, but have showed serious signs of regaining their games in recent weeks.

The answer is the gritty, gutty Chuck Kobasew, who has banged home 10 goals over the team’s last 24 games and has 18 goals and 19 assists on the season. Kobasew is just a handful of points behind both Wheeler and Zdeno Chara despite the fact that both played have appeared in 13 more games than Kobasew, who missed significant time at the beginning of the year after an errant shot broke a bone in his leg.

“Koby does those kinds of things quietly,” said B’s bench boss Claude Julien. “He competes hard, he bangs and crashes and then he slides that goal in here and there. It’s almost like people don’t take notice as much for his goals as they will for the Kessels and the Ryders, but he quietly racks up the points. You notice him as much for his grit and determination as you do for anything on the scoresheet.”

The 26-year-0ld winger, for his part, is just to happy to have meshed with linemates Mark Recchi and Patrice Bergeron, and together the trio has really stepped up and taken on some needed offensive responsibility.

“For me it’s never been about the goals or about anything related to numbers,” said Kobasew, who practiced on Thursday afternoon following two “maintenance days” spent off the ice. “I’m out there to play a physical game and to do whatever this team needs to win games and get into the playoffs. That’s what it is all about for me.”

Kobasew, perhaps more than any other player in a Spoked B sweater, perfectly meshes the frenetic physical style of a kamikaze pilot with enough scoring tough around the net. Add that to the other two elements on Kobasew’s line, and you have a trio that Julien has been more than happy throw out against another team’s top scoring line — while also coming to expect some offensive production as well.

“Bergie’s game is getting better and better in the last month-and-a-half or so, and you can see he’s really finding his groove again,” said Julien. “I really like his two-way game right and he’s becoming the reliable Bergie that we all watched until his injury. Koby is just a strong competitor and Recchi has really added some valuable experience to that line.”

Chuck Kobasew returns to practice ice after “maintenance” days

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

WILMINGTON — Chuck Kobasew was back on the practice ice, and taking part along with Byron Bitz, Manny Fernandez, Tim Thomas, Dennis Wideman and David Krejci (who skated on Wednesday)  in a limited ice at Ristucca Arena. Kobasew had missed the last two days of practice with “maintenance” issues, but was back on the ice and ready to go this morning. Kobasew leads the team with 10 goals scored since the All-Star break and has been a gritty contributor to the B’s stretch drive.

The Bruins have one more practice day tomorrow before heading on the road for a weekend return to game mode in Toronto (Saturday) and Philadelphia (Sunday) before heading back to Boston.

Some piping hot links for a slow hockey morning

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

On the way out the door to Ristucca Arena, but wanted to share a few links before heading out to the Deep Freeze in Wilmington.

–Many Bruins fans are hoping that there will be need to be some serious editing done to the Bruins entry in the Urban Dictionary. Seems a little dated when the most current B’s name referenced in it is the Razor, Andrew Raycroft, and it may soon be revision time. Here’s my personal favorite definition complete with self-fulfilling Doomsday prophecy for B’s fans.

3. bruins 27 up, 17 down love ithate it
 
bostons hockey team that cant get out of the first round
bruins fan: the bruins went 82-0 
bruins fan2: it doesnt matter man they’ll be gone in the first round

–Four goals in the last 18 games and a whopping -9 for Vinny Lecavalier coming down the stretch here, and now he needs a kick in the pants at the Bell Centre to get him going. Just imagine the heaping amounts of  catcalls and abuse this puck “savior” would have endured in Boston if the B’s brain trust had offered up the farm for My Center Vinny, and then he performed like he is right now. Lecavalier is trending downward, and can we all finally admit this might have been a No Show Joe-type disaster if he’d come to the Hub.   

 –Raise your hand if you’re shocked — or even mildly surprised — that Hal Gill has been spotted wearing a sky blue snuggie around the Pittsburgh Penguins’ dressing room, and he’s actually admitting it. What, no hands raised? “I have to wear (the snuggie) now,” said Gill to a Pittsburgh radio station. “This team is pretty superstitious and they’re going to make sure I’m wearing it.”

Bye week gives Bruins a unique opportunity going forward

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

WILMINGTON — The Bruins took a spirited approach to practice for the second consecutive day while working on the forecheck, and keeping sharp during their current five day stretch without any actual hockey games. There’s almost a bye week feel to the practices at Ristucca Arena this week, but Claude Julien and his staff are doing what they can to keep the compete level on a high note.

The interesting dynamic is how the break of five days off — and only two total games played in 12 days — will affect each individual player heading into the final nine game of the regular season in a grand total of 16 days. Call it the final stretch run for a team that has enjoyed nearly wire-to-wire dominance at the top of the Eastern Conference.

Milan Lucic, for example, is only a couple of years removed from junior hockey where a squad might have only played weekend games and then taken a 5-7 day span of practice before their next actual game.  At 20 years-old Lucic can still recover quickly after a particularly violent, physical game like Sunday’s grudge match with the New Jersey Devils.

“After a great effort like (Sunday) you want to keep things going, but you can’t complain really having a break like this either at this time of the season,” said Lucic. “It’s a good time to step, re-energize the batteries, refocus and then get back to work Saturday. This is just like juniors (for me), Usually you played a three in three on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and then you wouldn’t play again until the next Friday or Saturday.

“It’s the same sort of thing,” added Lucic. “I think if you asked (the veterans) they’re not going to complain about it. They battle hard and it’s not the same when you’re 20 as compared to what you are when you’re 30. They’re using it to the full advantage.”

For older veterans it’s a time to a time to heal some of the wounds incurred over a long season of hockey, and almost enjoy something akin to a bye week in the NFL leading up to the final push before the playoffs begin. While certain injuries aren’t enough to keep a battle-hardened older player out of the lineup, aches and pains can gnaw away at the player’s overall effectiveness. Maybe it’s an aching knee that’s affecting skating speed, or a sore shoulder that’s taken the bite away from a player’s shot. The week of rest can replenish these skaters as much as possible before one final rush up the ice. 

 The key, according to Ward, is the ability to keep the team’s game at a razor-sharp edge and play with the same brand of team-wide intensity that characterized last Sunday’s win over the Devils, while reaping the benefits of some off-time.  

“It presents a great opportunity to rest, but it also worsens the capacity that you can mentally get away from the game,” said Ward. “Too far away from it. You’ve got to simulate the game as much as possible and really try to raise that intensity level in practice and keep your preparation level sharp.

“I don’t know,” added Ward. “I’m a little worried about it. The good thing is that we’re going to Toronto, which is a divisional foe that should be enough on the game that we’re going to show up come game time. I’ll definitely be practiced out by the end of this week.”

–Chuck Kobasew had a second consecutive day off the ice on Wednesday morning, but Julien said that it was just scheduled time off the ice rather than a serious injury issue for the scrappy winger. Kobasew leads the Bruins with 10 goals scored since the All-Star break, and has clearly upped his scrappy/skill game down the stretch.

“He’s alright,” said Julien. “He’ll be on (ice) tomorrow. There’s no hidden agendas. Everybody is good, and they’re all maintenance things.”

–Julien noted that the pressure has noticeably alleviated from the Black and Gold dressing room following Sunday’s win over the Devils, and the smiles were coming a little easier to players’ faces after temporarily beating back their closest rival last weekend.

“The win did us a lot of good, but the way we won did us even more good,” said Julien. “The guys remembered those types of feelings coming in after a game and knowing that you’d really performed well, worked hard and did the right things.

“The pride that came with that was just as important as the win was.”

–Congratulations to the Ference Family and the Ward Family for the new additions over the weekend. Both Andrew Ference and Aaron Ward became fathers again on Sunday. Ference’s wife Krista gave birth to a second girl — Stella Haliday James Ference, and Ward’s wife Kelly gave birth to the couple’s second daughter and third child — Phoebe Grace Ward. Both babies were happy and healthy, and both dads were back on the practice ice Wednesday morning following the blessed events.

–Julien said, according to team stats, that Patrice Bergeron has been the B’s best faceoff man all year, and “he’s a good 4-5 percent better than the rest of the centerman when it comes to faceoffs.” The faceoff success is a good example of the intangible-type skills that Bergeron has brought to the table all season, but now his offensive game is rounding up to form as well.

The Bruins will be back to work at Ristucca Arena tomorrow morning, but it may not a full bore skating practice.

Bruins DVD launch party set for tonight at Hard Rock Cafe

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

Bust out your best Bruins tuxedos and get ready to party. The DVD launch party for The Original Six: History of the Boston Bruins video will take place tonight at the Hard Rock Cafe at Faneuil Hall (the old spot where the Rack used to be during the glory days of my Boston social life) from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The video was created to commemorate the Bruins’ 85th year of existence as Boston’s beloved pro hockey club.

All players are expected to attend, and there’s going to be some cool Q&A’s with Bruins legends that are chronicled throughout the two-hour video.  The Boston Bruins Foundation will hold both live and silent auctions during the event, and it’s going to be a must-attend for the serious Bruins fan.

Tickets for the event start at $90 for season ticket holders, and those wishing to attend must be 21 or older to get in the door. The DVD is retailing for $26.95 at many different outlets. More info about tonight’s event can be found here.

After watching the DVD, I can tell you that it’s a fun view and the video will take you through every memorable cornerstone event that’s taken place in the franchise’s history — withsome new interviews conducted with Harry Sinden, Don Cherry, Mike Milbury, Bobby Orr, Milt Schmidt, Phil Esposito Cam Neely and Ray Bourque among others to add some fresh perspective on many of the events that shaped the Black and Gold.

Didn’t know much about the legend of Eddie Shore heading into the video, and it details a lot of the old stories that made him such a legend during the early years of the Bruins.

My favorite was actually some of the stories from the “Lunch Pail A.C.” teams of the 70′s coached by Cherry that simply beat up opponents even if they didn’t always beat them on the scoreboard. The infamous too many men on the ice penalty is revisited, as is the trade of Esposito and the rise of the teams led by Bourque and Neely in the 80′s and 90′s. It’s also a great reminder at just how special the “Score” call of Fred Cusick was during 40 plus years of broadcasting that became synonymous with the Spoked B. Cusick is also one of the many that granted interviews for the video.

It’s hard not to get misty-eyed for the Big, Bad Bruins days when you hear Brad Park say: “We were biggest, baddest muthers in the valley.” The real seal of approval, however, came when watching the B’s video with my dad, who grew up in the Bobby Orr Era and witnessed the Bruins when they achieved rock star status in the city of Boston.

Whenever he gets really excited about the old days of the Bruins he’ll tell me again how Orr used to kill off penalties all by himself by skating around the other nine players on the ice in the offensive and defensive zones, and then he’ll tell me the story of the time he and the late Ace Bailey took a drive up in my dad’s truck to Canada to pick some hockey equipment — and barely made it through Canadian customs with the assorted hockey swag.

 That’s a sure sign that he gave it two big thumbs up, so I’m giving it two hockey sticks way, way up as well. Highly recommend it for any card-carrying member of Bruins Nation.

Bruins have cooled down following the All-Star Break

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

Had an exercise on the blog in the first half where I listed out the scoring pace that each member of the Bruins was on — a set of figures that actually gave a pretty good glimpse at the kind of seasons the B’s were having.

Players have settled in, injuries have occurred and rookies have slowed down a bit since the glory days of January, so here’s a bit of a rundown of each player’s production since the All-Star break. Hide the women and the children for this because some of these numbers are downright grisly for a hockey club that was on a record-breaking pace earlier this season.

Marc Savard: 7 goals and 15 assists in 26 games. .085 points per game since the ASB. Not up to the 1.19 points per game he averaged in the first half, but he got a lot more of the defense’s attention once guys like Phil Kessel and David Krejci cooled off. Savard is also playing at a -4 since the All-Star break.

David Krejci: 4 goals and 8 assists in 26 games. That’s 12 points in the last two months of hockey. Wow, didn’t see this coming. Krejci has clearly been pressing lately, and should start capitalizing on some of the opportunities he’s had around the net recently. The 22-year-old could really use a big game soon. Has gone from 1.11 points per game in the first half to 0.46 PPG in the second half. Krejci is +9 since the All-Star break, which speaks to me about how the young player has continued playing responsibly despite the down tick in his offense.

Phil Kessel: 7 goals and 6 assists in 25 games. Kessel really struggled coming back from mono following the All-Star break, but has heated up as of late. A 35-goal season and 60 overall points would be a pretty successful season for the 21-year-old Kessel, who was on pace for 50 goals after the season’s first few months. Went from 0.98 PPG in the first half to 0.52 PPG in the second half.

Michael Ryder: 7 goals and 6 assists in 18 games. 10 power play goals for Ryder, who may begin getting things going with a tip that he turned into a power play goal against the Devils.

Dennis Wideman: 3 goals and 10 assists in 26 games. For all the Wideman bashers out there, he’s also gone from +26 to a +32 over the second half of the season.

Blake Wheeler: 4 goals and 6 assists in 25 games. Wheeler is also a +9 in the second half along with Krejci, but has watched his scoring really slow down. Wheeler really looked a step behind the action for a long multiple week stretch — and is still taking ill-advised penalties — but he’s looked much better as of late.

Zdeno Chara: 5 goals and 9 assists in 26 games. Big Z is +2 since the All-Star break, but has appeared to slow and out of position at times in the second half. He was at his best against the Devils on Sunday, but is only a +2 since the All-Star break.

Milan Lucic: 3 goals and 7 assists in 23 games. Looch isn’t expected to provide as much offense as Krejci and Kessel, but he’ll likely finish with a 40-point season and close to the 20 goals he’d targeted for himself before the season started. Not bad for a 20-year-old kid from Vancouver still finding his way in the rough and tumble NHL. Lucic is a -4 since the All-Star break.

Chuck Kobasew: 10 goals and 4 assists in 24 games. Kobasew has the most goals of any Bruins skater since the All-Star break and is the kind of player that every playoff hockey team could use. The fearless winger is willing and able to bang his body, but also blessed with enough skill to score some points.

Patrice Bergeron: 3 goals and 13 assists in 26 games. The 23-year-old Bergeron has started showing his phsyical spark and flashing his offensive abilities over the last few weeks. Bergeron has played even hockey over the second half.

P.J. Axelsson: 2 goals and 5 assists in 26 games. P.J. wasn’t around the PP unit or and first line much in recent games, but he did pop up again on the top line with Kessel and Savard on Sunday. So stay tuned on this one, but I’m not a fan of Axelsson heading the B’s top line despite his defensive inclinations.

Matt Hunwick: 3 goals and 3 assists in 26 games and a +3 during that time. Seems to make things happen each and every game he’s out there playing, and affects the game with his skating speed. Impressive. Most impressive.

I could put Montador and Shane Hnidy up here as well, but let’s face it: there isn’t a whole lot to break down on the scoresheet. Guys like Mark Stuart are judged almost completely by hitting, toughness and defensive abilities rather than gaudy goal totals. This shows some interesting trends: Krejci and Wheeler have obviously taken a step down, but Kobasew has rallied for 10 goals since the ASB and both Savard and Lucic are playing minus hockey during the second half.