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Three Things We Learned from the B’s 2-1 win over the Habs

09.21.09 at 1:27 pm ET
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QUEBEC CITY, Quebec – It was sloppy ice conditions and some of the training camp-inspired names were vastly different, but it was also definitely Habs/Bruins on Sunday night at the Colisee – the old hockey barn that formerly housed the Quebec Nordiques — in Quebec City.

The Bruins held on in the third period for a 2-1 win before a lively crowd of 14,000 plus puck-loving fans, and had to be encouraged by plenty of things they saw. All this despite the fact that B’s head coach Claude Julien alluded to the team appearing sluggish amid some mid-training camp blues.

“It’s almost like the mid-training camp blues at camp right now,” said Julien. “You push your team and it’s almost like they need to catch their second win. Hopefully they get better.”

With the image of Hal Gill lumbering around the ice with the foreign ‘CH’ stitched on his sweater still emblazoned in the brains of the scattering of B’s fans in attendance, here’s a three-pack of things we learned from last night’s training camp tilt against the Habs – the fourth of the season.

1) Max Sauve is showing a whole lot of promise for the future

The raw former second-round pick, Sauve, spent some of his time in camp graciously apologizing to reporters for his struggles communicating in the English language, but he’s got nothing to apologize for on or off the ice. The B’s brass got a long look-see at Sauve while the youngster played three games in camp, and finished with three assists and a +2 rating. Sauve skated with many of the Bruins top players during his time in camp, and now he’s been return to his Quebec Major Junior team (Val D’Or) on Monday morning. Sunday night’s game in Quebec City near the area of Quebec where Sauve grew up turned out to be a bit of a reward for the youngster prior to returning to juniors.
Julien was impressed with the tools that the 19-year-old flashed at camp as well as his willingness to do all of the little things on the ice, and now his biggest challenge is to gain size and strength while rounding out his two-way hockey game.

“First of all, his skill level and his skating are there. He just needs to get stronger, and you hear us say that about a lot of people coming out of junior,” said Julien. “He just needs to get stronger so that when he battles for loose pucks and he goes in there, he can come out with it a little more.

“He can learn that along the way. I know he’s had some tough years in junior with different coaches etc, so hopefully with time and coaching he’s going to get better.”

2) The “competition” for the backup goalie position is largely over at this point

Julien made a large vocal push for the importance of seeing both Tuukka Rask and Dany Sabourin push each other for the chance to back up Tim Thomas at the goaltender position this season. Rask and Sabourin each played an entire game during the first two games in training camp, but the competition for the job should be close to kaput after Sunday night’s performance against the Habs.

Rask faced good pressure from the speedy smurf forwards deployed by the Canadiens, and had only one mistake among his 25 saves when he couldn’t stop a Josh Gorges rocket from the high point in the third period. Rask said after the game that he thought Hunwick was going to be able to get a piece of the shot, but either way the young Finnish tender should have been prepared to turn away the puck.

“It’s just about doing your own job as good as you can, you know,” said Rask. “That’s all anybody can ask for. There is always competition with people no matter team or camp you’re in, but it’s all about focusing on work – and what you can do.”

Aside from that one quick third period hiccup, however, Rask was solid between the pipes before a lively crowd sitting right on top of him in an old hockey barn. The 22-year-old prospect comes to Boston with a reputation for calmness between the pipes and rare poise in such a y0ung goalie.

3) Bergeron and Wheeler are both ready for big seasons

The Bruins are counting on improved scoring from a number of different sources to off-set the loss of Phil Kessel’s scoring via  a trade with Toronto, and both Patrice Bergeron and Blake Wheeler factor heavily into that goal-scoring equation.

Wheeler is bigger and stronger this season, and it was clear to see as he was much more heavily involved from a physical standpoint, and on several occasions took the puck with strength and power toward the Montreal net. He wasn’t rewarded with a goal during Sunday night’s game, but he’s shown the B’s organization plenty by putting the work in during the summer-time and utilizing the results on the ice in the early going. Wheeler could be a very big factor for the Bruins if he can build off his rookie season, and learn how to gain consistency over the course of a long 82-game season.

The talent and the desire are both there, and Wheeler’s physical skills are beginning to catch up.
Bergeron was one of the most active players on the ice playing before his home crowd at the Colisee, and appears to be regaining that innate feel for the puck that eluded him through much of last season.

The 24-year-old was playing his most fearless, effective brand of hockey at the end of last season and then into the playoffs, and he’s carried that over into training camp this season. Bergeron should pair with David Krejci and Marc Savard to give Boston clear strength up the middle this season, and that looks to be the case given the small sample size of training camp.

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