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Best backup goalie ever? Ross Brooks recalls 1970s stint with Bruins fondly 03.21.13 at 11:58 am ET
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PROVIDENCE — Ross Brooks keeps a photo of Bobby Orr above his desk, even in the temporary trailer office to which he’€™s been exiled while Providence College’s Schneider Arena is remodeled. Forty years after he first stood in goal for the Bruins as a 35-year-old rookie, Brooks hasn’€™t forgotten the sight of his name above a locker room stall alongside those of Orr, Phil Esposito and the rest of the storied early ’70s Bruins.

“The biggest thing was looking around the room and seeing all those names on the seats — Esposito, [Ken] Hodge, Dallas Smith, Terry O’€™Reilly — you could just go around the room. And then I saw my name,” Brooks said. “And I just stared at it for a while, and you almost want to pinch yourself to make sure that it’€™s right.”

Brooks spent three seasons — 1972-73 to 1974-75 — with the Bruins, playing in 54 games. He posted goals-against averages of 2.64, 2.36 and 2.98, respectively, and in the ‘€™73-74 season he tied an NHL record with 14 consecutive wins. He finished that year with a 16-3 record, serving as the backup to Gilles Gilbert.

It all happened rather suddenly. Brooks broke into the NHL at age 35 after a 12-year minor league journey that took him from Phoenix to Rochester. Despite his stellar statistics, he spent just three seasons in the league, retiring when Gerry Cheevers returned to the Bruins from the World Hockey Association.

‘€œIn hindsight, you’€™d wish that had happened at 21 years of age, but you know what? At least it happened,’€ Brooks said of his chance with the Bruins.

Despite never earning a starting job, Brooks maintained patience and a good attitude, according to Orr. The two have kept in touch over the years and still golf together from time to time.

“Sometimes, being a backup, they’€™re unhappy all the time and moaning and groaning, and that wasn’€™t Ross,” Orr said. “Ross was a great team guy. Everybody loved him, and when he was called upon to play, obviously, by his record, he played very well for us. ‘€¦ He’€™s a fun guy. He’€™s a jokester, and we always had a lot of fun.”

Brooks, 75, now is the arena manager at Providence College. His longest minor league stop involved seven seasons with the AHL’€™s Providence Reds, and with a few interruptions he’€™s been based there ever since. Even as a Bruin, he made the 45-minute commute from the Providence area and says he was only late for practice in Boston once.

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Andy Brickley: Bruins ‘should have close-out ability,’ ‘haven’t shown it consistently enough’ 03.20.13 at 12:21 pm ET
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NESN’s Andy Brickley spoke with Mut & Merloni Wednesday about why the Bruins have struggled to maintain leads, what general manager Peter Chiarelli might do before the trade deadline, and how the lineup could be shuffled after some recent injuries.

On Tuesday, the Bruins gave up three third-period goals and lost 3-1 to the Jets. Brickley said the way the B’s have played with leads, especially late in games, has been problematic.

“With one-goal leads, even sometimes two-goal leads — for some reason, their inability to make plays when it’s coming out of their own zone, at center ice, when they do have possession, putting pucks into areas in the offensive zone, it requires discipline,” Brickley said. “You don’t want to have to play that way, because you have the lead and you think you can extend the lead by making plays, when the real play is to put pucks in areas to force the other team to have to go and then have to come 200 feet.

“Games are going that way this year because of the 48-game schedule. Things are different this year. Those are not excuses for this Bruins team, because they’re better than they’re showing. They should have close-out ability and they haven’t shown it consistently enough. That said, they’re still in pretty darn good shape.”

There’s been talk of the Bruins pursuing a stay-at-home defenseman to help support Dougie Hamilton before the April 3 trade deadline. However, Brickley said they may make a play for an offense-oriented defenseman instead, despite the potential cost of such a trade.

“As much as we like Dougie Hamilton and what he’s brought to this team, you still see his minutes reduced late in the game, when they’re playing good competition, playoff teams, and goals are hard to come by,” Brickley said. “He’s not the player that you can look at and say, April, May and June, he’s going to be real good for us. That would be a total guess. So maybe you do have to add a puck-moving defenseman, and that’s probably where the premium is at, but there are a lot of puck-moving defensemen ‘€¦ that would be available.”

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Read More: Andy Brickley, Dougie Hamilton, Ryan Spooner,
Pierre McGuire on M&M: Patrice Bergeron ‘one of the top 10 players in the league’ 03.08.13 at 12:22 pm ET
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NBC’s Pierre McGuire joined Mut & Merloni on Friday to talk about Carl Soderberg, for whom the Bruins traded in 2007 only to see him stay in the Swedish Elite League, the possibility of visors being made mandatory for NHL players, and Patrice Bergeron‘s role on the team.

“You look at the plus-minus for Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand last year — a big part of it was because of Patrice Bergeron teaching them to play in their own zone. I’m convinced of that,” McGuire said. “There’s a lot of similarities to what Bergeron does to what Jean Ratelle did in his prime, and he’s a Hall of Famer. Bergeron and Ratelle are so similar. The one thing about Jean was the consistency in his game. Just ask Rod Gilbert about the influence Jean Ratelle had on him on the Goal-A-Game-line down in New York, or you can ask Marchand and Seguin, and I’ve done it, what’s the influence of Bergeron on their game. It’s huge.”

McGuire said he considers Bergeron “one of the top 10 players in the league,” and that his consistency and two-way play likely will lead to a long-term contract extension with the Bruins soon.

“I think [the Bruins] understand the value of players like that in a city like Boston,” McGuire said. “They’re so proactive when it comes to signing players they want to keep. You look at the extension to Seguin, you look at the extension to [ZdenoChara. They’re aggressive when it comes to identifying players that are really important to their team and keeping them, so I’ve got to believe at some point they’re going to get aggressive with Bergeron.”

News broke Thursday that Soderberg, for whom the Bruins traded Hannu Toivonen in 2007, is in talks with the Bruins about coming to Boston after the Swedish Elite League season ends. McGuire said he sees him as an impact player, likely a third-liner.

“The thing about him that’s so good is he’s rangy — he’s about 6-foot-3, 6-foot-4, 195 to 200,” McGuire said. “Serious skill level ‘€¦ he’s got huge offensive skills, a major breakthrough year for him this year, more mature now than he probably ever was, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him be able to play right away in the National Hockey League.”

McGuire said Soderberg’s transition to the NHL could be comparable to that of Damien Brunner, who came over from Switzerland to put up 10 goals and eight assists so far in his rookie season with Detroit.

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Patrice Bergeron line stays hot for Bruins 03.08.13 at 1:07 am ET
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David Krejci‘€™s goal proved to be the game-winner, but it was the exception in Thursday’€™s 4-2 Bruins victory over Toronto: the only Boston goal that didn’€™t involve Patrice Bergeron, Tyler Seguin or Brad Marchand.

Seguin picked up two goals and an assist, Bergeron a goal and two assists, and Marchand two assists. If Marchand had touched the puck before Bergeron on the game’€™s final goal, an empty-netter by Seguin, all three would have had a hand in three different goals on the night.

Success is nothing unusual for that line, which features three of the Bruins’€™ top four scorers. But with Seguin picking up his scoring pace after a slow start and Marchand beginning to rack up assists as well as goals, they’€™re proving they can combine to put the puck in the net in any number of ways.

Marchand had one assist through his first 12 games and now has seven in his last eight. He attributed that shift, jokingly, to Seguin’€™s newly rediscovered goal-scoring ability.

“Well, it’s nice to see [Seguin] start finishing,” Marchand said, sarcastically complaining. “It was getting a little frustrating there early on. It’s nice for him to finally get a couple and get his confidence up with the [empty-netter].

“That stuff happens,” he continued in a serious tone. “Goals come in bunches, assists come in bunches and there will be a bunch of games where you don’t get anything. It’s just how it goes.”

Seguin did find the empty net with 15 seconds left in the game, but he also found a hole on Toronto goalie Ben Scrivens in the second period for his sixth goal of the year. Marchand chipped the puck past Toronto’€™s Dion Phaneuf to Seguin, and Seguin fired it over Scrivens’€™ outstretched leg pad to give the Bruins a 2-1 lead.

‘€œI saw [Seguin] all alone, and I guess no one is really threatened by him right now because he’€™s not scoring, so it’€™s just nice to see him finish,’€ Marchand joked.

The Bruins’€™ first goal made use of all three players’€™ skills: Marchand dug out the puck along the boards to send Seguin on a breakaway from the blue line, and Bergeron followed through to knock the rebound past Scrivens.

Marchand said that kind of hard work and positioning, as well as his play in the defensive zone, are what set Bergeron apart as an elite player.

‘€œWhen I came here, Bergy was a guy that I always found myself watching because he always prides himself on getting better,’€ Marchand said. ‘€œHe always wants to learn and improve his game.’€

The trio received the game’€™s three stars — Marchand third, Seguin second and Bergeron first — allowing them to be recognized, fittingly, as a unit.

‘€œWe have a lot of fun out there, and it seems like we’€™re continuing to build and find each other a little bit more each game,’€ Marchand said. ‘€œWe work pretty hard on and off the ice to talk to each other and figure things out, and it’€™s a lot of fun playing with those guys.’€

Read More: Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, Tyler Seguin,
Andy Brickley on M&M: ‘It’s the officiating itself’ causing more players to embellish 03.06.13 at 1:45 pm ET
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NESN’s Andy Brickley talked with Mut & Merloni on Wednesday about the Bruins’ overtime loss to the Capitals on Tuesday and about B’s coach Claude Julien‘s implication that the Canadiens dive more than most teams.

“From where Jack [Edwards] and I sit, it was more about what the Bruins failed to do,” Brickley said of the Capitals’ four-goal comeback Tuesday. “A 3-0 lead after one period, a game that you could certainly put away — the Bruins have the capability, it should be in their DNA by now. ‘€¦ Now it comes on the heels of giving a game away to Montreal in the third period, and over the last two periods plus overtime, to give that game away against Washington. It’s disturbing, it’s frustrating. And it shouldn’t happen in a season when points are at a premium, when it gets amplified.”

Brickley said that while it hasn’t hurt them much to this point, Tuesday wasn’t a big departure from the way the Bruins have been playing all year.

“When you really look at this team, they don’t do anything the easy way,” he said. “They don’t blow teams out, and they had an opportunity to do that last night, and even with the things that hurt them — mismanagement of the puck, turnovers, weak third periods of late, not extending leads even greater than three goals. … That offense needs to find some other gear. You’ve got to expect some shakeup on lines 2, 3 and 4.”

In response to a video that compiles various instances of the Bruins embellishing, Brickley noted that many of the plays in the video are against Montreal and Vancouver, and said the Bruins may have been diving in those situations to stay on an even playing field with teams that do it frequently. He added that he thinks players are embellishing more because officials aren’t calling penalties when they should.

“The problem isn’t so much about the embellishment,” he said. “It’s the officiating itself. If the officiating was of a higher quality, then embellishment becomes less of a part of your strategy as a team to get power plays.”

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Read More: Andy Brickley, Chris Bourque, Tyler Seguin,
P.J. Stock on D&C: ‘Everyone’s guilty’ of embellishing 03.06.13 at 10:08 am ET
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Former Bruin P.J. Stock of Hockey Night in Canada joined Dennis & Callahan on Wednesday to talk about how changes in hockey have led to more embellishment, and how he thinks an openly gay player would be received in the league.

There have been rumors around the web that Canadiens defenseman Josh Gorges would be coming out this week, but according to You Can Play president Patrick Burke, who spoke with the Canadiens, they are untrue. Stock said that in general he thinks the league is ready for a gay player, but that he would have to worry more about taunts from opposing players and fans than about issues in his own locker room.

“I think there would be those jokes, to the opposition, which there are all the time,” Stock said. “In the locker room would be completely different. I think he would be respected and they would be positive jokes. You’re the same 20, 22, 23 guys for a year and you all learn about everybody’s flaws, your pros and cons, and you’re a big family. Yeah, it would be addressed, something that would be talked about, and yeah, you’re 20 guys that shower together all the time, so there’d be a couple jokes here and there, but that wouldn’t be the problem. I would love to see how it would work out, but the opposition is where you get into some situations where it would be interesting to see where other players react. … I hope there’s someone that steps out, I really do.”

On the topic of embellishment, Stock said he understands why Claude Julien was frustrated with the way penalties were called in the Bruins’ loss to Montreal on Sunday, but that the Canadiens don’t dive any more than any other team.

“Everyone does it,” Stock said of diving. “I don’t think any one team does it more than others. Now, there’s certain types of players that might do it more than others, so if you have more of those players on your team, therefore it might happen more often. But the Canadiens in general? I know P.K. Subban adds some flair to when he gets hit, but — I’m a huge Brad Marchand fan. You look at Team Canada, you look at players that can skate, players that have played big in big games — Brad Marchand’s an easy person not to pick, but I think if you’re really going to sit there and look at things, he does so much so well. But does Brad Marchand embellish? Yeah. You’re trying to sell something. ‘€¦ And Claude Julien knows that, and he’s frustrated about what happened the other night, losing [ZdenoChara out for 17 minutes, and they’re losing the game to his arch-rival, to the team that let him go years earlier. But ‘€¦ everyone’s guilty.”

Stock also pointed out that the value of a big hit or a big fight has changed within the game, and that instead of being momentum-changers, those moments are now cause for suspensions. He said he believes that’s why players embellish more now — getting their team a power play is more effective than getting into a fight.

“Goals are what change the game,” Stock said. “Every time there’s a big hit now, you’ve got to re-look at it 15 times to see, did he leave his feet, did he hit his head? And then there’s always some kind of altercation after it, it’s never just a big hit. The way you would change the momentum was you would increase the physical side of play, which would lead to checking, fights, get the crowd into it. Now, unfortunately, you can’t do that as much. Teams don’t have those kind of players and the game just doesn’t allow for it anymore. So the way you change the momentum is by trying to get a power play, which leads to those players embellishing, because how else do you get a power play?”

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Read More: Brad Marchand, Montreal Canadiens, PJ Stock, Zdeno Chara
Andy Brickley on M&M: Contraction good for NHL, but ‘I can’t see it happening’ 02.27.13 at 2:19 pm ET
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NESN Bruins analyst Andy Brickley joined Mut & Merloni on Tuesday to talk about the proposed NHL realignment, how it could be complicated by team relocations, and Tuukka Rask‘s contract status as he continues to put together a strong year.

“I like that you play every team in the league home and home,” Brickley said of the realignment plan. “I like that you play down out of your division once you get into the postseason. I think that’s truly what builds rivalries, which is what they’re looking for. That was certainly the case back in the day, when you had to get out of your division before you could advance deeper into the postseason. I like that. And I think the divisions the way they’re created are going to cut down on travel, wear and tear, the time zone travel, and that’s all good.

“What I don’t like is the unevenness of the number of teams in the division, and the uneven number of games played against opponents in your own division. And does the number of teams in your division negatively affect your team’s chances of making the postseason? Those are my concerns. And then looking forward, are we looking at this formula because we’re preparing for two more teams, to prepare for two more cities? And what happens to realignment if a Western Conference team has to relocate to Quebec City and we’re just going to do the whole exercise all over again?”

Brickley said attendance at the Bruins’ recent games on Long Island and in Florida was sparse, but that the league is far more likely to relocate those teams, or the league-owned Coyotes, than to contract the number of teams in the league.

“Those things will never happen,” he said. “They will never take backward steps in that direction. I certainly can’t see it. There’s too much money at stake. ‘€¦ There’s too much strength in the union to allow that number of loss of jobs. I don’t see it, although it might be good for the game in the long run, but I can’t see it happening.”

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