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Believe in miracles? Quite a few do, in Flyers case 05.12.10 at 1:23 pm ET
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The Bruins have already had two chances to close out the Philadelphia Flyers and book their ticket to the Eastern Conference finals. On Wednesday night, they will hope that the third time is the charm. Because if it isn’t, this series will head back to Boston and the Bruins could find themselves in an unenviable position ‘€” with their backs against the wall and infamy staring them in the face.

After winning Game 4 in Philly, the Flyers insisted that the pressure fell squarely on the Bruins. If that wasn’t the case then, it surely will be Wednesday, when the Bruins try to come back from a disastrous performance in Game 5’s 4-0 loss. Chalk it up to nerves or over-confidence, but the Bruins were at a loss to explain their performance at TD Garden on Monday. Credit the Flyers for showing up and getting the job done, but it was clear that the Bruins were not the same team that they was on the ice in the first three games of this series.

Now it is the Flyers who have all the confidence and the Bruins who are on their heels. Not only do the Flyers believe that they can make history and become just the third team in NHL history to come back from an 0-3 hole, but there is also sentiment from the national media that the Flyers have the momentum in this series.

This is despite the fact that Philly will be playing with another new goaltender ‘€” Michael Leighton ‘€” after Brian Boucher’s injury. The Flyers have gone from Ray Emery to Boucher and now their third-stringer, who himself was coming back from an injury Monday night. But the Flyers say that they believe Leighton can get the job done, and the newest Philly netminder agrees.

He certainly looked capable in stopping 14 shots in his roughly two periods of play Monday night in relief of Boucher. But it was not just the play in net that helped Philly cut the series deficit to 3-2; the Flyers balance has been a key ingredient in their turnaround. With both teams bruised and battered after the first five games, the Flyers’ momentum could give them an edge.

Of course, the Bruins played well in their two games at the Wachovia Center, earning the 4-1 win in Game 3 and narrowly missing the opportunity to close things out in the 5-4 overtime loss in Game 4. But that was the past, and now the Flyers have the chance to make history. Winning four straight seems like an improbable achievement, but the way the Flyers looked Monday it appears that they have quite a few believers. It is up to the Bruins, now, to prove those people wrong.

Recchi on D&C interview transcript 05.05.10 at 10:48 am ET
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Bruins forward Mark Recchi joined Dennis & Callahan on Wednesday morning to discuss his team’s playoff series against the Flyers.

With the Bruins up 2-0 in the series on the day of Game 3, Recchi expects the Flyers to come out with plenty of intensity as they face a must-win situation. “We know it was two good games, two hard-fought games, and it is going to be no different tonight,” he said. “We are going to have to weather the storm of their home crowd for the first 5-7 minutes and then push back. And if we can do that, it will play into our favor as well.”

Asked how he thinks his younger teammates will handle the hostile crowd, Recchi said he doesn’t think it will be much of an issue. “They won’t get unnerved about stuff like that at all,” he said. “Our guys are ready for everything. We’ve been in it, and Buffalo was a pretty crazy building as well. We’ve seen it first-hand, and Philly fans probably take it up a notch, but at the same time that won’t bother our guys.”

The Bruins’ struggles during the regular season were well documented. Despite that, the team has persevered and made it to the Eastern Conference semifinals. Recchi was asked if he ever had doubts that the Bruins would right the ship during moments like the team’s 10-game losing streak. “When you believe in the guys sitting beside you, in the dressing room, that never crosses your mind,” he said.  “My biggest thing was I knew we had it in us, because we could control games and dominate games, but then we just couldn’t find that consistency. And I knew it was there. We did it the year before. a lot of these young guys had done it the year before. So in the end I wasn’t too unhappy that we went through that rough patch because I believe it makes you grow.”

The 42-year-old also talked about his transitions as a player over the last 20 years. “At 22 I was just a young offensive player who was very gifted offensively,” he said. “I was still learning to be a leader, but I had some great guys in the dressing room like Bryan Trottier and Joe Mullen. Thirty-two, I had become kind of a leader and was better at it. I was still an offensive player but I was getting better at two-way. And 42 is not as good offensively, but responsible defensively and I think I am a good leader in the dressing room.”

To listen to the interview, click here. A transcript is below.

Even though you guys are up 2-0, is the fact that you could have lost either of those games a good or bad thing in the team’s mind?

Well, as long as we understand that it could have went both ways I think that is the important thing ‘€” that you learn from it. We know it was two good games, two hard fought games and it is going to be no different tonight. We are going to have to weather the storm of their home crowd for the first five to seven minutes and then push back. And if we can do that it will play into our favor as well.

You almost have to expect this will be their best effort tonight. Is that safe to say?

Absolutely. They will throw everything at us but the kitchen sink. We’ll have to be ready for it and like I said we’ll have to push back. And if we can and we can weather it then it is going to be a tight game again.

If it doesn’t work for the Bruins, and it does for the Flyers, when do you expect it to get ugly?

Well, you never know with this rivalry. Both are big teams and physical teams, so you just never know.

Does the hostile crowd affect you?

Once you get out there playing, it doesn’t really matter. It is loud and when team’s come to our building it’s loud and energetic. It is a fun atmosphere to be in regardless of what building you are in. That’s what it is all about and the playoffs are fun, so you’ve got to enjoy it. Enjoy that 18,000 people hate you. Read the rest of this entry »

Milbury on D&H: Sitting Thornton would be ‘a crime’ 04.30.10 at 4:49 pm ET
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NESN and NBC hockey analyst Mike Milbury joined Dale & Holley Friday afternoon to discuss the Bruins-Flyers Eastern Conference semifinal series and the rest of the matchups in the NHL playoffs.

With the likely return of Marc Savard for Game 1 tomorrow at TD Garden, it will have to come at the expense of another player on the roster. That looks like it might be Shawn Thornton, and Milbury said that that move would be a mistake. “I would shed a real tear if I were a Bruins fan, if that happens,” he said. “I don’t think his presence in the lineup is given enough importance by the people in management, frankly. I’ve seen him sort of get jerked around this year and I thought it was a mistake. If he doesn’t play tomorrow I think it is a mistake, and if he doesn’t play every game the rest of the way I think it’s a crime.”

Milbury agreed with the hosts that sitting Blake Wheeler would be a better option for the Bruins. “Why would they not sit Blake Wheeler? … I know there isn’t a lot of choices there, but when it comes to a guy you want to count on every game or you want to count on somebody in the last minute to get the puck out from along the wall, I sure as heck would count on Shawn Thornton. And if you are looking for a goal right now, picking Thornton over Wheeler is a 50-50 bet.”

Though he is not so high on the performance of Wheeler, Milbury said that he has been impressed by Tuukka Rask. When asked which goaltender remaining in the playoffs he would prefer, Milbury didn’t hesitate. “I don’t think for the age or the money, but just based on performance I don’t think you’d want to go with anybody but Tuukka Rask right now.

“I don’t know how much better he is going to get, but some of these games he has been absolutely terrific,” he said.

As for the B’s opponent, Milbury said the Flyers are in the second round thanks to the play of Boucher. “Philadelphia’s surprise for me is that they found a goaltender when they needed it the most, and it is a recycled goaltender at that,” he said. “Without him to lean on I don’t know how they get any further. There were moments when was shaky, but in the end I thought he played real well.”

To listen, click on the Dale & Holley audio on demand page. A full transcript is below.

Give me three reasons why the Bruins lose or win this series.

I hate making predictions because usually it is the kiss of death for my favorite time. But I’m going to pick the Bruins. “I’ll pick Tuukka Rask, because he’s a better goaltender than Brian Boucher. He’s got the composure to play at this level, at this stage without missing a beat. I have that much confidence in him. Second would be the return of Marc Savard. I know there is a little bit of Vegas gambling going on with him,  but I think his presence in the lineup, on the power play, is going to be a major factor, maybe the tipping point in the series. And the third one is that the Bruins have somehow found a way to bounce back after a turbulent year. I think they really put themselves in a position where they have the mental toughness to win this series. I don’t think anybody expected Philadelphia to be there. People probably didn’t expect the Bruins to be there. They match up pretty evenly. But I think what the Bruins have gone through gives them a little bit of an edge.

The third one I had was that the Flyers are so beat up, I think that will be for them to overcome.

If I put my other shoe on here I would be picking Philadelphia because Boucher has figured it out, their defense is probably deeper with the absence of  [Mark] Stuart and [Dennis] Seidenberg and up front despite the fact that [Jeff] Carter is not there and they lost [Ian] Laperriere and [Simon] Gagne, they’ve still got some pretty good weapons in Mike Richards and Danny Briere. It is a pretty good matchup and this could go the distance I think.

There is a great piece from John Powers in the Globe today about young goaltenders and you are quoted talking about Mike Moffat. He was thrown in there and it might have killed his career.

He was not equipped to handle it. I mean he said, ‘I can’t do it. I can’t go out there.’ And Gerry [Cheevers] said, ‘Put your mask on and go out there. And he wound up throwing up in his mask. He went out there and he was absolutely brilliant in that entire series. We lost in seven games to Quebec that year on a lousy floater goal from the point. It was a heck of a run and Moffat was a huge part of it, but he couldn’t summon that kind of energy for every game in his career and eventually he decided it wasn’t for him.

Why is the list so small of rookie goaltenders who have been a part of championship teams?

Well, it is the most challenging emotionally in terms of a position. I don’t get the mentality of who wants to be a goalie. It is OK when you are stopping tennis balls in the street instead of a hard rubber disk going about 100 mph. Your mind has got to be of a different sort. It usually takes a goaltender awhile, and by awhile I mean if you go back and look at it usually they are about 25 or 26. That is the time frame for most goaltenders. However, you are seeing all these guys come into the league at 18, 19 or 20 and they are making an impact and I would suspect that goaltenders are not far behind. The training is so much better, the preparation is so much better. They are playing on big stages at 14 and 15 and I would suspect that goaltenders sooner or later will be in that ballpark. Read the rest of this entry »

Neely on D&H: We have to make it more difficult for Miller 04.17.10 at 9:52 am ET
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Bruins vice president Cam Neely joined Dale and guest host Sean McAdam on Friday to discuss the Bruins series against the Buffalo Sabres.

Buffalo took Game 1 on Thursday night 2-1 behind 38 saves from netminder Ryan Miller, and the Bruins will try to knot things up at one game apiece in Game 2 Saturday afternoon in Buffalo. The Bruins will be hoping that they can put more pressure on the Sabres’ goalie in that one and manufacture some more goals. “Obviously with a guy like Miller, you certainly want to get in front of him a little bit more and make it more difficult for him to see those shots,” Neely said. “That is obviously something that we have to work on as a team.”

As for his goaltender’s play, Neely was pleased with Tuuka Rask’s first playoff performance in the loss. “A lot of us didn’t have questions with him as far as dealing with pressure,” Neely said.  “He is a pretty poised kid and he made some really big stops a few times during the game to keep us in the hockey game. And he pretty much played how we expected him to play.” He added that Rask was screen on Craig Rivet’s second period goal and had “no sight at all.”

Now that the Bruins know they have the second pick in the NHL draft in June, Neely also discussed the two most likely candidates for the Bruins to pick: Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin. Neely said that he has only seen Hall play, and described him as a, “competitive player, loves to go to the net, he’s got great speed and he sees the ice really well.” He added that, “both of those guys are going to be guys that any team would be happy to get.”

A transcript of the interview is below. To listen, click here.

Is the glass half or half empty after last night’s game?

Well, you have to go half full I think. You try to stay positive. More often than not when we play like that we will have better outcomes.

I was disappointed in how your team played in the first period. I thought you guys started a little slow and then the second period was terrific. Why didn’t we see that earlier?

At the start of the game, first playoff series on the road, you know the home building is going to be cranking and the home team is going to want to come out flying, and that is generally what happens. I don’t think we played that bad in the first but we were that much better in the second.

One of the criticisms of the Bruins last night, and all season, has been that there has not been enough traffic in front of the offensive zone. There hasn’t been enough physical play and getting in front of the goaltender. Did you see that last night, and if so how does that change?

I don’t think that in the last 10 or so games there has been an issue with effort or desire. Obviously with a guy like Miller, you certainly want to get in front of him a little bit more and make it more difficult for him to see those shots. That is obviously something that we have to work on as a team. I think we have done a better job of that, but for sure there is definitely more room for improvement to make it more difficult for him to see the puck and get traffic in front of him and keep getting pucks at the net. That is all you can preach.

Cam, I haven’t mentioned the officiating once today. But from what I have read about the new Matt Cooke rule, what Tyler Myers did last night is a violation of that rule. Have you guys heard from the league about whether they are going to take a look at it or not?

Haven’t heard anything yet on that, Dale. It is something that you certainly think, with the new rules in place, that would be a hit that they would want to look at. But I don’t think that Peter [Chiarelli] has heard anything from the league about that at all.

The cynic in me would say that we won’t hear anything about that. I don’t have a lot of faith in the NHL in this case.

I think that you look at no call on the ice ‘€” our player wasn’t injured ‘€” I don’t expect to hear much about it. But I think we have other things to worry about other than what the league is thinking about.

Cam, what was your take on Tuukka Rask‘s playoff debut?

Tuuka played, to be honest with you, as I expected him to. A lot of us didn’t have questions with him as far as dealing with pressure. He is a pretty poised kid and he made some really big stops a few times during the game to keep us in the hockey game. And he pretty much played how we expected him to play.

Was he screened on the Craig Rivet goal in the second period?

Yeah, absolutely. He had no sight at all on that puck and it was placed in a perfect area. He had no sight at all.

We’ve seen a number of surprising upsets in the first game of some of these playoff series. What do you think happens in some of those instances?

Well, there is so much parity in the league, as you know, now. There is a lot of pressure for the top seeds to come out and win those games, and there is not as much pressure on the bottom seeds going into those buildings. But they are seven game series, as you know Dale, and anything can happen. It is just one game, and that is what we are looking at. We came here to leave with a split, and that is what we are looking to do tomorrow.

Goal scoring was an issue for this team throughout the regular season, and you get into the playoffs and teams tend to tighten up. You are obviously facing one of the best goaltenders in the league. What is the message to the team in terms of trying to get over that offensive hump?

Well, I think one of the things that you have to do is try not to focus too much on where to put the puck. There are times were you go through stretches when you are not scoring and you try to place it, and you take an extra half a second or so and that opportunity is gone. The thing I think is just getting the puck to the net as much as possible because a lot of good scoring opportunities can come from just getting the puck at the net and trying to be more instinctual as opposed to thinking about where to put it. That is one of the things were our guys just fire it at the net and see what happens. We talk about this all the time ‘€”get pucks to the net, take the puck to the net and get in front of the net. That is kind of what you have to preach and what these guys have to do.

Is it deflating at all, Cam, to get 38 shots and only get one out of them. Is it tough to keep sending that message when you see that you almost got 40 shots and only beat Miller once?

I don’t think so. Listen, I think you have to be as positive as possible. You have to look at it like, ‘We had 38 shots on net and it is going to come,’ as opposed to, ‘We had 38 shots and only got one.’ So I think you have to be as positive as possible when you are playing.

Cam, how much have you seen of Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin?

I saw Hall play a couple of games. I didn’t see Seguin … but what I do know from listening to our staff ‘€” and that goes along with [assistant GM] Jim [Benning], [scout] Denis [LeBlanc] and Peter, they have gone our and seen those guys as well’€” is that both of those guys are going to be impact players.

It is hard to believe that nay kind of pressure like this would be put on an 18-year-old kid. But either one of those guys is going to be counted on to be a pretty important player on your franchise right off the bat.

I think, quite honestly Dale, that when you look at types of players those guys are, they probably relish that. That would be my guess. You look at anybody that is going to be picked in the top two or three in any draft year, they want to be the guy. So I don’t think that is going to be any issue. We are certainly not going to put any pressure on anybody, but when you are that type of an elite athlete you want to be the guy.

Without giving away any secrets, because we don’t know how the draft is going to go, what were your impressions of Hall when you watched him?

Competitive player, loves to go to the net, he’s got great speed and he sees the ice really well. Like I said, both of those guys are going to be guys that any team would be happy to get.

I have a feeling you guys are going to hear a whole lot of offers for that second pick, and I have the feeling you guys are not going to listen to any of them.

I am sure Peter’s phone is going to be ringing, but we are in a position that we certainly didn’t think that we would be in ‘€”being in the playoffs and also having the second overall pick in a very deep draft.

Let’s try to put it as simply as we can. For the afternoon game in Buffalo tomorrow, what do you want to see differently from your team, if there is anything, compared to last night.

I think that we can get on them a little bit more; get the puck in deep and give their D a little more problems than we did in the first game. I think that will give us some more opportunities. Just keep getting pucks to the net and keep getting bodies in front of the net. But I think that we can get the puck in on their D a little more and have them make some more mistakes.

Thornton on D&H: ‘I know people are pissed’ 03.19.10 at 3:12 pm ET
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Bruins forward Shawn Thornton joined Dale & Holley on Friday to discuss Thursday night’s game against the Penguins and his fight with Matt Cooke.

Thornton gave Bruins fans a rare exciting moment in an otherwise lackluster 3-0 loss, getting some revenge on Cooke for his vicious hit on Marc Savard by challenging the Pittsburgh winger six seconds after he hit the ice and winning the fight decisively. “I wish the fight had gone on a little longer and I could have knocked him out, but it didn’t happen unfortunately,” Thornton said. “But it was addressed and I think that was the biggest thing. He didn’t have to fight me and he did, and I think that put some water on the fire.”

Thornton talked about how he came to earn his reputation as a tough guy for the Bruins, starting with his role in juniors. “I’d played defense my whole life, but they said I had to play winger and play this role if you want to play on this team, and I would do whatever it takes,” he said.  “My first seasons as a pro it was kind of the same thing ‘€” be a seventh defenseman, extra forward ‘€” but you have to do whatever it takes. And look where I am now ‘€” a great city, a nice condo and playing in front of 17,000 people every night.”

He also addressed the fans’ reaction to the Bruins play. Those fans who were at TD Garden were not pleased about the outcome of the game vs. the Penguins and resorted to booing the Bruins. Thornton said that he had “no answer for the lack of energy” despite a pumped-up crowd, particularly after his fight. He also added that he understands the fans’ frustrations. “I understand it; I know people are pissed,” Thornton said. “I walk around Charlestown and people aren’t afraid to tell you, which is great that they are so passionate. I hope my teammates are aware of it. … You’d have to ask them [what they’ve heard], I’m really not sure.”

A full transcript of the interview is below. To listen, click here.

Fans were pretty upset last night, and I must say I don’t blame the ones that booed.

I don’t either. I really don’t.

Last night before the game we were all anticipating a fight with Matt Cooke. When did you know that was what you were going to do? When did you say to yourself, “This is my job.”

Ah, 13 years ago I guess. It’s kind of always been my job. Not saying that we don’t have other guys that are more than capable, but I kind of like to take the responsibility myself.

You guys have been called out the last few weeks for not doing anything at the time of the hit. Did you have a problem with the response to the initial hit in Pittsburgh?

Yeah. I think I’ve said that before and I think other people in the organization have said that too. I think the response had to be immediate. It couldn’t happen after the immediate hit because with the way the rules are set up now ‘€” instigators and all the fines and everything else ‘€” it would have to be right away. It happened very quickly and the refs got in there quick, and I don’t know how many guys got to see it. I didn’t see it and I was sitting on the bench, because I was following the puck. But it’s been addressed now. I tried to address it last night right away so we could try to move on and win the hockey game, but unfortunately that didn’t happen.

Have you ever had a teammate you wouldn’t fight for?

No. My team is my second family, so there has never been anyone I wouldn’t fight for.

Zdeno Chara challenged Mike Rupp to a fight. Right after he spoke to the bench, and he said after the game he was calling out his guys. Unfortunately, I didn’t see anyone respond.

I agree. And I’m not making excuses for anyone, but unfortunately we had a penalty 17 seconds later and that kind of  took the wind out of the sails for the momentum that Z tried to create. Usually I would be really pissed at the guy who took that penalty, but it is Mark Stuart, who has kind of been the heart and soul of our team for the last little bit. And it wasn’t intentional on his part and he works his tail off every single night and gives us everything he has. It was bad timing, but it definitely wasn’t intentional and it wasn’t on purpose for him to take away that momentum. But even after the penalty was killed ‘€” you can build off a penalty kill ‘€” but  Z was still in the box and we just didn’t bring the emotion or energy.

I thought last night the fans brought a tremendous amount of passion, energy and excitement. Why don’t you think the team able to take that and carry that into throughout the entire game?

I don’t know. In my opinion, after my fight it was probably the loudest the place has ever been other than Game 6 against Montreal a couple years ago. I have no answer for the lack of energy other than guys being sick, but that is not an excuse for anything ‘€” I’m just saying some guys were under the weather. But the guys who weren’t sick could have played better too.

Do you think Matt Cooke got off easily last night? You kicked his butt, but do you think he was able to skate a little freer than you and your teammates would’ve liked?

I think so. I don’t know how much he played last night, I think it was a little less than normal and he was sort of walking on egg shells the entire night. I didn’t see him finish too many checks like he usually does. I mean, hey, we all wanted to see blood but it doesn’t happen like that anymore. It’s not the ’70s. Sometimes I wish it was and I wish the fight had gone on a little longer and I could have knocked him out, but it didn’t happen unfortunately. But it was addressed and I think that was the biggest thing. He didn’t have to fight me and he did, and I think that put some water on the fire. I said that last night but I think it’s true.

I’m so glad you said that about the fight going on longer.

Yeah, if the refs hadn’t jumped in there it might have. But once they get in there it is hard to keep things going.

I have tremendous respect for people who do what you do for a living. I have zero respect for people who play like Matt Cooke does. But I will give him credit because I thought he would turtle when you challenged him and he did not.

No, and I think being on the other side with that whole Vancouver thing and seeing what can transpire if the person doesn’t step up with the right person. People can get hurt and there can be lawsuit and a lot of stuff nowadays. I’m with you, I don’t respect people that play the game the wrong way. I think that is probably evident from me throwing punches when he was down on his knees, because I don’t ever do that. I have to give him credit for stepping up and trying to take one on the side of the head for his team because it could have got a lot uglier for guys who probably didn’t deserve it.

Shawn, with 12 games left you have a three point lead over the New York Rangers. What have you seen from your team so far that would lead you to believe that if you get into the playoff you can make a run there?

The lack of consistency so far I suppose is concerning, but when we go in and play games like we did in Philly a week ago you see how good the team can be when everyone is going. We need everyone going. I think in the playoffs ‘€” if we get in the playoffs or when we get in the playoffs ‘€” I’m assuming everyone will come to play every night and we are a really good team when everyone comes to play.

Shawn, what was your plan if Matt Cooke hadn’t taken the bait for a fight?

You know, I didn’t really have any other plan. I didn’t know if I would be on the ice with him for the first shift, but it happened to work out that way. And I think it worked out for the best for everybody involved.

How did you get to the point where you had 179 fights? How did you get to the stage where you were the guy who is expected to fight? I’m sure you didn’t think, “This is why I am getting into professional hockey.”

No. I guess it started in junior. I didn’t want to go back to working in a steel mill. … I knew this was part of the game that kind of came naturally to me and I’ve always been the kind of guy who would stick up for my teammates even when I was younger and that wasn’t my role. I went to junior and that was kind of the role that was needed. I’d played defense my whole life but they said I had to play winger and play this role if you want to play on this team, and I would do whatever it takes. My first seasons as a pro it was kind of the same thing ‘€” be a seventh defenseman, extra forward’€”but you have to do whatever it takes. And look where I am now’€”a great city, a nice condo and playing in front of 17,000 people every night. Yeah, the job sucks some nights when you know you are going to get your head punched in, but in the grand scheme of things it is pretty good. So I’ve got no problem doing it.

How many times has your nose been broken?

I don’t know. I don’t even check anymore.

Too many to count?

Not that many, but I honestly couldn’t give you a legitimate number. I’m sure it has been broken a couple of times and I didn’t bother to get it checked.

What did you say to [Cooke], and how did he respond? Because it looked like you asked him if he wanted to take his helmet off.

Yeah, I did. We squared off and he said no, but that is OK. I understand that too. They put mandatory visors in the AHL and when I was down there for 15 games I think I fought five or six times and I had to take off my helmet those five or six times. Those visors aren’t a big deal as far as the fight goes. Those helmets come off and someone hits their head on the ice, that is a lot scarier than getting a hand in a visor. I really spoke out when I was in the AHL about not having visors for guys like me because I think it was a lot more dangerous when you are grabbing guys who are 6-foot-5, 240 pounds to hit your head on the ice than for him to hit his hand on your visor or me to hit it on his visor. It doesn’t really matter either way, I was just asking him what he wanted to do. I didn’t care either way. It is not hard to get the helmet off anyway when you are bigger than someone.

And you did.

Yes, I did.

Shawn, who is the best fighter you have seen at any level and who kind of taught you the tricks of the trade?

I had a couple of people along the way. When I was younger it was a guy named Lionel Engelton. There was a little bit of boxing and that kind of stuff, but it was more the mental aspect ‘€” being ready to go and not having to be so emotional to get involved. Just trying to convince yourself that if you are in better condition than most people you will be all set. The last few years in Boston I’ve been training at The Ring during the summers with a guy named Tom McInerney. I got in there two or three times a week and he does it all out of the goodness of his heart; he won’t even let me pay him. I think those two people have really helped me for off-ice condition. I try to train to be a hockey player to tell you the truth, the other stuff is just kind of fun. And like I said, I haven’t trained to be a fighter, it just kind of comes naturally to me. I knew what my role was and sometimes I had to think about it the day before if I knew what was going to happen. But I’ve always been really good at it.

You’ve elected to stay here almost year round. So you probably have a better grasp of the feelings of Bruins nation. Do you think your team understands how upset Bruins fans are right now?

I hope so. I really do. I love being here. I enjoy this city immensely and I feel pretty confident saying it is home now. I understand it; I know people are pissed. I walk around Charlestown and people aren’t afraid to tell you, which is great that they are so passionate. I hope my teammates are aware of it. You’d have to ask them, I’m really not sure.

What have you heard today?

Well, most people have just said good job for punching that guys lights out.

Well, it was the only reason to cheer last night. You did your job.

Yeah, I guess it is my job, but our line is playing OK minutes but we are not scoring. So, yes, my job is to protect my guy but I we could chip in a little more too and not rely on the same six guys to get us points every night. So, yeah, I did that part of my job but I think I could contribute a little bit more and our whole line could do a little more.

You said something to Cooke after the fight. Did you expect to be back on the ice with him later?

I did not say anything. He was talking, I was just looking. And one of their tough guys said, “It is over now, that’s it. Next time you have to fight me.” And then I just kind of skated off.

I’m guessing that was Rupp, and I kind of respect that, too.

Definitely. I’ve fought both of their tough guys a few times ‘€” Rupp just once but [Eric] Godard a few times. They are very respectful of the game and the code which people talk about every now and again. So, they are very honest players and they go about the game the right way, in my opinion.

Neely on D&H: Olympic hockey ‘doesn’t really promote the NHL’ 02.26.10 at 5:13 pm ET
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Bruins vice president Cam Neely joined Dale & Holley from Vancouver Friday afternoon to talk Olympic hockey, the NHL and the state of the Bruins.’€¨’€¨ Neely said he does not think the two-week layoff for the Olympics ‘€¨is a good thing for the NHL as a whole. ‘€œIt doesn’€™t really promote the ‘€¨NHL,’€ he said. ‘€œThe individual players get recognition, obviously the ‘€¨countries as a team get recognition, but it’€™s not so much for us.’€

Neely also commented on the game’€™s international rules, chiefly those ‘€¨against fighting: ‘€œI still like the intimidation factor of, ‘If ‘€¨I do something, is this guy going to drop his gloves?’ I think it gives ‘€¨you some checks and balances there.’€

Neely discussed a potential USA-Canada rematch in Sunday’s Olympic ‘€¨final. ‘€¨Though Neely thinks Canada has the more talented team on paper, the ‘€¨play of U.S. goalie Ryan Miller has caught his eye. ‘€œEven though Canada ‘€¨might have an advantage, I think, if they both play their best, that ‘€¨goaltender is an unbelievable goaltender in [Ryan] Miller,’€ he said. ‘€¨’€œIf he plays like he has this whole tournament, he is going to be tough ‘€¨to beat.’€

Neely touched on the Bruins’ prospects as they come back from the ‘€¨break, starting with a game at TD Garden against the Montreal Canadiens ‘€¨Tuesday. Neely said that the Bruins need to get Tim Thomas back into ‘€¨shape since he has sat behind Miller at the Olympics. He also said ‘€¨that he has been surprised by the team’€™s lack of offensive punch this ‘€¨season. ‘€œOne thing that they are not doing that I thought they would be ‘€¨doing is scoring more,’€ he said. ‘€œI’€™ve never seen a team that I’€™ve been ‘€¨associated with that one year everybody has a really good year and the ‘€¨next year most of those same players are having an off year at the same ‘€¨time.’€

Neely added that he saw the team turning things around in its ‘€¨last four games before the break and that he expects big things from ‘€¨David Krejci in the last few weeks. ‘€œWatching him here, he is playing ‘€¨the way we thought he would play, and hopefully that carries over when ‘€¨he comes back to Boston.’€

A full transcript of the interview is below. To listen, click here.

You are in an interesting position. Who are you rooting for if it comes down to USA vs. Canada?

Well, the Canadian in me runs deep even though I was fortunate enough to become an American citizen, which I am very proud of. But the Canadian in me runs deep.

You see the physical commitment of these guys ‘€” and they aren’t getting paid ‘€” and you say, “Well that’€™s what hockey players are like.”

Right, but I think they are doing all right with the financial part though.

Well, they are all doing fine in real life.

Yeah, you are right. I did an interview out here and someone asked me about the difference between the NBA players in the Olympics and the NHL players in the Olympics and how they seemed more passionate. And my response was, “Well, you are talking about hockey players.”

Do you think it is a good idea for the NHL to stop play for a couple of weeks and have players in the Olympics? Is this the best thing for the league?

For the league, I don’€™t think it is. Obviously as a former player I certainly would have loved an opportunity to play in the Olympics, but my real dream was to play in the NHL as it is with most North American players. Most North American players say, “Well, my dream is to play in the NHL.” As we’€™ve seen with the last few Olympics, they’€™ve had an opportunity to play in the Olympics, which is another great thing. But now being on the other side and seeing how your league shuts down for two weeks, especially in markets in the states where football is now done and you have an opportunity to get more exposure for your team in your market, I just don’€™t see how it is a benefit for the team or the league itself.

How about publicity?

Well, it doesn’€™t really promote the NHL, though. The individual players get recognition, obviously the countries as a team get recognition, but it’€™s not so much for us. I don’€™t think they can really quantify how this is beneficial to our game. Having said that, obviously in Canada here people are going to watch hockey anyway, and now even more so they are tuning in. And in the U.S. especially with the last game against Canada I know it was huge ratings. But once the Olympics are done, are all those people going to continue to watch NHL hockey?

Do you think that there will be a spike in the attendance numbers or ratings for the last six weeks of the NHL season because of this?

If I’€™m watching Slovakia, for instance, and we have [Zdeno] Chara on there, are people going to say, “I haven’€™t seen Chara yet, I’€™m going to go to a game”? You know what I mean by that? So, I’€™m not really sure. I certainly hope that would be the case. I hope that some maybe casual fans became bigger fans because of the Olympics, maybe some people who maybe weren’€™t even fans of hockey said, “Hey, this really is a great sport.” Become fans of the game and start going to hockey games or tuning in on TV. I hope that happens for sure.

Do you sit there watching the games holding your breath the whole time as an executive of the team?

That’€™s a big thing, Dale, you’€™re right. Obviously our best players are at the Olympics and you talk about, “Jeez, I hope they just get out of here healthy.” It would be awful for our team, it would be awful for our fans ‘€” not just us, but any team ‘€” if somebody goes down for two, three, four, five weeks because of something that happened at the Olympics. That’€™s the thing that all the GMs and owners worry about for sure.

Do you think international hockey ‘€” Olympic hockey ‘€” could survive in the NHL?

I think it would be difficult. Listen, I’€™m a big fan of our game and I’€™m a traditionalist at heart and I still like the intimidation factor of if I do something, is this guy going to drop his gloves? I think it gives you some checks and balances there. I think in the Olympics, in a short term like this, you are not going to have it. But if you talk over an 82-game schedule where guys don’€™t have to worry about some guy popping them, you are going to see an entirely different type of hockey and everyone and their grandmother all of a sudden is going to be a tough guy.

I think the maximum amount of what you can spend as a NHL franchise is something around $56 million. If you added up the total salaries of Team Canada, it is $128 million. Team USA is $85 million. You are showing a product to fans that the NHL can’€™t duplicate.

Well, yeah, they are not going to see this. It would be like taking the NHL All-Star team and saying, “OK, you are a team, go play 82 games and the playoffs.” That’€™s not going to happen; you’€™re not going to have that type of lineup, there is just no way that is possible. Back in the day before the salary cap, the [New York] Rangers, Detroit [Red Wings] and [Philadelphia Flyers], they were spending $70 [million] to $80 million while other teams like Nashville [Predators] were spending $20 million. You aren’€™t going to be able to get that type of lineup with $60 million, either.

One of the gutsiest moves has been [Canada coach Mike] Babcock‘€™s decision to bench Martin Brodeur and go with Roberto Luongo. What do you think of that move?

Well, you know they had to do something after that game. Marty is a world-class goaltender; he looked a little shaky. But you know you are going to have to do something, especially in Vancouver with Luongo on the bench. I think it is one of those decisions that could be a great decision and everyone is happy or if he doesn’€™t do it and things don’€™t turn out, he would just get ripped apart. Having Luongo as your backup isn’€™t a bad thing and he came in and did a good job. But you know, the Canadians completely dominated Russia. It didn’€™t even come down to goaltending.

The first period that I saw Canada play against Russia the other night might be the best period of hockey I’€™ve ever seen.

You’€™re right. It was an amazing first period of hockey. These guys were on a mission and they were playing the way everybody thought they could play and should play to win this tournament. They’€™re big, they’€™re strong, they’€™re fast; they just completely dominated. But the difference is I think the U.S. defense is better than the Russian’€™s defense. So I think that is where Canada just completely owned them. Once they got the puck in deep, Russia just couldn’€™t handle them.

If they both play their best game, what kind of game would you expect?

If both teams played their best, I think it would be a relatively low-scoring game. Even though Canada might have an advantage, I think, if they both play their best, but that goaltender is an unbelievable goaltender in [Ryan] Miller. If he plays like he has this whole tournament, he is going to be tough to beat. But Canada, I think overall on paper, they are a better hockey club than the States. But Miller has played extremely well here and he has played well all year.

You are going to be having somebody play Sunday night [in the Olympic final]. Are they going to be looking to play Tuesday night as well?

I certainly hope so. I mean, we would certainly expect them to be playing. We would need them to be playing. We are fighting for a playoff spot here, so I would certainly hope they would be playing.

How do you get Tim Thomas into some kind of game shape? He hasn’€™t played in almost a month.

Yeah, I’€™m sure Claude [Julien] and Peter [Chiarelli] have been talking about, “We need to get him back in net, here.” He is certainly getting a lot of pucks thrown at him in practice here with the U.S. team, but we need Tim to play the way he is capable of playing We’€™ve got to get him back in there soon. I imagine that is what Claude is thinking.

What is the one thing this team is doing that you didn’€™t think they would be doing?

One thing that they are not doing that I thought they would be doing is scoring more. I’€™ve never seen a team that I’€™ve been associated with that has one year were everybody has a really good year and the next year most of those same players are having an off year at the same time. I haven’€™t seen anything like it, and that is what we are going through this year. We’€™ve had a lot of guys have down years from last year and at the same time coupled with key players getting hurt. Having said that, the last four games going into the Olympic break guys appeared to be coming out of it. [David] Krejci has played fantastic here so I’€™m really looking for him to step up his game when he gets back with us in Boston. This experience for the guys that are here is really going to give them so much more confidence. Even though Patrice [Bergeron] isn’€™t playing much, to be around all these great players and practicing with those guys is certainly going to help him. I think that is the main thing, having that many guys have off years at the same time.

Krejci is the guy for me too, Cam. As I watch this tournament, I hope that this serves a springboard for him because up to this point his year has been a little bit of a disappointment.

You know, he came back earlier than expected from offseason surgery and is it one of those things were he came back a little too early? His linemates certainly weren’€™t playing the way they did last year as a group, so that has taken away from him as a centerman. But he hasn’€™t played as well as we expected him to play, as he expected to play. But watching him here, he is playing the way we thought he would play and hopefully that carries over when he gets back to Boston as I mentioned.

Were the Canadian players feeling the pressure of being on the Olympic hockey team in the country of Canada?

I would think that would be the case, Dale. You come into Canada, you’€™re on home soil with the one sport that the Canadians as a country just completely love and have so much passion for. Everyone is expecting them to play well and win, and everybody kind of overlooked the fact that, “Wait a second minute, there are other great countries that are playing the sport right now.” It’€™s not like it used to be and I think that early on they felt those pressures. The best thing that happened to them was that Germany game where they say, “Oh my god, we have to win this game.” And they came out and played extremely well and got all those goals and got some confidence to say, “Hey, we are a good team here.” But yeah, I think the fact that they are on home soil and that the expectations were so high, I think that did put a little extra pressure on them.

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