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Bruins beat up Canes on and off the ice 10.03.09 at 9:51 pm ET
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With images of last year’s fist-filled Dallas Stars game dancing in their heads, the Bruins exploded on the score sheet and pounded the Hurricanes into submission in a 7-2 win at TD Garden Saturday night. The B’s came out firing after a disappointing opener against the Washington Capitals, and scored three quick goals against the Hurricanes in a dominant first period.

The buzzing B’s outshot the Hurricanes by a 21-7 margin in that first period and registered more shots in one energetic period against the Canes than during an entire lackadaisical game opening night against the Alex Ovechkin traveling band.  Steve Begin, Derek Morris, Michael Ryder, Marco Sturm and Marc Savard all registered multi-point nights among 13 B’s names on the score sheet, and the victory was punctuated by a huge team-wide brawl at the end of the second period.

Last season’s work ethic finally kicked into gear one game too late, but all the telltale signs of last year’s team were evident in the effort toward power play opportunities and beating Carolina to every last loose puck.

“That’s mainly what we talked about yesterday all day and today. We talked about effort. If the effort was there a lot of things would fall into place,” said B’s coach Claude Julien. “We needed more than the 1o minutes we got the other night, and we more or less got 60 [minutes] tonight.

“For us this was an opportunity to redeem ourselves and show the fans what opening night should have been like. It should have been more like tonight.”

Milan Lucic cut open Jay Harrison’s forehead with a punishing right during the first brutal fight, and an Andrew Alberts cross-check to Marco Sturm following the ensuing face-off sparked on a team-wide scrum. As NESN’s Jack Edwards so aptly said last season during a rout of the Canadiens, the Bruins beat Carolina badly on the ice and they beat them up.

YOU’RE THE BEST AROUND AND NOTHING WILL EVER KEEP YOU DOWN: Steve Begin. The ex-Habs energy forward was single-handedly killing penalties, set up a pair of goals and amazed one and all with his hockey package of skill, skating speed and grit on the fourth line. Bruins fans are going to adore the former Montreal tough guy, and the love affair clearly started last night.

GOAT HORNS: Carolina’s blueline was pretty awful throughout Saturday night’s game without Joni Pitkanen, and there may not have been a slower pairing than Andrew Alberts and Aaron Ward.  Both were minus-2 with bad turnovers all around the ice, and Alberts touched off the hockey pig-pile with a cheap cross-check. Alberts ended his night by picking a fight with Shawn Thornton, and getting beaten badly with a flurry of rights and lefts.

Here’s the Lucic/Harrison bloodbath courtesy of youtube:

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Bruins looking for a ‘little bit of revenge’ against Canes 10.03.09 at 1:02 pm ET
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Ward will be back for his first game against the Bruins since getting traded to the Canes this summer

Ward will be back for his first game against the Bruins since getting traded to the Canes this summer

Revenge was on the mind of several Bruins players Saturday morning headed into a game against a Carolina Hurricanes team that eliminated them in heart-wrenching overtime fashion in Game 7 last season.

It wasn’t the biggest or most prevalent thought after dropping a bomb against the Washington Capitals opening night, and the B’s know that priority number is getting their own hockey house in order. But hockey players have long memories when it comes to sudden, season-ending defeats with the kind of passion raised by a seven-game series leading to the conference finals.

B’s coach Claude Julien said he didn’t care what motivated his team – whether they needed the extra little oomph from last year’s series with the Canes or a public drubbing at the hands of the Caps was more than enough – but he expected a far different hockey team out of the gate and through 60 minutes in game No. 2.

“Is it revenge? Is it about this year, about winning a hockey game? It can be about a lot of different things,” said Julien. “I don’t care how the guys think about it. I just really care about us going out there, and it’s more about how we’re going to perform tonight than anything else. Whichever way they want to motivate themselves, that’s OK with me. We just have to bounce back from a tough outing.”

Julien pulled Lucic aside during Friday’s practice and had a long chat with his Hulk on skates, and it was most likely about the lack of first line impact in their 4-1 loss to the Caps. The trio totaled one shot on net through 60 uninspired minutes, and Lucic practically invited Alexander Ovechkin over for tea and crumpets when the Russian winger climbed through Big Bad Looch in the slot for his second goal of the night.

Plenty of the Bruins were still stuck in their hibernating slumber Thursday, and the Hurricanes just might be enough to poke the Bear in the cage.

“Obviously they’re a team that spoiled our season last year, and I think there’s a lot of thinking going into this game that [Carolina] would be a great team to get us on the right track,” said Milan Lucic. “They’d be a great team to get our first win against.

“It’s definitely not going to be easy and we expect them to come out hard. Everybody is still a little bitter about what happened last year. It’s only the regular season, but they’re a big two points that we need. Get that first win of the season, and it’d be a lot nicer if it comes against these guys. Not a lot of revenge, but just a little bit. Just enough [payback] to have a smile on your face when the game is over.”

The B’s and Canes had almost mirror-image openers – with the B’s losing on Thursday and Carolina dropping a similarly uninspired debut against the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday night – and both finished with 0-fers on the power play while struggling to put together offense.

With Tim Thomas in net and no discernible changes to the lineup after Saturday morning’s skate, here are a few thoughts from a select group of B’s players when asked what sticks in their mind from last season’s playoff defeat.

Lucic: “The way they came out. I was real impressed with the way they came out and put us back on our heels, and they put in a real team effort. Guys stepped up for them to score big goals. Just the way they were able to apply pressure and keep it on. I was definitely impressed with the way they were able to do that. We don’t expect anything less from them. The worst thing you can do is underestimate them because they played last night and think they’re going to come out slow. They’ll have that extra bit of jump to get that first win of the year.”

Byron Bitz: “Losing, I guess. That was just bitter. Especially the way we battled back in that series. To come up one goal short was pretty tough to take. You look at the lineup is pretty similar to what they have this year. It’s a new season. You don’t want to say ‘revenge’ but it’s important to come out tonight and have a pretty good effort. We played them seven hard games and it’s definitely still in our minds. I watched Game 7 on replay just at the start of camp and watched it. Didn’t get all the way through it. It was such a long game and I already knew the ending.”

David Krejci: “For me, it’s over. What happened last year happened. We know what happened last year, but it’s a new season and we’re looking forward to it. I don’t want to talk about it. I’m over it. I don’t want to go back to it. It was hard, and now we’re here with our team for this year. I don’t want to talk about losses. I just want to talk about the games we won.

Dennis Wideman: “There’s a little extra excitement tonight, and hopefully we can take it to them. When I think about that series, it’s about not playing our best. We didn’t play as good as we could, and we didn’t play like we did in that first series [against the Canadiens]. That’s what leaves the sour taste. If you play as good as you can and you still lost a series, then it’s a little easier to swallow than if you didn’t play as well as you can.

–Aaron Ward will be in his first game back at the Garden since the summer deal to the Carolina Hurricanes, and he’ll be paired with ex-Bruins defenseman Andrew Alberts. Ward has been a steadying, off-beat influence in the Carolina dressing room, and was exactly what the doctor ordered for team chemistry and defensive stability – the same kinds of things he brought to Boston for almost three years. He even has his own radio show in Carolina, something that isn’t shocking to Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice.

“He did a good job last night seeking out the puck carrier in our end and playing physical, which is what we know him to be from playing all those games against him last year,” said Maurice. “He’s a good calming veteran guy with a pretty wicked sense of humor. We like those guys around here. They keep things loose when the grind comes.

“He’s got a bit of a prankster in him. I think he enjoys it. I think you see that with guys like him when they get a little older and get more secure in their careers. When you’ve got three Stanley Cup rings you can probably enjoy the game a little bit. You have to have those kinds of guys in the room, and I think they’re really critical to how your [locker] room operates.”

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Julien: Time for Bruins to show some determination 10.02.09 at 2:28 pm ET
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Julien said that there needs to be more determination to win puck battles from his players

Julien said that there needs to be more determination to win puck battles from his players

WILMINGTON — Back to work for the Bruins at Ristuccia Arena Friday afternoon following a lackluster ice-breaker against the Washington Capitals on Thursday night.

Plenty of talk about the power play unit, and the definite lack of mightiness after going 0-for-5 with only a single shot on net during over five minutes of 5-on-4 action in Thursday’s defeat. But in Claude Julien’s mind, the power play’s lack of bite went back to a surprising lack of determination and will displayed all over the ice after the opening 10 minutes.

Heading into the season the Bruins talked about weathering opposing team’s best punches in the frenzied opening minutes of games, and then slowly winning the game’s tide over through three periods. That seemed to work in exact reverse in their first game as the Black and Gold skaters had nothing in the tank after an opening flurry against Washington that ultimately didn’t bear any fruit.

“I wouldn’t pinpoint it as [power play trouble],” said Julien. “There was a lot more than that going on [against the Caps] in my book. Your best players have to be your hardest workers, and yesterday we were getting outworked on the power play and losing battles.

The power play breakouts and set-ups were sound, but there wasn’t enough gritty desire to keep the puck in the zone or create the dynamic puck movement that the Capitals confidently called upon on the other side of the ice. Combine the misfiring power play squad with Andrew Ference, David Krejci, Matt Hunwick and Marco Sturm all coming back from summer rehab programs amid an abbreviated preseason schedule, and there was a perfect storm of disappointment against a Caps team looking in mid-season form.

“A lot of it is we have to understand that our work ethic has to get better, and that’s a starting point for us turning it around,” said Julien. “We have a lot of challenges that are a little bit out of our control. We have a lot of guys that maybe aren’t in synch right now, and as a whole it certainly makes it challenging for our team.

“But we have to take a step back and maybe concentrate on our work ethic, and then maybe we’re giving ourselves a chance. The rest should follow. I have to push those guys to want to work harder, and they have to want to work harder. And they do it on their own as well. It’s a push from all of us, and it’s what we have to do to at least get back on the right track. ”

–The Bruins were licking their opening night wounds Friday morning, but also readying for a Saturday night date with a Carolina Hurricanes squad that ended their season in a Game 7 overtime heart-breaker last spring. Claude Julien admitted that he’s never watched a full replay of the Game 7 film after the fact, but has endured more than enough replays of Scott Walker’s OT winner in the last three months.

Shawn Thornton stayed in touch with Canes defenseman Aaron Ward following his trade to Carolina, and pleasantries will be exchanged before the hate starts flowing on the ice.  Thornton and his teammates remember exactly what happened during last year’s semi-finals after taking the Canes a bit too lightly, and that isn’t going to happen again after a soggy opening night.

“It happens all the time and it won’t be that weird because I’ve seen [Ward] in that jersey before. The tough part of the game is when guys get moved, but he’s home and it looks like he’s happy,” said Thornton. “I’ve talked to him a couple of times, but he’s not my teammate anymore and whatever happens out there, he’s on the other team.

“Obviously we haven’t forgotten that they knocked us out three months ago, so we have to bottle it up and use it in the right way. We’re not going to go out there running around like crazy and getting away from our game. But having a little bit of an edge and a little bit of nastiness to our game against the team that ended our season might be all right.” 

–Dennis Wideman talked about the “too many men on the ice” penalty that started the ball rolling for Washington in the first period Thursday night.  It was one of those instances where the puck-moving defenseman wanted to pull his pass back as soon as it left the blade of his stick, but that isn’t possible without Doc Brown and a time-traveling Delorean. Instead the 26-year-old defenseman threw the puck toward the Bruins bench at exactly the wrong time during a shift change, and Brooks Laich made Boston pay with their first power play strike of the game.

“A lot of times I’m making those passes when I see the black sweater out of the corner of my eye and then make the pass without really looking,” said Wideman. “After I passed it and looked over, I saw we were in the midst of a line change. I should have looked before I made the pass over, and that’s basically what happened. I kind of put it in a spot where he didn’t know whether to take it or just leave the puck. It’s one of those instances where I should have taken a look before I snapped the puck over there.”

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Bruins powerless in 4-1 loss to the Capitals 10.01.09 at 9:24 pm ET
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Claude Julien said he before Thursday night’s opener that his Bruins are going to have to “grind out” their first few games this season, and that was readily apparent after watching a 4-1 loss to Alexander Ovechkin and the Capitals.
It wasn’t a sterling defensive night by the Caps or a spectacular goaltending master class put on by Jose Theodore. Instead it was simply a sloppy first game of the NHL season for Boston with turnovers, unnecessary penalties and a rink-full of missed offensive opportunities.

“It was a night where we had too many good players at their worst,” said Julien following the loss. “You have to be focused for 60 minutes in this game and we weren’t. We had a lot of good players who weren’t very good tonight.”

Julien knew there would be some period of adjustment skating Marco Sturm on a top line with Marc Savard and Milan Lucic while the German forward shakes rust off, and throwing David Krejci out on the second line after missing the entire preseason could have ended up with some sloppy moments on the ice. But last year’s Jack Adams Award winner certainly didn’t know it was going to be this putrid. Following a pretty solid 10 minutes of Bruins-style pressure and poise with the puck in the first period, things devolved into an error-filled, disorganized, panicky performance with a bevy of neutral zone turnovers.

This was not last year’s Bruins. Not by the longest shot in the history of long shots.

This was clearly a more slipshod brand of hockey than the B’s coaching staff anticipated, and revealed Washington to be the better team at this point early in the NHL season. It can – and likely will – be different when the B’s start clicking again on all cylinders later this month, but there wasn’t much room for encouragement in the first 60 minutes of Bruins hockey.

You’re the best around, and nothing will ever keep you down:  Alexander Ovechkin showed exactly why he’s the best thing on skates in the NHL with his mix of electric, breath-taking skill and bullish on-ice physicality. Ovie showed off his ice vision with a sweet cross-ice pass that set up the Caps’ first power play goal, played the trailer and ripped a sizzling top-shelf sniper shot for Washington’s second goal and then dumped Mark Recchi in the final seconds of the second period in a signature crunching hit.

He added another goal in the third period and finished a plus-two with five shots on net just for good measure. Ovie was all over the ice, and Claude Julien and the B’s might want to sand-blast the drawing board the next time Boston plays the Czar of hockey and his linemates on Feb. 2.

Goat Horns:  The entire offense was nothing to write home about after the first 10 minutes of the game. No one player – aside from Patrice Bergeron’s goal-scoring rush in the third period — was able to put finish on anything in the offensive zone. But the game’s tone was set by Dennis Wideman’s errant pass to the Boston bench that resulted in a “too many men on the ice” penalty in the first period.

Washington’s high-wattage PP unit hopped on the ice and did exactly what they do best: tic-tac passing followed by a Brooks Laich goal right at the right post. Wideman finished a minus-1 on the evening and had three of his shots blocked by a condensed Caps defense. Not a good night for the sometimes trick-or-treat blueliner.

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Chara, Bruins are ready for Ovechkin’s Capitals 10.01.09 at 12:21 pm ET
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Zdeno Chara says Thursday night's opener isn't "him against Ovie"

Zdeno Chara says Thursday night's opener isn't "me against Ovie"

It’s clear by the circumstances surrounding the Bruins season opener against the Washington Capitals that things have changed demonstrably for Boston in one season’s time. Big time.

The fact that the Black and Gold merit a national TV audience on Versus is one clue, and the marquee match-up against Alexander Ovechkin and the electric Caps is quite another. Milan Lucic was among the excited grouping of B’s forwards anxious to get things going in the B’s dressing room Thursday morning, and seemed poised to make a statement about Boston’s worthiness in the Eastern Conference scheme of things with millions of hockey eyeballs ready to bear witness.

“Everyone seems ready to go, and is pretty anxious for the puck to drop. Everybody can feel it in the air, and I think we’re all pretty excited to get things going,” said Lucic. “I see that we’re on Versus, so it’s big across the US and we want to start the season off right.

“When is the last time the Bruins had a chance to start at home? We’re excited to do that. We’ve obviously set the bar high for ourselves and we’re focused on being one of the top teams in the East this year. We need to just focus on ourselves and what we can do to get there this year.”

–The B’s have a couple of new mantras written on the walls within the Bruins dressing room that gives some insight into their goals for the upcoming season. Above the doorway from the dressing room to the hallway reads the painted slogan “Knowing is Not Enough: We Must Apply. Willing is Not Enough: We Must Do.” and above the lockers of goaltenders Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask reads a second painted sign that says: “We are What We Repeatedly Do. Excellence, Therefore, is Not an Act, But a Habit.”

–Confirmed with newly resigned B’s assistant general manager Jim Benning that Vladimir Sobotka does not have to clear through NHL waivers to rejoin Boston this season. Since the 22-year-old Czech Republic forward has been signed for less than three full years, he is exempt from re-entry waivers. It’s apparently an either/or scenario with the three years of service time or maximum of 70 games played as the ceiling, and Sobotka doesn’t have to fit into both criteria.

–Zdeno Chara always gets excited for the defensive challenge presented by high-powered offenses and NHL superstars like Alex Ovechkin, and the scoring threats don’t get any bigger than reigning Hart Trophy-winner Alexander the Great. The 32-year-old defenseman has learned not to get lulled into the one-on-one matchups against big time players like Ovechkin, but takes it as a personal challenge to bottle up the entire explosive Washington unit including Ovechkin, Mike Knuble, Alexander Semin and Mike Green among others.

“We know that [the Caps] have a skilled team and we have to be on top of our game. But it’s a team game and we have to play that way,” said Chara. “If you’re watching just one guy, then everybody else is getting the room. You have to play against them together as a team, and we know that we have to be disciplined as a unit especially when that first unit is on the ice.

“It’s good to have that challenging competition. You have to be on your best game, otherwise they’ll take advantage. That always brings the best out of me and the team. It’s not just me against Ovie, it’s our line against their line on the ice.” 

–Claude Julien indicated that Steve Begin, Marco Sturm and David Krejci are all at full health for Thursday’s opener against the Caps and all will play — a scenario that became obvious when the B’s sent Vladimir Sobotka down to Providence on Wednesday afternoon. Begin will center a fouth line of Shawn Thornton and Byron Bitz, Krejci will center his customary line with Blake Wheeler and Michael Ryder, and Sturm will ride the right wing on Boston’s top line alongside Marc Savard and Milan Lucic. No shock that any of the three are playing as they’ve been skating over the last three days leading up to Thursday afternoon.

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Benning signs multi-year extension with B’s 09.30.09 at 5:53 pm ET
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B’s GM Peter Chiarelli announced Wednesday afternoon that Bruins assistant general manager Jim Benning has agreed to a multi-year extension with the club. Benning is entering his fourth year with the B’s — and third season as assistant GM — after departing the Buffalo Sabres organization following a 12-year run in their front office. Don Sweeney was also named an assistant general manager of the Bruins last week, and both Sweeney and Benning will share the far-ranging hockey duties encompassed by the role.

“Jim plays a critical role in our management group,” said Chiarelli. “He takes a very aggressive and proactive approach in his recommendations and assessments underscoring his tremendous management ability and experience.  His player evaluation is amongst the tops in the industry and his business acumen supplements our group greatly.  We were very fortunate as an organization to hire him in 2006 and we are even more fortunate to secure him for the long term.”

Benning and Chiarelli will hold a Thursday morning press conference at the TD Garden to further discuss the deal and the assistant GM’s role within the organization.

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Sobotka sent down to Providence 09.30.09 at 4:39 pm ET
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The Boston Bruins have sent Vladimir Sobotka to the AHL’s Providence Bruins on Wednesday afternoon in a surprise move just prior to the beginning of the NHL regular season on Oct. 1. It appeared that Sobotka had made the big club in Boston after a solid final kick during the preseason, but the move sends a pretty clear message that center David Krejci is 100 percent healthy to start the season.

Sobotka appeared headed for a healthy scratch on Thursday night and the foreseeable future as the 13th forward with the Bruins, and wouldn’t have seen much playing time with the club enjoying good health at the season’s beginning. The move to Providence allows Sobotka to stay sharp playing in all situations at the AHL level, and clears a bit more space under the B’s salary cap.

With only two Bruins games spread out over the next six days, there wasn’t going to be much of a chance for Sobotka to crack the lineup.  According to a hockey source, Sobotka was not subject to waivers as a part of Boston’s transaction sending him to the Baby B’s.

The Bruins now have 21 skaters on their active roster with only one extra defenseman and a backup goaltender to go along with the 19 players slated to skate against the Washington Capitals Thursday night. The move sending Sobotka to the P-Bruins was first reported by the Providence Journal on Wednesday afternoon.

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