|Things tighten up for B’s in weekend sweep||12.28.08 at 8:36 pm ET|
The intensity level and heart-thumping pulse of NHL games traditionally rises as the season marches forward, and things begin to tighten up a bit both offensively and defensively — a puck phenomenon that’s coming to life right before the eyes of Bruins’ followers.
Both the Carolina Hurricanes and the Atlanta Thrashers forced the Black and Gold to work extensively in back-to-back efforts in order to take a sweep of the weekend games – including Sunday night’s 2-1 win over Atlanta at Phillips Arena – and put their overall winning streak at eight games.
The B’s have handled the Trashers, out of that hockey hotbed deep in the heart of Atlanta, all season long, but Sunday’s taut triumph was most hotly contested of the season against the Thrash. It’s also indicative of the kind of tooth and nail games that await the Boston Golden Bears over their next 40 plus games.
NHL hockey is a much different animal in January, February, March and April — with teams jostling for playoff pole position as the NHL standings begin to settle – than it is in the opening months of October and November, and things certainly won’t be as swimmingly easy as they seemed for Boston over the season’s first few months. Add the tricked-out intensity to the host of injuries the B’s continue to battle through, and you have a pretty impressive effort for the weekend. A Tuesday night tilt against the Pittsburgh Penguins is all that’s standing between the Black and Gold and a five game sweep during their current holiday road trip.
Not to be confused, of course, with the Griswold theme song otherwise known as Lindsay Buckingham’s “Holiday Road”.
The B’s are the King of the Eastern Conference Hill right now, and they’re going to get everybody’s best from here on out. With that in mind, here’s a few observations from the solid victory over the Thrashers:
–Now may be the time for everybody to stow away those Manny Fernandez trade proposals. There’s no way the Bruins are a better team this season without hockey’s version of Manny Being Manny splitting time with Tim Thomas between the pipes.
They’ve formed the best Boston goaltending duo since the unforgettable Andy Moog/Reggie Lemelinteam in the 80′s and 90′s, and they still lead the NHL in team save percentage this season. Thomas and Fernandez have put together a .930 save percentage thus far, which puts them .06 percentage points ahead of both the Minnesota Wild and the Florida Panthers for NHL bragging rights.
Last night was a game the Bruins likely wouldn’t have won if not for the 34-year-old Fernandez, and the graceful butterfly style he used to make 32 saves Sunday night. His successive saves on Thrashers forwards Erik Christensen and Bryan Little with less than a minute to go in the third period were things of beauty, and were among a handful of saves that preserved the ‘W’ for the Bruins. Fernandez is now 12-2-1 on the season, and has pushed himself into a vital, irreplaceable role on this Bruins’ team.
It would be the worst kind of hockey karma to break this Killer B’s tandem up — a notion that all the hockey krishnas outthere should be nodding in harmonious agreement with.
Ryder equals Mr. Clutch
The game-winning third period goal was obviously hatched by the breathtaking David Krejci-authored saucer pass to a streaking Michael Ryder while he crashed the Atlanta net, but it also highlighted an interesting piece of Ryder trivia. The score — a quick redirect of the skidding puck through Thrashers goalie Keri Lehtonen’s pads — was Ryder’s team-leading seventh game-winning goal of the season thus far.
Ryder also leads the NHL with his collection of seven game-winning tallies, and sits two GWG’s ahead of fellow NHL luminaries Jeff Carter, Patrick Marleau, Daniel Sedin, Johan Franzen and Petr Sykora this season. It seemed symbolic that his seventh game-winner of the season was also his 14thoverall lamp lighter – the exact same goal-production total he managed in 70 restless, unhappy games with the Montreal Canadiens last season.
Congrats to Coach Julien
A tip of the PWH chapeau to Bruins coach Claude Julien, who has seemingly wrapped up the Eastern Conference coaching honors at the NHL All-Star Game after leading his Bruins squad to such a commanding lead during the first three months of the season. According to the fountain of first-hand knowledge known as wikipedia, since 1996 the head coaches for the two All-Star Game have been the coaches of the two teams that are leading their respective conferences in point percentage (i.e. fraction of points obtained out of total possible points) as of January 1.
With a commanding point lead over everyone else in the Eastern Conference, that would leave Julien to man the bench at the Bell Centre — a building that was once the coach’s home turf while he ran the show with the Montreal Canadiens from 2002-06. For a hockey building that’s housed some pretty high-intensity Bruins/Habs moments over the last two years, it will certainly be a proud moment for the Quebec native to play a prominent role in one of the Canadiens’ showpiece events during their 2008-09 Centennial celebration.
It should also be one of several honors bestowed on Julien in a season that’s been a testament to his ability to preach defensive responsibility, teamwork, patience and accountability to a dressing room full of young men on skates that have been ready to learn since Day One of training camp.
|Hockey Notes: The 12 Days of Bruins Christmas||12.27.08 at 12:10 pm ET|
The Black and Gold resuscitated the puck pride and the hockey love in the pre-Christmas portion of the 2008-09 schedule, and now they simply have to keep the puck pedal to the metal during the hockey club’s traditional stretch run.
Normally a Bruins team didn’t really start gaining momentum until after New Year’s Day, but the sellouts, W’s and enthusiasm have bloomed a bit early this year. They now simply have to keep it up while protecting their playoff pole position as the intensity level starts to heighten.
And then the B’s have to win a playoff round or two to truly cement the love connection between the fan base and the blue collar, rough and tumble Bruins. They’ve impressed and captured the imagination of legions over the last few months, but they need to succeed and conquer in the postseason to settle in with the rest of Boston’s dynastic teams.
As an aside, every sporting goods store that I visited while Christmas shopping was out of Bruins’ merchandise and reported that it was flying off the shelves. Another great sign to all of the hockey krishnas out there that the Bruins are truly back, and perhaps now a new generation of Spoked B heroes will inspire another hockey talent boom in New England.
The day and age existed not long ago when Massachusetts high school hockey talent would be plentiful in the first round of the NHL draft, but that currently seems to be the domain of Minnesota high school hockey. I hope that can change. With that particular request on my Christmas Wish List, here’s a list of Christmas gifts left under the tree by jolly St. Looch. It seemed an appropriate time to dole out gifts to the Bruins players and organization on a day when most people are out and about returning clothing that didn’t quite fit or exchanging that Cosby sweater from grandma that just had Huxtable written all over it.
Marc Savard – a spot on Team Canada. The playmaking center has clearly become the apple of Don Cherry’s eye on Hockey Night in Canada. By my count, it’s four straight weeks that Grapes has mentioned Savvy in one way or another and last week he matter-of-factly said that Savard should be assured a spot on the national team. The two-way talent has proven he belongs with the hockey elite from his country, and it goes without saying that he’s the key cog for the Bruins.
David Krejci — good health and a catchy nickname. That’s all you can give to the slick, young, humble, talented playmaking center that is the future of this Bruins franchise. Anybody who has ever skated with or against Krejci leaves the experience raving about just how good he is, and how high his skill level goes. The kid is simply special.
Phil Kessel — An All-Star nod. The 21-year-old is on pace for the first 50-goal season since Cam Neely memorably scored 50 in 49 games back in 1993-94 and has busted his way onto the NHL national scene. He is the latest scoring superstar in the Lecavalier, Vanek mode and should be another puck constellation in Montreal with the galaxy of hockey stars next month.
Michael Ryder — Plenty of crow to feed his critics.
Bruins doubters were chomping at the bit to jump all over Ryder after he served as the $12 million consolation prize this summer following Marian Hossa’s deal with the Detroit Red Wings. The 28-year-old scored 14 goals and found himself on the pine during the playoffs last year with the Habs and started hearing it in Boston after scoring only two goals in the first 17 games. Now Ryder is third on the team with 12 goals and on pace for the 30 goal season expected out of him to begin with.
Milan Lucic — Brass knuckles and an awesome pair of nunchucks.The Looch is going to need everything in his arsenal when the Habs come visit Boston on Jan. 13 during the next round of the completely electrified Bruins/Habs rivalry. Big Georges Laraque will be gunning for the Looch and this might be the right time for The Rumble in the Hub.
Zdeno Chara — A copy of Rocky IV. Whenever I think of Chara’s speech patterns, his insanely crafted conditioning program that includes world class cycling and his towering frame, I think of only one man: Ivan Drago. I must break you. If he dies, he dies.
Blake Wheeler — a Calder Trophy. Wheeler already has a hat trick and a highlight reel goal to his credit in his first 34 games in the Black and Gold and is among the top NHL rookie producers this season. This is a signing that Peter Chiarelli, Don Sweeney, Cam Neely and Jim Benning can look at as a huge win for the organization, and validation that they’re on the right path.
Dennis Wideman — An oxygen machine. Behind Chara’s amazing 26 minutes per game that he’s averaged since the start of the season, the 25-year-old blueliner is averaging 25:22 of ice time while playing good offensive and defensive hockey. Wideman is a good role model for young puck-moving defenseman in the system such as Matt Lashoff, and his continued improvement has mitigated the need to deal for a puck-moving defenseman.
Patrice Bergeron — Good health and a fast recovery from his second concussion.
There was scary silence in the Garden stands when he went down against Carolina with his second concussion, and the reports of lingering headaches make you fear for the worst. Bruins fan can only hope and pray that he doesn’t become the latest concussion cautionary tale. Everybody is rooting for #37.
Chuck Kobasew — An opportunity to take part in the playoffs. Kobasew went down with injury just prior to the playoffs last season and missed a chance to take part in the franchise-altering series against the Canadiens. Kobasew plays a gritty game and is made for playoff hockey, and hopefully should be a healthy factor for the B’s this time around.
Matt Hunwick — A permanent NHL paycheck. Necessity is the mother of invention…at least that’s what I’ve been told. With injuries all over the blueline, Hunwick was called up from Providence after being one of the last cuts during training camp, and he’s been among the best rookie defenseman in the NHL this season. His compete levels and tenacity have improved, and he could always move the puck and serve as an offensive partner with more defense-minded D-men like Aaron Ward and Mark Stuart.
Marco Sturm — a “Sturm Face” mask that the German-born winger can market for next Halloween. With Bruins merchandise again gaining popularity in the Hub, who wouldn’t want to wear a “Sturm Face” mask for Halloween. I can picture a Halloween tilt at the Garden next season with thousands of fans donning their Sturm masks as a clear sign of mental warfare against the opponent. Frightening.
P.J. Axelsson — a DVD copy of the movie “Zoolander”. Not sure if the Swede has ever seen the movie, but it could give him some new fashion ideas for the New Year. A couple more goals in the second half of the year might be nice too.
Stephane Yelle — A carbon copy of his first 34 games. There was some questioning of the Yelle move because it displaced younger players for the time being, but his opportunistic offense, PK abilities, faceoff skills, big game experience and quiet leadership are final ingredients that the team badly needed. Yelle will be valuable come playoff time.
Shane Hnidy — A Sheriff Shane Hnidy badge from NESN’s Jack Edwards.
The 33-year-old had his career year with the Atlanta Thrashers in 2006-07 when he totaled 12 points (5 goals, 7 assists) and a +15, and he’s in line to surpass those totals while providing valuable play amid the defenseman injuries in Boston. Another solid underrated pickup by GM Peter Chiarelli and the B’s front office during his time in Boston.
Andrew Ference — Good health. Don Cherry said that Ference showed “Good Canadian fighting spirit” when he continued killing off a penalty with a broken tibia earlier this year. His toughness, offensive ability on the power play and willingness to stand up for his teammates are attributes that make him a key part of this team. Despite the team’s success, he’s been missed while recuperating from the broken leg. Ference is another guy that raises his game noticeable levels in the postseason and will be needed.
Shawn Thornton — a bucket of ice for his right punching hand. Signing Thornton away from the Ducks was one of Chiarelli’s first moves when he decided the Bruins needed to be tougher to play against, and he’s given the Black and Gold exactly what they were searching for. Isn’t afraid to scrap with players twice his size — something he’s done numerous times in so many blowout wins this year – and has enough offensive ability to sting a team that takes his fourth line lightly. Has taken as many or more shots on goal (58) than David Krejci, Milan Lucic, Blake Wheeler, Chuck Kobasew and Marco Sturm thus far this season.
Mark Stuart — A Captain Caveman T-shirt. Teammates have said at times that Stuart has “caveman strength” and he’s shown it off in developing the Aaron Ward-style forearm shiver he throws puck carriers around with. Stuart isn’t flashy, but he has a booming shot, he’s physical and his ability to stand up for his teammates makes him a perfect fit for this team.
Aaron Ward — A bionic body. Ward inevitably breaks down each season given the way he throws around his 35-year-old body, blocks shots and plays a physical game to neutralize young, faster opponents. But the Bruins need his leadership. Ward knows what it takes a win a Cup, and is invaluable in a young locker room.
Petteri Nokelainen — A couple of goals. Nokelainen works hard — as attested by the 10 penalties he’s drawn while skating on the fourth line — and plays a physical game and deserves a few fortunate bounces of the puck in the second half of the season.
Vladimir Sobotka — a roster spot with the Bruins. Sobotka aggravates, irritates and has the clear offensive ability to make things happen on the ice. Signing a veteran like Yelle was the right move, but Sobotka also clearly belongs in Boston.
Martin St. Pierre, Martin Karsums, Matt Lashoff, Johnny Boychuk — More playing time…in Providence. Each young player has done exactly what was expected out of them when called up from the AHL, and is a testament to the B’s organizational depth. But more ice time in Boston for each means more injuries, and that’s about the only thing that can derail this Bruins train.
Tim Thomas — a new three-year contract extension. Thomas has proven that he will excel as part of a two-goalie tandem, which frankly is something that all NHL teams should be looking at adopting. Sources have indicated to me that Thomas and the Bruins are making good progress on a three-year deal, so that’s a great sign. One goalie expected to play 70 games leaves a team in a dire situation if an injury occurs, and has clearly led to goaltender fatigue during the postseasons in the recent past. That won’t happen with the B’s this season.
Manny Fernandez — a hearty handshake and an interested NHL suitor following the end of this season. Fernandez has been excellent in tandem and it would be tempting to simply sign both Thomas and Fernandez for the next 2-3 years, but Thomas and Rask will be the future between the Boston pipes. I think it would be foolish to break up the best goaltending tandem during a run to the playoffs, and there will be ample interest in Fernandez after he puts up numbers this season.
Claude Julien — A shiny Jack Adams trophy for the mantle piece. Julien has coached circles around the rest of the NHL for the last two years, and he should finally get the award this season after a pair of very deserving years. He’s been able to adjust his style with whatever talent the Bruins have on their roster, and that’s the true sign of good coaching. He’s the best coach and mentor of young players that the Bruins have had behind their bench in a long, long time.
Peter Chiarelli — A contract extension. Chiarelli has done everything he said he was going to upon his arrival in Boston, and he’s proven to be the right guy to bring back another worthy chapter in the history of the Big Bad Bruins. He has surrounded himself with talented front office people and has avoided dealing young talent before it was in full bloom. His decision not to deal Phil Kessel last year is paying off huge dividends as he’s blossomed into an elite sniper this season.
Cam Neely — A new #8 sweater in the third alternate home jersey.
Is it wrong to hope that — just prior to Game 7 of a playoff matchup with the Canadiens this season — the spotlight goes up to Neely in the GM’s box, he rips off his suit to show his Bruins sweater underneath, and he storms pro wrestling-style onto the ice to skate with the B’s and puts them over the top against the dreaded Habs. I’m not asking for the mighty, mighty Cam to hit Georges Laraque with a folding aluminum chair, or anything like that. That’s not too crazy, is it?
Jeremy and Charlie Jacobs — a few thank yous from a Boston fan base that continues to be way too harsh on them. There was a time when it was en vogue to trash JJ and — by proxy — CJ, and they did deserve skepticism for their past unwillingness to spend money. But that time is over now. There’s a salary cap in the NHL and the ownership is spending to the cap limit. Not only that, but they gulped down the contracts of Peter Schaefer and Glen Murray when it was deemed necessary by hockey operations. Their willingness to spend money and hire the new wave of hockey executives is a big part of the Bruins again gaining relevance.
|Who doesn’t love Bruins’ fun facts?||12.26.08 at 8:43 pm ET|
Here’s some Bruins stats and factoids to chew on coming out of their two-day Christmas break…these all come courtesy of Bruins media relations mavens Eric Tosi and Matt Chmura, who do a great of getting hacks like me exactly what we need to relay it out to the good folks of Bruins Nation. That would be you…assuming you’re good, of course.
HOME ICE ADVANTAGE: Boston has won their last 13 contests on home ice. This win streak is their longest such stretch since a 16-game home win streak from January 10 – March 25, 1976. It is the longest home winning streak in the league this season and is the fifth longest in team history behind streaks of 20, 19, 16 and 15. Their last loss at home came on October 23 against Toronto.
BEANTOWN BOUND:The Bruins have 13 games in January, 10 of which are at home. This includes a six-game homestand to start the New Year from January 1 through January 13. January is quite different schedule-wise from December, when the Bruins had 13 games, 9 of which were on the road.
HIT MAN:Winger Milan Lucic currently leads the NHL in hits with 135. Pittsburgh’s Brooks Orpik is second behind Lucic with 124.
COURTESY OF THE BOSTON BRUINS WEEK AHEAD STAT MACHINE…The Bruins currently have an NHL-best 11 players that are +10 or better. New Jersey and Chicago have the second most, as they both have six players who are +10 or better. The 11 Bruins are: Marc Savard (+21), David Krejci (+19), Blake Wheeler (+19), Dennis Wideman (+17), Milan Lucic (+16), Phil Kessel (+16), Zdeno Chara (+15), Matt Hunwick (+13), Shane Hnidy (+13), Michael Ryder (+12) and Mark Stuart (+10).
BRUINS ON THE NHL LEADERBOARD (AS OF DECEMBER 26):
-The Bruins lead the Eastern Conference in wins (25), fewest losses (5), goals for (126), goals against (77) and points (54)
-The Bruins lead the NHL in goals for (126) and are second in goals against (77, Minnesota 76).
-The Bruins own the NHL’s third ranked power play overall (26.6%). They also have the best power play in the league at home (36.1%)
-Marc Savard ranks tied for fourth in the league in points with 40 (E. Malkin, PIT 58)
-Phil Kessel ranks fourth in the league in goals scored with 21 (J. Carter, PHI 26)
-Marc Savard ranks fourth in the league in assists with 29 (E. Malkin, PIT 43)
-Marc Savard ranks second in the league in plus/minus with a +21 (E. Malkin, +22) while Blake Wheeler and David Krejci are tied for fourth at +19.
-Blake Wheeler ranks fifth among rookies in points with 20 (D. Brassard, CBJ 25), tied for third in goals scored with11 (M. Grabovski, TOR 12) and first in plus/minus
-Matt Hunwick ranks fifth among rookies in assists with 11 (K. Versteeg, CHI 17) and second in plus/minus with +13 (B. Wheeler, BOS +18)
-Manny Fernandez ranks thrid in Goals Against Average with a 2.09 mark (S. Mason, CBJ 1.98)
-Tim Thomas ranks second in Goals Against Average with a 2.04 mark, second in Save Percentage (.935%) behind Craig Anderson (.940%) and second in shutouts with 3 (R. Luongo, VAN 5).
That’s it for now, but come back to Pucks with Haggs shortly and I’m going to have a little post-Christmas Wish list for each member of the Boston Bruins over the final 48 games of the NHL regular season — and then, of course, the playoffs.
|A Few Kessel scoring streak stats to ponder||12.24.08 at 8:33 am ET|
A few stats to pore over as a final wooden stick salute to the recently ended 18-game scoring streak by Phil Kessel that really propped him up onto the national spotlight as a goal-scoring force to be reckoned with this season.
As I blog these items up, I’m sure Old Time Hockey Bruin Bronco Horvath is having himself a Miami Dolphins-style champagne party this morning on Cape Cod to celebrate that his Bruins-record 22 straight games with a point during the 1959-60 season remains gleefully intact. You’ve got to root for anybody named Bronco, and lament the fact there aren’t enough hockey players with nicknames like that anymore. In those days we would would have heard names like “Crazy Legs” Kessel or Milan The Terrible, but instead we have to settle for the much more logical Kess and Looch. Ah, well…here’s the stats:
–Kessel finished with 28 points in the 18 games with an equal split of 14 goals and 14 assists, though the young winger has been held without a goal in his last three games leading up to the holiday break.
–Kessel was a solid +14 during the 18-game scoring stretch [though I feel obligated to put the goes-without-saying-with the obvious disclaimer that +/- isn't the end-all, be-all stat for judging hockey players], and amazingly produced only one minus game during the entire five week plus time span of the Kessell Run (my own Star Wars geek way of describing the 18-game run…extra bonus points if you catch my reference and double dog bonus points for anyone that can name me the character that referenced it).
–The last time Kessel was held scoreless before last night’s playoff-style 2-0 win over a very competitive New Jersey Devils squad: a Nov. 12 2-1 shootout win over the Chicago Blackhawks that was cinched by a memorable P.J. Axelsson shootout score. That’ s a grand total of 40 days and nights between getting blanked on the scoresheet.
Here’s the video of the Axelsson courtesy of youtube and shot in true “You were there” style with the backs of people’s heads obscuring the action…seems like a million hockey years ago and is a testament to the sheer length that Kessel went streaking.
–Kessel totaled 57 shots during the 18-game scoring streak, an average of 3.17 shots per game for the B’s leading lamplighter. Kessel also managed three power play scores — and two of his three game-winners on the season – among the 14 goals tallied during the consecutive game-scoring streak.
–Kessel averaged 16:28 of total ice time during the 18-game scoring streak, which is right in line with the career-high 16:50 of ice that the 21-year-old is averaging this season.
|The Goal of the Year in the NHL?||12.22.08 at 11:07 am ET|
Here’s a look at Blake Wheeler’s amazing short-handed goal from last night’s 6-3 stomping over the St. Louis Blues. Wheeler’s lamp-lighter is one that B’s fans will be talking about for the rest of the season and an appropriate catalyst for the “Blake Wheeler as Calder Trophy Winner” hype machine that should really begin gaining some traction. Wheeler basically powered and dangled his way through four St. Louis Blues defenders while killing off a penalty, and somehow flipped a shot past Blues goalie Manny Legace after putting on his puck-handling feat of strength to get to the opposing cage.
Wheeler is now tied with Blues center Patrick Berglund and Maple Leafs center Mikhail Grabovski in rookie goals scored with his 11 strikes in 33 games this season and holds a commanding lead with the +19 number built up as a trigger man on the B’s explosive third line.
Here’s Wheeler’s biggest competition as he continues to build a Rookie of the Year resume: Columbus Blue Jackets center Derek Brassard (10 goals, 15 assists), Chicago Blackhawks winger Kris Versteeg (8 goals, 17 assists), Berglund (11 goals, 10 assists), Grabovski (11 goals, 9 assists), Vancouver Canucks Jannik Hansen (4 goals, 13 assists), Pittsburgh Penguins’ defenseman Alex Goligoski (4 goals, 11 assists) and LA Kings defenseman Drew Doughty (3 goals, 8 assists). There’s still obviously a big, honking amount of the hockey season to still be played, but Wheeler is smack dab in the middle of the mix right now and has to be considered one of the early favorites. It also appears that top-scorer Brassard will be out of the picture after suffering a right shoulder injury that will likely require season-ending surgery.
Just what Boston needs: another young up-and-coming superstar about to make a sizeable impact on the pro sports scene.
The 22-year-old power forward is on pace for 50 points this season (27 goals, 23 assists) and is a brawny, puck-possession cog on Boston’s electric third line that’s thrown up 45 points and an amazing +31 over their last 11 games. The third line has become Boston’s main scoring threat over the last month of hockey, and continues to gain steam here in the season’s first half. The only question now is whether Wheeler will hit the “rookie wall” as he doubles the amount of games he might have skated in at the University of Minnesota as a senior this season.
But that’s a query for another day. Here’s last night’s goal because, as always, a moving picture says a 1,000 hockey words:
As an added bonus — and to show you that Wheeler isn’t really a stranger to the whole highlight reel goal thang in his career — here’s an amazing game-winning score he racked up while still with the Golden Gophers. This seems like as good a time as any to ring the bell once again for B’s General Manager Peter Chiarelli for creating the kind of hockey environment that persuaded Wheeler to choose Boston over other NHL destinations on the map. Here’s the highlight reel goal for the University of Minnesota, something Wheeler seems to be making a habit of at a ripe young hockey age.
|Chiarelli: Bergeron suffered a concussion, no timetable for return||12.21.08 at 3:12 pm ET|
Following speculation as to Patrice Bergeron’s condition after yesterday’s scary collision with Dennis Seidenberg at mid-ice, General Manager Peter Chiarelli released a statement through the Bruins this afternoon. Bergeron sustained a concussion, received treatment and underwent testing at Mass General Hospital, and there is no timetable for the young center’s return to the ice.
The 23-year-old will sit out at least a week per order of the NHL rules on concussions, which mandates a seven day stay on injured reserve for all players with head injuries. This goes without saying, but expect the Bruins coaching staff to move slowly and deliberately on this one. Here’s the Chiarelli statement:
“After first being treated at the TD Banknorth Garden yesterday, Patrice was diagnosed as having sustained a concussion, and was admitted to Mass General Hospital under the care of Dr. Peter Asnis.
Since being admitted to MGH Patrice has undergone extensive testing, and all of the results have come back normal. When examined this morning, his condition had improved greatly over last night, and he was released from the hospital. There is no timetable for his return to the ice.”
–In another bit of housekeeping, Aaron Ward and Petteri Nokelainen were both placed on injured reserve — a hockey transaction made with an eye toward calling up players from Providence prior to Tuesday night’s game against the New Jersey Devils. The B’s will have a two-day holiday break before heading back out onto the road for a three-game trip through Carolina, Atlanta and a Tuesday night special against the Penguins at the Igloo.
|B’s suffer losses in 13th straight home win||12.20.08 at 11:05 pm ET|
It was a convincing 4-2 win for the Black and Gold against a Carolina Hurricanes team playing quality hockey heading into Boston, but the 13th straight victory at the TD Banknorth Garden also had its share of negatives. Patrice Bergeron went into Saturday still searching for ways to reclaim his hockey groove after missing nearly all of last season with a concussion, and yesterday’s game ended for him in the second period with another potential head injury.
Bergeron went zipping in for a hit on Carolina defenseman Dennis Seidenberg at mid-ice during the second period of Saturday’s win, but a freak thing happened on the way in for the clean hit. The right side of Bergeron’s face and head violently crunched into Seidenberg’s right shoulder as he attempted the finishing check.
The 17,565 in attendence went eerily silent as Bergeron fell to the ice chest-first in a heap and lay all-but motionless for several uncomfortable, agonizing moments. Bergeron’s story has been one of triumph all season long – despite the lack of overwhelming offensive production — but things took an ugly detour yesterday after only 7:53 of ice time in the game. It’s a sickening feeling to watch a hockey-crazed crowd of 17,000 fall into a silent haze when the dreaded head/neck injury drops a player to their knees, and that was the regrettable backdrop at the Garden midway through the second.
“All the noise and standing isn’t good for the player. We try to keep quiet. That is how I was brought up; you try to keep quiet when something like that happens,” said Manny Fernandez, who watched the Bruins’ medical staff and trainers attend to the fallen Bergeron before the 23-year-old skated off under his own power. “But he was strong enough to get back on his feet by himself, which is a good thing. He was able to skate off on his own strength, so that is a positive.
“Like I said, we can’t think about that too much right now. We have to let the doctors take care of him. We will need him back. But I don’t think that other teams are going to take it easy on us because he is out of the lineup, so we have to concentrate on what is left and go from there.”
After the game, the Bruins said that Bergeron was still being evaluated and that the club wanted to be precise with the diagnosis for Boston hockey’s Golden Boy. The most revealing part of the information relay concerning Bergeron’s injury took place when coach Claude Julien spoke with the player between the second and third period. Bergeron himself told Julien he was “dinged up” after the collision with the Carolina blueliner, and Julien absolved Seidenberg of any wrongdoing in the situation.
“I saw it with my own eyes but I wanted to see if it was an elbow, a stick, or a shoulder,” said Julien. “It was not a cheap shot by any means, it was a collision.”
Dinged up or not, Bergeron was alert and the doctors were still evaluating him in the hours following the afternoon matinee. It was a far cry, however, from the Oct. 27, 2007 hit by Randy Jones that ended the skater’s 2007-08 season after only 10 games. It’s too early to rule it a concussion or start doling out meaningless and arbitrary dates that the skilled player might return, and the Bruins promised to release a statement once the doctors had given a final diagnosis.
“The doctors are looking at it and haven’t given us any indication as to the severity of it,” said Julien. “We’ve asked…they haven’t diagnosed him yet as to whether it is [a concussion] or is it not. He said he got dinged pretty good.”
Here is the hit. At this point, the only thing to do is send best wishes that it’s not something damaging enough to prevent Bergeron from playing the game he loves and cherishes:
Fourth Line Breakdown
Saturday’s win also featured a solid effort from the disparate members of the ever-changing Bruins “energy line.” Stephane Yelle potted the empty net goal that iced the game in the waning seconds of the third period — his fifth score of the season –and registered three hits in victory. Rugged rough-housing Shawn Thornton scored the game-winning goal on an unassisted tally in the third period, registered a game-high six hits in a relentlessly physical effort throughout, and even had four shots on net to finish off the all-around performance.
Vladimir Sobotka also continued to add an aggravating sandpaper presence to pair along with Yelle and Thornton. Sobotka even stopped agitating long enough to feed a beautiful backhand dish that set up a David Krejci strike and handed Boston their first lead of the game in the third. The assists was Sobotka’s first point of the 2008-09 season.
“It is amazing how some guys that don’t score often, score against the same teams. It was nice to see him get the winning goal,” said Julien of Thornton, who has feasted offensively on Carolina over the last few years. “If you have everybody over the course of a season playing a big role in a win, its nice to see those guys in the role of giving energy to our team, throwing hits out there, and trying not to get scored on, get rewarded. Yelle got that fourth goal in the empty net, Thornton, and I thought Sobotka had a real good game on that line tonight.”
A little known tidbit about Thornton’s goal against the ‘Canes: he utilized a time-honored bit of puck chicaneary for the score. Thornton gamely called out “reverse” when Carolina defenseman Joe Corvo was handling the puck behind the Hurricanes net, and Corvo promptly obliged. With his back to the fourth liner hiding in wait alone behind the net, Corvo shoveled the puck behind him directly to Thornton. The B’s winger took the gift puck and zipped it past Cam Ward for his second goal of the season.
Was Thornton’s ruse a legal, above board hockey manuever, or was Thornton’s shout-out similar to the ploy A-Rod used screaming “I Got It!” to foul up the Toronto Blue Jays infielders two seasons? Thornton seemed slightly sheepish afterward when explaining his technique, but the 31-year-old didn’t seem to care how much it bothered the ‘Canes.
“They were going back for the puck and I kind of screamed ‘reverse’ to their defenseman and I think he thought I was their guy,” said Thornton. “He gave the puck right to me, and I think it went off [Ward's] stick and in. I dunno. I just buried my head for once and it finally went in for me.”
Is that acceptable behavior on the ice?
“Probably not…it might be a little dirty, but I don’t care,” said a laughing Thornton. “Dirty or wily, whatever way you want to look at it. [That doesn't] work too often. Maybe one out of a 100.”
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