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Savard on Dale and Holley 12.02.08 at 4:47 pm ET
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It's been a very good year for Savard and the Bruins...

It's been a very good year for Savard and the Bruins...

Marc Savard has been in the middle of the most effective and high-powered Bruins line this season and he’s putting up some pretty good numbers for himself in the process: Savard has been among the NHL’s scoring leaders all season, collected his 600th career point earlier this year and is widely considered a strong candidate to put together his second All-Star season in a campaign that’s already garnered him National notice. Savvy sat down for a phone interview with Dale and Holley this afternoon to talk about his two young linemates, PJ Axelsson’sunique fashion sense and whether he ever had second thoughts about signing with Boston. Here’s the transcript:

You had a nice little run there in November. MS: We obviously had a good run. We didn’t let the highs get too high or the lows get too low. We just kept working and that was the big thing. We’re a team that knows we have to work hard to win, and we were able to do that.

You’ve had a string of games there and some regularity in the schedule, and now you’ve got some time off. Is that something where you would have liked to keep playing? MS: I think this time off is good. We’ve been going at it pretty hard here in the month of November, and I think some time off really helps a lot with the bumps and bruises that guys have that nobody knows about. We’re resting those up and getting ready to go south, so we’re getting ready for that.

Speaking of that, you had some bumps and bruises yourself. You took a hit against Florida that some might view as questionable. Did you think it was dirty? MS: I’m not sure. I think it was a good hit. It came in low, but it was just a hip check and you can’t really complain about that. But as we’ve done all year Wardo jumped in there and helped me out when he thought it wasn’t a legal hit. We’ve been covering each other’s backs like that all year and it was a good job by Wardo to do that. It was a little bit of a charley horse there, but no real damage done.

We brought up this point to Milan Lucic last week. This team is tougher this year. When did that attitude change for this team? MS: I really think it was last year, and then we got into the playoffs against Montreal and grew as a group and we really took big steps. We put [the Canadiens] against the wall and almost snuck out that seven game series. I think coming into this year we knew that we had a pretty good hockey team and we just had to put it out there on the ice.  We’ve been able to do that this year. We’ve had each other’s backs for a long time.

We’ve got some big boys. We’re not only tough dropping the gloves, but we can bang with the best of them when we have to. We’re a good team, we have good balance and hopefully we can keep doing what we have to do to win.

Big Picture: you recently scored your 600th career point. When you first played hockey, what were your expectations for yourself? MS: Okay, when I first started playing and when I was growing up in Canada I dreamed of playing in the NHL, and that was my dream. At junior hockey I kind of knew that if I put in the time then I could achieve [the NHL] and then once I got here I honestly never thought I’d get 600 points and be as productive as I’ve been as a player.

I’m come a long way as a player and I’ve learned a lot and had some great coaches along the way and had some ups and downs as a player along the way. I’ve learned a lot. I think in the last few years I’ve seemed to grow and grow and keep getting better at the game and learning every day. Just trying to work hard and having a lot of fun doing it. Who knows how many more that I’ll get, but I’m enjoying my time right now and I am thankful for what I have done.

Be like Wayne?

Be like Wayne?

Who was your guy that you grew up wanting to be like? MS:

Oh, it was Wayne Gretzky for sure.  As a kid it was Gretzky everything, and  I used to have his video called “Hockey, My Way” and I would pop it in before every game I went to. I would watch his highlight goals and always try to emulate everything he did. He was the Greatest to play the game as far as I was concerned. Obviously I got the chance to play  with him in New York. It was tough because I got caught watching him all the time and being around him was a special thing.

I always felt a little nervous, but he was a great guy and he would always tell me to just be myself and act normal because he was just a normal person. It was a special thing.

The Bruins made a big splash when they signed Z and they signed you. Did you ever have second thoughts about coming here? MS: No, I always loved this city. Every time I came in as a visiting player I always loved the city and thought this would be a good place to play. When Peter called me on July 1 I had a couple of offers too but this one kept jumping up at me because I’ve always loved this city and I love playing in Boston. I’m happy and I’m really happy now obviously, but there were some growing pains coming here and I went through a tough year my first year. But we really built off that last year and had a great season. This year we want to do more and keep getting better.

I imagine Claude Julien wants you guys to be happy with how things are going, but he doesn’t want you to be satisfied. MS: Exactly. He keeps reiterating that to us and he’s not going to let us get comfortable around here…that’s for sure. That’s his job and he’s done a good job with it at that. We keep coming to the rink and he keeps putting it in our heads that we’re a good team but if we don’t work then we’re not very good. So he keeps putting it in our heads and it’s in there. Even today in practice today if we’re not doing a good job he’ll stop practice and let us know and bring us back down to earth.

We don’t get too high around here and we just keep it even. We know we’ve got 60 games left still and there’s a lot that can happen. We keep bringing up the Ottawa Senators who got off to a flying start last year and then kind of went down. We can’t get too high. We just keep trying to play hard do things right.

I’m sure there are adjustments you’ve had to make as opposed to when you were in Atlanta with Kovalchuk and Heatley? MS: Well, I think the big thing is playing with those guys they were my No. 1 options and pretty much I went with them most of the time. Where here I’ve had to look around a little more and I’ve always been one of those guys that if you’re open then I’m getting it to you…It doesn’t matter who you are. But in Atlanta, Kovalchuk was my No. 1 target and that worked out well.

Playing with Kessel and Lucic we’ve got a great thing going and we’re having a lot of fun coming to the rink every day. They’re great kids and they make me feel like a kid skating with them and I’m really enjoying it. We’ve got a good mix going and hopefully we can keep it going.

What have they taught you? They must have some pop culture stuff going on you haven’t heard of? MS: They’re excited all the time and they’re little chirpers. They chirp me all the time so we have a lot of fun with that. They keep me cool, I guess, yeah. They keep me cool and up to date with what’s going on in the younger world. We have a lot of fun with that.

Those that think Lucic just drops the gloves are missing out on a lot. He’s got some skills. MS: Yeah, I keep going back to Day One when he came out and i got to play with him against the Islanders in the first exhibition game. I went to Peter Chiarelli, our GM, after the game and I remember just saying this kid can play, he’s ready and he’s got more skills than people give him credit for. It’s become evident each day when he’s out there. He makes those little plays, he’s great along the wall and he knows where the net is and he’s going to keep growing.

I think the sky is the limit for him and I hope I’m around for a lot longer than next year because I enjoy playing with those guys and I enjoy playing in this city.

When Phil Kessel got benched in the playoffs last year he could have gone in two directions, and it seems as if he’s really gone in the right direction since then. MS: Yeah, exactly. When he was sat out in the playoffs I had a chance to talk to him and I just told him to really stay with it. I know it’s a bit different these days because a lot of these kids get a chance to play right away. I know when I came in with the Rangers I would play two games and sit two, so I just told him to keep his head on straight and work hard and be ready because you’re going to get another chance. He’s obviously run with that and taken the high road. He works hard every day and he’s getting better at both side of the rink every day too. Obviously his speed is incredible and I love playing with him because I can take advantage of that.

Does Phil remind you of anybody? MS: Well, he has a lot of Kovalchuk in him too with the speed and the skill level and getting to holes really fast. He does. He’s just a great player and the sky is the limit for him too. That’s why I want to say around here and stay on this line for a long time. That would be a lot of fun.

What did you guys think that Claude Julien tapped PJ Axelsoon for the shootout a few weeks ago? MS: Send the Swede in, Oh no! Axy has been working on in practice and he’s a skilled forward. He doesn’t get a lot of credit for that and he hasn’t scored yet this year, but that’s coming. He’s got some great hands on him and he’s patient with the puck, so the shoout out fits him pretty good and obviously he’s proven that.

That’s the highlight goal of the year. MS: It was and he lets us know it all the time…that’s for sure.

People that don’t know, he’s also Mr. Fashion on that team. MS: Yeah, but he’s Mr. Fashion out of left field, though. He’s got some fashion that we’ve never seen before. I guess if you call it fashion, then he’s pretty fashionable.

Well he isn’t Aaron Ward-type fashionable. He’s got his own style. MS: Yeah he’s out there for sure. He’s not Aaron Ward Mr. GQ, but he’s got PJ Axelsson GQ.

Read More: Claude Julien, Marc Savard, Milan Lucic, Peter Chiarelli Print  |  Email   | Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
Lashoff looking for chance to shine 12.02.08 at 8:16 am ET
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Lashoff ready to grab hold of his big shot...

Lashoff ready to grab hold of his big shot...

With Aaron Ward out of the lineup for at least a week and Andrew Ference placed on Long Term Injured Reserve, the 10 games in 18 days stretch that the Bruins successfully skipped their way through has taken its toll on the D-man ranks. The B’s called up Matt Lashoff — who they had just sent back down to Providence on Thanksgiving Day without having played a game in Boston this season – and Johnny Boychuk to fill the blueline breach, and a defensemen group that was already relying heavily on Matt Hunwick will now insert more rookies into the mix.

The situation also represents an opportunity for both Lashoff and Boychuk — with the offensively gifted Lashoff really needing to take hold of this opportunity after bouncing back and forth with the Black and Gold over the last two years. There’s no doubt that Claude Julien is creating a competition between Lashoff and Boychuk that he hopes will squeeze the most out of the pair of skilled youngsters. Here’s a conversation with Lashoff about what he’s hoping to accomplish over the next few weeks:

What do you want to show Claude and the rest of the staff while you’re up here? Do you feel like you have to show some things? ML: Oh yeah. I want to show them that my intensity level is up and that I’m really battling for pucks in the defensive zone. So many people talk about the retrieval of pucks and stuff, and I feel like I’ve really gotten better at that stuff. It’s mainly about winning my fair share of one-on-one battles and obviously it’s that type of league now where the puck is moving quicker and skating ability is at a paramount. I think the main thing is you’ve got to separate guys from the puck so you can get things going, and that’s the main thing I’m working on each day and concentrating on harder.

Is that something they told you they wanted you to work on in Providence? ML: Yeah. There were a couple of things and I really tried to bring that mindset into practice and each game at Providence, and when you’re doing that it’s tough to sit down there and want to be here [in Boston]. It’s a good situation because I’m here and I can show everybody first-hand. It’s a good thing because I’m learning every day from the guys in the lineup about they’re doing things and the way Claude wants things done.

It’s a little tougher when you’re down there in Providence and watching the Bruins games every night, but you’re not here to learn first-hand in practice. From a learning basis, to be here and to get the concepts down based on a lot of repetition is a very good thing. It’s tough not playing, but it’s great being here and learning.

It’s got to be tough when you’re down in Providence and you’re watching the way this team is playing, and you’re like ‘Man I would love to be there right now.’ ML: It’s definitely a tough situation especially with all of the pressure that I put on myself before camp started to come in and earn a spot. Unfortunately it didn’t go that way, but I’m here now to make the best of it.

Is it possible that you too much pressure on yourself in camp, and maybe you were trying to do too much to impress people? ML: Maybe in hindsight  a little bit, but it’s no excuse. I just need to show everybody that I deserve to be here every day, and it really doesn’t matter what happened when that situation ran out like it did. I’ve got to go from there and I’m happy with the way I’m playing and just go out and have fun every day.

Obviously every year in a guy’s career is pivotal, but did you look on this season as the year when you had to really make that leap with the Bruins? ML: Yeah definitely. It’s a tough thing, but a little adversity never hurt anybody. It’s really helped mentally to get stronger. Obviously you want to be here for the entire year and it’s tough on the head when you get sent down for the first little bit, but I didn’t let it affect me mentally. There’s two things you can do, and I didn’t mope or do that. You can also just grab the situatuon and run with it, and I think that’s what I did.

That’s why I’m hoping that I’m here right now is because of that reason. I know it sounds like a cliche, but I just want to come up here and work hard every day and prove I can play the position.

Who do you look at in this locker room as a guy you can model yourself after, or who you find yourself really studying the way they play? ML: Obviously with Wides’ skating ability and the way he moves the puck it would be him, but I don’t think there’s any one guy I would go to specifically. I’m pulling from everybody, even guys like Axy and the defensive forwards coming back and where they want the D to be when they come back into the zone and the centers and what they want you to react to.

It’s a learning thing because it’s different for each player, especially down in Providence where you learn where people are going and where they want to go and then up here it’s a new set of faces. The main thing is to learn for everybody all along the ice, but as far as style and working on the power play it’s probably more Wides than anybody else.

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Ward out at least a week 12.01.08 at 11:07 am ET
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Ward is out for at least a week with a left leg injury

Ward is out for at least a week with a left leg injury

Bruins defenseman Aaron Ward will not be making the two-game road trip through the Sunshine State (Tampa Bay and Florida) after injuring his left foot/ankle during Saturday night’s game against the Detroit Red Wings.

Ward was viewed walking through the locker room during Monday morning’s practice with a protective boot on his left foot/ankle, but declined to elaborate on the extent of his injury. “He’s not making the trip to Florida, so he’s definitely out for this week,” said B’s coach Claude Julien, who wouldn’t get any more specific than to call it a ‘leg injury’. “Then he’ll be reevaluated when we get back, and hopefully from there he’ll be day-to-day.

“Our depth is being tested more and our experienced guys are getting whittled down a little bit,” added Julien. “It is something that we have to work with a little closer. You might see some D pairs like we saw [Saturday] night where it’s not always the same pair and it’s more mix-and-match. We want to make sure we have the right combination against the other team’s top lines.”

Ward was walking through the locker room area with a healthy limp after taking the boot off, but the new NHL rules on injuries are keeping the nosy Fourth Estate from differentiating between what’s likely a sprained ankle or foot for the veteran blueliner. Expect Matt Lashoff, Johnny Boychuk or Adam McQuaid to get the call from Providence, with the Pucks with Haggs money centered squarely on Lashoff. The youngster had been practicing with the team up until Thanksgiving and has already gathered a handful of NHL experience during his up-and-down career – with the only apparent problem being that the 22-year-old’s blueline puck skill set doesn’t match up with the fallen Ward as much as perhaps the rugged McQuaid does. Mark him as the dark horse candidate if GM Peter Chiarelli goes in a different direction.

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It all starts in the center square for the Bruins 12.01.08 at 12:08 am ET
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The Bruins braintrust has seemingly stockpiled centers over the last three years, and their designed efforts to create a competitive, diverse group of pivots has paid huge dividends this season. Boston’s group of centers are potting their fair share of goals this season, and — more importantly — the quartet is setting up other Black and Gold skaters all over the ice in a high-octane hockey attack. Top line center Marc Savard is quietly enjoying perhaps the best season of his All-Star career, and is on pace for the first 100-point season of an admittedly impressive pro hockey body of work filled with offensive bursts, breathtaking moves and high assist totals.

Patrice Bergeron has been, by head coach Claude Julien’s own admission, the B’s best faceoff man this season and is again taking draws after recovering from a muscle pull that temporarily had Julien resistant to using him in the faceoff circle. Bergeron has been slow to return to the full dominant form he displayed prior to sustaining last season’s infamous hit-from-behind that led to a concussion, but he’s fearlessly tipping pucks in front of the net, backchecking to break up the opposition’s flow with fervor and purpose and helping out tremendously on both of the B’s special teams units as well.

Then there’s David Krejci, who has now jump-started a pair of slumping Boston wingers (Marco Sturm, Michael Ryder) by deftly getting the skilled skaters in touch with the puck in places that can only be described as their “happy zones” on the ice. Krejci’s ability to create and make others around him markedly better is obvious in the resurgence of both players, and the results were immediate in both cases. His fingerprints are all over the solid rookie season enjoyed by Blake Wheeler as well. The two young players have clicked famously while skating together, and the pairing could be a solid power (Wheeler) and puck possession (Krejci) partnership for a long time to come, with the Czech Republic native also capable of scoring goals when the situation arises. Krejci is one of an astounding eight Bruins on pace to score 20 goals this season.

Krejci slid into the No. 1 center spot when Savard went down with an injury toward the end of last season, and flashed glimpses that he would someday be a top-line, assist-collecting superstar in the finest hockey league in all the land. There has been nothing this season that should dissuade anyone from feeling that continues to be the case with the slick pivot, and he simply keeps getting better with each and every game.

The best part about him? Krejci will always dissect his game in the postgame locker room to the point that he’ll berate himself if he feels like he wasn’t 100 percent  effective in a given game. There’s an element inside the youngster that burns to be great, and it’s a commond bond that many of the young Bruins share in common. The 22-year-old doesn’t dwell on those memonts of dissatisfaction as he might have earlier in his career bouncing between Boston and Providence, though, and now he instead ”feels like he belongs on the team.” In other news, David Krejci is just plain good.

Stephane Yelle anchors a fourth line and adds veteran intangibles along with another quality penalty killer, and it’s a testament to Boston’s center depth that Phil Kessel and Petteri Nokelainen (natural centers before this season) have both slid over to wing positions with good success. Nokelainen continues to win a ridiculous amount of faceoffs that he takes, and is sometimes sliding in to take draws when he skates with Yelle and Shawn Thornton. Vladimir Sobotka similarly proved that he belonged in the NHL last season when he banged bodies, agitated and flashed enough offensive skill to deserve a full-time job in ‘The Show.’ There simply hasn’t been any room for him with Boston this season, but he’s the first center on call if the injury big hits. One of Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli’s goals when he arrived in Boston was to make the Bruins a strong, formidable team up the middle, and he’s done that with at least seven quality center candidates between Boston and the Baby B’s in Providence.

“I think we’ve got good depth down the middle. I can tell you there’s a guy in Providence right now that is also a real good player in [Vladimir] Sobotka,’ said Julien, referencing a skater that impressed the B’s coach once again during this fall’s training camp and has played well in the AHL. ”I think we’ve got some real good depth in the middle, and we’re pretty happy about that.

“It’s been a real key for our club this year, being able to play four lines and feeling comfortable because those guys do a good job down low on our own end,” added Julien. ”As you’ve seen, I’ve put our fourth line against other team’s top lines at times and they responded well. That’s been a huge help for our hockey club this year having that depth down the middle.”

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Cherry calling out Looch, or just Don Being Don? 11.30.08 at 12:25 pm ET
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He called me What ?!?

He called me What ?!?

Don Cherry is always nothing if not outspoken, but did he step over the line and invite the ire of a top-of-the-world Bruins Nation after his weekly edition of Coach’s Corner yesterday evening on Hockey Night in Canada? Grapes was doing his usual eight minutes of hockey bluster thing and going through his observations for the week, and then he stopped to applaud rugged New York Islanders defenseman Brendan Witt.

Cherry gave Witt an attaboy and called him a warrior for taking on “Lucy” when the Isles played the Bruins last weekend. Grapes was pointing out that Witt was showing courage in dancing with Milan Lucic during a blowout loss before a frenzied Garden crowd last Friday, but there seemed to also be a potential dig at Lucic.

Co-Host Ron MacLean quickly corrected Cherry and said Lucic, but it caused me to wonder whether Cherry was purposely mispronouncing Looch after the “L’Affaire Laraque” in Montreal last week. Grapes can sometimes be at a loss for names and bungle anything that doesn’t sound like a name out of the Mississauga phone book, so pure Grapes error is more likely. In fact, Dandy Don butchers at least a couple of names in the Coach’s Corner segment before even getting to Lucic. Cherry has always been complimentary of Looch in the past, and just last week he had a few bon mots for both Marc Savard and Andrew Ference.

All that being said, one has to wonder if there’s any possibility Lucic was using his heightened platform as CBC’s High Priest of Hockey to take a veiled shot at the Big, Bad Looch.

Here’s the video, and you decide whether Cherry’s gaffe was purposeful, or simply his always motoring mouth moving faster than his brain. It should be noted that Cherry later goes on to call Looch a monster, which he most certainly is when he laces up the skates. The Lucic/Witt portion begins around the 6:15 mark of the youtube video:

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B’s are too legit to quit 11.29.08 at 6:11 pm ET
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Proving that they’re completely undaunted by the Four Stanley Cup titles captured since 1997, the Bruins weathered the first period storm by the Red Wings and came away with a decisive 4-1 victory over the reigning champs from the Motor City.

The Bruins coaching staff and players stressed before the game that it was important not to stray too distantly from their system — whether they’re playing a gritty, dump-and-chase Eastern Conference also-ran like the New York Islanders or a roster full of puck possession players with otherworldly skills like the Detroit Red Wings — and that the name-of-the-game is to make teams adjust to the Black and Gold Way.

Not the other way around.

The 21st Century Big, Bad B’s can drop the gloves and pound away with the strongest and most ruthless goon-filled opponents; they can play the speed and precision passing games with the European-style teams that favor puck possession and dangle over simply duking it out; and they can be effective against any other style of hockey in between those disparate puck poles. The Bruins finished the month of November with an 11-1-1 record and 23 points, which marks their best month of hockey since they piled up 24 points in December of 1978 with an 11-2-2 record for that month. That, my friends, is the return of Old Time Hockey in Boston.

“It was a great challenge for us, that’s for sure,” said Zdeno Chara. “We know that they’re one of the best teams on the West side and that this would be a good measuring stick for us. We want to play our game, we want to play hard and we did that for most of the game.”

What did Big Z learn about his Bruins team tonight as he wore the Captain’s ‘C’ in the intimidating Back-in-Black third jersey, collected his 7th assist of the season and laid out a pair of hits while constantly reinforcing a pounding, physical presence around the skilled, dainty Wings playmakers?

“That we can beat anybody in this league, and that we can play anybody in this league,” said Chara. “We haven’t done anything and we’ve just beat a few teams. We need to keep pushing forward and we can’t get satisfied with the results we have. We need to keep playing our game and the results will take care of themselves.

“The most important thing for us is that the other team is adjusting to us rather than our team adjusting to them,” added Chara. “Sometimes in a game you make small adjustments, but most of the game we’re playing the system and not changing a whole lot. It’s just a matter of being disciplined and playing your game.”

Above and beyond the time-honored system chatter, the Bruins offense has also become Public Enemy Number One in the upside-down world of goaltending, as they’ve banished two straight starting goaltenders (Joey MacDonald, Ty Conklin) from their comfortable crease during blowout victories at the Garden.

What does that mean?

It means that the Bruins finally proved last night that this nice little 24-game run to start the season isn’t a phase, a hot streak or anything temporary — this edition of the Black and Gold is deep, dangerous and deadly and, barring any injuries, is likely to keep scoring wins and hockey TKOs this season. Having both Andrew Ference and potentially Aaron Ward out with injuries – in addition to post-concussion difficulties that currently have Marco Sturm on the shelf – are certainly posing a legit test of the Bruins and their impressive depth, but it’s hard to imagine anything derailing this hockey train headed for good things. 

They’re Deep and they’re spectacular

Once again the scoresheet was dotted with seven players that enjoyed multiple point games, and featured another banner game from the trio of Michael Ryder, David Krejci and Blake Wheeler.

Ryder showed determination, strength on the puck and plain old offensive chutzpah when he dangled through a pair of defenders with the puck, blazed down the right side of the ice and slid a pass back to a wide open Blake Wheeler for Boston’s initial score. The entire left half of the net was wide open and Wheeler buried a shot in the top left corner for the eighth goal of a banner rookie campaign. The two helpers give Ryder four points in two games since joining up with Krejci and Wheeler — a trend that will likely keep the forwards together if things stay bountiful for the B’s.

“[Ryder] just won two battles, and that’s the name of the game: winning battles,” said Wheeler. “He gave us a 2-on-1 and that’s how you score goals in this league…by winning battles. The last two games Rydes has been awesome and hopefully for the rest of the season this is the guy that you see. Because he’s been really, really, really good.”

Each member of the Krejci/Ryder/Wheeler combo finished the night with a +2 and once again proved that any of the Bruins’ top three lines can strike at any time. Apparently Ryder will have to do some work to make more of an impression on Wings head coach Mike Babcock, however, as the Wings bench boss couldn’t remember the oh-so-anonymous guy that finished with a pair of assists and a +2 against his club when all the ice chips had settled. 

“[The Bruins] have good players.  I think they are starting to come of age.  They have been drafting high for a long time and it starts to show after a period of time,” said Babcock. “That Kessel kid can really fly.  Savard is more committed than he has been in the past.  Lucic is a big body and really skates. 

“I thought that the Krejci line with Wheeler and who was the other guy there on the line tonight?  It doesn’t matter any way I thought they were effective against us tonight.  Bergeron is a great two-way player, with Axelsson.  Oh and Ryder was with them mostly.  That’s three good lines.”

The single hottest Bruins’ offensive player doesn’t reside on that red-hot line, however. That honor goes to Phil Kessel, who scored Boston’s second goal on a screaming wrist shot from the top of the point in the first period, and marked his ninth consecutive game with at least one point.

That gives Kessel the longest active streak currently going in the NHL, and marks the third-longest point streak in the league this season. Kessel was on a pace to finish with 41 goals and 24 assists before heading into Saturday night’s statement victory, and the lightning-legged youngster continues to give Boston the sniper they’ve longed for since rigor mortis set in on Glen Murray.

Making due without Ward

The Bruins have displayed a breathtaking show of depth over the16-4-4 start, and that’s going to have to continue holding true after another injury hit Saturday night.  Veteran defenseman Aaron Ward exited the game with a leg injury after only three shifts and 3:43 of ice time in the first period. Ward had skated in hard and laid a physical check on Detroit defenseman Derek Meech, and he didn’t return after immediately skating off the ice.

“It’s a leg injury,” said Julien. “You guys all saw when he hit the boards there that he came out limping. There’s not much we can do here. He’ll be evaluated tomorrow and hopefully when we practice on Monday we can give you a better assessment of his injury.”

Ward’s injury forced the Bruins blueline corps to play Iron Man hockey for roughly the last 50 minutes of the hockey game, and — in the words of Dennis Wideman — Claude Julien was basically pairing ‘D’ according to “who was sucking the least amount of wind on the bench.”

It’s too early to speculate on the seriousness of Ward’s leg problem, but another Matt Lashoff call-up seems almost automatic after practicing with the team and acting as a healthy scratch up until last Thursday. With Andrew Ference out with a broken right tibia and now Ward potentially gone with a leg injury, the B’s backliners will have to each step up and fill the shot-blocking bravery, physical persona and off-ice leadership that Ward provides on a daily basis.

“[Ward] eats a lot of minutes up and he plays against the other team’s top line,” said Dennis Wideman, who played a Herculean 28:36 of ice time in the win over the cooked Wings. “He’s a good defender and he’s a guy that shuts teams down. He finishes a lot of checks in his own zone and he blocks a ton of shots, and he’s tough to play against. He does a really good job of shutting other team’s down, so obviously somebody else is going to have to step up and do that.

“Of course there’s a challenge if we’re down another D,” added Wideman. “Somebody will be coming up from the minors. Last year we had a lot of injury problems on defense, and Providence does a really good job of getting guys ready to come up here. There’s a lot of skill, and just like when [Matt] Hunwick stepped in when Ference got hurt and did a great job…we expect whoever they call up will do the same.

Manny, Manny, Manny

It seemed somewhat out of place to hear the “Manny, Manny, Manny” chants cascading through the sellout crowd of 17, 565 at the Garden on Saturday night, but Bruins goaltender Manny Fernandez is beginning to feel the same kind of fan affection that’s been showered on Tim Thomas over the last three years. Fernandez made 29 saves and won both ends of back-to-back games — the first time this season that the veteran netminder has been entrusted with both ends of a back-to-backer.

Julien noted how well Fernandez has been playing in giving the former Minnesota Wild ‘tender the start against the Red Wings, but the Boston bench jockey also wanted to give Thomas some time to recover from an illness that bothered him this week. 

“Well me personally, again my teammates the way they’ve been playing, I can’t say enough- the way they’ve been putting it in the net, getting the outside shot, I mean anyone who gets to play on a team like that – it’s amazing it’s an easy game to play,” said Fernandez. ”You just concentrate on the first shot and they clear the rebounds and they’ve been really effective and they came out really strong tonight.”

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Felger: Why the Bruins are my team 11.29.08 at 11:31 am ET
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Here’s the weekly Barbara Walters “I’m going to make you cry”/Ron Burgundy “I’m trapped in a glass case of emotion” moment from Mike Felger’s must-read mailbag this week where he opens up about the Bruins, and delves into the unbelievably wholesome reasons why the Black and Gold have always been his hockey team.

Things got a little dusty in the home offices of Pucks with Haggs when the Comcast SportsNet “Mohegan Sun Sports Tonight” host/Boston sports media version of Larry David busted out mention of the table top hockey game, as I had one of the Bruins/Canadiens versions as a youngster as well until my dad, the famed Stump from Stoneham, stepped on and completely crushed the ice surface during a late night, lights out stumble to the bathroom.

Ah, the memories of an angry dad with a throbbing foot and a busted hockey game…anyway, here’s Felger. For those interested, by the way, I’ll be on “Sports Tonight” with Felgie next Thursday to talk Bruins and Red Sox, so set your DVRs to stun.

Also, get your hockey questions ready for me, Felger and any other WEEI personality, or any member of the Boston Bruins organization (within reason, any crazy/offensive/restraining order material questions will be immediately discarded), and I’m going to do my best to get answers for you in the “Pucks With Haggs” Mailbag set to debut next week. Send me good questions at jhaggerty@weei.com, and I’ll get you some good answers…But for now, here’s Felgie

Me like Felger? Are you nuts?

Me like Felger? Are you nuts?

Felger,
Keep up the good work on Comcast reminding everyone on that station (especially Dick…erson) which sport rules in this part of the country. 

People around here play hockey, their kids play hockey, their Dad’s played, and so on.  You don’t see the best college basketball programs, or team USA for that matter, littered with Mass/New England guys like in hockey.

The Bruins crush the Celtics in the ratings, even in championship seasons like last year. You’re the berries, Felger. Stay strong, and get that Montreal Canadians-loving Tanguay to talk some more Bruins with you!
Dan Gorman

A: A couple of things.

 

1. The Bruins used to win the ratings battle with the C’s, but not recently. Last Friday, for example, the teams went head-to-head, with the C’s-Timberwolves drawing a 4.4 and Bruins-Panthers earning a 2.1. If the Bruins start contending for titles again, those numbers will certainly tighten, but the B’s aren’t there yet.

 

2. Yes, I am the berries.

 

And 3. It’s taken no time at all for my latent Bruins chronic-ness to come frothing to the surface. I can’t help it. That team is in my blood like no other around here. Why is that, you ask?…..What, you didn’t ask? Too bad.

 

Here’s my story: Of course, it comes from childhood. Growing up and playing hockey as a kid in Milwaukee, I had no team, so I had to pick one. The Bruins were it. It all stems from a table hockey game my father bought us when I was six. My brother was the Canadiens and I was the Bruins. That’s all it took. My family would go see the B’s in Chicago at the old stadium, the greatest hockey building ever, through the 70′s (I remember being at an overtime win in the playoffs in 1978 — either Park or McNabb with the game-winner).

A classic leftover from Felger's adventure down the dial...Glow Stick Felger

A classic leftover from Felger's adventure down the dial...Glow Stick Felger

We watched on TV when we could, which was sparingly in those days. Anyway, I think if you’re a true fan, the teams you rooted for when you were young (call it 13 and younger) are the teams you are stuck on for life. If you change allegiances, even after moving to a particular city, you’re a fraudulent sports fan. Or a chick (sorry, girls).

For example: I like the Red Sox. They are an interesting team to cover and I want them to do well. But they’re my second-favorite team. If they ever played the Brewers in the World Series, it wouldn’t even be a choice in my mind. And that’s even though I’ve lived in Boston (20 years and counting), longer than I did Milwaukee (16 years).

Same thing goes for the Celtics. They’re a likable team, and it’s good for the league that they’re on top again. But I was at the MECCA all those years in the 80′s when the Bucks had their hearts ripped out by Larry Bird. So I see that green uniform and I can’t help but feel some animosity. Still. I can’t help it. If I felt any different I wouldn’t be a real fan.

I wouldn’t expect any of you to move to Detroit and suddenly start rooting for the Pistons, would I? I don’t care how long you lived there. You couldn’t do it. This is the world according to Felger. Why am I telling you this? I have no idea. Back to the point: I’m glad the Bruins are good again.

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