|Appreciative Jaromir Jagr on stint with Bruins: ‘We had a pretty good run’||10.28.13 at 12:11 pm ET|
Bruins fans gave a gift to Jaromir Jagr which he’d never received in all of years playing hockey.
“I remember my first shift I played here,” said Jagr, “everybody stand up and clap their hands. They show me the respect the first time I step on ice. That never happened to me before.”
On Saturday night, Boston welcomed back Jagr, the NHL’s active leading scorer, and the future Hall of Famer delivered two assists in the Devils’ come-from-behind 4-3 victory over his former team at the Garden.
The Bruins parted ways with Jagr shortly after the Blackhawks hoisted the Cup, and he signed with New Jersey in July. The former mulleted superstar from the Czech city of Kladno, who still claims he plans on scoring a goal at the age of 50, spoke highly of his time with the Bruins.
“The fans really like the hockey here, they understand the hockey here,” Jagr said. “We had a pretty good run. Maybe with a little more luck we would have been holding the Cup.”
Though Jagr is only 17 goals shy of 700, he failed to put the puck in the net during the B’s 22-game playoff run.
“I know a lot of people are going to say he didn’t score,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “And he didn’t. But he certainly added a lot to our team.”
Previously known for tormenting Bruins fans every spring during his time with Pittsburgh, Jagr’s lasting memory in Boston will be his assist on Patrice Bergeron‘s overtime goal against the Penguins in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals. Jagr won over his teammates by outdueling Evgeni Malkin for a loose puck on the boards, and the victory gave the Bruins a commanding 3-0 lead in the series.
Along with Jagr’s buying into the team concept, Julien also was impressed with the example the veteran set for his teammates.
“He worked hard, he had a great attitude, he made things happen,” Julien said. “I still remember in overtime there in Chicago where he just took a shot, hit the crossbar, and it could have been the winning goal. He was a good example for young guys — working out, doing extra and trying to stay on the top of his game, so he led by example in a lot of ways. We were happy to have him.”
|In wake of Rolling Stone controversy, Bruins revel in role as supporters of Boston Marathon bombing victims||07.22.13 at 12:37 pm ET|
While Rolling Stone magazine waxes poetically over the tragic downfall of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the victims from the Boston Marathon bombing continue to heal. Families that lost loved ones — like the relatives of Martin Richard, the 8-year-old boy who will never have the chance to celebrate 9, or the Campbell family, which was planning a 30th birthday party for beloved Krystle — are forced to exist for the rest of their lives missing an integral piece of their hearts.
Janet Reitman‘s story from the Aug. 1 edition of Rolling Stone attempts to humanize an alleged murderer, detailing the process of how a seemingly normal person becomes a terrorist. Though Reitman was able to detail Tsarnaev’s smooth ways with his female classmates in high school, a glaring absence in the story is any mention of the victims. In addition to an outrageously callous cover designed solely to sell magazines, Reitman’s story neglected to express any sorrow for the victims and their families that still suffer — with burns, broken hearts and lost limbs — as a direct result of the brutality allegedly caused by the subject of her very story.
The Bruins were the first team to play in Boston after the city ceased its lockdown. A matinee hockey game with the Penguins ensued on Saturday, April 20, mere hours after the suspect was captured by another set of heroes. Thanks to the work of the Watertown Police Department, also conspicuous by their absence in the Rolling Stone story, Tsarnaev was unable to cause any more carnage. From the moment the puck dropped at the Garden, Boston’s professional hockey team captured the hearts of this city and, in its own way, helped the victims feel whole again.
Jarrod Clowery, a 35-year-old who watched the Marathon with a group of friends from Stoneham, had his hands and legs burned and, in some places, even shredded at the hands of the Marathon bombers’ madness. During his still-ongoing recovery process, the first time he felt like himself took place at a Bruins game.
‘I had the chance to be flag captain in Game 7 against Toronto,’ said Clowery. ‘We watched in the Heineken board room but we went out in the stands after the third [Bruins] goal. I was actually just fresh out of the hospital, so I had a tough time that night. But the whole overtime, I was normal. It was like I never was involved in a bombing. I was out with all the other fans in the stands and my adrenaline was pumping. Who cares if they lost the Cup? You can be proud to be a Bruins fan.’
Unlike many of his friends, Clowery is fortunate not to have lost any limbs during the explosion. Friends from Stoneham — Marc Fucarile and brothers J.P. and Paul Norden — lost limbs. Fucarile, who has been through 15 visits to the operating room and nearly 50 operations, had his right knee amputated above the knee. He also suffered first-, second- and third-degree burns over half his body, as well as two fractures in his left leg. Shrapnel from the bomb literally littered his body. The Norden brothers each lost a leg in the bombing. Their bodies also were ravaged by burns and shrapnel.
“I was hopping the railing when I heard the first bomb go off,” Clowery recalled. “I told everybody, ‘Get in the street, get in the street!’ I was three feet from the bomb. The bomb blew under me, filling me from my ass to my ankles in shrapnel but, obviously, leaving me whole. The others were still flat-footed on the ground. That’s why they took the brunt of the damage. But let me tell you something: My friends Marc, J.P., and Paul are pretty big guys. They saved people’s lives by taking that blast. And now they need help.”
|Bruins coach Claude Julien a man of low profile, high achievement||07.04.13 at 10:30 am ET|
Claude Julien‘s New Jersey Devils had just defeated the Bruins, 3-1. Winners of four of their last five, with their stars finally healthy, the Devils stood second overall in the Eastern Conference with 102 points and appeared poised to make another extended postseason run.
“They are a good example of one of the best defensive teams in hockey,” Bruins coach Dave Lewis said during the postgame press conference. The defeat marked the eighth loss in the Bruins’ last nine games, and Boston was firmly entrenched in the basement of the Northeast Division.
The game was played on April 1, 2007. The next day, Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello fired Julien. The biggest blemish for a coach in the National Hockey League is to lose his players. The loss of the coach’s job, naturally, soon follows. Speculation ran rampant that Julien had lost control of the players in the dressing room.
The reason for Julien’s dismissal in New Jersey, in Lamoriello’s eyes, was not complicated.
“I don’t think we’re at a point,” Lamoriello explained in 2007, “of being ready both mentally and [physically] to play the way that is necessary going into the playoffs.” Lamoriello, recognized as one of the finest executives in hockey since the day he arrived in East Rutherford in 1987, already had led to the Devils to three Stanley Cups. His words against Julien — a man whose life was completely intertwined with hockey — were condemning. He had lost his players.
A REBUILD IN BOSTON
Move ahead six years, and the Bruins, having just swept the extremely talented Penguins, huddled together to accept the Prince of Wales trophy. A collection of superstars, led by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, were no match for Julien’s well-balanced team.
In the midst of the ensuing postgame celebration, Julien was asked what going to the Stanley Cup finals for the second time in three years meant to him. “What it means to us,” the polite Julien corrected, “it means a lot.”
While slowly silencing detractors, Julien has built a family on the ice in Boston. He is the longest-tenured Bruins coach since Milt Schmidt, who guided the Bruins from 1954 until 1961. Since his hire in 2007, Julien has won more playoff games (50) than any other coach except for Detroit’s Mike Babcock (51). Two more victories would have catapulted Julien atop that list, as well as captured another Stanley Cup for his Bruins. Yet the man born in Blind River, Ontario, does not care to hear about his success or tell you how much he knows about the game. He has no time to share anecdotes from his playing days. Even after a painful defeat at the hands of the Blackhawks, his narrow lens is focused entirely on the ice.
“Our team likes to deflect credit,” says Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli. “The humble roots of Claude and the team, it’s an important part of our makeup. It starts from the top and works its way down.”
|Tuukka while, but patient Rask ready to step into spotlight||06.10.13 at 9:38 pm ET|
Jaromir Jagr didn’t know where he was shooting the puck. He just wanted to put it on net.
‘Good goalies, they always hate to be scored on, even if practice,’ said Jagr. ‘They remember every shot, they remember every goal somebody score. And they tell you after the practice, ‘You lucky.’ They all remember your shot.’
Tuukka Rask stands four wins away from making a permanent mark on the Bruins franchise. By winning a Stanley Cup, the soon-to-be restricted free agent can secure a golden contract, erase any doubts over his play, and forever remove the shadow of Tim Thomas. But the soft-spoken, most ‘normal’ goalie Bruins coach Claude Julien has ever had the pleasure of coaching is no different than any other goalie when it comes down to one simple fact: He hates when you score on him.
‘Tuukka hate it,’ Jagr confirmed. ‘Sometimes you just shoot it in the air because you don’t want him to be mad. I scored on Tuuka, I score one goal, and he come to me and say, ‘[Expletive], you never shoot there! You always shoot over there!’ He know where you shoot in practice. How am I supposed to know? I don’t even know where I am shooting.’
Rask’s play is persuading people to forget about the quirky yet extremely talented Thomas. While Thomas refuses to speak to anyone associated with the Fourth Estate, Rask has played outstanding in goal. Through the first three rounds, the 26-year-old Rask’s 2013 playoff numbers are even slightly better than Thomas’ from the Stanley Cup run in 2011. While Thomas had a .932 save percentage and 2.28 goals-against average, Rask’s numbers are even more spectacular. He has a .943 save percentage and an outstanding 1.75 GAA, and stopped 134 of the 136 shots the Pittsburgh put on net in the 4-0 sweep of the vaunted Penguins.
‘I feel good,’ said Rask. ‘I don’t feel any better than I’ve felt all throughout the playoffs. The team is helping me out a lot. You let in two goals in [four] games, you’re making some good saves, but we’re blocking shots and taking care of the rebounds pretty well.’
RASK DEFLECTS PUCKS AND PRAISE
Rask is adept at stopping pucks as well as deflecting praise. It simply isn’t in his nature to bask in the glory of his play or take all of the credit for shutting down a team like the Penguins.
‘I was feeling good, seeing the puck a lot, being patient, and made some good saves,’ said Rask. ‘But nobody wins these games by themselves. Our defense did a really good job, and a lot of credit goes to them, too.’
|Make no mistake: Sidney Crosby is no Wayne Gretzky||06.08.13 at 9:43 pm ET|
The 25-year-old Crosby, who just finished his eighth year in the NHL, is an immensely talented hockey player. He forms one half of the ‘Mega Powers’ with teammate Evgeni Malkin for good reason, but the alleged modern-day Gretzky falls short in one area: While Crosby may be great, he is far from The Great One.
Crosby did not register one point in the Bruins’ four game sweep of the Penguins.
‘If you look back, the chances were there,’ Crosby said. ‘You try to fight, you try to get through to the net and get rebounds, and sometimes they come to you, sometimes they don’t. But obviously, you score two goals as a team in four games and virtually we go without any points. That doesn’t sit very well.’
There are definitely similarities between the two superstars. Both players hail from Canada and entered the league soon after their 18th birthdays. Crosby became the first teenager to lead the NHL in scoring since Gretzky achieved the feat in 1980. Just like Wayne, Sid the Kid has captured the Hart Trophy. Both players have hoisted the Stanley Cup, and there is no denying that both are wonderful ambassadors for the game of hockey. The similarities, at least up to this point in Crosby’s career, do not extend much further.
‘When you’re the best player in the league and you’re the face of the NHL, you are always judged by a tougher standard,’ said ESPN hockey analyst Barry Melrose. ‘Sidney’s judged by a very tough standard. If he doesn’t go out and get a goal every night, or get two or three assists every night, people say he’s in a slump.’
Slump or no slump, Crosby was unable to create any offense against the Bruins. Unlike Gretzky, The Kid could not find a way to lead his team. The Great One spent a decade of pure dominance in Edmonton, putting such a fork in the Islanders dynasty that it is rarely ever discussed. He won the Stanley Cup on four occasions with the Oilers before resuscitating professional hockey in Los Angeles. As incredible as Gretzky’s numbers were in the regular season, his work in the playoffs was simply on another level. Gretzky holds the record for most points in one playoff year with 47 in 1985, which was accomplished in only 19 games (the Bruins, by comparison, have already played 16 games this postseason). He dished out 31 assists during the 1988 playoffs, with 10 of those coming at the expense of the Bruins in the Stanley Cup finals. Gretzky was always judged by an incredibly high standard: the one that he set for himself.
Crosby is also judged by a higher standard, but he came up short this postseason. Crosby’s performance likely spells the end for Pens coach Dan Bylsma. Earlier this season, Bylsma became the fastest coach ever to win 200 games. He likely will soon be known as the former coach of the Penguins, joining John Tortorella as the second coach to be dismissed after an embarrassing playoff loss to Claude Julien‘s big, bad Bruins.
|A hockey life: Older, wiser Jaromir Jagr continues to live his dream||05.28.13 at 11:15 am ET|
Hours after the Bruins’ 5-2 victory over the Rangers last Sunday, the TD Garden sat still and empty.
The boisterous crowd had long since departed after Boston took care of business, holding serve on home ice, supplying the team with a 2-0 series lead in its Stanley Cup playoff conference semifinal series. The players and coaches trickled steadily out of the building, the janitorial crew had finished cleaning. Hours after the final whistle, Jaromir Jagr returned, alone, to the ice.
‘Hockey is who he is,’ said Mark Recchi, Jagr’s former Penguins teammate. Last seen in a Bruins sweater hoisting the Stanley Cup, Recchi now is a hockey operations advisor with the Stars, the team that dealt Jagr to the Bruins. ‘That’s his life. He’s passionate about it, he works hard at it, and he still wants to be a great player. He does whatever it takes to stay at that level.’
In front of 17,565 empty golden seats, the 41-year-old Jagr skated. Using every inch of his 6-foot-3, 240 pound frame, the forward from Kladno pushed himself, feeling the burn in his thickly muscled thighs. Living over 3,900 miles from his family in the Czech Republic, Jagr needed to be back on the ice, back home. The man with such phenomenal balance on skates then skated some more.
‘This is playoffs,’ reminded Jagr. ‘Any player will find out. It doesn’t matter if you’re on the first, second line or third. It’s tight checking. It’s harder to score.’
Jagr began his NHL career with the Penguins but now is looking to end Pittsburgh’s season. His playoff resume includes 78 playoff goals, though none have come recently. Amidst the longest scoring drought of his career, Jagr has not scored in 21 consecutive playoff games (his last playoff goal came against the Penguins in 2012). Though he has accumulated 193 playoff points over the course of his career, Jagr has registered just four points in 12 games during the Bruins’ 2013 postseason run.
‘It’s harder to score for me, and it’s harder to score for anybody else,” he said. “Unless you the best player in the world.’
Jagr would know better than most, considering, once upon a time, he was the best in the world.
Just like Jagr can’t fathom the idea of leaving the rink after a game (he is on record stating his desire for the NHL to begin playing doubleheaders), the concept of life without hockey is far removed from his mind. The offensive dervish entered the National Hockey League at the age of 18. Since then, every imaginable part of his life — and the world — has changed. His identity as a hockey player has evolved over the past 23 years, but his profession remains unchanged. Jaromir Jagr, all these years later, is still a hockey player.
‘I don’t think he’ll ever change,’ said Craig Patrick, general manager of the Penguins from 1989-2006. ‘He was built this way.’
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