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Canadiens goalie Mike Condon thinks he got some Patriots mojo: ‘Anything that Tom Brady touches turns to gold’ 01.01.16 at 6:25 pm ET
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Mike Condon stopped 27 of the 28 shots he faced in the Canadiens' Winter Classic win over the Bruins.  (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Mike Condon stopped 27 of the 28 shots he faced in the Canadiens’ Winter Classic win over the Bruins. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Tuukka Rask had Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman and Stephen Gostkowski featured on his helmet. Claude Julien wore a Bill Belichick-esque hoodie behind the bench. But it was Canadiens goalie Mike Condon who came away from Friday’s Winter Classic feeling like he had snagged some of the Patriots’ winning mojo.

Condon, a Holliston native who grew up rooting for the Pats, also had a Patriots-themed mask, as his featured sketches of Brady and Belichick along with four Lombardi Trophies and the team’s famous “Do Your Job” motto.

The cherry on top was getting the helmet autographed by Brady and Belichick before the Pats took off for Miami for Sunday’s regular-season finale.

“I’m pretty sure anything that Tom Brady touches turns to gold,” Condon said. “So I was pretty happy. Hopefully got some mojo on my helmet there. I’m a huge fan of his, huge fan of this organization, and I’m just happy to pay respect to them on the ice.”

Condon didn’t really need to be gold on Friday, as his Canadiens held the Bruins to just three shots on goal in the first period and built up a 3-0 lead by the end of the second. But he was very good when he was tested. Read the rest of this entry »

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Claude Julien pays homage to Bill Belichick with Bruins hoodie for Winter Classic 01.01.16 at 1:55 pm ET
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Bruins coach Claude Julien and Patriots coach Bill Belichick are good friends, as evidenced by their skate around the Gillette Stadium rink on Thursday morning.

So it should come as no surprise that Julien decided to pay homage to Belichick by wearing a Bruins hoodie for Friday’s Winter Classic against the Canadiens. Here’s video of Julien showing off his hoodie to Belichick, courtesy of the Bruins’ Twitter account.

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Tom Brady repays Tuukka Rask by throwing on goalie gear in Facebook post 01.01.16 at 12:02 pm ET
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If his first post of 2016 is any indication, this is going to be another strong year for Tom Brady on Facebook.

Brady opened the year by getting into the Winter Classic spirit and repaying Tuukka Rask, whose special Winter Classic mask features Brady, Rob GronkowskiJulian Edelman and Stephen Gostkowski.

Rask and the Bruins take on the rival Canadiens at Gillette Stadium Friday afternoon.

Thanks Tuukka for featuring me on your mask today! In your honor, I’ll be rocking your pads this Sunday in Miami. Happy new year and go Bruins! #WinterClassic

Posted by Tom Brady on Friday, January 1, 2016

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Massachusetts natives Mike Condon, Brian Flynn embrace playing for rival Canadiens in Winter Classic at Gillette Stadium 12.31.15 at 6:04 pm ET
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The drive from Mike Condon’€™s hometown of Holliston to Gillette Stadium is about 14 miles. His path to starting the Winter Classic there has been much longer.

The Canadiens rookie played at Belmont Hill School before attending Princeton, where he appeared in just four games as a freshman in 2009-10. He split time over the next two years before finally winning the starting job outright as a senior. He posted an impressive .923 save percentage that season and then signed with the ECHL’€™s Ontario Reign. He went on to see playoff playing time with the AHL’€™s Houston Aeros that spring as well.

Over the next two seasons, Condon spent time with the ECHL’€™s Wheeling Nailers and AHL’€™s Hamilton Bulldogs, continuing to post strong numbers the whole time. He continued to impress in Montreal’€™s training camp and preseason games this year and wound up winning the Canadiens’€™ backup goalie job over Dustin Tokarski.

When starter Carey Price went down with a lower-body injury in late October, Condon took over as the starter. He went 9-2-3 with a solid .918 save percentage over his first 15 NHL games (including one no-decision in relief), but then he started to struggle. He lost his next seven decisions and posted an ugly .871 save percentage during that time as the entire Canadiens team began to slide.

Condon enters Friday’€™s Winter Classic on a bit of a high note, though, having stopped 36 of 39 shots in a win over the Lightning on Monday. He’€™ll look to build on that Friday playing in front of plenty of friends and family in the home of the football team for which he grew up cheering. In fact, Condon has Bill Belichick, ‘€œDo Your Job’€ and the Patriots’€™ four Lombardi Trophies on his special Winter Classic mask (photo courtesy of David Gunnarsson).

condon mask

Most of Condon’€™s friends and family have always been Bruins fans, but he said they’€™ve all changed sides in the rivalry pretty quickly.

“I know all my family and friends will be wearing the bleu, blanc and rouge for sure,” Condon said. “I think the maximum number of tickets you could get was 14, so I maxed that out. Other than that, there are a lot of friends outside that are still coming. I think they’€™re all cheering for the Canadiens.” Read the rest of this entry »

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P.K. Subban talks ‘unfortunate’ Brad Marchand suspension, ‘respect’ for Tom Brady ahead of Winter Classic 12.31.15 at 4:33 pm ET
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P.K. Subban

P.K. Subban

The Bruins-Canadiens rivalry may get ratcheted up a notch in Friday’s Winter Classic given the Gillette Stadium setting and national exposure. But it will also be missing one key part of its recent history, as Brad Marchand will miss the game after getting suspended for a low hit on Senators defenseman Mark Borowiecki.

No one is more familiar with what Marchand brings to the rivalry than Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban, who has had more than a couple run-ins with the pesky Bruins forward during his career.

The two have exchanged hits, punches, slashes, words and more over the years, not to mention plenty of great one-on-one play given the skill level of each player and the fact that they’re usually on the same side of the ice.

The next chapter in the Marchand-Subban rivalry will have to wait, though. On Thursday, Subban was asked if he’s going to miss Marchand.

“Well, I know Brad’€™s a big part of their team, so I’€™m sure they’€™re going to miss him,” Subban said. “As far as I’€™m concerned, I know there is a rivalry between the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins. I don’€™t ever think of playing a specific player. But obviously with the history of us playing against each other, going back to World Juniors playing with each other and against each other in the playoffs and during the regular season, yeah, there’€™s been some heated battles.

“But that’€™s just a part of the game. There are many players I can probably think of in the league that I’€™ve had heated battles against. But it’€™s unfortunate he’€™s not playing tomorrow.”

Subban and the Canadiens enter Friday’s game having lost 11 of their last 13. Subban said he’s hopeful that the big stage and added excitement Friday can help his team pull out of that skid.

“I think for us right now it’€™s about building confidence from one shift to the next shift,” Subban said. “So we have an opportunity to do that again tomorrow, and I think that this is perfect for us. A stage like this where everybody can get up for and it’€™s refreshed, right? Your family and friends there and everybody watching. So you want to be at your best. I think when we’€™re at our best, there are not too many teams in the league that can compete with us.”

Subban’s excitement did take a bit of a hit Thursday, though. He was hoping to meet Tom Brady, but things didn’t work out.

“Tom, just so much respect for him as an athlete,” Subban said. “I was hoping to bump into him today in the hallway. I was probably going to jump on him or something like that. … A player like Tom Brady is special. It would have been nice to meet him today. But we’€™ll have to save that for another day.”

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Chelmsford native Jack Eichel registers career-high 4 points in 1st NHL visit to TD Garden 12.26.15 at 11:21 pm ET
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Jack Eichel had two goals and two assists in the Sabres' win over the Bruins on Saturday. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Jack Eichel had two goals and two assists in the Sabres’ win over the Bruins on Saturday. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Jack Eichel couldn’€™t have asked for a better homecoming. Having a six-day break followed by a game in Boston meant the North Chelmsford native got to spend some time at home with friends and family for Christmas.

That would’€™ve been pretty good in and of itself, but then Eichel capped it off with his best game as a pro. The former Boston University standout registered two goals and two assists in his first game at TD Garden as an NHLer, setting a career-high in points and snapping a seven-game goalless drought in the process.

“It was nice to see some family and friends, just kind of unwind a little bit,” Eichel said. “It’€™s been pretty busy for me the last few months, a little overwhelming at times, and just to go home and see the people that I’€™ve always been around — my mom, my dad, my sister, you know my whole family. So it’€™s nice to spend some time at home and kind of mentally regain yourself.”

Eichel, the second overall pick in the 2015 draft, notched a secondary assist on the Sabres’€™ first goal of the game, but he wasn’€™t involved in too many other scoring chances and he was also on the ice for two Bruins goals as Boston built up a 3-1 lead. But then, in an act that had to look familiar to any local college hockey fans, Eichel came roaring to life in the third.

Less than a minute after Ryan O’€™Reilly cut the Bruins’€™ lead to 3-2, Eichel tied the game when he held the puck in the right circle before centering a pass for Evander Kane that deflected off Kevan Miller and in.

After Jamie McGinn gave the Sabres a 4-3 lead, Eichel sealed the win when he fired a shot from his own zone into an empty net. Then he set up a second empty-netter with some good hustle. Before getting the assist, he actually had a tough-angle attempt at a hat trick, but the shot hit the side of the net.

“I was a little bit nervous jumping on the ice for warmups, but just an exciting game throughout,” Eichel said. “Made some mistakes, but at the end of the day it’€™s a huge win and it’€™s a super nice way to start this next segment for us. You know, just exciting to get a win and do it in the fashion that we did in front of so many friends and family.”

The combination of the six-day break and a return home seemed to bring out the best in Eichel, a welcome sign in a season that Eichel admits has been ‘€œoverwhelming’€ at times. There have been some ups and downs, including the recent seven-game goalless stretch, but Eichel, who just turned 19 in October, now ranks fourth in rookie scoring with 20 points (11 goals, 9 assists) in 35 games and he leads all rookies with 108 shots on goal.

“I think he’€™s gone through some ups and downs. We’€™ve seen him play some great games and we’€™ve seen some tough stretches,” Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. “We’€™ve had this six-day break and I think we’€™ve seen him come back from that break energized and with a little more jump in his step. You know, he’€™s an excellent, dynamic player and that’€™s where he’€™s got to be night in and night out for us.”

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Don Sweeney: Bruins will make David Pastrnak available to Czech World Junior team 12.26.15 at 8:10 pm ET
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Bruins general manager Don Sweeney announced Saturday night that David Pastrnak will be made available to the Czech Republic for the World Junior Championship when the NHL‘s roster freeze ends on Monday, unless the Bruins suffer an injury that forces them to call up Pastrnak.

Pastrnak has played two games for Providence in the AHL since returning from a foot injury. The Bruins were faced with the option of calling Pastrnak up to Boston or making him available for World Juniors. He could not have been kept in Providence while World Juniors were taking place.

“He is fully healthy,” Sweeney said. “Now we need to get him back to where he’s back in our lineup. … We think that based on last year and his experience there and coming out of that tournament with the confidence that he had, that he’ll be able to come back to the full level that he had gotten to last year.”

Pastrnak registered a goal and six assists in five games at last year’s World Junior Championship as one of the Czech Republic’s top forwards, and he will be expected to be one of their top players again.

While a heavy tournament schedule and big minutes could be seen as less than ideal for a player just returning from injury, Sweeney said Pastrnak is 100 percent and that he sees the increased ice time as a good thing.

“Being off for seven weeks, that’s a long time for any player, let alone a 19-year-old player, to jump back to the extreme of the National Hockey League level,” Sweeney said. “I think this will give him a real shot in the arm from a confidence standpoint.”

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