|Wheeler pulls the bra trick||11.10.08 at 3:55 pm ET|
Great little tidbit in SI.com hockey writer Michael Farber’s column this week about some of the wackier details from Blake Wheeler’s breakout hat trick against the Toronto Maple Leafs last week. It’s been known for a while that a particularly exuberant female fan chucked a celebratory bra onto the ice during Thursday night’s hat trick festivities along with the stream of baseball-style hats, but the bra’s resting place is an instant classic: directly on the life-sized stuffed bear that the Bruins have stowed away in the trainer’s room.
Now Blake Wheeler leads all NHL rookies in goals scored this season and in bra tricks.
Here’s an excerpt of the full entry from Farber:
The Bruins always have had the most elaborate hat-trick ritual in the NHL. It involves a life-sized stuffed bear that once resided in a corner of the dressing room and is now tucked away in the trainer’s room. A Boston hat-trick scorer has been allowed to choose his favorite from all the hats on the ice and plop it on the bear’s head, where it stays until the next hat trick.
But the Bruins bear is in different duds now. In addition to the caps that greeted Wheeler’s accomplishment, a fan — let’s hope it was a woman — threw a bra onto the ice, which veteran defenseman Aaron Ward conceded was a first in his career. A sheepish Wheeler autographed it, and now, well, the bear has more support than it knows what to do with.
Boston probably won’t win the Stanley Cup this season, but it already has laid claim to the C Cup.
|Day off for the B’s||10.31.08 at 9:07 am ET|
Today is a day off for the B’s after the team opted to fly home from Calgary this morning rather than hop on the red-eye right immediately after last night’s game. With that in mind, here’s some other assorted NHL goodies on a day when everybody deserves sugary treats rather than a trick or two. Happy Halloween from a guy who’s being asked to dress up like Tony Romo — complete with a bandage for my right pinkie finger — to appease my Jessica Simpson-clad girlfriend. Good times.
The Bruins simply dug themselves too large of a hole after parading into the penalty box — and again exposing their PK issues at the same time — during the second period of Thursday night’s game, but I take their unwillingness to give up in the third period as a big positive for this team.
Does the team need more offense on a consistent basis? Absolutely, but they should start scoring more on a regular basis once Patrice Bergeron and Marco Sturm start firing on all cylinders. Sturm is a guy that’s approached 30 goals and potted 10 power play strikes in each of the last two seasons and clearly should have more than a goal and 4 assists in the first 11 games.
–Dallas Stars bad boy Sean Avery will be in town tomorrow, so it seems like an appropriate time to pimp his plans to turn his much-ballyooed summer internship with Vogue into Hollywood Gold. And he wants Ryan Gosling to play the lead role of the hockey bad boy wearing the black nail polish. That’s gold, Jerry, Gold.
–In honor of All Hallows’ Even and my affinity for all things Star Wars, a big salute to Ottawa Senators goaltender Martin Gerber and his “Darth Gerber” goalie mask. Gerber had taken to wearing an all black goalie mask last season and Sens fans began calling him Darth Gerber, and this season the 34-year-old goalie actually had Itech design a special Darth Vader-inspired goalie mask
that he’s worn this season. Gerber obviously doesn’t have the force with him this season, though, as he hasn’t started since Oct. 22 and has gone 1-3-1 with a 3.39 goals against average in five games thus far this season.
–Learning something I didn’t already know when I took a gander at Bruins defenseman Mark Stuart’s blog with the The Hockey News: Stuey was apparently an English Major at Colorado College. Who knew? Something tells me we’re going to have a kick-butt conversation about Beowulf in the near future. Stuart has undoubtadly been a solid calming presence along the blue line over the last two seasons, and while he isn’t going to rack up any gaudy point totals — the guy is another defenseman along with Zdeno Chara and Aaron Ward that plays with some snarl and a real physical edge.
|Hockey Notes: Good things from Kessel||10.18.08 at 9:38 am ET|
It might be time to stop haphazardly tossing Phil Kessel’s name aroun whenever the NHL trade winds start blowing in Boston this winter.
The 21-year-old puck prodigy has a pair of goals in the first three games this season and has clearly shown a willingness to start paying a higher price to score points and make things happen for the team. The 6-foot, 192-pound Kessel has always been blessed with a ridiculously fast release and it still looks somebody hit the turbo button on a Nintendo controller whenever the winger gets his legs churning and gains some speed. The difference this season is that he’s also starting to flash a little grit and tenacity in his hockey tool box.
Kessel’s #1 responsibility should be putting points on the table and lighting up the red lamp like it’s Main Street in Amsterdam, but the willingness to “take a hit and make a play” is something that the Bruins organization has been waiting to see. Bruins coach Claude Julien sees a player that’s simply growing up before his eyes and mixing the strength, speed and skill package necessary to be an effective, responsible player in his system — a maturation that some unfairly expected to see when he was still a teen-ager but is happening on its own schedule. Something that is just fine with the B’s.
“With time and experience, he just keeps getting better,” said Juien, who really seems to be the perfect coach for a young hockey club that’s both reaping explosive bursts of hockey skill and enduring necessary growing pains during an 82-game hockey schedule. “That’s why you have to be patient sometimes with young athletes. You don’t want to turn the page or overreact. I think that’s paying dividends right now in Phil’s case.”
Kessel is certainly someone that holds a lot of value around the NHL world given his “can’t be taught” physical skills and precocious age, but the gist of Julien’s words isn’t lost. The Bruins had ample chances to deal Kessel last season if they deemed that the youngster wasn’t a good fit with their team philosophies, but it’s always a risky roll of the dice with somebody young enough to change their habits and raise their potential ceiling as a player.
Was the benching last season in Boston’s first round battle against the Canadiens something that finally got Kessel’s attention and brought about the change? Was it simply the maturation of a young guy that started playing men’s pro hockey as 19-year-old and faced off cancer in his rookie season along with everything else?
Kessel’s not telling, but it’s clear that he’s beginning to “get it”, as Bill Parcells is wont to say: “I worked hard this summer and I want to do well this year. It’s all about helping this team win games and get better. I don’t think I learned anything from sitting down in the playoffs. It was a decision that the coach made. Playing in the playoffs just makes you want to get back there again.”
Kessel went from 11 goals and 29 points in his rookie season — along with a tough -12 to set the numbers to sobering reality — but improved to 19 goals, 37 points and a -6 last season in Julien’s defensive-minded system. With time and confidence on his side, is a 30 goal, 50 points season a possibility after watching Kessel weave through defenses in the early going and mystify goalies with his snapping wrist shot? It would be a big step forward, but it’s a step that the Bruins are hoping to see become reality as Kessel keeps learning to harness his considerable talents.
“When Boston was here [in Minnesota] I was talking to [Peter] Chiarelli in the stands because they practice [at the University of Minnesota] before they play the Wild,” said Golden Gophers head coach Don Lucia, who coached both Blake Wheeler and Kessel during their collegiate hockey careers. “We were talking about how [Phil] has matured and gotten better. People forget that he just turned 21 years old, that Phil is really just still a pup. He’s going to keep getting better. He’s an outstanding player now, and he’s going to be even better three or four years from now.”
Scouting report on Lukacevic
I’ve heard a lot of questions over the last week about the minor league player involved in the Andrew Alberts trade with the Philadelphia Flyers: Ned Lukacevic. The 22-year-old winger was packaged with a conditional draft pick to the Bruins for the brawny Bruins blueliner to clear off some room under the salary cap, and Lukacevic promptly reported to the Providence Bruins.
Lukacevic has bounced between the ECHL and AHL levels over the last two seasons and potted 36 points for the ECHL’s Reading Royals last season before getting dealt to the Flyers in the Dennis Gauthier trade over the summer. Here’s a scouting report on Lukacevic from an NHL talent evaluator that’s watched the 6-foot, 200-pound winger several times over the last few years: “His best asset is his skating. He’s a great skater with a lot of speed. He really needs to work on his grit and paying the price going to the net. Sometimes he would do it and other times he wouldn’t. He needs more consistency in that area.”
Tough Break to Break Out
Prior to the start of the season, veteran Bruins defenseman Aaron Ward credited Rod Brind’Amour with really helping light his competitive fire while sharing a rigorous off-season workout schedule with Rod the Bod. So it must have been truly disappointing for Ward to hear that Brind’Amour needed arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in September after reconstruction surgery for a torn ACL wiped out the final six weeks of the season for the Carolina sparkplug.
The Heart and Soul is back with the ‘Canes following the second surgery that wiped out much of his training camp, however, and has a pair of goals and an assist in four games with Carolina after playing only one preseason game. The 38-year-old is obviously back in a big way with Carolina, but he also deserves an assist for providing a little spark and inspiration to help get Ward’s 35-year-old skating legs churning again this summer.
“I started skating in June with Rod Brind’Amour and he’s the kind of guy that’s just piss and vinegar. That’s just the type of guy that he is and he just lives for hockey. So he got out there in April and I got out there in June and started skating with him. It’s weird,” said Ward, who played in his 700th NHL game against the Canadienslast Wednesday. “I never had a mental need to play hockey, but Game 6 of last season also really helped propel me back out there [to skate with Rod.]
“I don’t know if it was anxiety or just excitement that got me out there skating again [so early.] But as an older guy that’s a good sign. Because when you start feeling like it’s tough to get the pads on, and I’ve gone through that before, that’s not good. It was rough when I was in New York and I came here in the second half. It was tough to get that mental switch going where you wanted to be out on the ice, but last year I wasn’t ready for [the season] to be done. That’s a good sign.”
|Alberts not worried about trades||10.07.08 at 10:25 pm ET|
Life hasn’t exactly been a bunch of icing-topped cupcakes for Andrew Alberts over the past month of his hockey life.
The 27-year-old defenseman got off a slow start after essentially getting tossed into a Bruins training camp that featured games within the first 72 hours of preseason’s actual kick-off, and he only just recently felt as if he was his normal hard-hitting, defensively-reliable self. Quarterbacking the power play or stealing the breath away from an arena crowd with his skating ability aren’t ever going to be in Alberts’ bag of puck tricks, but — as everyone’s favorite hoodie model/football coach is so fond of saying — he is what he is: a bruising 6-foot-4, 220-pound defenseman that’s at his best when he’s making the opposition think twice about going in the corners and utilizing his physical strength to steer players away from the front of the net.
It’s certainly true that Alberts hasn’t been quite the same since suffering a concussion at the hands of the McFilthy and McNasty Philadelphia Flyers mid-way through last season (for those unclear which dirty Scott Hartnell hit I’m talking about…here it is), but he truly felt like he’d begun to put things together last weekend. Albie stepped up and unloaded a few shots, notched a few body hits and started feeling in the flow during a Saturday tune-up against the Islanders, but then he took a frustrating step back in Sunday’s preseason finale when he was a step behind the action, careless with the puck and finished with a -2 on the evening.
“It was a busy preseason with a lot of travel. Last year I got into a couple of
games at the end, but I wasn’t as prepared as I should have been,” said Alberts. “It took a while to get adjusted to thinking quickly on the ice and game situations, but it’s coming along. I thought I played my best game on Saturday [against the Islanders] but Sunday wasn’t very good.
“Obviously there’s so many good young guys here this year pushing for a spot, and it seems like it’s by far the most that we’ve had here in the three years that I’ve been here,” added Alberts. “Right now we have numbers and names being thrown around a lot. All you can do is come to the rink, do your work and not worry about things you can’t control. It’s up to the staff.”
The Bruins are roughly $250,000 under the salary cap with the 23 players currently earmarked to make the trip to the Pepsi Center in Colorado for the Oct. 9 season-opener, but Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli is surely looking to clear up more capital space under the cap. Alberts is a logical candidate to be moved because he’s in the last year of his rookie deal and his $1.25 million would give Chiarelli the kind of salary cap breathing room he covets. His name has been tossed around in trade talks with several teams, but none of these “hot stove” hockey rumors have gained much traction. Many of Alberts’ teammates lamented the annual tense, stress-filled uncertainty that accompanies the regular season roster deadline, but have made peace with that side of the hockey business.
“The toughest part about it as an athlete is remembering that there’s a facet of this job that’s all about economics,” said B’s blueliner Aaron Ward. “There’s so much that goes into making up a team. i think now moreso than ever players are uneasy about where they fit into a team. Your salary along with your personality and your skill has to fit into the team. No longer are you just simply good enough.”
Rosters must be “good enough” by 3 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon, so the answers for both Alberts, the Bruins and…well…the media will be forthcoming shortly. Alberts hopes to be in Boston when the ice chips clear, but he’s also well aware that the business of hockey could whisk him away to some other hockey city sooner rather than later.
“You guys know more than I do,” said Alberts. “I try not to listen to the radio or look at papers, and I just come to the rink every day and do my job. I have friends texting me all the time asking if I’m going to Vancouver or going to Chicago, and telling what’s being said out there. I tell them I really don’t know anything.
“We’ll see what happens,” added Alberts. “There’s nothing you can really do. It’s part of the game.”