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‘Grapes’ gives B’s some love 11.23.08 at 7:53 pm ET
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Everybody knows that Don Cherry has always harbored a soft spot in his heart for the Spoked B of the Boston Bruins — the team that gave him his first shot behind an NHL bench — and the inimitable Grapes gave the Big, Bad B’s a couple of screaming one-timers during the must-see Coach’s Corner on Hockey Night in Canada last weekend.

First Dandy Don — decked out in a Looney Toons tie in honor of the Grey Cup held in Montreal last weekend — tosses a few deserved attaboys at Marc Savard for potting his 600th career point last week, and then praised the B’s center for the all-around game he continues to play for Coach Claude Julien in Boston this season. He’s built on last year’s All-Star worthy season with a campaign that currently has him ranked second in the NHL in assists (19), third in points (27) and third with a sterling +13 mark for the season. This from an undeniably gifted skater/playmaker that was a minus player in all but one season before coming to Boston, and is currently still a -61 for his career. Three more years of a Julien/Savard combo might just see him break into positive territory.

The Savard kudos continues a growing back-and-forth mutual admiration society  between the crafty center and the God Father of blustery hockey talk in the Great White North.

A little later on Cherry also ladles some puck love for the “great Canadian spirit” that defenseman Andrew Ference displayed when he powered right through the pain of a broken tibia in his right leg to still clear the puck during a PK situation against the Canadiens. As B’s fans will remember, Ference was hit in the right leg with an Andre Markov slapper, dropped to the ice in obvious pain, and then battled several times to regain his footing. The felled blueliner then cleared the puck from Boston’s zone once he got back on his skates.  Ference was diagnosed with fractured tibia several days later, but — even after repeated viewings — it simply doesn’t get any less compelling watching the blueliner battle to get to his feet and do his job before gingerly skating off the ice.

Courtesy of the wonderful world of youtube, Cherry’s bon mots on Savard start at about roughly the four minute mark and Ference is at roughly the 5:50 mark…enjoy.

Read More: Andrew Ference, Boston Bruins, Don Cherry, Marc Savard
Julien ordered Lucic to keep the gloves on 11.22.08 at 9:06 pm ET
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MONTREAL, QUEBEC — Bruins coach Claude Julien, who continued his march toward the Jack Adams Trophy by coaching the pants off Habs coach Guy Carbonneau in a big statement game last night, seemed fairly agitated after a tense, playoff-like game that ended with a thrilling 3-2 shootout win over the Montreal Canadiens. Julien admitted that he (rightly) told Milan Lucic not to drop the gloves and go berserk when enforcer Georges Laraque came calling for a throwdown. Instead, Big, Bad Looch got the last laugh with a game-tying second period goal which he immediately followed with a little post-score posing, primping and styling for the angry masses in Montreal.

While Julien’s hockey Gandhi move undoubtedly had something to do with the current state of Lucic’s hand after pummeling Nick Boynton in Friday night’s win, the B’s head coach also seemed to take some exception with Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau’s calculated decision to send his noted enforcer after Boston’s 20-year-old, second-year winger.

“He’s probably the toughest guy in the league, and I know Georges Laraque was [goading Lucic] because he was told to. Georges is not that type of guy and he respects the young kids and knows what that is all about. There was no way that was going to happen. [Shawn] Thornton was there ready for Georges and that never happened either. My tough guy was ready for their tough guy and it’s as simple as that. I told [Lucic] not to fight, and if you were wondering…it was me.

“I don’t send guys to fight. When guys go out and fight they do it on their own. That’s all I’m going to say. I know for a fact that [going after Lucic] was said and [Laraque] had a job to do tonight. He was to shadow Lucic and that was his job. It’s as simple as that. For us I think Lucic is a good player and if they want Georges to shadow him then that means more ice time for Georges and good for him.”

Lucic clearly seemed a bit non-plussed to be answering questions about why he refused to drop the gloves with Laraque after the big Canadiens winger skated nearly side-by-side with the Incredible Looch on four different shifts in the first period. It seemed as if the 6-foot-3, 240-pound Laraque was doing everything possible to entice the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Lucic into a fists of furty competition. Looch does lead the B’s with 48 penalty minutes on the season, but he wasn’t biting this time.

Thornton is pretty familiar with the job requirements for a tough guy/enforcer, and he empathized a bit with the plight of Lucic, who obviously didn’t want to be seen as backing away from a physical confrontation with Laraque.

“I’m sure it’s[difficult],” said Thornton. “He did a good job of staying disciplined. He did his job. [Lucic] got a goal and we got two points out of it. I think that’s the most important thing that we got the two points.

Did Thornton expect that Laraque was going to make himself Looch’s Siamese Twin out on the ice for nearly the entire first period, and practically big for a fight?

“I don’t know. I thought we did a good job and [Lucic/Komisarek] was a good fight and that was the end of it. Obviously they didn’t feel the same way, but whatever. If the guys wants to do that then it’s his barn and he can do whatever he wants. But Lucic did a good job staying disciplined and helping us get the two points.”

Each time Lucic headed to the bench following his shift, the Bell Centre crowd let him have it with hoots, hollers and chants of “Luc-cic”. The Carbonneau move seemed to be devised to quiet the spirited, physical Looch in a must-win game for the Habs, but instead Lucic finished with revenge on a hockey dish served cold: a goal and nine hits in 15:10 of ice time. Carbonneau’s game plan of intimidation and frontier justice might be considered trash barrel material the next time the two Old Time Hockey rivals tangle.

Here’s a word-for-word transcription of the terse Lucic interview with the assorted Canadian and Boston media after the game:

What happened with Laraque? ML: Nothing.

What did he say? ML: Nothing.

Is that the first time in your life that somebody shadowed you like that? ML: Yeah.

How does it feel? ML: Okay. If that’s what they want to do then they can do it.

Did Claude tell you not to fight:? You’re a first line player and he isn’t so it’s a bad match-up. ML: I don’t know. You’ll have to ask him.

Did he also tell you not to talk about it? ML: No, I just don’t feel like talking about it. That’s about all I have to say.

When you scored you seemed to ham it up a little bit there. ML: Yeah, a little bit. It’s nice to score when the fans are on you a little bit there.

Do you enjoy when the crowd gets on you like that? Is that a fun environment for you to play in? ML: Yeah, it’s fun if they’re on you like that or they’re not on you like that. It’s a fun building to play in. 21,000 people in the crowd and they’re always whooping it up. It’s a tough building to play in, and we’re just happy to get the two points.

I guess this guy is seething in his Patrick Roy Canadiens sweater after Lucic and Laraque didn’t rumble at the Bell Centre, or perhaps Carbonneau dreamed this up and showed it to the Habs skaters before Saturday night’s game:

Read More: Blake Wheeler, Boston Bruins, Claude Julien, George Laraque
First blood at the Gahden 11.21.08 at 9:30 pm ET
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There’s a reason they call it drawing first blood.

The Bruins have scored the first goal an amazing 15 times in their 20 games thus far this season, and it’s allowed the Black and Gold to truly go on the offensive and attack other teams with previously unseen aplomb. In those 15 games the Bruins have built up an impressive 10-3-2 record. 

So during a rare Friday evening tilt in the Hub — the first in over 30 years for the Bruins — when a first place hockey team easily could have been caught sleepwalking through an anti-climactic match against the lowly Florida Panthers — with perhaps a wandering eye cast toward the Montreal Canadiens tomorrow night at the Bell Centre — the Big Bad B’s simply took care of business in a tidy 4-2 win. A victory so convincing that it saw restless B’s fans doing the wave in the third period of a blowout win that registers as Boston’s seventh straight at the TD Banknorth Garden.

The attention to detail is part of a mantra that Bruins coach Claude Julien obviously stressed to his team prior to the game, with an eye toward an Ottawa Senators team that bounded purposefully out of the gate last season before collapsing and crawling into the playoffs. While there aren’t any Ray Emery-style problem children in the Boston dressing room to spark turmoil, the staunch marching orders to avoid any “fat cat” syndrome were clearly understood, processed and performed to a ‘T’ on the ice last night.

The B’s players are so intent on the nightly task at hand that veteran and past Stanley Cup winner Aaron Ward is now simply refusing to mention the dreaded ‘P’ word (playoffs) in relation to the Black and Gold. You won’t hear the words “NHL” and “playoffs” coming out of Ward’s mouth until April or so…Ward refused to utter “playoffs” last night in context with the Bruins, and said he’d only be talking about “the NBA or the NFL playoffs” for a nice long time.

Ward obviously has been around long enough to know that something pretty special is starting to take place on Causeway Street.

“One of the things they preached at the beginning of the year was positioning,” said Ward. “Teams that have really positioned themselves well by Thanksgiving have a tendency to really…uh….put themselves in a favorable position with…uh…I don’t want to use the word. You can fill it in. Put themselves in good position for…it’s kind of an omen, I can’t say it…for the end of the year. I don’t want to say the ‘P’ word.

“For us [Friday night’s win] was a job we talked about from the top down. Claude talked about it and the players talked about it,” added Ward. “We had a discussion about it at the pregame skate amongst the players. About where we are and our state of being. We can’t rest on our laurels at any point this season. We’ve got to think about the here and now. The ‘P’ word is not going to be mentioned…at least not in this [locker room] stall.”

Ward’s words — minus any onerous ‘P’ words — seemed to be right in line with the message that Julien delivered to the esteemed Fourth Estate after the game. It was something about staying inside the warm, welcoming and comfortable bubble the Bruins have built for themselves while setting the standard of excellence in the Eastern Conference with 30 points through 20 games.

“I don’€™t think we feel too good about ourselves, and the one thing we do realize, and, you’€™ve got to remember guys, we can start reading what you guys are writing, and we can believe everything. Or we can stay in our little bubble and understand what got us to where we are and realize that those kinds of things are what’€™s going to keep us there,” said Julien. “I’€™m saying that because our team has not had to face this kind of situation for a long time, and we have to learn to be able to handle this. 

“Being in first place is great, but the minute you get comfortable ‘€“ and I can use the Ottawa Senators, 15-2 last year, and I can use other examples as well ‘€“ this is a humbling game, and we just have to make sure that we understand what it takes every night,” added Julien “That’€™s the kind of message we keep giving our team: don’€™t get too high, don’€™t get too low, but don’€™t start believing everything you read.

The Bruins effectively outshot, outlasted and outclassed an underwhelming Panthers hockey club. They also won the inevitable game of fisticuffs that appeared once the game got out of hand in the second period. Milan Lucic and old friend Nick Boynton engaged in a tough guy scrum at center ice that spilled plenty of blood from both sides.

Both players got a few shots in, but Boynton left the ice after Lucic opened up a cut along the former Bruins defenseman’s forehead following a series of vicious right and left-handed mixture of jabs and haymakers. Boynton’s face was a bloody mess by the end of the brawl. That decision easily went to the Big Looch, which makes him 2-0 in fights on the season after bloodying Boynton and knocking Mike Komisarek out of the Habs lineup with a shoulder injury. There has to be, however, some extra credit given to the steely Boynton for hanging in and getting a few licks of his own in amid the flurry of Lucic fists, which were also red with blood by the end of the exchange.

 

 

Aaron Ward also tangled with Keith Ballard after the veteran defenseman came in hard — and perhaps a bit low — on Marc Savard in the middle of the second period. It was business as usual for Ward, who again showed that this Bruins team isn’t going to timidly back down or fail to protect a teammate when something isn’t sitting well with the B’s bench.

“I thought the hit was late, and then not only was it late but I also thought the hit was low,” said Ward. “It was my first reaction.”

Hunwick continuing to improve

The blueline education of Matt Hunwick continued last night, and the young defenseman kept impressing with an assist and an eye-opening +3 on the evening. That makes it three straight games Hunwick has registered at last one point with a goal and three assists over that short span. While the man he was replacing on the rearguard, Andrew Ference, was playing the best hockey of his career by his own admission, “Huddy” hasn’t been too shabby either as the puck-moving, offensive interim solution along the blue line.

Hunwick’s performance continues to exemplify the impressive organizational depth that the Bruins have built up for themselves. Their roster goes well past the 20 skaters dressing on a nightly basis and extends to another 3-5 players capable of stepping in without a beat when the inevitable injury bug beckons. All told, Hunwick has a goal and three assists along with a +7 in eight games this season and was given a bit of time on the power play unit Friday night as a reward for his consistent efforts.

“We talk about confidence and the experience. He’s getting better and a lot of has to do with because he’s playing. A lot of it starts in practice and he’s been patient and working hard,” said Julien. “Now he’s got a chance to play and when you’ve got some games where you’ve got a lead you can use him even more. That’s the way that you develop players. He’ll be getting those opportunities if he responds, and lately he’s been responding.”

The Kids are all right

The impressive early returns on David Krejci continue to pour in, and no solitary play was more indicative of the 22-year-old’s patience, stick-handling and creativity than his second period goal which pushed the B’s lead to 3-1. Krejci found the puck on his stick along the right side with a good deal of open ice in front of

him, but — rather than make a mad impetuous dash toward the net as many NHL youngsters might in that frantic situation — the young centerman instinctively pulled the puck back, slowed the throbbing tempo to a hockey crawl and then deftly slid a cross-ice pass over to Chuck Kobasew.

Kobasew fired at the net and the loose puck promptly kicked right back to Krejci for the easy putback goal — a simple, elegant, dare I say nifty hockey play that continues to scratch away at what’s promising to be a great surface for the young Czech Republic skater.

“That’s David Krejci,” said Julien. “He controls the play so well and he controls the pace of it too. I’ve seen players in the past that were so good at that. I remember J.F. Sauve from the Quebec Nordiques was one of those guys that would make those plays to slow things down.  John Chabot, who’s an assistant coach with the Islanders was one of those players too. They’re gifted with the stick and they find seams. Savvy does it a bit for us too. He’s a good players and he’s just starting to grow into the player that we all expected him to be.”

While Krejci has impressed with the way he’s conjured up magic tricks with the puck, Kessel continues to simply burn away hapless defenders with his rare combination of speed and dead-eye shot. Kessel got behind the Panthers ‘D’ after a great tape-to-tape pass by Savard, and beat Tomas Vokoun with a forehand for the game’s first goal — an easy-as-pie pseudo penalty shot for the sniping scorer.

“I’m not doing anything different,” said Kessel, when asked what’s improved for him this season. “The pucks are finding the back of the net now, and they weren’t before. That’s about it. There’s no magic formula.”

With Friday night’s score, Kessel has a team-high 10 goals in only 20 games and seems well on his way to becoming Boston’s first 40-goal scorer since Glen Murray sniped 44 tallies for the Black and Gold way back in 2002-2003 en route to a 92 point season.

Hard to believe it’s been that long since the Bruins had a 40-goal scorer. Or maybe it isn’t given the recent history of the Bruins Crew.

“It seems like he and Savvy are feeding off each other,” said Ward. “It’s the old [University of Michigan hockey coach] Red Berenson thing, If you have speed you’ve got to use it. Especially now with the rule changes we as defenseman can do nothing about it.”

Read More: Aaron Ward, Boston Bruins, Chuck Kobasew, Claude Julien
Sounds of the game… Bruins 4, Panthers 2 at 9:10 pm ET
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The beat rolls on for the hottest team on ice. The Bruins dispatched of the over-matched Florida Panthers, 4-2, in the first regular season Friday night NHL game in Boston in 31 years. The win also helped the Bs tied the New York Rangers for first place in the Eastern Conference. Listen to them talk after, and you get the sense that they know they can play even better. A great thought for fans of the Black and Gold and a scary thought for the rest of the NHL.

Patrice Bergeron said the Bruins didn’t give the Panthers much early on.

Bergeron and the Bruins will now focus on their arch-rival Canadiens Saturday night in Montreal.

Dennis Wideman said the Bruins can still play better.

Head coach Claude Julien said despite the success, the Bruins won’t be reading their clippings.

Julien said his team is learning to handle success.

Tim Thomas said the team is aware of how well they’re playing but keeping things in perspective.

Former Bruin Nick Boynton, sporting stitches on his brow and chin from a fight with Milan Lucic, said there’s no getting around the fact that the Bruins are for real.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Dennis Wideman, Nick Boynton, Patrice Bergeron
“Slap Shot” night at the Garden Friday 11.20.08 at 11:50 am ET
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Everybody get out your Reggie Dunlop sweaters and Oggie Ogglethorpe wigs…the Bruins have decided to host an “Ode to Slap Shot” night during this Friday night’s game against the Florida Panthers. No word on whether Dickie Dunn will be ghostwriting the game story on Pucks with Haggs. Here’s the press release from the Bruins:

Throughout the Bruins/Panthers game on Friday, November 21, the Boston Bruins will honor what many say to be the greatest hockey movie of all time, Slap Shot.

The first 10,000 fans in attendance on Friday will receive Hanson Brothers style glasses, courtesy of TD Banknorth. A lucky fan will also receive the ultimate Slap Shot prize pack featuring Hanson staples: grape and orange sodas, aluminum foil and a toy car set. The winner will also have their seat upgraded.

Steve Carlson, who played the character of Steve Hanson in Slap Shot, will be introduced during the first intermission and will participate in an on-ice contest with a fan. Following the contest, Carlson will be available to sign autographs through the second period and subsequent intermission in the concourse behind Loge 6 on Level 4. Carlson will be available to the media at 6:00 on press level nine behind section N18.

Fans are also encouraged to wear a Chiefs jersey in honor of the hockey club portrayed in Slap Shot.

WHO: Boston Bruins
         Steve Carlson aka Steve Hanson

WHAT: Celebrate Slap Shot with Steve Carlson autograph session, Hanson Brothers glasses giveaways courtesy of TD Banknorth, prizes and trivia

WHEN: Friday, November 21, 7:00 p.m.

WHERE: TD Banknorth Garden
              100 Legends Way
              Boston, MA 02114

Fans interested in learning more about Boston Bruins players, or ticket options, should visit the team website at www.bostonbruins.com (http://www.bostonbruins.com/ ) or call 617.624.BEAR.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Dickie Dunn, Reggie Dunlop, TD Banknorth Garden
Every picture tells a story… at 8:57 am ET
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With the Boston Bruins enjoying a renaissance and starting to capture the imagination and attention of the Boston sports fan, now would be a good time to take a look at one of the best pictorials ever done on the Original Six franchise by one of the best photographers ever to cover Boston sports.

Black and Gold – Four Decades of the Boston Bruins in Photographs is out in bookstores and available on line. It is a piece of work that chronicles one man’s life of documenting one of the most storied teams on ice. But the real hook in the book are the stories that go along with the pictures that were taken by Bruins photographer Steve Babineau.

The text was written by former NESN Bruins reporter Rob Simpson with a sincere and heartfelt foreward provided by none other than ‘Grapes’ himself, Don Cherry.

My personal favorite story behind the photo is a tale of Adam Oates, Brett Hull, Neil Young and a guitar.

In the ‘Scrapbook’ chapter, ‘Babs’ also does a great job of including his two sons and daughter, detailing how they have been with him every step of his impressive photojournalist career.

For those who cover sports now at TD Banknorth Garden, not only is ‘Babs’ a fixture, but so, too, are his sons Brian, an assistant equipment manager, and Keith, who has followed in dad’s footsteps as a team photographer. His daughter Jamie is also now a photographer who can be seen in and around the Garden.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Don Cherry, Steve Babineau,
Sounds of the game… Bruins 7, Sabres 4 11.19.08 at 9:08 pm ET
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One sign of a really good team that believes it can go deep into the playoffs is finding out early in the season that it can win games in many different ways. The Boston Bruins are proving just that. They won back-to-back 1-0 games against Edmonton and Vancouver. They won a hard-fought 3-2 decision on the road on Monday night in Toronto. They lost defenseman Andrew Ference with a fractured right leg and were without Marco Sturm, out with an upper body injury. And, to the admission of center Marc Savard, they came out sluggish on Wednesday night against Buffalo after getting a day off on Tuesday. After falling behind 4-2 midway through the first period, the light went on, the red light behind Sabres goalie Ryan Miller – five straight times to be exact as the Bruins prevailed 7-4, their 10th win in 12 games, a stretch that has seen them capture 21 of a possible 24 points.

Zdeno Chara scored twice on the power play with two haymaker slap shots from the point.

Chara said the team is happy but not satisfied right now with the way they’re winning games.

Head coach Claude Julien is happy that Chara broke out with a big night.

Julien said it wasn’t a beautiful win but he’ll take it.

Patrice Bergeron said the team overcame slow start.

Bergeron on winning 10 games in a 12-game stretch.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Claude Julien, Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara
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