|Bergeron speaks…||01.09.09 at 11:25 am ET|
There was one overiding theme to Friday’s media availability with Patrice Bergeron at TD Banknorth Garden. “This year is different.” From Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli to coach Claude Julien to the man himself, everyone wanted to make sure this much was clear – this year’s concussion, suffered on Dec. 20 against Carolina, is NOT like last year’s grade 3 concussion that ended Bergeron’s 2007-08 season in October against Philadelphia. Last season, Bergeron addressed the media in December before a press room full of reporters and it was an uncomfortable if not traumatic experience for everyone in the organization, including Bergeron. This year, while crowded with cameras and reporters to the right of his locker stall, Bergeron look far more at ease as he took questions. Last season, there were concerns not just about his career but his long-term health. While those concerns are there for every player, Bergeron talked about getting his heart rate up to 140 beats a minute for 35 minutes while doing cardio. And last year, till the very end of the season, there was no indication when he might return. This year, reading between the lines, it seems as though a return somewhere around the All-Star break at the end of the month may not be out of the question. Joe Haggerty has the full story at Pucks with Haggs. Let’s listen to what the parties had to say Friday at the Garden.
|Lucic and Wheeler invited to All-Star Weekend||at 11:16 am ET|
A bit of good news/bad news here for the Bruins as — according to media relations guru Matt Chmura — second-year winger Milan Lucic and rookie forward Blake Wheeler were the only fresh-faced Bruins players asked to take part in the NHL All-Star Game’s newly adopted Rookies vs. Sophomores Game. The game will take place on Saturday’s All-Star Skills Competition along with traditional fare like the NHL’s hardest shot competition — a test of shooting strength that towering blueliner Zdeno Chara has turned into his own personal playground over the last few years.
In the Bad News Dept.: Somehow both second-year center David Krejci and rookie blueliner Matt Hunwick were bypassed for the game despite Krejci’s place among the NHL’s top 20 scorers this season and Hunwick’s place among rookie defenseman. Hunwick is perhaps understandable in that he’s not a household name, but Krejci has easily been among the best players in the entire NHL this season, and should have merited more consideration for the main event game at the Bell Centre on Sunday — never mind a showcase event for the NHL’s Young Guns one day prior.
–B’s General Manager Peter Chiarelli announced that Bruins winger Marco Sturm will undergo surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee and may also potentially be facing ACL surgery during the same procedure. If Sturm’s ACL is torn — a notion that Chiarelli said appears to be be likely but won’t be certain until the doctors look at the injury during surgery — then the German forward will be lost for the duration of the 2008-09 season.
–Boston Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli also announced today that the Bruins have assigned forwards Martin St. Pierre and Vladimir Sobotka to the Providence Bruins (American Hockey League). Chiarelli also informed the assembled media that the B’s would call up two forwards from Providence to take their place on the roster — as Milan Lucic will be out of the lineup with the undisclosed injury again Saturday afternoon — for tomorrow’s matinee against the Carolina Hurricanes.
St. Pierre has seen action in nine games for Boston this year and recorded 1-2=3 totals. In 30 games with the P-Bruins this season, he registered a 10-25=35 line.
The 25-year-old St. Pierre has appeared in 30 NHL games in his career – 21 with Chicago, 9 with Boston – and has tallied two goals and five assists. Signed as a free agent by the Blackhawks on November 12, 2005, St. Pierre was acquired by the Bruins on July 24, 2008 in exchange for Pascal Pelletier.
Sobotka has played in 15 games for Boston during the 2008-2009 season and recorded 1-1=2 totals. In 17 games with the P-Bruins this year, Sobotka tallied 10 goals and 11 assists.
He split the 2007-2008 season between Boston and Providence. With Boston, he saw action in 48 regular season games and contributed one goal and six assists and added two goals in six postseason games. With Providence last year, he had 10-10=20 totals in 18 regular season games and added four assists over six postseason games. Sobotka was originally drafted by the Bruins in the 4th round (106th overall) in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.
The Bruins play the fifth game of a six-game homestand on Saturday, January 10 when they host the Carolina Hurricanes at 1:00 p.m. ET.
|Sounds of the game… Bruins 6, Senators 4||at 8:39 am ET|
With everyone in the Bruins locker room stopping just short of saying it was a must win, the Black and Gold came out with energy and intensity in the opening minutes of the first period to take a 2-0 lead over Ottawa. It was the first time in seven games that they scored first and they are now an impressive 19-3-2 when they light the lamp first. Then Shawn Thornton got into a fight with Ottawa’s Chris Neil and head coach Claude Julien thought that would raise his club’s intensity even more. But the opposite happened as Ottawa seemed to wake up. The Bruins blew leads of 2-0 and 3-1 before finally showing its superior muscle in the third and coming away with a 6-4 much-needed win.
|Chara, Savard and Kessel expected to be named All-Stars||01.08.09 at 7:42 am ET|
The NHL Eastern Conference All-Stars will be announced at noon-time today, and it’s expected that Bruins players Marc Savard, Zdeno Chara and Phil Kessel will be named reserves for the Jan. 25 NHL All-Star game at the Bell Centre in Montreal. In addition, Blake Wheeler, Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Matt Hunwick are all expected to be invited to take place in the brand new Rookies Vs. Sophomores game to take place during the Saturday Skills’ Competition.
In addition, by virtue of the B’s overwhelming record built over the first 40 games this season, Bruins coach Claude Julien is in line to be the head coach for the Eastern Conference squad during the NHL’s showcase event in Montreal — the site of his first NHL head coaching post.
Lucic took part in the NHL Rookie Game last year while Chara, Savard and goaltender Tim Thomas were all named to the Eastern Conference squad for last season’s game in Atlanta. It would be the fourth All-Star Game for Chara, the second honor for Savard and the first-time honor for the 21-year-old Kessel, who has developed into a goal-scoring machine this season.
|A blueprint to beat the Bruins?||01.06.09 at 8:50 pm ET|
“I think for every team, every game, we talk about [scoring first] and getting an early lead and taking control of the game. I think that’s an area that we will hopefully get better at tonight, starting tonight.”
Those were the words of Bruins bench boss Claude Julien prior to last night’s 1-0 snoozer of a loss at the hands of the trap-happy Minnesota Wild, and they didn’t turn out to be prescient in any way, shape or form. Instead the Bruins managed to squeeze off only six shots during an uneventful first period, took three penalties in the second period that culminated in a power play strike for the Wild and then watched as Minnesota morphed into full trap mode in front of show-stopping goalie Niklas Backstrom.
“Personally I wouldn’t pay to watch a game like that,” said goalie Manny Fernandez, who suffered his first home loss of the season in the dulled down hockey game.
After watching the B’s suffer from a distinct lack of bounces and battle through difficulties breaking the puck into the offensive zone once both the Wild and Sabres fastened the trap clamps on the hockey game, it almost appears as if a blueprint to beat the B’s is beginning to form.
A dastardly plan that will frustrate and eventually defeat the high-powered Bruins attack, and leave their scoring machine in the shop for repairs. Granted, not every team has the talent or discipline or chutzpah to implement Operation Beat the Bruins but teams with enough scoring skills — or grit – to get a lead and a good enough goaltender could do it.
In other words squads like the Buffalo Sabres and the Wild. It’s not something that’s always going to be possible given Boston’s ability to jump on the scoreboard fast and furiously, but teams may be finding a way to escape the hostile Boston Garden with a win tucked neatly under their arms. Play a checking game during five-on-five to frustrate and fluster the Bruins skaters and then try to do your offensive damage on the power play. Then hold on tight for dear hockey life.
The Bruins were certainly a frustrated and blocked up bunch after the game. Scorers like David Krejci and Blake Wheeler have been lighting the lamp with reckless abandon over the first 39 games of the season, but suddenly looked altogether human in Boston’s first zero goal effort of the season. Even Wheeler looked a bit out of sorts in a game against his boyhood team as he dangled and attempted to dazzle with one-on-one moves but couldn’t register a single shot in 18:15 of ice time.
“We were trying; we were battling, but they were just sitting back and basically chipping pucks out and shooting anything else. It was tough after that,” said B’s defenseman Zdeno Chara. “They don’t need much and then when they do get a goal or two, they start to play really kind of defensive trap and it’s really hard to get through. But, that’s not an excuse for us. We created some chances like I said, but we couldn’t score.”
Krejci and Michael Ryder both threw up three shots on net with Backstrom robbing Krejci in the second period when the crafty center seemingly had a wide open net to pick from. The Wild netminder athletically leaped across the crease to fill up the open real estate and smother the shot. Ryder smacked the left pipe with ringing authority on a perfect curl-and-drag set up coming off the left boards, and added to the B’s puck luck going south of the border just as the opposition’s defensive intensity strengthened.
Julien predictably isn’t buying any of the blueprint or formula for beating the Bruins talk, and is instead focused on what his team isn’t doing at this point: play with focus, creativity, passion and the two-way defensive responsibility that became a hallmark of their puck success.
“Our game just isn’t quite there. Then you get some good momentum at the end of the second period when you get the [shot off the] post by [Michael] Ryder, the unbelievable save on [David] Krejci, the goaltender [Niklas Backstrom] I don’t know how he saw that one. He made some really good saves at key moments,” said Julien. “All we needed was one shot to tie the hockey game, so it’s not the end of the world.
“Again, talking about our team, we’re just not in sync right now and it has nothing to do with the other team, more than it has to do with us. We see things from our team that definitely have slipped, and not as good as things are than when they were going well.”
So what do Julien and his staff do with a team that’s running low on confidence and a bit short of their ideal depth with Marco Sturm and Patrice Bergeron nowhere near returning from injury and Andrew Ference and Aaron Ward still working their way back into the mix?
“First of all you don’t panic. Like I said, I don’t think anybody thought we were going to be flying away, flying away for eighty two games without going through some bumps and bruises,” said Julien. “It’s a combination of a lot of things. [Andrew] Ference, [Aaron] Ward, [Patrice] Bergeron, [Marco] Sturm: I think those are four pretty important players missing out of our lineup.
“Eventually things catch up as well in different areas. We’ve got four real quality guys out of the lineup, you’ve got some top players that probably aren’t at the top of their game, so it doesn’t take much to slip a little bit. You just have to work your way through it. I think that’s all we’re going to be doing here: address the situation; we’re going to show the guys where we’ve slipped or what needs to get better. We’re going to work at and work our way out of it; that’s all you can do.”
Time to end the experiment
Claude Julien’s tactic of plugging lovable Swede P.J. Axelsson on the first line with Marc Savard and Phil Kessel — along with placing him on the first PP unit — was excellent for the initial spark that it provided his club, but the time has come to insert a grittier player back up on the front line with the two skilled craftsman. It was the reason that Julien inserted Chuck Kobasew onto the first line in the waning minutes of Saturday afternoon’s loss to the Buffalo Sabres and it’s presumably why Shawn Thornton took at least one shift on the top line during the third period of last night’s limp showing.
Meanwhile, Milan Lucic is on the third line continuing to be the B’s leading body checker night in and night out, and he seems a bit miscast skating on the third line. Particularly so when he could be once again clearing much-needed space for Savard and Kessel on the top unit. It seems to only make too much sense when you begin watching a team search for an offensive spark over the last two games when they were awash in goal-scoring glory over the first 38 games.
There wasn’t a doubt in my mind that it was a temporary move to place Axelsson in the B’s offensive catbird seat, but there’s a reason the longest-tenured Bruins has only two goals on the season — and only one of them has come with an actual goaltender between the pipes. It might be take to shake things up again, or it might just be time to put things back the way they used to be.
|B’s finally getting some good health news||01.05.09 at 5:15 pm ET|
In a much-needed reprieve from the war of attrition that’s been going on with the Bruins’ squad over the last month, B’s coach Claude Julien and his team needed some good news in the health department — and got it at this morning’s practice in Wilmington.
Andrew Ference took part in the hour plus practice at Ristuccia Arena – though he skated off early for “precautionary reasons” — and was among the healthy-enough-to-skate B’s players that heard Julien’s booming voice screaming during the intense morning of drills. Ward didn’t skate at practice with the team, but Julien deemed that his charley horse situation is improving dramatically.
The ”mild” charley horse knocked the 35-year-old out of Saturday’s loss in the second period, and Ward will be a game time decision for tomorrow night’s tilt against the trap-happy Minnesota Wild. Granted Marco Sturm is likely gone for the season with left knee surgery and there’s no timetable for Patrice Bergeron’s road back from his concussion, but things are starting to look up for the band-aid B’s.
”He’s doing a lot better,” said Julien of Ward. ”His motion and range today was pretty good. He’s going to skate with us tomorrow and we’ll see how he does.”
Ference, out since mid-November following surgery to repair a fractured tibia incurred after blocking a shot during a penalty kill situation, continues to work ahead of schedule and should be back playing in real games over the next week. Tomorrow is a longshot, but nontheless healthy bodies are beginning to fill up the dressing room. Julien was asked if he could presumably go from having six healthy defenseman to a choice of eight living, breathing, healthy bodies for tomorrow night’s game, and the B’s bench boss didn’t rule out the possibility.
“Ference is still day-to-day and he’s been put through some battle drills today [in practice] so we’ll see how he fares tomorrow,” said Julien, of a Tuesday morning skate that will portend whether Ward or Ference return to the lineup against the Wild. “There’s a possibility that we’ll look at Ward tomorrow and Ference is practicing with us and day-to-day. We’re kind of on the bubble with that.
There’s still some question marks that will be answered tomorrow morning, but we could be [anywhere] from 8 to 6 tomorrow very easily,” added Julien.
All-Star Snub Reaction
Bruins players selected for the Eastern Conference All-Star team will find out Thursday around noontime when the NHL announces the reserve players for the Jan. 25 NHL showpiece event. The B’s didn’t have a single player voted into the Eastern Conference starting lineup — a group filled solely with Pittsburgh Penguins and Montreal Canadiens players – announced over the weekend, and goaltender Tim Thomas felt like it might be a case of too many good Bruins to choose from. Or perhaps not enough tech-savvy, prospering cheaters among the B’s fan base.
Just taking Thomas’ case, it’s a tough decision to choose between Thomas and fellow veteran goaltender Manny Fernandez. Both goaltenders have worked together in seamless fashion to become the best goaltending duo in the NHL this season. Thomas and Fernandez, Marc Savard, Zdeno Chara and Phil Kessel are all certainly deserving of All-Star recognition, and it’s a safe bet that at least two of them will be invited to participate in Montreal’s All-Star weekend three weeks from now.
“I hadn’t thought about it,” said a clearly amused Thomas. “Obviously it was fan voting, so it was unrealistic. The other angle to look at is that this team is so good that it makes it really hard to choose [individual players]. Obviously [the fan voting] was Pittsburgh computer programmers versus Montreal computer programmers. It’s tough to make choices when you could pick so many good players, or you could be like Pittsburgh and Montreal and pick your whole team.”
|Sounds of the game… Sabres 4, Bruins 2||01.03.09 at 3:05 pm ET|
For the first time since Dec. 10, the Bruins tasted defeat on Saturday, snapping a remarkable 10-game run of success. And for the first time since Oct. 23, they lost at home, a 14-game string of victory. How long ago was that? The Red Sox had just lost Game 7 of the ALCS to Tampa Bay four days earlier. Afterward, every Bruin to a man talked about facing adversity and how they plan to learn from this loss. Perhaps Milan Lucic said it best when he said that “good teams don’t lose two in a row and we have to be hungry come our next game.” That will be the focus when they continue their six-game homestand against Minnesota on Tuesday night. But for now, we look back on a game with the help of coach Claude Julien, who introduced a new term into the lexicon of the Boston sports fan. “We needed some JAM and this was one of those games where you need a little bit more JAM.” JAM is apparently hockey-talk for juice, energy and desire.
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