|My morning links||02.21.09 at 11:59 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Another chilly morning in the Florida sun for me and another round of morning hockey links for you. Should be a pretty spirited game between the Boston Bruins and Florida Panthers tonight as the Panthers continue to mull whether they are playoff-contending buyers or pretending sellers in the current trade market.
Defenseman Jay Bouwmeester is a huge piece at the deadline that could put quite a few teams over the top as he enters unrestricted free agency at the end of the hockey season, and he voiced a desire to go to a hockey organization committed to winning this season during a recent conversation with him.
“You think a little bit (about the future),” said Bouwmeester. “I know the situation and there’s a lot of things I have to consider. It’s a process. For me it’s about going about my business, and it’s about playing hockey and you don’t have to make that too complicated.
“You don’t rule anything out, and we’ve actually been playing some pretty good hockey (in Florida). So that’s exciting,” added Bouwmeester. “There’s been a lot of ups and downs during my career there, but we’re playing well this season. So that’s something to think about.”
On to the links:
–Colorado Avalanche forward Ryan Smyth, known for his scoring touch and gritty game, told the Denver Post that he won’t be waiving his “no movement clause” and Avalanche management hasn’t approached him about a deal. His long term, big money contract made him a bad fit for the Bruins anyway, but you can officially cross him off the list now.
–Big blueliner Chris Pronger, who might become available to the B’s as the Ducks are free-falling out into nothin’ out in the Western Conference, was roundly booed last night by Detroit Red Wings fans after a Pronger milestone was announced at Joe Louis Arena during the Ducks/Wings game. The gritty, borderline-dirty play that intimidates many and makes him Public Enemy No. 1 is exactly what would make Pronger such a snug fit in Boston. Pronger and Zdeno Chara patrolling the same line blue line is downright unfair. A doff of the helmet to Yahoo! blogger Puck Daddy for this one.
–Mark Recchi is another guy that could be a cheaper fit for the Bruins in the lefty shot/UFA mold when it comes to trade deadline deals, and he’ll likely be even cheaper after hitting the bench for the sinking Tampa Bay Lightning recently. For the record, Recchi has a solid 37 points this season and is averaging 16:52 in ice time for Tampa.
|Julien: Kessel shouldn’t be afraid “to do extra” while in slump||02.20.09 at 5:00 pm ET|
It’s pretty clear that one of Bruins head coach Claude Julien’s famous messages is being extended out to winger Phil Kessel, who hasn’t scored a goal in his last 13 games — including 10 since returning from mononucleosis in late January.
The streak is the longest since he had a pair of 15-game goal-scoring droughts back in his rookie season of 2006-07.
The 22-year-old was pulled off the power play in Boston’s win against Carolina on Tuesday night, and Julien indicated he wants to see something out of his skilled winger before he’s placed back on the unit. The man advantage scored two goals without Kessel buzzing around at his normal position, so it wasn’t exactly a ringing endorsement for the youngster’s immediate return to the special teams’ squad.
It’s not exactl akin to benching Kessel in the playoffs as he did last season against the Montreal Canadiens, but it’s another example of some tough hockey love from a coach imploring he see more out of his budding superstars. The Bruins will need Kessel’s firepower with the playoffs on the horizon, and — reading between the lines — they’d like to see him work a little harder at lighting the lamp.
Skating with playmaking David Krejci — who appears to have turned the corner earlier this week against the Hurricanes — and the gritty, aggravating Vladmir Sobotka could be just what the doctor ordered for Kessel. But the B’s bench boss clearly wants to see more oomph and effort out of his ice-cold forward with whichever linemates he finds himself with.
“The message you’ve got to give to any young player that’s (not scoring) is to work your way through it,” said B’s coach Claude Julien following this morning’s practice at Incredible Ice in Coral Spring, Fla. “That’s the biggest thing. Some people wait for it to happen again, and some people work to make it happen again. That’s that the message that we’re giving him. Don’t stop doing things or don’t be afraid to do extra stuff to get yourself going. If you can shoot 100 extra pucks at the end of practice, then you go and do it.”
The additional work extends out to his work in the shootout, where Kessel has gained a slight air of predictability while continuing to employ his his favorite “deke and drive” move during the shootouts. Maybe it’s just me, but the whole thing sounded quite a bit like a parent telling a young child that they’ll get a better grade if they start doing a little more studying.
“Even in the shootouts it’s about trying to use different moves for him as well and to expand his different types moves,” added Julien. “Nowadays everybody has those scouting reports on both the goalies and the shooters for the shootouts.”
|Bruins won’t be headed for European opener next season||02.19.09 at 4:04 pm ET|
Though it seemed like a natural fit for P.J. Axelsson to enjoy a homecoming in Stockholm or for Zdeno Chara to have a hero’s welcome in Trencin, Czechoslovakia, the NHL announced this afternoon that the Red Wing, Blues, Blackhawks and Panthers will be the four teams opening the 2009-10 season in Europe next year. There were previous rumblings that the B’s were being considered for “NHL Premiere 2009″, but instead the four teams will play respective games in Sweden and Finland on Oct. 2-3.
|Glen Murray grievance hearing continued||02.18.09 at 6:51 pm ET|
The NHLPA grievance hearing for former Bruins winger Glen Murray has been continued once again following another round at the NHLPA home offices in Toronto last week, according to NHLPA Executive Director Paul Kelly. The multi-day hearings began in mid-January concerning Murray and a purported ankle injury at the time of his contractual buy-out by the B’s this summer.
The next Murray hearing date has been scheduled for March 12.
“The Murray matter is a multi-day hearing and we are between hearing dates,” wrote Kelly in an email to WEEI.com. “We hope to finish the case and receive a decision in the near future.”
Once the hearings have concluded, an arbitration ruling is expected to come down 7-10 days following the final day of hearings.
Murray was bought out of his contract this summer, but the team was still on the hook for a $1.38 million salary cap hit this season and next per rules of the CBA. The NHL CBA rules prohibit teams from buying out injured players, and Murray’s representation is now claiming that the veteran forward was injured at the time of the buy-out. The team could be on the hook for the $4.15 million owed to Murray in actual salary. A positive ruling for Murray could, however, potentially open up roughly $1.4 million in salary cap space for the Bruins next season.
|Bruins strike back and take third-period momentum||02.17.09 at 11:14 pm ET|
During the recent four-game losing binge that had some questioning just how good a hockey team they can be, the Bruins were uncharacteristically searching for answers and struggling in the third period. The irony is striking, given how much success the team enjoyed over the first half of the season in that very same third period. The Black and Gold were so good and so unstoppable while blowing people away in the final hockey stanza, and it was a formula that many thought would last the whole year through.
Funny how things can change so quickly.
The young Bruins skaters reclaimed the third period and then some when they potted three third-period goals Tuesday night en route to a closer-than-the-final-score 5-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes at the RBC Center on Glen Wesley Night. The Black and Gold also used a victory over the Eastern Conference bottom-dwelling ‘Canes to notch their 40th win of the season ‘ the first NHL club to earn that distinction this season and just one win away from last year’s entire win total.
The B’s are second in the NHL with 70 goals scored in the third period in 58 NHL games this season (1.20 goals per game in the third period), and the final 20 minutes of regulation represent Boston’s most prolific period through the current season. But they’d suffered third-period collapses against both the Philadelphia Flyers and San Jose Sharks, and scored a grand total of two third-period goals in the last six B’s games leading into last night’s tilt.
Much of the third-period slowdown seemed to be right in line with the offensive swoon that a host of Boston’s younger players had suffered since the NHL All-Star break, but familiar names like Blake Wheeler, David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron ‘ among others ‘ seemed to have finally shaken free of the fatigue and are again fighting for more ice time and all-important points.
Phil Kessel was a buzzing, irritating threat while skating with new linemates Krejci and Vladimir Sobotka, and fired off three shots while showing some pretty good competition and grit levels looking for loose pucks all over the ice. Milan Lucic also rebounded from a so-so effort against the Nashville Predators on Saturday night, and Wheeler looked strong and energetic in the third period last night while drawing penalties, creating mismatches on the ice and appearing every bit the big, rangy, talent he appeared to be as he flashed on the scene in the early going.
Wheeler also seemed energized skating with Lucic and center Marc Savard on Boston’s top line, and each jiggling of the lines seemed to finally click in and start working for the Spoked B during the all-important third period. The biggest piece of credit obviously goes to Krejci, who is again playing good hockey as evidenced by his 17:20 of ice time, two points and a +2 for the evening and a team-high six shots on net for the Czech Republic prodigy.
Medical Ward: Several players were dinged up during the first two stops (P.J. Axelsson, Bergeron) on Boston’s southern road swing through Nashville and Carolina, but it didn’t appear that any of the injuries were significant.
Goat Horns: Dennis Wideman didn’t have any points and finished with a -1 on the night after getting turned into a turnstile by yet another hockey player recently. Wideman struggled a bit defensively and didn’t really have much to on offense as well, and Ray Whitney’s ability to speed right around Wideman set up Carolina’s only goal on the evening. That being said, it was a pretty strong all-around effort for the Black and Gold.
Player of the Game: The aforementioned Krejci really upped his tenacity, grit and compete levels along with his creative, finesse game — a pair of necessary elements needed along with the breathtaking skill out on the ice that’s made him such a bright major league prospect.
Turning Point in the Game: The game completely turned in favor of the Bruins when Bergeron collected the puck during the PK and threaded out a lark of a pass toward the neutral zone that sprang Krejci free. The nifty center outraced the Hurricanes defense, and skated in all alone on the Carolina net. Krejci grabbed himself a filthy backhander as the finishing touch — a deft hockey move that’s was the one-on-one equal of every great offensive player in the league. More efforts like this from Krejci and the Bruins will be right back on track for the playoffs.
|Former Bruin Glen Wesley enjoys number retirement||at 7:19 pm ET|
I remember him as “Foggy” and as an integral part of my experience with Sega Genesis NHL 93 when I used to ride former Bruins skaters Glen Wesley and Bobby Carpenter to ridiculous heights along the way to complete Black and Gold video game domination.
Some also remember Wesley as the guy that missed a wide open net in triple OT against the Edmonton Oilers in the Stanley Cup Finals way back in 1990, but why dredge that up on the day that the Carolina Hurricanes are retiring “Foggy’s” No. 2 and raising it up to the rafters at the RBC Center.
Here’s the release from the ‘Canes:
Glen Wesley Night: Originally drafted third overall in the 1987 NHL Entry Draft by the Boston Bruins, defenseman Glen Wesley completed his playing career ranked sixth on the NHL’s all-time list of games played by a defenseman, skating in 1,457 total games over 20 seasons with Boston, Hartford, Toronto and Carolina.
The Red Deer, Alb. native debuted with Boston straight out of junior hockey in his draft year, and was named to the NHL All-Rookie Team after earning 37 points (7g, 30a) and leading all rookies with a plus-21 plus/minus rating. Wesley played in the NHL All-Star Game in 1989, and completed his career with 128 goals, 409 assists (537 points) and 1,045 penalty minutes. He appeared in the Stanley Cup Finals four times, reaching the Finals with Boston in 1988 and 1990 and with Carolina in 2002 and 2006, capturing the Stanley Cup with the Hurricanes in 2006.
The Hartford Whalers acquired Wesley on Aug. 25, 1994, in exchange for first-round draft picks in 1995 (Kyle McLaren), 1996 (Jonathan Aitken) and 1997 (Sergei Samsonov). Wesley went on to play 13 seasons for the franchise, and is the only player to have played for the Hurricanes in every season (prior to 2008-09) since the team relocated to North Carolina in 1997. He played more games (913) for the Hurricanes franchise than any player in the history of the team other than Ron Francis, and his 728 games played for the Hurricanes are the most of any player in a Carolina uniform. Wesley totaled 227 points (51g, 176a) for the Whalers and Hurricanes, and ranks 10th in team history in assists (176).
Wesley completed his 13th season with the Hurricanes franchise in 2007-08, leading all Hurricanes skaters in blocked shots (110) and finishing the season with one goal and seven assists (8 points) in 78 games played. He was selected by the Carolina chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association as its nominee for the 2007-08 Masterton Trophy, which honors perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.
|Strange days indeed for the Montreal Canadiens||at 6:25 pm ET|
Despite the shot in the arm that would normally accompany an NHL deadline deal for puck-moving blueliner Matthieu Schneider, the Montreal Canadiens are continuing to navigate through some choppy waters as they tumble through the Eastern Conference.
Watching wunderkind goalie Carey Price struggle through each and every game has been bad enough, but the epic struggles of Montreal’s power play have been downright incomprehensible after lighting it up on the PP one season ago. Meanwhile at Habs practice on Tuesday morning, things got even worse for Les Habitants as the other shoe finally dropped on underperforming forward Alex Kovalev.
According to the Gazette’s Habs Inside Out blog, the enigmatic Canadiens forward is being kept home for the next two games against Washington and Pittsburgh because he hasn’t displayed the proper emotion and passion out on the ice while skating for his floundering Canadiens. Canadiens GM Bob Gainey said that Kovalev hasn’t demanded a trade, so this looks like a strict punitive hockey measure designed to light a fire under a notoriously moody, tremendously talented scorer.
Given Kovalev’s aversion to discipline back to Claude Julien’s days as the Habs coach, it should be interesting hockey theater going forward and could signal serious trouble for Boston’s arch-rivals.
According to the blog: Montreal General Manager Bob Gainey said he told Kovalev the team has no need of Kovalev’s services the way he’s currently playing. He added that Kovalev was tired and wasn’t playing with any emotion. The GM said Kovalev’s situation would be re-evaluated at the end of the week but wouldn’t commit himself to saying that Kovalev would be back in the lineup for Saturday’s home game against Ottawa.
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