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Sounds of the game… Sabres 4, Bruins 2 01.03.09 at 3:05 pm ET
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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.

Julien said Saturday wasn’t Boston’s best effort.

Julien said Buffalo earned the win.

Milan Lucic said the Bruins will be hungry to start a new streak.

Marc Savard on the winning streaks coming to an end.

Tim Thomas said it was good to be tested with a loss.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Claude Julien, Jam
Ryder is happy to be out of hockey jail 01.02.09 at 5:29 pm ET
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The telltale signs are all there that Michael Ryder has long since removed the bitter sting of last season’s regrets from his mind. The 28-year-old seemed to take a year-long lap of misery around Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau’s dog house while alternating between the bench and miscast roles for a gifted scorer on the Canadiens’ third and fourth lines.

Ryder’s well-chronicled struggles led to a career-low 14 goals and painful splinters on the pine for much of last season’s Stanley Cup playoff run by the Habs. The phrase rock-bottom comes readily to mind, but his lap of discontent at the Bell Centre essentially seems like it was a million hockey years ago now.

With a hope that all his troubles would be left behind in Quebec, Ryder inked a three-year, $12 million deal with the Bruins last summer but the jury was out after the first month of the season.

Ryder was standing strong along the wall and utilizing his wiry 6-foot, 192-pound frame while adhering to a strong, responsible brand of two-way hockey, but let’s be completely honest here. The 1998 8th round pick of the Habs had scored only three goals through Nov. 26 and critics had stepped forth to question both the signing and Ryder’s desire to finish off scoring plays.

Then Ryder tallied a pair of goals in the traditional afternoon game on the day after Thanksgiving and completely took off on a lamp-lighting tear during the merry, merry month of December. A grand total of nine markers during the 13 Bruins games played in December signaled a goal-scoring bonanza, and Ryder has become an integral part of the Ryder/David Krejci/Blake Wheeler troika that’s been left intact while B’s coach Claude Julien tinkers with the other two top skating lines.

“I was definitely getting the chances at the time and it wasn’t going in,” said Ryder of his struggles early in the season. “I definitely don’t have any ready answers. I just tried to keep working hard and shooting the puck, and said that eventually it will start going in.

“Maybe I was trying to pick my spots a little too much and trying to be a little too fine,” added Ryder. “Once I got on a roll with Krejci and Wheeler as a line, though, things really started working out well.”

One of the keys to Ryder’s success? A short memory. Ryder is done wondering whether Carbonneau had benched him for lack of production, a personality clash or some other perceived misdeed that Montreal’s bench boss never bothered to pass along to the scuffling player at any time last year.

“Last year was a tough year and I honestly don’t even want to think about it any more,” said Ryder. “I’m just trying to fit in here and it hasn’t been that hard. That’s for sure. It’s always easy when you’re playing. That’s the main thing: I wanted to play and help the team.

“I don’t even think about [the last year in Montreal] because I have a job to do here,” added Ryder. “Everybody goes through tough times and people have been there in their careers before. We just need to keep our mind on what we’re doing here and keep our foot on the gas pedal.”

Ryder has packed away the unfulfilled expectations and bitter residue left over from his time donning the Habs sweater in Montreal, and is instead simply focused on the task at hand in the Hub. It’s something that’s allowed a quiet, efficient concentration on taking pucks hard to the net and unloading his unfairly quick snap shot on unsuspecting goaltenders all over the NHL.

This year the team success has melded with Ryder’s individual production, and for all intents and purposes the B’s and Claude Julien have allowed the two-time 30 goal scorer to escape from the depths of hockey jail deep in the heart of Canada. He’s on pace to pot 30 goals again this season while riding shotgun with Krejci and Wheeler, and that’s exactly what GM Peter Chiarelli had in mind when he bagged the free agent.

Julien has seen a return of the skilled shooter that could reel off two or three goals in a game and has always had the knack for potting the right score at the right time — a trait attested by his NHL-best seven game-winning daggers thus far this season.

“I hope he’s enjoying his season a little better…he’s on a team that’s winning a lot of hockey games,” said Julien. “When you lead the league in game-winning goals that has to be a lot of fun to be leading with that stat. I think he’s found a pretty comfortable niche here where he’s enjoying himself with the guys and the guys appreciate him as well.

“He’s been a good fit for us,” added Julien. “Even though he got off to a bit of a slow start in the goal-scoring area, he made up for it with a lot of things. Now he’s found his scoring touch and he’s scoring goals, and there’s no doubt that has to be a lot more fun than being a healthy scratch some nights.”

Read More: Blake Wheeler, Boston Bruins, Claude Julien, David Krejci
The B’s will be rockin’ on Sunday at 4:46 pm ET
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WIth the Annual Boston Bruins wives carnival coming up this weekend, here’s an interview with Bruins defenseman Aaron Ward and his wife Kelly on Fox 25 News this morning. Ward and the rest of his teammates will be manning different event stations at the carnival, and a quintet of B’s including Blake Wheeler and Milan Luci will be playing in Rock Band 2 duels on the Wii against lucky fans.

Personally I’m more of a fan of Guitar Hero for the XBOX 360, but sounds like it should be a rockin’ good time for all with B’s — and the best part is that it’s also for a great cause.  My best advice: let the Looch win whenever he wants before he decides to lose his temper and do the rock star guitar-smashing thing on his axe at center stage.

Here’s the release from the Bruins: On Sunday, Zdeno Chara, Phil Kessel, Milan Lucic, Marc Savard, Tim Thomas, Blake Wheeler and the entire Boston Bruins 2008-09 roster will be participating in the 19th Annual Boston Bruins’ Wives Charity Carnival, presented by Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center at TD Banknorth Garden in Boston. The carnival is broken down in to three sessions from 11:00 – 12:00, 12:00 – 2:00 and 3:00 – 5:00. All sessions are open to the media and the players will be available for interviews throughout the day.

During each session fans will have the opportunity to get autographs and take photos with their favorite Bruins players, as well as play a variety of games which include P.J. Axelsson in ping-pong, David Krejci and Michael Ryder in knock hockey, Dennis Wideman in Nintendo Wii tennis, Andrew Ference in Xbox games. They can also join head coach Claude Julien for a tour of the team’€™s locker room.

In addition, during the General Admission Session of the Carnival from 3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. is a special Rock Band 2 video game competition. Throughout the session, fans will play head-to-head with Blake Wheeler while special guest judges from Harmonix – the creators of Rock Band – evaluate the participants based on technical ability (accuracy) and performance (enthusiasm). The best players will be selected to move on to compete against the Bruins Band in the Rock Band 2 finale at 5:00 p.m. on stage at center ice.

The Bruins Band consists of Mark Stuart on vocals, Blake Wheeler on drums, Milan Lucic on lead guitar and Matt Lashoff on bass. The Bruins Band is expected to perform Pearl Jam’€™s hit song “Alive.”

The Bruins and Harmonix will be giving away a special prize to the top performer of the competition: a full Rock Band 2 retail bundle for the Nintendo Wii system autographed by the Bruins players.

This year’s carnival proceeds will benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the leading organization in the United States devoted to Cystic Fibrosis.

WHO: Entire Boston Bruins 2008 -09 Roster
          Boston Bruins Coaching Staff
          Boston Bruins Alumni Cam Neely, Ray Bourque, Terry O’Reilly,
          Gerry Cheevers and Johnny Bucyk
          Boston Bruins Wives
          Boston Bruins Ice Girls
          Blades the Boston Bruins Mascot

WHAT:  19th Annual Boston Bruins’€™ Wives Charity Carnival

WHEN: Sunday, January 4, 2009
            VIP Session:               11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
            Early Bird Session:                12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.
            General Admission Session:         3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

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

About the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
Since 1955, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation has been the driving force behind the pursuit of a cure. The mission of the Foundation, a nonprofit donor-supported organization, is to assure the development of the means to cure and control cystic fibrosis and to improve the quality of life for those with the disease. Thanks to the dedication and financial backing of our supporters- patients, families and friends, clinicians,
researchers, volunteers, individual donors, corporations and staff, we are making a difference.

About Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center
Floating Hospital for Children is the full-service children’s hospital of Tufts Medical Center and the principal teaching hospital of Tufts University School of Medicine. Floating Hospital offers a comprehensive range of services from prevention and primary care to the most sophisticated treatment of rare and unusual conditions. Our focus and mission every day is to improve the lives of children and their families. We treat every child as if they are our own.

About the Boston Bruins Foundation
The Boston Bruins Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit foundation whose mission is to assist charitable organizations that demonstrate a strong commitment to enhancing the quality of life for children throughout New England. Since its inception in July 2003 by the Jacobs Family, it has raised more than $2 million dollars through a series of fundraising events. The Foundation, which provides grants to organizations that meet the standards of its mission, concentrates on athletics, academics, health, and community outreach programs that assist in helping enrich the lives of children throughout New England.

Read More: Aaron Ward, Blake Wheeler, Boston Bruins, Milan Lucic
Sounds of the game… Bruins 4, Penguins 2 at 8:25 am ET
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In team sports, when you hear something hasn’t been done since 1929, one of two things has happened. Either a team is on a historically bad run and is about to get its coach fired. Or a team is blowing away its competition. Well of course, this is Boston, home of the 19-game winning streak in basketball and now the Boston Bruins are trying to equal their Garden co-tenants. And so far, they’re doing a pretty good job of it. Thursday night, the Bruins opened the New Year by turning away Sidney Crosby and the defending Eastern Conference champion Pittsburgh Penguins, 4-2, on Causeway Street.

Some nuggets about these men of Black and Gold… The Bruins extended their home win streak to 14 games, their longest since a 16-game run from Jan. 10-Mar. 25, 1976. It’€™s the longest in the NHL this season and the fifth-longest behind streaks of 20, 19, 16 and 15 games. ‘€¦ The Bruins 10-game winning streak is the longest since a 10-game streak in the 1972-73 season. ‘€¦ The Bruins drew a crowd of 17,565, their eighth sellout of the season, fourth straight and sixth in seven home games. Boston sports fans always could spot a winner. Let’s hear from them.

Coach Claude Julien said the team is doing a good job with its game-to-game focus.

Julien explains putting Milan Lucic on the third line, producing two goals in his last two games.

Julien said Thursday was just another good, solid win.

Marc Savard said the team isn’t looking at chasing records or its own NHL-best 62 points.

Milan Lucic said winning 10 straight has been no accident.

Lucic said the Bruins are not taking the winning for granted.

Captain Zdeno Chara said the winning makes playing fun right now.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Claude Julien, Milan Lucic, Pittsburgh Penguins
Bruins back to basics for 10th straight win 01.01.09 at 9:55 pm ET
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If the Boston Bruins aren’t too careful they’re going to start entering exalted hockey territory here in the city of Boston. With their tenth win in row last night, by a 4-2 score over the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Boston Bruins have matched the 1971 Bobby Orr-led, Stanley Cup Champion-era B’s in terms of a regular season win streak. For nearly everyone involved with the team, it’s the most impressive regular season that they’ve enjoyed in the NHL and something they’re not at all taking for granted.

“I’d have to go all the way back to my last year of junior hockey, I think,” said B’s defenseman Dennis Wideman, when asked the last time he’s been on a team that won 10 games in a row. “I think I’ve been on some [NHL] teams that have lost 10 in a row, and this definitely feels a lot better.”

With the home-and-home sweep of the still-dangerous Pens, the Bruins have seized sole ownership of the point lead in the NHL while continuing to put distance between themselves and the wild packs of Rangers, Capitals and Canadiens roaming in the Eastern Conference.

Almost as amazing is the fact that the current 10-game stretch has A) taken place while the B’s were admittedly not playing as well as they have through much of the season B) transpired largely during a long road swing sandwiched around the holiday break and C) overshadowed a simultaneous 14-game home winning streak before burgeoning crowds at the Garden.

Dressing room leader Aaron Ward said that the B’s have realized the error of their ways during the tough stretches of the streaks, and corrected things to again get to the type of Bruins hockey that put them in first place to begin with.

“[We] preach in this locker room that the whole season is a marathon. You can play one month and you understand if you are going to lead long enough that there will be some highs and some lows; capitalize on your highs,” said Ward. “We started to fall off, the minute we step into this locker room we knew in the last five or six games that the effort wasn’€™t there. We were going into games and you start to get complacent and you figure that well your skill will just take care or it or it will just work itself out.

“The National Hockey League doesn’€™t work itself out. You got to match your opponents’€™ level of effort with level of emotions and we lacked both. Sometimes both, sometimes one, you just can’€™t have your nights off we had creeping into our game.

The B’s crowds traditionally become livelier and more plentiful after Jan. 1, and the Patriots’ rare regular season exit insures that the Garden will be rockin’ straight through the rest of the season. The love affair between the sellout crowds and the gritty, hard-hitting hockey team should only continue as Black and Gold skaters like vladimir Sobotka put third period exclamation points like this one last night.

  

With that mid-ice big boom in mind, here’ s a few things that stuck out from last night’s impressive victory over a motivated Penguins team:

Big Z in shutdown mode

One of the biggest observations/factors during the back-to-back wins over the Penguins was the outstanding defensive shutdown work executed by Zdeno Chara and Aaron Ward on Pittsburgh center Evgeni Malkin’s line over the course of two games. In the home-and-home matchup, the jumbo-sized and ridiculously-skilled Malkin was held to a -2 and managed only a single assist in last night’s loss after coach Claude Julien sicked a frothy Chara on the Penguins’ scorer as much as possible.

“I think [Chara] actually loves it,” said Julien. “He’€™s taken a lot of pride in doing it and I think he is being recognized, more and more, for being able to do those things. Not every team, and not too many teams, have those kind of defensemen and can match them against top players and be capable of shutting them down night after night.”

Chara has always prided himself on being the tall, tough, intimidating defensive stopper at the blue line and — after a slow first month – seems to have again reached that elite level of defenseman play that few can match around the NHL.

As impressive as Big Z was, however, perhaps Ward was even more so in his first two games back from an ankle injury that hampered him throughout December. Ward managed to keep himself in some semblance of shape while healing up and came up big last night with his specialty — a cringe-inducing, surely painful blocked shot in the waning minutes of the third period on Pittsburgh’s final power play — to help secure the big victory for the Bruins. 

It was exactly the kind of thing that the B’s have missed while he was out, despite the best efforts of guys like Dennis Wideman and Matt Hunwick to step up.

“You have to give credit to Aaron Ward, who nobody talks about, he did a good job with Z back there and near the end there he made a big block, blocked a big shot,” said Julien. “Those kind of things can kind of go unnoticed.”

Extra bonus points to the aforementioned pairing of Hunwick and Wideman, who likewise managed to clamp down the defensive vice grips on Sidney Crosby’s line as well. Sid the Kid managed a single measly assist in Tuesday night’s loss at the Igloo, and was a -3 in the two-game sweep. There were many moments during last night’s win when the purported best hockey player in the world was invisible. Credit the Bruins’ defense for pulling off the nearly impossible NHL magic trick: making the two-man gang of both Crosby and Malkin disappear into the thin wintry air.

Back in the Scoresheet Saddle

It might be time for Bruins Nation to get used to the current line pairings that have P.J. Axelsson spending time on the first power play unit because Julien has liked what he’s seen over the last two games. Axelsson has helped spark the first line and scored his first non-empty net goal of the season — along with an assist –in last night’s win and totaled a pair of helpers in Tuesday night’s win in Pittsburgh.

“I was looking for a response from lines,” said Julien. “I know people keep asking about Lucic, well, yeah Lucic and Savard and Kessel, I thought weren’€™t playing as well as they could and neither was the Yelle, Axelsson and Kobasew line. And I was kind of talking about all six of those guys, three of them on units.”

“I didn’€™t think they were generating much, so with Looch, with that hard-working line, I think it certainly helped him find his identity again, as far as being a grinder and being a grinder doesn’€™t stop you from scoring as you could see tonight,” added Julien. “[Lucic and Axelsson] have brought something different to both those lines that, not just made them successful [as individuals], but also made those lines better, as well.”

Julien believes that Axelsson has added a certain Je Ne Cest Q’uoi to the games of both Marc Savard (2 goals, 3 assists and a +2 in two games) and Phil Kessel (1 goal and 13 shots on net in two games) while Milan Lucic has blended right in with the hard-working, lunch pail games of third liners Chuck Kobasew and Stephane Yelle. Looch has also potted a pair of goals since the much-publicized move down to the third line.  Julien said that the swap wasn’t designed to simply get Lucic and Axelsson going as much as it was supposed to breath life in both lines.

Mission accomplished. 

“I think obviously things weren’€™t going my way,” said Lucic. “I just want to get back to doing simple things and it paid off today with the goal.  Like I said we just have to keep getting better.

“I think everyone is comfortable playing with anyone.  We are just going out there and focusing on what we have to do, sticking to the game plan,” added Lucic. “It is not by accident that we have won ten straight. The little things that we do we got away from a little bit.  I think this home and home against the Penguins was good for us to get back to working hard and doing the simple things.”

So don’t expect any big line shake-ups in the near future with things again appearing to gel in Coach Julien’s neighborhood. Count me among the people that scratched their heads when Axelsson was moved to the top scoring line and the number one power play unit, but the B’s bench boss has once again proven he knows a lot more about the frozen puck game than yours truly.

The Beat Goes On

With all of the success that the Bruins have enjoyed thus far this season, there has been plenty of streaking that hasn’t involved Frank the Tank in the least. While the biggest slice of the attention pie is given to the current team winning streak or the 14-straight wins on the Garden’s frozen sheet, magic man center David Krejci is also riding a 10-game point streak after potting a goal in the first period of last night’s win.

Perhaps Krejci is a big Christmas fan because he’s gone supersonic with the puck over the last month, notching 7 goals and 15 assists in 14 games during the merry, merry month. While Julien has reconfigured each of the other two lines, the veteran coach has smartly left the trio of Krejci, Blake Wheeler and Michael Ryder together as they continue to produce offense and responsible defense on a nightly basis.

Read More: Aaron Ward, Boston Bruins, David Krejci, Dennis Wideman
Bergeron’s agent: His first concussion wasn’t necessarily a contributing factor 12.29.08 at 10:11 pm ET
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The bad news is that Patrice Bergeron is still battling the recurrent, nagging headaches that typically linger after suffering a concussion brought on by a violent NHL collision gone wrong. The two-way center is not going to be in the lineup when the Bruins and Penguins face off against each other at the TD Banknorth Garden on New Year’s Day, and there’s a strong possibility the calendar could be into February or March before he’s again donning the Spoked B in an NHL game.

But…the 23-year-old center also received some encouraging news last week as well when he met with Bruins team physician Dr. Peter Asnis and noted Boston neurologist Dr. Robert Cantu. Cantu related to Bergeron that “99 percent” of NHL players would have similarly suffered a significant concussion in the manner of collision that saw the side of Bergeron’s face smack into the unforgiving shoulder pads of Dennis Seidenberg with such violent force.

Cantu’s statement was meant to assure Bergeron that his second concussion wasn’t the sign of a player that’s becoming more and more succeptible to head injuries and hockey dings — as players like Eric Lindros and Pat LaFontaine both became increasingly fragile when a career full of head hits began to take their toll. The concussion was instead simply another stroke of bad luck for a player chock full of the stuff over the last calendar year. Cantu’s assessment of the hit and the damage done, according to Bergeron’s agent Kent Hughes, was encouraging to Bergeron, who might have understandably feared that he could become another cautionary concussion tale in the NHL.

Here’s a quick Q&A with Hughes, who gave an update that should put a little skip in the step of Bruins’ fans hoping that Bergeron can make another heroic hockey return sooner rather than later. It seems — reading between the lines of what Hughes is saying here – that a six week absence might be a reasonable span of time if Bergeron continues to improve at his current rate, but that’s still very much in question.

As Hughes correctly states, it’s always uncertain when it comes to a timetable for the brain’s healing process. So we’ll wait and see. Here’s Hughes:

How is Patrice doing? KH: He’s doing well. This injury is not of the same severity as the last one that he suffered.

Is he still experiencing the headaches at this point, or are they starting to dissipate? KH:I just got back into town so I haven’t checked in with him [Tuesday] on the symptoms, but the neurologist told him that the concussion he suffered the first time around was not necessarily the contributing factor in this one. [The neurologist said that] the hit that he took would have caused a concussion in 99 percent of the people that were on the receiving end whether they had previously been concussed or not.

That’s good news…KH:As far as concussions go, most don’t have a timeline in terms of recovery because it’s really a question of the brain and how it responds. That’s the experience I’ve had with all of my clients dealing with concussions, as well as with Patrice last year. It’s something we really went back and forth with [Bergeron] last year. You typically wait for the person to be asymptomatic at rest for a period of time and then you introduce some physical activity. Then you see if the player has a relapse of any kind with the post-concussion symptoms. That process continues until the athlete can go through the whole course of physical activity without any relapse.  

And the recovery seems to be very much on a case-by-case basis. KH: Yeah, and the other integral part is that there really isn’t really any kind of time frame like with an ACL tear, whether it be a short or long. You know how badly you tear your knee and you know that you can potentially miss an entire season because of an injury.

The problem with the brain injury is that the majority of concussions don’t show up on any kind of imaging. They really rely on how the brain responds. At the outset you could say it’s a three-week injury, but it could be one week or it could be six weeks depending on the brain and the body and how they react to the physical activity. It could be six [weeks], or it could be longer.

The doctor believes that whether he’d suffered that previous concussion or not, he was very, very likely to suffer a concussion after the hit he took [against Carolina]. There are some guys you see that have been concussed so many times that the slightest hit dings them, or whatever. Patrice Bergeron is really a little bit of a victim here in that he’s taken two really bad blows in a span of only about 30 games. It’s a really physical sport, but it’s not often you take two blows like that in such a short span [of games]. There are some [players] that, for lack of a better term, have softened and are susceptible and it might not take such strong blows to cause a concussion.

How is Patrice’s state of mind as he’s handling all of this a second time around? Is he angry? Frustrated? Is he encouraged by the news from the doctor? KH: Yeah. I was with him on Saturday and there was certainly a level of frustration with him because he was concerned about when he can go [and play]. I think there was also a level of enthusiasm after what he learned [from Cantu and Asnis].

I think the last time around there was a series of moments where he would improve steadily and then he would be down if he there was a setback. My guess is that this time around he’ll be a bit more guarded in reacting to how the process is going, and just let the healing process take its course.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Kent Hughes, Patrice Bergeron,
Things tighten up for B’s in weekend sweep 12.28.08 at 8:36 pm ET
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The intensity level and heart-thumping pulse of NHL games traditionally rises as the season marches forward, and things begin to tighten up a bit both offensively and defensively — a puck phenomenon that’s coming to life right before the eyes of Bruins’ followers.

 Both the Carolina Hurricanes and the Atlanta Thrashers forced the Black and Gold to work extensively in back-to-back efforts in order to take a sweep of the weekend games – including Sunday night’s 2-1 win over Atlanta at Phillips Arena – and put their overall winning streak at eight games.

The B’s have handled the Trashers, out of that hockey hotbed deep in the heart of Atlanta, all season long, but Sunday’s taut triumph was most hotly contested of the season against the Thrash. It’s also indicative of the kind of tooth and nail games that await the Boston Golden Bears over their next 40 plus games. 

NHL hockey is a much different animal in January, February, March and April — with teams jostling for playoff pole position as the NHL standings begin to settle – than it is in the opening months of October and November, and things certainly won’t be as swimmingly easy as they seemed for Boston over the season’s first few months. Add the tricked-out intensity to the host of injuries the B’s continue to battle through, and you have a pretty impressive effort for the weekend. A Tuesday night tilt against the Pittsburgh Penguins is all that’s standing between the Black and Gold and a five game sweep during their current holiday road trip.

Not to be confused, of course, with the Griswold theme song otherwise known as Lindsay Buckingham’s “Holiday Road”.

The B’s are the King of the Eastern Conference Hill right now, and they’re going to get everybody’s best from here on out. With that in mind, here’s a few observations from the solid victory over the Thrashers:

–Now may be the time for everybody to stow away those Manny Fernandez trade proposals. There’s no way the Bruins are a better team this season without hockey’s version of Manny Being Manny splitting time with Tim Thomas between the pipes. 

They’ve formed the best Boston goaltending duo since the unforgettable Andy Moog/Reggie Lemelinteam in the 80′s and 90′s, and they still lead the NHL in team save percentage this season. Thomas and Fernandez have put together a .930 save percentage thus far, which puts them .06 percentage points ahead of both the Minnesota Wild and the Florida Panthers for NHL bragging rights.

Last night was a game the Bruins likely wouldn’t have won if not for the 34-year-old Fernandez, and the graceful butterfly style he used to make 32 saves Sunday night. His successive saves on Thrashers forwards Erik Christensen and Bryan Little with less than a minute to go in the third period were things of beauty, and were among a handful of saves that preserved the ‘W’ for the Bruins. Fernandez is now 12-2-1 on the season, and has pushed himself into a vital, irreplaceable role on this Bruins’ team.

It would be the worst kind of hockey karma to break this Killer B’s tandem up — a notion that all the hockey krishnas outthere should be nodding in harmonious agreement with.

Ryder equals Mr. Clutch

The game-winning third period goal was obviously hatched by the breathtaking David Krejci-authored saucer pass to a streaking Michael Ryder while he crashed the Atlanta net, but it also highlighted an interesting piece of Ryder trivia. The score — a quick redirect of the skidding puck through Thrashers goalie Keri Lehtonen’s pads — was Ryder’s team-leading seventh game-winning goal of the season thus far.

Ryder also leads the NHL with his collection of seven game-winning tallies, and sits two GWG’s ahead of fellow NHL luminaries Jeff Carter, Patrick Marleau, Daniel Sedin, Johan Franzen and Petr Sykora this season. It seemed symbolic that his seventh game-winner of the season was also his 14thoverall lamp lighter – the exact same goal-production total he managed in 70 restless, unhappy games with the Montreal Canadiens last season.

Congrats to Coach Julien

A tip of the PWH chapeau to Bruins coach Claude Julien, who has seemingly wrapped up the Eastern Conference coaching honors at the NHL All-Star Game after leading his Bruins squad to such a commanding lead during the first three months of the season. According to the fountain of first-hand knowledge known as wikipedia, since 1996 the head coaches for the two All-Star Game have been the coaches of the two teams that are leading their respective conferences in point percentage (i.e. fraction of points obtained out of total possible points) as of January 1.

With a commanding point lead over everyone else in the Eastern Conference, that would leave Julien to man the bench at the Bell Centre — a building that was once the coach’s home turf while he ran the show with the Montreal Canadiens from 2002-06. For a hockey building that’s housed some pretty high-intensity Bruins/Habs moments over the last two years, it will certainly be a proud moment for the Quebec native to play a prominent role in one of the Canadiens’ showpiece events during their 2008-09 Centennial celebration.

It should also be one of several honors bestowed on Julien in a season that’s been a testament to his ability to preach defensive responsibility, teamwork, patience and accountability to a dressing room full of young men on skates that have been ready to learn since Day One of training camp.  

Read More: Andy Moog, Atlanta Thrashers, Boston Bruins, Claude Julien
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