|Backup goaltender spot not a given for Rask||09.14.09 at 3:38 pm ET|
There’s a been a great deal of assuming that the Boston Bruins backup goaltender spot has already been pre-ordained to Finnish phenom Tuukka Rask, but that seems to be a classic case of overstating the case. Rask is highly touted, and deserving of the plaudits after a pair of seasons fine-tuning his game with the Providence Bruins, but B’s coach Claude Julien said that Thomas’ backup is a wide open job search.
The B’s coach indicated there’s a wide-ranging competition among the five goaltenders without a Vezina Trophy for the role as backup to Tim Thomas, but the competition is solely a two-man race between journeyman Sabourin and vaunted prospect Rask. The 29-year-old Sabourin has played in 57 NHL games with a career 2.88 goals against average and an .898 save percentage, and appeared in 19 games with the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins last season as a backup to Marc-Andre Fluery.
Sabourin certainly isn’t the answer for the B’s goaltending future, but he’s proven an ability handle the backup role without a major drop-off in performance. Not the easiest of tricks for a young goaltender.
Rask, meanwhile, is a 22-year-old prototype right out of the Finland goalie factory with a long, lean frame and a wide butterfly stance that envelops the bottom half of the net. Rask and Montreal’s Carey Price were, in fact, considered the two best young goaltending prospects in the world under the age of 21 just a few short years ago, and Rask has markedly improved his strength and skill during a two-year apprenticeship with the P-Bruins.
All that being said, the young prospect is going to need to impress the B’s coaching staff with his dilligence, attitude and effort much like he did last season while playing like best goaltender in Boston’s camp. The youngster was sent down to Providence — and was spitting nails nearly all the way back — but put his head down and pulled together a solid season at the AHL level complete with a nice postseason run to boot.
Rask has proven himself in the minors, but now the 6-foot-2, 171-pounder needs to show the necessary skills to back up Thomas. The Tank’s netminding understudy will easily play between 30-40 games this season — a workload that would serve as the perfect way to introduce Rask to the NHL in easily-digestible bite-sized pieces.
While it’s the perfect scenario to break in the young phenom, Julien needs to see Rask take hold of an NHL netminding job opportunity with both hands.
“I think Tuukka has to understanding that he’s got a great opportunity here. He’s got to seize it,” said Julien. “He’s got some competition. There’s a guy by the name of Sabourin that’s got some experience in this league. There are several goalies here pushing, but we all know realistically that it’s Sabourin and Rask in competition to see who’s working with Timmy this year.”
Is it a given that Rask wins the job, and Sabourin starts the year with the Baby B’s in Providence?
“Absolutely not,” said Julien without missing a beat. “That much I can tell you, truthfully.”
David Krejci termed himself doubtful for the Bruins season opening game against the Washington Capitals on Oct. 1 while discussing his recovery from right hip surgery on Monday morning. Krejci skated with the rest of his teammates for the first time during training camp, and spent nearly an hour on the TD Garden ice Monday morning.
The pivot said that the only time he still feels pain is when he crosses over on the right side. While the playmaking center still harbors a great deal of desire to be ready for the beginning of the season, he labeled it a “10 percent chance” that he’ll be ready to go when the puck drops on the NHL season.
“If I didn’t feel any pain then I’d be 100 percent and ready to play,” said Krejci. “I feel pretty good when I skate straight or when I cross over on the left side. When I cross over on the right side that hurts. It feels like it hasn’t healed yet.
“What do we have 17 days? Two-and-a-half weeks? I don’t know. I’ll say there might a little chance. Not a big one, but maybe a little one. I’d say…I don’t know, 10 percent. I can’t say there’s zero percent because I feel pretty good in the ice, and I don’t know how I’m going to feel one week from now.”
|Julien nets multi-year contract extension from the Bruins||09.04.09 at 12:23 pm ET|
Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien was entering the final year of a three-year pact signed in the summer of 2007, but added onto that deal with a multi-year contract extension announced by B’s general manager Peter Chiarelli on Friday morning at the TD Garden. Chiarelli wouldn’t disclose the terms of the deal, and also said that he hasn’t yet embarked on expected extensions for the other members of the B’s coaching staff.
“Claude has shown tremendous propensity to get the maximum results for our team. To me, Claude is a roll-up-your-sleeves kind of guy that really connects with the players,” said Chiarelli. “I think he commands the respect that a coach needs to get to be successful while maintaining a common sense, humble approach. We’re very happy that he’s in the mix for years to come.”
|Begin ready for a new beginning with Boston||09.03.09 at 8:25 am ET|
Steve Begin said that he doesn’t do a lot of chirping out on the ice, but the hard-working forward still manages to get his message across in a way that’s been effective throughout his career. The 31-year-old Begin isn’t a 50-goal scorer and he isn’t going to dazzle with gaudy power play numbers, but he brings a set of hockey skills to the table that will help win hockey games.
Begin’s intangibles are valuable enough to Boston, in fact, that GM Peter Chiarelli was the only hockey executive that made the extra effort to contact the high-energy skater during the first day of hockey free agency this summer — and pretty much cinched that he was signing with Boston. Begin had his best seasons in Montreal while B’s coach Claude Julien was the head coach there, and all of that added up to an easy decision for Begin to choose the Spoked ‘B’ for the upcoming season.
“I said ‘Where do I sign?,” said Begin. “If you work hard then (Julien) is going to reward you. I wanted to be on a hard-working team.
“Big time. This is a perfect team for me and I said that from Day One. Usually with players like me teams will wait to call me until they take care of the bigger players, but they called me on the very first day. That meant a lot to me.”
Begin takes the body at every opportunity, kills penalties and adds a different element to the Bruins as a player that doesn’t mind getting under the skin of enemy players during the heat of battle on the ice. He’s the kind of player that fans hate when he’s wearing the Bleu, Blanc and Rouge, and adore when he dons the Black and Gold of the hometown hockey team. A cross-check to the back of Marc Savard or a headshot to Michael Nylander in years past will be long forgotten when Begin is filling the provocateur role for the Bruins.
The new B’s forward drove down from Quebec with his wife and two kids on Tuesday night, and went through his first on-ice skate with his new Bruins teammates on Wednesday afternoon. Afterward, Begin admitted that he’s probably a much better fit for these current Bruins teams than he was for a set of Canadiens squads more interested in scoring power play goals than playing gritty hockey.
“You need every kind of player on a team. You need fighters, you need guys that hit, block shots, defensive players, offensive players and goal-scorers. You need every kind of player if you’re going to win and you can’t just do it with 20 goal-scorers on a team,” said Begin, who had 12 points (7 goals, 5 assists) in 62 games for the Canadiens and Stars last season. “I’m a grinder. I’m not a big talker on the ice. I talk with my shoulders. I’m in-your-face. I just go skate, hit, block shots. That’s what is fun about this fun. Everybody contributes and talks with their shoulders. They hit and this is a hard team to play against.”
In just about every way imaginable, Begin is a much better fit for blue-collar Boston than the wine-and-cheese Les Habitants. That’s saying quite a bit for a puck-loving kid that grew up in Trois-Rivieres, Quebec.
“I played in Montreal for 5 1/2 years and it’s always been a big war against Boston. I can’t wait to be on this side of it, and to be on a good team,” said Begin. “That’s why you play hockey. You want to be on a first place team and you want to win. They’ve got a good bunch of guys and it’s awesome to be a part of a winning team. A lot of people told me they were pissed that I got traded (to Dallas) last year, and a few people told me they will cheer for the Bruins now. So I can’t wait to see that.”
With P.J. Axelsson and Stephane Yelle both out of the Black and Gold picture this season, there will certainly be an open spot on a Boston PK squad looking for quality members. Begin could be a gritty addition to a penalty kill unit that will certainly once again feature Blake Wheeler as a prominent piece of the puzzle, but the former Hab wasn’t getting ahead of himself prior to the Sept. 12 beginning of training camp.
“We’ll start training camp and we’ll see how they use me,” said Begin, who said he’ll left wing, center and even right wing “if he has to”. “Of course I would like plenty of ice time, but I’ll just come and see what they want me to do and go from there. That’s what I do — play on the PK — and I think Claude (Julien) obviously knows this having coached me up in Montreal.
“They just told me to be in shape, come in and do my job. That’s all you can really do.”
That, and keep on talking with his shoulders like the rest of his new teammates.
|Bruins sign Steve Begin to a one-year deal worth $850K||07.01.09 at 6:48 pm ET|
The Bruins continued their flurry of July 1 activity by signing former Montreal Canadiens agitator Steve Begin to a one-year deal worth $850,000 on late Wednesday afternoon. The 31-year-old Begin registered 12 points (7 goals, 5 assists) and 42 penalty minutes in 63 games combined for the Canadiens and Dallas Stars last season, and is being brought into the B’s fold to provide a little extra grit and a lot of extra nasty into the bottom two lines next season.
For his part, Begin said that his experience playing for Julien with the Habs — where he enjoyed his best season under Julien with the Habs while scoring 11 goals and 12 assists along with 113 PIMs in 76 games — was one of the big things that attracted him to Boston.
“I know Claude Julien. He coached me in Montreal for two years and I know Claude, he’s a great coach. I know that Boston has some great players, so this was really an easy choice for me,” said Begin. “It’s going to be fun to have those guys on my side now. With Montreal those were games were always big (against the Bruins) so it’s going to be fun to come to the other side now.
“One day you’re on the one team and then another day you’re on the other team. Now I’m going to be on the right side (of the rivalry) now. (With Claude) he listens to the players and he knows how to play you and how to use you. I think if you look at (Michael) Ryder, a year ago in Montreal people thought he was done and now he’s playing for Claude and he had his best season last year. He gave me a lot of ice time and played me a lot.”
Being cast off by the Canadiens during the rough patch last might have also played into the decision to don the Spoked B as well, but Begin wasn’t biting on that one.
Bruins fans will remember Begin as one of Montreal’s hatchet men during the 2007-08 season, and the Quebec native memorably cross-checked Marc Savard from behind and broke a bone in the center’s back just prior to the playoffs — a questionable move that opened the door for David Krejci to finally establish himself as an NHL player. The B’s didn’t really have an “agitator” last season that provoked and got under the skin of the opposition, and that’s a role that the 6-foot, 193-pound Begin can play with aplomb.
“He’s a real physical guy. He’s not huge, but he’s big enough and he makes up for it in the way that he plays,” said Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli. “He’s got history with Claude and he’s just a tremendous, tremendous competitive player and person. He kills penalties, will fill a role and had some energy so I’m excited to get him.”
Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli confirmed the signing during a Wednesday night conference call and said that Begin effectively takes the roster spot formerly occupied by veteran center Stephane Yelle, who did a solid job with faceoffs and killing penalties on the fourth line in Boston last season.
With Steve Montador’s signing in Buffalo and the admission that Yelle’s term with the Bruins is over — along with Wednesday night’s announcement that defenseman Johnny Boychuk was signed to a one-way deal with the Bruins — that means at least two new faces will be into the Black and Gold mix this season.
“I guess if you look at it, Steve effectively replaces Stephane (Yelle) if you want to get to the nitty gritty. If you want to look at him and how he plays, he’s a versatile player, he’s a useful player and he’s a gritty player,” said Chiarelli. “So he’s a guy you can slide a little bit up the lineup, he’s a guy that can kill penalties and he’s a guy that will wear the emblem on his sleeve. There’s a lot of good things about him. Over the few years I’ve been here we’ve back-filled with these types of players, and we expect Steve to be one of those.”
Begin will join Byron Bitz and Shawn Thornton on a potential fourth line grouping that could become a thoroughly enjoyable trio of physical, gritty forwards capable of punishing and intimidating opposing lines in an Eastern Conference that seems to be getting bigger and nastier with each passing day.
“I like to finish my checks and I like to chip in once in a while, but it’s a bonus when I do. Mostly I bring a lot of energy and I’m a team guy. I’m working hard, skating hard and finishing my checks, and it’s all of the things that you saw Boston do with guys like (Shawn) Thornton. It’s the kind of game that I like to play.”
|Marc Savard set to play in Game 7, no Bruins lineup changes||05.14.09 at 12:01 pm ET|
Bruins center Marc Savard isn’t going to let a knee injury stop him from skating in Game 7 against the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night, and B’s head coach Claude Julien said that his crafty pivot will be in the lineup. Savard suffered a knee-on-knee hit from Carolina winger Chad LaRose in the third period of Game 6, and exited the game early after Julien sent him to the dressing room.
Julien indicated on Thursday morning following the pre-game skate that the Bruins will skate the same lineup that took the ice in an impressive 4-2 victory over the Candy Canes on Tuesday night. That means Byron Bitz, who impressed with his blue collar work along the back wall with puck possession, will again skate with David Krejci and Michael Ryder.
“We’ll have the same lineup tonight (as Game 6),” said Julien. “There shouldn’t be any changes.”
–Julien and his veteran players said that the most important key to success in the Game 7 setting is staying composed and keeping panic and chaos out of a game that can very easily spiral out of control.
The weight and pressure of season elimination can be a divisive influence that can pry a player out of their comfort zone and get a team out of their game plan — and Julien stressed it was important for his team to stick with the style of play that’s resulted in two straight wins leading up to Thursday night.
“It’s being composed. Being composed. You saw it in the game last night in Pittsburgh that they were able to come out and play their game and they were successful,” said Julien. “You’ve got to be composed. I thought even last year in Montreal in Game 7 during the first period in Montreal, we were the better team.
“But sometimes you need the breaks and then (the Canadiens) got another goal in the second to make it 2-0. Had we stayed probably a little more composed, we could have battled back and got ourselves back into the game. But we were a young team last year. You hope what the young guys learned last year was to handle the pressure situation of Game 7 much better.”
–B’s center Stephane Yelle is playing in his 12th career Game 7 tonight against the Carolina Hurricanes, which is tops among all active NHL players and ranks him second in NHL history with Glenn Anderson and Ken Daneyko. The key to success from a guy that’s been there nearly a dozen times:
“There’ll be chatter before the game like there always is, and if the young guys have questions then they’ll usually come and ask them,” said Yelle. “Sticking with the game plan and not panicking (is key). When you start panicking you tend to get away from what you should be doing, and usually you feel like there’s a ripple effect along the team and things turn to chaos. That’s when you lose sight of what you’re supposed to do.
“Different personalities will handle differently. I try to learn from my previous ones and go from there. My first year was Patty…Patty Roy and he had played in tons of them already. He was just a great leader and I followed him when I was younger being from Ottawa. I knew what he was all about. I just tried to watch him and see what he was doing (before Game 7).”
–Carolina winger Scott Walker has taken on the role of ultimate villian after sucker-punching Aaron Ward in the third period of Game 5 — and then subsequently skirting by with a simple $2500 slap of a fine — but said he’s not going to get rattled by the “Ulf Treatment” at the Garden on Thursday night.
“I played in the minors a lot and it gets rowdy in some of those barns, and obviously in Vancouver it was a lot similar to this. A little bit in the New Jersey it rowdy behind the bench, but you don’t really notice it that much. It’s such an important game in Game 7 that I don’t think the fans will affect the way they play or we play … or myself. It’s great for them that they’ve got something to yell and scream about, but I don’t think we’ll lose our focus or anything like that.”
–There seemed to be some indications out there that a potential Eastern Conference Finals Game 1 against the Pittsburgh Penguins would be scheduled at the TD Banknorth Garden on Sunday — likely Sunday afternoon. Stay tuned for that one because it could be another doubleheader if the Boston Celtics series goes to seven games.
|Claude Julien named finalist for Jack Adams Award||05.01.09 at 12:14 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien has been named one of the three finalists for the Jack Adams Award after leading the B’s to the best record in the Eastern Conference this season. Julien has led the B’s to playoff appearances in each of his two years at the Boston helm, and joins San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan and St. Louis Blues coach Andy Murray as the three finalists for the NHL award recognizing the coach of the year.
If selected, Julien would join previous Bruins’ Jack Adams Award winners Don Cherry in 1976 and Pat Burns in 1998. The 2009 NHL Awards will be broadcast live from the Pearl Concert Theater inside the Palms Hotel Las Vegas on June 18.
Julien jumped into the Boston fray after the B’s endured a horrendous season under head coach Dave Lewis during a lost 2006-07 season, and the former Habs and Devils coach brought with him a strict, disciplined defensive system that’s become the bulwark of Boston’s accomplishments this winter. While suffocating defense is the hallmark of Julien’s overall coaching system, the B’s bench boss and his staff helped elevate Boston to another level this season by encouraging their talented younger players to open things up offensively.
Perhaps Julien’s defining moment from this season was in the days following a fairly devastating 3-2 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Kings in the middle of Boston’s late season “swoon”. The B’s blew a lead in the third period against a Kings team that was already polishing up the golf clubs in mid-March, and most of the B’s skaters expected an angry hockey coach with whip in hand the following morning. After a good deal of thought and contemplation about where his hockey team’s psyche stood, Julien and his assistant coaches — Craig Ramsay, Doug Houda, Geoff Ward and Bob Essensa — opted for scrimmages and competitive drills designed to lighten the dour mood.
Instead of playing the role of Herb Brooks-style ice drill sergeant with whistle firmly planted in mouth, Julien reminded his team that the game of hockey should be fun at its core — even for a bunch of professionals with jobs and expectations on the line. It surprised most of the players that were expecting a punitive, punishing practice after a sloppy loss, and it paved the way for an 8-2 finish to the regular season.
The March example of the kind of coaching brinkmanship that Julien has engaged in over the last two years in Boston: he’s demanding and holds players accountable if they’re not giving everything they have, but he’s also managed to keep from crossing the line that so many other hockey coaches can and do to squeeze maximum production out of their players.
With a less-disciplined group or without the veteran leadership shown by guys like Zdeno Chara, Andrew Ference, Stephane Yelle, Aaron Ward, Tim Thomas and Patrice Bergeron, Julien’s mutual respect coaching style might not be possible. But he’s been the right coach in the right place at the right time for the Boston Bruins, and for that he’s deserving of the Jack Adams Trophy.
“Well, compared to some of the other (coaches) that I’ve had, (Julien) is tremendous,” said Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference, who arrived in Boston at the end of Dave Lewis’ tenure. “I’ve had good coaches that are completely different that taught the game well and really developed the skill, but, when it came time to game-time the attitude surrounding a losing streak or a winning streak for that matter, there was a lack of control in certain situations.
“He walks the line so as far as having respect for the players while demanding respect for what he’s trying to teach,” added Ference. “It’s a really hard line to walk with so many different attitudes and so many different personalities. It’s hard enough to get the most out of them without crossing over the line of being offensive. It’s tough. It’s not easy. But he’s done that so well and he really maximizes your game. Look at Savvy and Kess and how much more complete their games are. That doesn’t happen on it’s own. That comes from coaching. He should win and drag up the assistant coaches with him. As much as we play as a team, the support staff around us has been tremendous.”
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