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Sounds of the game… Bruins 4, Penguins 2 01.02.09 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
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
Sounds of the game… Bruins 4, Hurricanes 2 12.20.08 at 3:37 pm ET
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While the Bruins were busy racking up their 13th straight home win, much of the focus afterward was for the well-being of Patrice Bergeron. His serious concussion last year had people wondering for not only his professional career but his long-term health. Then in the second period, he went to the ice after taking a hit int he neutral zone and was motionless while trainers tended to him. He eventually left the ice alert but was being evaluated after the game. As for the game itself, Marc Savard, Shawn Thornton, David Krejci and Stephane Yelle (empty net) all scored to lead the Bruins to the victory. They don’t play at home again until Jan. 1 against Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Claude Julien on the status of Patrice Bergeron.

Julien said the Hurricanes gave the Bruins a stiff test.

Manny Fernandez said the Bruins seem to be getting the breaks on their current run.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Claude Julien, Manny Fernandez, Patrice Bergeron
Sturm out at least a month with knee injury at 12:07 pm ET
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The Bruins will be without the services of left wing Marco Sturm for at least month with a left knee injury — a bit of bad news along with Patrice Bergeron’s upper body/head injury in a 4-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes this afternoon.

“[Sturm] will be out indefinitely,” said Chiarelli. “We don’t know yet [about surgery]. We have to further evaluate with the doctors.”

Julien said that the swelling needs to come down in the leg before the doctors will be able to better diagnose the injury, and determine whether the surgeon’s knife is necessary to repair the problem.

“Well, we’ve had a lot of practice [playing without Sturm] since that original injury,” said Julien. “We went without him for 12 games. It was obviously bad news that we got for his situatuon. It’s long term. Hopefully he’ll be back sooner rather than later. We’ve been through this road before…mostly last year. We’ve just got to keep playing hard and hope our teams stays as healthy as possible.”

Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli confirmed that the “Sturm Face” will placed on LTIR for a minimum of 30 days retroactive to Thursday night’s game, and that offensively-skilled Martin St. Pierre, who can play center or wing, will be the call-up from the Providence Bruins.

“[St. Pierre] is having a very good offensive year and in the latter third of this season he’s played better two-way hockey,” said Bruin GM Peter Chiarelli of the Baby Bruin forward’s call-up, who has 10 goals and 25 assists in 30 games in Providence this season. “He deserves on merit to be called up.”

The leading scorer for the P-Bruins this season and second leading scorer in the AHL, St. Pierre has recorded a 10-25=35 line. His 25 assists lead the team and his 10 goals rank tied for second. This
is St. Pierre’€™s first recall to Boston this season.

The 25-year-old St. Pierre has appeared in 21 NHL games in his career – all with Chicago – and has tallied one goal and three 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. The 5′€™9′€™’€™, 185-pound Ottawa, Ontario native spent the majority of the 2007-2008 campaign playing for Chicago’€™s AHL affiliate in Rockford where he earned 21-67=88 totals in 69 games.

Sturm has appeared in 19 games this year for Boston and recorded 7-6=13 totals with a +9 plus/minus rating. Sturm led all Boston goal-scorers last year with 27 tallies.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Claude Julien, Marco Sturm, Martin St. Pierre
Sturm out for Saturday 12.19.08 at 11:25 am ET
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Following last night’s red light-filled 8-5 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs, there was no sign of winger Marco Sturm at this morning’s practice at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington and coach Claude Julien ruled him out for tomorrow afternoon’s tilt against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Sturm was banged up against the boards while retrieving a puck in the first period of last night’s victory, and his left knee appeared to buckle as he tumbled to the ice. Sturm stayed down for a prolonged period and then needed assistance exiting the ice as he favored that left leg. The German forward, in his first game back after missing 12 games with concussion/whiplash symptoms, never returned to last night’s game after the first period injury. According to Julien, doctors were waiting for the swelling to subside in the “lower body” injury before making a final diagnosis. With that in mind, the Bruins coach would neither confirm nor deny that surgery could be a glass-half-empty possibility.

“They’re still running tests on him right now,” said the B’s coach, who assured this new injury was completely unrelated to the neck problem that previously sidelined Sturm. “Right now we don’t have any definite thing. The doctors looked at it last night and there’s swelling. They’re not able to tell exactly what it is…whether it’s long term or short term. We don’t know how bad it is.”

Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli and Julien will discuss potentially calling a player up to Boston this afternoon once they have a better gauge on Sturm’s condition, as well as the conditions of injured skaters Petteri Nokelainen and Aaron Ward. Nokelainen is expected to be out for the two-game trip to both St. Louis and New Jersey that begins Sunday, but Ward may be a possibility as he comes back from his own leg issue.

“We’ll see…it’s a tough time of year to make those callups [from Providence], but we’ll make that decision this afternoon,” said Julien. “It might be before the [two-game] road trip, it might be just for tomorrow and it might not be at all.”

Read More: Aaron Ward, Boston Bruins, Claude Julien, Marco Sturm
Krejci hat trick continues Young Guns’ run 12.18.08 at 9:08 pm ET
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David Krejci spent long portions of his summer in the garden of his home in the Czech Republic, but he wasn’t exactly trying to grow the perfect set of Chrysanthemums. No…the nifty, young Bruins center was working on his shooting with a keen eye toward improving his shot and upping his goal-scoring totals after managing only six goals in 56 rookie games with the Bruins last season.

More trips to the Garden with a hockey net slung over his shoulder may be in the offing this summer after last night’s hat-worthy performance…

The Bruins did a lot of great offensive things in an 8-5 win over the scrappy Toronto Maple Leafs — going 4-for-6 on the power play, enjoying a four-point night from All-Star Marc Savard, a quick goal for Marco Sturm in his first game back from concussion/whiplash symptoms, scoring seven goals or more for the fifth time this season – but nothing was more eye-poppingly impressive than Krejci’s three goal performance.

The outburst, which included an absolutely sick second goal when he swooped in the left side of the goal while looking to dish the puck back to Michael Ryder before deciding to deke out Curtis Joseph and tuck the puck into the vacant goal, pushes Krejci’s goal total up to 11 scores on the season. Two of the goals looked like pure goal-scorer type goals as well, as the young pivot waited for the goaltender to make a move at him, and then placidly slid the puck into open area of the crease.

“If you give him some room he can certainly score some goals.  He’€™s a nifty player.  I just have to look where he is in the scoring,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “He’€™s right there with Phil [Kessel] and Savvy [Marc Savard] now.  You can look at his minutes compared to them.  When he’€™s on the ice he really does some good things.

“He’€™s a great player and makes everyone around him good or better.  That is basically his situation from day one, how he makes everyone around him better.  Tonight he got a chance to make himself look good as well with three big goals.”

For Krejci last night was certainly a pretty cool moment, as his last hat trick was a road game during junior hockey in Canada when nary a cap — or a bra for that matter – was tossed out on the ice amidst the third goal being scored before a grumbling, hostile crowd. This time, Krejci was showered with hats on the frozen sheet once the Garden crowd realized it was the 22-year-old’s first career pro hat trick.

It’s simply of the great iceberg for a player with all of the hockey skills needed to become a star in the NHL for years to come.

Sturm is over and out for now

Marco Sturm got a perfect chance to dust off the “Sturm Face” when he potted a goal just 36 seconds into the first period last night — his first game back from injury. Sturm had missed 12 straight contests with concussion/whiplash symptoms, but was right in the middle of things when he camped out in front of the net and swept home the rebound of a Chuck Kobasew shot in the first period.

The Sturm goal gave the Bruins a 1-0 lead in a moment that seemed about a million miles away by the time the 13-goal extravaganza had concluded. Unfortunately less than 15 minutes after the score, Sturm needed help exiting the ice when he appeared to wrench his left knee or leg while retrieving a puck in Boston’s end and then absorbing a hit.

Sturm was skating with Patrice Bergeron and Chuck Kobasew – a surprise given that he had been practicing with Stephane Yelle and Shawn Thornton on the fourth line – and looked both fast and furious prior to the injury. Sturm didn’t return to the game after being helped off the ice with about six minutes to go in the first period, and Julien didn’t have an update following the game.

“We haven’€™t got the results on [Sturm] yet,” said Julien. “I know he has been through a bunch of tests right now and the doctors are actually looking at it.  I don’€™t have anything to tell you right now that is going to help you out because I don’€™t even know.”

A quick goalie change

After watching a series of defensive lapses in the second period, Julien opted to sit Tim Thomas down after the All-Stat netminder surrendered five scores in the first two stanzas and instead went with Manny Fernandez in the third. Fernandez and a reinvigorated Bruins defense shut down the Leafs attack in what had been a 5-4 game heading into the third, and scores by Ryder and Krejci iced the high-flying affair Northeast Division Affair in the closing minutes.

Fernandez stood tall with 13 saves in the third period — including a handful of highlight stops – and should earn the puck version of a save after preserving a win for Thomas following his 40 minutes of spotty work over the first two periods. There was a knowing nod between Fernandez and Thomas during the first 40 minutes of the game when every bounce, every last fickle movement of the puck seemed to go against Boston’s guardian of the pipes.

It was, as the cliche goes, just one of those nights.

“We have all had those nights,” said Fernandez afterward. “I saw him shaking his head, and I know exactly what he is thinking. A simple nod and I told him that there are nights like these, and he agrees. You try not to have them in the stretch of the season. It is uncomfortable; it hits a skate, it hits a stick, you can’€™t control and it ends up in the net. There are nights like that but you just have to turn the page and get back to work and get better the next game.”

For a team that was nipping at the Bruins’ heels by a 5-4 score after two periods of play, Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson gave full credit to Fernandez for calming the waters and keying Boston’s Great Escape in an eventual three-goal victory.

“[Manny] Fernandez actually came in and made the difference in the game,” said Wilson. “We dominated the first six or seven or ten minutes of the third period and he made three or four unbelievable saves.  Then they scored that power play goal, and it was basically over at that point.”

Random Thoughts

–Savard and Krejci are very similar as players and playmakers, and we saw just how electric they can be in the third period when both skaters teamed up for a PP goal with a 5-on-3 advantage that cemented Krejci’s hat trick. Both are pass-first guys that serve as the central force on the respective first and second units on the power play, but there’s a curious side of me that would relish seeing both of them armed and loaded on the same power play squad. As it is now, they only skate together during the two-man advantage, but I can’t fight the nagging feeling that a normal PP unit featuring Savard and Krejci would be pretty close to unstoppable. But, then again, maybe it’s just me.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Claude Julien, David Krejci, Marc Savard
Sturm Face ready for a return? 12.17.08 at 3:30 pm ET
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The Bruins’ brass remains optimistic that Marco Sturm is sufficiently recovered from his concussion/whiplash symptoms to don the sweater and skate against the Toronto Maple Leafs tomorrow night. Sturm has missed 12 games with the post-hit issues, but has been skating on-and-off for the last few weeks. With that in mind, Sturm stepped up his activity today during practice while working with the PP unit at Ristuccia Arena. Dust off the Marco Sturm Faces, because they may be in full effect at the Garden come Thursday night.

Bruins coach Claude Julien said he is “cautiously optimistic” that Sturm will be able to return tomorrow night, but will be a game-time decision after tomorrow’s morning skate and warm-up prior to the game. With Sturm out of the lineup for roughly a month, it’s likely that Julien and Co. will treat the winger in much the same they treated Chuck Kobasew when he returned from injury earlier this season.

“I say cautiously with Marco because I thought he was close at one point when he was skating, but then he took a step backwards,” said Julien. “But right now in the last week everything has been positive and he’s been moving forward to coming back.”

The coaching staff can plop Sturm onto a fourth line with Shawn Thornton and Stephane Yelle to give them a little bit more offensive punch and ease the German forward back into the B’s fold. How did it work for Kobasew? He only notched a goal and an assist in a 3-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Nov. 8 — a performance that Sturm hopes to match if he gets in against the Leafs at the Garden tomorrow evening.

Read More: Chuck Kobasew, Claude Julien, Marco Sturm,
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