|Crushing the Canadiens||11.13.08 at 9:45 pm ET|
Bruins goaltender Manny Fernandez perhaps put it best after getting the start and earning the best seat in the house to watch his team trounce a shellshocked Canadiens outfit by a commanding 6-1 score last night. The Habs have owned the Black and Gold’s number over the last few years — and in particular last season when they demoralized the B’s by taking all eight regular season games from a plucky Bruins club.
Thursday’s Hab-stomping was the most lopsided win for the Bruins over their Montreal rivals since they dropped a 5-0 butt-kicking on the Habs on Dec. 20, 2001 — a time when guys like Bill Guerin, Rob Zamuner and Marty LaPointe still roamed the Boston ice wearing the Spoked B on their sweater. The white-hot B’s have also won an impressive five games in a row.
“It seems like it’s a different page this year,” said Manny Fernandez, a riff on the “Turn the Page” philosophy that another pro athlete named Manny used to employ in the Hub. “From just watching last year in the playoffs we broke the ice there just a little bit. We showed each other we could actually win against that team. Today was huge for us. Any time you can back them off a little and make them think about…that’s big.”
“The next time we play them we’re going to show up twice as hard as we played tonight, but still a win [is huge] against that team knowing the history — especially last year when it was tough,” added Fernandez, who made 27 saves on the night, but was at his best early in the contest when tested on a two-shot rush by Robert Lang.
Bruins coach Claude Julien said he opted for Fernandez to give his potentially fatigued team — after they arrived back in Boston a few minutes before 3 AM Thursday morning — any edge they could possibly find against a rested Montreal Canadiens group. After the game, the B’s coach beamed at the prospect of having two goalies playing as well as both Fernandez and Tim Thomas both are between the pipes.
“We had an opportunity to put in a fresh goaltender tonight in case we got in the situation that we had some tired guys. We had to give ourselves an edge somewhere. We’re so lucky to have two goaltenders right now that are at the top of their game,” said Julien. “Right now it’s important for me to try and handle it in a way where both of them maintain that standard of goaltending.
“They both deserve to play, but we all know goaltenders like to play as much as they can, and right now they’re both responding. Not only that, I think they’re both very supportive of each other, and that’s something that’s important.”
The Last Shall Become First
The fourth line of Stephane Yelle, Shawn Thornton and Petteri Nokelainen had been lauded from here to Moncton over the first six weeks of the season for the energy and sandpaper-style they brought to the B’s fold, but the addition of a healthy Chuck Kobasew — and the subtraction of the hard-working Nokelainen — has admittedly brought some added offensive punch to the trio.
During Wednesday night’s 2-1 win over Chicago the “energy line” was kept off the ice for long stretches of a penalty-filled game and Kobasew (9:34), Yelle (13:43 largely due to his duties on the PK unit) and Shawn Thornton (3:32) all played short minutes. In a strange way the idle moments at the United Center might have helped the trio find their legs quickly last night against the hated Habs,and given them some jump that started up the B’s attack.
The fourth line grinders popped in the first two goals of the game and set the Black and Gold off and running in what became a Boston hockey celebration with 16,816 invites to the TD Banknorth Garden. The first was a great hustle play by the usually rough-and-tumble Thornton as he busted right through Mike Komisarek and Mathieu Dandenault, stole the puck from the half-hearted Canadiens duo and then rifled a five-hole backhand bid through the pads of Montreal wunderkind goalie Carey Price.
Yelle followed with a pure hustle goal and popped in a loose puck rebound in front of Price’s net with three minutes to go in the period, and all of a sudden a snake-bitten line was lugging both energy and points to the table. The fourth line outburst is all the more impressive as it — on most nights — gives Claude Julien and Co. four different lines that can strike offensively and clearly raises the team’s overall offensive potential this season. The Law Firm of Thornton, Yelle and Kobasew collected a whopping seven total points on the night.
“Did you see [Yelle] look me off on that 2-on-1…he’s lucky he scored right there I tell ya,” said a tongue in cheek Thornton after the game. “He’s looking awfully dangerous out there, and we’re getting along really well on and off the ice. Chucky too. He’s easy to play with because he’s always in the right spot and half the I don’t have to look because I just know he’s going to be there. He’s been a treat, and Chucky has been on the second line on just about every team that he’s played. He works so hard and he’s such a skilled guy. I think it’s been a while coming for us, and we’ve been working, working, and working and it finally paid off for us.”
Hey I’m just a simple Irish guy living in the city of Boston,” said Thornton, who is in possession of more offensive skill than traditionally given credit for given his usual role as Bruins’ enforcer. “I think the fact that all 20 guys are going hard and we didn’t have any passengers tonight — and we haven’t had any in a while — and that’s the way we have to be successful.”
The Looch finds his first victim
Bruins left wing Milan Lucic was again an emotional and physical catalyst for the Bruins, and gave everyone another Neely-esque taste of the tone-setting, skilled hockey player he continues to develop into. Looch may not be Cam redux, but he’s as close as the Bruins Nation could possibly hope for in the sanitized era of the NHL.
Canadiens captain Saku Koivu finally put the Habs on the scoreboard with 6:26 to go in the second period and took back a bit of momentum, but the Looch seized it right back in the third.
During a 5-on-5 faceoff in the Canadiens zone, Phil Kessel popped a faceoff draw directly onto the stick of charging Lucic gone mad, and the brawling 20-year-old drilled a wrist shot past an unsuspecting Price to make it a 5-1 hockey game. The score marked his fifth goal of the season, and later in the period — with the game well in hand — Lucic finally dropped the gloves with longtime nemesis Mike Komisarek. It had been a long time coming for both combatants as they’ve doled out plenty of face-washes and tough talk to each other in the recent past, but the two had never actually engaged in “The Dance.”
Komisarek is probably still wishing that he hadn’t.
The Looch went Berserker-style on the Habs defenseman and hit him with a series of vicious rights before one final roundhouse punch dropped Komisarek to the ground, and a victorious Lucic raised his hand and started excitedly screaming to anyone and everyone in attendance. He then stopped and smacked on the boards by the penalty box before entering the sin bin, and then left midway through to get a bevy of cuts on his right knuckles treated before returning to the game.
“We could have made excuses coming into tonight’s game after coming in late last night, but we felt like we had a good jump to our step,” said Lucic. “We knew the importance of tonight’s game. It felt like before the game we were more calm and cool and we weren’t overexcited like we’ve been sometimes in the past.”
And as far as his first bout of the 2008-09 season?
“We’ve had our battles in the past, and it was just a matter of time before something like that happened,” added Lucic. “First off the fans have been great for the first part of the season, and they’ve really helped us be a tougher team to play against in the Garden. [The fans] appreciating that physical play is just guys from the past that created that identity of the Bruins. It’s lucky for me that I just fit into that.”
Stops and Starts
Defenseman Andrew Ference has arguably been Boston’s best blueliner this season for the first 15 games, but he went down at the end of the second period when he took an Andre Markov shot off the foot. Ference gamely stayed on the ice to help kill of a Canadiens power play after dragging himself from the ice in obvious pain, but he didn’t return for the third period.
Bruins coach Claude Julien was tight-lipped about Ference’s status following the game.
“He’s fine. He’s being evaluated,” said Julien. Honestly, we’ll probably have a little more on his situation tomorrow. Nothing’s clear right now and hopefully it’s just something minor.”
Lucic had a priceless response after he informed reporters that he’d had a negative X-ray on his right hand to make sure it wasn’t broken after he used Mike Komisarek as a punching bag.
“There’s so many broken bones in there from before that you can’t really tell,” said Lucic of his oft-battered right hand.
|Ward’s interview with Dale and Holley||11.12.08 at 3:38 pm ET|
Hey, all you hockey pucks as my old middle school math teacher [and Hall of Fame High School hockey coach] Mr. Burns used to call us…Here’s the full transcript from the Aaron Ward interview during this afternoon’s Dale and Holley Program on WEEI. As usual, Ward seems to be polishing up his oratory skills for a long and lucrative post-career run in hockey broadcasting that seems to be his destiny once the 34-year-old hangs ‘em up.
I think there’s one line in the conversation that was classic “Aaron Ward” and it’s something that he managed to slip right in there without the need for anybody to stop and take notice. Just a really quick dry delivery of a throw-away line that used Claude Julien’s follicles as the unwitting foil for Ward’s rapier wit.
See if you can find it in among the Q and A, and then wonder if Julien plans on recreating the Herb Brooks scene from Miracle with the mischevous Ward during the next B’s practice. Here’s one of my favorite scenes in a sports movie followed by the Ward interview:
I was going to thank you anyway, but we got an email that said: “Guys, from a military family please thank Aaron Ward for his donation to veterans during Saturday night’s game. I went with my veteran brother and it was a special night. The Bruins and Aaron Ward did a great job.” You put your money where your mouth is and a lot of people appreciate it. AW: Oh, thank you very much. I make the US my home in the summers and just through my experiences with my wife — and I said it in the papers the other day — I think the most underpaid and underappreciated jobs in this world are the teachers and the military. Any time I can help I am glad to do it.
Where did you get the idea to do it? If there’s a story behind the story please tell us what it is. AW: Well, it’s a two-pronged story. Over the summer I thought about doing something like this, especially after signing the contract. I think you waste an opportunity as an athlete if you don’t have some kind of effect on the community. I think that was one of the things that was instilled in us at the University of Michigan and when I signed my contract I contacted [Bruins Media Relations Director] Matt Chmura about wanting to do something.
Whether it was a a suite and we bring in an active duty military family for each game or recognizing them because it’s for their family as well. When we go on the road for six days my kids are miserable, so I can’t even imagine being deployed for a whole year. And the effect it has on your family and the struggle it puts your family in. I was in Vancouver on the last road trip and I had seen a CNN piece on the deployment of an infantry unit from Taunton, Mass. There was a little boy during the drills when they stand up — and they’re obviously getting ready to go — and a little boy held onto his dad’s leg for an hour straight and they just kind of let it happen even though it was outside of normal military standards.
So I called Matt right after that and said that we’ve got to do something, and ironically enough he said it was military night [last] Saturday. It’s only money. That’s the funny thing you come away with at the end of it is that it’s only money. But it obviously had an effect and gave some people an opportunity to put their interests and their problems aside and give them a good hockey game.
This team is a point behind first place. What have the keys to your success been so far? AW:I think unity. We got off on a road trip in Colorado and played all right in Colorado and not great in Minnesota. Even though we’re a pretty young team I think we figured out early that we had to right the ship. And we played pretty cohesive. It’s one of the things you figure out right now is that when things are going well — and you start to be analytical about the state of your team — one of the things that’s occurred is that winning has just happened.
It’s just one of those things where you go into games where you’re thinking about what they’re going to do or you’re hoping for two points. You go in, you play the game and inevitably the results end up working out in your favor. That’s the kind of state that we’re in right now. We’re a good team. We know we’re very good. It’s not going to be perfect every night, but the fact that you overcome some of the hiccups and maintain some consistency…then things start working out in your favor.
In talking about the Bruins before the season started, I thought one of the big things is that there wouldn’t be a lot of talk about learning the system or figuring each other out. You went through it last year. Has that been a bonus this year? AW:Yeah, I think we only had a couple of guys that we had to assimilate into the system this year. Stephane Yelle, who is obviously a veteran player and a smart player that can pick it up. But it becomes second nature and when you’re all playing on the same page it’s very obvious.
You talked a little bit about the rebirth of Chicago. We watched some video and it seems like the same thing is happening with them where they’re all on the same page whether it’s line one or line four. They’re all contributing and all playing the same system. It’s easy to plug guys in and pull guys out. I’m sure it causes coaches to lose their hair when they have to keep reminding and going back to fix things. Maybe that might explain Claude’s hairline right now [because of] his past teams, but hopefully we can help him right now.
One of the things that has stuck out to me has been that the defense has been more involved this season. Is that just circumstance or has Claude loosened the reigns a little bit with the defenseman? AW:I don’t think he’s loosened the reigns, but he’s basically mandated that the defenseman have to get up in the play. So it’s a two-pronged philosophy there. You’re going to add to the offense or you’re going to cut down on the gaps between their forwards which is going to make it more of a pressure situation where you don’t give those players all that time and all room to maneuver and be creative. When you take time away from good players then it adds time for you affect the overall game.
You talked about jumping in offensively, but one of the things that I think has happened is that we’ve maintained our patience defensively and it opens up opportunities. You see [Dennis] Wideman going out and getting on the scoreboard, and we’re getting more contributions from out defenseman because we’re taking care of our responsibilities and everything is just flowing.
I know pro hockey players don’t like to talk about moral victories, but what did the loss to Montreal in the playoffs do for your team — if anything? AW:I think it quickly matured our team. You can’t discount the fact that we even had some veteran guys that have never gone through the playoffs. When you go through a pressure situation — especially if you through a series that’s gone seven games — you realize you can get a perspective on things where during the regular season there really isn’t all that much in terms of pressure.
You go out and play the games because you have the skill and you’re there for a reason, but you don’t think so much about the game and you don’t put too much into it. To get a guy like Looch, Kessel and Krejci and you get a chance to see what it’s like to be in the NHL playoffs…I think it’s priceless. So I think we’ve added that into our game where we can find a level of emotion or excitement and it’s self generated. We don’t feel as though we have to go around the rink and look in the stands, but hopefully derive some sort of motivation from that.
The NHL has become such a special teams league — maybe too much of a special teams league in my opinion — and the power play has been pretty good, but the penalty kill has been nowhere near good enough. What has to change there? AW: Well actually if you look at the stats — and unfortunately we can’t do this and it’s not available to us — but if we could forget the first two to three weeks of our penalty kill and you could just look at what we’re doing now, there’s been a philosophical change in our penalty kill.
We had played so tight on the penalty kill, and it was positionally sound but it just wasn’t working for us. So we made a philosophical change that the moment there’s a hiccup, or a turnover or a bobbling of the puck and one guy goes, then the other three guys go. So we are now providing more pressure and I think you can see our penalty kill starting to climb. I’d like to say that it’s obviously not good enough because I think the last time I looked we were 26th in the league, but we had been 30th. So you’ve got to look at the progress and hope the philosophical change has righted the ship at this point.
With the new rules in hockey you heard a lot about the rules making it hard to compete for defenseman, but you never hear about it anymore. Is it that the defenseman are tired of talking about it, or it that you’ve just adjusted to it? AW:I think it’s both. We’ve both evolved and adapted and it’s a war of attrition where those that haven’t kept up have fallen by the wayside. The defenseman we’re talking about were not really mobile and were usually filling the role of a tough guy position, and now it’s opened up to a skill position.
There is still that element of fear where as a defensman you could have a guy like Looch on your back and you saw it against Buffalo in the last game where [Tony] Lydman — rather than dealing with maybe a separated shoulder or a concussion from a hit he was going to throw — he just opted to go to the front of the net. Now I wouldn’t advise that for a defenseman from a morale standpoint on your team, but you see that players are adapting and figuring it out. And rule changes have also helped. On the touch icing there’s a penalty now if you’re going in without responsibility and trying to kill a defenseman because you know he’s going to be vulnerable going for the puck.
The game has evolved and the players have evolved and adapted sufficiently to make the game a better game.
You alluded earlier to fan support and what it means. When the stands are full at the Garden and the place is jumping, what does it mean for you guys? AW: You go back to the word priceless. We used to joke in the first two years when I got here that the fans dressed up as stadium seats because there were so many empties. But when you walk out for the first period and the National Anthem and you see it full, it’s an intimidating force. I know as an opponent when I go into other buildings — and I’ll use the example of Montreal — they’re irate. The fans are crazy and they get into the game and get behind their team 100 percent and it just provides an added boost.
In Boston as an athlete — and you want to talk about egos — it’s not that you want to matter as an athlete but you want your team matter. You want your team to matter to the city. It’s a big boost to know that when you get there that people are talking about you, people are there to support you and people are behind you 100 percent.
|Versteeg is the one that got away||11.11.08 at 1:48 pm ET|
Sometimes the deals that stand out like a blinking neon marquee in the minds of NHL executives across the NHL landscape are the ones that simply got away from them. A potentially successful deal that was passed over due to prohibitive cost or concerns about how much an older player still has in his career tank, or frittering away a young asset on the verge of development into a bone fide NHL maker of plays.
Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli has stayed the course with the vast majority of young players that are now flourishing within a rising Boston Bruins organization, but Chicago Blackhawks right wing Kris Versteeg easily qualifies as “the one that got away” for a B’s GM that’s been coming up aces lately. The 22-year-old Versteeg was the Bruins prospect sacrificed in a forgettable deal — along with a draft pick — for minor league journeyman Brandon Bochenski, who totalled 11 goals and 17 assists in 51 games over two seasons for the Bruins before plummeting off the Black and Gold landscape. At the time of the trade, Versteeg — a B’s fifth round pick in the 2004 draft — had 22 goals and 27 assists in 41 games for the Baby B’s and was another in a long and winding line of bright light B’s talent that’s now filling up the roster in the Hub.
Ultimatelly Bochenski was spun off to the Anaheim Ducks for “Sheriff” Shane Hnidy and a sixth round draft pick last season, so currently Hnidy stands as the only remaining remnant from a trade that netted the Blackhawks one of the top rookies in the NHL this season.
Bochenski appears more and more like a career AHL player with each passing period while Versteeg enters Thursday night’s game among the NHL rookie scoring leaders with 3 goals and 9 assists through Chicago’s first 13 games — a stretch that’s also seen him earn PK minutes and impress the Chicago coaching staff with all-around game.
“Kris has got a ton of skill and its always been National Hockey League level,” said Blackhawks assistant coach Mike Haviland between periods of Sunday night’s Blackhawks/Flames telecast. “The other parts of the game I really had to get through to him…turning pucks over and when not to turn pucks. He’s playing with some real skill guys and he’s a skill guy. He’s getting a chance to show what he can and he’s a competitive kid. I think he’s really matured on and off the ice.”
Former P-Bruins teammates Mark Stuart and David Krejci each remember Versteeg as a crafty, slick offensive playmaker that was among the youngest players in the AHL during his time in Providence, and he’s only grown more dangerous since getting paired with fellow “Young Guns” skaters Pat Kane and Jonathan Toews in Chicago.
“He’s a good player and when I heard that he had a chance to play with Kane and Toews I knew he was going to make it,” said Krejci, who lit up the P-Bruins scoreboard in 2006-07 when they both skated on the same line together. “We had a good time. On the ice and off the ice he was a good guy. We played most of the year together. He was actually kind of like me as a player: he can handle the puck and he was patient with it to make plays, and he could shoot it. He’s good.
“I guess it was good for him to be able to go out to Chicago and make the team,” added Versteeg.
Stuart qualifies as a willingly physical member of a B’s blueline corps that will be under a good deal of heavy pressure from a young, skilled Chicago attack. Its expected Stuart and Co. will up the physical ante against the young ‘Hawks to slow down the skating speedsters racing up and down the United Center ice before a packed house.
“I’ve heard he’s doing pretty well,” said Stuart. “But I’m not very surprised at what he’s doing. He’s a really young guy and he’s skilled enough to play with anybody. They definitely have the talent there for him to play with some highly skilled guys.
“He’s able to find guys [out on the ice], he’s got really good hands and is good with the puck and he’s also very shifty,” added Stuart. “He’s good around the net too, so we’ll try to slow him down a little bit and shut him down. Off the ice he’s a nice kid. He was a young kid [during his time in Providence] and he still is…really fun to be around too.”
Apparently he’s also got a devastating singing voice somewhere between Fergie and Jesus…an ear-piercing gift that his teammates in Chicago recently discovered. Here’s the damning video evidence:
–Shane Hnidy skated at practice on Tuesday morning for the first time since suffering a lower body injury against the Dallas Stars 10 days ago, but head coach Claude Julien cautioned that the veteran D-man likely wouldn’t return to the lineup until Thursday night’s much-anticipated home tilt with the Canadiens.
“I don’t think I’m going to dress him [Wednesday night] because it’s been a while, but is he a possibility for Thursday? Yeah,” said Julien.
Speaking of the Habs, Thursday night’s game against the Canadiens at the Garden represents the first of three different Habs/Bruins matchups this season taking place in the second game of back-to-back efforts for the B’s. Thursday night at the Garden is the first, a Nov. 22 Saturday night game at the Bell Centre after a Friday night game against the Florida Panthers is the second and a Feb. 1 Sunday matinee in Montreal following a Saturday afternoon game against the Rangers pulls off the scheduling hat trick.
For the consiracy theorists out there, the first two aforementioned games between the two Northeast Division rivals also allows the Habs to enjoy a full day off against a potentially weary B’s team fighting through back-to-back games.
Julien apparently doesn’t believe in the grassy knoll or Area 51, and definitely doesn’t believe that “The Truth is Out There.”
“I guess unfortunately we don’t have much control over the schedule and it’s ironic that its always [Montreal] waiting for us at home, but so be it,” said Julien. “I think the best way to handle it is to have all 19 of your guys going and being able to stretch your bench as much as you can to get the results you want. Then try to get home as quick as possible and get your rest for the following night.”
|Julien leaning toward playing Kobasew||11.07.08 at 1:58 pm ET|
Bruins head coach Claude Julien indicated after Friday morning’s practice that he’s “leaning toward” inserting winger Chuck Kobasew back into the Black and Gold’s lineup on Saturday. The B’s are set to host the Buffalo Sabres Saturday night and will be looking to capture their third straight victory on home ice this season.
Kobasew has been skating with the team for the better part of two weeks, and said he’s passed every medical clearance hurdle before deeming himself ready to return to the ice. The former Boston College forward scored 22 goals and 17 assists in 73 games for the B’s last season and had formed with David Krejci and Blake Wheeler to create an extremely effective line during the preseason finale and opening night against the Colorado Avalanche.
“We’ve given the fourth line a lot of credit for being the type of line that they are and giving us the energy that we need ‘ but David Krejci’s line, whoever he played with,” said Julien. “[Blake] Wheeler and [Chuck] Kobasew that first game and even the last exhibition game…that line was dominant.”
Kobasew said he was “anxious” to get back on the ice and that he’d passed every hurdle in testing the full health of his right ankle. The additional practice he’s received this week has also allowed the the 6-foot, 193-pound mixture of skill and scrap to lock in his timing on the ice, and attempt to make a seamless transition back from the injured reserve list.
“I feel fine now and the last couple of days have been good,” said Kobasew. “They gave me a little extra time to practice with the guys and I’m feeling good. I’ve been skating for almost two weeks now. Now I’m just anxious to get out there and play.
“We’ll see what they want to do and go from there,” added Kobasew. “You want to play no matter what…even in the first couple of days after I got hurt. Now it’s nice to be out there skating with the guys and getting back into it. I’m looking forward to playing.”
It’s doubtful that Blake Wheeler — hot off the heels of a hat trick against the Toronto Maple Leafs — will be removed from the top four lines, which would leave Petteri Nokelainen as the most logical player to be a healthy scratch if/when Kobasew makes his return Saturday night. It’s possible that a late injury could remove somebody else from the mix, but Julien said in some ways it’s a pleasant dilemma in making such difficult roster decisions.
“It’s a tough decision, but it’s a great position to be in,” said Julien. “I don’t like making those decisions because it’s not a lot of fun, but it’s a lot better than putting guys in that don’t necessarily deserve to be in the lineup. I’d rather be in this position than the other one.”
–Julien gave B’s center Patrice Bergeron the day off on Friday — an admission by the coach that his young center has been pushing hard since the first day of training camp in his recovery from last season’s nasty concussion. No injury or problems, just a simple day away from the frozen office.
–Good story by Puck Daddy at Yahoo! about success stories and failed attempts by athletes to change their uniform numbers a la Blake Wheeler last night.
|Sobotka sent to Providence||11.04.08 at 1:26 pm ET|
Matt Hunwick and Vladimir Sobotka have both been piling up the DNP-CD’s for Bruins coach Claude Julien as this year’s version of the Black and Gold begins to take shape, and the B’s made a move this afternoon in clear recognition of that.
Boston Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli announced today that the club has assigned forward Vladimir Sobotka to the Providence Bruins (AHL). Since being recalled to Boston on October 14, Sobotka has appeared in five games with the Bruins during the 2008-2009 season and has been a healthy scratch in the last four.
The move seems a likely precursor to a return by skilled, scrappy winger Chuck Kobasew to the Bruins lineup on Thursday after missing nearly a month with a fractured right ankle. Kobasew went down during the Oct. 9 season opener when he took a slapshot off the right ankle, but has been skating with the team over a week in anticipation of a return.
Prior to being recalled, Sobotka posted 2-2=4 totals to go along with seven penalty minutes in two games with Providence. He also posted a “Gordie Howe Hat Trick” in an Oct. 12 game against Springfield, notching an overtime goal, an assist, and a fight. Sobotka split the 2007-2008 season between Boston and Providence.
With Boston, he saw action in 48 regular season games and contributed one goal and six assists and added two goals in six postseason games. With Providence last year, he had 10-10-20 totals in 18 regular season games and added four assists over six postseason games.
Sobotka was originally drafted by the Bruins in the 4th round, 106th overall, in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. The Boston Bruins return to action on Thursday, November 6 when they host the Toronto Maple Leafs at 7:00 p.m. ET. The P-Bruins play three games in three nights beginning Friday, November 7 when they host the Chicago Wolves, travel to Albany to face the River Rats on Saturday, November 8 and return home to play the Philadelphia Phantoms on Sunday, November 9.
“He’s going to go down to play a few games, and I think we need to give those guys an opportunity to keep developing,” said B’s coach Claude Julien. “Playing three games in three nights [in Providence] is going to help [Sobotka].”
The move to drop Sobotka’s $750,000 salary cap hit leaves the Bruins roughly $1.5 million under the salary cap.
|Sturm and scrums highlight rousing victory||11.01.08 at 5:37 pm ET|
Prior to last night’s 5-1 thrashing of the Stars, Bruins coach Claude Julien asked Marco Sturm to “be involved more” following Saturday morning’s pre-game skate.
Sturm and the rest of his teammates were all heavily involved in a thrilling fight-fest that moved me to ask if this was the return of the Big, Bad Bruins – or at least as close as they’ll ever get in the kinder, gentler version of the NHL.
The B’s winger didn’t waste any time obliging — and he did so without any need for Draconian punishments like a punitive benching or a red-faced tirades from his hockey coach.
Sturm ended a seven-game scoreless streak with a slapper from the left face-off circle just 2:41 into the first period off a nice behind-the-net dish from rookie Blake Wheeler. The score was Sturm’s second strike of the season and the amazing ninth time this season in 12 games that the Black and Gold have scratched first blood.
The assist on Sturm’s first goal was also the first helper of Wheeler’s NHL career to go along with the three goals he’s scored over the first dozen games. Sturm added a third period tally to give him the two-goal evening, and the move to pair Sturm with David Krejci appears to be paying immediate dividends all around.
“It was nice. He needed to react, and not just react but find his game,” said a satisfied Julien after the game. “I thought [Sturm] played better tonight and he was in the right spot, even on that last goal he was in the right place and he buried [his opportunities]. I thought he was a better player tonight.”
The B’s ended up taking the 5-1 decision over the Stars in a very chippy, conentious, entertaining Old Time Hockey-style game that featured Stars agitator Steve Ott twice refusing to drop both his stick and the gloves when Shawn Thornton and Shane Hnidy circled round looking for a fights — one after a hit aiming for Stephane Yelle’s leg that Lucic later termed “gutless”. Hnidy actually dropped his stick and his gloves to go with Ott, but the 6-foot, 193-pounder thought better of it each time and held his stick vertically to shield himself from his Black and Gold challenger.
Eventually Andrew Ference and Sean Avery dropped the gloves after the Bruins defenseman — who earned the Third Star in the win and continues his impressive early season play — leveled Ott with a clean open ice hit in the third period. That hit also turned out to be a big turning point in a game that was still squarely in the close category in the third period.
In the end, the combative game had 177 penalty minutes and seven misconducts and made many spectators wish these two teams played each other again during the regular season.
–The Bruins much-maligned penalty kill unit also looked better after six successful kills of Dallas PP’s throughout Saturday night’s game — a testament to the work they’ve put in to exert more pressure on the points while also just getting tougher aroun their own net.
Julien said before the game that the solution to the PK’s problems were pretty simple: “It’s just being proactive. The puck has to go all the way down [to the other end of the rink] and we’re soft on the puck when it comes time for scoring chances. These are the areas that I think will improve our penalty kill and will improve our goal production.”
For two periods Ott and Sean Avery attempted to draw penalties from annoyed Bruins skaters and their aggravating tactics actually allowed the Stars to gain some man advantage opportunities in the second period. But their agitating, sandpaper ways finally backfired on them and the rest of their Stars teammates in the third period. Avery leveled Milan Lucic from behind midway through the third in the final coup de grace of what been a pretty dirty production of hockey put on by both Avery and Ott all night — and all heck broke loose at that point.
Marc Savard came to the aid of the fallen Lucic and started pounding on Avery, and then both players worked over the Vogue intern while separate bouts involving Shane Hnidy and Mark Stuart took place. Savard, Lucic, Hnidy Mark Stuart, Ott, Avery, Matt Niskanen [how did a peace-loving Fin with zero penalty minutes headed into tonight get involved in all this?] were all done for the night when they each got 10-minute misconducts with less than nine minutes to play.
Apparently even some of Ott and Avery’s teammates had a serious problem with some of the underhanded things they were pulling out on the ice in the third period.
“Tonight it seemed to be idiotic,” said Stars elder statesman Mike Modano. “It’s stupid. It’s one of the more embarrassing things I have seen, on the ice and involved with the fans. In 20 years, I haven’t seen anything like it. If that’s what we’re going for, maybe I need to find myself an office job.”
The Stars were shaking their heads and dropping F-bombs in their locker room while the Bruins seemed a tighter, more resolute bunch after standing together and sticking up for each other.
“It was good to see everybody pile in their and come to my aid, but most importantly we got the win,” said Lucic. “In the end we all stuck up for each other and it’s only going to make us stronger going down the road. It was a good character game and a good character win for us. Savvy came in here after the game saying that he was a killer, but obviously it was nice what he went out there and did.
“Hnidy said to me as we were coming off the ice that it felt like a junior hockey scrum out there, so yeah it felt like Old Time Hockey,” added Lucic. “What we need to do is bottle this up and make sure we have some of it for Thursday [against the Leafs.]”
–Somewhat overlooked in a penalty-filled Saturday night flashback to the glorious days of the Big Bad Bruins was the work of goaltender Tim Thomas, who made 35 saves in the 5-1 victory and was again rock-solid between the pipes. The win was his fourth consecutive start for the Bruins and it would seem he has clearly wrapped up the starter’s role with the B’s. The All-Star goaltender mused that the sketchy Stars must have received the wrong scouting report on the Bruins when they attempted to pull the McFilthy and McNasty routine with penalty box buddies Ott and Avery.
“We’re a clean team, but we’re not going to let anybody push us around or play dirty with us,” said Thomas. “I think we did a good job of sticking up for ourselves and showing what kind of character we have. I don’t know what kind of scouting report they had on us, but I think they picked the wrong team to try to do that to.”
The B’s netminder actually thought he might get involved in the third period donnybrook when beleaguered Stars goalie Marty Turco skated out toward center ice following the Avery hit from behind on Lucic. Turco has had a terrible season thus far, and it could have been he was looking for the rare-but-always-entertaining goalie scrap. The Dallas goaltender stopped, however, once he saw Thomas make a move near the pile of skating pugilists.
“It’s actually some of the hardest games to play because you get your adrenaline going a little bit even though you try to stay as calm and even-keeled as you can be,” said Thomas. “When Fer [Andrew Ference] got hit and then stood up for himself I got a little excited, and it’s hard to finish out a game that way.
“I wasn’t going to let [Turco] into the pile. It looked to me like he was going to try to get into the pile, so that’s why I skated over to the other side of it,” added Thomas. “I think he’s the one that made the suggestion by coming to center ice, and I just responded by getting over to the other side of the pile and saying ‘I don’t think you’re going to go any further’ and he stayed there. I can’t remember a game like that for a long time…maybe the AHL. I haven’t experienced anything quite like that before.”
–Below I’ve included the transcript of Mike Modano’s comments provided by the crack Bruins media relations staff following Saturday night’s game. It seems that the longtime Dallas Stars forward was none too pleased with his team’s careless lack of discipline in a game that was still close in the third period.
DALLAS STARS FORWARD MIKE MODANO
On the team’s identity
Tonight it seemed to be idiotic. It’s stupid. It’s one of the more embarrassing things I have seen, on the ice and involved with the fans. In twenty years that I haven’t seen anything like it. If that’s what we’re going for maybe I need to find myself an office job.
On the physicality of the game’¦
Yeah, I mean it got out of hand, it was still a 2-1 game and then we find ourselves blowing it again, putting ourselves in trouble with dumb penalties and dumb situations. That’s kind of the trend it’s been all season.
On the cause of the frustration’¦
There isn’t any mental toughness, that’s kind of one of the big things. Everything we’re letting get to us. We’re letting the refs get involved in the game with us. We’re spending more energy on them than the details of winning the game. It’s another thing that’s been a bad part of our game.
On the goaltending performance of both Tobias Stephan and Marty Turco’¦
They’re doing about as best as you can ask for them, but the quality of chances are just like doorstep goals and outnumbered rushes again. You can put two goalies in there; those are still going to go in. You allow those quality type of chances, I don’t care who you have in net.
On trying to fix the team’¦
Well, I don’t know if you can put your finger on something. Moving the puck, I don’t know, practice skating, getting shots on the net, things like that. Defending is probably first and foremost. We come off a couple of hard practices and we have one of our best defensive games of the season against Minnesota. Back to the same old. Less is more sometimes. Just getting the puck out and then getting it in. Hopefully your forecheck can create something for you and go from there. To look to create, there aint nothing there.
|Looch seeing clearly now||10.25.08 at 8:39 pm ET|
Good times all-around for the Bruins following a 5-4 win over the Thrashers Saturday night at the TD Banknorth Garden before an announced crowd of 16,044 — a rowdy bunch that booed the B’s off the ice when they were down 2-0 following the first period and then easily tossed 50 hats on the ice following Milan Lucic’s game-winning third goal of the night with 1:41 to go in the third period.
It was the B’s first hat trick since Phil Kessel pulled it off early last season against the LA Kings on Oct. 12, 2007.
The big hero on the evening was the same punishing guy that utilized brute strength to shatter the glass around the boards while checking a Maple Leafs defenseman just two days earlier. This time the Looch used his strength and skill to camp out in front of the net and notch the first multiple goal game of his career, a performance that might have been aided by a recent decision to use contact lenses on the ice.
Lucic started using contacts while playing the Leafs on Thursday night — after just wearing glasses when he was watching TV at night for the last three years or so — and things have appropriately taken off for the hulking 6-foot-4, 220-pounder.
“This is my second game wearing contacts out there, so it’s a lot easier to see the puck when your vision is clear. [Wearing contacts] is like going from a regular, old TV to a High-Definition TV, so that’s the perspective that I have now,” said Lucic, who last collected le trick de chapeau (that’s only a strict Haggs French translation right there, so don’t go parading that little bon mot down St. Catherine Street. “[The hat trick] was nice, but one goal, two goals, no goals…it doesn’t matter to me as long as we get the win.”
B’s head coach Claude Julien says that he still sees Lucic squinting and wincing on the ice out of habit, but will take whatever aid is helping Looch perform out on the frozen sheet — while also pointing out that the good and fearless work habits exhibited by the brawny forward are a good example for the rest of the team. Lucic fights to keep his position in the offensive zone with ferocious intent, and brandishes a fearless willingness to brave into the violent areas of the ice where both goals are made and blood is spilled on occasion.
“Looch got rewarded tonight for being willing to [go to the front of the net] and paying the price. He’s got the physique to do it, and if he keeps doing it he’s going to keep scoring goals,” said Julien. “This is the Boston Bruins and it’s about heart and soul and working hard, and Looch is the perfect example of that. He won us a hockey game tonight with the game that he played and the identity that we’re talking about.”
–Just before face-off with Atlanta, the Bruins announced that the third period in tonight’s game would be split, with the teams switching ends at the first stoppage in play after the 10-minute mark of the period.
The change in format is occurred due to incorrect markings on the West End (visitors bench side) of the TD Banknorth Garden Ice. In the West End, the two face-off dots are 24 feet from the goal line – four feet longer than NHL specifications — a discrepancy that was first noticed by New Bedford Standard Times hockey reporter Mick Colageo. The corresponding face-off circles are also four feet further away from the goal line.
The Bruins and Thrashera began the third period in the same ends that they finished the second period. Following the first stoppage after the 10-minute mark of the third period, the teams switched ends, and the face-off took place on the opposite side of where play ended.
The current sheet of ice was installed on September 9, 2008, and the error was not noticed by the Bruins until this morning. Due to the error, the NHL mandated the changes to tonight’s game format.
‘Of the many logistical tasks the Garden operations team is called upon to perform each season, painting and marking the ice sheet is one of the more routine and straight-forward. Therefore, this oversight is simply an inexcusable and disappointing error for which we apologize to the Boston Bruins and the NHL at-large,’ said TD Banknorth Garden President John Wentzell.
–Aside from the Lucic on-ice heroics, the game also featured a Julien-fueled tongue-lashing between the first and the second period when the B’s found themselves down by two goals while playing a pretty uninspired brand of hockey.
Let’s let Julien tell the story:
“To put it mildly [the effort] was unacceptable by individuals and as a group. Right now I think it’s pretty obvious that we’ve got a lot of our good players that aren’t at the top of their games. We can stand here and pretend and sugarcoat it. But maybe it’s encouraging because it means that we can be that much better when everybody finds their games and starts playing the way they can.”
–One thing to look for going forward is increased ice time and responsibility — and a bump up to the first unit — for the former second power play unit of David Krejci, Milan Lucic, Dennis Wideman, Andrew Ference and Phil Kessel.
That quintet provided a pair of power play strikes in Saturday night’s win and have been dangerous with the man advantage while mixing responsible play with Lucic’s toughness, Kessel’s sniper-like abilities and Krejci’s playmaking skills with the puck. The second-teamers were the first one’s out on the man advantage a handful of times on Saturday night, and that may be the case in the B’s foreseeable future — per the orders of their coach.
“They’ve been going first because they’ve been our best power play [unit],” said Julien. “They’re the ones that have given us the most goals, and — hey — why not have a little competition between the two power play [teams]? If you want to be first, then go out there and earn it.”
“It’s important right now that players don’t take it as a position of status and think they’re automatically going to get that ice time,” said Julien. “[The second power play unit]” has earned the right to start as we speak.”
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