|A hockey life: Older, wiser Jaromir Jagr continues to live his dream||05.28.13 at 11:15 am ET|
Hours after the Bruins’ 5-2 victory over the Rangers last Sunday, the TD Garden sat still and empty.
The boisterous crowd had long since departed after Boston took care of business, holding serve on home ice, supplying the team with a 2-0 series lead in its Stanley Cup playoff conference semifinal series. The players and coaches trickled steadily out of the building, the janitorial crew had finished cleaning. Hours after the final whistle, Jaromir Jagr returned, alone, to the ice.
‘Hockey is who he is,’ said Mark Recchi, Jagr’s former Penguins teammate. Last seen in a Bruins sweater hoisting the Stanley Cup, Recchi now is a hockey operations advisor with the Stars, the team that dealt Jagr to the Bruins. ‘That’s his life. He’s passionate about it, he works hard at it, and he still wants to be a great player. He does whatever it takes to stay at that level.’
In front of 17,565 empty golden seats, the 41-year-old Jagr skated. Using every inch of his 6-foot-3, 240 pound frame, the forward from Kladno pushed himself, feeling the burn in his thickly muscled thighs. Living over 3,900 miles from his family in the Czech Republic, Jagr needed to be back on the ice, back home. The man with such phenomenal balance on skates then skated some more.
‘This is playoffs,’ reminded Jagr. ‘Any player will find out. It doesn’t matter if you’re on the first, second line or third. It’s tight checking. It’s harder to score.’
Jagr began his NHL career with the Penguins but now is looking to end Pittsburgh’s season. His playoff resume includes 78 playoff goals, though none have come recently. Amidst the longest scoring drought of his career, Jagr has not scored in 21 consecutive playoff games (his last playoff goal came against the Penguins in 2012). Though he has accumulated 193 playoff points over the course of his career, Jagr has registered just four points in 12 games during the Bruins’ 2013 postseason run.
‘It’s harder to score for me, and it’s harder to score for anybody else,” he said. “Unless you the best player in the world.’
Jagr would know better than most, considering, once upon a time, he was the best in the world.
Just like Jagr can’t fathom the idea of leaving the rink after a game (he is on record stating his desire for the NHL to begin playing doubleheaders), the concept of life without hockey is far removed from his mind. The offensive dervish entered the National Hockey League at the age of 18. Since then, every imaginable part of his life — and the world — has changed. His identity as a hockey player has evolved over the past 23 years, but his profession remains unchanged. Jaromir Jagr, all these years later, is still a hockey player.
‘I don’t think he’ll ever change,’ said Craig Patrick, general manager of the Penguins from 1989-2006. ‘He was built this way.’
|Ed Olczyk on M&M: Jaromir Jagr ‘always looking for that edge’||05.21.13 at 6:30 pm ET|
Editor’s note: In an earlier version of this story, Olczyk was quoted as guaranteeing a Bruins series victory, but the quote was mistakenly taken out of context.
NBC Sports hockey analyst Ed Olczyk joined Mut & Merloni on Tuesday, prior to Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinal series between the Bruins and Rangers.
Olczyk, who played for six NHL clubs during his 16-year career that ended in the 1999-2000 season and coached the Penguins for a season and a half (2003-04 and part of ’04-05), has a personal connection to Bruins defenseman Matt Bartkowski, as he coached the Pittsburgh native when Bartkowski was a youngster.
“I just knew that he had the natural ability. It was just whether or not he would take advantage of the opportunities that were presented,” Olczyk said. “I couldn’t be happier for Bart. He’s a terrific young guy. I don’t think he’s really hit his full complement of his ability. He’s only played maybe 20 games in the NHL, whatever the number is. He’s getting a great taste of what it is to be a pro. I think he’s handled the situation very well.
“He has that great ability to skate you out of trouble. He’s poised with the puck. And I think there’s still an opportunity for him to continue to push the pace. And there’s something [to be said] for that, to have a guy back there that can be strong but also can skate you out of trouble. The game isn’t just about off the glass, get in to the neutral zone. Sometimes that’s the only play for a defenseman, sometimes that’s the best play. But for me, I think he’s got a lot of upside. I couldn’t be happier for him and his family. He’s playing obviously in one of the greats sports towns in the world, and playing for a great organization, for the Boston Bruins.
“He’s stepped in here very well, and it looks like he’s a seasoned veteran from watching him play. Is he going to make mistakes? Absolutely, those are going to happen. But when you put in [Torey] Krug, and you have [Dougie] Hamilton there, and you have the leadership of a guy like Zdeno Chara on the back end, I think it really makes those guys feel really comfortable.
“I’m not surprised, particularly with Matt Bartkowski, because I know him very well, but when you do put three young guys in there with not a lot of experience in the second round of the playoffs, more times than not you’re going to have a little bit more trouble, but the Bruins have been able to overcome that. And these guys and the organization could much better off because these guys have gotten this opportunity. ‘¦ There is something [to be said] for experience, but the experience these guys are getting right now is just so valuable, not only for tomorrow or today, but for down the road.”
|Matt Bartkowski on M&M: ‘It’s a great opportunity’||05.17.13 at 1:59 pm ET|
Bruins defenseman Matt Bartkowski, during an appearance on the Mut & Merloni show Friday, talked about jumping into the Bruins lineup and contributing to the team’s postseason success.
Bartkowski, 24, was called up from AHL Providence last week following injuries on the Boston blue line and has appeared in three playoff games since.
“It’s a great opportunity,” Bartkowski said. “It’s what you dream of as a player, being able to step in in the playoffs and hopefully perform and then help the team win. It’s what you want to show everybody in the hockey world and the organization that you can do. It’s just a great opportunity for me.”
Bartkowski played almost 27 minutes in Thursday night’s Game 1 win over the Rangers, as he and fellow call-up Torey Krug were forced into a regular role due to injuries to Dennis Seidenberg, Andrew Ference and Wade Redden.
“Before the game the coaches talked to us and said we’re going to be playing a lot of minutes,” he said. “I knew I’d be playing with Johnny [Boychuk] against the [Ryan] Callahan line. So I figured I’d be playing quite a bit.”
In Game 7 against the Maple Leafs on Monday night, Bartkowski opened the scoring with a first-period goal. He said that helped him mentally, although he never felt out of place.
“I felt pretty in control. The more I played, the more comfortable I got,” he said. “Being able to score that goal pretty early kind of settled me down. It just gave me an opportunity to play my game.”
Bartkowski grew up outside Pittsburgh as a fan of the Penguins when Jaromir Jagr was in his prime in the 1990s. Now the two are teammates in Boston.
“I remember growing up watching him play,” Bartkowski said. “Then, I don’t know what year it was , but him going away from the Pens and it was like this heartbreak for the city. I just every year remember watching him do something different every game. It was pretty amazing. And now being able to play with him, it’s pretty cool.”
|Now that he’s actually in Boston, Matt Bartkowski ready to contribute||05.10.13 at 1:40 pm ET|
Matt Bartkowski knew there was a possibility he’d be able to join the Bruins during the playoffs at some point, but he was a little confused when he was first rumored to get the call.
When Andrew Ference was suspended for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Maple Leafs, Claude Julien told reporters the day of that game that Bartkowski was a possibility to replace him in Boston’s lineup.
There was just one issue, though. Bartkowski wasn’t on the team. He hadn’t been called up and he was in Hershey with the Providence Bruins for their playoff series, yet reporters unaware of the situation went with it and wrote that Bartkowski might be in Saturday’s game.
“A couple of guys on the team told me that, and I was just kind of wondering, like ‘Well, I’m sitting here in Hershey. Can I just jump on a horse and ride over?'” Bartkowski recalled Friday with a laugh. “It was kind of funny.”
Indeed, no arrangements were made to zip Bartkowski to Boston, and he stayed with Providence through their first-round series win over Hershey. He was preparing for the second round against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton when the Bruins recalled him Thursday night. With Wade Redden ruled out for Game 5 of the Bruins’ series against the Leafs, Bartkowski is likely to step into the lineup.
While fans may clamor for Dougie Hamilton‘s services rather than Bartkowski’s, Bartkowski is the better fit because the B’s need to replace a left-side defenseman in Redden, and Bartkowski is a lefty. When the Bruins put Hamilton, a righty, in place of the left-shooting Ference in Game 2, they had to break up their top pairing of Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg in order to move Seidenberg to the left side. Not only was that a lot of work, but they lost the game due to shaky defensive play. With Bartkowski, the B’s can just slide him onto the third pairing in place of Redden, just as they did in Friday’s morning skate by pairing the 24-year-old with Adam McQuaid.
Bartkowski was sent down late in the season because the Bruins had extra defensemen but couldn’t send Aaron Johnson down to Providence without him having to clear waivers. Given that, they sent Bartkowski down to get more game experience, and he picked up five points (all assists) in the five-game series against Hershey.
His play at both the AHL and NHL levels has Bartkowski feeling more confident this season than in past campaigns. He admitted earlier in the season that he was too afraid of making mistakes in his Boston stints the last two seasons (nine total games), but that this season and his first professional playoff experience has prepared him for this challenge.
“Now I know how to play and I know I can play my game at this level,” Bartkowsi said. “Then playing playoff hockey down there — because all in all, it’s the same, playoff hockey, anywhere. It’s just different speed, size and pace.”
|Wade Redden out for Game 5||at 10:54 am ET|
Wade Redden will not Game 5 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Maple Leafs, Claude Julien said after Redden missed Friday’s morning skate. Julien said that Redden is day-to-day with an undisclosed injury.
With Redden missing, Matt Bartkowski skated with Adam McQuaid on the Bruins’ third pairing. Julien said that the team will decide between Bartkowski and Dougie Hamilton when determining who will jump into the lineup in place of Redden, but reading between the lines, the team’s defensive issues when putting a right-shot D (Hamilton) in for a left-shot D (the suspended Andrew Ference) and the trickle-down effect of having to reshuffle the defensive pairings should make Bartkowski, a lefty, the front-runner.
With Ference suspended in the second game of the series, putting Hamilton in meant breaking up the Zdeno Chara-Dennis Seidenberg pairing so Seidenberg could replace Ference on the left side. The results were very shaky, with Seidenberg on the ice for three of the Maple Leafs’ four goals. Inserting Bartkowski in on the third pairing means that just the third pairing is changed rather than all three.
Redden did not appear to suffer an injury in Game 4, taking regular shifts until the end of the game. His last shift ended 10:17 into overtime.
For more on the Bruins, visit weei.com/bruins.
|B’s recall Matt Bartkowski from Providence||05.09.13 at 9:05 pm ET|
The Bruins announced Thursday that they have recalled defenseman Matt Bartkowski from AHL Providence.
Bartkowski, 24, played in 11 regular-season games for the Bruins this season, recording two assists and averaging 13:29 of ice time.
He played 56 games for the P-Bruins, recording three goals and 21 assists with 56 penalty minutes. He had five assists in Providence’s five-game opening-round Calder Cup playoff series against the Hershey Bears. Providence advanced and will open a second-round series against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Friday night at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.
Boston hosts the Maple Leafs in Game 5 on Friday night, looking to close out the first-round series.
For more Bruins news, visit the team page at weei.com/bruins.
|Bruins return Torey Krug to Providence||03.29.13 at 7:36 pm ET|
The Bruins returned defenseman Torey Krug to Providence Friday, two days after recalling the 21-year-old from their AHL affiliate.
Krug was recalled on Wednesday after the Bruins and Flames agreed to the since-derailed Jarome Iginla trade. Krug played Wednesday night against the Canadiens in place of Matt Bartkowski, who was scratched because of his inclusion in the trade. The Michigan State product picked up an assist in the loss to the Habs.
Krug has two assists in three career NHL games since being signed out of college last season. He has 10 goals and 24 assists for 34 points and a minus-6 rating in 55 games for Providence this season.
For more on the Bruins, visit weei.com/bruins.
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