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Shootin’ at the shootout 10.23.08 at 2:34 pm ET
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Since we’ve been discussing the shootouts so much, here’s last season’s shooting percentages and success rate for each of the Bruins players heading into tonight’s match-up with the Maple Leafs — if it should get to that point.

As an aside, there’s a strong Pucks with Haggs vote to put another team in the Toronto-area — as the reports have stated — to go along with the Maple Leafs. Hamilton would be perfect place and was the desired target if the Nashville Predators ended up moving, but any team that returns back into the motherland of Canada is a good thing for hockey and the NHL. Winnipeg and Quebec City would also be great places to relocate some of these warmer climate teams from the US that simply have never seemed like a good fit (Hello Nashville!) for a frozen sheet. Anyway, here are the B’s shootout stats from last season:

Phil Kessel — 5 scores in 13 tries for a 38.5 percent success rate. The five shootout scores were the third-most in the NHL least season and a clear indicator that this is a speciality for a guy with the hockey skills to pay the bills (for his career, Kessel is 10-for-23 with a 43.5 success rate with nine game-deciding scores).

Zdeno Chara — 1 for 2 for a 50 percent success rate, with the successful attempt a memorable wind-up slapper against the New York Rangers at the Garden last season (2-for-5 career for a 40 percent success rate).

David Krejci — 1 for 5 for a 20 percent success rate. Krejci is a guy that could be a future weapon in the shootout, and has already scored this season as well (and 2-for-7 career for a 28.6 percent success rate).

Marco Sturm — 1 for 8 for a 12.5 percent success rate (7-for-25 career for a 28 percent success rate).

Patrice Bergeron — 0 for 1 (8-for-24 career for a career 33.3 percent success rate).

Dennis Wideman — 0 for 1 (2-for-8 with a career 25 percent success rate).

Chuck Kobasew — 0 for 3 (and 0-for-8 in his career, perhaps it’s time to hang up his skates during the shootout).

Michael Ryder — 0 for 1 (and 1-for-11 with a career 9.1 percent success rate). Ryder’s numbers in the shootout actually makes it a real head-scratcher as to why Claude Julien opted to put him in the top three during Boston’s first two shootout losses this season.

Marc Savard — a career 2-for-12 with a 16.7 percent success rate.

P.J. Axelsson — 0-for-3 career in the shootout.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Chuck Kobasew, David Krejci, Dennis Wideman
Ready to drop the puck! 10.09.08 at 5:38 am ET
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So, I’ll have a full-blown NHL preview up on PWH at some point today, but I just wanted to troll around the Internet and A) see if I could travel all the way to the end of it or B) find as many NHL previews as possible to get a sense of what the “National” sentiment is concerning the Bruins.

I imagine that most hockey experts are in one of two camps when it comes to the guys in the Spoked B’s sweaters: either they feel like the Bruins showed real improvement with a young cast of characters last season and should be better with ever-maturing prospects skating along with a healthy Patrice Bergeron. The other school of thought is that the Bruins overacheived on some level while sneaking into the playoffs, and they won’t be able to sneak up on unsuspecting hockey teams this season like they did last year.

I’m more inclined to go with the former theory that the Bruins are playoff-worthy with tight defense and an aggressive sandpaper style of hockey, but this season they should be a bit more potent offensively with Bergeron on the PP. But that’s just me. Let’s see what everyone else has to say:

ESPN’s John Buccigross (who I’ll give full credit to for being one of the few true “hockey guys” in Bristol) has the B’s finishing seventh in the Eastern Conference. An excerpt from his capsule on the Bruins: There is something about this team that I like. I sense a positive vibe around the Bruins that should be enhanced with the return of their best player, Patrice Bergeron. The Bruins have not won a playoff series since 1999, the only series they’ve won since the 1994 lockout. Not the 2004 lockout. They have been a sorry franchise. The Bruins are certainly not a lock to make the postseason, but for the first time in a while, Boston seems to have some organizational passion and a plan. The margin for error is small. The key players need to be healthy, and the young players need to be important players without a drop-off.

The Hockey News has the Bruins finishing tenth in the Eastern Conference: There isn’t much explanation behind their pick on the Hockey News web site, but they see the Bruins finishing ahead of only the Buffalo Sabres, Florida Panthers, Atlanta Thrashers, Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Islanders. This is one prognostication that I would consider the “glass half-emptiest prediction.”

Sports Illustrated picks the Bruins to finish seventh in the East and again qualify for the playoffs while also picking Zdeno Chara as the Northeast Division MVP and Milan Lucic as the division’s “player to watch”: Don’t mistake these Bruins for the bruisers who famously carried the club in the 1970s and ’80s, but this is the Northeast’s most physical team, and Boston should bully its way to a second straight playoff berth.  Boston was 24th in the NHL in goals last season, something the addition of free agent Michael Ryder will help but won’t cure by itself. The Bruins’ real center of attention is mild-mannered pivot Patrice Bergeron (above), who missed all but 10 games of the Bruins’ 18-point revival last season. 

Yahoo Sports Hockey Editor Ross McKeon picked the Bruins third in the Northeast Division, but says they’ll

 be hard-pressed to again make the playoffs (one thing I would say is that he really needs to get over the Joe Thornton trade): The Bruins still miss Joe Thornton, whether they admit it or not. It seems like everything is going to have to go right for Boston to be a solid playoff team, sand considering all the bumps a team faces in the regular season, the guess is the Bruins will be in a dogfight to slip into a playoff spot again. 

CBS Sportsline’s Wes GoldStein has the Bruins finishing second in the Northeast Division and has coach Coach Claude Julien winning the Adams Award this season: The Bruins accelerated their building process with a surprise appearance in the playoffs last season and nearly upsetting Montreal in the first round. The expectations will be higher this time. The best news though for Boston has been the return of Patrice Bergeron, who missed almost all of last season because of a concussion, and has looked very good in the preseason. 

Inside Hockey’s James Murphy has the Bruins finishing seventh in the Eastern Conference and making the playoffs: The Bruins were one of last season’s most pleasant surprises, reverting back to the hard working, bruising style that defined them when the likes of Terry O’Reilly and Cam Neely wore the black and gold with pride. Much like those Bruins icons, sophomore winger Milan Lucic has become one of the faces of the franchise. The biggest additions are three players returning from injuries — center Patrice Bergeron, defenseman Andrew Alberts, and goaltender Manny Fernandez — all of whom could make a huge impact. If Tim Thomas can deliver a repeat performance between the pipes and Fernandez can provide a solid complement, the Bruins are fine in goal, and the Zdeno Chara-led defense is unquestionably stout. The biggest question is whether newcomer Michael Ryder and the returning Bergeron can conspire to make the Bruins’ offense click. 

Fox Sports’ Darren Spang sees the Bruins returning to the playoffs and Spector (apprently rock stars and hockey analysts are in the same boat when it comes to one name monikers) has the Bruins finishing seventh in the Eastern Conference: The return of a healthy Patrice Bergeron at center should provide a significant boost to their offense. A consistent performance this season by goaltender Tim Thomas should bolster the Bruins’ postseason hopes. The improvement of young forwards Phil Kessel, Milan Lucic and David Krejci could also boost their forward depth, while head coach Claude Julien’s defensive system should make the Bruins tough to score against. Captain Zdeno Chara is still nursing a shoulder injury from last season and management is on the lookout for another puck-moving defenseman. While some gaps in the roster remain to be addressed, the Bruins appear in better shape this season than they were a year ago.  

Be back in a bit with my own take on the Bruins and the NHL this season…let’s drop the puck already!

Read More: Andrew Alberts, Boston Bruins, Cam Neely, Claude Julien
A few minutes with the Captain 09.27.08 at 11:10 am ET
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 Towering Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara held a State of the Chara Address with the media following Saturday’s morning skate, and talked about — among other things — the status of his surgically repaired left shoulder and his impending return to the lineup. Chara hopes to play in one of the remaining four preseason games on Boston’s schedule.

Chara is aiming to be back on the ice when the Bruins open the season in Colorado on Oct. 9, but only time will tell with Big Z. Here’s a few of the 6-foot-9 blueliner’s thoughts from this morning:

How are things shaping up for you in camp and how is your shoulder feeling? ZC:I’m feeling better. Every day is better. We’re making progress and it looks good right now. Obviously today was not a good day, but if I’m not keeping up the pace that I’m at right now things should be pretty good. I’m not putting any timelines, but it’s getting better every day.

Where do you see the most progress? ZC: In the strengthening. That’s one thing where you see the most because you are working most of the time to get the range of motion back, and once you get that then you have to make sure you’re getting your strength back. Obviously the timing on the ice, you can’t really jump one right in front of the other and you have to follow the steps of the rehab. Obviously it doesn’t make sense to lift the weights before you have the range of motion, so slowly it’s getting better.

Do you see yourself getting into a game before the preseason starts? ZC: That’s what I’m shooting for. I really want to play before the regular season and we’re going to have to make that decision when it comes to that time. I can’t really make decisions or promises right now, but I would like to get at least one game in.

What does one game do for you? ZC: Obviously it’s not much, but it’s better than none of the games. You’d like to get a little bit of that camp tempo and timing, and being around the guys and trying different situations. Obviously getting to the system that we’ll be playing. It doesn’t do a whole lot, but it’s better than nothing. It’s timing. Having the puck in a game-speed and tempo and reacting with split-second decisions that you don’t have on the ice when you’re practicing.

It must help to already know the system, though? ZC:Yeah, but still if you’re not playing in hockey games for a long period of time then you need some time in games to feel it and everybody kind of feel comfortable with each other when you’re playing.

Coach Julien said that last year was really about learning the system and this year might be more about the D joining the rush and stepping up in certain places. ZC:Yeah, you can see that the hockey is improving so much that you’re always trying to add another aspect to your system. I think that one of the things that we need to add or improve is to have defenseman more involved in supporting the attack while at the same time being in a good position defensively. But you’re right in that last year we were kind of buying into the system and now everyone should know where we’re playing last year and tweak a little bit here and there while we’re getting used to each other. That’s what training camp is here for: to build on what we were doing last year and then follow that step.

If you don’t play in any preseason games would that preclude you from playing in that first game against Colorado? ZC: I’m not going that far ahead. Like I said I want to play and we’ll see.

Claude [Julien] and Peter [Chiarelli] both said that you had tried to do too much in your first year here, so you go into your second year trying to do a little less and you have great success. Do you guy into this year thinking that you’re going to build off that? ZC: You can’t really push and put pressure on yourself that you need to do more or prove something else, you just have to be on the ice and play well defensively, play hard and be hard to play against, be physical and be involved in the game and really react on the ice. You really need to just follow your instincts and really can’t think too much about other things. You just really just to have to go out the ice, play, enjoy it and react to things that are happening.

Difficult for you to watch instead of playing, even if it’s just preseason? ZC:Well, yeah. You want to play and it’s preperation for the season. It’s always frustrating when you’re not with the guys in the locker room right before the game and you’re not on the ice. You would like to play and it’s a little harder…but I also know that it’s not the most important time of the year. It’s just the preseason and the regular season is when things start to count.

Michael Ryder said that part of the attraction of him coming here was that he wouldn’t have you clobbering him six or eight times a year. Did he say anything to you about that? ZC: No, but it’s part of my game obviously to be physical and be involved and effective on the season. I was glad when Michael came to our team. I think there is a lot of potential and he is a great goal-scorer. I’m sure

he’s going to be working hard and he’s going to be a great addition to our team. We need a player like that, and I’m sure Claude knows him as well as anybody after having him in juniors and in Montreal. He knows him really well and knows what he’s capable of.

When you look at guys coming down like him coming down, or anybody, what’s more difficult for you: a guy with size and strength or a guy with speed and shiftiness? ZC: It’s hard to pick. You can’t underestimate anybody. You know with a smaller guy that he could be shifty, but you also know that a bigger guy can make a move too. The game has improved so much that even bigger guys can make moves and be really skilled. Michael, I think his strength is really when he’s in the high slot because he’s got a quick release. He’s been really effective in that area on top of the circles and in the slot, and he can find openings and put the puck in the net.

Read More: Claude Julien, Michael Ryder, Peter Chiarelli, Zdeno Chara
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