|Blake Wheeler using his size, rounding out his game||10.05.10 at 6:44 pm ET|
LIBEREC, Czech Republic — Blake Wheeler hasn’t really gotten a fair shake from fans in Boston. After a 21-goal rookie year with the Bruins, Wheeler turned in 18 in his second season and was often criticized by fans for his lack of physical play. This preseason, he’s shown a more physical edge that he had vowed in the offseason to return with. Fans didn’t take notice of his use of his size in his two preseason showings at the Garden, but it likely won’t be long before they do.
A strong camp from Wheeler has landed the third year forward on the second line with Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi. He picked up a goal in the team’s 7-1 victory over Liberec HC, and after seeing the five-point explosion from Bergeron should be licking his chops at the idea of skating with him as his center. Things are looking up for Wheeler, who prior to Tuesday had been skating with Tyler Seguin and Michael Ryder on the third line.
“I feel great on the ice. I feel like I’m playing with a lot of speed, and confidence is up there now,” Wheeler said. “Playing with Bergeron and Recchi really makes the game a lot easier. I think we had a really good game today and I’m excited to be playing with these guys and hopefully we can really get some good chemistry going.”
As for the aspect of physicality, Wheeler trusts that by utilizing his 6-foot-5 frame he can become the well-rounded player that made him a top-five pick in the NHL draft. In addition to setting up a tarp to shoot against in his garage, his main focus was toughening up.
“I felt that if I could be more of a presence physically, a lot of the other things in my game would follow suit,” Wheeler said. “Just consistency-wise, that’s something you can bring every night. No matter how you’re feeling, no matter how you’re playing, you can be a physical presence and contribute to the game that way. I’m just trying to focus on the things that I can control and let the rest follow suit.”
Bergeron scored in the second and third periods, while also assisting Seguin’s goal, a snipe from the point on the power play, as well as tallies from Jordan Caron and Blake Wheeler. Trade acquisitions Nathan Horton and Gregory Campbell also picked up goals in the first and third periods, respectively.
Tim Thomas looked very sharp in net for the Bruins, playing the entire game and looking particularly impressive in a first period in which he made 14 shots. He allowed just one goal on the night, an Andrej Podkonicky strike into second period.
From the Liberec the Bruins will travel an hour south to Prague, where they will continue to practice before opening the regular season with two games against the Coyotes on Saturday and Sunday.
|Shawn Thornton and Patrice Bergeron: Irish brothers?||09.30.10 at 7:35 am ET|
BELFAST — The European trip to kick off the Bruins’ 2010-11 season can be viewed as being about a lot of things. From seeing new places to seeing unfamiliar teams in preseason and getting a good deal of team bonding in, there are plenty of story lines that run congruent with the team’s 10-day trip. Just days away from the Bruins’ exhibition game with the Belfast Giants in Northern Ireland, one player comes to mind for embracing his family ties and soaking up the tradition. That player, of course, is Shawn Thornton, but should there be more?
Thornton’s mother, born in Belfast, flew in on Wednesday to stay with her cousin while her son is in town. Given all the excitement throughout his relatives, the veteran forward is expecting 20 family members to both show him around and attend Saturday’s game. Reallocation of the players’ tickets certainly came into play as a result.
“There’s a lot of guys who did not need tickets for this game. Thank God,” Thornton said with a smile. “I’ve got the most.”
Yet while Thornton is eager to see family members, some of whom he’s never met, there’s another Irish relative he’s excited for, and one Bruins fans might be a little more familiar with: Quebec’s own Patrice Bergeron.
“My grandfather was born in Northern Ireland. He came over a long time ago with his parents. It’s been a long time, but it’s going to be pretty special to go there,” Bergeron said of the surprising bloodlines.
Born and raised in Quebec and a star of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League as a teenager, there isn’t much about Bergeron’s upbringing or time in the game that screams “Northern Ireland.” Though Bergeron isn’t sure if he actually still has any relatives in the area, Thornton can assure him that he has at least one.
“I mean, we’re Irish brothers,” Thornton said. “I call him Patrick Cleary, not Patrice Bergeron, so we’re probably related back from back there at some point.”
And thus perhaps the most unlikeliest of connections, even by sarcasm’s standards, is made. Both players are Canadian-born, of course, and neither have been to Belfast before. Though they’ll be there for just three days before departing for Prague on Sunday, the anticipation isn’t lost on either of them.
“It will be good to see some family,” Thornton said. “I’ve met some of them — they used to come over and visit my grandmother over time — so it will be good to see them again and hopefully get some local knowledge of the city.”
Bergeron, whose father’s last name actually is Cleary, is definitely excited for the trip, though it’s unlikely he’ll play the role as resident Belfast expert like Thornton hopes he will. Asked if he and Bergeron would embrace the culture heavily through the wearing of scally caps to truly reflect their Irish heritage, Thornton didn’t hide mask his pride a bit.
“I’ve got tons of them. We’re going to look for some while we’re over there, but I’ll be bringing a few just in case,” he said.”
Especially in the case of Prague, many players have some places in mind when it comes to sight-seeing. Bergeron spoke of how beautiful he found the city when he last played there in 2004 representing Canada in the World Championships.
For the Belfast leg of the trip, Thornton has put forth an effort in looking up interesting spots to take teammates during the team’s three days in Northern Ireland. That doesn’t mean he still won’t rely heavily on the natives in his family to direct him.
“I’m sure I don’t retain as much information as I should when I [research places], so I’ll probably just play it by ear when I get over there,” Thornton said. “I’ve got aunts and uncles that will be taking me around. I’m sure their knowledge of it is better than what I can find on Wikipedia.”
|Bergeron likes what he sees from Seguin||09.20.10 at 1:42 pm ET|
The Bruins featured a very interesting line Monday in Patrice Bergeron centering Tyler Seguin and Mark Recchi. For Seguin, who played both wings in the day’s black/white scrimmage, he gets an opportunity to play alongside a future Hall of Famer in Recchi and someone who knows what it’s like to make an impact in their rookie year in Bergeron. A key contributor to the team since making the Bruins in the 2003-04 season, Bergeron knows what it’s like to be teamed with players he looked up to early on.
“My first scrimmage was pretty amazing,” Bergeron said after the scrimmage. “It was [Sergei] Samsonov and Glen Murray, so they made it pretty easy for me, to be honest.”
The three players seemed to make things easy for one another in Monday’s scrimmage, with Seguin feeding Bergeron on the white squad’s only goal. Consider Bergeron impressed.
“The first shift, we both thought we were in the middle, but then we figured it out and it was good. He’s always well-positioned and he has that good speed so that helps him a lot.”
|B’s Town Hall meeting set for September 21||08.30.10 at 1:02 pm ET|
The Bruins announced today that their annual “State of the Bruins” town hall meeting will take place September 21 at 7:00 p.m.
The meeting, which will take place at the TD Garden, will give season ticket holders (as well have half-season and 10 game package owners) a chance to address the franchise directly with Jeremy Jacobs, Charlie Jacobs, Cam Neely, Peter Chiarelli, Claude Julien, and players Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, and Mark Recchi. NESN’s Andy Brickley will be the meeting’s moderator.
|Bergeron the stick that stirs Bruins offense||05.10.10 at 12:30 pm ET|
For all the talk about Miroslav Satan, his hands and his legions or Mark Recchi and how he is the remarkable ageless one during these 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs, it is Patrice Bergeron who actually leads the Bruins in points this postseason.
Bergeron has four goals and seven assists through the first 11 games of the playoffs and he has been a difference-maker on both sides of the blue line. One has to wonder, though, if a guy like Bergeron, known especially to be a great defensive forward who is strong on the faceoff, purposely started to ramp up his offensive production. It seems in the nature of a guy like Bergeron, quiet yet with a developed sense of responsibility, to take it upon himself to create more offense for a team that struggled to light the lamp throughout the year.
“If you play defensively sound and it starts for a good offense. You know, I have always done that and it has been going well,” Bergeron said. “I think right now, I don’t think I am doing anything different, it is just going in. Obviously we needed it in the playoffs and everyone wants to chip in anyway possible and you know, right now, I am just happy that it is going the way it and and I just want it to keep on going.”
Bergeron leads the team in playoff shots at 33 (two more than Michael Ryder, four more Satan and six more than the nearest defensemen, Zdeno Chara and Johnny Boychuk at 27). He is second in assists (Dennis Wideman leads with nine) and has been dominant on the faceoff dot against the likes of Flyers captain Mike Richards or Sabres center Derek Roy. He posted his first sub-50 percent faceoff game of the playoffs on Friday in Game 4 but his numbers in the circle have been closer to 60 and 70 percent for most games this postseason.
“I think in Game 4 we didn’t do as good on the faceoff that we would have liked to so, it is huge to get the puck back and work with the puck and play a puck possession game and we have done a great job of that,” Bergeron said. “So, obviously we want to start with the puck more often to start with the puck as much as we can.”
It is not like Bergeron has all of a sudden flipped a switch in terms of offensive efficiency. He led the Bruins in point at 52 this year, which is not a lot in consideration with the NHL points leaders but still not a paltry sum. But, as the Bruins offense has come awake during the playoffs, either by good fortune that was not present during the regular season or increased efforts by guys like Recchi and Satan in the offensive zone, Bergeron by been the swizzle in the Bruins coffee.
Bruins coach Claude Julien knows that it is the responsibility of his players to play a good two-way game, such as the standard is Bergeron. The center was chosen for the Canadian Olympic team because of his defensive prowess and responsibility. For the Bruins, that approach has also turned into points on the scoreboard.
“We expect everybody to play a good two-way game. We always encourage our guys to be proactive offensively and we want them to be responsible defensively that is what you want in a well rounded team,” Juliens said. “That is what we have encouraged all year, whether is has happened or not, the way we like it, that is a different story. But, to have those guys do that it just makes us a better hockey team and certainly we encourage our guys to be more proactive.”
|First period summary: Bruins vs. Flyers – Game 4||05.07.10 at 7:50 pm ET|
PHILADELPHIA — The Wachovia Center feels much more alive on Friday than it did on Wednesday for Game 3. The theme music from the Rocky music led the Flyers on to the ice (noticeably absent from Game 3) and a couple early Philadelphia chances got the crowd in the game.
Milan Lucic took the first penalty of the game as the Flyers went on the power play for high sticking at 8:24. But, as it has been all series long, Philadelphia got the Rask treatment as he blocked both shots that were sent on him during the man-advantage and Boston continued its strong penalty kill that has not allowed a power play goal since Game 1 with 10 kills in the last two games into the the start of Game 4.
Boston got on the board first when Mark Recchi added his fifth goal of the playoffs after Patrice Bergeron got on a partial break set up by Dennis Wideman and Daniel Paille through the neutral zone. Bergeron had a weak shot on Brian Boucher but the goaltender laid out and deflected the puck back into the slot with his stick where Recchi, following the play, flipped it to the top of the net at 15:37 for the third opening goal by the Bruins in the four games.
A dustup between Vladimir Sobotka, Scott Hartnell and Arron Asham in front of the Flyers bench at 18:04 sent Sobotka and Hartnell to the box for matching roughing penalties at 18:04. Philadelphia used the extra ice space to its advantage as Matt Carle came down the left wing on the rush rush and crossed the puck through the high slot to Claude Giroux who tapped it aside to Danny Briere who sent a wrist shot from the top of the dot on Rask that had eyes and the game was tied at one at 19:06.
The Bruins lead in the shot department heading into the second with a 10 to nine advantage.