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Bergeron emerging as a quiet Bruins leader 10.28.09 at 3:09 pm ET
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WILMINGTON, Mass. — A highly respected hockey voice recently stressed that the leadership of both Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi as two key pieces in the recent turnaround of the Bruins. It’s been those two players, along with captain Zdeno Chara, that have helped grease the wheels of Boston’s resurgence, but there’s also a growing measure of influence from the young voices within the dressing room.

The loss of players such as Stephane Yelle, P.J. Axelsson and Aaron Ward have no doubt left a vacancy in terms of veteran influence within the dressing room, but coach Claude Julien said he’s already convinced that those important breaches have been filled. Young players are stepping up, and emerging leaders are picking their spots to help push along the direction of the club.

To hear Julien explain it, Bergeron is something akin to those old E.F. Hutton financial commercials. When Bergeron speaks, everybody listens — and that’s only been amplified this season as the 24-year-old has again staked claim to his rightful place as one of the brightest spots on Boston’s roster. The Bruins have taken points in four of their last five games, and young skaters such as Bergeron have everything to do with that.

“We talked about the guys we lost in the last year: the Yelles, the Axellsons, the Wards. They were pretty good presences in the dressing room, but at the same time other guys have stepped up,” Julien said. “We’ve asked other guys to step up into those roles in the dressing room, and we had some guys that were ready to take over. It’s been good and getting better, and it’s a transition that needs to be made.

“There’s no point in naming one or two guys. For the most part, the young guys want to do their jobs. The older guys: Z and the Ferences and the Recchis have been there for a long time and they’re going to help out along the way. Bergie is a quiet leader and not necessarily the rah-rah type, but every once in a while he’ll speak. When he does, they listen because he doesn’t speak that often and he doesn’t speak for nothing. So you expect some kind of leadership from those guys, and Marco Sturm has also been a quiet leader. He speaks when it’s time to speak. What you see from them [in the media] and what we see behind closed doors might be a little different.”

The old Bergeron has appeared on the ice where he’s tied for tops in the team with seven points through the first 10 games, and that appears to also be shining through in Boston’s new leadership structure this season.

‘€” Don’t expect Milan Lucic to begin dropping the gloves and transforming into the Incredible Looch when he returns from his broken right index finger. The hulking left winger has been working out and skating on his own, but said that it took at least “two months” for his finger to stabilize the last time he broke a knuckle/finger on his left hand.

That means Lucic won’t be slipping into fight mode for a minimum of several weeks, and probably longer, after the finger is healed enough to suit up again for the B’s.

“You’ve got to be smart about it, protect it a little bit and wait for [the finger] to solidify before you go back to everything you used to do before,” Lucic said. “I definitely didn’t fight right after I came back the last time, and it look a little bit before it was ready to go.”

Lucic had only the one fighting major came when he rearranged Jay Harrison’s facial structure in the blowout win over the Hurricanes in the B’s second game of the season. It may be quite some time before his next one, and there remains the question of how much Lucic will throw down given his value to the hockey team as a top line player and his value in dollars given his newly signed long-term contract.

‘€” There’s been a lot of talk about the incoming Devils before they come into the TD Banknorth Garden Thursday night, and naturally most of the conversation centered around the trap and Martin Brodeur. Both coach and players paid tribute to the disciplined — albeit sleepy — trapping style that New Jersey has become synonymous with, and the legendary goaltender at the end of Jersey’s layered defense.

B’s goalie Tim Thomas called Brodeur’s hybrid style the “one-legged butterfly”, and said that he’s taken plenty from watching the four-time Vezina Trophy winner over the years. Just don’t ask Thomas if he ever watches Brodeur when he’s playing against him, because the reigning Vezina Trophy winner clearly doesn’t get caught up in the individual goalie matchups.

“The truth is he’s a great goalie that’s been fortunate enough to play with a good team in front of him for his entire career,” Thomas said. “You don’t win Vezinas without a good team in front of you, and the New Jersey Devils have been able to build up a strong core and keep them together the whole time through.

“If you don’t have the right team to play with, then it doesn’t matter what system you have. There’s nothing about his style. He just stops the puck. Everybody talks about my style, but he really has his own style, too. He has a way, way different style from everybody else than I do.”

How would Thomas describe Brodeur’s way different style of “stopping the puck?”

“One-legged butterfly. Half-butterfly. Watch him, he goes down on his right knee all the time. He goes into the butterfly, but that isn’t his first move,” Thomas said. “His first move is to go down halfway and then the butterfly is his second move. If you can do it and cover [the 5-hole] up enough enough, then it’s much easier to get up [tall] off one knee.”

Read More: Milan Lucic, Patrice Bergeron, Tim Thomas,
Turn up the volume: Bruins 3, Preds 2 10.22.09 at 1:02 am ET
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Picking up the slack was the rallying cry for the Bruins following a 3-2 come-from-behind win over the Nashville Predators.

There was good reason for the Bruins adopting that mantra. They found out this week that two of their star players would each be out 4-6 weeks with injuries.

Milan Lucic is out following surgery on his broken index finger while Marc Savard is healing following a diagnosis of a broken bone in his left foot.

So, someone had to pick up the slack. And it was Patrice Bergeron and Steve Begin to the rescue on Wednesday night. For Begin it was his first goal in a Bruins uniform that proved to be the game-winner.

Here are some of the sound bites WEEI mics picked up following the game that evened the record of the Black and Gold at 4-4.

Steve Begin said he was happy his first goal as a Bruin was a game-winner.

Begin said after a sluggish first period, the Bruins needed energy.

Coach Claude Julien said his team recovered after a sluggish first period.

Julien said with the Flyers on tap on Thursday, it’s time to be consistent if the Bruins are going to win two straight for the first time.

Captain Zdeno Chara on why this was a big win.

Patrice Bergeron said he was happy to contribute with the game-tying goal.

Read More: Bruins, NHL, Patrice Bergeron, Steve Begin
Bruins get the points in a much-needed victory 10.21.09 at 9:25 pm ET
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It wasn’t a puck masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but the Bruins managed to get two points in a 3-2 win they most definitely needed Wednesday night. With games against higher caliber competition coming Thursday night against the Flyers and Saturday night against the Ottawa Senators, a victory over the lowly, offensively challenged Preds — last in the NHL in scoring with 10 goals coming into the game – was a virtual must.

“We have to realize we have lots of room for improvement,” B’s coach Claude Julien said. “Our confidence isn’t where it should be right now, but I thought we gained in confidence as the game went on. We were better period by period.”

The B’s trailed through nearly the entire game before pulling ahead midway through the third period when the fourth line once again proved to be the dirty-faced savior. Steve Begin battled to keep the puck in the zone and then was rewarded when Daniel Paille wheeled around the net and found him wide open in the high slot. Begin put the hammer down on a one-timer past Preds goalie Dan Ellis, and the Bruins finally had sweet victory in their grasp. It was Begin’s first goal as a Bruin after thoroughly impressing everyone with his high-effort style through the team’s first eight games.

Things didn’t start out all that well as the Bruins didn’t pose even a threat in the first period while the new skaters settled in a collection of four reconfigured lines. The Predators took advantage of Boston’s transition phase in the first period, and Jerred Smithson scored Nashville’s first goal on pure grit and persistence around the Boston cage.

After a lifeless first 20 minutes, the B’s jumped on the Preds in the second and scored 26 seconds into the period. Rookie Brad Marchand, playing in his first NHL game, made a great tip pass to Michael Ryder on a 2-on-1 hustle play and Ryder flipped a backhanded bid top shelf for Boston’s first score.

Former BU skater Colin Wilson struck back for Nashville and potted his first career NHL goal to once again give the Preds a lead, but Boston fought back and finally showed a little ferocity. This time it was Patrice Bergeron. The 24-year-old center battled through traffic to attack the rebound of a Zdeno Chara blast, and his third effort finally squirted pads Ellis’ pads for the tying score. The line of Bergeron-Marchand-Ryder was clearly Boston’s best of the night and put consistent pressure on the Preds.

YOU’RE THE BEST AROUND AND NOTHING’S EVER GONNA KEEP YOU DOWN: Brad Marchand didn’t show a lot of his infamous rabble-rousing style in his debut, but he helped spark the Bruins by setting up Boston’s first goal of the game after a dreadful first period. It was appropriate that Marchand picked up a point in his first career NHL game, and his line was the most effective all night long for Julien. This also was the line that finished the night out for the Bruins during a frenetic final minute — the ultimate reward from the coaching staff for a job well done.

GOAT HORNS: The B’s power play. Still no life and not a ton of quality scoring chances for Bruins during their few attempts on the man-advantage. In fact, there were none. Zero shots on net in four minutes worth of power play time for the B’s in the win over the Predators.  Why hasn’t Mark Recchi shown up much on the power play this season after being very effective last year?

Read More: Mark Recchi, Patrice Bergeron, Steve Begin,
Kobasew trade sends message to remaining Bruins 10.19.09 at 2:47 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — Chuck Kobasew was a beloved member of the Bruins, and if trading him to the Minnesota Wild Sunday was a message of dissatisfaction from management — as it was articulated by both general manager and coach in its aftermath – well, then the cannon ball shot was received loud and clear by the players on Monday morning.

The 27-year-old Kobasew stumbled out of the gate this season with only a single assist in seven games, and seemed to be an unwitting victim of a hibernating Bruins unit unable to snap out of their prolonged .500 slumber. The hard-nosed veteran and 20-goal scorer was traded for both salary cap reasons and a little bit of good-old fashioned message-sending from B’s GM Peter Chiarelli.

The B’s top decision-maker hopes that the addition of some young P-Bruins blood in Vladimir Sobotka and Brad Marchand can spark a team that’s been the very definition of lethargic for far too long this autumn. The Black and Gold have been unable to shake a funk of inconsistency to start the season, and have flashed little passion or anger in their game — aside from a revenge special against the Carolina Hurricanes. Chiarelli felt it was time to make things a tad bit uncomfortable in the B’s dressing room. Judging from the reaction of the players at practice and after the session was over, it was mission accomplished.

The B’s executive also admitted that he couldn’t have summoned Marchand and Sobotka from Providence without jettisoning Kobasew and effectively unlocking the salary cap handcuffs wrapped around the team. The reports that the team had $1.6 million in cap space prior to the deal appear to have been greatly exaggerated. The B’s couldn’t even afford to keep Sobotka in Boston to begin the season, which spurred his demotion to Providence.

“It’s a combination of a number of factors. Certainly our play has been on and off and that was part of it,” said Chiarelli, who had been in discussions with several clubs for a period two weeks. “The two guys we brought up have been playing pretty well in Providence. It also gives us a little of salary cap flexibility for this year and for next year, so it was a good time for all those things. But it was primarily based on our play.

“The fellows we brought up our young, energetic and enthusiastic, and I thought that we needed an injection of that into our lineup. It’s a little bit of [frustration]. It’s not a complete reactionary move. It’s something that addresses a lot of things. I’m not satisfied with our start. Friday night,  I thought we a terrific game in all areas and then it was disappointing to see Saturday. Work is being done and we’re turning the corner a bit, but in large part on a game-to-game basis I don’t see the passion that I saw before. We have to get that back.”

Tim Thomas was a little more succinct.

“My gut feeling tells me that [the trade] is a shot across the bow. Wake up or else changes will be made,” said Thomas. “My first reaction was surprise. I guess I hadn’t been thinking along those lines of any trades at all. It’s a funny business where a guy can be a teammate for going on three years, and then he’s gone.”

The deal obviously clears Kobasew’s $2.3 million from the books both this year and next year — which could become a factor in extension talks with Marc Savard — and allows Boston much more financial flexibility moving forward. Kobasew’s cap hit was something of a luxury for a third-line grinder in this brave, new world of salary cap era hockey.

All that being said, Kobasew is another veteran leader in the B’s dressing room that has now moved on, and joins a leadership exodus that included Aaron Ward, Stephane Yelle, P.J. Axelsson, Shane Hnidy and now the veteran right winger.

The move perhaps hit closest with 23-year-old Patrice Bergeron, who has watched several great friends move on from Boston after the two-way center developed close relationships with them. First it was Marty Lapointe that mentored Bergeron and allowed the rookie to live with his family during his first NHL season. Then it was Brad Boyes after Bergeron had formed into a dynamic scoring tandem with the natural goal-scorer before his trade to the St. Louis Blues. Now it’s Bergeron’s roommate during road trips, Kobasew, that has been shipped off to a different NHL locale.

It’s all part of the pro sports business, but the move should certainly shake up the B’s locker room’s comfort level. In the view of the decision-makers, the players still seems to be daydreaming about the Stanley Cup rather than rolling up their sleeves and working toward it. Bergeron said he spoke with Kobasew on Sunday following the deal, and the gritty forward was understandably reluctant to leave his home for the last three seasons in Boston.

“You never worried about his work ethic. He was my roommate on the road too. It’s always hard to see somebody go, but it happens. It’s tough, but at the same time it’s a business,” said Bergeron. “I really wish him the best. He’s such a good guy. The type of guy you always want on your team. But with the way things were going, that’s something that’s going to happen. We just have to deal with this as a team when somebody like that has to go because of the situation.”

The Bruins have now paid a price for their sluggish seven-game start to a season filled with sky-high expectations. It’s up to the remaining Black and Gold skaters to heed the unmistakable message and act on it.

Read More: Chuck Kobasew, Patrice Bergeron, Peter Chiarelli,
Bruins brushing up on the power play 09.30.09 at 11:41 am ET
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WILMINGTON — The Bruins are putting the finishing touches on the team here at practice Wednesday morning at Ristuccia Arena as they ready for Thursday’s season-opener against Alex Ovechkin and the rest of the high-powered Washington Capitals.

A lot of power play work this morning, and a look into what’s going to be one of the more competitive aspects of the Black and Gold team this season. The Bruins legitimately have five or six players that could run the point on the power play, and B’s coach Claude Julien has been nearly giddy in the different options at his disposal in the early going. Both Zdeno Chara and Derek Morris lined up as the top points on the first power play until along with Marc Savard, Milan Lucic and Michael Ryder filling out the forward spots on the top unit. Marco Sturm was also hopping into the top unit and alternating with Lucic.

Andrew Ference and Dennis Wideman manned the spots on the second unit with David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi alternating with Chuck Kobasew as the manpower down low. The 5-on-3 work was even more impressive as Chara and Morris manned the points with Recchi working directly in front of the goalie with puck magicians Savard and Krejci working in the two corners. That’s the kind of PP combo that could make a lot of teams pay for spending time in the penalty box this season. One big change from last year: Bergeron has taken off the point and is working more off the half-wall where he can be a triple-threat ready to pass, shoot, or take it straight toward the net.

Despite the current configurations, Julien has been quick to advise not falling in love with the PP configurations as there could be a heavy “play the hot hand” philosophy on the man advantage with so many qualified players to choose from. The B’s bench boss is also reserving the right to plop the oversized body of 6-foot-9 Chara in tight by the cage if the situations calls for a an extra-big, extra-wide body during PP time.

Matt Hunwick is another player likely to find his way onto the PP units as a point man this season, but the young blueliner has been attempting to find his game through training camp. Julien hinted on Tuesday that some of Hunwick’s struggles may be the player’s attempts to justify the two-year contract he received over the summer, and may be a case of a player attempting to do too much. Either way, Hunwick wasn’t on the PP units Wednesday and will have to work his way back into the rotation.

“You’re likely to see a little bit of both. [Bergeron] may end up playing [the point] and he may end up playing up front too,” said Julien. “There are some players that are still trying to find their games a little bit, and we have to take that into account as well. Right now we’re trying to come up with the best combination to start.

“It allows us some versatility. I don’t when or if it’s really going to happen — but I suspect it will at some point — you can put a guy like Zdeno in front of the net. He’s a big net-front presence if you’ve got the right people on the back end. But a lot of things and decisions are based on the way players are going right at the time. If you have players on a roll or a hot streak, then you want to keep them on that streak by utilizing them in different place. Or maybe sometimes guys are trying to find their games , and it’s not good to put them in different kinds of positions when you’re trying to get them to simplify their games. There’s a lot of thinking that goes behind who should be where [on the power play] and who should be on it.”

Read More: Claude Julien, Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara,
B’s game roster set for preseason tilt vs. Canadiens 09.24.09 at 12:26 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — B’s practice has commenced on Thursday morning without the players headed to Montreal for the Bruins/Canadiens preseason game. The game-day players skipped their morning skate, and the game roster includes:

Forwards — Patrice Bergeron, Zach Hamill, Chuck Kobasew, Guillame Lefebvre, Jeff LoVecchio, Kirk McDonald, Brad Marchand, Mark Recchi, Michael Ryder, Vladimir Sobokta, Blake Wheeler and Trent Whitfield.

Defensemen — Johnny Boychuk, Drew Fata, Andrew Ference, Adam McQuaid, Mark Stuart, Dennis Wideman.

Goalies: Tim Thomas, Dany Sabourin.

–Bruins coach Claude Julien said that Thomas will play the entire game Thursday night against the Habs.

The rest of the B’s roster is currently out on the ice going through practice. We’ll have updates from Ristuccia Arena as they happen.

Read More: Dennis Wideman, Patrice Bergeron, Tim Thomas,
Recchi, Montador have Bruins up 2-0 after first period 05.12.09 at 7:12 pm ET
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RALEIGH — 19:26: Patrice Bergeron knifes through the Carolina defense and levels a shot at Cam Ward from the right faceoff circle.

18:48: Big heavy shot by Dennis Seidenberg from the right point that Tim Thomas kicked out harmlessly to the right.

17:59: Bruins score that immediately silences that crowd. Bergeron again rushed the puck up the right side of the all by himself, cut through the Hurricanes defense and then dished to a wide open Mark Recchi as Anton Babchuk took out Cam Ward at the net and knocked the post off the moorings. It looked liked the puck got through before the post came unhinged, but it’s under review.

Call on the ice stands. It’s a goal.

17:33: A bad Carolina turnever in their own end leads to another Michael Ryder snap shot from the slot. The Canes look sloppy in this one early.

14:56: Wow. Great behind the back tip pass from David Krejci in the high slot to Steve Montador at the right left point, and Montador beats Ward up high with a slap shot blast. The Carolina crowd’s silence is deafening.

12:06: Big pad save by Thomas on a Tim Gleason bomb from the right point. The Canes look as if everything is coming from the outside in the early going.

Just like I wrote in this piece, it looks like the Bruins players have made a little bit of an adjustment and are sometimes just lugging the puck all the way up the ice with speed rather than passing around too much and letting the forecheck hem them in their own zone.

8:14: Phil Kessel fired a shot from the slot and then just couldn’t corral the rebound in a prime shooting spot in front of the net.

7:40: Best save of the night for Thomas as he was falling forward on a doorstep bid by Eric Staal and basically leapt forward at the puck to block the shot in tight.

5:55: Great job by Patrice Bergeron of forechecking and stealing a puck out of mid-air and then battling with Chad LaRose for a potential one-on-one bid with Ward. Bergeron couldn’t quite get past LaRose, though, and just pushed a diving forehand bid to the right of the goal.

The B’s are putting heavy pressure on Ward in this period from very close to the night.

5:04: Good job by Thomas of blocking a Matt Cullen shot and then directing it toward the side of the net.

4:05: That was Thomas’ best save of the net. Sergei Samsonov rifled a shot from the left faceoff circle and Thomas kicked it to Jussi Jokinen in the slot. Jokinen fired but Thomas able to deflect the shot and avert a really messy situation in close to the B’s cage.

00:30.1: The Hurricanes have really started turning up the pressure, and the Staal, Cole, Whitney line kept the puck in the B’s zone for at least a minute with some really rapid fire puck movement. The possession resulted in Zdeno Chara blasting Eric Staal behind the net and holding him down behind the cage while his teammates tried to get the puck out of the zone. First PP for the Canes.

Big for the B’s to hold off the Canes and sustain their two-goal lead after getting hit with a pretty good shot by Carolina there at the end.

The Bruins have taken a 2-0 lead after one full period of play during Game 6 at the RBC Center in Raleigh, N.C.

Read More: Mark Recchi, Patrice Bergeron, Tim Thomas,
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