|Bruins’ trade deadline choice partly to blame for playoff demise||05.17.09 at 12:51 pm ET|
The Bruins season is kaput after a seven-game struggle against the Carolina Hurricanes that revealed a serious flaw or two on a Black and Gold team that cruised through the 82-game campaign.
The Big Bad B’s were the best team in the Eastern Conference during the regular season, and pumped up expectations ever so higher when they dispatched the hated Montreal Canadiens with four quick, short and sweet strokes of their collective hockey sticks.
It was a magical hockey ride that spiked fan expectations and had many firmly bracing for a full Stanley Cup run in Boston’s first year back on the hockey map. But the series against the Hurricanes revealed weaknesses on the B’s roster that must be addressed going forward in the brave new world of a potentially shrinking salary cap.
This isn’t just solely about player mistakes or flaws on the ice, however.
There were also miscues made by the front office during the season that affected Boston’s playoff run, and none was bigger than Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli’s mis-step at the NHL trade deadline.
|Today is a day to celebrate the greatness of Tim Thomas||04.04.09 at 12:09 pm ET|
There was a great deal of talk about persevering, unorthodox goaltending and his age — he’ll be 35 year of age in a matter of weeks — but Saturday morning was clearly the exact right moment to celebrate the classic American success story that is Tim Thomas.
The B’s goaltender was the son of a salesman growing up in hardscrabble Flint, Michigan — a guy that was never handed anything during his entire career and was taught work ethic and stick-to-itiveness by his parents. Not at the University of Vermont where he became an All-American goaltender, and not later on in the nine stops along his minor league/European odyssey that included stints in both the Finnish and Swedish Elite Leagues along with traditional minor league stops like the ECHL and the defunct Colonial Hockey League.
It’s about a goaltender that’s fit well within the long, storied tradition of Bruins goaltenders from Tiny Thompson to Andy Moog and Pete Peeters. After recently watching the Original Six History of the Bruins DVD and being reintroduced to so many great B’s goalies from the past, it was clear that Thomas is now up in that pantheon with the rest of the Black and Gold puckstopping legends. The fact that he didn’t crack the NHL until after the age of 30 will just another part of his legendary story.
Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli admitted that he had a bit of a preconceived idea about Thomas’ ultimate ceiling in terms of talent prior to coming to Boston, but that changed when he saw the netminder’s high-wire acrobatic act between the pipes on a nightly basis. Instead of grading out a goalie that was constantly out of position and seemed to always be scrambling for a recovery, he saw an incredible athlete that could just flat out perform his No. 1 duty guarding the B’s cage: stop the puck.
“When we talk about the Tim Thomas story, we talk about perseverance over a long period of time, we talk about a long journey, and we talk about an unorthodox , hybrid style,” said Chiarelli. “But what sometimes gets lost is his uncanny ability to stop the puck. That’s why we’ve extended him.”
That second impression culminated in a four-year contract for a reported $20 million that Thomas made official on Friday, and talked about along with Chiarelli — the man that was playing point during the long negotiations – on Saturday morning prior to the Bruins/Rangers tilt.
Chiarelli admitted that Thomas’ age (he’ll turn 39 in the final days of the four-year pact) was a consideration, but that two things mitigated his status as a bit of a middle-aged goalie: there are many goalies still close to their puck-stopping primes in their mid-to-late 30′s and Thomas is relatively fresh after not entering the NHL grind until he had already crossed the 30 years-old threshold. In Chiarelli’s eyes, paying all those dues in Europe and the minors are now benefitting the “Tank.”
“I’m very happy to be staying in Boston for the next four years,” said Thomas, who is leading the NHL in Goals Against Average (GAA) of 2.11 and a save percentage of .932 and putting the finishing touches on a Vezina Trophy-worthy season. “With free agency potentially coming up this summer, you think about whether you’d rather play somewhere else or you’d rather stay in Boston. After weighing things over and over, the answer always kept coming back to ‘Boston’.
“I’m very happy that this is done, and I think I’ve done a really good job of just concentrating on hockey throughout the year, even knowing that we’ve had our talks off and on,” added Thomas, who then went out and tossed his 12th career NHL shutout against the Rangers later on Saturday afternoon. “This gives me a 100 percent chance to just focus on hockey and leave the rest of the stuff (behind).”
Chiarelli said that the team faces some difficult decisions to make over the summer when Phil Kessel, David Krejci and Matt Hunwick are all restricted free agents and P.J. Axelsson also finds his contract up. There’s a near certainty that at least one big contract will need to be moved in the summer months amid an uncertain salary cap situation, and Chiarelli didn’t shy away from that part of his managerial duties. There could be a painful trade or two coming down the line because of the salary cap situation, but that’s another story for another day.
Yesterday was about Thomas.
“This is our job,” said Chiarelli. “We have to figure out the puzzle, we have to make decisions. I’d like to sign everyone, but we have to make decisions over the summer and look at the performance of our players. Then we do the math.
“We’ve been doing the math ever since I’ve come here and that’s a large part of the job,” added the B’s decision-maker. “What is important to the organization is that we have terrific goaltending for a long time, and sometimes you have to put side the math — not completely — and make the decisions like we did with Tim.”
Thomas will continue answering all the questions that dog him when the playoffs begin in a matter of weeks, but yesterday was one of those few days when the B’s goalie could kick up his skates and have a little pride at a moment that proved he has truly arrived.
|Chiarelli: “There is no done deal”||02.28.09 at 4:45 pm ET|
Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli was loathe to respond to an online report that the Ducks and Bruins have “agreed in principle” on a deal that would send Chris Pronger and forward Travis Moen to Boston. According to the report, an unnamed roster player, defenseman Mark Stuart, prospect Joe Colborne and a 2010 first round pick back would be shipped to Anaheim for the bruising blueliner.
The trade rumors picked up steam when Pronger and the sinking Ducks visited on Thursday night and were blown off the ice by the Bruins, but nothing has been finalized. The report is awfully close to a rumor first published on SI.comyesterday that had a theoretical package of Chuck Kobasew, Stuart, Colborne and a 2009 pick headed to the Ducks for Pronger and Travis Moen.
All Chiarelli would say is that there haven’t been any agreements made in principle with anyone at this point with the NHL trade deadline still looming on Wednesday afternoon, and that the result from the overtime loss to the Capitals didn’t tip the trade scales one way or the other.
“There are a million different reports out there and I’m not going to deny or confirm each one,” said Chiarelli. “There is no done deal.
“This was a game between two of the top teams in the conference,” added Chiarelli. “Does it change my plans going into the trade deadline? No. We take a look at the whole year, and the team as a whole.”
|Matt Hunwick, Vladimir Sobotka sent down to Providence||02.24.09 at 9:43 am ET|
Rookie defenseman Matt Hunwick and forward Vladimir Sobotka, both healthy scratches in Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay, were sent down to the Providence Bruins on Tuesday morning.
Hunwick and Sobotka will both play in Providence’s game tonight, and Hunwick is expected to be called back up to Boston on Wednesday to rejoin the team. Hunwick has only played one game during the month of February, and hasn’t played since Feb. 7 against the Philadelphia Flyers. The B’s were looking for a spark from both David Krejci and Vladimir Sobotka when they put the two forwards together for a series of games, but his play didn’t warrant him staying with Michael Ryder returning to the lineup.
Here’s the official release from the Bruins:
Boston Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli announced today that the club has assigned defenseman Matt Hunwick and forward Vladimir Sobotka to the Providence Bruins (American Hockey League). Both are expected to play in Providence’s game tonight against the Manchester Monarchs at 7:00 p.m. ET, while Hunwick is expected to be recalled and rejoin the Boston Bruins on Wednesday.
Hunwick saw action in 38 games this year for Boston and has recorded 3-12=15 totals and a +9 plus/minus rating. He was a healthy scratch in the Bruins’ last six games. Hunwick appeared in two games for the P-Bruins this season, registering two assists.
Spending the majority of the 2007-2008 season in Providence, Hunwick posted 2-21-23 totals in 55 games. He was recalled to Boston on four separate occasions last year and tallied one assist in 13 games. The University of Michigan graduate was drafted by the Bruins in the seventh round (224th overall) in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.
Sobotka has played in 23 games for Boston during the 2008-2009 season and recorded 1-3=4 totals. In 25 games with the P-Bruins this year, Sobotka tallied 12 goals and 15 assists. He 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.
Fans interested in learning more about Boston Bruins players, or ticket options, should visit the team website at www.bostonbruins.com or call 617.624.BEAR.
|Michael Ryder expected back in the lineup tomorrow night||02.23.09 at 2:20 pm ET|
Michael Ryder, out the last the seven games with multiple facial fractures, is expected back into the Bruins lineup tomorrow night against the Florida Panthers, according to Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli. The winger practiced with the team throughout their just concluded four game road trip, and has been allowed to keep his conditioning close to game-level. Ryder is expected to wear a protectice cage or visor when he does return to the ice.
“My guess is that — and it’s a guess right now, but it’s an educated guess — is that he’ll be in the lineup for tomorrow,” said Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli in an NHL-sponsored conference call this afternoon.
|Michael Ryder will miss 2-3 weeks with sinus/orbital fractures||02.10.09 at 2:08 pm ET|
The Bruins got some good news on the Michael Ryder injury front this morning. The right wing will be out just 2-3 weeks as he recovers from surgery on Monday to repair damage to area around the sinus and orbital bones between his eyes. According to Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli, Ryder will be back up working out on the bike in the next two or three days and ready to play right around/before the March 4 trade deadline.
‘He had three small fractures in the bridge of the nose, around the orbital (bone),’ Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said at morning skate Tuesday morning. ‘He had surgery (Monday) evening. Surgery was successful. He had three small plates put in. He’s home now. He’ll be back in two-to-three weeks and back riding a bike in two-to-three days.’
Chiarelli said that the circumstances surrounding the Ryder injury haven’t really affected trade talks one way or the other, and that the B’s GM isn’t very deep in discussions on any potential deals around the NHL.
“It’s not as bad as first expected,” said Chiarelli. “If (other teams) detect a weakness then the price will go up. In most cases when we’ve had discussions it’s not really possible to backtrack once you get that deep into discussions.”
With less than a month to go to the March 4 NHL trade deadline, however, Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli indicated that he isn’t close to finalizing any deals despite the trade rumors heating up in recent weeks. The B’s have been linked most prominently to potential trades for Edmonton Oilers winger Erik Cole and St. Louis Blues forward Keith Tkachuk, but the team continues to wait before pulling the trigger on deal that will bring the team additional size, strength and grit up front.
Both are left-handed shots, potential power play performers and fit many of the profiles that the B’s have been searching for to compliment a team that has shown all kinds of Stanley Cup potential over their first 50 plus games.
“I’m not that deep into discussions…I’m just speaking generally here,” added Chiarelli. “If we can get bigger, that is something that we’d like to do.”
Tim Thomas is expected to get the start in net when the NHL-leading Bruins host Joe Thornton and the Western Conference leaders San Jose tonight at the Garden at 7 p.m. Colleague Mike Petrags has some great sound up from the media meeting with Jumbo Joe this morning in the Sharks dressing room, and Thornton — as expected — said he was happy to be back in the familiar city of Boston where he can raid his favorite restaurants and check in with his brother that still lives in the Hub.
–Lasting image from this morning’s skate aside from the expected Jumbo Joe madness: WBZ-TV’s Steve Burton gallivanting through the Bruins locker room and accidentally stomping on a group of Milan Lucic’s expensive hockey sticks as he was swooping in on a group interview. Looch stopped without missing a beat, said to Burton “Yeah, you might want to try not doing that” and then went right back to awaiting group of questioners.
Not quite a “Curt, Curt…I need you” moment, but certainly another chapter in the Book of Burton.
|Michael Ryder undergoes surgery for orbital fracture||02.09.09 at 12:39 pm ET|
Bruins coach Claude Julien confirmed this morning that injured winger Michael Ryder is undergoing surgery today to repair a fractured orbital bone after getting whacked with a high stick last week. Julien said he didn’t know when Ryder would be able to return from the injury, and also said that the right wing wearing a “visor” or a “cage” on his helmet would be a “no-brainer.”
Hard to gauge exactly how long Ryder will be out for: Vancouver Canucks defenseman Sami Salo broke his orbital bone in Nov. 2007 and was back in the lineup three weeks later — while Mats Sundin missed exactly a month with the same injury in 2005-06.
Julien had Petteri Nokelainen skating on the right wing with David Krejci and Blake Wheeler during practice this morning/afternoon, but — as it always the case with any coach worth his salt — reserved the right to change his mind and shake up the lines. The B’s bench boss also seemed to cast doubt on the injury necessitating a call-up from Providence in the next few days — a sign that perhaps Julien feels Matt Hunwick can again play forward if more bodies go down when the team takes a four-game trek through the Sun Belt.
“It’s always a big loss when you lose players that are scoring goals for you, or an offensive threat,” said Julien. “He’s just one of them, but we’ve always eliminated the excuses and had guys step in from the beginning of the year and do the job.”
Updated: The surgery to repair Michael Ryder’s facial fracture was completed this afternoon, and Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli will address the media during tomorrow’s morning skate to discuss the surgery and the timetable for his return. Two prominent NHL players that suffered the same orbital-type injury over the last three years have been out 3-4 weeks, but there’s been no specific return date placed on the injured right winger as of yet
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