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Kessel: Teammates are “really deserving” 01.08.09 at 11:10 am ET
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Phil Kessel has the second-most goals in the NHL this year and could have been understandably miffed with the NHL powers that be for not being named to the NHL All-Star Game’s Eastern Conference team. But instead the 21-year-old phenom mentioned how deserving veteran teammates like Marc Savard, Tim Thomas and Zdeno Chara were for again getting to the NHL’s mid-winter classic and representing the Black and Gold.

 “I think [Chara, Thomas and Savard] are really deserving,” said Kessel, who is fourth in the NHL with 24 goals scored and .  “We’re on a really good hockey club this year and our leaders and guys like that deserve to be there.”

Read More: Marc Savard, Phil Kessel, Tim Thomas, Zdeno Chara
Chara, Savard and Kessel expected to be named All-Stars at 7:42 am ET
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The NHL Eastern Conference All-Stars will be announced at noon-time today, and it’s expected that Bruins players Marc Savard, Zdeno Chara and Phil Kessel will be named reserves for the Jan. 25 NHL All-Star game at the Bell Centre in Montreal. In addition, Blake Wheeler, Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Matt Hunwick are all expected to be invited to take place in the brand new Rookies Vs. Sophomores game to take place during the Saturday Skills’ Competition.

In addition, by virtue of the B’s overwhelming record built over the first 40 games this season, Bruins coach Claude Julien is in line to be the head coach for the Eastern Conference squad during the NHL’s showcase event in Montreal — the site of his first NHL head coaching post.

Lucic took part in the NHL Rookie Game last year while Chara, Savard and goaltender Tim Thomas were all named to the Eastern Conference squad for last season’s game in Atlanta. It would be the fourth All-Star Game for Chara, the second honor for Savard and the first-time honor for the 21-year-old Kessel, who has developed into a goal-scoring machine this season.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Claude Julien, Marc Savard, Phil Kessel
Who doesn’t love Bruins’ fun facts? 12.26.08 at 8:43 pm ET
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Here’s some Bruins stats and factoids to chew on coming out of their two-day Christmas break…these all come courtesy of Bruins media relations mavens Eric Tosi and Matt Chmura, who do a great of getting hacks like me exactly what we need to relay it out to the good folks of Bruins Nation. That would be you…assuming you’re good, of course.

HOME ICE ADVANTAGE: Boston has won their last 13 contests on home ice. This win streak is their longest such stretch since a 16-game home win streak from January 10 ‘€“ March 25, 1976. It is the longest home winning streak in the league this season and is the fifth longest in team history behind streaks of 20, 19, 16 and 15. Their last loss at home came on October 23 against Toronto.

BEANTOWN BOUND:The Bruins have 13 games in January, 10 of which are at home. This includes a six-game homestand to start the New Year from January 1 through January 13. January is quite different schedule-wise from December, when the Bruins had 13 games, 9 of which were on the road.

HIT MAN:Winger Milan Lucic currently leads the NHL in hits with 135. Pittsburgh’s Brooks Orpik is second behind Lucic with 124.

COURTESY OF THE BOSTON BRUINS WEEK AHEAD STAT MACHINE’€¦The Bruins currently have an NHL-best 11 players that are +10 or better. New Jersey and Chicago have the second most, as they both have six players who are +10 or better.  The 11 Bruins are: Marc Savard (+21), David Krejci (+19), Blake Wheeler (+19), Dennis Wideman (+17), Milan Lucic (+16), Phil Kessel (+16), Zdeno Chara (+15), Matt Hunwick (+13), Shane Hnidy (+13), Michael Ryder (+12) and Mark Stuart (+10).

-The Bruins lead the Eastern Conference in wins (25), fewest losses (5), goals for (126), goals against (77) and points (54)
-The Bruins lead the NHL in goals for (126) and are second in goals against (77, Minnesota 76).

-The Bruins own the NHL’s third ranked power play overall (26.6%). They also have the best power play in the league at home (36.1%)
-Marc Savard ranks tied for fourth in the league in points with 40 (E. Malkin, PIT 58)

-Phil Kessel ranks fourth in the league in goals scored with 21 (J. Carter, PHI 26)

-Marc Savard ranks fourth in the league in assists with 29 (E. Malkin, PIT 43)
-Marc Savard ranks second in the league in plus/minus with a +21 (E. Malkin, +22) while Blake Wheeler and David Krejci are tied for fourth at +19.

-Blake Wheeler ranks fifth among rookies in points with 20 (D. Brassard, CBJ 25), tied for third in goals scored with11 (M. Grabovski, TOR 12) and first in plus/minus

-Matt Hunwick ranks fifth among rookies in assists with 11 (K. Versteeg, CHI 17) and second in plus/minus with +13 (B. Wheeler, BOS +18)

Manny Fernandez ranks thrid in Goals Against Average with a 2.09 mark (S. Mason, CBJ 1.98)

Tim Thomas ranks second in Goals Against Average with a 2.04 mark, second in Save Percentage (.935%) behind Craig Anderson (.940%) and second in shutouts with 3 (R. Luongo, VAN 5).

That’s it for now, but come back to Pucks with Haggs shortly and I’m going to have a little post-Christmas Wish list for each member of the Boston Bruins over the final 48 games of the NHL regular season — and then, of course, the playoffs.

Read More: Blake Wheeler, Boston Bruins, David Krejci, Dennis Wideman
A Few Kessel scoring streak stats to ponder 12.24.08 at 8:33 am ET
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A few stats to pore over as a final wooden stick salute to the recently ended 18-game scoring streak by Phil Kessel that really propped him up onto the national spotlight as a goal-scoring force to be reckoned with this season.

As I blog these items up, I’m sure Old Time Hockey Bruin Bronco Horvath is having himself a Miami Dolphins-style champagne party this morning on Cape Cod to celebrate that his Bruins-record 22 straight games with a point during the 1959-60 season remains gleefully intact. You’ve got to root for anybody named Bronco, and lament the fact there aren’t enough hockey players with nicknames like that anymore. In those days we would would have heard names like “Crazy Legs” Kessel or Milan The Terrible, but instead we have to settle for the much more logical Kess and Looch. Ah, well…here’s the stats:

–Kessel finished with 28 points in the 18 games with an equal split of 14 goals and 14 assists, though the young winger has been held without a goal in his last three games leading up to the holiday break.

–Kessel was a solid +14 during the 18-game scoring stretch [though I feel obligated to put the goes-without-saying-with the obvious disclaimer that +/- isn’t the end-all, be-all stat for judging hockey players], and amazingly produced only one minus game during the entire five week plus time span of the Kessell Run (my own Star Wars geek way of describing the 18-game run…extra bonus points if you catch my reference and double dog bonus points for anyone that can name me the character that referenced it).

–The last time Kessel was held scoreless before last night’s playoff-style 2-0 win over a very competitive New Jersey Devils squad: a Nov. 12 2-1 shootout win over the Chicago Blackhawks that was cinched by a memorable P.J. Axelsson shootout score. That’ s a grand total of 40 days and nights between getting blanked on the scoresheet.

Here’s the video of the Axelsson courtesy of youtube and shot in true “You were there” style with the backs of people’s heads obscuring the action…seems like a million hockey years ago and is a testament to the sheer length that Kessel went streaking.

–Kessel totaled 57 shots during the 18-game scoring streak, an average of 3.17 shots per game for the B’s leading lamplighter. Kessel also managed three power play scores — and two of his three game-winners on the season — among the 14 goals tallied during the consecutive game-scoring streak.

–Kessel averaged 16:28 of total ice time during the 18-game scoring streak, which is right in line with the career-high 16:50 of ice that the 21-year-old is averaging this season.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Bronco Horvath, Phil Kessel,
Sounds of the game… Bruins 8, Maple Leafs 5 12.19.08 at 9:30 am ET
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The Bruins have shown they can win under all types of circumstances this season. Defensive struggles. Hard-hitting games and Thursday night, they showed they can win games that start out as blowouts and turn into shootouts. The Bruins led 5-1 after just 4 1/2 minutes into the second period when the pesky Toronto Maple Leafs collectively said, ‘Not so fast.’ After all was said and done, eight goals had been scored in the second period alone, with Phil Kessel collecting two. But the star of the game was David Krejci, netting his first career hat trick, including a goal in the third period that sealed the deal. The Bruins extended their home winning streak to 12 games, their longest since 1976 and the fifth-longest in team history.

David Krejci on his hat trick.

Krejci said the team is rolling all four lines well right now.

Coach Claude Julien on his 22-year-old star Krejci.

Julien said the game was a classic case of bend but don’t break.

Julien on Tim Thomas being pulled after two periods with the lead.

Michael Ryder said there’s no doubt the Bruins need to be better on defense.

Ryder on the team’s 4-for-6 perfomance on the power play.

Read More: Boston Bruins, David Krejci, Michael Ryder, Phil Kessel
Krejci hat trick continues Young Guns’ run 12.18.08 at 9:08 pm ET
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David Krejci spent long portions of his summer in the garden of his home in the Czech Republic, but he wasn’t exactly trying to grow the perfect set of Chrysanthemums. No…the nifty, young Bruins center was working on his shooting with a keen eye toward improving his shot and upping his goal-scoring totals after managing only six goals in 56 rookie games with the Bruins last season.

More trips to the Garden with a hockey net slung over his shoulder may be in the offing this summer after last night’s hat-worthy performance…

The Bruins did a lot of great offensive things in an 8-5 win over the scrappy Toronto Maple Leafs — going 4-for-6 on the power play, enjoying a four-point night from All-Star Marc Savard, a quick goal for Marco Sturm in his first game back from concussion/whiplash symptoms, scoring seven goals or more for the fifth time this season — but nothing was more eye-poppingly impressive than Krejci’s three goal performance.

The outburst, which included an absolutely sick second goal when he swooped in the left side of the goal while looking to dish the puck back to Michael Ryder before deciding to deke out Curtis Joseph and tuck the puck into the vacant goal, pushes Krejci’s goal total up to 11 scores on the season. Two of the goals looked like pure goal-scorer type goals as well, as the young pivot waited for the goaltender to make a move at him, and then placidly slid the puck into open area of the crease.

“If you give him some room he can certainly score some goals.  He’€™s a nifty player.  I just have to look where he is in the scoring,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “He’€™s right there with Phil [Kessel] and Savvy [Marc Savard] now.  You can look at his minutes compared to them.  When he’€™s on the ice he really does some good things.

“He’€™s a great player and makes everyone around him good or better.  That is basically his situation from day one, how he makes everyone around him better.  Tonight he got a chance to make himself look good as well with three big goals.”

For Krejci last night was certainly a pretty cool moment, as his last hat trick was a road game during junior hockey in Canada when nary a cap — or a bra for that matter — was tossed out on the ice amidst the third goal being scored before a grumbling, hostile crowd. This time, Krejci was showered with hats on the frozen sheet once the Garden crowd realized it was the 22-year-old’s first career pro hat trick.

It’s simply of the great iceberg for a player with all of the hockey skills needed to become a star in the NHL for years to come.

Sturm is over and out for now

Marco Sturm got a perfect chance to dust off the “Sturm Face” when he potted a goal just 36 seconds into the first period last night — his first game back from injury. Sturm had missed 12 straight contests with concussion/whiplash symptoms, but was right in the middle of things when he camped out in front of the net and swept home the rebound of a Chuck Kobasew shot in the first period.

The Sturm goal gave the Bruins a 1-0 lead in a moment that seemed about a million miles away by the time the 13-goal extravaganza had concluded. Unfortunately less than 15 minutes after the score, Sturm needed help exiting the ice when he appeared to wrench his left knee or leg while retrieving a puck in Boston’s end and then absorbing a hit.

Sturm was skating with Patrice Bergeron and Chuck Kobasew — a surprise given that he had been practicing with Stephane Yelle and Shawn Thornton on the fourth line — and looked both fast and furious prior to the injury. Sturm didn’t return to the game after being helped off the ice with about six minutes to go in the first period, and Julien didn’t have an update following the game.

“We haven’€™t got the results on [Sturm] yet,” said Julien. “I know he has been through a bunch of tests right now and the doctors are actually looking at it.  I don’€™t have anything to tell you right now that is going to help you out because I don’€™t even know.”

A quick goalie change

After watching a series of defensive lapses in the second period, Julien opted to sit Tim Thomas down after the All-Stat netminder surrendered five scores in the first two stanzas and instead went with Manny Fernandez in the third. Fernandez and a reinvigorated Bruins defense shut down the Leafs attack in what had been a 5-4 game heading into the third, and scores by Ryder and Krejci iced the high-flying affair Northeast Division Affair in the closing minutes.

Fernandez stood tall with 13 saves in the third period — including a handful of highlight stops — and should earn the puck version of a save after preserving a win for Thomas following his 40 minutes of spotty work over the first two periods. There was a knowing nod between Fernandez and Thomas during the first 40 minutes of the game when every bounce, every last fickle movement of the puck seemed to go against Boston’s guardian of the pipes.

It was, as the cliche goes, just one of those nights.

“We have all had those nights,” said Fernandez afterward. “I saw him shaking his head, and I know exactly what he is thinking. A simple nod and I told him that there are nights like these, and he agrees. You try not to have them in the stretch of the season. It is uncomfortable; it hits a skate, it hits a stick, you can’€™t control and it ends up in the net. There are nights like that but you just have to turn the page and get back to work and get better the next game.”

For a team that was nipping at the Bruins’ heels by a 5-4 score after two periods of play, Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson gave full credit to Fernandez for calming the waters and keying Boston’s Great Escape in an eventual three-goal victory.

“[Manny] Fernandez actually came in and made the difference in the game,” said Wilson. “We dominated the first six or seven or ten minutes of the third period and he made three or four unbelievable saves.  Then they scored that power play goal, and it was basically over at that point.”

Random Thoughts

–Savard and Krejci are very similar as players and playmakers, and we saw just how electric they can be in the third period when both skaters teamed up for a PP goal with a 5-on-3 advantage that cemented Krejci’s hat trick. Both are pass-first guys that serve as the central force on the respective first and second units on the power play, but there’s a curious side of me that would relish seeing both of them armed and loaded on the same power play squad. As it is now, they only skate together during the two-man advantage, but I can’t fight the nagging feeling that a normal PP unit featuring Savard and Krejci would be pretty close to unstoppable. But, then again, maybe it’s just me.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Claude Julien, David Krejci, Marc Savard
Kessel on the Big Show at 11:21 am ET
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Among a team of young Bruins breathing life into a previously moribund franchise, Phil Kessel has been the brightest constellation in the Bruins hockey universe. The 21-year-old winger has become a dynamic scoring force in his third year in the league, and has paired with Marc Savard to become one of the top scoring duos in the NHL this season. People keep looking for a specific turning point for Kessel, and he surely has stepped up his intensity and two-way play. But don’t overlook that this is the first time in his NHL career that young Kessel has played an extended amount of time with a legit playmaker in Marc Savard at the center position.

They had always played together in short bursts through their careers in Boston, but this 30 game stretch is the longest period of time that their two intertwining skills have been married on the frozen sheet. (Just look at last season’s early box scores when Savard was skating with Peter Schaefer and Brandon Bochenski…my how times have changed.)

Kessel was recently named the Top Star in last week’s NHL Three Stars competition, and was a guest of WEEI’s Big Show yesterday afternoon. Here’s the transcript:

What’s the difference? What light went on? PK: You know, I don’t know. I think I’m getting some better chances skating with Savard and Lucic. You play with those two and we have pretty good chemistry together. They find me in good spots and I’m getting some good chances.

It’s got to be reassuring that Lucic is one of the top policeman in the league right now and he can also put the puck in the net. PK: Obviously it’s nice and he clears a lot of room for me and Savvy out there. He’s a skilled player too and he can really make things happen out there.

What’s it like being a Bruin now as opposed to two years ago? PK: It’s way different. My first year you could really just tell there wasn’t as much support for the Bruins. You would go to the games and there weren’t as many fans. It’s way different now. There’s much more hype now. We’re getting big crowds and people are into it, and it feels much different to be a Bruin right now.

What has Claude Julien meant to you personally? PK: Well, ah I think he’s helped me mature as a hockey player and helped my two-way game improve. He always tells me that if you play good defense then the offense will come.

You guys have an 11 game win streak at home. How much do you feed off playing at a full house? PK: It’s been a big factor when it’s a packed house and the fans are excited and loud. We get fired up and want to play that much harder to get a win in our own building.

Blake Wheeler…you guys were teammates in Minnesota. Have you been surprised by how quickly he’s developed at such a young age? PK: Well, he’s a great player. Obviously he was a high draft pick and he’s one of my buddies. Playing with him at Minnesota, I knew what kind of player he is and what kind of skill he brings. Overall, I wasn’t overly surprised that he’s having a good year and playing really well for us.

Phil, did you help recruit him at all to the Bruins? PK: No. I stayed out of it. He’s one of my good friends, but that was his decision. He has to make his choice that’s best for him. Obviously, he’s chosen Boston and its worked out pretty well for him.

We saw the highlights when Chara went out and protected you. What does that mean in the locker room? PK: It means a lot. It means that he’s a great leader. It means guys care for each other. When a guy will scrap for another guy I think it says a lot for the guy. Obviously he’s our Captain and he’s a great leader in the locker room. It means a lot to our team.

Do you buy him a watch or anything? PK: Yeah, right. Obviously I said thank you for that. It means a lot for a teammate to step up and defend you.

After the series with the Canadiens the team was definitely headed in the right direction. But could you have dreamed the team would have this much success? PK: Well, you always have to believe that. You’ve always got to go out and work hard on your game, and get better with each game and with each practice. You just keep going and moving forward.

Phil, you seem to really take advantage of your speed. Sometimes it can take a while for a young player to find ways to create space, though. Was there a turning point for you where you found a way to create more space? PK: Obviously it took a little bit. I think this year has been a little different because I’ve been skating with Savvy and Looch, and we just have good chemistry out there. Looch gives us a lot of space and Savvy will find you with the puck wherever you’re at. You just have to get open. When you’re open it’s better because he’s going to get the puck around to you pretty much all the time.

There also seems to be a big difference with this team, particularly in the power play this year. What’s been the difference? PK: I think that we’re getting more shots and making more plays getting pucks to the net. I think we’ve got more screens going on in front of the net, and guys are willing to pay the price to score goals.

Can you talk about the nice mix of young guys and veterans on this Bruins team? PK: Well, I think it’s really important. We’ve got a good mix of young guys, older guys and rookies. I think everybody cares about each other on this team and would do anything for the other guys. When you have that in the locker room, it makes it much easier to go out on the ice and do whatever it takes to win hockey games.

Tim Thomas established himself last year. Manny Fernandez has played well this season. Can you talk about the play of the goalies this year? PK: Yeah, it’s comforting for our team. No matter who’s in net, we’re confident they’re going to play well for us. We’ve got two really elite goaltenders that can go in between the pipes for us. They’re going to stop the puck and play great for us every night.

How important has it been to play through some of the injuries this season, particularly on the blue line? PK: You just look at it like we’ve got a lot of good young guys in Providence and whoever gets called up is going to step in right away and contribute. [Matt] Hunwick has been having a great season for us, and the other night I thought Marty Karsums came up and did really well for us. He did all of the little things right. We’re just confident we can put anybody in the lineup and they’ll do great for us.

For the first time in a long time, this team has three really great lines. It’s very refreshing to see that. PK: We can roll all of our lines and be confident that they’re going to do the job. If you look at Krejci, Wheeler and Ryder’s line they’re playing great right now and scoring a lot of goals. Bergie’s line is doing well too, but they’ve just got to get going. I think they’re playing good hockey and it’ll eventually show up more on the offensive end.

Is there any one guy you kind of lean on in the locker room for advice and things like that? PK: I don’t think anyone in particular. I think we’re a pretty close-knit group and every guy looks out for each other and will help any of the other guys.

Read More: Boston Bruins, David Krejci, Marc Savard, Marty Karsums
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