|Things tighten up for B’s in weekend sweep||12.28.08 at 8:36 pm ET|
The intensity level and heart-thumping pulse of NHL games traditionally rises as the season marches forward, and things begin to tighten up a bit both offensively and defensively — a puck phenomenon that’s coming to life right before the eyes of Bruins’ followers.
Both the Carolina Hurricanes and the Atlanta Thrashers forced the Black and Gold to work extensively in back-to-back efforts in order to take a sweep of the weekend games — including Sunday night’s 2-1 win over Atlanta at Phillips Arena — and put their overall winning streak at eight games.
The B’s have handled the Trashers, out of that hockey hotbed deep in the heart of Atlanta, all season long, but Sunday’s taut triumph was most hotly contested of the season against the Thrash. It’s also indicative of the kind of tooth and nail games that await the Boston Golden Bears over their next 40 plus games.
NHL hockey is a much different animal in January, February, March and April — with teams jostling for playoff pole position as the NHL standings begin to settle — than it is in the opening months of October and November, and things certainly won’t be as swimmingly easy as they seemed for Boston over the season’s first few months. Add the tricked-out intensity to the host of injuries the B’s continue to battle through, and you have a pretty impressive effort for the weekend. A Tuesday night tilt against the Pittsburgh Penguins is all that’s standing between the Black and Gold and a five game sweep during their current holiday road trip.
Not to be confused, of course, with the Griswold theme song otherwise known as Lindsay Buckingham’s “Holiday Road”.
The B’s are the King of the Eastern Conference Hill right now, and they’re going to get everybody’s best from here on out. With that in mind, here’s a few observations from the solid victory over the Thrashers:
–Now may be the time for everybody to stow away those Manny Fernandez trade proposals. There’s no way the Bruins are a better team this season without hockey’s version of Manny Being Manny splitting time with Tim Thomas between the pipes.
They’ve formed the best Boston goaltending duo since the unforgettable Andy Moog/Reggie Lemelinteam in the 80’s and 90’s, and they still lead the NHL in team save percentage this season. Thomas and Fernandez have put together a .930 save percentage thus far, which puts them .06 percentage points ahead of both the Minnesota Wild and the Florida Panthers for NHL bragging rights.
Last night was a game the Bruins likely wouldn’t have won if not for the 34-year-old Fernandez, and the graceful butterfly style he used to make 32 saves Sunday night. His successive saves on Thrashers forwards Erik Christensen and Bryan Little with less than a minute to go in the third period were things of beauty, and were among a handful of saves that preserved the ‘W’ for the Bruins. Fernandez is now 12-2-1 on the season, and has pushed himself into a vital, irreplaceable role on this Bruins’ team.
It would be the worst kind of hockey karma to break this Killer B’s tandem up — a notion that all the hockey krishnas outthere should be nodding in harmonious agreement with.
Ryder equals Mr. Clutch
The game-winning third period goal was obviously hatched by the breathtaking David Krejci-authored saucer pass to a streaking Michael Ryder while he crashed the Atlanta net, but it also highlighted an interesting piece of Ryder trivia. The score — a quick redirect of the skidding puck through Thrashers goalie Keri Lehtonen’s pads — was Ryder’s team-leading seventh game-winning goal of the season thus far.
Ryder also leads the NHL with his collection of seven game-winning tallies, and sits two GWG’s ahead of fellow NHL luminaries Jeff Carter, Patrick Marleau, Daniel Sedin, Johan Franzen and Petr Sykora this season. It seemed symbolic that his seventh game-winner of the season was also his 14thoverall lamp lighter — the exact same goal-production total he managed in 70 restless, unhappy games with the Montreal Canadiens last season.
Congrats to Coach Julien
A tip of the PWH chapeau to Bruins coach Claude Julien, who has seemingly wrapped up the Eastern Conference coaching honors at the NHL All-Star Game after leading his Bruins squad to such a commanding lead during the first three months of the season. According to the fountain of first-hand knowledge known as wikipedia, since 1996 the head coaches for the two All-Star Game have been the coaches of the two teams that are leading their respective conferences in point percentage (i.e. fraction of points obtained out of total possible points) as of January 1.
With a commanding point lead over everyone else in the Eastern Conference, that would leave Julien to man the bench at the Bell Centre — a building that was once the coach’s home turf while he ran the show with the Montreal Canadiens from 2002-06. For a hockey building that’s housed some pretty high-intensity Bruins/Habs moments over the last two years, it will certainly be a proud moment for the Quebec native to play a prominent role in one of the Canadiens’ showpiece events during their 2008-09 Centennial celebration.
It should also be one of several honors bestowed on Julien in a season that’s been a testament to his ability to preach defensive responsibility, teamwork, patience and accountability to a dressing room full of young men on skates that have been ready to learn since Day One of training camp.
|Krejci hat trick continues Young Guns’ run||12.18.08 at 9:08 pm ET|
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.”
–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.
|NHL Conference Call with Savard (and what he said to Laraque Saturday night)||11.24.08 at 4:24 pm ET|
Bruins center Marc Savard had an NHL-sponsored conference call with assorted media members after being named last week’s First Start in the NHL Three Stars competition. Here’s a partial transcript from this afternoon’s call with reporters, including some interesting thoughts on the Laraque/Lucic confrontation last weekend and the punch-filled turning point for this season’s team. I skipped a few probing questions for Savard about John Tavares and the Oshawa Generals, but let’s just say that he thinks the youngster is a player and doesn’t mind that he’ll break his junior scoring records with the Generals. So now you can sleep knowing that. Here’s Savard:
From a plus/minus standpoint you’re having the best year of your career. What have you done to improve that? MS: Well, I don’t know. I’ve just been building every year since Coach Hartley helped me out in Atlanta. Then I came here and I’ve learned a lot from Claude. So things have helped in that way, and then obviously playing in our system makes it a lot easier to be a better plus player than I’ve been in the past.
It’s right there and [Claude] tells us exactly what to do and it’s right there in front of us. You trust in your teammates and they do their job and it makes it a lot easier. It’s that and a lot of little things. Being down low and what exactly do you do when you’re down there and being better away from the puck has really helped me too.
Do you feel you’re a more complete player this year? MS:Yeah, I do. I’m killing penalties this year. It’s the first year in the NHL that I’ve done that and I’m taking a lot of big faceoffs. It’s nice to be counted on like that, it feels good and hopefully we keep on playing like that.
The Boston Bruins success has raised a lot of eyebrows around the league. What are you doing to keep playing this well? MS: We’re just playing together, you know, and we really get along so well. I know a lot of teams say that, but we really do. If something needs to be said, well then we air it out in the room and we go from there.
When Dallas came in here, I think I really look at that as our turning point for the season. We started off with a .500 schedule through our first six games, and Dallas came in here and we had a big game against them. We just grew from there, and we’ve just been on a pretty good roll since then.
If Dallas was the turning point, then what did the two recent wins against Montreal do? MS:Yeah, obviously it’s a huge rivalry. We’re not the biggest fans of the Canadiens, and I’m sure they’re not the biggest fans of us, so it’s nice to be able to finally get some wins against them. I think we’re just building off it and rolling over, and we’re just a confident team right now. We know that we have to work hard to get our victories.
Can you talk about how much instant impact Lucic has had with Boston. MS: Well, I knew from Day One of training camp last year when I went right to our GM and said that this guy is ready. I knew with his size and stuff. I played with him in one exhibition game early on, and I think it was against the Islanders in Halifax or New Brunswick or something. I knew right then that he was ready to play. He has more skill than everybody gives him credit for, and I can see that when he makes good little plays.
We’ve been working well together, so hopefully if he continues to do that then he’s going to have a great career. After the playoffs when he was a huge presence for us in the playoffs, I think he’s just rolled that over into this year. Playing on my wing, I can take advantage of it and chip it into the corner knowing that he’s going for it. There’s not too many guy that are going to be the first one back there when he’s going. He’s a great addition, and we have a good mix on the line. So it’s nice to have him on the line.
Julien has been active in moving players around. Can you talk about the defensive awareness that you and Phil have? MS: Playing with Phil and Milan, they’re both younger guys — and for myself too — for us to be out there and get the minutes that we want to get we try and stress to each other to be good defensively. If we’re good defensively then we’re going to get a lot of offense. Really it feels like we haven’t been in our zone that much for that reason. We’ve been getting back hard, breaking up plays and getting it back in. We’re having a lot of fun as a line.
Like you said, Kess has really worked hard at that aspect so he can be out there in those situations. As he gets older he’s obviously going to be a top guy at both ends [of the ice].
PJ Axelsson has also been moved up to the top lines a few times, so you have Axelsson and Phil playing in different roles and winning games. Julien seems to be asking a lot of everybody [on the team]. MS: Yeah, he is. He’s a demanding coach, but in the same sense he’s fair. If you’re playing hard and you’re playing good, then you’re going to get that ice time. We’ve been getting that as a line, and obviously our team has been playing great as a whole lineup. If someone isn’t going one night, then somebody else picks them up. It’s been good in that way.
We know what we have to do to win: we have to keep working and Claude keeps stressing that every day. There’s not too many days where he lets that stuff slide. We know as a team what we have to do to win, and we’ve been able to do it.
One of the subplots of last weekend’s game was staying clear of Laraque. 1) Was that talked about and 2) there was a faceoff where Georges and Lucic were squaring off in the faceoff circle and they were yakking it up a little. You seemed to come over and have something to say and things calmed down a little bit. What happened there? MS: I just told Georges that there’s going to be another time for this. Right now we’re worried about wins. Milan Lucic is a hockey player and not just a fighter, so that’s basically what I said. It kept him quiet for a little bit anyway.
If they wanted to put Georges out there that much then it was fine with us. We didn’t want anybody fighting, especially because we’re obviously a little short on the defensive corps with Andrew Ference out. People are saying ‘well, why didn’t [Chara] grab him’. There’ll be time for that. I’m not saying we’re going to do it, but right now it wasn’t the time. Especially playing up there when we were on the road. If they got hot on the power play, which they’re capable of doing, we didn’t want that to happen either. We played it the way we wanted to play it, and there was nothing else about it.
Would you like to be considered for the Canadian Olympic team, and do you take a lot of pride in your passing ability? MS: Yeah, that would be a huge honor for me. It’s something that I obviously don’t go into every game thinking about, but it would be nice to work for that. Right now I’m worrying about the Boston Bruins, but it would be a huge to wear the jersey of my country. You see a lot of big players on that list, and it would be nice to be mentioned with them.
On the passing side, I’ve always been a passer first. I tried to get away from that to open up more things and try to get more shots on goal this year, and I think I’ve done that. It’s obviously worked out well. It’s nice to get some recognition on that, and hopefully I can keep setting up my wingers for some nice goals.
Do you think the Bruins won’t be able to fly under the radar anymore this season? MS:Now, for sure we know that teams are going to be coming for us and we need to be ready every night. Claude keeps us pretty honest in that we have to ready to go every night. The best thing about our hockey club, though, is that we’re obviously a confident group right now…but we also know what we have to do to win games, and that’s work hard and stay with our system. Play at both ends of the ice, and we’ve obviously been able to do that and get great goaltending and we’re getting different guys stepping up every night. We’re getting a good mix right now, but like you said we’re only 20 games in so we’re obviously not getting too high and we’re trying to keep an even keel. Things are going well.
Can you talk a little about how important Tim Thomas has been this year? MS: Tim has been huge. He’s been a great goaltender and he hasn’t got a lot of credit over his career, but he’s having a great year this year. It’s nice to have a goalie back there that’s going to make the big save for you, and he’s done that this year. Obviously with Manny back there it pushes Tim even a bit more because when when Manny has gone in there he’s played well too. So we have a great one-two punch going on right now, and hopefully they can keep playing the way they have for the whole season.
I thought that moment with Laraque and Lucic from Saturday night’s game was a pretty good example of veteran leadership. Have you always been that kind of leader at each stop in your NHL career, or is that something that’s blossomed in Boston? MS: I think throughout the years, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more of a leader and I’ve learned a lot through my career. Obviously in my career there’s been some tough times, and you only get stronger from that. We get along so well in the dressing room and we have so many young and me being an older guy I’m able to help those kids out a little bit.
Playing with two kids — Kessel and Lucic — I’m always talking to them between shifts, and I always want more and I want them to always want more too. I think they’re proving that this year. [Being a leader] isn’t always about just saying something, it’s about going out and doing it too. So hopefully I’m able to do that stuff. I do talk a lot and I like to have a lot of fun before the game and keep guys loose, but — in the same sense — when the puck drops I think it’s time to get serious and get things going. Those of the types of things I want to bring and hopefully I’m able to do that.
What have your impression been so far of Blake Wheeler? MS:Blake’s a skilled hockey player and he’s a big boy, so he’s got a lot of things going for him. He skates well. He’s really come in here and looked like a veteran out there and he’s played really well. Coach is giving him an opportunity to play a lot a lot, and his line is playing really with Krejci and Kobasew right now too. They bring a lot to the hockey team, and Wheeler seems to keep getting better every day.
He’s been a big part of our success at the shootout lately too. He shoots first and I think in his three shootouts he’s scored twice. He keeps growing and he has one of his best buddies in Kessell here too, so that’s helped him out with the adjustment. The sky is the limit for him.
When you look at the size, is he as physical as you expected him to be? MS: When you’ve got a big guy there you obviously expect a guy to finish his checks — or when you’re any size you expect them to finish checks — but when you’ve got that kind of size and that kind of gift you hope that he uses it. And he uses it well and he uses it to his advantage. He gets to the net hard and with that big body he’s able to get some goals.
Was there a moment last year when you realized this was a team that was really together? MS:I think it started last year when Bergie went down, we came together closer and you knew each guy had to step up. And then when it came to the end of the year really had to battle to make it into the playoffs, and from then on in we had a seven game series against Montreal. We were able to battle back the way we did and really have the same team come back besides a couple of guys and then add three players.
From there we’ve really taken off and in the room — whether we’re on the road — we really get along so great and I know a lot of teams say that but it’s the truth here. We hang out all the time. Even yesterday we had a little team get together and it’s like a family here. Every sticks up for each other. But that Dallas game this year brought us even closer together this year and we really stick up for each other. It was one of our first big games at home this year and it really brought us together.
Did this start change expectations in the room? MS: Yes and no. I think at the beginning of the year we thought that we had a great team, and it was just a matter of when it all came together. It obviously came together pretty fast. Off that Montreal series we knew that we really grew as a team and we saw what kind of damage we could do if we played together, worked hard and just stayed within the system. We’ve done that and now we’re a confident group, but at the end of the day we know what wins us hockey games. That’s working hard, and coach keeps us honest in that regard and helps us do it.
Somebody told me that today’s players really like playing in a system. How important is that in Boston? MS: It makes it easier because you know that the system is there to protect you, and if you get away from it then you’re going to get into trouble. I think we know that as a team. We probably don’t have the most skilled team in the NHL, but if we stick with what we’re taught we’re able to win games through hard work. We do have skill players and it’s proven every night because we have guys stepping up. We’re a confident team right now, but we know that we have to work hard.
You’ve put up some pretty impressive numbers since the end of the lockout. What do you attribute that to? MS: I don’t know. I think I’m focused and going into games I want to help the team offensively and I want to produce every night. I think I’ve been hungry to do that. I think that’s why I’ve been able to stay so consistently since the lockout. Obviously I’ve gotten a great opportunity to play in the division that I’ve been in, and things have worked out.
Are you upset because Lucic is a big guy that other guys want to fight him? You’ve got guys like Georges that want to fight him simply because he’s a big guy. MS: On the Lucic stuff, I think he’s going to get challenged a lot because I think his record is pretty flawless in the fighting department, and people not only want to fight but get him off the ice because he’s such a factor in most hockey games and he’s only getting better every day. I like having him out there obviously, and when he goes in the box if shifts up our lines and stuff like that. So it makes it a little tougher.
Myself coming into the league I had a lot of growing pains to go through. Coming into the league I played with the Rangers and we had a lot of stars and obviously it was hard for me to make a name there. I went to Calgary and got a great opportunity to play. When I moved on to Atlanta that’s where things started to get a lot better. Obviously Coach Hartley really helped me out and I owe him a lot to him — especially in the early stages — because he basically told me there’s the ball right there and if you want to take it then just go. He gave me a lot of ice time and I was able to succeed there before I moved on to Boston, where I’m happy and I hope that i can finish out my career here and keep getting better.
|Sounds of the game… Bruins 4, Panthers 2||11.21.08 at 9:10 pm ET|
The beat rolls on for the hottest team on ice. The Bruins dispatched of the over-matched Florida Panthers, 4-2, in the first regular season Friday night NHL game in Boston in 31 years. The win also helped the Bs tied the New York Rangers for first place in the Eastern Conference. Listen to them talk after, and you get the sense that they know they can play even better. A great thought for fans of the Black and Gold and a scary thought for the rest of the NHL.
|Sounds of the game… Bruins 5, Leafs 2||11.06.08 at 11:11 pm ET|
It might be time to start asking just who is Blake Wheeler.
Wheeler is now tied with Toronto’s Mikhail Grabovski for the NHL rookie goal lead with 6. ‘¦ Dennis Wideman won $100 for scoring the goal on Andrew Ference‘s 100th career assist. Ference said before the game he would offer the reward to the lucky goal-scorer. Thursday marked Zdeno Chara‘s 700th career game.
Now for the stars of the game.
|Sturm and scrums highlight rousing victory||11.01.08 at 5:37 pm ET|
Prior to last night’s 5-1 thrashing of the Stars, Bruins coach Claude Julien asked Marco Sturm to “be involved more” following Saturday morning’s pre-game skate.
Sturm and the rest of his teammates were all heavily involved in a thrilling fight-fest that moved me to ask if this was the return of the Big, Bad Bruins — or at least as close as they’ll ever get in the kinder, gentler version of the NHL.
The B’s winger didn’t waste any time obliging — and he did so without any need for Draconian punishments like a punitive benching or a red-faced tirades from his hockey coach.
Sturm ended a seven-game scoreless streak with a slapper from the left face-off circle just 2:41 into the first period off a nice behind-the-net dish from rookie Blake Wheeler. The score was Sturm’s second strike of the season and the amazing ninth time this season in 12 games that the Black and Gold have scratched first blood.
The assist on Sturm’s first goal was also the first helper of Wheeler’s NHL career to go along with the three goals he’s scored over the first dozen games. Sturm added a third period tally to give him the two-goal evening, and the move to pair Sturm with David Krejci appears to be paying immediate dividends all around.
“It was nice. He needed to react, and not just react but find his game,” said a satisfied Julien after the game. “I thought [Sturm] played better tonight and he was in the right spot, even on that last goal he was in the right place and he buried [his opportunities]. I thought he was a better player tonight.”
The B’s ended up taking the 5-1 decision over the Stars in a very chippy, conentious, entertaining Old Time Hockey-style game that featured Stars agitator Steve Ott twice refusing to drop both his stick and the gloves when Shawn Thornton and Shane Hnidy circled round looking for a fights — one after a hit aiming for Stephane Yelle’s leg that Lucic later termed “gutless”. Hnidy actually dropped his stick and his gloves to go with Ott, but the 6-foot, 193-pounder thought better of it each time and held his stick vertically to shield himself from his Black and Gold challenger.
Eventually Andrew Ference and Sean Avery dropped the gloves after the Bruins defenseman — who earned the Third Star in the win and continues his impressive early season play — leveled Ott with a clean open ice hit in the third period. That hit also turned out to be a big turning point in a game that was still squarely in the close category in the third period.
In the end, the combative game had 177 penalty minutes and seven misconducts and made many spectators wish these two teams played each other again during the regular season.
–The Bruins much-maligned penalty kill unit also looked better after six successful kills of Dallas PP’s throughout Saturday night’s game — a testament to the work they’ve put in to exert more pressure on the points while also just getting tougher aroun their own net.
Julien said before the game that the solution to the PK’s problems were pretty simple: “It’s just being proactive. The puck has to go all the way down [to the other end of the rink] and we’re soft on the puck when it comes time for scoring chances. These are the areas that I think will improve our penalty kill and will improve our goal production.”
For two periods Ott and Sean Avery attempted to draw penalties from annoyed Bruins skaters and their aggravating tactics actually allowed the Stars to gain some man advantage opportunities in the second period. But their agitating, sandpaper ways finally backfired on them and the rest of their Stars teammates in the third period. Avery leveled Milan Lucic from behind midway through the third in the final coup de grace of what been a pretty dirty production of hockey put on by both Avery and Ott all night — and all heck broke loose at that point.
Marc Savard came to the aid of the fallen Lucic and started pounding on Avery, and then both players worked over the Vogue intern while separate bouts involving Shane Hnidy and Mark Stuart took place. Savard, Lucic, Hnidy Mark Stuart, Ott, Avery, Matt Niskanen [how did a peace-loving Fin with zero penalty minutes headed into tonight get involved in all this?] were all done for the night when they each got 10-minute misconducts with less than nine minutes to play.
Apparently even some of Ott and Avery’s teammates had a serious problem with some of the underhanded things they were pulling out on the ice in the third period.
“Tonight it seemed to be idiotic,” said Stars elder statesman Mike Modano. “It’s stupid. It’s one of the more embarrassing things I have seen, on the ice and involved with the fans. In 20 years, I haven’t seen anything like it. If that’s what we’re going for, maybe I need to find myself an office job.”
The Stars were shaking their heads and dropping F-bombs in their locker room while the Bruins seemed a tighter, more resolute bunch after standing together and sticking up for each other.
“It was good to see everybody pile in their and come to my aid, but most importantly we got the win,” said Lucic. “In the end we all stuck up for each other and it’s only going to make us stronger going down the road. It was a good character game and a good character win for us. Savvy came in here after the game saying that he was a killer, but obviously it was nice what he went out there and did.
“Hnidy said to me as we were coming off the ice that it felt like a junior hockey scrum out there, so yeah it felt like Old Time Hockey,” added Lucic. “What we need to do is bottle this up and make sure we have some of it for Thursday [against the Leafs.]”
–Somewhat overlooked in a penalty-filled Saturday night flashback to the glorious days of the Big Bad Bruins was the work of goaltender Tim Thomas, who made 35 saves in the 5-1 victory and was again rock-solid between the pipes. The win was his fourth consecutive start for the Bruins and it would seem he has clearly wrapped up the starter’s role with the B’s. The All-Star goaltender mused that the sketchy Stars must have received the wrong scouting report on the Bruins when they attempted to pull the McFilthy and McNasty routine with penalty box buddies Ott and Avery.
“We’re a clean team, but we’re not going to let anybody push us around or play dirty with us,” said Thomas. “I think we did a good job of sticking up for ourselves and showing what kind of character we have. I don’t know what kind of scouting report they had on us, but I think they picked the wrong team to try to do that to.”
The B’s netminder actually thought he might get involved in the third period donnybrook when beleaguered Stars goalie Marty Turco skated out toward center ice following the Avery hit from behind on Lucic. Turco has had a terrible season thus far, and it could have been he was looking for the rare-but-always-entertaining goalie scrap. The Dallas goaltender stopped, however, once he saw Thomas make a move near the pile of skating pugilists.
“It’s actually some of the hardest games to play because you get your adrenaline going a little bit even though you try to stay as calm and even-keeled as you can be,” said Thomas. “When Fer [Andrew Ference] got hit and then stood up for himself I got a little excited, and it’s hard to finish out a game that way.
“I wasn’t going to let [Turco] into the pile. It looked to me like he was going to try to get into the pile, so that’s why I skated over to the other side of it,” added Thomas. “I think he’s the one that made the suggestion by coming to center ice, and I just responded by getting over to the other side of the pile and saying ‘I don’t think you’re going to go any further’ and he stayed there. I can’t remember a game like that for a long time…maybe the AHL. I haven’t experienced anything quite like that before.”
–Below I’ve included the transcript of Mike Modano’s comments provided by the crack Bruins media relations staff following Saturday night’s game. It seems that the longtime Dallas Stars forward was none too pleased with his team’s careless lack of discipline in a game that was still close in the third period.
DALLAS STARS FORWARD MIKE MODANO
On the team’s identity
Tonight it seemed to be idiotic. It’s stupid. It’s one of the more embarrassing things I have seen, on the ice and involved with the fans. In twenty years that I haven’t seen anything like it. If that’s what we’re going for maybe I need to find myself an office job.
On the physicality of the game’¦
Yeah, I mean it got out of hand, it was still a 2-1 game and then we find ourselves blowing it again, putting ourselves in trouble with dumb penalties and dumb situations. That’s kind of the trend it’s been all season.
On the cause of the frustration’¦
There isn’t any mental toughness, that’s kind of one of the big things. Everything we’re letting get to us. We’re letting the refs get involved in the game with us. We’re spending more energy on them than the details of winning the game. It’s another thing that’s been a bad part of our game.
On the goaltending performance of both Tobias Stephan and Marty Turco’¦
They’re doing about as best as you can ask for them, but the quality of chances are just like doorstep goals and outnumbered rushes again. You can put two goalies in there; those are still going to go in. You allow those quality type of chances, I don’t care who you have in net.
On trying to fix the team’¦
Well, I don’t know if you can put your finger on something. Moving the puck, I don’t know, practice skating, getting shots on the net, things like that. Defending is probably first and foremost. We come off a couple of hard practices and we have one of our best defensive games of the season against Minnesota. Back to the same old. Less is more sometimes. Just getting the puck out and then getting it in. Hopefully your forecheck can create something for you and go from there. To look to create, there aint nothing there.
|A few minutes with Jarome Iginla||10.29.08 at 10:47 am ET|
The Bruins have a well-deserved day off after taking a second straight 1-0 win along their Western Canada road odyssey, so there isn’t a ton to report on the Spoked B’s other than the notion that Tim Thomas finally seems to have gained the upper hand in goaltending situation. After last night’s second straight shutout, Thomas is leading the NHL with a .943 save percentage and is second in the league after six games with a 1.77 goals against average.
Thomas became the first B’s netminder since Byron Dafoe in 1999 to register back-to-back shutouts after Tuesday night’s 1-0 win in Vancouver. It was also the first time in nine games this season that B’s coach Claude Julien has given the same goaltender the starting nod in two consecutive games.
With the Calgary Flames on the schedule for Thursday night, here’s a few minutes Flames right winger Jarome Iginla courtesy of an NHL conference call from Monday. The rugged, skilled Iginla exploded for 5 goals and 2 assists over three three games before getting shut out against the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night.
Iginla is also one of the few elite scoring players in the NHL that’s also willing to drop the gloves, as he’s done numerous times in his career — including this haymaker-throwing donnybrook with Vancouver’s Willie Mitchell.
Containing Iginla will be a large part of the B’s dousing the Flames and going a perfect 3-0 in the Great White Western North of Canada, so here’s a few thoughts with the 31-year-old winger with 6 goals and 4 assists this season:
Q. Fighting is up significantly in the NHL this season. Do you have any theories on why that is?
JAROME IGINLA:No, I don’t. I don’t have any theories. I think it’s definitely still part of the game. I guess the numbers would show it, but I think it’s still part of the game and part of the team and as far as momentum, and also making sure you don’t get intimidated or vice versa. No, I wasn’t aware that it was up or not, but definitely when you play, you know, there’s always that chance you never know if it’s going to be a fight. It’s not out of it, as people are talking.
You guys added a couple of new people in the off-season, and maybe that was part of the reason for the slow start. How hard has it been working in a couple of these new guys this year?
JAROME IGINLA: It’s been great. I think that we made changes in the off-season, as most teams do, and up front I think we’ve gotten a lot quicker. I think that [Todd] Bertuzzi has come in and played really, really well for us, and that’s been a big part of our power play.
[Mike] Cammalleri has fit in really nicely, and we added [Rene] Bourque and [Curtis] Glencross with their speed. I wouldn’t say that the start that we had was slow. We had a good preseason. We were playing pretty well and things were going good, and we just got off to a tough start. We had a bad first game against Vancouver, and then we lost a few one-goal games in a row where defensively our game wasn’t very sharp, and we were still right there in the one-goal games and we were having terrible second periods.
So I wouldn’t say it was like getting used to everyone. It didn’t really feel like that. It was just that we kind of just went into a little bit of a funk and got a little bit away from what we wanted to do and weren’t moving the puck very well or playing very strong defensively. We tried to change those things. It’s all the things you talk about. And fortunately this last week was a lot better for us.
Q. And looking at your team, you mentioned Todd Bertuzzi. Can you talk about how he fit in and the strong start he’s gotten off to for you guys?
JAROME IGINLA: Yeah, he’s been really, really good for us. He’s come in and he’s playing really hard. He’s having a lot of fun. Talking to him, he’s really enjoying himself. He’s one of the older guys on the team, so he’s been a leader in our dressing room.
He’s come in on the power play. I think our power play has been really coming on, and he’s a big part of that. He grabs a lot of attention in front of the net. He moves the puck well still. So on the power play, we wanted to win, we want to be a better team in the league and we’ve got to get our power play up there, too, and he’s been a big reason why it’s been improving.
Q. This is sort of a league issue. I was going to talk about the new injury disclosure policy in which the league has really tightened what the teams can release publicly about injuries. I wanted to just talk a little bit about the rationale. Have you ever been targeted by an opponent who may have known you were injured any time in your career? Did you ever feel that that was a threat?
JAROME IGINLA: I personally haven’t been. You know, I can see the one side where it sounds like you don’t want anyone to know if a guy has maybe a bad hand and you’re going to start slashing his hand. But I don’t think that’s going to happen regularly.
I know when we hear a guy with an injury, we just played [Jason] Arnott. We knew he came back in Nashville, and we knew he came back from a finger injury. We’re trying to be hard on him obviously because it’s his first game back and he plays so well against us, but no one made one comment about let’s go slash his hands or anything like that. I mean, maybe playoff time things heat up even more. But no, we’ve never really talked like that at all.
Q. And just one quick follow-up. There’s been some comparisons drawn with the NFL only because it’s a pretty physical sport, as well, and guys try to take advantage of every piece of intelligence that they have. They have the most transparent policy, in which every Wednesday and Friday there’s a report that comes out on each injured player, where he’s hurt, what he’s been able to do. There’s a big reason for that, and that’s in Las Vegas with the wagering and whatnot. But I’m just curious, if the NFL can be that transparent, why can’t the NHL?
JAROME IGINLA: Well, yeah, I think it’s obviously a very physical sport, too. I mean, we’re trying to not say a guy has a shoulder injury. Say we’re playing another team and one of their top guys has a shoulder injury. Well, we’re probably trying to hit him anyway, but we’re trying to hit him as much as we can.
And if it’s an ankle injury, there’s nothing a guy is really doing to another guy’s ankle. I guess it would be a hand would come to mind that you might see more, but refs are on that and see that anyway. So yeah, most of them are like yeah, I’m not that personally, obviously, I’m not that worried about it because usually I feel like they’re trying to hit me anyway, or playing against another team’s defensemen and they’re trying to run me into a corner whether my shoulder is good or not. No, I could see why it could be more transparent.
Q. I want to ask you, you’ve been captain in Calgary for five years. Did you feel any more pressure to put the team up on your shoulders? You had such a great week this week. Since you’re the captain and the leader, did you maybe send out the message to the rest of the guys about how everybody needs to pick up their play a little bit more and if they see the captain doing it they’ll try to do what they can to try to follow your lead?
JAROME IGINLA: Well, I mean, we had a lot of talk before this week about the fact that we definitely want to turn it around, but that’s something that happens when you’re not winning as a team. Yeah, I personally want to be better, but every guy wants to be better in the room.
I think if you went around and you asked Dion [Phaneuf] and Kipper and Bertuzzi, and you went to our young guys, [Dustin] Boydie, it’s something that it’s every single guy. There’s not many that feel good and they just want to keep going. Every guy thinks when you’re not winning that you can do just a bit more and you want to be a little bit sharper. I don’t think it’s because I’m a captain or anything. I think partly I’m a veteran and have been here, and I thankfully play a good amount of minutes and I’m out there, but I think it’s just something that’s part of a team that every guy does look at himself and see how he can contribute and collectively be better as a group.