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Sobotka strikes gold in win over Oilers 10.31.09 at 3:14 pm ET
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It isn’t going to get the fans jumping out of their seats or snag them many trophies at year’s end, but the Bruins are rolling up their sleeves and getting to work. Game by game the Black and Gold are sinking deeper into the disciplined, layered, exacting system of defense installed by the B’s coaching staff, and that brand of hockey was fully on display in Saturday afternoon’s 2-0 shutout win against the Oilers.

The Bruins were led by the gritty Vlad Sobotka, who finished with a goal and an assist — and had another tally wiped away when it came a second after the buzzer ended the second period.

“Our team without the puck is getting better,” said Claude Julien. “Vladdy [Sobotka] is starting to find his game again with us that we saw a few years ago. [A game] we really liked. He’s an in-your-face type of player, but he’s also capable of making some good plays, doing the right things and scoring some goals. He’s been much better the last three games, no doubt.” 

Missing two of their biggest guns due to injury, it’s going to take a simplistic, scaled-down approach to the game and an abundance of slim victories in the near future for the Black and Gold. That was exactly what the team received from their whole team, and the Blake Wheeler/Sobotka/Daniel Paille line finally exploded in the third period with two goals en route to victory. With a two-goal lead suddenly in hand, the Bruins defense and goaltender Tuukka Rask clamped down to preserve the shutout over the final 10 minutes of hockey.

The Bruins are still activating their defensemen to keep pressure in the offensive zone as much as possible and rolling their lines, but it’s clear that there’s some offensive skill missing from the roster. That’s why a gritty goal by Sobokta — busting his way through Theo Peckham and Fernando Pisani with the puck to set up Wheeler’s score — was exactly what the hockey doctor ordered. Wheeler setting up Sobotka minutes later for the two-goal lead was just icing on the cake.

Andrew Ference missed wide right on a one-time bomber opportunity while pinching down from his defenseman position during a first period flurry. Marco Sturm embarked on a one-man rush up the left side in the second period and earned a clear attempt at the net, but missed high to the top right corner with his slap shot..

The Bruins put heavy pressure on at the end of the second period when Wheeler, Sobotka and Daniel Paille fired off a bevy of shots at the Edmonton cage, and it appeared they broke through when Sobotka whistled an attempt past Nikolai Khabibulin. But the attempt clearly skipped past the goalie following the second period buzzer and whistle indicating the period was over. There was no goal and a scoreless first 40 minutes of action prior to the Sobotka and Wheeler finally putting up some in-regulation fireworks during the final period.

YOU’RE THE BEST AROUND, NOTHING’S EVER GONNA  KEEP YOU DOWN:Vladimir Sobotka has looked increasingly impressive since a pep talk with Claude Julien prior to the Ottawa game last weekend, and it finally showed up on the scoreboard Saturday afternoon. Sobotka broke a scoreless deadlock when he fought through both Theo Peckham and Fernando Pisani with the puck, and dished a beautiful backhanded pass to Blake Wheeler. Wheeler slammed the shot past Nikolai Khabibulin and victory was Boston’s. Wheeler and Sobotka teamed again minutes later to give Vlad the Scrorer his first goal of the season.

GOAT HORNS:Marco Sturm and Andrew Ference both missed golden scoring opportunities earlier in the game, but there was a great deal to like about the effort and execution in an air-tight win over the Oilers. The Bruins kept putting on the pressure, and finally worn down Edmonton in the final 20 minutes. No goats on Saturday.

Read More: Blake Wheeler, Tuuka Rask, Vladimir Sobotka,
Bruins trade Kobasew to the Minnesota Wild 10.18.09 at 8:40 pm ET
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Following a deflating 3-4 start to the season, the Boston Bruins finally reacted to mediocrity on Sunday night and traded Chuck Kobasew to the Minnesota Wild for the rights to unsigned draft choice Alexander Fallstrom, forward Craig Weller and a 2011 second-round draft choice in a deal that also obviously loosens up room under the salary cap. Fallstrom began his freshman year at Harvard University this fall and Weller had played the first five games of this season for the AHL’s Houston Aeros.

Following the trade, the B’s placed Milan Lucic on long term injured reserve with a broken right index finger, and recalled Guillaume Lefebvre, Brad Marchand and Vladimir Sobotka from the Providence Bruins. Marchand had scored five goals in six games with the P-Bruins after impressing B’s officials during this fall’s abbreviated training camp. 

The deal was clearly done largely with the salary cap in mind as the Bruins were forced to head out on a two-game road trip through Dallas and Phoenix with the bare minimum 20 players. Once Lucic was hurt against the Stars, the B’s were forced to call Lefebvre up as an emergency forward and fly him the same day to Phoenix for a Saturday night game.

Clearing Kobasew’s $2.3 million off the books allows Chiarelli plenty of cap room to bring up extra bodies from Providence, and also allows B’s coach Claude Julien to introduce the bench to players that aren’t giving their full effort out on the ice. Kobasew had a single assist in seven games this season, and really hadn’t been much of a factor skating with Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi. 

There wasn’t much roster competition when the B’s couldn’t afford to carry any extra players on their active roster through the first handful of games, and now Julien has that tool in his coaching bag. A quick calculation of the money saved by trading Kobasew, placing Lucic on LTIR — for which he must sit for at least 10 games or nearly a month’s time — and calling up the minor leaguers: roughly $1.15 million.

 The hockey swap also clears Kobasew’s $2.3 million off the books for next season when the team has a number of players looking for new deals including Marc Savard, Blake Wheeler, Mark Stuart and Tuuka Rask. Minnesota’s second-round pick in 2011 adds to the bulging toy box of draft picks that Chiarelli and Co. have accumulated over the last two seasons, and gives Boston nine picks in the first two rounds over the next drafts.

 The draft picks give Chiarelli an abundance of bargaining chips once big-time scorers become available around the trade deadline. Boston is clearly in the best position to wheel and deal at the deadline, and now has even more bargaining power with another pick. Those expecting another trade shoe to drop in the next few weeks may be disappointed, however, as it’s likely that this is more along the lines of preparation for the March 3 trade deadline.

NESN.com’s James Murphy originally reported that the Bruins were talking trade with the Minnesota Wild on a deal that centered around Kobasew. Chiarelli was unavailable for comment on Sunday night, but planned to meet with the media at the Bruins practice facility in Wilmington on Monday morning.

Read More: Chuck Kobasew, Milan Lucic, Vladimir Sobotka,
Krejci likely to play in B’s opener 09.28.09 at 2:32 pm ET
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With Zach Hamill and Brad Marchand both dropped down to Providence, it’s expected that David Krejci will be able to skate in Thursday night’s season-opener against the Washington Capitals. Krejci was at his customary position centering a line of Blake Wheeler and Michael Ryder, and B’s coach Claude Julien took as a great sign when his young pivot took part in all drills at practice.

Both Marco Sturm (groin) and Steve Begin (groin) also skated a full practice on Monday morning at the TD Garden, and neither player felt any health restrictions during the session.

“It’s a positive because nobody told me they had to get off [the ice] and they’re doing fine,” said Julien, referencing all three players battling assorted bumps and bruises. “They’re doing fine. Krejci is fine and he’s been practicing with us for close to a week now. The other two guys had small groin issues, and with a day off yesterday — and giving them a few days to heal before that — it’s going to help us Thursday.

“[Krejci] is day-to-day, and I’ll still put him at 50-50 for Thursday. We’ll see how he feels tomorrow. Today was a little more gritty for him at times with 3-on-3 down low. We made sure that guys finished their checks on him and made sure he’ll feel comfortable. I think a lot of it is feeling comfortable [mentally].”

• Vladimir Sobotka couldn’t keep the smile from his face after learning that he had made the final roster after a training camp effort that improved with each passing day. The young Czech Republic forward pointed to a conversation he had with Julien that helped him relax and begin playing his game — a mix of puck skills and controlled aggression.

“I’m glad I could stay here and get this opportunity. I just have to keep it simple,” Sobotka said. “The last three games I felt less pressure on me and I didn’t put it on myself. I didn’t try to do too much on the ice and it helped me. I wanted to try to score two goals every game, you know, and it wasn’t working.

“[Julien] told me to play like I did two years ago and I’d be good. I try to play without minuses, the coaches don’t like that. Try to score some goals, keep it simple and play my game.”

• Chris Bourque has made the Washington Capitals’ final roster after a competitive training camp, and he’ll be taking shifts at his hometown rink on Thursday night for the first time as an NHL player.

Read More: Chris Bourque, David Krejci, Vladimir Sobotka,
Sobotka looking to make a big impression with the B’s 09.22.09 at 1:39 pm ET
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Vladimir Sobotka needs to get in touch with his game of two years ago if he hopes to crack the Bruins' roster

Vladimir Sobotka needs to get in touch with his game of two years ago if he hopes to make the Bruins roster

WILMINGTON — Vladimir Sobotka had to look at this as a make-or-break kind of year for him at Bruins training camp.

The 22-year-old Czech Republic native is looking at his best chance to make the Bruins roster right out of camp, and he has played in three preseason games thus far for Boston. Sobotka hasn’t cracked the score sheet in those three contests, is a minus-2 and has lifted three shots on net during game action. Hockey clearly isn’t a game about numbers, of course, but they indicate what the naked eye has already revealed to the casual observer.

Sobotka was a point-per-game player last season while logging 44 points in 44 games for the AHL Providence Bruins before succumbing to a concussion toward the end of last season. He has proven his tenacity, skill level and confidence at the highest levels of minor league hockey.

But he needs to step up his game in camp and show off the same effective blend of pesky, annoying, in-your-face forechecking and dangerous skill that made him an unmistakable factor in Boston two seasons ago.

Sobotka has yet to make an impression on B’s coach Claude Julien and the coaching staff this preseason, and is perhaps trying a little too hard knowing that a potential roster spot is at stake. After all, he’s heard about it from the media throughout the first few weeks of camp, so how could he possibly forget that a job is on the line.

He got a big taste of the NHL when he played in 2007-08 down the stretch and participated in the playoffs when Claude Julien relegated Phil Kessel to the bench for the first three games of the series against the Canadiens. Sobotka savored that early exposure to the NHL as a 20-year-old, and it’s the reason why he came over from his native Czech Republic to play professional hockey in the United States in the first place. He’s played a grand total of 63 NHL games over the last two seasons but still hasn’t had his breakthrough campaign like fellow Czech David Krejci enjoyed last winter.

“I keep getting the same questions. I always say that I’m going to try to do my best and do what the coaches say,” said Sobotka. “We have some injuries and we have some open spots, but it’s the same answers. I’m going to do my best. This is my important camp. I’m going to play hard, try my best and try to stay here for the whole season.

“I learned a lot last season. It’s not hard to go down [to Providence] and come back and play. I learned a lot last season and I’m trying to stay here [in Boston] this season. I came here to play hockey in the NHL, but if I get sent down [to Providence] I’m not going to be disappointed. I’ll go down to Providence and I’ll play there, you know. But, like I said, I want to stay here, would love to play here and stay in the NHL all season. I just want to do my best.”

Sobotka has perhaps felt the pressure of auditioning for a roster spot, and admitted as much in saying that “this is my important camp.” That, paired with heavy competition from another young Bruins grinder, Brad Marchand, has made things challenging. Marchand has impressed throughout camp and plays with a Chara-sized chip on his shoulder, and he shares many of the same strengths with his European counterpart. It’s been up to Sobotka to match his competitor, and the coaching staff has noticed he’s been pressing a bit in the early going.

“He’s been OK. I talked to him a little bit this morning and it’s more — with Vlad — that somehow he has to find that confidence that he has at the American Hockey League,” Julien said. “He’s got to feel confident about his game. We say it all the time about this guy, he plays like he’s 6-foot-3 and he’s not afraid to go into the corners. He’s got some skill. He’s got a great shot, you know.

“He just has to go out there and play the game, and maybe relax a little bit. I think he put a lot of pressure on himself to crack the lineup this year. Can he be better? Absolutely. I think it’s just a matter of confidence, and we told him we have the utmost confidence in him. He just needs to go out there and play the way he knows that he can.”

Roster spots aren’t won in the first two weeks of training camp, however, and the real competition begins in this final stretch of exhibition games prior to the Oct. 1 start to the NHL regular season. Handicapping a roster prior to the late camp games when the real preseason bullets flying is akin to predicting a final score after a hockey game’s first period. It’s possible, but more oft-times futile.

With four games left in five nights prior to the start of the regular season, the NHL regulars will start commanding more of the ice time, and some early camp wunderkinds will begin to show their age and experience.

It’s not too late for Sobotka if he begins to brandish the same kind of fearless, brash certainty that marked his AHL style of play prior to a concussion that prematurely ended his last season last year. The 2005 B’s fourth-round pick impressed the heck out of Bruins officials during that first go-round in Black and Gold two years ago, and it’s about time for Sobotka to return to his established level of play.

“It almost looks like he might be a little nervous and might be trying to do a little too much,” Julien said. “You’re not playing with the confidence that you normally have, and I’ve seen him play in Providence last year. He went out there and made up his mind he was the best player on the ice, and played like it.”

Sobotka simply needs to show no fear and begin playing like he’s intent on making the most of his Black and Golden opportunity this fall.

Read More: Brad Marchand, Claude Julien, Vladimir Sobotka,
Axelsson signs four-year deal with hometown Frolunda 07.27.09 at 10:04 am ET
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P.J. Axelsson has signed in Sweden after 11 years as a member of the Boston Bruins franchise

P.J. Axelsson has signed in Sweden after 11 years as a member of the Boston Bruins franchise

P.J. Axelsson didn’t want to leave the Boston Bruins after 11 seasons with a hockey club that looked to be on an upswing heading into next season, but – without receiving an offer from the Black and Gold this summer – the longest-tenured member of the B’s has signed a four-year deal with his hometown Frolunda team in the Swedish Elite League.

Axelsson’s agent Neil Abbott confirmed the signing to WEEI.com Monday morning, but said that there’s always the possibility of leaving Sweden after this coming hockey season for another NHL shot at the elusive Stanley Cup. Clearly B’s GM Peter Chiarelli is experiencing his own challenges keeping the Bruins’ core together under the current NHL salary cap conditions, and there wasn’t room for Axelsson when younger, affordable models like Vladimir Sobotka are challenging for spots on the Black and Gold roster. 

“We never received an offer from the Bruins and they never asked for an offer from us,” said Axelsson’s agent Neil Abbott, who said the winger has already been told he’s a strong candidate for the Swedish Olympic team in Vancouver this winter. “P.J.’s first choice always would have been to return to Boston, but at the end of the day we had a couple of multi-year proposals (from other NHL teams) that were contingent upon bodies being moved to create cap room. That didn’t happen.

“P.J. played here (in Boston) for 11 years. He has over 850 games as a Bruin and the next guy has about 250 or 260. His heart was (in Boston). He loved it here and he loved the Boston fans. There wasn’t anything he enjoyed more than playing (in Boston), but once that wasn’t an option it became a choice of playing here, playing there or taking a very nice offer to stay home. We respected and accepted the decision by the Bruins. Once he found out that returning to (Boston) wasn’t an option, going back home to Europe became a much easier decision to make.”

The 20 percent escrow giveback on player’s salaries was a big factor in Axelsson opting for a Swedish Elite League opportunity in his hometown Gothenberg over a one-year deal in Ottawa or Colorado. But legally Axelsson could return to the NHL after next season if there’s a “good” offer waiting for him in certain locales, and Abbott said that winning a Cup is something that’s still on Axelsson’s list of career goals.

With an early August start date for training camp in the European Leagues, Axelsson was under the gun to make a decision and heading home to play hockey for the foreseeable future became a pretty easy choice for the winger and his family. The signing of Steve Begin and Mark Recchi to one-year deals also made the B’s writing on the wall pretty clear to Axelsson and his representation concerning any potential future with the team.

Axelsson was a defensive stalwart known for his consistency and versatility during his long career in Boston, and his easy smile and keen sense of humor — along with the natural leadership bred from a decade plus of experience with the Bruins — will be sorely missed in the Black and Gold dressing room next season.

So the Boston Bruins 1995 7th round pick will bring his penalty killing grit and 287 career points in 797 regular season games back to Europe, and another link to the B’s past moves right along with the 34-year-old Swede.

“If the right circumstance developed in the next year or two where he could jump in and the goal would be to win, obviously, that might be possible,” said Abbott of Axelsson, who managed 6 goals and 20 assists in 75 games for Boston last season. “But in the short term his wife is pregnant with their second child and due in the fall, and he had a very good offer from his hometown team in Sweden. The hometown offer was very good, and timing-wise the European Leagues start much earlier than the NHL and training camp begins on Aug. 1.”

Read More: P.J. Axelsson, Peter Chiarelli, Vladimir Sobotka,
Sobotka sent back to Providence 04.14.09 at 7:52 pm ET
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Following Tuesday’s practice, the Boston Bruins sent forward Vladimir Sobotka back down to Providence. Sobotka was called up to Boston on April 10 and registered an assist in the final two road games in New York (Sabres, Islanders) to close out the season. The move indicates that both P.J. Axelsson and Patrice Bergeron (both didn’t play in either of the NY games) made it through the practice skate without any complications and the B’s — save for sidelined D-man Andrew Ference — are about as healthy as they could hope for the start of the series vs. the Habs.

Sobotka will finish out the season with the P-Bruins and suit up for them in the playoffs, but would be the first logical player called back up should the B’s suffer injuries along the front line against Les Habitants.

Sobotka has played in 25 games for Boston during the 2008-2009 season and recorded 1-4=5 totals. On April 10, he was recalled from Providence on an emergency basis and recorded 0-1=1 totals in the Bruins last two games of the regular season against Buffalo and the Islanders.

In 44 games with the P-Bruins this year, Sobotka contributed 20 goals, 24 assists and a +11 plus/minus rating. 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) of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.

Read More: P.J. Axelsson, Patrice Bergeron, Vladimir Sobotka,
Sobotka called up to Bruins on emergency basis 04.09.09 at 11:27 am ET
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Young Czech forward Vladimir Sobotka was called up to Boston this morning on an emergency basis for tonight’s game against the Montreal Canadiens at the TD Banknorth Garden. The 21-year-0ld Sobotka has a goal and three assists in 23 games for the Bruins this season, and has 20 goals and 24 assists and a +11 in 44 games for the Providence Bruins this season.

Chuck Kobasew, Dennis Wideman and P.J. Axelsson were all question marks heading into a game with playoff implications against the Montreal Canadiens after not practicing at Ristuccia Arena on Wednesday afternoon. Sobotka’s recall is a pretty indication that either Axelsson or Kobasew won’t be healthy enough to go against the hated Habs tonight.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Chuck Kobasew, Vladimir Sobotka,
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