|A productive offseason appears over||09.01.10 at 12:26 am ET|
There are some pretty big similarities and differences that come to mind when looking at how the Bruins entered training camp last season vs. how they will do so this month (September 17). The biggest similarity isn’t too hard to find, as the team is coming off a Game 7 defeat in the Eastern Conference semifinals for the second time in as many years.
Some things, though, are just the opposite of what they were a year ago. Last season, the biggest question regarded what would happen to the team’s hotshot youngster in Phil Kessel. Five days into camp, Kessel was a Maple Leaf and a much richer man. This season, with Tyler Seguin, the team enters camp with the excitement that surrounds a new young star (refraining from overusing “wunderkind”).
Last year, it was calculating whether the offense would still be elite without Kessel (it wasn’t). This season, it’s a matter of how much better it becomes with Seguin and Nathan Horton.
Last year carried the excitement of a re-signed Vezina winner in Tim Thomas. This year, the team will enter camp with a goalie who was forced to hear his name in trade speculation.
The Bruins have made the moves and non-moves that they’ve made and haven’t made, and now it appears they are ready to go for camp. General manager Peter Chiarelli caught up with Matt Kalman of the Bruins Blog (always a good read) Tuesday and said that the squad you see now is likely the one you’ll see in just over two weeks.
‘I’m happy where we’re at,” Chiarelli told Kalman. I know there’s been some stuff in the summer with Tim [Thomas] and Marc [Savard], and that has blown by, and we’ve got those two players on our roster, we’ve got some young blood coming and that’s where we’re at.’
The question now is whether the team has done enough to consider themselves a legitimate contender in the Eastern Conference given their offseason. Here are a few of the positives:
– Tuukka Rask is a year older and led the league last season in GAA and save percentage while splitting time with Thomas.
– Horton may be in the best situation he’s been in thus far in his career.
– The roster looks strong enough to perhaps be considered favorites in the Northeast division.
– The team could be a puck-moving blueliner away from having the defensive group it needs.
– It may not get the same attention as the Tom Brady situation, but Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, and Mark Stuart are among those entering the final year of their contracts. This means 2010-11 could be the final season with the current core of players, which certainly includes Chara and Bergeron.
– The salary cap is going to be a headache that could last into the season. If a move isn’t made before the season, expect speculation to continue until the team makes a move or Marco Sturm returns.
Is this a team that will go to an offensive extreme for the third year in a row (second in the league in scoring in 2008-09, dead last a year ago)? Very unlikely. Will the offense, when put in front of a good defense and top goaltending duo, be good enough to still make them one of the more difficult teams to face next season? There isn’t much that would suggest the contrary. This is a team that finished sixth in the East in the regular season. There’s plenty to improve on, but it seems they’ve done plenty to do so.
The guess would have to be that the Bruins will be a better team September 17 than they were after dealing Kessel away last September. Whether it’s good enough remains to be seen, but any buzz surrounding this club as it gears up for a new season seems warranted.
|B’s Town Hall meeting set for September 21||08.30.10 at 1:02 pm ET|
The Bruins announced today that their annual “State of the Bruins” town hall meeting will take place September 21 at 7:00 p.m.
The meeting, which will take place at the TD Garden, will give season ticket holders (as well have half-season and 10 game package owners) a chance to address the franchise directly with Jeremy Jacobs, Charlie Jacobs, Cam Neely, Peter Chiarelli, Claude Julien, and players Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, and Mark Recchi. NESN’s Andy Brickley will be the meeting’s moderator.
|Agent: ‘No rush’ on Chara deal||08.23.10 at 10:30 am ET|
These days, when a Bruins contract is brought up, it is done so in a conversation about how the B’s must clear money and distance themselves from the salary cap. The team is over $3 million over the cap and will need to move a big contract when Marco Sturm returns from his long-term injury status.
Maybe this is why there hasn’t been much of a commotion when it comes to extending the team’s impending free agents. While the contracts of Sturm, Tim Thomas, Michael Ryder and Andrew Ference receive regular attention, a guy like Zdeno Chara prepares to enter what could be his last season in Boston.
Chara signed a five-year, $37.5 million deal as a free agent with the Bruins in 2006 and has been a key member of the team since, contributing as both the team’s top defenseman and its captain. Though there have been points at which Chara’s camp and the Bruins have touched lightly on the possibility of an extension, nothing has progressed past the preliminary stage.
Chara’s agent, Matt Keator, told WEEI.com Sunday night that he and Chara are taking a “wait and see” approach, and that there’s “no rush now at all.”
Chara is the team’s highest-paid player and, at $7.5 million, has a cap hit that’s more than $4 million higher than any other defenseman on the team. Dennis Seidenberg is the team’s second-highest-paid blueliner at $3.25 million per year.
The Bruins would be wise to try to swing a deal with Chara’s camp before he hits free agency, as he would likely cash in on the open market, as he did in ’06 after bolting the Senators. Chara’s value to the team seems to be worth the high price tag, as he is the first Bruin to win the Norris Trophy since Ray Bourque, a feat Chara accomplished in 2008-09. He also led the team in plus-minus last season.
The Bruins likely will do what they can to bring Chara back. With Ryder and Sturm coming off the books at season’s end, the team will have some money to throw at the likes of Chara, Patrice Bergeron and Mark Stuart, but all is quiet for now.
|Ward on D&H: ‘Boston’s on the upswing’||05.18.10 at 12:54 pm ET|
Former Bruin Aaron Ward, who is serving as an analyst for NHL coverage on Versus, joined the Dale & Holley show Tuesday to talk about the Stanley Cup playoffs. To hear the interview, click on the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.
Ward said the Bruins were in a difficult situation in their series vs. the Flyers. “It’s tough to overcome the loss of your two top scorers in Marco Sturm and David Krejci. And then couple that with Philadelphia getting back Simon Gagne. That’s a tough one to deal with,” said Ward, who finished this season with the Anaheim Ducks.
Ward said Bruins fans can take solace in the fact that the future is bright for this team. “Boston’s on the upswing. They’ve got a great situation now with the draft, they’ve got a great situation where they have a lot of key, young guys that have that experience in the playoffs, regular season, that familiarity with the city. And it means a lot to a team to where you can start forming some sort of consistency and looking toward becoming a dynasty.”
Ward, who said he would return to Boston “in a heartbeat,” defended the leadership of Bruins captain Zdeno Chara, saying: “He possess every intangible. … He knows when to say something and when not to.”
Ward was traded by the Bruins last offseason to the Hurricanes. There he became teammates with Scott Walker, who sucker-punched Ward in the face during their playoff series last season. Ward said it didn’t take long to put hard feelings aside. “The first phone call from a player [after the trade was finalized] was Scott Walker,” Ward said. “That was pretty easy to deal with, because we aired it out right there, put it right on the table, and there was no issue. We’re big boys. One of the things I found out right after that punch was that Scott’s wife had cervical cancer, and that was the day he found out. So, you know what, there’s times in the game as a player, as a human, you figure out you’ve got to cut him some slack because you never know what kind of frame of mind you’d be in in that situation.”
|Inside the Bruins locker room||05.11.10 at 1:44 am ET|
Zdeno Chara, Mark Recchi, Tuukka Rask, Marc Savard and Milan Lucic react to a disappointing 4-0 loss to the Flyers at TD Garden in Game 5 of the NHL Eastern Conference semifinals. The Bruins now lead the series 3-2.
|Flyers looking for good ole home cooking||05.05.10 at 12:58 pm ET|
PHILADELPHIA — Centermen think they are so clever.
Faceoffs. Simple science or mischievous underworld of cheats and chicanery? A sub-theme to the Bruins and Flyers series that developed during Game 2 and is carrying into Game 3 in Philadelphia on Wednesday has been the Boston’s dominance on the dot. Flyers captain Mike Richards did not fare well on Monday against Patrice Bergeron in the circle and he is hoping that being home in the Wachovia Center will help take away the Bruins advantage.
“They are good faceoff guys and they used the home ice to their advantage,” Richards said. “He [Bergeron], is strong, I think he has a enough respect where he is allowed to cheat a little bit more. I am not sure what else but faceoffs are all about who can cheat the most and in the long run it is a lot easier taking face offs at home than it is on the road.”
Boston centerman David Krejci said after Game 2 that “every center has his tricks” and then refused to elaborate on exactly what tricks he has up his sleeve. It is like every center in the NHL is part of a little fraternity and each unit has their own secret handshake when it comes to gaining the advantage on the dot.
“Every one cheats on faceoffs, it is just about who does it the best,” Richards said. “Home ice I think it is a lot easier to take faceoffs than it is on the road and obviously is better to play with the puck so we will use that to our advantage tonight.”
What Bergeron does so well in the circle is get his shoulder down, quick stick and box out. Some guys do not come to a full stop when skating in for the drop, giving them more momentum in getting that shoulder down and the other center off the puck.
“I do it too. I do it all the time, everybody does,” Richards said. “Just look for the edge to win the faceoffs and I think the refs have been doing a great job of letting us pause a little bit.”
Richards mentioned multiple times that “it is easier to win faceoffs on home ice.” What he is basically saying is that is when teams have the last change they can craft their matchups to their benefit. For instance, Richards never touched the ice in the first two games without Bergeron and Zdeno Chara on his back. Flyers coach Peter Laviolette would double shift Richards and Chara would double shift as well. Laviolette has been scrounging around for trios and pairs that can break down the Bruins.
“I don’t think there was as much line juggling as you guys would call it,” Laviolette said. “It is more of trying to get somebody away from somebody cause we can get different matchups. It will be easier at home where we can start where we want and play from there. We are double shifting some guys in the lineup so that is a cause (of the line juggling) as well. Just with opportunities when we have been behind, we need to get guys out on the ice so we have some guys who we will shift them a little bit more with the guys out of the lineup.”
Laviolette is, of course, referring to Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne as the guys out of the lineup. Richards was Laviolette’s primary center during the regular season and took 1373 faceoffs at 50.7 percent success rate. Carter was the next guy on the list with 1314 at 52. 4 percent and both were about 500 ahead of the next guy on the team, Blair Betts at 855.
“We have to do a better job of doing being ready on the face offs,” Laviolette said. “I thought there were some faceoffs that we won and they picked it up and therefore it looked like their win. We have to be ready as a group. The centermen have to do a good job but our wingers have to do a good job as well.”
Can the Flyers change their fortunes around in this series with the simple advantages that come with being on home ice? Creating matchups for the purpose of forechecking and winning face offs is definitely an important part of the game but, as Laviolette points out, the Flyers still have to execute.
|Bruins bracing themselves||05.04.10 at 2:40 pm ET|
Not everyone in black and gold had bad things to say about the physical play of the Flyers on Monday night in Boston’s 3-2 win.
Defenseman Johnny Boychuk – who put the Bruins on top with a first-period goal – was drilled on a clean, hard hit by Philly’s Scott Hartnell midway through the ‘eventful’ second period, just seconds after Boston captain Zdeno Chara took a run at Hartnell behind the Flyers net.
The result was Boychuk going airborne and landing hard on the ice. Boychuk wasn’t hurt except for his ego momentarily and acknowledged that he expects to see more of that kind of play when the series shifts to Philadelphia Wednesday night for Game 3.
“It wasn’t too wide-open There were some timely goals each team scored and some good hits, like the one on me. It was a great hit.”
Boychuk also believes the Bruins can learn something from Game 5 in Buffalo when they were playing a desperate Sabres team looking to stay alive. They were blown out, 4-1, and had to come back to Boston to seal the deal.
“We were in Buffalo and they took it to us,” Boychuk said. “We’re going to have to learn from that. Hopefully, we can overcome their intensity when we go to Philly.”
There will be some 20,000 fans not cheering on the Bruins on Wednesday and Boychuk and the Bruins are more than bracing themselves for what to expect.
“It’s a good barn play in and it’s tough barn to play in,” Boychuk said. “They’re going to come out hard and we have to match their intensity.”
Chara agreed with Boychuk’s assessment and won’t be shocked when the black and orange sweaters are out in force at the Wachovia Center.
“The further you go, it’s going to get tougher and tougher and the games are going to be harder and harder,” Chara said. “It’s just normal. That’s just the playoffs. It’s Philly and they like to play that kind of style and obviously, we like to play physical. It’s just two teams meeting each other with similar physical styles of play.”