Tag Archives: Patrice Bergeron

Searching for Bobby Orr and the other great Bruins

A few months ago I finally crossed “Searching for Bobby Orr” by Stephen Brunt off my reading list, and it was fantastic. It painted a vibrant picture of rural Ontario in the 1950s and early ’60s, and set the stage for how Bobby Orr was able to remake hockey forever. And it began at the earliest stages, when a coach with incredible foresight realized the benefit to taking his most talented young player and having him anchor his team, rather than merely placing him at center like any other coach would.

The result was the greatest player anyone had seen to that point, and only Wayne Gretzky has a true argument as a better one. For nine years, Orr was an offensive force from the blue line the likes of which the NHL had never seen, and he was as good at reading defenses and skating back to stop oncoming rushes as anyone.

Reading it made me wish I could’ve been born about 15 or 20 years earlier to watch Orr take over Boston and turn New England on its head. But it also pushed me to wondering about other eras of Bruins hockey, and then comes the inevitable sketching of imaginary rosters, all-time teams and the like. Continue reading

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Ignoring baseball because it’s the Cup

This is Tuukka Rask. He does not play baseball.

This is Tuukka Rask. He does not play baseball.

Last night, the Red Sox were down to their final strike when Will Middlebrooks, batting against Tampa Bay closer Fernando Rodney, laced a change-up into the outfield for a bases-clearing double. The Sox went up 4-3, Junichi Tazawa picked up the win in relief, and if I’m imagining the scenario correctly, most of the crowd went home happy, since this took place in Tampa and no one there seems to care about the Rays one way or the other.

Apparently, it was a hell of an at-bat for Middlebrooks, who is rebounding from a minor slump and on his way back towards the torrid pace he carried through April, when the Red Sox were busy surprising a jaded fan base and sitting in first place. The mighty Jon Couture actually has a great breakdown of Middlebrooks’ at-bat here, complete with his growing patience and his success reading the pitcher and the situation.

They’re a game back of the Yankees this afternoon for the top spot of the American League East, and they’re playing some fun games, even when they lose. But don’t ask me about details, because I’ve missed all of them lately. Simply, it’s because the Bruins are in the playoffs, and it is functionally impossible for me to concentrate or devote any sort of emotional focus on the Red Sox when this is the case. Continue reading

Mark Recchi’s time machine

Mark Recchi

This was Mark Recchi 20 years ago. Very little has changed.

Hockey players contributing into their forties isn’t a new phenomenon. Before my time, Gordie Howe and Johnny Bucyk played deep, with Howe scoring an incredible 41 points as a 51-year-old in 1979-80 for the Hartford Whalers. Since I’ve been paying attention, there have been a few solid players who have more than earned their keep – Chris Chelios, Dominik Hasek and Dwayne Rolson (quietly having a nice year for the terrible Islanders) come to mind.

But I haven’t had the pleasure of watching one of them closely in my backyard, night after night. Mark Recchi, about a month shy of his 43rd birthday, is tied for the team-lead in game-winning goals, holds down Patrice Bergeron‘s right wing on the second line, serves as alternate captain, fights, hits guys, plays the power play, plays short handed, and probably makes coffee.

He had knee surgery this past offseason. In the 2008-09 playoffs, he played two rounds (and scored 6 points) with a kidney stone, passing it the morning of Game 7 against the Carolina Hurricanes. I’m sure there are other ailments he’s had to play through — who wouldn’t at that age? And with that comes obvious passion for the game.

Hockey players occasionally survive into their 40s. Mark Recchi is thriving, and it’s quite a sight.

♦ ♦ ♦

In searching for highlights, I found this clip from the 1991 playoffs. It’s Game 3 of the Patrick Division semifinals, and the Devils and Penguins are tied 3-3, seemingly heading to overtime. The line of Bryan Trottier, Mario Lemieux and Mark Recchi are on the ice (what a combo!):

♦ ♦ ♦

Cut to last night in Tampa Bay, and the Bruins are lined up for their second game in as many nights. Tim Thomas, the puck-stopping machine he’s been, is back in net after making 31 saves the night before.

Boston goes up 1-0 early, then trades goals with Tampa until the third period. Tied 3-3 with under two minutes left, Steven Stamkos is called for a boarding penalty on Gregory Campbell, with a fight ensuing in the immediate aftermath. The commentators after the game (Mike Milbury especially) thought it was a bad call, saying it was a “bang-bang” play and “you can’t call that penalty that late in the game.” With all due respect, yes you freaking can. You can’t hit a guy on the numbers low and into the back boards, ever. That’s old news. If Stamkos had done that at the 10 minute mark, it’s a penalty with no dispute. If it’s a penalty, it’s a penalty. I’m sorry it happened that late, but I’m really not sorry at all.

I digress. With 1:50 left, the Bruins are on the power play.  And I believe I saw 19.4 left on the clock (it was really 19.7) when Recchi, from the top of the slot, teed off on Bergeron’s pass, a wrister that blew past Tampa goalie Dan Ellis. It’s at this point when I wonder what my neighbors thought of me when they heard me scream, jump up from the couch, and yell again when I accidentally punched the ceiling.

♦ ♦ ♦

I didn’t think much of it when the Bruins picked up Recchi at the deadline in 2009. I thought he’d be a nice, complementary player for the rest of the season before riding off into retirement. I didn’t realize how much I’d grow to like him, and I certainly didn’t appreciate what a tough old bastard he is. He’s solid, he doesn’t put up with much, and he has as much of a knack for scoring the big goals today as he did 20 years ago.

If he wants to come back next year at age 44, he’s more than welcome.

Five things to … whatever, here are the Bruins

Big Z will be in Black & Gold for years to come.

In about an hour, the Boston Bruins will kick off their 2010-11 campaign against the Phoenix Coyotes in David Krecji’s backyard, Prague, Czech Republic. I have my jersey out, snacks ready, likely forward lines consumed, salary cap fretted. I am ready to go.

But in the event you aren’t, here are five things to at least think about for the upcoming season. Some are warnings, some are fun things to look forward to, and some are mild predictions. Enjoy.

1. The Bruins are perilously close to the salary cap

As Blackhawk fans know, the $59.4 million cap is nothing to laugh about. The Bruins are currently under, but only to the benefit of Marco Sturm’s recovery from the knee injury he suffered in last year’s playoffs. When he’s healthy, his $3.5M cap number will have to be accounted for, which means someone (Michael Ryder?) will have to go.

2. The progression of Tyler Seguin

With Marc Savard out indefinitely due to post-concussion syndrome, the Bruins’ top pick will center a third line between Ryder and Blake Wheeler. Should Savard come back, or if the Bruins acquire another centerman, Seguin will likely ride the right wing with March Recchi and Patrice Bergeron, the much-heralded “Past, Present and Future” line.

The Bruins haven’t had a high-profile rookie since Joe Thornton and Sergei Samsonov debuted in 1997-98. Thornton came along slowly, but Samsonov was a blast to watch. It should be fun to watch Seguin grow up.

3. Zdeno Chara’s contract extension

Chara, as of Friday morning, was still hopeful that he could have a new deal before the start of the season, which seems happily optimistic. It’s Saturday morning now, and there’s still no extension, but that doesn’t mean negotiations will go the way of the pumpkin when the puck is dropped at noon, Eastern time. The two sides will likely keep negotiating, as the Bruins are no stranger to signing deals mid-season. Just last year, Tuukka Rask, Milan Lucic and Savard were all made richer after the season started.

Bergeron was given a three-year, $15M extension on Friday. Is Chara’s around the corner?

UPDATE: Chara has just signed a 7-year, $45M extension. Like, just now. Awesome.

4. The return of Milan Lucic

There is no one more fun to watch that Lucic, when healthy. Last year was nearly a lost season, with Lucic not returning to form until late in the playoffs, when he became a wrecking ball in front of the net. With the benefit of the off-season, Lucic should be back to full strength and making all those 17-clad fans in the balcony deliriously happy.

To that end, here are five crazy clips of Lucic from YouTube: 1 2 3 4 5

5. Rask via Thomas

Tim Thomas’ woes last season were likely due to his hip injury, which has since been corrected via surgery. It’s obvious that Tuukka Rask is the present and the future, but it was also pretty clear that Rask became fatigued as the playoffs wore on. The Bruins have, essentially, two number one goalies, and the common thought is that Thomas should be traded. Why?

Their combined cap number is $6.25M. That’s less than the Panthers are paying Tomas Vokoun, the Devils for Martin Brodeur, the Canucks for Roberto Luongo, and so on. This is not a problem, this is a blessing. Have them each play 41 games or so, ride the hot hand in the playoffs, and don’t be afraid to spell one or the other should the team go deep.

All that said, I have rosters to print out, hockey cards to pour over, pizza bagels to make and an apartment to tidy up. Here’s to the 2010-11 season, whatever it may bring.

Bruins shaking things up for the better?

Mark Recchi: Back for another season in Boston.

The Boston Bruins’ 2009-10 campaign was an up-and-down affair, and in case you’ve forgotten, it ended in horrifying fashion.

Change was expected, but every season sees change. Coming off a 2008-09 where they led the East in points, the Bruins still let P.J. Axelsson, Stephane Yelle and Manny Fernandez leave, traded Aaron Ward, and brought in Derek Morris, all moves designed to strengthen weaknesses and give more space to their youngsters.

Injuries, regressions and underachieving followed, and Peter Chiarelli and company are back trying to make it all better. Honestly, they’re not that far away, but moves need to be made, and let’s see what they’ve done so far in what has been a very busy week.

We’ll look quickly at who’s expected to make the team at the outset of the 2010-11 season, meaning while all their draft picks are exciting, there’s really only one who’s likely to be in Prague for the opener.

IN:

C – Tyler Seguin: The second pick in the 2010 draft, delivered to them when the Edmonton Oilers selected RW Taylor Hall with the first pick. Hall plays a bruising, fast style on the wing and is a natural goal scorer, while Seguin is a more natural playmaker who might have to play out of position in Boston. For my money, I’ll always take a natural center over a wing. On a team loaded at center (Marc Savard, Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci down the middle), Seguin has a chance to play on any line right away and contribute. And the Bruins won’t always be stocked; the 18-year-old might only play one season out of position (and less if they make a trade).

C – Gregory Campbell: According to the mighty Mick Colageo, Campbell is set up to replace Steve Begin, who showed flashes and was a good teammate, but never quite put it together (playing hurt for much of the season couldn’t have helped). But I’ll take my chances with a hard-working grinder on the fourth line.

RW – Nathan Horton: He was among the many who have been distraught over the thought of spending any more time with the Panthers, and he brings his goal scoring talents to Boston. His totals the past five seasons, playing without a real center? 28, 31, 27, 22, 20.

OUT:

D – Dennis Wideman: Hahahahahahahahaha.

C – Vladimir Sobotka: A tough little playmaker capable of sending someone into the 9th row at any moment, but he was streaky, and with the additions of Seguin and Campbell, was never going to get a real chance here. Good luck to him in St. Louis; I hope he enjoys terrorizing the Western Conference.

LIKELY OUT:

C – Steve Begin; RW – Miroslav Satan: Good guys all, and Satan was huge in the playoffs until his linemate Krejci went down.

RE-SIGNED FREE ANGENTS:

D – Johnny Boychuck: Tough, bruising, smart and getting better. It’s nearly thrilling to know he’ll be in the fold for two more years.

D – Dennis Seidenberg: Coming over at the trade deadline for Derek Morris, Seidenberg proved a perfect foil for Zdeno Chara on the top pair. He’s a smart, puck-moving defenseman who can be physical when he needs to be, can anchor a power play and can shut down a top forward. He’s on board for another four years.

D – Andrew Ference: Wideman is gone because he couldn’t play an even game; he was either inspiring or horrifying. Ference has had more than his share of injuries, and his three-year extension seemed strange when he signed at the end of the season. But when Ference plays, he’s solid and rarely makes mistakes. He’s either very good, or he’s not playing. Maybe that’s what Chiarelli is paying for.

RW – Mark Recchi: He and Bergeron were my favorite Bruins last year. His point production at age 42 was incredible, and now he gets one more year to teach the finer points to Seguin and the rest.

RW – Shawn Thornton: Thornton is a fantastic teammate, offers up 8-10 high-energy minutes a night, knocks people out, and says funny things. Welcome back!

OFFERED CONTRACT TENDERS (meaning they’ll be back):

D – Mark Stuart; D – Adam McQuaid; LW – Blake Wheeler; LW – Daniel Paille (or will be soon, reportedly): Stuart is solid and potentially captain material when healthy, McQuaid was decent in the pinch, Wheeler is talented but maddening, and Paille was fantastic on the penalty kill, but had trouble finishing off his scoring chances, which he seemed to pull out of the air. I’m fine with all of them getting another look.

So, what could the Bruins look like in five months?

Forward lines:

17 Milan Lucic  –  91 Marc Savard  –  18 Nathan Horton

19 Tyler Seguin  –  37 Patrice Bergeron  –  28 Mark Recchi

26 Blake Wheeler  –  46 David Krejci  –  73 Michael Ryder

20 Daniel Paille   –  11 Gregory Campbell  –  22 Shawn Thornton

Defense:

33 Zdeno Chara  –  44 Dennis Seidenberg

21 Andrew Ference  –  55 Johnny Boychuck

48 Matt Hunwick  –  45 Mark Stuart

Goaltenders:

40 Tuukka Rask

30 Tim Thomas

In the system:

16 Marco Sturm (knee injury)  –  63 Brad Marchand, 52 Zach Hamill, 54 Adam McQuaid, XX Joe Colbourne, 62 Jeffrey Penner, XX Jordan Caron (Providence)

*This list edited with new jersey numbers on 6/30

Thoughts? Not a bad looking group. I’m not crazy about Hunwick, and with $5 million, give or take, in cap room, I have to think another move is coming up front, whether that means Savard leaves (which makes no sense in a hockey sense; a pure money move), Thomas goes for more goal-scoring punch, or Ryder is finally sent packing.

We’ll see. It’s a long time between now and October, and just because it’s hot outside doesn’t mean I don’t have ice on the brain.