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Bear Essentials: Dragon Slayers

by John Bishop / Boston Bruins
Gandolf faces the fire breathing Balrog from Tokien's "The Lord of the Rings." (image:
On a day when the words "Bruins" and "playoffs" was on every New England sports fan's lips, the Black & Gold dominated the airwaves and their GM clogged up the phone lines, emphasizing the fact that the B's have returned to the NHL's postseason for the first time since 2004.

Starting at Noon on Sunday, Peter Chiarelli appeared on NESN's Red Sox Pregame Show.

Then, at 10:00 p.m. Shawn Thornton and Milan Lucic were on Lights Out (NESN) and showed off some of their pugilistic techniques.

At 11 p.m. it was Chiarelli on Sports Late Night (NECN) and rounding out the night at 11:30 p.m. it was all-B's-all-the-time with Aaron Ward on Sports Final (CH. 4), Cam Neely hit Sport Center Five OT (CH. 5) and Tim Thomas was on Sports Xtra (CH. 7).

But it was Chiarelli's conference call with media, which gave the biggest insight into the organization's psyche going into the first round against Montreal.

"The way I looked at it we had three possible opponents, [Montreal was] one and the other two were Washington and Pittsburgh, so we would have had our work cut out for us with any of the three," said Chiarelli. "We have to slay the dragon, so to speak, as we did in our last two games, when we played well against them.

"I think we have to play our game, we have to play a methodical game, an opportunistic game and in the playoffs anything can happen.

"Based on our record against them this year they would be the favorites [but] I don’t mind being the underdog; we’ve been the underdog all year, when people picked us to finish last, [and] we're in that role again," he said.

It seems fitting for Chiarelli to say that, as he was, at one time, Harvard's hockey captain. And the Crimson pep band maintains the habit of playing the theme to the cartoon "Underdog" when their squad was behind the eight ball.

However, Chiarelli and Bruins head coach Claude Julien don't mind the odds and don't see themselves behind the eight ball. They believe in their methodical, opportunistic, team-oriented system -- it led them to the playoffs and it should lead them through the playoffs.

"I think that’s where the players deserve a lot of credit," said Coach Julien of the B's system on Saturday. "They are the ones that are going out there and executing it.

"We’re going to teach it, we’re going to enforce it on them, but you also have to buy into it and they did…they believed in it.

"Not only did they believe in it, they trusted it," 

Julien firmly believes that is why the Bruins are playing past the first week of April.

"The reason we are here today is because they bought into [the team's system] and decided to play well together as a group," he said. "There are some teams that are out right now, that on paper, I’m sure people are going to say are a lot better than the Boston Bruins, [but] they weren’t better than the Boston Bruins when it came down to team play."

And his GM agrees with that sentiment, believes his team will match up with Montreal, and knows the club has learned from its mistakes.

"In the second to last game [against Montreal], there were two instances where we let [Alexei Kovalev] loose and you can’t do that, but there were only two instances.

"In the last game we checked him pretty well and…we played a 'structured hard game' as I like to call it, similar to the game we played against Ottawa on Friday.

"In fact, I think it was better than we played against Ottawa on Friday," said Chiarelli. "So that’s the type of game you’re going to see a lot of in the playoffs. I look at those two things; I look at our guys and our staff looking at how we are going to have to beat them. I think it’s two positive steps in the right direction."

10:49 p.m.
John Bishop is the beat writer for He covers the Black & Gold hoping to offer a positive look at the team, not only from the stands and the press box, but also from inside the locker room.
And away we go...

And here is the upcoming schedule:

Thu, Apr 10, 2008, Bruins @ Canadiens, 7:00 PM  
Sat, Apr 12, 2008, Bruins @ Canadiens, 7:00 PM    
Sun, Apr 13, 2008, Canadiens vs. Bruins, 7:00 PM
Tue, Apr 15, 2008, Canadiens vs. Bruins, 7:00 PM 
Thu, Apr 17, 2008, Bruins @ Canadiens, 7:00 PM    
Sat, Apr 19, 2008, Canadiens vs. Bruins, TBD
Mon, Apr 21, 2008, Bruins @ Canadiens, TBD

I won't have much to add about the mood of the team until tomorrow, but judging by everyone's appearances on television yesterday, and Peter Chiarelli's conference call Sunday afternoon, nobody has any problem taking on the Habs in the first round.

As the GM said, "We have to slay the dragon."

Dragon slaying practice starts this morning at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington.

1:54 p.m.
Montreal's Mikhail Grabovski and Boston's Marc Savard. (AP)
Practice is over and has been for some time.

However, Patrice Bergeron continues to skate with assistant coach Doug Houda, after missing most of this morning's workout for a doctor's appointment. During that appointment, the young center was CLEARED for contact, but will continue to be evaluated before returning to game action.

Peter Chiarelli said Patrice will NOT play on Thursday, but no other timetable was put forward for his return.

Marc Savard, on the other hand, said that he hopes to play Thursday and will continue to work as if he is going to participate in Game One. However, Savard did say that he will see how he feels each day after skating.

5:21 p.m.
NESN will air Games One, Two and Three of the Bruins quarterfinal series with the Montreal Canadiens on their "regular" broadcast channel. A decision about the rest of the series is forthcoming and will be announced ASAP.

5:28 p.m.
Boston Bruins Andrew Ference, left, battles with Patrice Bergeron for a loose puck during the first day of practice for the playoffs on Monday, April 7, 2008, in Wilmington, Mass. Bergeron has just been cleared for contact, before the Bruins play the Montreal Canadiens in the first game of the Stanley Cup quarter finals on Thursday. (AP Photo/Greg M. Cooper)
The Boston Bruins may just get a couple of booster shots as they head to Montreal for a matchup against the club that has plagued the Black & Gold the longest -- the Canadiens.

All-star forward Marc Savard continues to insist that he will do his level best to reenter the Bruins lineup for Game One against the Habs. And while Patrice Bergeron is a no-go for the first contest, there remains hope that the young forward will return to the fold during the first round.

"Today I had a pretty good skate," said Savard. "And it feels pretty good, so it's just a process of going home, seeing how the night was, and going from there."

Marc insists that he will be out there able to help the B's or he won't be out there at all.

"I am going to play and I am going to contribute, or else I wouldn't play," he said. "The guys have stepped up and look great right now, and I am not going to put the team in a situation where I am out there just going through the motions."

While Savard is hoping for a return in Game One, Bergeron's reentry is less concrete.

"This morning [Patrice] was cleared for full contact," said Peter Chiarelli during today's practice. "He will not be playing in Game One, and for a period of time he will go full practice with us and we will see how he responds.

"Then, at some point, we'll make a determination, [after] again meeting with the doctors, and figure out the next step."

So what are the remaining issues for Bergeron?

Boston Bruins hockey player Patrice Bergeron makes a practice shot on goal. (AP Photo/Greg M. Cooper)
"Basically, it's the risk of a second concussion and a lot of that is based on the severity of the first concussion," said Chiarelli. "That's one of the main factors of the equation and something that we will take into consideration at this next assessment stage.

"[In the playoffs] the level of play is increased and the intensity is increased, so it's going to be all up to Patrice -- how he feels, how he feels his timing is, how he feels his strength is."

As he has throughout Bergeron's recovery, Chiarelli urged patience.

"Again, we are being very cautious with this," said the GM. "We had a long talk with the doctor and Patrice and we'll take it day by day."

"I'll see how I'll react with contact, now," said Bergeron, after the first of his two practice sessions. "That's probably the biggest test, you know.

"It's great to feel good without contact, but hockey is a physical game.

"The most important thing is being honest with myself about how I am reacting during practice," he said.

That being said, the young forward went through a rigorous one-man session, led by assistant coach Doug Houda, and clearly looked to have an extra fire in his stride.

Of course, no matter how positive things seemed this morning, there remains a possibility that Bergy, as well as Savard, may have to be more patient than they would like.

Boston Bruins Patrice Bergeron, left, works on a puck protection drill with Andrew Ference under the watchful eye of head coach Claude Julien during the first day of practice for the playoffs on Monday, April 7, 2008, in Wilmington, Mass. Bergeron has just been cleared for contact, before the Bruins play the Montreal Canadiens in the first game of the Stanley Cup quarter finals on Thursday. (AP Ph
Perhaps conscious of not wanting to push players back to the ice before they are ready, the ever cautious, Claude Julien is concentrating on the men that are currently available to him and remained completely grounded as far as getting either man back.

"We are not going to get ahead of ourselves," said Coach. "I need to really deal with the players that I have.

"To have the news that [Bergeron] can take contact is definitely a very positive thing, but there is a lot of things that can change and I'd rather be cautious than overly optimistic."

And with Savvy?

"In Savvy's case, it's still a day-to-day situation," said Julien. "He felt better today and we'll have to see where he is when Thursday comes around."

Keep your fingers crossed, people.
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