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Boston’s ’Ice Dogs’ Lead the Way

by John Bishop / Boston Bruins
Over the past several years, many of the Boston Red Sox have become synonymous with a certain nose-to-the-grindstone approach to the game.

Nicknamed "Dirt Dogs" by beloved Bosox baseball color commentator Jerry Remy, names like Nixon, Mueller, and Varitek have become examples of Red Sox players who have played -- well, let's face it -- like hockey players on the baseball diamond over the last several years, contributing with excellent defense and a dogged determination in the batters box.

For the Boston Bruins, forwards Mark Mowers, Wayne Primeau, and Shean Donovan have best exemplified that "do anything to win" mentality and the Black & Gold's "Ice Dogs" have really stepped up their performance recently, adding an offensive dimension to an already deep pension for tenacious forechecking.

"As of late, the last 15 games or so, we've been, more or less, finding ways to win instead of finding ways to lose," said Primeau, who, in 26 games, has a 5-4-9 line. "I think it's the feeling in the room that we believe that, even though we get down by a goal, we're still able to come back and get the win."

"Coach [Lewis] said it was our game to win if we go to the 'dirty areas,'" said goalie Tim Thomas following the B's 3-1 win over Toronto on Thursday.

Thomas, who has contributed mightily to the Boston cause with a 12-6-2 record, 3.00 GAA and .906 sv% in 22 games, said that the Bruins had to hit those areas to win.

"If you don't know what [dirty areas] means, that means the front of the net," said Thomas. "[You have to] cause screens, cause tips and get rebounds. And that paid off for us."

Along those lines, Thomas points to Primeau and Co. as a reason for the Bruins most recent success.

"They've really stepped it up the past four or five games," said Thomas. "It's made a world of difference.

"When they add that one goal a game, plus play solid defense, plus control the puck for almost their whole shift, it changes the whole game for our team.

"It's a team game and if one of your lines can step it up like that, it adds up to a lot of success," he said.

Mowers who has a 1-4-5 line in 24 games has said that he thinks that the offensive upswing of Donovan has been the key to opening up his line's point-scoring game.

"[When Donovan] got his first goal it just took a little bit of that hesitation off his mind and the rest of us," said Mowers. "Wayne's heating up now and I am next, I guess, to be able to put the puck in the net.

"But as long as our line is being productive, it doesn't matter who's scoring."

"They take pride in all those grinding areas," said Bruins Head Coach Dave Lewis recently. "Whether it's defensively down low in our zone.

"A big face-off, a blocked shot. Chipping the puck out is a big play for that line.

"And you don't get a lot of glory publicly for that, but you get a lot of praise internally, from your teammates," said Lewis.

"I think we had a good line [from the start]," said Donovan. "We just thought that we could produce more offensively.

"It wasn't going on in the early part of the season and we were getting a little frustrated, but the team was doing well, so that's all that matters. You just try to do the little things.

"I think we're pretty simple," said Donovan, who owns a 3-5-8 line in 26 contests.

And according to Boston Head Coach Dave Lewis, the line's determination on both sides of the rink and their willingness to do the simple 'little things' is a good thing for the team.

"[It gives us] a nice balance," said Lewis. "If you are going to be good in the long haul you have to have balance offensively and balance defensively."

"They've been rewarded for a lot of their hard work. I guess they're starting to get noticed and talked about a lot more with some of that.

"And that's nice to see for them," said Lewis.

Lewis surely believes that each of his units is capable of playing with equal tenacity on both sides of the puck. And it is obvious that the Ice Dog mentality is spreading to other lines.

Lewis pointed out Brad Stuart's goal from the most recent Toronto game as an example of his players getting 'dirty' -- the Bruins took the puck to the net and created havoc in front.

"On [Stuart's] goal, [Bergeron] drove to the net on the rush and Marco Sturm shot the puck and then…[Boyes] gathered up the rebound and threw it into Stewie in the slot.

"The goalie, he couldn't see it -- he couldn't find it," he said.

Perhaps there are no grass stains to see or dirt to rub on pine tar stained hands, but this version of the Boston Bruins is learning what getting dirty on the ice really means.

Mowers, Primeau and Donovan are showing them the way.

The Bruins return home to the TD Banknorth Garden on Saturday night when they host the New Jersey Devils at 7:00 p.m. ET. The game can be seen live on NESN and heard live on WBZ Radio.

Tickets are available for all home games online by clicking here, at the TD Banknorth Garden Box Office, all Ticketmaster outlets, or by phone at 617.624.BEAR.
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