“I’ve seen them play throughout the years, and the core group — how solid it is — and how much of a good team the Boston Bruins are,” Talbot said on Wednesday morning, following his first practice as a member of the Bruins. “It’s exciting, and just coming here in this dressing room — with the team and the city — I expect great things.”
The Bruins acquired Talbot prior to the NHL Trade Deadline on Monday, bringing him to Boston — along with prospect Paul Carey — in exchange for Jordan Caron and a sixth-round draft pick in 2016. Talbot arrived in town on Tuesday night and suited up in the Spoked B on Wednesday, taking the ice in a burgundy sweater alongside Chris Kelly, Daniel Paille and Brian Ferlin.
Talbot knows plenty about what the Bruins stand for. He learned all of that during the eight-plus years he spent in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
“When the Bruins come to town, or when you come here to Boston, you know you’re going to be in battles,” Talbot said. “You kind of look at the calendar and say, OK, we play the Bruins, better go to bed early and get ready. I think it’s a great compliment for this team, this organization, and I’m proud to be part of it.”
He also is pretty familiar with some of the players who now surround him in the dressing room — starting with Quebec native Patrice Bergeron, whom he has known for about 13 years. Bergeron even drove him out to practice on his first day.
“He comes from Quebec, I’m from Montreal, and Montreal guys — you talk to each other,” Talbot said with a grin. “[He’s] helping me out and showing me the ropes, and I think he’s not a bad guy to [follow] because he knows the city, and the city loves him and the team.”
In addition, Talbot has played in World Juniors with Daniel Paille and also played with Paille in Finland during the lockout. He worked out with Torey Krug this past summer. He has, by his own estimation, fought Chris Kelly and Gregory Campbell a couple of times, and he’s had his fair share of scraps with Brad Marchand.
“Who hasn’t, though?” he asked with a smile. “It’s great. I think the guys are all welcoming, and you know they have a strong core, strong group, and different personalities, but just glad to be here.”
His new teammates are equally happy to welcome him into the fold.
“He’s one of those guys who you hate to play against,” Marchand said. “He plays a really hard game, and he’s always running around, and very gritty. I know I’ve taken a few slashes and cross-checks from him, for sure, so it’ll be nice that I don’t have to worry about that anymore.”
Marchand paused. “Well, maybe I do in practice,” he added, laughing. “But we’ll see.”
One of the most significant elements Talbot brings to the Bruins dressing room is one of his intangibles: His character. His experience. Talbot has won a Stanley Cup, and he knows what it takes to get to the mountaintop. He knows how to lead by example, and how to maintain the perfect balance between levity and intensity.
“That’s one thing that’s really tough to replace,” Marchand said. “When you lose a good character guy — we’ve lost a couple this year — and to be able to have the opportunity to bring another guy in, that’s huge for our team, especially the experience that he can bring. Those team-first guys are huge. They lay their bodies on the line, and in playoff time, those are the guys you want on your team, the guys that you trust.
“They’ll want to go to battle with you, and it’s huge for our team that he’s here, and we’re excited to have him.”
Talbot takes pride in being that player, that teammate. He takes pride in the fact that others look to him as someone who can be the glue that holds a dressing room together.
“It means a lot, and I take pride in that — being a good teammate,” Talbot said. “I take it as a compliment. It’s my fourth team in the last little bit, but it’s great because you meet new guys, you meet new coaches, new systems, and you learn through that. I had success in Pittsburgh, winning a Cup, and you definitely learn throughout every different experience.
“Hopefully I can bring that experience here to the table in the locker room, and on and off the ice.”
Of course — as a Montreal native — Talbot is also making some personal adjustments, given the new logo on his uniform.
“I told my parents, when we’re playing in the playoff, don’t put the [Bruins] flags up on your car, because they’ll slash your tires or something,” Talbot joked. “My family is excited. They’re fans of whatever team I play for. They’re fans of me, and the team, and it’s going to be fun to go back to Montreal and talking with Habs fans in the summer.”
Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien has only led Talbot through a single practice, but already, he believes a player of his caliber — and character — can have a significant impact on his club.
“He’s been a great guy,” Julien said. “He’s a guy I’ve known for a little bit there, and he’s going to do anything he can to help this team out. [General Manager] Peter [Chiarelli] alluded to him being a glue guy; to me, he’s a lot like a Johnny Boychuk-type in the dressing room, where he likes to have fun, will keep things loose, but at the same time, when it’s time to play, it’s all business.
“He comes to play, and he’ll do whatever he has to to fulfill his role. So he’s definitely a good addition to have with us, without a doubt. That veteran leadership you look for in the stretch is often overlooked, and he’ll fill that gap very well.”
Tough Road Ahead
Just like last year, the Bruins face a tall task in the month of March. So after a nice four-day break since their most recent game — a win over Arizona on Feb. 28 — they are eager to face the challenge that awaits.
“[The schedule] can be tough; at the same time, it’s also a good time when you’re playing good hockey,” Krug said. “I think our game’s coming together right now, and if we can string together a few wins, it’s a good time to play all those games because you’re not thinking much, and you’re just playing. All of a sudden, one win turns into three, and three into four, and then it goes from there.
“So as long as your game’s heading in the right direction, it’s a good time to play all those games.”
February was a difficult month for the Bruins, but in their last few games, there have been significant improvements. Now, with about 20 games standing in between the B’s and the playoffs, it will be imperative for them to carry that momentum from here until the end.
“At this stage of the season, four days off is a lot more beneficial to you than detrimental, and I think our guys had a chance to get some rest,” Julien said. “I don’t think we should be rusty because we didn’t play for four days.”
The Bruins have proven that they are capable of bouncing back strong from a long layoff: Coming out of the All-Star Break, after which their practice time was limited due to record-breaking snowfall, they reeled off two straight wins over the Islanders and the Kings.
“To be able to take six days or seven days in between games during the All-Star Break, and you come back and play that well against the Islanders, I think there’s no reason that we can’t do it now,” Julien said.
The challenge begins on Thursday night at TD Garden with a matchup against Calgary, and it continues from there with three games in four nights, and four games in six nights.
“I think someone said the other day we have 11 games in 18 days, so it’s a very tough schedule,” Marchand said. “I think the biggest thing is, on and off the ice, we’ve got to make sure we really take care of our bodies and rest up.
“We do take it game by game. If you start looking ahead, then three or four games can pass pretty quickly, and we can’t allow that to happen. We can’t afford a bad stretch, so we’ve got to make sure each game we’re prepared, and each practice day or rest day, we take care of our bodies the best we can.”
And with the trade deadline officially behind them and the roster, for the most part, set, the Bruins can proceed with confidence, knowing exactly who will be in their dressing room from here on out.
“You come up to the trade deadline, and maybe guys hear their names in trades and they’re a little bit nervous,” Krug said. “But once that passes, I think everybody settles down and looks around and says, ‘Hey, this is the group we have, and the group we’re going to have moving forward to work with and accomplish our goals.’ So I think it’s a good time — it’s an exciting time — for our group right now.
“Everyone has confidence in the people in this room, and the management showed that, obviously, and we’re excited about it.”
Bad News for Connolly
Newly acquired forward Brett Connolly came off the ice early during Wednesday’s practice after taking a puck off the hand, and on Wednesday afternoon, Chiarelli announced that Connolly will miss six weeks due to a displaced fracture in his index finger.
Connolly was expected to give the Bruins some help on right wing — and he slotted in alongside Carl Soderberg and Loui Eriksson for Wednesday’s practice — and his injury marks a big blow for the team, which was expecting him to make a substantial impact down the stretch.
Campbell Takes Light Contact
A little over a week ago, Julien announced that Gregory Campbell was expected to miss about seven days with an upper-body injury, but Campbell seems to be well on the road to recovery.
On Tuesday, he practiced with the team for the first time, and on Wednesday, he took light contact.
Still, Julien said the B’s are proceeding with caution and will not rush him back into the lineup, particularly for Thursday’s matchup against Calgary.
“I would qualify him as doubtful [for Thursday], just because we’re healthy right now, so we may extend it a little bit,” Julien said. “But definitely a weekend decision could be made on him. More than likely, we’ll keep him out [Thursday].”
Wednesday’s Practice Lineup
Gold Jerseys: Brad Marchand — Patrice Bergeron — Reilly Smith
White Jerseys: Milan Lucic — Ryan Spooner/Gregory Campbell — David Pastrnak
Gray Jerseys: Loui Eriksson — Carl Soderberg — Brett Connolly
Burgundy Jerseys: Daniel Paille — Chris Kelly — Maxime Talbot/Brian Ferlin
Zdeno Chara — Dougie Hamilton
Torey Krug — Adam McQuaid
Dennis Seidenberg — Matt Bartkowski
Goalies: Tuukka Rask, Niklas Svedberg