Boston, MA --
“This is what it’s like in Montreal after a game,” said new Bruins forward Michael Ryder from his stall as 27 Bruins players, decked out in their white away-game jerseys, faced a very large crowd of reporters Friday afternoon on Media Day -- the beginning of the final weekend of training camp.
And with the hype surrounding the team heading into the season, and the number of new faces representing all manner of media present in the TD Banknorth Garden today, it seems likely that Mr. Ryder will have to get used to this kind of attention in Boston, as well.Practice Makes Perfect
With less than a week to go until the season opener next Thursday night, it’s definitely “crunch time” for the team and during these final days of training camp it's all about getting things just right.
“I can’t speak for anybody else, but I’m just trying to get back to a level that I find acceptable,” said a very straightforward Tim Thomas
A confident Patrice Bergeron
said the Bruins are definitely at that level.
“I think we’re where we want to be right now, but we can be a better team,” said Bergeron. “I think we’re playing well, and it’s just a matter of making a smart play, a simple play, more than we were doing.
“We need to work hard and be sharp every game.”
Defenseman Andrew Ference
, too, was focused on being sharp – “getting the rust off," he said.
“We should all be past that point,” after the many pre-season games, he said.
“We should really be at regular-season form by now.”
Improving the power play was a main focus of this morning’s practice, however.
“As the season goes on, it gets more fine-tuned, but right now, that’s why we practice so much, because you see such improvement,” Ference said.
But like Bergeron, Ference is sure the B’s “are definitely headed in the right direction.”One More Week
Sure, the B’s have been practicing and playing since the beginning of September – but nothing really compares to the feeling of that first real game.
“We’re just waiting for it to start,” Ference said simply.
But there’s still two pre-season games – and lots of practice – left in the week between now and opening night, which means the first game in Colorado is still pretty far from the minds of the Black & Gold.
“I think there’s still some things we want to get accomplished before we get into the regular season,” said Thomas, “so I don’t think there’s any nerves for the opening yet.
“It’ll probably set it Tuesday when we leave on the plane.”Rooks and Knights
Much has been said about the work of Blake Wheeler during training camp and, because of his performance, his chances of getting a spot on the Black & Gold roster.
But the rookie isn’t letting all the talk go to his head.
“I haven’t really gotten out of the moment too much to really think about that,” Wheeler said. “If my name doesn’t get (called), that’s a good thing, but I’m not really worried too much about it.”
Across the locker room from Wheeler’s stall sits Milan Lucic
, a player who, last training camp, was in a situation similar to the one Wheeler now finds himself in.
This season’s rookie said he’s talked to the now-veteran Lucic about how to handle the pressure.
“Rookie training camp is just a grind, and you’ve got to stay even-minded,” he said. “The things that are really important for a young guy (are) just not to think too much about things you can’t control, and you should just go out there and play hockey.”
And, much like Lucic, Wheeler sees “playing hockey” as a physical, hard-hitting game.
“They’re looking for size,” he said. “I think that’s my biggest asset – be strong on the forecheck and protect the puck.”Bond – Team Bond(ing)
The camaraderie of the Bruins is probably one of the most unique and important aspects of the team. Not only does it make things easier out on the ice, but it makes the locker room a pretty fun place.
This afternoon, Aaron Ward, Mark Stuart and Andrew Ference
could be seen carrying on a conversation while waiting for questions from reporters, and, in another corner, a group of second year players – David Krejci
and Vladimir Sobotka among them – were simply hanging out.
“It’s pretty much the same group of guys,” said captain Zdeno Chara
. “We feel good about it.”
That consistency is an important part of why the team has come together so smoothly, he said.
“We know each other’s personalities, we know what we can expect from each other, and we have pretty much the same team,” said Chara, “so we know what our jobs are.”
It makes a captain’s life easier, too.
“We’re all a group, so obviously I feel more comfortable than when coming into a new team,” he said.