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Opening Night Notebook

by Angela Stefano / Boston Bruins
Home Sweet Home

After a four-game season-opening stretch on the road, the Bruins made their return to the TD Banknorth Garden for last night’s home opener against the Pittsburgh Penguins and everyone in the Bruins locker room agreed that it is nice to be in front of a crowd that is cheering for you, not booing.

However, the atmosphere can sometimes be a distraction, admitted head coach Claude Julien in his morning meeting with the media.

“You’re always trying to impress your home crowd,” he said, “and instead of sticking with the game play, you can get away from it a little bit by trying too much.”

“Road games don’t matter if you don’t take advantage of your home games,” Julien said. “For us, it’s keep level-headed about everything…and playing hard over the course of 82 games.

“You hope those things are going to work in your favor.

The B’s are already off to a better road start than last year, and, of course, they’re looking to improve on their home record (21-16-4 last season) as well.

“Give me a better record, and I’ll take it,” said a grinning Julien.

The fans made all the difference to Marc Savard.

“The crowd was awesome,” said the forward. “They keep coming out because we put a good effort in.

“(Monday) we didn’t get the result we wanted, but hopefully they keep coming because it makes us play that much harder.”

Welcome Back, Bergy
Fans cheer as Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron is introduced during the Bruins' home opener, against the Pittsburgh Penguins in an NHL hockey game in Boston, Monday, Oct. 20, 2008. Bergeron was sidelined for most last season after suffering a concussion in a game against Philadelphia in October. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Last night meant a lot to the whole Bruins team, but it meant even more to Patrice Bergeron, who finally made his way back to the Garden ice after his season-long injury.

“I’m very, very excited about it,” said Bergeron after morning skate. “It’s going to be a lot of fun, and I’m ready for it.”

The impact the forward’s return has on the team cannot be underestimated.

“He’s one of our heart and soul players,” said Julien. “The guy was really missed last year.

“His work ethic is second-to-none, and besides his skill level being extremely high, he’s as important as any key guy on our team,” continued a complimentary Julien.

Coach Julien stressed there should be no doubt that the 23-year old forward is completely back at full level.

“He’s very demanding of himself,” said Julien. “To me, there’s no hesitation in his play.”

There was no hesitation in the Garden crowd either, as they cheered Bergeron throughout the evening.

“It meant a lot,” he said. “It’s great to be back in Boston (with our) fans.

“I was looking forward to that game, and now it’s done.

“The nerves are out of the way now and I can look forward for the next game at home, but (we) obviously need to take that game at Buffalo first,” said Bergeron.

A Visit from Mr. Jacobs
Jeremy Jacobs
Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs addressed a group of reporters in the Garden pressroom before face-off. He believes that it’s only a matter of time before the entire city is scrambling to see the team play.

“I think there’s as much chance for this team to go to the end as there is any,” said Jacobs. “I think they’re very good.

“But I’m an owner. I’m supposed to have that point of view.”

He’s got back up, though, from the team’s performance, 2-1-2 after five games, the sellout crowd of 17,565, and the fact that the B’s held their own against a team straight out of last year’s Stanley Cup Finals.

“We’ve got some kids here who can skate with (anyone),” he said. “We’ve got something to be proud of here.”

The Evolution of Phil Kessel
Now in his third year with the Black & Gold, Phil Kessel is coming into his own as a young player. More experienced and savvy in the ways of the league, his improvement has garnered much notice.

“His whole demeanor on and off the ice is obviously going in the positive way,” said Julien. “I think it’s just the maturity level from an 18-year old to a 21-year old.”

The coach said that the team knew what they had in Kessel all along.

“We never questioned his skill level,” he said. “It was everything else that had to follow.”

It seems maturity has finally caught up with skill, as Kessel has now notched five goals in five games.
“We expect him to be one of our top six,” said linemate Marc Savard, “and he’s doing it.”

Before the end of the night, Julien had Kessel and Savard teamed up on a line.

“Both players are playing well,” said the coach. “Savard’s got the hot stick, and Phil was playing extremely well.

“Again, I was trying to generate some offense, and putting those two together, I was hoping that they would get that much needed goal.”

Shootout Thoughts
Tim Thomas
The first three periods in regulation play are five-on-five. Then, in overtime, play becomes four-on-four. And if game goes to a shootout – well, in the words of Tim Thomas, “it takes a team game and makes it not a team game anymore.”

By that point, even the losing team is guaranteed a point for their hard work, but the victory in the standings doesn’t necessarily leave the team on top of the world.

“You feel worse than you should because we played a really good game,” said Thomas of the B’s first shootout loss of the season. “We shut them down really good.”

Even in the one-on-one, the netminder kept the Pittsburgh Penguins at bay through two of three shooters. Still tied, however, he faced two more shots, with Evgeni Malkin beating him in the fifth round. Then, Penguin Dany Sabourin stopped Savard’s countering shot to give Pittsburgh the win.

“I just tried changing the angle on him a bit,” Savard explained. “He went top blocker and made a good save.”

Again, a point’s a point, but in the Boston locker room, the overall feeling was not one of satisfaction.

“It’s tough,” said Thomas. “The fans do love it though.”

Coach Julien assessed the whole game before speaking on the shootout.

“I think it’s one of those games where, overall, I was happy with our effort,” said the coach. “We did have some chances, but you’ve got to capitalize on those good opportunities.

“At the end of it you come out of it with just a point. I thought we deserved better tonight. No, it wasn’t a perfect game, and our power play wasn’t perfect, but nonetheless, I think we played well enough to win.

“Unfortunately I think same old, same old: a shootout and we came up at the short end of it.”
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