By John Bishop
In a locker room full of defensive giants like Zdeno Chara
, Milan Jurcina, Andrew Alberts and Paul Mara, the 5’10”, 195-pound Marc Savard
doesn't exactly jump out at you as the most dynamic player in the dressing room.
And after looking around Boston's inner sanctum to find Bruins stalwart P.J. Axelsson, super sniper Glen Murray and the quiet cool of Brad Stuart, you might think that it would be one of those indomitable characters that would control the pulse of the team.
But most days, it is Savard's sartorial personality and indefatigable presence that definitely dominates the Boston Bruins locker room.
You see, not only is Savard the most potent scoring threat on the team and its most exciting offensive weapon, he is also the team's resident court jester, town crier and cheerleader and it is a rare day when "Savvy", as his teammates call him, isn't holding court, yelling something across the room or just plain pumping up the team.
To him, it's all part of the job. And whether it is scoring goals or busting chops, if the team is up or down, Savard and his motivational mouth simply do not take a day off.
Like when he awarded Wayne Primeau an assistant captain "A" without telling him and Primeau tooled around Ristuccia Memorial Arena unaware that he had been "named" an assistant captain for a pre-season practice session.
"Coach sees the ‘A’ and Preems never noticed it," said Savard of his most memorable training camp caper. "So Coach Lewis goes, ‘We are going to designate an assistant captain for every practice.’ So we all got a laugh at that.”
To his credit, Primeau took the ‘A’ in stride after discovering it plastered to his jersey.
“It’s an award designated by Marc Savard
,” explained a wide-grinned Primeau at the time. “And whoever he feels is leading by ‘example,’ he’ll throw that ‘A’ on their jersey for practice.
“So, it was an ‘honor’ and we’ll just leave it at that,” said Primeau.
It's all in a day's work for Savard, whose antics and stories are numerous and varied -- just like his scoring moves and in your face on-ice style. And this Ottawa-born son of a Montreal Canadiens fan is tickled pink to be part of the Black & Gold.
"I just think that I am doing what I want to do,” said Savard of playing hockey. “I want to take advantage of every day and I have fun with it.
“And hopefully it rolls over to the team.
“We have guys with a lot of smiles out there and the way to keep smiling is to keep winning hockey games," he said.
The Bruins entered the season with several new faces in addition to Savard, and the ‘getting to know you’ process, both on and off the ice, contributed to a slower start to the season than anyone would have liked.
But to Savard, as carefree as he may be off of the ice, the on-ice game is serious business and he wants to be part of the solution.
"I know I have more to give to this hockey club," Savard said. "But…you have to stay confident with things.
"And we know that's what we need to win games. I take a lot of the onus on myself…to make things better [on] every shift; I've got to give everything I've got.
"But you can't run around, you have to be smart about it, you have to control that stuff, and just really work hard."
And beyond his efforts towards keeping the team loose, have no doubts, Savard takes his hockey very seriously, indeed, and has worked very hard on his game.
"He has leadership abilities," said Coach Lewis following a recent practice. "He's put up a lot of points, numbers-wise, but I think he has more to offer than that.
"He is a character guy and I think that guys look up to him. He has fun, but he competes really hard. He wants to be a good, top player, in this league and all those [things] are indicating that he is a full-potential kind of guy."
As such, he has been recognized around the league for his play.
Each Monday, the NHL recognizes three players who delivered the League's top performances over the preceding week and in early November, Savard was chosen as the First Star in the NHL's 'Three Stars' for the week. Savard led all NHL scorers with eight points (three goals, five assists) during the week ending Nov. 5, and recorded points on 80% of the Bruins' goals.
It's not surprising for the center, however, as he signed with Boston as a free agent after recording a career-high 97 points (28 goals, 69 assists) with Atlanta in 2005-06, finishing ninth overall in the League’s scoring race and third in the NHL in assists.
And this season, he has gained yet another role -- that of mentor.
"He's rooming with Phil Kessel on the road," explained Lewis. "And he spends a lot of time with him. They're very similar in stature, they play the same position and Savvy brings a really interesting outlook to the game.
"I think Phil can learn an awful lot from Marc," he said.
For his part, right now Savard just wants to be a good teammate and does not think of himself as a mentor -- yet.
"I don't know," he said. "I do have Phil rooming with me and I am trying to help him along.
"He is a good kid and he is going to be a good player for a lot of years. I try to work with him and talk to him and keep his confidence up, because there are times in the year when you are going to get down.
"And Pat LaFontaine told me once, 'Don't let the highs get too high and the lows get too low'. Things like that, you pass them on. I don't know if that makes me a mentor, but maybe someday," he said.
And when things get tough in the clubhouse, a player like Savard - and his well-developed sense of humor - is invaluable.
"We need that," said Coach. "We have a lot of serious guys there in the room and a lot of young guys that are quiet.
"One day on the ice, and I am sure this was Marc, Jason York came out on the ice and on his helmet was a piece of white tape and on the white tape were the letters O-R-R. So York didn't know it but everybody else did and the coaches actually had to laugh.
"There is a commitment by the organization to him," said Lewis, suddenly serious. "He wanted to come here and he understands that commitment and how it has to be -- so let's get going and win some hockey games."
And those wins are coming, says Savard.
"We've been confident all year," said Savard of his first few months as a Bruin. "Our record doesn't show that right now…but we know we have a good hockey club. We've got a lot of good players and now we are starting to show that on the stats.
"And hopefully we can keep doing that."
But even if the Bruins hit some tough times, Savard will make sure that the locker room, and the TD Banknorth Garden, is a fun place to be.
Oh, and by the way, is Dad still a Habs fan?
"Oh yeah, I am sure he is a big Bruins fan now," said Savard -- naturally, with a laugh.