Bruins

Haggerty: Ference's fire is a good thing

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Haggerty: Ference's fire is a good thing

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- Andrew Ference has always had to get by in the land of size, speed and strength with a little bit less than the average Bear. His speed is good and his pound-for-pound strength excellent, but his generous listing of 5-foot-11 inch height and 189-pounds have always made him vulnerable to injuries and a wear down factor in a league full of big, strong, mean individuals looking to do damage.

Ference has excelled in the NHL when hes healthy, and become a seasoned top-four defenseman with playoff experience, defensive acumen and enough passing and shooting skills to win a permanent job in Boston. The 11-year veteran has played in 640 regular season games and 78 playoff matches through his NHL career, but hes also never lost that feistiness hes flashed since he was a 20-year-old rookie with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

That showed up in the second period of Game Four at Montreals Bell Centre when things got away from Ference a little after scoring a momentum-altering goal that pulled the Bs to within 3-2 in their eventual 5-4 overtime victory.

Ference circled after scoring the rocket of a one-time goal with a look of pure disdain on his face, and clearly lost his cool within the wretched hive of the dreaded Canadiens while flipping his middle finger at the Montreal fans. Television cameras caught Ference flipping the bird to Montreal while the Bruins were still trailing in the game, and it perfectly captured the unflagging spirit and prickly mood that Boston was in while looking to take care of some playoff business.

On Friday afternoon Ference was fined 2500 for the obscene gesture cast toward the Bell Centre crowd, but also somewhat defiantly contented that it was an unintentional bird caused by a glove malfunction.

Ference twice said flashing the middle finger to any kind of crowd was not in his repertoire, but given the head of the battle and Ferences feisty nature a colorful show of defiance actually doesnt seem all that out of character. Its the kind of competitive spirit and will to win that Ference always displays once the playoffs start, and it also shows just how much the players have emotionally invested into the series against the Canadiens.

I was pumping my fist," added Ference. "Im not giving anyone the bird or anything like that. Like I told them, it was an unintentional bird. I obviously apologize for it, it wasnt meant to insult anybody, especially a whole row of cameras in the Bell Centre and the fans sitting there. Thats definitely not the intention.

Its nice that Ference tried to explain away his actions on a hockey wardrobe malfunction, but the look of total disdain in his eyes as he flashed his middle finger betrayed exactly what was going through his mind. Ference hates the Canadiens, he hates their fans, he hates their building and he hates anything that could possibly stand in between his team and advancing through the playoffs.

So the hate for Montreal and the Canadiens actually comes from an intense love for his teammates.

The chemistry in this room has been great for years, said Ference. But its like a marriage in that it takes work. You have to make sure its a certain attitude, and I think the thing weve always had to work on is the inclusion of everybody from the veterans to the rookies or the Europeans and Canadiens.

Everybody goes out together, and the real bench mark is that you could see any of us together out on the road going out for dinner.

None of strong feelings against the Habs makes Ference a bad guy even in a remote way.

It would have been completely understandable had Ference said that rather than invoking the now infamous unintentional bird. It might have been much more refreshing had Ference admitted that a framed still shot of the defenseman flipping off the Montreal crowd could hang prominently in his rec room for a long time to come.

While Mark Recchi brings the unending wealth of knowledge, Patrice Bergeron brings a regal wisdom beyond his years, Zdeno Chara brings an unquenchable work ethic and Shawn Thornton brings street toughness, Andrew Ference brings unmatched courage and the practiced art of simply doing whats right on the ice. Ference is always the first to respond when one of his teammates is targeted by opponents or taken down with a cheap shot, and hes had memorably fleeting moments of anger on the ice such as fights with Sidney Crosby and Sean Avery a few years back.

Its always been that way for him.

Ferences fearless call to action can lead to situations and words that are sometimes misunderstood or twisted as his refreshingly candid and accurate statements about Daniel Pailles head shot from earlier this season can attest but its much a part of the Bs identity as Charas one time blast or Tim Thomas lucky coin on a neck chain.

Ference was also the player that purchased the 1980s Bruins wind-breaker on E-Bay by way of Vancouver a jacket thats now being passed from player to player each time Boston wins and bringing much needed levity to the Bs postseason run.

Youll drive yourself crazy if youre not having some fun, said Ference. This part of the season is intense and stuff so you need a release every once in a while, but its a long year. You talk about camaraderie and a good dressing room a lot, and the value of both comes out at this time of year.

If you dont have a good dressing room, good camaraderie and a good vibe in the room then by this time of the year youre sick of each other. Ive been on teams where weve been sick of each other, and that affects when you do out on the ice. Chemistry is a very important thing when you spend so much time together.

Its little things like the Bs awful-looking Starter-style jacket and an unintentional bird between hockey teams that bring a little something different to the Bruins, and perhaps even helped spark a Boston team thats appeared much too passive at times during this series.

Ference may have to find a different way to inspire his teammates now that the bird police will be watching his hockey gloves closely, but its safe to assume the Bs defenseman will conjure up other ways to impact the important final three games of the playoff series.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Bruins get a needed boost from young players in win over Sharks

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Bruins get a needed boost from young players in win over Sharks

Here’s what we learned from the Bruins' 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks at the SAP Center on Saturday night, which gave Boston four of a possible six points in its California road swing.
 
1) The kids stepped up at a great time for the Bruins. Boston needed some young players to step up and fill in for the injured veterans up front, and they got it on Saturday night. Jake DeBrusk was the main playmaker on both goals in the first period, and the Bruins got goals from rookies DeBrusk, Peter Cehlarik and Danton Heinen. It was Cehlarik’s first NHL goal and the 10th point of the season for Heinen, who continues to show signs that he is going to be a productive, reliable winger  even though he didn’t start the season at the NHL level. DeBrusk finished with a goal and an assist and twice used his speed and aggressiveness taking the puck to the net to create scoring chances: On the first goal it was Cehlarik who finished the loose puck after DeBrusk’s net drive created a rebound, and on the second it was DeBrusk simply beating reigning Norris Trophy winner Brent Burns to a race for the puck and then snapping it up and over San Jose backup goalie Aaron Dell. Cehlarik became the sixth Bruins rookie to score the first goal of his NHL career with Boston this season, and it all shows tangible results of the youth movement they were fully embracing this season. There will be peaks and valleys with so many young players in the lineup, but Saturday night turned out to be one of those high-water marks.

2)  At their healthiest, the Bruins can be a fast-skating, skilled team that will be equal parts offense and defense in a hard-working style that features pace and creativity in the offensive zone. The Bruins aren't healthy right now, obviously, and aren’t going to find success that way as attested by the fact that they hadn’t won two games in a row this season until Saturday night in San Jose. With a number of players already out of the lineup, Torey Krug now injured as well and Tuukka Rask taking an extended rest in favor of a red-hot Anton Khudobin, the Bruins are actually playing a very different brand of hockey right now. With Rask not playing -- and not allowing the types of bad or soft goals he's given up so far this year -- they can play a little more conservatively and try to make a two- or three-goal output in a game actually stick as the game-winning margin. Just check the box score,  as the Bruins blocked a whopping 30 shots and conversely the Sharks blocked just 12. Zdeno Chara, Kevan Miller and Robbie O’Gara all had blocked shots in the final few minutes, and Brandon Carlo stepped in front of a wide-open chance for Burns in the third period off a clean offensive zone faceoff win for the Sharks. Those are all gritty, tough plays in the D-zone that you don’t always see, and it perhaps comes a little more naturally when the Bruins are making the clear choice to feature their defense and goaltending right now. It may not be sustainable once Anton Khudobin inevitably cools off a little bit, but for now it’s pretty darn effective.


 
3)  After watching him stop 36 of 37 shots for the win on Saturday night, the Bruins need to see this thing through with Khudobin until he loses a game. Khudobin is 5-0-2 with this season, with a .949 save percentage in three appearances in November. He's playing the best he's played in the last couple of years. Right now Khudobin is actually leading the NHL with a .935 save percentage for the season, and that really contrasts to Rask's .897 save percentage. Certainly part of it is about the Bruins selling out defensively in front of him and blocking 30 shots in the win while knowing they didn’t have to play again until Wednesday night. But it’s also about the Bruins backup goaltender playing himself into a position where the B’s should ride him until he cools down a little bit, and give Rask some more time to figure out what is slowing him down between the pipes right now.
 
PLUS
-- DeBrusk made a couple of big plays in the first period that led to goals for the Bruins, and he finished with a goal, two points, a plus-2 and a team-high four shots on net in 15:49 of ice time. He has a goal and three points in three games since being a healthy scratch last weekend against Toronto.
 
--Khudobin made 16 saves in the first period when the Bruins were outshot 17-5 and it certainly seemed like they were going to get run out of the building. Instead Khudobin stood tall.
 
-- Heinen finished with two goals and three points on the three-game trip and iced the game for the Bruins with a backdoor strike in the third period after Kevan Miller had dashed up the right side of the ice to create the chance. Heinen is pushing up near the Bruins team leaders in some offensive categories and looks like he belongs in the NHL this season.
 
MINUS
-- Burns was burnt on each of the Bruins' two first-period goals, he actually missed the net with 12 of his 16 shot attempts, and he had seven giveaways in a pretty sloppy game managing the puck. Burns hasn’t had a great season to date, and Saturday night was a good example of things not going well for him this year.
 
-- Paul Postma finished with just eight minutes of ice time in the win, and was part of the poor defensive coverage on the Sharks goal by Joonas Donskoi in the first period that ended up getting overturned on video review. Postma didn’t show much else after that only playing a handful of minutes over the remainder of the game, and based on his early performance looks like he’s only going to be a seventh defensemen in Boston.
 
-- Here’s a hearty boo to the 10:30 pm West Coast starts on Saturday night that only the diehards, or those getting paid, are going to closely watch on the weekend leading up to Thanksgiving. Congrats to you if you were one of the lucky ones that decided to stay up and watch a game that didn’t end until after 1 a.m. in the East.  

Morning Skate: Payroll mess at the heart of Bruins' problems

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Morning Skate: Payroll mess at the heart of Bruins' problems

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while battening down the hatches for Thanksgiving week.
 
-- When longtime Bruins follower Clark Booth opines about the Black and Gold, I tend to listen. And he's not happy with the Bruins' salary cap situation at this point in time. It should be noted that this was written before they won the last two games. But some of those truths still remain self-evident when it comes to the B’s.

-- Kevin Bieksa will never stop talking about former teammate Rick Rypien, or about the factors that ultimately led to his tragic passing.
 
-- Alex Ovechkin is truly living up to the “Russian Machine Never Breaks” mantra these days, which led to the creation of an entire blog about the Capitals.
 
-- This Saturday Night Live skit with Chance the Rapper playing a clueless hockey reporter was funny, even to people that have been covering the league for 20 years and still struggle to pronounce a name like Brady Skjei.
 
-- The good, the bad and the ugly courtesy of FOH (Friend of Haggs) Mitch Melnick from last night’s Montreal blowout loss to the Maple Leafs that probably could have just been called the ugly, the ugly and the ugly.
 
-- It’s 20 games into the season, and the Buffalo Sabres media are wondering what’s wrong with their team, and star Jack Eichel.
 
-- For something completely different: It sounds like some of the NFL rank-and-file players want to know why Roger Goodell deserves $50 million and a lifetime private plane.