Bruins

Savard happy; not "a bright future" for playing again

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Savard happy; not "a bright future" for playing again

Marc Savard insists hes happy, hes watching his kids grow up as hockey players in Peterborough and day-to-day life is manageable.

All of that is encouraging news, but No. 91 also frankly admitted its tough to see a bright future when it comes to his NHL playing career in his current state. Savard admitted he still wades his way through post-concussion syndrome symptoms like memory loss and headaches, and routinely forgets his phone at home or leaves his car keys in the ignition after exiting the vehicle.

Despite all of that hes overcome the feelings of depression and sounds very much like a man moving on with his life with or without hockey.

Im doing good. Im feeling better. I have my days still, but Im doing a lot better. Im happy, said Savard. Im with my family and my kids, and going to watch them play hockey. Im getting a while different side of life.

I do feel really good just being in the building today. Im excited to be back. I miss being out there, thats for sure. But just being around the crowd and the atmosphere is going to be nice.

Savard didnt smile much or show his normally chirpy personality during his lengthy 10 plus minute meeting with reporters prior to Saturday afternoons BruinsRangers matinee at TD Garden. But the mere sight of the Bs fallen center at his second hockey home in Boston is cause for good news.

Savard will today host a group of pediatric Childrens Hospital patients battling through head trauma and their families in a suite hes sponsoring all of this season and the entire 2012-13 season.

The charitable endeavor convinced Savard to make his first trip to Boston this year, and hell be a more frequent visitor in the coming years regardless of whether he ever dons the Bruins sweater again.

I know what Ive gone through and what Ive been going through lately. At this present time Id like to do something for Boston because theyve been so great to me, said Savard, who hoped to drop into the Garden for games a few times per season when he was feeling up to it. I just felt that I know what these kids are going through in some of these departments. I just saw that this was something minor I could do to put a smile on their faces.

The center hasnt returned in almost exactly a calendar year when he took perhaps his final hit in the NHL from Matt Hunwick that caused him to bang his head into the dasher. Savard left the ice immediately after the hit, and has suffered through headaches and memory loss associated with the injuries ever since. It hasnt been an easy road, and its got to be difficult living as a cautionary tale as Savard is with the danger of concussions.

The way Im feeling and the daily issues Im having, its tough to see a bright future right now to be honest with you, admitted Savard. Its tough. I still have my tough days that I want to get back and play.

But at the end of the day I know that I could possibly get hit in the head again and what could happen. Im still hoping that something happens and I feel a lot better, but if I feel like this I still couldnt play.

The severity of Savards symptoms make it difficult to envision a return to the Bruins as an active player, and even Peter Chiarelli and Claude Julien have spoken in terms of his career likely being over. While the Hunwick hit was the final straw, it was a blind side elbow from Matt Cooke two years ago that affected Savards career path permanently. Cookes cheap shot has forced No. 91 into a reluctant role as one of the most ardent spokesmen for severe head shot penalties in hockey.

Savard hopes for much steeper penalties that would even make things that much easier for both the players and NHL disciplinarians. Certain on-ice crimes come with certain levels of suspensions, and there would be little gray area in Savards world of supplementary discipline.

I think the league has done a great job. At the end of the day Brendan Shanahan has done a wonderful job. I think about this head shot rule, Rule 48 or whatever its called, and maybe it just needs to be 10 games or more, said Savard. If you do it you just know that youre getting 10 games. Its in black and white. I almost think a lot of the rules should go that way.

It sounds like Savard has been doing quite a bit of thinking about ways to improve player safety in the world of the NHL, and perhaps keep other players from going through the same personal struggle he has gone through. The center has come out on the other side through the support of those that care about him.

Savard wants to be one of the last of the cautionary tales around the league when it comes to career-ending concussions.

Heinen beginning to look like a keeper for Bruins

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Heinen beginning to look like a keeper for Bruins

BRIGHTON, Mass – While it’s still early in the careers of all the young Bruins rookies making their way this season, it sure looks like 22-year-old Danton Heinen is among the B’s youngsters that are here to stay. The former University of Denver standout didn’t make the cut at the end of training camp this season and he failed early last year when it was clear he wasn’t ready during an eight-game audition with the big club.

But Heinen continued to look ready while scoring a pair of goals and three points in the three games on a pivotal road trip through California last week, and is now tied for fifth on the Bruins in points despite missing four games in the AHL. In all, Heinen has four goals and 10 points along with a plus-4 rating in 15 games this season, and is on pace for a really strong 21 goals and 52 points in his first full year.

This has been a really nice step forward for Heinen after being a point-per-game player for Providence during their playoff run last spring.

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“Last year’s playoff did a lot for him. When I saw him playing there, he was a different player than when he’d left [Boston],” said Bruce Cassidy. “There was a willingness to stay in the battle and his growth when it comes to winning pucks…you’ve seen it here. A lot of the things he’s down well are his second and third efforts on the puck where last year I thought he was pushed off the puck pretty easily [at the NHL level].”

There could be a period when his offense slows down or some other part of his game drags his minutes down, but right now he looks like he’s well on his way to establishing himself in a key role with the Black and Gold. The difference has been Heinen increasing his speed and also adding a little more tenacity to the skill and offense package that he was always bringing to the table.  

“I don’t want to say that because when we get our guys healthy then we’ll see where we’re at,” said Bruce Cassidy, when asked if Heinen was a keeper at the NHL level at this point. “But I think he’s certainly shown he’s a much more consistent player than he was last year. He’s probably a bit ahead of the other younger guys because he has gone through a bit of it [at the pro level]. The fact that he’s been able to play in a lot of different situations, play left or right wing, and moved up in the lineup while being very effective with [Sean] Kuraly and [Tim] Schaller down in the lineup, as a coach it’s to have a guy like that who can move around and fit in a lot of different places.

“So he’s certainly helped himself [to stay in the NHL]. I think it’s too early to say if he’s here for good, but I don’t envision him leaving [Boston] anytime soon with the way that he’s played.”

Only time and consistently good play will allow the playmaking Heinen to truly lock up his spot on the NHL roster, but it’s increasingly difficult to envision any scenario where the fifth-round pick isn’t playing an increasingly important role for the Bruins. 

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Speed to burn: Cooks, Brady team up to form most productive deep-ball combo

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Speed to burn: Cooks, Brady team up to form most productive deep-ball combo

The first came in the second quarter, when Brandin Cooks turned on afterburners to beat a Raiders double team and glide underneath a Tom Brady heave for 52 yards. The second came in the third quarter, on the third play from scrimmage of the second half, when Cooks faked an out-route, jetted past rookie corner Obi Melifonwu, and sped into the end zone to make the score 24-0. 

Both deep completions in New England's 33-8 win over Oakland just added to cumulative effect that Cooks has had on the Patriots offense since arriving before the season to become their top deep threat. 

Paired with Brady, Cooks has actually become the most productive deep threat in the NFL. 

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According to Pro Football Focus, Cooks leads all receivers with 431 yards on deep passes (throws that travel 20 yards or more down the field). In second place is Houston's DeAndre Hopkins with 313 yards. 

And Brady, who has long been more effective in the short-to-intermediate range than he has been deep, is now among the league leaders in creating explosive plays from the quarterback position. The Patriots are third in the NFL with 41 pass plays of 20 yards or more, and they are tied for second with nine plays of 40 yards or more. 

"You're always trying to work on that," Brady told WEEI's Kirk and Callahan Show of his team's deep passing game. "It's not one particular year [you work on it]. I think that's been a concerted effort by our entire offense, trying to make more explosive plays in the pass game. 

"Sometimes your offense is built differently. We actually have some guys now that can really get down the field so that becomes more of a point of emphasis. The way Brandin runs, the way that Chris Hogan runs, the way that Phillip Dorsett runs, they're very fast. You need to be able to take advantage of their skill set . . . 

"When we had David Patten we were throwing it deep. I mean, but David Patten didn't run a lot of short routes. I would say Brandin Cooks, in general, he doesn't run a lot of short routes. Everyone has a different role. If we can get by you, I think that's a good place to throw the ball. if we can't, we gotta figure out ways to throw it underneath and different weeks are going to call for different things based on the strengths of the defenses we're playing, too."

A week before beating the Raiders, against the Broncos and their talented corners, the Patriots had less luck pushing the ball down the field -- though they tried to hit Cooks deep multiple times. In Mexico City, Cooks matched up with a weaker secondary, and he wasn't at all slowed by the altitude, catching six passes in all for 149 yards and a score. 

Per PFF, Cooks has seen almost one third of his targets (30 percent) come on deep passes, which is the ninth-highest rate in the league. He's caught all 11 of his catchable deep passes, three of them accounting for scores.

"Obviously when you're throwing the ball 50-60 yards down the field," Brady said, "your chances of completion go down, but if you hit it, it ends up being a very explosive plays and you can change a lot of field position and get a defense really on their heels if they have to defend every blade of grass on the field." 

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