Bruins spread holiday cheer despite lockout disappointment

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Bruins spread holiday cheer despite lockout disappointment

Bruins President Cam Neely and head coach Claude Julien areno different than the rest of the NHL-loving public. Just as the fans andplayers want to get back on the ice as soon as possible, executive and membersof NHL coaching staffs are chomping at the bit for a resolution to a lockoutthat passed 80 days in length last week.

So when it appeared things were close to a resolution duringthe meeting between the group of six owners and players last week duringmeetings at the Westin Hotel in New York City, naturally Neely and Julien gotexcited that theyd be headed back to work soon.

Like everybody else, emotions run high and then they go lowdepending on how everything turns out, said Neely. I think everybody wasfeeling cautiously optimistic at the Board of Governors meeting that we weregoing to get something done. Unfortunately it didnt happen. Ive been a glasshalf-full guy this whole time and Im going to stay half-full.

Im not going to lie. Its difficult to keep morale up whenwere not out doing what were supposed to be doing. I know people are going tobe upset that were not playing. Thats a given. But its days like this when wereally want to get staff out and show everyone what this organization is trulyall about. You try and make sure that everybody stays as positive as possible.

Instead things fell apart in spectacularly ridiculousfashion last Thursday with dueling Donald Fehr and Gary Bettman pressconferences. Then the NHL announced that all scheduled games through Dec. 30have now been cancelled as the two sides continue their war of labor attrition.

So it was refreshing that Neely and Julien were among agroup of Bruins employees, front office staff, coaches and media personalitiesthat spent Monday morning shopping for thousands of dollars in toys at theTarget in Woburn. The carriages full of toys, games and stocking stuffers are beingpurchased to be donated to kids stranded in local hospitals during the holidayseason in the coming days.

I certainly enjoy this. It puts all in perspective, and noteven because of the hockey things, said Julien. But to see the smiles onthose kids faces in the hospitals in the next few days or the next week willbe a very special day for me. Those kids are what its all about. It not onlyputs you in the Christmas spirit, but its about spreading joy and happiness.Weve got an opportunity to do that.

Its an outstanding Bruins tradition that started back in1990 by Ray Bourque, was passed to P.J. Axelsson in the early seasons in thisdecade, and has been organized by Zdeno Chara in recent years.

Everybody isnt happy with the lockout situation that wereinvolved in. But that doesnt mean we cant help others out around theholidays. Its fantastic to be involved with this, said Neely. To havechildren that arent able to be home for Christmas and you can shed a littlelight on them. I think its important for the organization to do that whetherits the front office and coaches, or its the players.

Regardless of how other athletes feel, were in a positionto give back and were obligated to do just that. Were fortunate to be able todo what we do for a living. For us to get out and get involved in thecommunity, in various ways, is something we should be doing."

Neely, Julien, assistant GMs Jim Benning and Don Sweeney andassistant coaches Doug Houda, Doug Jarvis and Geoff Ward were among thefriendly faces that lent their time and shopping acumen. They replaced theBruins players that normally organize the toy drive, and insured that someneedy Boston area children will have a joyful Christmas.

The event is just part of an ongoing excellent job theBoston BruinsTD Garden staff has done staying active in the community even ifthe hockey season is in limbo.

Weve always maintained a strong relationship with thecommunity in a number of ways and were always going to continue to do that,said Neely. The lockout doesnt mean that we cant keep getting involved asan organization like we always have.

Of course the Bs executives and coaches are looking forwardto handing the charitable endeavors back to the players eventually. The returnof the NHL players would mean that the business of the NHL is back up to fullefficiency, and that the fans are cheering instead of berating both the NHL andNHLPA.

Bruins officials clearly expect the fans to return in ahockey hotbed like Boston with a Stanley Cup-caliber hockey club, but they alsoknow that it might be as easy for places like Florida, Dallas, Anaheim,Carolina, Phoenix and Nashville among others.

Were bystanders just like everybody else. I can just tellyou that Im looking forward to getting back to work. I know that everybody inthere negotiating feels that same way, said Julien. Recovering from thelockout depends on the areas. Some areas bounced back more quickly than othersin 2004-05. We know hardly any Canadian cities have the NBA or Major LeagueBaseball, so hockey is the famous Canadian sport.

There were also some traditional cities in the US that hadtheir fans back. But there were some cities that had a struggle to get theirfans back, and I dont think its going to be any different this time around.We just hope that it will get resolved quickly, that the fans understand it andthat theres a real positive message there at the end.

Collateral damage from the lockout is a sad reality of thislatest work stoppage in an NHL thats had too far many of them over the last 20years.

But Monday was not about that at all. It was about a Bruinsorganization doing something tangible to improve the lives of kids looking fora lift around the holiday season just as theyve done for years.

Blakely: Celtics not as feared as they were last season

Blakely: Celtics not as feared as they were last season

BOSTON -- On more than one occasion Monday night, the Boston Celtics were a discombobulated bunch with some players thinking they were running one play, while others were thinking the play called was something totally different.
 
You see that stuff in the preseason and to a certain extent in the regular season for a lot of teams. It is in those moments that we’re reminded that this Boston Celtics team is a work in progress on so many levels.
 
Because of that, we all need to hit the pause button when talking about them as a team inching closer towards Eastern Conference supremacy.
 
After the first month of the season, they have yet to show that they are going to be better than last season’s 48-win ball club.
 
The big problem a year ago was the offense bogging down and for the most part, not making shots. This year, it’s the team’s defense that has let them down on many nights.
 
And with that comes a sobering reminder this crew is good, but at best are maybe top-five in the East.
 
As a team on the rise, beating teams you’re not supposed to has to happen with some semblance of regularity.
 
There were only three teams on the Celtics’ docket this season thus far that they should have been beaten by without there being any argument: Golden State, San Antonio and Cleveland.
 
They were beaten in all three, two of which (Golden State and Cleveland) had final scores that did not indicate the level of dominance they had over the Celtics.
 
The average margin of defeat in the three games was 9.3 points, but two of them (San Antonio and Golden State) were at the TD Garden, which is supposed to be the equalizer for upset-minded teams.
 
But in each game, Boston put up a decent fight only to fail to emerge victorious.
 
The struggles against the upper echelon teams of the NBA has nothing to do with not having a superstar or a great rebounder or any of the kazillion reasons/excuses offered up as to why they’re not better.
 
It’s hunger.
 
It’s effort.
 
It’s about being blinded by the internet clicks that tout them as one of the best teams in the East, and them not seeing the danger that comes with embracing all that patting on the back.
 
It makes you soft.
 
It makes you fat and happy.
 
And maybe most significant, it creates a false sense of arrival before you’ve left the tarmac.
 
That’s where the Boston Celtics are right now: a team that seems to have forgotten why they were the team nobody wanted to play last year.
 
It wasn’t that teams feared playing them. It was the fact that they knew playing the Celtics would be tough, and it would force them to play a lot closer to their full potential than they were used to if they wanted to win.
 
It was because everyone knew that to beat the Celtics, you don’t have a choice but to play hard because you damn well knew they would.
 
Not anymore.
 
They bring that toughness to the game in small doses, like an intra-venous drip full of hope and promise, providing just enough to life to keep their fans optimistic but not nearly enough to kill the noise of their haters and critics.
 
And while the season is still young, the Celtics need to start racking up some quality wins.
 
Right now, their most impressive win is a toss-up between beating Charlotte 104-98 on Oct. 29, or a 94-92 win at Detroit on Nov. 19.
 
Boston plays at Orlando on Wednesday, a team that’s likely to be back in the lottery again. But after that, they travel back to Boston where they’ll host Toronto -- a game that they desperately need to not only to pad their win total but also provide a much-needed boost of energy and confidence going forward.

The Celtics have to find that hunger, that collective desire that we’ve seen in the past which has propelled them to greater heights than we’ve seen thus far.
 
Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford… you can go down the roster and the mission for all of them has to be the same: play harder, for longer, and be smarter about it, because this team has too much collective talent to be just three games above .500.
 
At 12-9, Boston is third in the East and trail conference-leading Cleveland by three games for the best record in the conference. But then you look at the teams behind the Celtics and realize that they’re only two games out of having the ninth-best record in the East.
 
It speaks in part to the season still being in its infancy stage. But it’s also telling as to how Boston does not have a huge margin of error when it comes to losing winnable games.
 
And as we’ve seen thus far, the Celtics can play with any team in the NBA and hold their own.
 
But beating them is a totally different narrative that this squad has yet to write.

Spooner on trade rumors: 'I definitely want to play here'

Spooner on trade rumors: 'I definitely want to play here'

BOSTON -- Ryan Spooner has definitely heard the reports out there that he’s being shopped in trade by the Boston Bruins, and he played like a guy that didn’t want to be moved in Monday’s win over the Florida Panthers at TD Garden.

Spooner had his good skating legs, created chances for his teammates and set up the third period goal that got the B’s into overtime when he flipped a shot at the net that was tipped in by David Backes while camped out around the crease. Spooner finished with an assist and a plus-1 rating along with five shot attempts in his 14:24 of ice time, and looked much more like the energized, creative player that was at the heart of some pretty good offensive things last season.

In other words, Spooner looked much more like the talented young player that finished with 13 goals and 49 points last season while centering the third line.

“I think there were five or six games there where I felt I wasn’t playing a bad game. Then six or seven games there where it was hard to get, I guess, the ice time that I wanted,” said Spooner. “At the end of the day, I’ve been a little bit inconsistent.

“I just have to go out there and use my speed and my skill and I found that in the game here. I thought that I did that and I just need to play with that, and I should be fine.”

Multiple sources have indicated to CSN New England that the Bruins are talking about a possible Ryan Spooner deal with multiple teams including the Carolina Hurricanes, San Jose Sharks and New York Islanders. Part of it is certainly the need for the Bruins to collect a bit more goal-scoring as Monday night’s win was just the eighth time in 26 games this season that Boston’s offense has scored more than two goals.

Part of it is also, however, a challenging season for Spooner where he’s been in and out of Claude Julien’s dog house while getting dropped to the fourth line at times, and even being left off the power play a handful of times as well. He’s played out of position at left wing rather than center and has underachieved to three goals and nine points in 25 games largely played with David Krejci and David Backes.

Whatever the history and the number of potential trade scenarios, Spooner said was “fed up” with all of it in his own words as he headed into Monday night’s game, and one thing remained true above all else: He wants to stick around as a member of the Bruins.

“I try to just put it in the back of my mind. When I was 17, I went through the same thing [in junior hockey]. I definitely want to play here,” said Spooner. “I want to help out and that’s kind of where I’m at now. If I play like I did [against the Panthers], I think I’ll be fine. I just want to go out, I want to help out, and that’s kind of where I’m at right now.”

The Black and Gold are looking for a top-6 forward capable of putting the puck in the net on the trade market in any possible deal involving Spooner, but it would seem that the 23-year can control his own destiny in Boston if he starts generating offense and putting the puck in the net. Spooner did just that on Monday night while setting up a third period goal, and lo and behold the Bruins offense posted four goals after struggling to get more than two for most of the season.

That could turn into the kind of trend that keeps Spooner in Boston if he knocks out the inconsistency in his game, and instead steps on the gas pedal and brings the speed and skill that got him to the NHL in the first place.