Haggerty: Bruins, Savard make the right decision

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Haggerty: Bruins, Savard make the right decision

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Marc Savard and the Boston Bruins arent about to make the same mistake again.

Savard suffered whats looking more and more like a career-altering concussion from an unpunished Matt Cooke elbow a hit that was dirtier than the grime beneath a mechanics fingernails that continues to haunt the playmaking center.

The 32-year-old is such a competitor that he, in retrospect, pushed himself back a bit too early when he returned for the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Philadelphia Flyers last spring. Savard has since admitted that post-concussion-syndrome symptoms recurred as that postseason series went on.

The tipping point for Savard came when he played 23 minutes in Game Four following David Krejcis season-ending wrist injury. He hasnt been the same since.

His team needed him, and he obliged with as much as he could possibly give against the Flyers. But he paid the price, suffering through a summer filled with fatigue, depression and symptoms associated with post-concussion syndrome.

Savard finally cleared that hurdle this season for a semi-triumphant return, but the damning fog returned after hits from Deryk Engelland of the Penguins and Matt Hunwick of the Colorado Avalanche two weeks ago.

Hoping to avoid a repeat of last season, when Savard perhaps pushed his body past the breaking point in the name of capturing a Cup, the Bruins are doing the right thing while leaving no wiggle room for themselves or their player.

General manager Peter Chiarelli announced Monday afternoon theyll be shutting Savard down for the remainder of the regular season and playoffs in the hopes of giving him the proper time to convalesce.

We feel that its best for his short-term, medium-term, and long-term welfare, security, his family, said Chiarelli. There are obviously a lot of consequences that flow from this.

Savards teammates, coaches, managers and friends all were uniform in their feelings on a day that felt more like a funeral than anything else: its about Savard the person getting better way before its about Savard the player returning to the ice.

I know he was working hard to come back and get to where he was at. I think he was frustrated at times, because it didnt come all the way back, said Chiarelli of Savard, who had 10 points and a minus-7 in 25 games. So those hits, I think they were in the gray area. Yeah, there was a concern, as a manager and as a friend . . .

Patrice Bergeron, along with fellow team captains Zdeno Chara and Mark Recchi, attended the press conference. He couldnt help but flash back to himself three years ago while watching Savard pale, frightened, withdrawn answering questions.

Bergeron could have been in the same situation had the Bruins advanced past the Montreal Canadiens in the 2007-08 playoffs. A Boston victory could have led to Bergeron returning from a concussion that cost him almost the entire regular season.

Looking back on it in retrospect, Bergeron said the Bruins dropping Game Seven to the Habs might have been the best thing that ever happened in his recovery from a sickening hit handed out by Philly defenseman Randy Jones.

You never want to see that happen to anybody, and when it happens to your teammate and friend its even worse, said Bergeron, who said hes texted back and forth with Savard about the symptoms hes going through in the latest concussion. Hes the one that knows his body the most, and he needs to make sure hes honest with himself.

Its not easy sitting out the rest of the season and Im sure that he really wants to come back this season. People talk about money, but thats not even an issue. This is our passion and we love to play this game. Hes shut down for the rest of the year and Im sure he doesnt even know what to do with himself. Hes probably going to take a lot of time to think about his future. Hes got to think about himself first and make sure hes feeling normal before he makes any decisions.

Bergeron knows how frustrated Savard feels about missing the upcoming postseason, and also knows itll be doubly frustrating if hes feeling fully back to health.

But sometimes professional athletes used to pushing their bodies past the limits of exertion need a concerned outside party holding them back from hurting themselves, and thats what the Bruins are doing.

Bergeron needed it when he was raring to hop into the playoffs in 2008, months before his body was again strong enough to take the NHL pounding.

Savard needs that kind of patience now.

Ive been through it. When the playoffs came around I was really itching to get back, said Bergeron. I was feeling better, but not returning was probably the best decision for me. The doctors making that decision and then me eventually agreeing with that decision was the best thing for me.

Looking back on it, I dont regret anything I did while recovering because I needed that full time to get back to normal, feeling confident and catching up to the speed of the game. For Savvy its about getting back to normal, working hard over the summer and getting ready for training camp.

Savard admitted to suffering fatigue, short-term memory loss and bouts of vertigo, along with random headaches and clear personality changes obvious to anyone familiar with him during his five years in Boston.

It made Savard seem like a ghost, or a haunted hockey soul, on a sad Monday afternoon at TD Garden.

Im having still some headaches off and on, said Savard. I think the things that scare me the most is little memory things or you know, I forget Ive asked someone a question or little things like that that scare me, and the odd dizzy stuff. So thats some stuff thats worried me.

Several times during the 24-minute press conference, Savard expressed frustration, sadness and obvious signs of depression while his eyes welled up as he vocalized his plight.

Savard was clearly thinking about hockey, but also 100 percent worried about the effect it might have on his career and life.

I think its just a mix. Ive got a lot of feelings going on. I think Im frustrated, mostly. Its tough to understand why this happens and obviously the most frustrating thing is to not be able to just know exactly whats going on and how to cure it, said Savard. And I think its just time and patience and those are things I feel like I dont have much of, so that makes it tough.

Nobody that watched Savard rolling around on the ice at the Pepsi Center, openly sobbing into a towel as he skated off the ice and asking Bs trainers Donnie DelNegro Why? Why me? can ever forget how damaging concussions have become in the NHL world.

The hope is that Savard can someday be a happy, healthy hockey player again bringing life and vivacious energy to the Bruins locker room. The Bruins made the bang-on correct decision by shutting down No. 91 to get him on that path.

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

Morning Skate: Sidney Crosby has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation

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Morning Skate: Sidney Crosby has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while wishing everybody a safe and relaxing Memorial Day weekend. 

*Apparently Nashville Predators head coach Peter Laviolette has yet to try Nashville’s hot chicken despite his time behind the Preds bench. It’s okay, I have yet to try it either in my handful of visits to Music City. 

*Good stuff from PHT writer and FOH (Friend of Haggs) Jason Brough. Apparently it wasn’t so easy to make Wayne Gretzky’s head bleed when it came time for director Doug Liman to cut Swingers together

*Sidney Crosby cares about the history and the issues of the game, and has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation despite the hate that always comes with such responsibility. 

*Puck Daddy examines Crosby’s performance in the playoffs, and the odds of him winning another Conn Smythe Trophy. 

*The Penguins have made it to the Stanley Cup Final without Kris Letang for their playoff run, and that’s an amazing accomplishment. 

*Erik Karlsson said that he will be tending to his injured foot next week, and expects a full recovery for next season after a brilliant run with his Ottawa Senators

*Larry Brooks again rails against the Stanley Cup playoff structure and it’s relation to an “absurd regular season.” Say what you will, but the fact the Penguins are there for a second straight season shoots down some of the absurdity stuff in my mind. The best team from the East is where they should be and they did it without Kris Letang to boot. 

*Chicago Blackhawks prospect Alex Debrincat is confident his abilities will translate to the NHL despite his size after taking home honors as the best player in junior hockey this season. 

*For something completely different: Apparently there’s a hard core comic book geek gripe that “The Flash” is burning through bad guys too quickly. This would make sense if they couldn’t revisit these bad guys at any point, but they absolutely can go back to a big bad like Grodd anytime they want. 

Playoff run ends for Providence Bruins, but some promising signs

Playoff run ends for Providence Bruins, but some promising signs

It was the longest run that the P-Bruins have had in a few years and another unmistakable sign that the future is brightening for the Black and Gold, but the Bruins AHL affiliate has ended their playoff push in the Calder Cup semi-finals. 

The Providence Bruins fell by a 3-1 score to the Syracuse Crunch on Saturday night to lose to the Crunch in five games when the best-of-seven series was set to return to Providence this coming week. The P-Bruins had vanquished the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins and Hershey Bears in the first two rounds of the Calder Cup playoffs before finally exiting against Syracuse. 

Though it’s over, it’s clear some of the Bruins prospects made a nice step forward over the second half of the AHL season and then into the Calder Cup playoffs. With the Calder Cup Finals yet to start, B’s forward prospect Danton Heinen stands as the second-leading playoff scorer in the entire AHL with nine goals and 18 points in 17 playoff games after really struggling in the first half of his first pro season while bouncing back and forth between the NHL and the AHL. 

This could bode well for the skilled Heinen and his hopes to make the leap to the NHL in the near future after a stellar collegiate career at the University of Denver. AHL journeymen-types Wayne Simpson and Jordan Szwarz were the next two top scorers for the P-Bruins in the playoff run, but Jake DeBrusk had a strong playoff season as well while popping in six goals in 17 games. DeBrusk led all Providence players with his 54 shots on net in the 17-game playoff run for Providence, and he headlined a group that included B’s prospects Ryan Fitzgerald, Zach Senyshyn, Matt Grzelcyk, Peter Cehlarik (who succumbed to shoulder surgery during the playoffs), Emil Johansson and Robbie O’Gara all getting some vital playoff experience. 

Both Heinen and DeBrusk will be strong candidates for jobs on the wing with the Boston big club when training camp opens in the fall after strong showings in the postseason. 

On the goaltending side, Zane McIntyre was solid for the P-Bruins at times while in 16 of their 17 playoff games with a .906 save percentage. But it was Malcolm Subban that was playing at the very end of the playoff run for Providence and featured a sterling .937 save percentage in the four AHL playoff games that he appeared in this spring after an up-and-down regular season. McIntyre had an .857 save percentage and 4.37 goals against average in the final series against Syracuse, and looked a little spent like many of the other P-Bruins players once they’d unexpectedly made it to the third round of the AHL postseason.  

The only unfortunate part of Providence’s run is that newly signed youngsters Charlie McAvoy and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson couldn’t be a part of it after signing and then appearing in NHL games following a cut-off date for AHL playoff rosters. Both missed on an experience that could have been very conducive for their professional development, and uncovered a wrinkle in the NHL/AHL transaction process that really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for a developmental league.