NHL players flocking to Europe a reality of lockout

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NHL players flocking to Europe a reality of lockout

Some might find it scary that Bruins players are beginning to scatter to the four corners of the Earth or at least Europe, anyway -- to play hockey while the NHL figures itself out.

Or perhaps its simply just things getting real with an NHL lockout that clearly looks like its going to wipe out the first few months of the season.

But the signings of David Krejci and Andrew Ference to Czech Republic teams in recent days and more immediately Thursdays news that Tyler Seguin has signed on with a Swiss League team are more a function were not going to see NHL hockey before December.

It should tell hockey fans that the players dont see NHL hockey coming back to North America for at least a few months as the sides continue to freeze each other out in formal negotiations.

The exodus to Europe is more necessity for players that require game intensity to remain sharp and keep ready for the NHL season when it finally does open. Ference explained that dynamic earlier this week to CSNNE.com after learning from the last NHL lockout.

During the last lockout you saw some guys that stayed behind when others went to Europe or played in the AHL," Ference said. "Those guys fell a step behind the other players when the NHL got started again, and they had a really difficult time catching up to the pace. Im in the last year of my deal and I cant afford to just sit around and allow the intensity to dial down in my workouts.

Its also a statement of leverage to the NHL that many of the worlds best players have other options. They can make money playing a kids game elsewhere if the league decides to keep padlocks in place until the NHLPA budges on the 20 percent salary rollbacks that have been proposed thus far.

The NHL wants to crush players, I think, said one source on the playersNHLPA side of things. It could get real ugly, and damage to the NHL Brand could be huge.

What young European or Russian Player will come over to punitive Rookie contract (5 years mandatory) when he can stay over there and do well? Maybe something good will develop but I see no sign of optimism at this point.

Dennis Seidenberg has also now officially signed with Mannheim in Germany as well, and will similarly be headed to his home country in Europe. Zdeno Chara wasnt in any hurry to head back to Slovakia with his daughter enrolled in Boston schools for this semester. But the 6-foot-9 captain is rumored to already have something in place with HC Slovan Bratislava to reunite with former Bs teammate Miroslav Satan -- when he does decide to head back to his home country as well.

On Friday it was announced the Swedish Elite League would also begin allowing NHL players on its rosters, so theres yet another option for the players currently skating circles in their NHL cities.

Theres always the chance any of these players could sustain injuries once the adrenaline levels go up in the European games, but they wont be paid by their NHL clubs if they come back to Boston unable to play. Its the reason why each player takes out a pricey insurance policy (at a cost of roughly 10,000-25,000 per 1 million of their contract according to one US underwriter that furnished nearly 100 policies during the 2004-05 lockout) prior to suiting up for their first European game

So thats probably going to keep many of them from diving to block shots at any given moment.

For many of these players its a rare chance to play at home when theyve been traveling to North America away from friends and family for their entire lives. For players like Ference and Seguin its similar to a student taking a semester abroad in Europe: a different experience in an exotic locale where theyll be furnished with free apartments, food, cars and other fringe benefits while also getting paid to play.

There should be a scary element to life going on for NHL players while their league goes under water due to pure, unadulterated greed, but thats the Russian Roulette game Gary Bettman and the owners are playing with their fans. Unlike potential work stoppages by the NFL and Major League Baseball, elite hockey players have options when the best league in the world locks their doors.

The players are simply exercising those options with the hope theyll be back in their familiar environs in time for the Holidays.

Haggerty: Signs of panic starting to show as losses mount for B's

Haggerty: Signs of panic starting to show as losses mount for B's

BOSTON -- For the third straight season, the Bruins are showing all the ugly, telltale signs of a hockey club poised to take a nosedive out of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The short-attention span Bruins returned in a 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night at TD Garden, and proceeded to blow three one-goal leads in the second period before totally collapsing in the final 20 minutes of the game. Three unanswered third goals later, the Bruins were understandably downtrodden and accountable for a performance that kicked up so many bad memories from the last couple of seasons.

“We all have to look at ourselves in the mirror and we can’t point fingers. Everyone has to step up and if every guy is going to do their job, including myself, then the rest will follow, you know?” said David Krejci. “But we hadn’t done that [against Tampa Bay] at all. The last two games against Toronto and Ottawa, I thought we worked hard. But for whatever reason [against Tampa] – maybe we thought it was going to come easy – we just shot ourselves in the foot.

“Like I said, each player has to be better, including myself, and if we don’t look at ourselves in the mirror that’s what’s going to happen. We’ll be losing and we need to win games. We have a team, we all believe, we know we can play well. We know we can win hockey games. We have a great game plan, but [against Tampa] I guess we just thought it was going to come easy.”

Even worse there were clear signs of panic in Boston’s game as things unfolded in an unsightly manner on the Garden ice.

Clearly it wasn’t about talent on Thursday night, and instead it was about focus, concentration and paying attention to the fine details that can come back to haunt you late in the season. The Bruins scored three goals in the second period with David Pastrnak, Zdeno Chara and Riley Nash each lighting the lamp, but it took 44 seconds, 24 seconds and 1 minute, 35 seconds respectively in the second period for the Bolts to things up.

That’s the kind of instant buckling and crumbling under pressure we’ve seen in the past from the Bruins late in seasons, and we’re seeing it again despite a different coach and some new, hard-nosed players like David Backes. That lack of composure combined with a pinch of panic is a potentially disastrous mix for the Black and Gold, just as it has been for the last three years.

“Those follow up shifts need to be our best shifts of the game. They’re when you can either bury a team, or when you get scored on to have a great response, and to show that you’re not going away [if you’re the team trailing]. I don’t think they were our best shifts. They were probably some of our least [effective] in the form of execution, least form of desperation and fortitude to just impose what we’re going to do on the other team.

[Tampa] certainly made good on their chances, there’s no question about that. But I think we led into them way too much and the result is the result that we don’t get points again. We’re four [losses] in a row here, but this needs to stop Saturday [against the Islanders] or the bleeding starts to get profuse after that. The guys are in this room. We know it. We’ve seen it. We need to look in the mirror.”

It goes beyond a thoroughly gross second period, however.

The Bruins last line of defense, No. 1 goaltender Tuukka Rask, crumbled in the second and third period as things were falling apart around him. Anton Stralman beat him high to the short-side, glove side for the game-tying goal on a transition play, and Jonathan Drouin snapped one past him from the face-off circle that dipped under his glove hand for the game-winner.

It was a soft, inexcusable goal allowed in a hugely important game, and was part of five goals allowed on 28 shots for the former Vezina Trophy winner. After the game Rask seemed frazzled, his voice getting soft and trailing off when it was his turn to accept responsibility for a giant stink bomb tossed down on the Garden ice.

“You have to [pick up the team]. A lot of the time that’s the case, the goalie has to make a couple extra stops there and today I didn’t,” said Tuukka Rask. “That’s part of my job to accept the fact that sometimes it’s your fault. There were a couple of times I should’ve made the save, but it happens sometimes…”

The high pressure situation with things spiraling out of control even seemed to be getting to their best, most established players with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand forcing things down a goal in the third period. Bergeron and Marchand were put back together with David Pastrnak in the second and third periods with Bruce Cassidy looking for answers, and they attempted to execute a D-zone face-off play that’s worked a few times for them in the last few years.

It involves Bergeron winning the draw, and then either Marchand or Pastrnak immediately releasing for a home run pass that can turn into a breakaway opportunity if the opponent is caught napping. Tampa Bay wasn’t caught unaware when the B’s tried it in the middle of the third period, but then Bergeron and Co. kept trying to make it happen.

They ended up icing the puck multiple times trying to make the goal happen in one quick play rather than working for the tying goal, and it killed any momentum they could have possibly started building up for a third period comeback. It also showed a fundamental lack of confidence that they could scratch and claw their way back in on Thursday night, and that’s a definite cause for concern at this time of year.

“At the end of the day, it is a focus, and it’s urgency, and it’s understanding time and score. We did not have a good comprehension of that tonight, I don’t think, and of late,” said Cassidy. “We’ve let games get away, and you can look back, even this year, we’ve had some goals scored against us late throughout the course of the year. It’s been built in this year, and we’re still fighting through it, to be perfectly honest.

“It’s a mindset that we’ve just got to get harder and understand the stakes, and what’s required after you score a goal. I think winning teams get through that, and we’re fighting through it this year. Some nights, we’ve been good at it. We’ve had resiliency, I think. It’s just, lately, it’s creeping in, and we’ve got to nip it in the bud now.”

It hasn’t been just the young players at the heart of this four-game losing streak, and the Tampa loss should have been a wakeup call that the Bruins veterans need to find a way to step up their focus, their effort level and their composure at this time of year. After their fourth loss in a row, the Bruins have frittered away whatever margin for error they once had with just eight games remaining in the regular season.

Their next wrong move will cause a nosedive straight out of the playoffs for the third year in a row, and that will spell changes far and wide on Causeway Street for the Boston Bruins.
 

Bruin players talk the talk after failing to walk the walk vs. Lightning

Bruin players talk the talk after failing to walk the walk vs. Lightning

BOSTON -- All the Bruins -- the leaders and the core veteran group -- were front and center on Thursday night, taking accountability for what had just happened on the ice.

It was ugly: Boston frittered away three one-goal leads in the second period and then came totally unglued in the third period, allowing three consecutive goals in a 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning at TD Garden. There were moments when focus and concentration were clearly an issue, and other moments when the Bruins lacked their usual discipline with veteran players were taking some ill-advised penalties.

With pressure mounting as the Bruins, losers of four in a row, appear to be headed towards their third consecutive late-season collapse out of the playoffs, the players were saying all the right things while vowing to move forward with eight games left.

"I think it's not good enough from top to bottom," said David Backes. "I'll be the first guy to point fingers at my chest and say I need to be better. Tonight was certainly not our best when it's that time of year [and] you need your best every night to win, no matter who you're playing against or what the circumstances may be. This one certainly hurts . . .

"But now's not the time to not be giving ourselves a chance to win and we need to be doing that every night. Tonight, we didn't and we've got eight games left and they all need to be really good-to-great ones so that we can find our way into these playoffs."

Backes finished a minus-2 with just a single shot on net and seemed a step behind Tampa Bay most of the game, so it was proper to him to call himself our for personal ineffectiveness. But as interim coach Bruce Cassidy put it, responsibility for Thursday night -- the low point of the Bruins' season -- rests on "Player 1 through Player 20". And all 20 of the Bruins will be needed to find a successful way out.