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

Bruins' Zboril uses criticism and Twitter hate as motivation

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Bruins' Zboril uses criticism and Twitter hate as motivation

BRIGHTON -- It’s easy to see that Jakub Zboril , one of the Bruins' 2015 first-round pick, has come a long way in a year.

“I feel more comfortable,” said Zboril. “After last year, when all of the people saying something about what they didn’t like about me, it really pushed me forward. I told myself I wanted to be in better shape and so I worked really hard at it.”

The 19-year-old wasn’t in very good shape for last season's training camp after coming back from a knee injury, and that carried over into a junior season for the Saint John Sea Dogs (6 goals and 20 points in 50 games). That was a drop from his 13 goals and 33 points in 44 games prior to hearing his name called by the B’s on draft night.

Zboril was back at peak effectiveness in the playoffs for the Sea Dogs with a couple of goals and 10 points in 17 games, but the chain of events caused some to wonder if the Bruins had drafted something of a bust.

It seems ludicrous, considering Zboril is a 19-year-old talented enough to be selected 13th overall in the entire NHL draft, and even more so now that he’s showing much more in his second camp with Boston. It was some good and some bad for Zboril in his preseason debut against Columbus on Monday with a misplay leading to a goal against, but Zboril also kicked off the transition pass that helped the Bruins score their first goal of game.

“From last year I think he’s made big strides,” said assistant coach Jay Pandolfo. “He’s a young kid that’s only 19 years old, and he’s going to keep getting better. So that’s what you want. The structure in his game and the overall attitude [is better]. He was a little young last year. He’s in better shape. He’s done a lot of things that we got on him for last year, and he’s taken it and listened, he’s working hard. He’s done a good job.”

It’s a long shot for Zboril to crack the B’s roster this fall, so he’s likely headed back to Saint John for another junior hockey season after watching fellow prospect Thomas Chabot get a lot of the No. 1 D-man playing time last season. He quickly shot down any possibilities of playing in Europe rather than going back to the Quebec Major Junior League, and said there could still be plenty to learn in his final junior season.

“Right now where I am, I can just learn from myself and pushing myself,” said Zboril, of going back to junior. “What I can take from last year is that my role on the team changed, and I had to be more of a shutdown D. I had to show my defensive abilities, so I improved a lot from the year before. I think I can be more of a defensive defenseman too, so there’s that.”

Still, the so-so season last year had its impact in a positive fashion with Zboril really stepping up his game. But it’s also had its drawbacks as the Czech-born defenseman was forced to deactivate his Twitter account because of the harsh criticism and messages he was getting from hockey fans. Disappointingly, Zboril said most of it was coming from people in Boston that claim to be Bruins fans, and that it was like “people just spitting on you.”

“It was really pushing me down a lot,” said Zboril. “After some games when you know you weren’t playing really good, then you go on Twitter and you just see . . . people just spitting on you. So I had to delete it.”

Zboril said he’s much happier since getting off social media. But it’s a shame that a bright young prospect’s first impression of his future NHL city was the flaming dumpster of keyboard warriors that should forever be known as “Bruins Hockey Twitter.”

Wednesday, Sept. 28: Ex-Bruin Ruzicka in hot water

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Wednesday, Sept. 28: Ex-Bruin Ruzicka in hot water

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while fully ensconced in the Bruins' second exhibition game, on tap for tonight. 
 
-- It’s awesome to see Wayne Gretzky back in the mix with the NHL, and serving as “official ambassador” for the NHL’s centennial celebration. 
 
-- Tough times for former Bruins forward and former Czech national coach Vladimir Ruzicka, who was fined for some shady, fraudulent activity

-- Andrew Shaw announced his presence in Montreal with authority. The only thing missing from this WWE-type performance was a Hulkster hand to his ear before the threw a punch. 
 
-- A sad column from FOH (Friend of Haggs) Donnie Brennan, who says it’s time for Clarke MacArthur to retire after all the concussions. I remember writing the exact same thing about Marc Savard five or six years ago before he ultimately took one last big hit and retired. 
 
-- It sounds like old friend Vladimir Sobotka is going to stick in the KHL, and isn’t coming back to the St. Louis Blues as many suspected. 
 
-- For something completely different: A pretty fun Lyft commercial featuring David Ortiz, but how the hell did these people not recognize him?