Self-made Peverley earns his spot with B's


Self-made Peverley earns his spot with B's

By Joe Haggerty

WILMINGTON Its been a long road of perseverance and patience for Rich Peverley, but its all paid off in the end.

The 29-year-old picture of versatility has worked his way up as an undrafted free agent out of St. Lawrence University, and seemed a long way from yesterdays announcement when he potted 30 goals for the South Carolina Stingrays during the 2004-05 hockey season fresh out of college.

For 99 percent of hockey players toiling in the coast league as undrafted hockey commodities with no draft ties to an NHL organization, thats usually as far as it goes.

For 30 percent of those players that move on to the AHL and get within a single step of their NHL dream, thats the end of the line in a road less traveled by elite hockey prospects.

Its something in the neighborhood of 5-10 percent of players if even that much that manage to go from being East Coast Hockey League roster filler to the NHL hockey pinnacle, and it usually takes one thing beyond anything else to get there: the unsinkable belief that you belong.

The shifty forward needed to gain strength and learn how to play with the right amount of grime in his game, but he always believed hed made it.

Peverley did all of that while working his way up from the bottom, and going from minor league Stingray to Stanley Cup champion.

While a player that skipped the minor league experience altogether like Blake Wheeler through no fault of his own never really learned how to will himself to success or develop parts of his game beyond the shiny skill set -- Peverley needed to learn how survive in some rough-and-tumble places before knocking the NHL door down with the Predators and Thrashers.

So it was a pretty sweet day for Peverley on Tuesday as he inked a three-year deal with the Bruins for 9.75 million that will keep him for the foreseeable future. A hockey source indicated that Peverley will get 3 million next season, and 3.75 million in both2012-13 and 2013-14 for the B's. The Bs inked Peverley before restricted free agents like David Krejci and Tuukka Rask, and Peter Chiarelli said it was the culmination of several weeks worth of negotiating.

The competition level within the dressing room is so high pushing for minutes and for spots in the lineup, said Peverley. Hockey is something I really take seriously, and its a game that I love. Im a big sports nut to begin with, so Ive felt very lucky to be here since getting traded to the Bruins last spring.

Other places Ive played havent really even been sports towns like Boston is, so I truly appreciate it here. This is the place I wanted to be. There are some great people here and I wanted to be a part of it.

Chiarelli remembers Peverley as far back as his college hockey days, but he permanently plopped on the Bs radar after exceeding 20 goals and 50 points for the Thrashers while continuing to get his nose dirty. The offensive performance combined with his fearless style he doesnt win every puck battle, but hell engage regardless makes him a player Chiarelli has always noticed.

He's a player we've always coveted and we were fortunate to get him last year," Chiarelli said. "He's just one of the guys we thought could fit into our top seven or top six. Maybe we've waited a little bit longer in signing some guys that are potential UFAs, but we just decided to move forward with Rich. He's got speed, a good shot, he's still relatively young in the grander scheme and he's just a guy we wanted to have in our mixfor the next four years.

Peverley doesn't quite have the Tim Thomas story, but he's really worked his way up. He signed as an unrestricted free agent that was never drafted and worked his way through the Coast (East Coast Hockey League). I admire thatI admire that in him. I think I said that when we acquired him. I know he likes the town, he likes the organization. He mentioned that his wife likes it in Boston also so that played a part in him signing.

While Peverley honed his craft with the Predators and Thrashers before nearly washing out of the NHL after Nashville cut ties with him, he arrived in Boston as the Swiss Army Knife forwards. He came with a price tag as the Bruins had to give up Mark Stuart and Wheeler to acquire him, but his teammates know they never capture the Cup without his contributions.

Its easier to tick off what Peverley cant do than his varied skills: He has great skating wheels, can finish with an accurate shot and quick release, can make the extra pass, kill penalties, provide a viable alternative on the power play and give quality face-off coverage along with a pretty healthy amount of grit. Hes fond a solid home as the replacement for Mark Recchi along the right wing, and the two-goal performance against the Tampa Bay Lightning seems like the tip of the iceberg for Peverley.

He deserves it, he was a huge part of us winning and he really worked hart for it," Patrice Bergeron said. "Its unbelievable that now hes getting recognized all of a sudden. I always thought he was a great player when we played against them in Atlanta. Hes a hard worker, hes tough on draws, able to play in at every position and every line and always fit in.

Theres no guarantee Peverley will skate with Bergeron and Brad Marchand for the rest of the season, but hes already proven early on that their trio combined could vie for top line status with the Black and Gold.

Given Peverleys solid makeup and varied skills, he should be in the mix for that kind of role for the rest of his soon-to-be-long career lending his speed, shot and experienced savvy to the Bruins.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs.

Bruins looking to avoid anxious moments on home ice

Bruins looking to avoid anxious moments on home ice

BRIGHTON, Mass. – The Bruins will have plenty of proud history on display for tonight’s home opener when Bobby Orr and Milt Schmidt drop the ceremonial first puck at TD Garden prior to the game against the New Jersey Devils.

Orr is celebrating the 50th anniversary of his first NHL game, and the amazing Schmidt is there for the 80th anniversary of his rookie NHL season, and it will be up to the current crop of B’s players afterward to play up to the standards of those two Hall of Fame legends. That was a difficult challenge for the Black and Gold last season as they struggled to a 17-18-6 record on home ice and experienced some of their worst regular-season efforts in front of the paying home customers.

When placed side-by-side with a road record (25-13-3), where only the Sharks and Capitals had more victories on the road last season, it was clear the B’s had some strange motivational issues at the Garden. Whether it was leadership, maturity or the coach to blame for their home malaise, the Bruins are looking to reverse that trend this season after an encouraging 2-1 start on the first three-game road trip of the season.

In fact, Brad Marchand didn’t even want to entertain thoughts about last year’s home ice funk.

“Last year has nothing to do with this year. We’ve got a lot of new guys and a lot of new faces, and we’re looking to have a big start at home and have a big year. We want to try and start that tonight,” said Brad Marchand. “We don’t have to get anxious and too excited. We play a good road game and if we play the same way at home as we do on the road then hopefully we’ll be okay.”

The home ice anxiousness was clear on many occasions for the Bruins whether it was getting blown out at the Winter Classic, getting smoked in Milan Lucic’s return to the Garden with the LA Kings or epically blowing the final game of the season vs. Ottawa with the playoffs on the line. It will be interesting to see what a big personality and hardened, vocal leader David Backes can bring to combat some of the home ice skittishness of last season. 

One other thing the Bruins will be looking to change: allowing the other team to score the first goal, as they’ve done in all three games to start this season. It could perhaps be excused with the B’s playing the polite visitor at the emotional home openers for  the Blue Jackets and the Maple Leafs last week, but now it’s their turn to jack up the emotional level and make TD Garden a much more difficult place to play than it was for the majority of last season. 


Slow-starting Krejci looking for a spark in Bruins’ home opener

Slow-starting Krejci looking for a spark in Bruins’ home opener

BRIGHTON, Mass. – David Krejci hasn’t exactly been his usual self in the opening three games of the season for the Bruins and there are understandable, underlying reasons for that. 

One of them is that the 30-year-old playmaking center is coming off major offseason hip surgery and that’s made him look less than his silky-smooth best with the puck in the season’s first three games.

The good news is Krejci doesn’t believe any lingering hip problems have been a big factor at all, and instead his comfort level is increasing each time he takes the ice.

“I feel better and better every day. This is a tough injury, but I’m in good shape and in really good hands. The doctors have done a really good job with me every day, and it’s been really good,” said Krejci, who has one assist in the opening three games with just three shots on net while fighting to hang onto the puck. “It’s been fun to be out there with the guys, and I’m just trying to get better every day.”

A more reasonable explanation for Krejci’s sluggish start was the last-second injury to Patrice Bergeron prior to the start of the season and the major alteration to his forward line as a result of No. 37’s absence. David Backes was pulled from the right wing spot on the Krejci line to fill in for Bergeron over the season’s first three games and he came away with two goals and three points in three games centering Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak.

But the B’s second line was almost non-existent with smaller, skilled wingers on either side of Krejci that weren’t able to generate anything productive with No. 46. The B’s obviously have massive production from the top line in Bergeron’s absence and have found a respectable fourth line that can get the job done for Claude Julien. Even the third line has found some footing after the B’s bench boss replaced rookie Austin Czarnik with veteran Riley Nash and instead went with a bigger, tougher power line with Matt Beleskey and Jimmy Hayes on the wings.

Now, Backes goes back to his rightful spot on the wing with Krejci and 21-year-old rookie Danton Heinen looks to replace a scuffling Ryan Spooner at left wing for tonight’s home opener vs. the New Jersey Devils. Backes is ready to bring some needed balance to the forward lines after the B’s top line really carried them over the first three games of the season and produced a team-high four goals for David Pastrnak.

The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Backes also knows that he’s exactly the kind of strong, determined net-front presence with goal-scoring ability that Krejci has always produced with over the course of his 10-year NHL career.

“I won’t be involved in the immediate face-off, but [I will be involved] in helping him on the 50/50 draws to win the puck back. Just talk all over the ice like we have been with Heinen on the wing he’s got two veteran guys with him, and we need to make him feel comfortable to be a very productive member [of the line],” said Backes. “We’ll get back to cooking a little bit with how we were looking before I was forced to play center.

“I think it puts the other teams in a predicament with that they’re going to try to defend if we have a couple-pronged attack. It’s a kind of pick-your-poison kind of deal. A checking line can typically do a good job of neutralizing a line, but when you have multiple options and multiple guns pointed at them it’s a little bit more of a predicament for them. When we’re healthy, we’re going to have that.”

So, the hope is that having a power forward, play-finisher like Backes is going to allow him time and space to create plays that have a little more hope of being turned into scoring chances at the offensive end of the ice.

“When injuries happen you’ve got to balance the team and that’s what happened. But I’m happy [Backes] is back on our line,” said Krejci, who has always been at his best while utilizing big, strong wingers on his line whether it was Milan Lucic or Nathan Horton over the years. “Hopefully we can get the chemistry early on as a line, and help the team to win.

“[Backes] is a right-handed shot, so that’s nice to have.  I had two lefties there [in Spooner and Heinen] and sometimes it’s tough to get a good pass on the backhand. He’s been playing well the first two games, so hopefully I can keep up and we can get some chemistry to help the team win.”

So, it remains to be seen how long it will take Krejci to find his offensive mojo while centering a line combo of Heinen-Krejci-Backes that didn’t get much of a look in the preseason, but the sooner, the better for a Bruins team that needs to start firing on all offensive cylinders while still working through their defensive challenges.