You really got a hold on me

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You really got a hold on me

By Mary Paoletti
CSNNE.com

Following a sports team is like being in a relationship.

Some people just want to have fun. They're your Bandwagoners. Hop on while the thing is speeding toward Title Town and safely tuck and roll right before it crashes. These "fans" are thrill seekers, Good Time Guys (and Girls). They're the first ones to pop the cork on the champagne and start the chants. They also spook at the smallest threat of emotional attachment.

On the second tier sit the Day-by-Day, good-natured grinders. These fans watch at least 70 percent of games. They're invested but maintain some independence and outside interests. You will never hear a DBDer say "I could marry her" after two weeks of dating, nor would a DBDer freak out and say the entire Red Sox season is a wash after going 2-10 over the first 12. If it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen; it'll work out eventually. Fans this rational and mellow are considered mythical beings on par with centaurs and puck-moving defensemen.

Then there are those who believe in "till death do us part." These are diehard fans, or, masochists. They used to have six empty seats to each side during Celtics games and reveled in the exclusivity. They not only hated the post-2004 Red Sox popularity boon, but still fantasize about hunting down pink hats during the playoffs. They would never make fun of Tom Brady for anything, ever, because He raised Us up to Greatness. They're locked in to the Bruins for better or for worse, from preseason to offseason.

They're the ones hitting the ceiling of hell right now.

The Bruins are in the Eastern Conference finals (tied 2-2 with Tampa Bay) for the first time since 1992. It is, all at once, the most glorious and excruciating sports circumstance of the last two decades. The highs are astronomical: Tyler Seguin's two-goal, four-point accession in a 6-5 win. The lows feel irrecoverable: The surrender of a 3-0 lead -- mounted in the first period -- on five unanswered Tampa Bay goals.

"They'll only break your heart," they say.

I heard a lot of this grumbling on Saturday. When the Lightning evened the series at two, younger fans were angry but probably believed more in humanity's Rapture than Boston's.

The others were comfortably disgruntled.

"Figures."

How to cope? As in any relationship: Defense mechanisms.

They claim they never got their hopes up. They remember Ray Bourque and the ugly way he hit the wall in Boston. The guy -- one they loved -- dedicated his life to them for two decades just to realize he could only achieve ultimate happiness somewhere else. It was heartbreaking. Bourque returned to Boston with the Cup. He wanted to remind Bruins fans they had his heart; they showed up to reassure Bourque they still treasured it and the effort he gave. A bittersweet moment. Borrowed joy.

Someone Else's Cup would never be cheered again.

No matter how devoted, a person will grow impatient waiting for things to "work out". I get that. I know a girl who thinks, at 25, she's past due for an engagement ring and she doesn't even have a boyfriend. If I told her to imagine waiting 39 years, her head would explode.

It doesn't mean the oldest Bruins fan you know is too hardened to believe in Boston; he does. He's biting back so hard on hope he tastes blood.

He just won't gush about it.

There's too much to lose. If the Bruins blow the series, Bandwagoners will hop off and be no worse for wear. The Dailies will be disappointed but slide over to baseball for a bounce back. Diehards? Most will scoff and say they expected the worst all along. They'll cover the hurt with bitter bluster.

On the other hand, a series win -- a trip to the Stanley Cup finals -- will lift them up one cloud from Heaven.

Makes sense. The toughest relationships always seem to have the sweetest payoffs.

Mary Paoletti can be reached at mpaoletti@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Mary on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti

Mueller aims to take advantage of opportunity in tonight's Bruins-Wings game

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Mueller aims to take advantage of opportunity in tonight's Bruins-Wings game

BRIGHTON -- Tonight’s Bruins-Red Wings game against the Red Wings should be a big chance for training-camp invite Peter Mueller as he readies to skate in a second straight exhibition game after a quiet night in the opener against the Columbus Blue Jackets. 

The former 22-goal scorer with the Coyotes felt he was “solid” and “held his own” while not getting any shots on neta againsy Columbus. The veteran winger feels like he’s again starting to pick up the NHL pace after spending the last three years in Europe, and that’s mandatory to start making plays. 

“It was a good adjustment, but hopefully tonight I show a little more skill, a few more pucks to the net and create some more offense,” said Mueller. “I would rather play in most of the [exhibition] games, to be honest with you, and to get in-game-like scenarios and prepare yourself for each and every game. In my position I’m happy that I’m playing tonight and hopefully I can keep trying to impress the people [making decisions].”

The 26-year-old former first-round pick will be in a favorable spot, skating in a possible third-line, right-wing audition with Ryan Spooner and Matt Beleskey. He'll also serve as another established player in a more veteran-laden lineup Wednesday night vs. the Winged Wheels at TD Garden. With Frankie Vatrano out for the next three months, these are the kind of chances Mueller needs to knock out of the park if he wants to fend off younger competition for one of those B’s roster spots up front. 

“It definitely favors the type of game I want to play,” said Mueller, when asked about the chance to skate in a spot with Spooner and Beleskey that he would likely fill whre he to crack the NHL roster. “With two skill guys, hopefully we can create some chemistry and some offense early and obviously that helps with the flow of the game. Hopefully I can just showcase my skills and the work ethic that I’m trying to bring to the team. Overall, hopefully we have a good game tonight.”

Sean Kuraly is also playing in his second straight exhibition, and will move over to the left wing skating with Austin Czarnik and left wing Zachary Senyshyn in what amounts to a kid line for the Bruins. One would expect the same goaltending rotation in this game, with Malcolm Subban getting the first two periods and Daniel Vladar getting the game’s final 20 minutes. Here are the line combos and D-pairings according to the rushes during morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena:
 
Beleskey-Spooner-Mueller
Kuraly-Czarnik-Senyshyn
Gabrielle-Moore-Ferlin
Blidh-Acciari-Hickman
 
Grzelcyk-McQuaid
Lauzon-C. Miller
Arnesson-Casto
 
Subban
Vladar
 

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.”