BOSTON – It might have been the start of football season on Sunday, but another glaring sign of fall swept over Brighton on Monday morning as a sizable contingent of Bruins hit the ice for the start of captains’ practice at Warrior Ice Arena.
Patrice Bergeron led a large bunch of Black & Gold veterans, including Charlie Coyle, Craig Smith, Jack Studnicka, Nick Foligno, Thomas Nosek, Hampus Lindholm, Brandon Carlo, Derek Forbort, Connor Clifton, Mike Reilly, Jakub Zboril, Jack Ahcan, Jeremy Swaymanand Linus Ullmarkas well as newcomers Pavel Zacha, AJ Greer, Vinnie Lettieriand Daniel Renouf.
Prospects Fabian Lysell and Johnny Beecher headlined a group of prospects that took the ice following the main group.
After the nearly hour-long skate, Bergeron said that he’s feeling “better every week, almost every day at this point” following an offseason elbow procedure and expects to be ready for Opening Night on Oct. 12 in Washington, which will make the beginning of his 19th season in the National Hockey League.
“I’ve been back for close to two weeks now,” said Bergeron, who spent the summer in his native Quebec. “I’m just excited to be back, happy to be around the guys in the locker room. Guys are starting to trickle in now even more. It’s great to see everyone, obviously. It’s a long summer and you’re always excited to get back at it.”
One glaring absence from Monday’s skate was Bergeron’s longtime running mate Brad Marchand, who is rehabbing from hip surgery and is likely to miss the opening weeks of the regular season. Bergeron acknowledged that it will be “an adjustment” to play without his right hand man but said the period – however long – without the winger will provide opportunity for others to play significant roles.
“For sure. It is going to be an adjustment,” said Bergeron. “The two of us, it’s become second nature at this point. We just read and react from one another. I think we know where each other are gonna be pretty much at all times. It does make things easier.
“That being said, you’re playing with some great players, some players with a lot of talent, players with great vision and hockey sense. It’s for me to adjust but also for us, whoever we’re playing with, to talk and communicate and find ways to make that transition as seamless as possible.”
Video: Bergeron speaks with media on Monday at WIA
With Marchand sidelined, one player who could see substantial time with Bergeron on the B’s top line is Zacha, who was acquired in July during the opening day of free agency in a trade with New Jersey that sent Erik Haula to the Devils.
“He’s a great player, he’s a very smart player, something that I knew even before he came in,” said Bergeron. “He plays the game the right way, he’s always well positioned; he’s got a great shot and even from talking to him, he wants to become more of a shoot-first mentality maybe than what he’s had in the past. I think he’s a great player, excited to get to know him on and off the ice. Young guy that I think has got a lot of potential and can become a great player in this league.”
Zacha has already noticed the significance of having a leader like Bergeron patrolling the Bruins dressing room. His drive and commitment to succeed, Zacha, said, has been quite impressive to witness up close.
“I’ve been here for a couple weeks now so we’ve had some 1-on-1 talks,” said Zacha. “Just being around him, seeing his work ethic, seeing his thinking around the game is great…the motivation he has to come into this season and just how hard he worked over the summer to show again what kind of player he is, it’s something that I haven’t seen much in my last couple seasons.
“A player like that, what he’s done already, and still having the motivation he has, it’s impressive. I think it just pushes everyone around him to work a little bit harder. That’s something that good players do.”
Video: Zacha meets with the media after Captains Practice
A Fresh Start
While Hampus Lindholm is no longer the newest face around the Bruins’ dressing room, he does look at the upcoming training camp as another fresh start. After a rocky start to his tenure in Black & Gold – which included a lower-body injury that limited him to just 10 regular-season contests and a head injury that cost him three games in the playoffs – Lindholm believes that a full camp with his new club will be critical as he continues his transition.
“It’s always nice to start from the ground here, some new pieces in here, coaches – I think it’s going to be a nice start for everyone to get a little fresh air in here,” said Lindholm. “Just coming over here, East Coast hockey is a little different. Personally, I think it fits me. I’m really excited about the next coming years here. I’m really going to be able to show my true self and what kind of player I can be.
“I think the team we have this year, it’s gonna be an exciting year. We’ve got some really good players here. I think you can learn a lot from other players in this locker room. With a new coach, I think it’s just excitement all over the team.”
Lindholm added that with Jim Montgomery now at the helm, there is expected to be an added emphasis on creating offense from the back end, a philosophy that fits his game perfectly.
“I’m a big guy but I like to play the fast game and make plays with the puck and stuff,” said Lindholm. “I think I can use my body to my advantage playing on the East Coast. Obviously coming to an organization like Boston helps. It’s super professional.
“Everyone’s been so great to me, playing with Bergy and Marchy and [David Pastrnak] and Chuckie [McAvoy] and all those guys. You learn a lot, too. Even though I’ve been in the league for a long time, you never stop developing.”
Lindholm is also prepared to take on a bit more of a workload – both on and off the ice – with McAvoy set to miss the beginning of the season as he recovers from offseason shoulder surgery.
“It’s a position I’ve been in my whole career. I’ve been fortunate to play big minutes in Anaheim and take responsibility. It’s nothing I’m new to,” said Lindholm. “When we can have Charlie in the lineup, we’re a better team. Hopefully he can get back here soon. We’ve got a lot of good guys in this locker room that can step it up.
“If you want to be a winning team, you need everybody to contribute. I think that’s something that comes easily. I think I’m a guy that leads more with the way I’m playing. Just excited about playing the season.
“We’re a better team when he’s in the lineup. We’ve got a great team here; we’ve got to go out there and have some fun and win some hockey games.”
Video: Lindholm chats with the media on Monday at WIA
Wait, There’s More
- With the exception of breakup day following the Bruins’ postseason loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, the media has not been allowed access to NHL dressing rooms since before the COVID-19 pandemic. The restrictions have been lifted for the 2022-23 season, meaning that reporters – and scrums – will be back following games and practices. “It’s been a while. It’s great,” said Bergeron. “It’s been a challenging 2-2 ½ years, whatever that was. Kind of glad that we’re back to pretty much normal now – and normalcy, whether it’s here in the locker room or in everyday life. It’s great to have. “
- After spending his first nine seasons in Anaheim, Lindholm is looking forward to enjoying even further some of the unique aspects of Boston and New England. “It’s gonna be great. It’s something I missed in California,” said Lindholm, “getting to see the leaves fall off the trees and have myself a few lobster rolls too maybe.”
Just a taste of what’s to come. 🏒 pic.twitter.com/pUMHh7c5lv
– Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) September 12, 2022