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On Monday morning, the Boston Bruins hosted a closed practice at the TD Garden to prepare to host the Montréal Canadiens in their first game since the Olympic break began more than two weeks ago. Absent from the practice, however, were center Patrice Bergeron and goaltender Tim Thomas, who had yet to return from Vancouver, having played against each other in Canada’s 3-2 overtime victory over the United States of America in the gold medal match of the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Bergeron, a surprise pick for the Canadian squad, especially in light of the absences of Marc Savard and Milan Lucic from the roster, played sparingly in his first Olympic appearance. Originally paired with Sidney Crosby, his linemate from the 2005 World Junior Championships and 2006 World Championships, and Rick Nash, Bergeron was relegated to the role of the 13th forward in favor of Jarome Iginla. The 24-year-old Québec-native generally saw ice time only to win face-offs. His total time of 45:10 in the seven games it took Canada to win the gold medal ranks ahead only of goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who never saw the ice. Despite the lack of playing time, the Bruin had no problem with his role.
“I’m enjoying the experience,” he said. ”And playing for Team Canada, I’m willing to do whatever they want. There’s a lot of guys who would like to be in my spot, so I’ve got to make the most of it and make sure I’m ready when I get on the ice.”
Bergeron finished with no goals and only one assist during the tournament, but with his first-ever Olympic gold medal around his neck.
Unlike Bergeron, Tim Thomas was considered a lock for Team USA after winning the Vezina Trophy last season, a prediction proven true when the squad’s roster was announced at Fenway Park following the Winter Classic. Unfortunately, just like Bergeron, the Bruins’ netminder saw little playing time.
Passed over for the eventual tournament MVP, Ryan Miller, Thomas rode the bench alongside former UMass Minuteman Jonathan Quick. He only went between the pipes once, the final ten minutes of America’s 6-1 thumping of Finland. The Tank stopped six of the seven shots sent his way, allowing Antti Miettinen’s to get past himself.
Despite the lack of playing time and the blown shutout, Thomas was pleased with his performance, relishing the fact that he was making his Olympic debut at 35 years of age, a bit older than most of his teammates.
“I was fine without playing, because [Miller’s] been playing unbelievable. It’s the Olympics and all I want is for the USA to win.”
Unfortunately for Thomas (and all of America), Team USA could not complete the miracle of winning gold. Not only did they lose to their cross-border rival, but Thomas will also have to face Bergeron wearing his gold medal in the locker room.
The good news for Thomas is that his envy of Bergy’s gold will have company. In addition to Thomas and Bergeron, four other Bruins spent their Olympic break playing for their respective countries: Zdeno Chara and Miroslav Satan for Slovakia, David Krejci for the Czech Republic, and Marco Sturm for Germany, all of whom rejoined the team for their Monday morning practice.
Chara led his home-country’s squad both in the locker room and on the ice. In his second Olympics, Chara earned Slovakia’s captaincy and spent more time on the ice than any other Slovakian, notching three assists as he and his countrymen marched to a fourth-place finish in the Vancouver Olympics, losing to Finland 5-3 in the bronze medal match, after a 3-2 loss to Canada in the semi-final round.
Satan, one of the newest Bruins, had not played in the Olympics since the Lillehammer Games in 1994, but did not waste time helping out his fellow Slovakians. His sole goal of the Games was the game-winner in Slovakia’s 4-3 victory over Norway. Had Satan not scored, Slovakia’s surprising victory over Russia might have been made worthless in the standings, preventing them from continuing their upset stretch against Sweden.
Krejci, who was named to the Czech squad in 2008 after posting 27 points in 56 games for the Bruins, helped the Republic to a seventh-place finish in Vancouver, after losing 2-0 to the Finns in the quarterfinals. Krejci’s game-winning overtime goal against in the preliminary playoff round prevented an embarrassing loss to Latvia and kept people from forgetting the Czechs had beaten their neighbors, the Slovakians, 3-1 during the group stage. Krejci finished overall with two goals and one assist, but with plenty of experience to build upon. Assuming professional ice hockey players are allowed to play in the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, the 23-year-old will be a key to the Czech Republic’s success.
The “fastest German on ice” captained a German squad that will have to wait yet another four years to end their 34-year medal drought. Sturm, who sat out the Turin Games in 2006, did little to help his home country, mustering only one assist in four games as Germany was shutout twice and managed only five goals in four games. (Sounds a bit like the Bruins, eh?) Germany joined Latvia as the only team to fail to earn a point during the group stage of the tournament, a fact that certainly displeases the game-winning goal scorer of the Winter Classic.
Each Bruin who went to the Olympic Games in Vancouver certainly had a different experience from every other Bruin, but quotes from all have indicated the pleasure each received from representing their home country. For those who were not honored with the opportunity to skate for national squads, such as Shawn Thornton, the Olympic break was an opportunity to unabashedly cheer for their home teams (Canada, in this case), while for others, such as Mark Stuart (broken pinkie) and Johnny Boychuk (broken orbital bone), the vacation was used as time to completely recover from their injuries.
With the Olympics now behind them, the Bruins are looking to continue their four-game winning streak as they seek their first win at the TD Garden of 2010. Perhaps the taste of victory for some and vacation for others will be exactly what the team needs to make a playoff run…a goal-scorer before Wednesday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline wouldn’t hurt, though, either.
Congratulations to Bergeron, Chara, Krejci, Satan, Sturm, Thomas, and all of the other Olympians on their successes at the Olympic Games!