Takin' a T/O with BT: Marc Savard and His All-Star Season

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Takin' a T/O with BT: Marc Savard and His All-Star Season
The Boston Bruins haven't won a championship since 1971/72; back in the Bobby Orr glory days.

Back then, you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who didn't call Orr the Bruins' difference maker.

This season, Marc Savard is hoping to be the difference in a surprising Bruins' season as the team looks for its' twenty-second division championship.

If you ask him about it though, you get a fairly simple, reserved answer: "It'd be an honor to join the group of Boston Champions. All we're concerned with now though, is having a good second half."

The goal, like the player, is straightforward—much like Savard's goal of staying healthy for an entire NHL season once was.

Prior to the NHL lockout in 2004/05, the two-time leading scorer in the OHL had suffered a few setbacks: An ankle injury, two MCL injuries, three concussions, and 71 games lost due to injury.

While the NHL and it's Players' Association stalled during negotiations throwing the regular season into limbo (and eventual cancellation), Savard followed in the footsteps of his peers, signing overseas in the Swiss League.

"While it was very special to play overseas and gain experience, I was just trying to test my body to make sure it would hold up. Fortunately enough, it responded positively.

"I really worked hard on my legs; now they feel as strong as ever."

That hard work paid off in spades; Although Savard only spent 18 games combined in the Swiss and Tier-2 Swiss leagues that year, he nabbed 10 goals and 31 points.

He felt that he was ready for the NHL whenever it decided to reopen it's doors.

After his first-ever full 82 game season in the NHL with the Atlanta Thrashers in the 2005/06 season, Savard posted a few career-highs: He potted 28 goals, spread out 69 assists (culminating in 97 points), and earned a +7.

Despite an injury-free comeback though, many saw Savard's season as the standard contract year; a fairly common occurrence these days.

Despite that though, the suddenly healthy Savard was still a hot commodity.

"There were a couple of good offers out there, including the one to go back to Calgary. At the time I signed though, Zdeno (Chara) had just signed and the team (Boston) was heading in a good direction.

"I also love playing in that arena. Montreal is one of my favorite place to play, but I always loved Boston. It's just so bright—probably because of the yellow seats".

For a play-making centre coming off a career-year though, one would expect that there woul've been some pressure from a fan base upset that it had just lost Captain Joe Thornton through a back-door deal for an underwhelming package.

"I wouldn't say there was any pressure—all I had to do was continue playing good hockey. I was excited to go to the Bruins and to play here. Thornton is an amazing player and it'd be hard for anyone to fill his shoes—especially me (Savard stands at 5'10).

"Those are big shoes."

As Savard got accustomed to the Boston environment though, the team and it's attitude started to turn around.

Dave Lewis was fired after Savard's first year in Boston, and Claude Julien was brought in. With him, Julien brought a "great system" to Boston that requires players to remain accountable on the ice and respectful of the game plan.

Julien also told Savard that he wanted him to shoot more, but do so intelligently—meaning picking the right spots and proper times to put the puck on net and not just wasting good scoring chances.

While Savard's point production fell off a bit (78 points in 2007/08 as opposed to 96 in 2006/07), the Bruins saw a dramatic improvement.

From 76 points and a 13th place finish in the Eastern Conference in '06/07, the Bruins shot up the standings to a 94-point eighth place finish the next season. While the Bruins ended up losing to the Montreal Canadiens in seven games though, it did a lot for the team.

"Last year for us, we really proved ourselves in the playoffs. It was only seven games against Montreal but it gave us a lot of confidence and it taught us that we needed to take care of each other.

"Playing against the Canadiens, against that crowd, it really motivates you. It's a great atmosphere."

Those lessons that the Bruins learned last year are what Savard says, have carried over to this season's success as nine months later the Bruins are neck-and-neck for league supremacy, and are sitting atop the Eastern Conference.

While Savard has been a big part of the success so far, he doesn't look at his second career All Star selection as anything more than an honor, especially to be going along with Tim Thomas and Zdeno Chara.

Savard's favorite points during the festivities though are what you'd expect—the time he gets to spend with his family. While his eight-year old son loves the entire weekend, it's not hard for him to find a favorite part:

"[Chuckling] My son loves any opportunity he gets to see Sidney Crosby" replies Savard when asked about his family's impression of the game and it's setup.

Savard is a straight-forward guy. He loves all the family-oriented activities that the NHLPA sets up for him and his kids during the weekend and he attributes his teammates as the biggest reason for him being in Montreal this weekend.

There is one question that left him a little puzzled though.

Bryan Thiel: In your opinion, who's the most underrated player you've ever played with either on the Bruins, or somewhere else.

Marc Savard: Wow....that's tough.

As he does on the ice, Savard takes his time assessing which lane he could take next.

Savard: I'd have to say P.J. Axelsson. He can really play any position out there. I mean, if we needed him to we could probably throw him out there on defense. He's not afraid to do anything out there.

While Savard calls Axelsson fearless, many would say the same thing about him: After all, it takes a brave man to play against towering forwards and defensemen while you look into the underside of their chin.

It's the player who's prepared to do that though, that becomes the difference.


Bryan Thiel is a Senior Writer and an NHL Community Leader for Bleacher Report. If you want to get in contact with Bryan you can do so through his profile. You can also check out all of his previous work in his archives.

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