Boston Bruins goaltender Manny Fernandez was proud as a peacock today after the team’s optional-on ice practice at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington.
He’d managed to prevent Hall of Famer Cam Neely, the Bruins’ vice president, from scoring during drills, as Neely worked with young wingers Blake Wheeler and Phil Kessel.
As Fernandez boasted he’d gotten the better of Neely, the former power forward explained: “I had a blast – except when you can’t score, it kind of sucks. … I’m blaming it on the equipment; it’s all the equipment.”
With only a handful of Bruins taking the ice today, while the rest opted for just an off-ice workout, Neely said that Bruins head coach Claude Julien suggested it was a perfect time to get on the ice. So the Hall of Famer obliged.
“Those guys have such great speed, as we all know, and I’m just trying to enforce what our coaching staff’s doing with taking pucks to the net, driving to the net and trying to change the angle a little bit if they could,” Neely explained. “With Blake, his size and speed and coming off the wing, it’s a little different look for him. And with Phil, he’s having a fantastic year so far, and that guy shoots the puck unbelievable, and just getting him to think about protecting the puck a little bit more when he’s coming in off the wing and taking it to the net and creating that many more opportunities.”
When Neely walks into the dressing room and says, ‘hey guys, let’s go work on stuff,’ you don’t have to tell any Bruins player twice.
“Oh my God. That’s obviously the coolest thing you can hear,” said Wheeler. “And for him to take time out of his day to go out with us and try to help us with our games and take an interest in our careers is just a huge thrill. I just feel lucky to be a part of an organization that has somebody like Cam that’ll do something like that.”
Neely’s means his tutelage to just be a complement to the work Julien and his staff have done. After all, you don’t want to mess with the success that’s made the Bruins the toast of the Eastern Conference with a 21-5-4 record.
“(Julien’s) a fantastic coach. What he brought in last year and implemented from the defensive standpoint really helped sure up our goals against, and that’s been cut down dramatically,” said Neely. “Certainly, I think it helps the goalies, knowing how the system is and the way the D is playing. The transition game is much better this year. The coaching staff really worked on … the transition to creating offense. Now you can see it in the numbers of goals for.”