The Bruins have seen only marginal return on their trade-deadline move that added aging icon Jaromir Jagr to their forward mix. He’s obviously trying to contribute points and he remains Svengali-like at controlling and shielding the puck. But thus far, his diminished speed and limited scoring touch have left him on the very short side of the scoresheet (0-4—4 in 11 playoff games prior to Saturday’s Game 5 with the Rangers).
Numbers aside, Jagr remains a marvel when it comes to working at his craft, trying to stay fit, able, and relevant at age 41. Following last Sunday’s matinee win over the Blueshirts, he pulled on skates and donned weighted vest and ankle weights and took to the TD Garden ice for a solo skate around 7:30 p.m.
Such a session is something I’ve never seen in some 35 years of covering the NHL. In the late ’70s and early ’80s, my days as a Red Sox beat man, a few times I witnessed Carl Yastrzemski emerge from the clubhouse following afternoon games and take an extended batting practice session. Forever making changes in his stance and swing, Yaz resorted to the postgame tuneups if he were mired in a slump or simply wanted to refine one of his million-and-one alterations in hand positioning.
“I’ve done it for a long time, nothing new,’’ said Jagr, when asked about it a few days later, after a picture of his session in a near-empty Garden ran in the Globe and on Twitter. “It’s just me here, so I’d rather do that than ride the bike or just go back to the hotel. What am I going to do there, just sit?’’
Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli, who has never known a player to return for on-ice workouts after a game, said he’d heard about Jagr’s unorthodox routine before he acquired him from Dallas. In fact, said Chiarelli, he initially suggested to Jagr that he consider easing off a little, relax. The ever-smiling Jagr politely dismissed the notion.
“It’s what he does,’’ said Chiarelli. “So, I respect it. We all respect it.’’
When asked about Jagr’s routine, coach Claude Julien said he has seen players do similar things in the past. Like Chiarelli, the veteran coach decided from the start to let Jagr decide such things for himself. If he wants to train into the night with a knit cap atop his head (true Sunday night), that’s his business, part of the reason he’s been in the league since October 1990.
“And, hey, it’s not like he’s bag skating himself out there,’’ said Julien, opting for the vernacular often used for when referring to an exhausting practice.
Teammate Brad Marchand is among those who marvel at Jagr’s diligence. The Little Ball of Hate said Jagr’s workouts remind him of the postgame dry-land workouts ex-Bruin Mark Recchi put himself through even in his final days with the Bruins.
“I could do the bike, lots of guys do,’’ said Jagr. “The bike helps, but the muscles you use are not the exact muscles you use to skate. That’s why I go out. I want the exact muscles, and I can use the stick, shoot, things like that. You don’t get that on the bike.’’
PLANET IS ALIGNED
Iafrate having a blast at work
Al ‘‘The Planet’’ Iafrate, one of the Bruins’ most colorful characters over the past 20 years, remains attached to the game through entrepreneurial means. He and fellow ex-NHLers Cliff Ronning and Jeff Friesen are in their third year of owning and operating Vancouver-based BASE hockey, which customizes and manufactures hockey sticks. They also tutor and train young players as part of the business model.
“We teach. We offer video analysis. We consult with NHL teams,’’ said Iafrate, who has been in the stick business for some 10 years, including a five-year hitch with Warrior. “It’s good now. Some growing pains, like any business, but we think we’ve got a pretty good model, something broader than mass producing sticks for retail. A different way to compete. No one’s killing it with just sticks.’’
Iafrate is now 47 and was once the game’s hardest shooter.
“The hardest shooter in the whole galaxy, or the universe . . . whichever is bigger,’’ kidded Iafrate, back living in Michigan these days. “Not sure which is bigger. I just know they’re both bigger than a planet.’’
The sticks, which retail for $159 each, are hand-crafted in Tijuana, Mexico. Somehow, the idea of the 6-foot-3-inch, 240-pound Iafrate tooling around Tijuana on a motorcycle sounds like an NHL Network 13-week series that could go head-to-head with primetime network television.
Basehockey.ca is the company’s website.
Saving up for Enroth?
Sabres GM Darcy Regier last week acknowledged the club has some “decisions to make’’ when it comes to goaltending. The key issue is whether to move veteran Ryan Miller, whose one year left at $6.25 million is looking a bit steep for a team in need of securing other parts for a competent NHL roster and to keep a frustrated fan base from storming the Niagara Center doors. If Miller goes, the job falls to pint-sized puck-stopper Jhonas Enroth, who just returned to Western New York after backing Sweden’s gold medal run at the World Championship. He was named the tourney’s top goaltender, with a 5-2-1 record, 1.15 GAA and .956 save percentage. Now the tricky part, first finding a new home for Miller, then cutting a new deal with restricted-free-agent-to-be Enroth, who pocketed a near-minimum $675,000 this season as Miller’s stand-in. The little guy is in line for a big payday.
Taylor a hockey lifer
The Harvard grounds around Memorial Church might have to be marked with red and blue lines Saturday when a memorial service is held for longtime Yale coach (and ex-Harvard assistant) Tim Taylor, who died at age 71 on April 27 after a four-year struggle with prostate cancer. “He was kind of hockey’s version of Johnny Appleseed,’’ his decades-long pal Ben Smith told the Globe soon after Taylor’s death. “It wasn’t just Milton or Natick or Boston; it was Massachusetts; it was the United States of America; it was international hockey. He touched every level of the sport. He’s been a treasure.’’ The service inside Harvard Yard begins at noon.
Kings hitting their stride
The Kings can close out the Sharks Sunday, after moving to a 3-2 series advantage with a hungry man’s 3-0 win over Joe Thornton & Co. on Thursday. LA learned the art of being physical with last year’s triumphant Cup run, and came out slamming in Game 5, running up a 51-24 hitting edge, the Sharks shrinking under the assault in all three zones. Ex-UMass star Jonathan Quick was sharp, but made only 24 saves, few of them much bother. As Sharks coach Todd McLellan noted, “He didn’t have to work too hard.’’ Thornton was impressive at the dot, winning 20 of 29, but he lost a critical drop to Trevor Lewis at the start of the third period that led to Slava Voynov’s jawbreaking (2-0) goal. A faceoff loss in New Jersey was Thornton’s last official act in a Boston uniform.
Trouble in Chicago
The Hawks were officially placed on the endangered species list Thursday when stifled, 2-0, by the feisty Red Wings (3-1 series lead). Chicago was stymied in Games 2 through 4, in part because of Detroit’s diligent work at the faceoff dot, which also has been a key to Boston’s success this postseason. Through Thursday night, the Wings won 53.9 percent of the drops in four games, averaging just about five more wins per game. All of that factored in the porridge of Detroit clicking off three straight wins by a combined 9-2. Hawks coach Joel Quenneville on Detroit’s dominance at the dot in the series: “Definitely a factor.’’
Mountain of challenges
It will be fascinating to watch how the Joe Sakic-Patrick Roy regime plays out in Colorado. Roy, named Thursday as Avalanche head coach, replacing the fired Joe Sacco, has a fiery, tempestuous component that alone should bring some life to the moribund franchise. Long rumored to be taking the Denver job one day, Roy held off until: 1. Sakic came aboard as the No. 1 decision-maker, and 2. Sakic decided that Roy (also named VP of hockey operations) would have significant say in personnel/roster matters. Sakic/Roy sort of equal a two-headed Bill Belichick, which alone makes the imagination run to such things as a two-headed hoodie. ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun quickly pondered the possibilities of a Marc Crawford return, as an associate, to the Rockies, where he coached 1995-98 — which included the 1996 Cup win that had Roy in goal. Thin air in Denver, but thick with story lines.
Drop in dropping the gloves
If you think fighting majors are down compared with last year’s playoffs you’re right, and the drop is more dramatic if we eliminate that one-game, circus-like punchfest (seven fights, 14 majors) between the Canadiens and Senators. Through the 64 games headed into weekend play, the 16 playoff teams totaled 24 fighting majors (numbers per Bob Waterman at the Elias Sports Bureau). The number drops to 10 if the Habs/Senators shenanigans are extracted. Through 64 games last season, there had been 35 fighting majors, and only 18 in 2011.
Savard sounds off
And then there was this bit of Twitter gold Thursday evening from Bruins center Marc Savard (@MSavvy91), just before the Bruins faced the Rangers in Game 4: “Tortorella should get fired after the game he has ruined all of his players confidence #Richardswillget80pointsnextyear #ByeByeTorts’’ Social media, folks. Savard is not likely ever to play again because of concussion-related issues, but he remains on Boston’s payroll. Odd that a member of the Bruins would be advising the opposing coach on roster decisions. Clearly, the center-turned-columnist was sticking up for his pal, Brad Richards, who was a scratch (coach John Tortorella’s decision) for Game 4. Two hours after that initial tweet, Savard followed with “I’m just mad at Torts because if I recall in 2004 Richards helped him win the cup#connsmythe all I’m saying is live or die with your guy!!!’’ Speculation remains rampant up and down Broadway that the Rangers will buy out Richards’s deal prior the start of free agency July 5.
Bobrovsky due for bump
Tops on the “to do’’ list of new Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen: find a number, with enough zeros attached, to satisfy franchise goalie Sergei Bobrovsky. The ex-Flyer was sensational this season (21-11-6; 2.00, .932) and is one of three finalists for the Vezina Trophy. He is also a restricted free agent, with a $1.7 million salary base. Few players attract offer sheets, but Bobrovsky is young enough (24) and talented enough that at least a couple of clubs will have to consider dropping one on him. Take, for instance, the Flyers.
Dishing it out
Winger Ryan Callahan, the most rugged Ranger, on Friday led all playoff performers with 60 hits. But for all their shot-blocking, the Blueshirts don’t deal out the black and blues at nearly the same rate, or with as much thud, as Boston’s top-end slammers. On the eve of Game 5, three Bruins ranked among the postseason’s top 10 hitters: Milan Lucic (fourth, 49); Johnny Boychuk (fifth, 44) and Zdeno Chara (seventh, 42). Boychuk and Chara were the only two blue liners among the top 10. The clever Callahan also led the league with 13 takeaways. Hard to believe he lasted until the 127th pick in the 2004 draft.
Quick’s Game 5 shutout moved him ahead of Kelly Hrudey on the Kings’ postseason win list (27). Postgame, Quick said he has gotten to know Hrudey in recent years and paid homage to the onetime bandana-wearing goalie who began his career with the Islanders. “Great guy, loves hockey,’’ said Quick. “I remember watching him when I was growing up. He was very competitive and hated to lose.’’ As a kid, Hrudey was hardly on a fast track to stardom. He played for a Class D team, Inland Cement, near Edmonton. It doesn’t get much more remote than Class D Inland Cement. Hrudey now is among the game’s top, most likeable TV analysts . . . Bruins fans are falling in love with rookie blue liner Torey Krug, especially his eagerness and ability to wheel and create with the puck inside the offensive zone. One of my Twitter followers last week suggested a Bobby Orr comparison. Uh, no. The closest comp I see at the moment is Greg Hawgood, but Krug’s game looks to have more shape and quick-strike ability than we saw here during the short-lived Hawgie Hockey era. Small test sample, to be sure, but Krug is confident, loads of fun to watch, and looks to have a rare knack for getting his shot on net . . . Here’s hoping the Lords of the Boards this summer realize the dunderheadedness of the puck-in-the-stands (delay of game) penalty. At least three quarters of the calls, while not bogus per the rulebook, are bogus in how they influence the game. Flow of play often gets disrupted. Power-play goals too often get scored because of what is, far too often, a chintzy call. It’s the new-age version of the toe-in-the-crease travesty (and greetings to you this morn, ex-Bruins forward Tim Taylor) . . . Headed into the weekend, eight centers had 100 faceoff wins or more this postseason. Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk led the way with 145, only one ahead of Boston’s Patrice Bergeron. As for winning rate, Bergeron (64 percent) was well ahead of the pack, with only Chicago’s Jonathan Toews (58 percent) even in the same, shall we say, circle of influence . . . As of Friday, Toronto’s Mikhail Grabovski (minus-10), still owned the postseason’s worst plus/minus ranking. Chris Kelly, with a minus-6, was in need of improving upon his surprisingly low standing. Kelly hasn’t had his A-game since getting back in action after a leg fracture . . . Three Americans were among the NHL’s top 20 postseason goal scorers as of Friday. Joe Pavelski, Phil Kessel, and Derek Stepan all ranked T10 with four goals. If the NHL finally signs off on sending its best and brightest to the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, all three likely will skate for Team Uncle Sam . . . The Kings have won a franchise-record 13 straight on home ice. They’ve also won seven straight postseason games at the Staples Center, dating to the 2012 Cup clincher over the Devils. Oh, goodness, what Jack Kent Cooke would have thought of the wonder of it all.