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Sauve not just another rookie

by Caroline Greene || AHL On The Beat Archive 

Two young men get into a playful water bottle fight after practice. “Typical guys” to any woman witnessing such a game. However, the tall dark-haired kid clad in just hockey pants isn’t just another young hockey player. The only things typical to Maxime Sauve’s 20 years are his boyish grin and goofy demeanor.

The 47th overall selection in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft is entering his full first professional season with the Bruins’ AHL affiliate in Providence. However, this rookie has looked like a seasoned veteran in the handful of professional games he has played thus far.

Sauve got his feet wet in Providence at the end of last season, making his professional debut on Apr. 2. He tallied two goals in that contest despite still recovering from the ankle surgery that derailed his last season in the Québec Major Junior Hockey League with Val d’Or.

Sauve picked up where he left off last season when the 2010-11 campaign opened, netting his first career hat trick in a 6-5 decision over the Springfield Falcons on Oct. 9. Obviously, this 20-year-old is able to put down the makeshift water gun and get down to business come game time.

His efforts have not escaped Boston’s notice. Sauve had very successful rookie and training camps in Boston this past September, garnering praise from Boston general manager Peter Chiarelli. It was a Boston veteran, however, who had the greatest impact on the rookie at Boston’s camp.

“Bergeron for sure,” Sauve replied without missing a beat. “He is very good and a smart player. That is how I want my game to be.”

As someone who had a short and very successful stay in Providence, Sauve said he looks to Patrice Bergeron’s example of a successful transition from the AHL to the NHL. To secure a permanent spot up in Boston, Sauve knows that he must fine-tune some aspects of his own game first in Providence.

“The little things, simple things on the ice,” Sauve said when asked what he needed to work on. “On the boards and in the corners for sure. You have to be stronger (in the corners) in the NHL.”

Sauve credits much of his early professional success to his family’s deep hockey roots. His uncle, Bob Sauve, was a long-time NHL goaltender and his cousin, Philippe Sauve, also a goalie, was an AHL All-Star with Hershey and spent time in both Buffalo and Boston. Today, both guide the business side of his career as his agents.

“My father knows the game, so he helped me when I was young,” Sauve reminisced about growing up with a former NHL player as his father.
Jean-Francois Sauve had an extensive professional career that featured two Calder Cup championships (Rochester, Adirondack) as well as stops with the Buffalo Sabres and Quebec Nordiques, and ended in Tours, France, shortly after the birth of his son, Maxime.

Asked if coming from a family with such a strong hockey background adds pressure on him, Maxime said, “Yes, but I am used to it. I like it (playing) under pressure.”

Sauve maintains such composure when talking about his past game performances, both good and bad. Not one to dwell on a poor game, like Providence’s season opening 5-1 loss to the Springfield Falcons, or a career defining game, like his hat trick the night after, he looks to the future.

“The past is the past,” Sauve said. “You have to go forward and look at the next game like new.”

Besides his unmatched speed and soft hands, Sauve’s birthplace sets him apart from the other young hopefuls trying to make it to the big league. Distinct in having played eight professional games and being the current scoring leader in Providence, Sauve is currently the only active drafted French-born player in the NHL or AHL ranks. He was joined by Chicago Blackhawks goalie Cristobal Huet up until Sept. 27, when the Blackhawks sent Huet to Switzerland.

Despite his French citizenship, his family returned to Montreal after his father’s career ended in 1991, when Sauve was just two years old, and he has yet to return. However, he would like to return in the next few years.

“Only for a vacation,” he laughed. “I don’t want to play in France. I want to be here.”

However, if he continues on the successful path he has traveled thus far, a permanent trip to Boston seems more likely.