With a series of Game 7’s on tap for Tuesday night hot on the heels of a great Ducks/Sharks elimination game last night – whoever thought we’d see Jumbo Joe Thornton drop the gloves right off the hop in the opening faceoff with Anaheim big guy Ryan Getzlaf? – there’s plenty to talk about in this playoff edition of the Hagg Bag.
I’m sticking to my overall theory, which is that the Bruins have to hope that the New York Rangers can pull out some Game 7 magic against Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals – but don’t underestimate just how badly the league and the TV networks froth at the mouth to see a Sid the Kid vs. Alex the Great conference final this season.
Keep that in mind if all the close calls start going the way of Washington on Tuesday night, and then toward the Pittsburgh Penguins in a potential matchup with the Bruins that would start in Boston this weekend. It’ll be interesting to see if something in the range of a 9-10 day layoff from game action affects the Bruins, and to see just how rust-laden the Black and Gold are in a pivotal Game 1 at the TD Banknorth Garden against whichever opponent emerges from the three-legged puck race.
The B’s – despite attempts to keep their sharpness during this time of rest and relative relaxation prior to the semifinals – will need to guard against the type of grogginess they displayed directly after a similarly lengthy break in the middle of March. The B’s won five in a row coming out of that hockey recess, but they were far from at their best in the first couple of games, and the B’s will need their level-best to advance to the conference finals.
I say drop the puck already, and as always feel free to drop any questions or comments to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on the Big Bad Blog.
Is it true that the B’s can’t start their next series until every 1st round series is done? I used to kind of like Komisarek because he was American but after this year I hate him and I’m ashamed he is American…
JH: Oh yes, it’s true. The Bruins have to wait for the lowest Eastern Conference seed – in this case the New York Rangers – to finish their series against the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night, and the semifinal round of the playoffs wasn’t going to start prior to Thursday no matter how these other series' ended.
I can see it from a scheduling point of view. The NHL doesn’t want any other series to get that far out in front of the others scheduling-wise, so the league sets Thursday as the earliest possible day to start.
B’s coach Claude Julien already basically stated that the series won’t be starting on Thursday, so expect a weekend beginning (Friday/Saturday) for Bruins vs. Penguins/Rangers/Hurricanes, and a Game 2 that could be up against the first Sox/Yankees tilt at the new Yankee Stadium.
So, Fitzy, I’m guessing by your Komisarek shame that you would disapprove of him entering hockey games WWF-style with “I am a Real American” blasting through the speakers of the TD Banknorth Garden while wearing a Spoked B sweater next season? Yeah, you’re right. Not in a million, trillion years.
Why would Chara not be considered for the Hart? Where would the Bruins be without Chara? Or Thomas? Why would Savard be considered before Chara?
Yes, I vote and Z will have at least one writer's nod to follow the Pronger Hart and Norris formula. Ovechkin scored fewer goals this season but his team had a better year, which tells me he didn't have to carry the same load he did last year. The rest of the Caps crew was simply better. As for the Pens’ dynamic duo, it's hard to give an MVP award to a player who "led" his team from being a conference finalist last year to dropping to fourth in the conf (actually tied for fifth) the next season while also getting a coach fired in the process. Also, if you removed either player from the team, I still think they would have landed about where they did.
Without Chara, the Bruins may still have been a playoff team, maybe not. With him they improved from eighth to first. That's a significant accomplishment and I think ultimately you reward the team's accomplishment, not just numbers.
While you talked about the potential for Kovalev to pick it up and be an impact player, don’t underestimate the ability of Phil Kessel to do the same.
While everyone seems to agree that Kessel benefited from being benched during last year’s series, I have wondered if his prolonged absence for three of the games didn’t actually cost the Bruins that series. While only playing in four of the seven games, Kessel still led the Bruins in goal scoring, and the B’s went 1-2 while he was out of the lineup, 2-2 when he was in it.
Maybe, if he had been held out for just a single game, and the attitude point made, having him around for the other two games he missed might have produced a different outcome in the series last year.
Anyway, I predict you’ll be writing a lot about Kessel’s significant contribution in this series this year. Enjoy the start of the long playoff run to mid-June!
--Name withheld to protect the identity of the innocent
JH: I’d like to nominate this email as one of the best I’ve received all season because it was thought-provoking in all the right ways. This actually changed my overall philosophy when I got my PHWA ballot in my email inbox and had to vote on the Calder, Hart, Norris etc. I ended up voting Zdeno Chara first place for both the Hart Trophy and the Norris Trophy when I really went back and reevaluated what the big defenseman accomplished – and how Chris Pronger had created something of a precedent when he nabbed the Hart Trophy while blasting slap shots and banging bodies with the St. Louis Blues nearly a decade ago (Pronger nabbed the Hart back in 1999-2000 when he piled up 62 points in 79 games as the biggest, baddest guy on the Blues' backline).
Not only did Chara put up career-highs in many offensive categories and perfect his role as the best shutdown defenseman in all of the NHL, but the 6-foot-9 behemoth really stepped up as a leader in the locker room and became the well-rounded No. 1 defenseman that GM Peter Chiarelli envisioned when he signed the big blueliner coming out of the lockout year.
With the structured defensive system that coach Claude Julien employs and the key intimidation factor that Chara brings to the Boston lineup as the biggest, baddest guy in the valley, he’s the one piece that the Black and Gold can’t live without and their best candidate for MVP. People will argue Tim Thomas and I can see it, but look at how good Manny Fernandez’ numbers were between the pipes in the first half playing behind Boston's suffocating 'D' – and you’ll begin to realize that it all starts with Chara and the defense on this Bruins team.
When you’re the most indispensible part on one of the best teams in the NHL, there better be a whole lot of hardware waiting for you when the NHL Awards are announced this summer in Las Vegas. It should be Chara for at least Norris -- and possibly the Hart -- but more on that later.
Another really good call on Phil Kessel, who has now scored 8 goals in 8 playoff games over the last two postseasons and played the role of “game-changer” to perfection in the opening-round sweep of the Canadiens.
EA Sports, perhaps the single most important entity to a Gen X slacker like myself that was raised on a steady diet of RBI Baseball, Tecmo Bowl and Lakers vs. Celtics, did a computer simulation of the Stanley Cup playoffs and Kessel ended with 14 goals during Boston’s cyber-run to winning the “Cup” during the simulation. He was named the Conn-Smythe Trophy winner during the computer prediction, and I’m beginning to think that’s not so far out of the realm of possibility going forward this spring.
It’s a double-edged sword with Kessel this spring, however, because he’s adding on to his contractual bottom-line with each goal he scores before heading out to restricted free agency (RFA) this summer.
I heard some discussion about this very recently and that the “Orr Trophy” may become a possibility. Have you heard anything on the subject?
JH: I’ve heard some idle talk of this, Miranda, and I would really love to see it happen for a number of reasons. First of all, the best player in NHL history certainly deserves the honor of having a Trophy named after him. But more to the point, the Norris Trophy has too often of late simply gone to the best offensive defenseman rather than the “best all-around defenseman” as the trophy criteria actually states.
Case in point, this season it appears that Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green -- if you pay attention to a lot of the national hockey writers -- is going to beat out Chara for the Norris Trophy after busting through the 30-goal plateau and notching a strike in an NHL-record eight straight games this season. Green’s undoubtedly a rising star among the NHL’s blueline corps, but is there anybody that really thinks Green was the better “all-around” defenseman when it comes to defense, physicality and performing all of the duties required of an effective defenseman this season? Is there anybody that could possibly be better than Chara this season when all criteria is considered?
Green is considered by many to basically be a fourth forward out on the ice when he’s taking his shifts, and he doesn’t have anywhere near the defensive or physical impact of Chara – while the Big B’s blueliner finished just shy of 20 goals and was a constant factor offensively and defensively this season. Chara's presence was always palpable on the ice during the season while Green wasn't noticed nearly as much when he wasn't scoring goals or jumping in on the rush.
If there were simply an Orr Trophy for the best offensive defenseman to go along with the already-existing Norris Trophy, it would really make the issue a moot point. I see nothing wrong with adding one more additional Trophy to be awarded by the PHWA at the end of each season, so two defensemen can be recognized for their efforts. This isn't Little League where everybody gets a trophy just for showing up and picking weeds out in right field, but this offensive defenseman issue has become a real problem in recent years. But this is the NHL, so I’m not holding my breath for any big changes this summer. I’ll keep banging this drum going forward, though.
Once again the new Bruins ad campaign delivers. Always have that Victory dance ready Joe!
JH: If you haven’t seen it, you really need to check out the www.bostonbruinstv.com commercials that are running during NESN telecasts and Red Sox games. I’m a big fan of the Ron Jeremy look-a-like getting slapped in the face with a fish by "The Bear" for tucking in his Bruins sweater, but “The Bear” doing “The Robot” as part of his victory dance is also a priceless gem. It’s just another example of how the Bruins organization has populated their business offices and hockey operations staff with people that “get it” in the last couple of years, and it’s no coincidence that success has followed the Black and Gold. Give Charlie Jacobs and Co. for pushing this organization in the right direction the last few years. Which should cue our next email from everybody's favorite curmudgeon, Randy...
On a related note, Haggs is picking the Bruins to win the series in a record 3 games! He also has Jeremy Jacobs pegged to receive the Owner of the Year Award! Joe Haggerty = Delaware North mouthpiece! I hear that big joey has his suit jackets custom made for the six puppet strings that are now attached to his back.
JH: Nice try, Randy, but I haven’t been lucky enough to order any suit jackets on the Jacobs’ Family tab quite yet. I did get a nice wedding suit at Eastern Clothing of Watertown last week, and a nice woman named Anna started telling me Fred Smerlas and Steve DeOssie stories from all the times that they’ve been in to pick up suits. I even say an autographed picture of Dale Arnold on the Eastern Clothing Wall of Fame as I was walking around the place. But that’s beside the point.
Since, well, since I don’t love your tone Randy…I’ll just let reader Derek layeth the smacketh down on you: “Is it me or has there really not been too much to criticize about this team. When there is something, Haggs does bring it up. Enjoy what is the best hockey we’ve had in Boston in a long time. As a six-year season ticket holder and having been through the Dave Lewis (AKA Canadian Kermit the frog) years with whole sections of empty seats. Hey Randy, how’s my best team in the East’s ass taste? Go be miserable rooting for the Islanders or something.”
Thanks Derek. I think that about sums it up.
Mama Mia! Why you be-a so mean to the Hagg Man? He’s-a just trying to bring you-a some information! You sound like-a spicy meat-a-ball
JH: Mama Mia, it’s the favorite chef of my youth. There were many moments in the early days of Haggs when it would come to a battle between Spaghetti-O’s and Elio’s Frozen Pizza for ultimate supremacy. I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that Elio’s frozen pizza was an important staple in Curt Schilling’s pregame routine, a la Wade Boggs with chicken on the day of a game. I’m proud to say that – in my case -- Spaghetti-O’s won out a good portion of the time as the Stoneham Little League and Stoneham High School pregame meal of choice. Now get yourself in the kitchen and make me some Beef-A-Roni, blaaaaaaaaahhhhhh.
I know there is probably some obvious answer, but why exactly is Ference’s injury undisclosed? Does he have debilitating crabs or something embarrassing? I don’t feel like athletes should be able to hide whatever injury is keeping them from playing for so long. Why keep people guessing?
--Bruins in Four
JH: There’s a very good reason for this. If opposing players know what Andrew Ference’s injury is then they could potentially target that part of his body and try to reinjure him once he begins playing again in the second round of the playoffs.
The Cloak and Dagger game of Spy vs. Spy that takes place with injuries during the season can be a little tiring if you’re a member of the media simply trying to fill out a notebook, but it’s also understandable why injuries are undisclosed and kept hidden from our prying eyes.
Just imagine you were a player who suffered a concussion, and the fog had finally lifted from your noggin'. You’re ready for a return to the lineup. Would you want the other team knows that you had a head injury, so they could come in high with a Donald Brashear-style knockout blow designed to concuss you again and take you out of the playoffs? Or would you rather the coach said that your injury was undisclosed, and you were afforded some level of protection when you did hop back onto the ice?
Does it work all the time, and is the secret always easy to keep? Not really, but the spirit of the rule is to keep players protected – and I don’t understand why anybody has a real problem with that.
I joined the Bruins bandwagon in early October (after enjoying the playoffs last year) and this year’s been a thrill. I feel like the B’s have achieved what I kept hoping the Celts would do while I was watching Gomes, West, Jefferson and others: they’ve developed a core group of young talent and added key veterans to create a real contender. As much as I loved seeing the C’s win last year, it wasn’t quite as fun with a team that was almost entirely different than the roster I’d cheered for in previous years.
But I digress: my main point is that throughout the year, you’ve been my source for news on the Spoked B’s ever since - so thanks for helping me enjoy the season.
Not sure if you heard any of the NESN coverage of the Bruins-Rangers game on Saturday, but during the broadcast Jack Edwards said something along these lines re: the Thomas contract: “With Tim and Tuukka’s combined contracts, the total cap hit for the goalie position next year is the same as this year’s.”
Really? Am I missing something? Or is this another example of Edwards-ian hyperbole? Or even worse, is this NESN spin-doctoring on behalf of the Bruins?
-- Ben, Barrington
JH: There’s still some gray area with the Thomas and Rask numbers for next season, Ben. It’s kind of a complicated answer that has to do with the reinstatement of the rookie bonus cushion next season with the NHL CBA now in place for the next two seasons -- and not in question again until after the 2010-11 hockey season. I'll try to keep your eyes from glazing over while explaining it.
The “cushion” was never reinstated this season after the NHLPA agreed not to reopen the CBA following this season – as was their option per their negotiations following the lockout – but it’s expected that the cushion will be back next year. The cushion is essentially salary cap “wiggle room” given to potential bonus money in entry-level contracts that can make a contract like Rask’s – which is roughly $850,000 at its base – appear on the salary cap exactly as is.
Without the rookie bonus cushion, a cap hit for the entry level contract must include all potential bonus money and this bumps Rask’s number north of $3 million given the number of potential bonuses built into his deal. The thinking is that Rask won’t achieve all of the rookie bonus marks in his contract while serving as a backup to Tim Thomas next season, but – as of right now – all of that is still open to argument until that rookie “bonus cushion” is officially brought back.
The potential still exists for a cap hit in excess of $8 million next year for the two goaltenders, and the $5 million cap hit for a 38- and 39-year-old Thomas could be a real problem down the road – despite the potential that he can be bought out of the fourth year of the deal. The B’s are basically gambling that Thomas can play his athletic, all-out style well into his late 30s, and it’s not a guarantee that he’ll be able to do it. I just have an issue when management gives a player both the money and the years that they're looking for when it's not in the best interest of the hockey team. I love Thomas and think he's a great goaltender for this team in style and ability.
The one undeniable upside that I like about the situation: Thomas is using the four-year contract and the faith shown by B’s management as motivational fuel.
“I used to always use proving people wrong for motivation in my career up until this season, and (now) I know I’m just as motivated trying to prove people right,” said Thomas referring to the contract. “It’s a little different as far as motivation goes, but it’s still effective.”
Love the B's coverage.
Wanted to touch upon a subject that most sports writers have ignored. When did scalping become legal? I've been going to B's games all year. Most of these games are sell-outs, yet anyone at these games knows that there are plenty of empty seats. I'm not talking about the green seats either.
There's always small chunks of empty seats in each loge section. The same can be said of the balcony, albeit to a lesser extent. Taking a look at Stubhub.com, I found 1648 available tickets for Game 1 of the playoffs. That's almost 10% of the building on Stub Hub alone! Anyone that tried to buy tickets last Thursday knows that there was nothing available within two minutes.
I've seen absurd claims on Ace's site, stating that they aren't scalpers and provide a service. What's that? Buying up the tickets ahead of time (as "season ticket holders") and then selling them at a 200% markup before any real fans have a chance to buy them?! Sounds like scalping to me.
It's really sad, as most people realize that these scalpers are giving money to the local teams. The only exception are the Patriots, who go after Stub Hub AND their season ticket holders for selling their seats. Kraft & Co. provide a re-sale program for season ticket holders unable to attend games. The Red Sox do this to a lesser extent, but have been hypocrites in their actions over the years. Back in the '03/'04 playoffs, they went after anyone selling tickets on EBay. Shortly after, they started receiving money for ads from Ace Tickets as their official ticket provider. Coincidentally, they have not gone after anyone making a profit off their tickets since.
I could go on and on about this. It's a joke. I've tried contacting the Mass. Department of Safety, which handles ticket scalping. After numerous attempts (months ago), I still haven't received a response. Call me a pessimist, but it sure sounds like everyone is getting paid to look the other way. It's disappointing to think that a lot of fans (probably 500/game) will miss out due to money constraints and that the building could be a little louder for these games.
Anyway, I'm not letting it ruin what should be a fun and, hopefully, long playoff run. Just wanted to get some much-needed light shed on a subject that has been largely-ignored by the local media.
JH: Sorry to hear you’re having a tough time with this. I’m not going to ignore it and I’m thinking that the Bruins creating their own re-sale program would probably be something they should work on -- or at least discuss -- for the future. I’m going to dig a little deeper on this one and attempt to get you an answer.
I can say with 100 percent certainty, though, that there haven’t been any empty seats in the building during the early playoff games against the Canadiens. And I don't expect there to be any going forward. The only seats that were consistently empty this season were small-ish portions of the $150 green seats in the premium seating section.
I am a die hard Habs fan, and Montrealer my whole life. I was at the game last night and I was disgusted and embarrassed by the reaction of the upper bowl a-holes who booed during the US national anthem. For some reason, these losers think that by booing the anthem it will have some sort of an effect on the game. All it does is show how classless some people are in this city, and how STUPID they are also. Don’t they realize that on the ice during the anthem are Mike Komisarek and Chris Higgins… two AMERICANS!!!!
I saw an interview with Chris Higgins after the game, a guy who grew up a Habs fan, and he was just shaking his head. He was too classy to say what I know he wanted to say. I apologize to all our American neighbors who watched in disgust what happened last night. The Bruins vs. Canadiens rivalry is a great one and shouldn’t be tarnished by some un-educated losers.
Please understand that they do not represent the majority of the people in Montreal but the very small minority.
Embarrassed and shocked,
JH: Thanks for the heartfelt apology, Habs fan. (Haggs Note: I had something fairly crass written after the apology, but the WEEI.com powers that be gave me the smack down on that one. Such is life as a hockey peon)
Laraque on the top line? Hey Haggs, maybe the Red Sox should stick Jonathan Papelbon in the clean-up spot? How about the Patriots letting Vince Wilfork play quarterback? Those would all be great ideas to help our local sports teams.
JH: How about crossing over sports and letting Kevin Garnett strap on the tools of ignorance and catch a few innings at Fenway Park? Or how about Tom Brady running the wing for the Celtics and jacking up threes on 3-on-none fast breaks Danny Ainge-style? And what about the Revs’…er…um…ok, we can stop this now. Alexi Lalas doesn’t play soccer here anymore, right?
Watching this game from beginning to end, I would have to say the player who came up huge throughout was Steve Montador. This is from someone who suspected he was going to be a liability. Tonight he got it and seemed to snuff out many Montreal set ups and power plays. Montador gets my vote for the number One Star of tonight’s game.
In the overall series thus far, the work of Bergeron deserves the star. Lucic was neck and neck with him till tonight, but the two of them have been critical to the Bruins’ scoring. To see this, go back three or four touches prior to the Bruins scores in this series. These two have made the workhorse plays that made them possible. It’s the work leading up to assists that make this team what they are.
Love seeing Ryder stick it to his old team. Kobasew is a keeper. Thomas is haunted.
I am pleased.
Fan Since 1968! (Leo Bovin, Ted Green, Bob Dillibough, Wydowich, the new kid - Orr)
JH: Wow, Joe. You are the kind of fan that the Bruins have been working overtime to win back this season and it seems that you’ve returned in full force. Montador blocked nine shots in Game 3 in Montreal (cue the Night at the Roxbury music and head-bobbing) and looked like Steve Butabi crowding the dance floor when he was racing around the ice throwing his body in front of anything that moved.
Montador isn’t going to knock you out with skill or skating ability, but he has the desire and the know-how to help the Bruins win games by blocking shots, playing the body and making sacrifices that will require plenty of ice bags later on. This is the kind of smart playoff roster-type acquisition by GM Peter Chiarelli that made his trade deadline a rousing success this year.
When Bergeron and Krejci are both going full-bore on the second and third lines, this team is simply unbeatable. I haven’t seen a team yet that can really skate with them when all three centers are playing as well as they did in the Montreal dismantling to open the playoffs. The question now is how long it takes to get it back to prime Spoked B form after such a long layoff following the Montreal Massacre.
The real heroes of this game were the 4th line. Bitzy, Yelle and Thornton came up huge all night long and deserve to be commended. The overall work ethic of this team is unmatched in the NHL and it is starting to show in some of the other series like San Jose and Washington. I honestly think it comes down the Red Wings and Bruins in the cup finals and it’s gonna be a great series…GO B’s
JH: There are many knowledgeable hockey people that think the Western Conference representative in the Stanley Cup Finals will be the winner of the Red Wings/Ducks series set to take place in the semi-finals. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Bruins/Wings in the Finals if the B’s can get by the Penguins, but the Ducks wouldn’t exactly floor me coming out of the West given the way that guys like Getzlaf, Bobby Ryan, Chris Pronger and Scott Neidermayer are playing right now. Part of San Jose's collapse was Joe Thornton again disappearing after his opening minute fight against Getzlaf in Game 6, but credit Jonas Hiller and the Ducks. They're playing really good hockey right now.
Stephane Yelle, Shawn Thornton and Byron Bitz gelled as a great fourth unit over the second half of the season, and that line ripped the heart out of the Canadiens in Game 3 of the Opening Series. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Blake Wheeler and Byron Bitz split time on that fourth line going forward, particularly if the B’s are taking on a big, physical opponent like the New Jersey Devils in a future series. It’s not sportswriter hyperbole to say that Yelle/Thornton/Bitz was the best fourth line in the NHL this season, and B’s fans shouldn’t underestimate the big influence that a guy like Thornton has in the Bruins locker room.
He’s very similar to Kevin Millar when he was with the Red Sox in that he really transcends cliques in a locker room and can find common ground with every teammate in the room. That kind of personality helps bring the team closer together as a tight unit, and his toughness also gives the Bruins a little more courage when things get a little dicey out on the ice. He doesn't get a ton of ink, but he's a big presence in the Bruins' room.
“Two hundred thirty four years ago yesterday a bunch of rag tag foreigners stood up against the greatest fighting force in the world, and today school children in Massachusetts had Patriot’s Day off because of that. Well, a bunch of modern day Bostonians have turned back hockey’s royalty, and they have sent their faithful on a red coated retreat for the exits.”
Is Edwards a drinker?
JH: I’ve never even witnessed Edwards drinking the unleaded coffee in the press box, so that’s a Big, Bad no. I just wish the hockey season ran into the Fourth of July so that I could see what he had in his bag of tricks for that day. Something about Phil Kessel being a Yankee Doodle Dandy I’m sure, or maybe he would shoot off cannons from the NESN both up on the ninth floor at the Garden after the Bruins secured the win. As Kevin Garnett might say, with Edwards "ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!".
I agree with you. Bad judgment on the part of Looch, esp. being up by 4. I just don’t understand. Should we be giving any edge to Montreal for game 3? And, is this just a 1 game suspension?Also, why is it that all of the playoff series are being televised nationally, but ours?
JH: Bad judgment by Lucic in Game 2 going after Maxim Lapierre, but give the Big Looch full credit for learning from it and taking a Mike Komisarek cross-check to the face in Game 4 when the Habs defenseman was simply looking for an escape hatch in the third period of a game that was already lost. Lucic took the cheap shot like a man and went back to the bench to have the cut on his left cheek worked on while Komisarek was getting ejected from what was likely his last game in a Montreal sweater.
People tend to forget that Lucic is 20 years old and this is all a learning experience for him going forward. That experience is going to make him a better player in the long room. There are going to be moments when his on-ice temper will be tested again. It’s a fine line between defending yourself when a player is taking liberties and engaging in a suspension-worthy “match” type activity, and Lucic is learning the difference between the two during this postseason. It’s a little scary to think how good he could be in a couple of year’s time in all areas of his game.
Looch needs to know with a 4 goal lead it would be wiser to just drop the gloves and lay the smack down on someone getting in his face. The Habs will just turtle anyway after the first shot and you get kicked out of game with no suspension. Drop the gloves and the STICK and every one will be a little safer!
JH: Agreed Mike. If Lucic had dropped the stick and thrown a right-hand at Lapierre like the one that he dusted Mike Komisarek with in Game 4, then this wouldn’t have even been a discussion. But the young kid learned a valuable lesson in the process and the Bruins – once again – were good enough to overcome missing one of their key pieces in a big game. That’s called turning a negative into a positive, and it's something the B's have specialized in this season.
I’m going to go gouge out Colin Campbell’s eye and see if he thinks I’ve crossed the line…Ohhhhh Yeahhhhh!
JH: Colin Campbell has rebounded after a shaky start, but I’m still scratching my head about the non-suspension of Mike Cammalleri after he cold-cocked Martin Havlat with an elbow during a faceoff in the Blackhawks/Flames series.
Campbell’s main argument seemed to be that Cammalleri isn’t a goon with a past history, so he doesn’t deserve a punishment – beyond a two-minute minor – for ignoring the game situation and attempting to take Havlat out of the game when he was one of Chicago’s most effective players.
There’s always been something of a weird, informal, backroom-deal kind of feel to Campbell’s disciplinary rulings when things get out of hand in the NHL, and the consistency has certainly been lacking. His rambling, defensive explanation on Hockey Night in Canada with Ron McLean a few weeks back was must-see TV if you’re looking for rocket-fueled ammunition against Campbell.
I’d certainly be in favor of some kind of disciplinary committee -- that included an NHLPA representative – as part of a ruling body that convened to discuss all suspensions rather than one having one person at the controls. You would expect that a group of three to five people would be able to cover all corners of a particular incident without the personal bias that can sometimes cloud one person making blanket rulings. Not saying that Campbell is biased or uses the “Old Boy Network” to make his decisions, but a few more voices in concurrence would wipe away that perception.
So, until that happens, feel free to gouge away to your heart’s content, Punchy!
Lucic is a 20-year-old kid who’s been turning the other cheek after being hacked, chopped and thumped after the whistle for two games, and who watched a teammate barely miss having his head handed to him. (Not to mention that he had his eye almost clawed out, and believe me, I saw it. I was there.) I’ll cut him some slack.
I don’t think this helps the Canadiens. It’s not going to give them free reign; if they keep up their “intimidation” tactics, they’re still going to end up in the PB. If anything, this keeps the Bruins from becoming complacent, which they have shown a tendency to do at times.
JH: Good call, Char. They were able to overcome, and the Canadiens’ strategy to try pushing around the Bruins now seems like a real head-scratcher. They probably didn’t have a choice given that they were missing Andrei Markov, Robert Lang, and Mathieu Schneider, among others, but I think Bob Gainey might have gotten the message from the disapproving unwashed Montreal masses when they were chanting “Guy, Guy, Guy” and “Carbo, Carbo, Carbo” in honor of fired coach Guy Carbonneau in the third period of Game 4 at the Bell Centre. It looks as if Gainey is going to stay on and will have plenty of money to spend this offseason with many of their 10 UFAs not returning, but there's a lot of work to be done with the Habs.
Maybe Gainey got the message from the fans throwing the white waving towels at both him and the Habs players while they were waiting to shake hands on the ice following the game. Maybe that was it.
You can argue either way regarding Lucic’s actions but the underlying point is that you have someone like Cammalleri doing what he did with not a peep from Campbell and the previously mentioned crap by Montreal with no consequences. It begs the question, where is the consistency??? Why don’t you or your colleagues who have access to question the powers that be force them to justify this??? Fans can write in to you all they want but most would rather see/hear Bettman/Campbell etc. be questioned hard on these types of decisions. Their positions are indefensible.
JH: I’ve already seen the answers to the questions by Bettman and Campbell. They’re just as indefensible, and twice as confusing. Some penalties like the Donald Brashear six-game suspension make perfect sense, and are a sterling example of hockey discipline working at its best. The Cammalleri incident is Campbell and Co. at their worst. It shouldn’t matter who the player is if they’re throwing elbows in the faceoff circle designed to take a player out. What can’t be defended is putting three straight questions marks at the end of sentences. C’mon Peter. You’re better than that.
I have heard unsubstantiated reports that the Lucic penalty was not originally called a "Match" infraction and it was changed after the Game. Is this true? Or is it just an error in communication between the off-ice and on-ice officials? If it was changed who did so and for what purpose?
JH: It was changed after the game. To my knowledge, the refs have the ability to look at the tape following the game and make it a “match” penalty if there’s an egregious “intent to injure” found in the actions of a player. It was originally a five-minute major for high-sticking that was changed to a “match” penalty after a review of the tape.
I didn’t have any problem with that or the ultimate one-game suspension for Lucic that was handed down. It was a retaliation act against a Canadiens troublemaker, and those are the ones that get caught and called 100 percent of the time. Luckily, there were no ramifications against a hobbled Canadiens team – but mistakes like that will have far greater consequences as the competition gets better the deeper that Boston plays this spring.
You want to give up that quickly on a 35-goal guy in Kessel? How about we keep both Krejci and Kessel, then turn around and get something for Patrice Bergeron. I like Patrice but he is not the player we all thought he might be. Actually Krejci is the player we thought Bergeron would be. You hate giving up on a guy who is talented and has been through so much but the bottom line is the bottom line. I would have to say if Bergeron performs at a different level during the playoffs than the regular season I would back away from my stance. I look for the likes of Krejci, Lucic and Kessel to be the key to the B’s success in the postseason: Kessel to provide the scoring, Lucic banging bodies making room for others, then Krejci doing all the little things that make him the assassin that he is.
One Stonehamite to another. I just think people just say get rid of Kessel too easily around here. Remember Harry Sinden used to say, “We can get two or three guys with less talent to combine for his production.” Sorry Harry that never worked for you when you did it. The Bruins of the Sinden and O’Connell regime always complained of secondary production and the lack of it. Well now you have a certified 30 goal scorer in Kessel and by the way he missed a better part of a month and was slow finding his scoring touch in the second half. It’s one thing replacing bottom-six forwards. Top-three forwards you hang onto. You have guys like Krejci, Wheeler and Lucic rounding out your secondary scoring. Oh yeah Marco Sturm will be back next season, that’s an additional 20-30 goals.
Its time for nasty time…B’s in five!
JH: I think you could be right Crup. The more goals that Phil Kessel scores this spring, the less likely it is that he’s going to be wearing a different sweater next season. In a crazily hypothetical world, how could the B’s trade away a potential Conn-Smythe winner if they were to win the Cup this spring?
After the first round, Kessel is the most likely candidate for the award among those wearing a Spoked B sweater. There’s no reason to think the game-breaking speed and shot are going to disappear in the ensuing rounds of the playoffs.
Bergeron really returned to previous form starting in the last month or six weeks of the regular season, and the one thing he mentioned to me was that he feels comfortable now “holding on to the puck for that extra second where you can make some plays out on the ice.”
That confidence to patiently hold the puck and wait for plays to develop was basically the final piece for a player who was already playing good fundamental defense – and has been Boston’s best faceoff guy all season long. Bergeron has a big $4.75 million cap number, but you’re not likely to get good value for the 23-year-old center coming off a mediocre season returning from last year’s concussion. The fact that Bergeron has played some really physical hockey in the playoffs is encouraging as well, and shows that he's climbed over every hurdle following a head injury. Plus, Bergeron is one of the exceptional young leaders in the Bruins dressing room, and that shouldn’t be undervalued.
One name you haven’t mentioned, but should: Marc Savard and his $5 million contract. If the Bruins win the Cup this season and decide they need to keep all their young assets, there’s a distinct possibility the Bruins could look to deal Savard this summer before he becomes a free agent after next season. David Krejci showed at the end of last season that he has the offensive ability and puck skills to be the triggerman on the top PP unit and first scoring line when that time comes. Whoever it is, there will be a big cog from this Bruins team that won't be back in the Boston fold next season due to the salary cap.
To paraphrase the Immortal Bruce Campbell in Army of Darkness, "Hey Montreal, what's that on your face?"
That would be a shovel full of dirt, because Les Habitants are dead and buried.
Short of seeing a member of the Black and Gold take Lord Stanley's Cup from the commissioner, is there any sight more satisfying to Bruins fans than seeing the Habs’ home turn into a mausoleum at the end of a playoff series? The subtext of revenge was even more delicious as Montreal exile Michael Ryder should be heretofore always mentioned by his first middle and last name as he absolutely assassinated his former team. Ryder shoots, he scores!
Back and to the left, back and to the left.
Every time Ryder took a shift they should have played the theme from Halloween, as he was Michael Meyers in a B's sweater: methodical, unrelenting and utterly unconscious in his pursuit of merciless vengeance. This made Bob Sweeney terrorizing the B's during their first-round sweep at the hands of the Sabers in 1993 look like a bad crank call.
And the fans of the Canadiens, showed their team they possess all the loyalty of a "Survivor" contestant. With no other national anthem performances scheduled to boo, the frustrated Francophones resorted to harassing Bob Gainey and Carey Price. In short it was almost a perfect night. The Bruins advance and the Habs are left with Humiliations Galore!
But you know Joe, even though I have enjoyed nothing better than the Habs’ total capitulation in 4 games, there comes a time when people need to unite and take a stand against a threat to all that is good and right in the world, and now is the time. The cases of Spontaneous Turtling in Montreal have become so virulent and widespread that not even the Main Event of a UFC pay per view was immune to the affliction.
Ju-Jitsu fighter Thales Leites' repeatedly flopping on his back to avoid damage was met with a chorus of boos. Now if only Leites was wearing a Habs sweater, he would have been hailed as a conquering hero. Has the frenchification of the once proud Ville-Marie gotten so bad that even the "A Clockwork Orange" Ultra Violence of the UFC isn't safe?!? This is getting to be worse than SARS!
I’ve got to say I loved the "Great Debate" with you and Felger going mano-a-mano for Bruins supremacy. It's like Luke vs. Obi wan, the former Master of the Bruins beat who cut his teeth in struggles against Darth Sinden, against the new disciple of the knights of the Spoked B.
It's a welcome throwback to days of old, without the UHF-esque reception issues. Now I can't say I was a fan of Felger doing his best "Ordway shuffle" in saying that he thought that the Bruins were going to win, but thought that the Habs could beat them. As far as stands go, this wasn't exactly an Alamo moment for Felgie, especially now that, in a moment of pure elation after the sick Krejci/Ryder goal he proclaimed, “They’re going to win the [expletive] cup!”
I am worried Joe. Is Felger slowly getting soft on us?
And, my boy Mikey's plea to “forget the hate” seemed to be misguided at first as the Bruins used controlled rage to win the first two games of the series and also, mostly controlled themselves in the face of typical Montreal skullduggery. Please note I said mostly.
As it turns out, Mahatma-Felger's plea to turn the other cheek may have been more prophetic than pathetic. Lucic's split second lack of focus on what was the correct course of action during a 5-1 drubbing is exactly what this team didn't need. Ultimately, in the playoffs, you have to keep an even keel, even in the face of the persistent douchebaggery that is the hallmark of the bleu, blanc et rouge.
With Sean Avery and the Rangers looming on the horizon, owners of a 3-2 lead over the goalie-impaired Capitals, we need to see more of the Messiah-like restraint that Lucic showed when he didn't respond to Komisarek's crosscheck at the end of game 4. Just file these incidents away and settle the tab next season. Remember, even after the Kris Draper incident, the Red Wings waited until the next season to collect on Claude Lemieux.
And before I let you go Joe, I hear that you have recently become tight with a certain celebrity chef. Can you do me a favor and ask him to see if he can bring back Roller Coasters?
--Mike from Attleboro
JH: I’m going to pass along the Roller Coaster’s request to the great Chef Formerly Known as Boyardee, Mike.
At this point, I think the Bruins have to be praying that they get cheap-shotting Sean Avery, bottle-tossing John Tortorella and the rest of the Blueshirts brigade readying for battle on Tuesday night. I just don’t see it though. I see a semi-final matchup with Sid the Kid, Bill Guerin, Geno and – gulp – Hal Gill. The revenge factor that local guy Gill can exact on a Bruins fan base that used him as a lumbering whipping boy is absolutely off-the-charts should the Penguins and B’s tangle starting this weekend.
The sight of Gill with hands raised in victory on the Garden ice wearing a Pens sweater is enough to keep Bruins fans up at night screaming for their hockey mama. I say Penguins take out the Bruins in seven games, and the NHL gets their Ovechkin/Crosby matchup in the Conference Finals. Just don’t shoot the messenger.