Chris Kelly joked earlier in the week that he didn’t think Jarkko Ruutu bit Andrew Peters back in 2009. It was a joke because no matter how obvious it is, teammates are going to stick up for teammates.
That theme came up after Nathan Horton was blindsided by Aaron Rome and hospitalized Monday night. While the disgusting 1980’s jacket (for the game’s MVP in the eyes of the Bruins) was hanging in Horton’s locker after the B’s 8-1 win in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals, guys in the other room weren’t just defending Rome, an action any teammate would take, they were defending the hit.
"I thought it was a very clean hit", said Manny Malhotra. "Just the timing was maybe a fraction off but all in all you see those hits on a daily basis throughout the league."
One person who didn’t see the hit: Nathan Horton. The winger had dished the puck a few strides earlier and had his dead down when Rome laid the dirty hit on him.
So while the Canucks call such an obviously suspendable case of Rule 48 “clean,” ones mind may wander to what happened when it was the Bruins had a guy (Daniel Paille) blindside someone (Raymond Sawada): two players, Andrew Ference and Patrice Bergeron, came out and said the league should do something about the play. Ference, the more vocal of the two, caught a ton of flak for calling out a teammate’s play in the way he did, but it was refreshing to see a player whose No. 1 concern was making the league safer.
Give Henrik Sedin credit for at least calling it “kind of a late hit.” These players aren’t being asked to throw their teammates under the bus, but it’s better to speak in generalities than to actually let on that you believe such a hit was clean. In addition to the fact that the Canucks don’t have a Ference type on their team, here are four other things we’ve learned from Game 3.
TURNS OUT TIM THOMAS DOES KNOW HOW TO PLAY
Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas was under a foolish amount of criticism for his style of play after the first two games. First, Canucks coach Alain Vigneault whined that he was playing outside of the crease too much because of the tripping penalty Alexandre Burrows took on the B's goaltender in Game 1. Then Thomas got it from the media when his play well outside the crease in overtime of Game 2 was on the long list of Bruins' mishaps that led to Burrows' game-winning goal.
Amidst all of it, it was laughable that Thomas and Julien suddenly started getting questions about whether this season's Vezina winner (technically "Vezina finalist" at this point) had to change his style of play and stay in the crease more. This was the same guy who broke Dominik Hasek’s single-season record for save percentage in the regular season (.938), and people were talking about him like he was the problem.
Well, Thomas played the same old crazy style, and he made all the right saves, in and out of the crease. As a special treat for the Canucks wishing Thomas would stay in the blue ice, he dropped Henrik Sedin in the crease with seven minutes left in the third period on a play that sent the Garden into a state of frenzy.
“I'm never going to critique a goalie, because those guys have the toughest job in hockey,” Shawn Thornton said after the game. “I didn't see people critiquing him when he set the record for save percentage, though. When you lose, people look for things. When you win, people look for things. We've done a good job all year of staying pretty even.”
BRUINS CAN SCORE (AND WIN) WITHOUT TYLER SEGUIN
Nobody's on a high horse here, but it’s pretty entertaining observing people freaking out whenever Claude Julien sits Tyler Seguin. When Seguin isn't playing, it's like he's a 21-year-old Wayne Gretzky. But when he's playing -- for the most part -- he's a 19 year-old Tyler Seguin: the most talented guy on the ice for a third-liner, but one who can't access it all yet.
One common line is "he can score every time he touches the puck." Technically, anybody can score every time they touch the puck, unless their team has a delayed penalty.
When Seguin could have easily touched a puck behind Luongo's net in Game 2 to prevent icing but instead slowed up and did the "sort of losing balance" dance that seems to be sweeping the nation among younger players, it seemed as good an indication as any that he was destined for the press box once again.
The issue, of course, with scratching Seguin is that you are removing a major talent when you sit him. His scoring touch is like anybody else's on the team, but there were too many instances of Seguin being removed from the play. So Claude made his decision.
The initial reaction? Plenty more stuff along the lines of "why would a team with two goals this series scratch their most talented scorer?" To some, Julien had lost the Bruins the Stanley Cup.
Eight goals later, the Bruins have outscored the Canucks in this series, 10-5. And with two shots on goal Monday, Thornton now has two more shots on goal than Seguin this series. His toughness and ability to draw a key penalty in the second period led to the Bruins’ second goal.
“He played a great game,” Dennis Seidenberg said of Thornton. “He brought us a physical presence, and he brought us energy. That’s what you want out of him.”
Now, with Seguin seemingly making his way back to the lineup with Horton seemingly out for a while, the Bruins can only hope he gets the same sort of jolt he got when he came in for the Lightning series (three goals in his first two games). If not, maybe people can remember that he’s still a developing player.
The guess here for what the Bruins will do with Horton out and Seguin in (expect the fourth line of Gregory Campbell between Thornton and Daniel Paille to stick):
Milan Lucic – David Krejci – Michael Ryder
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – Mark Recchi
Rich Peverley – Chris Kelly – Tyer Seguin
MARCHAND, AND OTHERS MIGHT NEED TO STEP IT UP
Some teams’ postseasons only last four games, so maybe Brad Marchand should consider himself lucky. The rookie, who finished the regular season fourth in goals for the Bruins, has taken four-game breaks from scoring this postseason, and he and the B’s have lived to tell about each one of them.
There have been three instances of Marchand going there games without a goal, and on Monday he proved for the third time that he doesn’t want those streaks to go five games. Marchand now has seven postseason goals, and the Bruins will be looking for more. Especially if Horton, whose injury one would have to guess is to the head, is out for a while, the other lines will need to step it up.
KESLER GOING FROM CONN SMYTHE TO CONN YIKES
Ask Shawn Thornton about fighting and it can bug him. Fighting is something he does, but he’ll tell you he doesn’t love talking about it.
Ask Tim Thomas about fighting, and he’ll go into technique. Yes, the man who breaks down plays perhaps better than anyone else in the Bruins’ room, can even discuss technique when it comes to a goalie fight.
Ask Seidenberg about fighting, and you’ll get the strangest answer of all.
“I don’t know how to fight,” Seidenberg said after Game 3, later adding, “I guess I have to start learning how to fight.”
The reason he had better start learning is because when he and Ryan Kesler had a brief go of it in the third period, Kesler got away with some extra stuff. When Seidenberg went down almost immediately in the tussle, Kesler continued to swing at him with right after right. After the night Kesler had, you could hardly blame him for losing his cool.
Kesler, whom many believed was on the fast track to the Conn Smythe with his postseason performance, started off the finals by making a beautiful play to poke a puck around Johnny Boychuk to set up Raffi Torres’ game-winning goal in Game 1. Since then, the Canucks haven’t seen the big plays from their second-line center. He fired off just one shot in Game 2, and he was on the ice for all four second-period Bruins’ goals on Monday.
The Bruins have been fortunate that the Sedin brothers haven’t really performed in this series. If they can really knock Kesler, who battled a groin injury last round, off his game, the B’s could be in good shape.