Not So Big, Not So Bad, Not So Bruins

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BIg Bad Bruins TD Garden Boston

There’s a sign (pictured above) that’s been hanging on the exterior of the TD Garden in Boston all season that reads “Big and Bad are Back”. It’s an ad trying to capitalize on the buzz created last season by the Bruins success and, perhaps more so, the image they created as a close knit, old school type of team that stood up for each other on the ice, ready and willing to scrap at a moment’s notice whenever it was needed.

There has been a lot of talk lately about how that has changed this season and a lot of head scratching by folks trying to figure out why. The key example being, of course, the fact that no one on the team retaliated againt Matt Cooke on Sunday when he blindsided the team’s best player, Marc Savard, and knocked him cold. Besides a bit of squawking and pushing, no one did a thing. As Savard was carted away on a stretcher Matt Cooke stood idly by chatting with a linesman.

This hasn’t been sitting too well with folks around here.

Stanley Cup of Chowder asked “Where was the reaction?” Doug Flynn puts the entire team in his Sin Bin, citing exactly which players were on the ice when Savard was clocked and then which were out there when Cooke took his next shift after the incident. In contrast, Matt Kalman approves of the B’s “measured response” but he remains in the minority.

Mike Felger and Tony Massaroti led a scathing, ranting discussion on 98.5 the Sports Hub yesterday questioning the team’s unity and courage, pointing out that this sort of thing wouldn’t have happened last season. They had on ever quotable B’s play by play guy Jack Edwards who, while admitting he wished the B’s had reacted, blamed the NHL and the instigator rule for creating an atmosphere where hits like this can happen more frequently. Of course, he also called for the Bruins to target Sidney Crosby as a response, saying “You’ve got to take nine teeth out of Crosby’s face!”

A lot of people referenced the Dallas game last season when the team gained some serious momentum by standing up to chippy tactics by Matt Cooke Award runners up Steve Ott and Sean Avery.

Let’s replay that, actually, for a reminder. Do yourself a favor and watch this all the way through if you haven’t seen it in a while.

What a great game. What a great, fucking game. Set the tone for an entire season, I think. And did you see who was leading the charge, there? Who it was that jumped in on Sean Avery when he boarded Milan Lucic and sparked that brawl?

Marc Savard.

I wonder, now, if he feels a little betrayed by some of those same players he was sticking up for right there.

So what has changed?

I wish I could answer that question for you but it befuddles me as much as anyone. Only one player highlighted in that Dallas game is missing from the 2009-10 version of the Bruins and that’s Shane Hnidy. Granted, he’s a tough, character guy and he’d step up for anyone but you can’t tell me Shane Hnidy’s absence has made that much difference from this team attitude on the ice and, more importantly, their locker room composition. Because the rumblings are, that’s where this problem stems from. We hear the words “divided locker room” here and there these days and I’m just not sure why that would be the case.

Character players of note missing this year are veterans P.J. Axelsson, Aaron Ward, Shane Hnidy, Steve Montador and Stephane Yelle (you can’t count Phil Kessel in a discussion like this). Chuck Kobasew, another spitfire type player, is also gone, traded to the Wild. In to replace those guys are Steve Begin, Daniel Paille, Dennis Seidenberg and Miroslav Satan.

Has this changed team composition so dramatically? Maybe. There’s a lot of collective experience and heart in those players who’ve departed and the one’s who come in haven’t quite shown as much, I don’t think.

Or has it come, as some suspect, from the coaching staff? Is Claude Julien holding his guys back in this department or, more passively, are they adopting his less than agressive personality. When Shawn Thornton declines a fight on the road, does that come from the Head Coach? Did it all start when he wouldn’t let Milan Lucic take on Georges Laraque and we had that whole embarrassing incident where BGL shadowed Looch around the ice for a game? Did things like that, as some suggest, snip the balls off the Bruins?

Julien’s whole “let the league handle it” attitude toward the Cooke hit on Savard is making a lot of people question his and this team’s approach to the game and whether it’s tough enough as people around here want and need. It’s clear Don Cherry thinks that’s the case based on his ranting comments about the Bruins last Thursday when the Leafs were in Boston. Though he was wrong about the Lucic Orr fight, was he right about the Bruins in general? Certainly this current Bruins team bears little resemblance to the lunch pail crew that he coached back in the late 70’s, the Big Bad Bruins.

As much as the advertising people down at the Garden would like to tell us so, they are not, in fact, back. Quite the opposite, based on Sunday’s game in Pittsburgh and the Matt Cooke fiasco. They seem to be missing in action.

Can they turn that around? I don’t know. I’m sure they are aware of the conversation by now and the disappointment of fans and media here in Boston. Tonight, in Toronto, will be their first chance to respond on the ice and, one would think, it could get interesting. Shawn Thornton might have something to say to Colton Orr. I hear Jay Rosehill has been called up and we know how willing he can be. Next Thursday, depending on suspensions (who knows what Colin Campbell will do when he ridiculously insists Cooke’s hit was shoulder…) they’ll have a chance for redemption against Pittsburgh.

Will it be too little too late?

The Bruins, by the way, have called up Jeff Penner from Providence for the game when big, bruising and willing-to-go Adam McQuaid was readily available which suggests to me that nothing here is about to change anytime soon.

Terry O’Reilly isn’t walking through that door, people.

And that’s a little sad.

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4 Responses to “Not So Big, Not So Bad, Not So Bruins”

  1. nightfly Says:

    I’d like to announce that I’m putting a personal bounty on the head of Tim McCracken. Five hundred bucks to the first one of my guys who really nails that sonofabitch!

  2. Ken Socrates Says:

    You’re avoiding my cannibalism question, aren’t you? That suggests to me the problem might be worse than I first thought. Those rumours about Doug Weight and the missing hot dog vendors…?

  3. nightfly Says:

    Heheheh. You gotta understand, he’s hurt a lot, he winds up in the press box, these concessions folks come around… I have to double-check, maybe Hannibal Lector’s joined the training staff. It would explain why Bruno Gervais has forgotten how to play in his own end – the Isles made him eat part of his own brain.

  4. gonz Says:

    If League Saviour Cindy Crysob ends up injured, it’s not going to lead to the Instigator Rule being struck down. I can foresee Bettman strictly penalizing any team that dare hurts He Who Must Be Exalted. I can also forsee the circus that could arise from said injury: Lemieux will weep on national TV about the many months he cleaved Crysob to his breast, the NHL Network will run hour-by-hour coverage on Crysob’s valiant struggle to regain his status as the Whiniest Captain In The League, and Colin Campbell will announce that Matt Cooke and Brooks Orpik have carte blanche to headshot, knee-on-knee, slew foot, and otherwise incapacitate every player in the league.

    You don’t fuck with the Empire.

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