Archive for December, 2010

Negative Creep

December 29, 2010

Last night’s 4-3 win in Tampa Bay against an extremely decent Lightning team gave the Bruins two consecutive road wins on back-to-back nights and 3 wins in a row overall. Thay have lept over the Canadiens for the Northeast Division lead. Steve Kampfer scored his first NHL goal. Mark Recchi scored the game-winner on a power play resulting from a questionable boarding call on superstar Steven Stamkos with just 19 seconds left in the game.

All is right with the world. Right?

Not so fast. I feel like there are still a lot of troubling issues with this Bruins team right now. Let us discuss.

Line combinations. Everyone is talking about the reuininting of the Krejci-Wheeler-Ryder like it’s some sort of revelation, a genius move that sparked the offense. While they have showed some of the chemistry from a few years back in these initial games I feel like it’s not the best move in the long term because of what it’s done to the other lines.

Marc Savard is not ready to be a first line center in the NHL again. Not yet, anyway. The first line that had been so effective has been flat of late and, while Milan Lucic continues to generate scoring chances, Nathan Horton seems to have gone completely cold and I see no connection whatsoever between the two wingers and their new center. If there was a need to switch Krejci out of that spot to fire up his game then I think the more effective Patrice Bergeron should have been moved into that spot, as he was when Krejci was injured.

Meanwhile, Tyler Seguin is seeming a bit lost out there, a man without a spot, now riding the wing with Bergeron and Recchi who work reasonable well together. Seguin doesn’t seem to fit on that line, really. Guys who grind, work hard and are responsible defensively and a youngster who is all speed and potential offense. It doesn’t work for me and it seems Julien has slotted the young forward there as a default position because there are no other slots. I’m thinking even Daniel Paille would look better on that line.

What’s the solution? Why not give Savard and Seguin another chance together and limit their ice time? Keep Recchi with them. The old guy could use the rest. It’s a potentially dangerous offensive unit if used correctly, against other team’s lesser units. Meanwhile, more productive centers like Bergeron and Krejci are paired with more productive wingers.

More negative thoughts from your favorite font of bitterness.

Milan Lucic needs to be more of a leader. It would seem he was built for the role, a big, physical winger who can score and inspire the team. However, what I see from him these days is less hitting, less physicality and more whining. A half season as a successful goal-scorer seems to have gone directly to his head and the hard-working, buzzing, emotional leader has been replaced by a guy who, because of his reputation for on-the-edge dirty play and his constant whining to the refs, is getting called for a lot of penalties lately. He may be young but he’s been around long enough to understand his role as a potential leader here. The team needs more from him in that department.

Leadership on the whole is an issue with this team. Guys in place who are supposed to fill that role just seem too passive to me. Chara, Bergeron, Lucic, Horton. Veterans all and the team’s best players but guys who seem to do things too quietly. For some reason, also, I feel like no one in that room is going to listen to Marc Savard in that role. Another guy who just does too much whining on the ice.

Again, we wonder about the personell on the team. Ryder, Wheeler, Krejci. Quiet quys. Skilled players but lacking in that grit and fire that Bruins fans long to see.

In the end there remains something unsettling about this current Bruins team. Perhaps it’s PTSD from last year’s playoff collapse. I feel unconvinced that this is the team that can take us to the Promised Land and the Holy Chalice that awaits there. It seems it’s all about character right now or lack thereof.

Where can we find some?

Advertisements

That’s The Spirit

December 24, 2010

Two seconds into the game the tone was set. Shawn Thornton, who would end up with two goals and earn 1st Star of the game for his scoring and his emotional lift, went toe to toe with Eric Boulton in a great, epic bout right on the spoked B at center ice. Everybody in the building knew it was going to happen. Boulton sure did. He had his helmet strap on so tight he’s lucky he wasn’t asphyxiated.

Much later would come the real highlight of the game. After the B’s had built a solid 4-1 lead and, with under 5 minutes to go in the game, Freddy Meyer came up high on a hit on Milan Lucic and Andrew Ference jumped in to defend his teammate. All hell broke loose and and old time line brawl ensued.

Lucic is going to be in trouble for what he did there, no doubt. Meyer’s hit was questionable and Lucic was looking for blood but there’s little doubt the NHL will take a harsh view of his actions there. He explains, however, that there’s a history behind it and that his retribution against Meyer were not a result of this one high hit. Regardless of his punishment, he’s hopeful the fire the team showed will carry over.

“It was a high hit for sure. I was bleeding from the lip and after a hit like that…I mean that was the second time he has done that. He’s hit me late. He’s hit me cheap. Now that’s the second time. I mean, you can’t give a guy a free pass too many times, but I’m happy that we stuck together as a group and as a team.

“You say you haven’t seen it in a while. The last time it happened here was against Dallas two years ago. We kind of took off and won twenty-two of our next twenty-four games. So hopefully the guys feel pretty good about the big win tonight. For me personally it’s a match penalty, so I will do whatever I can to face the consequences.”

There will be consequences, no doubt. The league might attempt to ensure Lucic doesn’t play next week when these two teams meet again by giving him a multiple game suspension. In the minds of many, however, it will all be worth it. Let’s be honest, the B’s needed a game like this badly. People who don’t understand hockey might think it all a bit brutal but this kind of thing can be great medicine for a slumping team. If they take it to heart.

It was good to see Nathan Horton swinging away with Evander Kane. Marc Savard has to be insane for engaging like that with no helmet on. Ference seemed unfazed by the blood.

All in a day’s work.

Can’t wait to see next Thursday’s rematch.

Do It Your Way, Go Down Blazin’

December 20, 2010

For those not lucky enough to catch this Saturday night on Hockey Night In Canada and Coach’s Corner, check out DJ Steve Porter‘s awesome Don Cherry Remix.

How about, eh? Frikkin’ beautiful. Of course, it’s doesn’t even come near to the excellence that was the Hockey Rap on Don Cherry’s Rock’Em Sock’Em 5.

Krejci Drops ‘Em

December 17, 2010

Well, considering it was a 4-3 loss to the hated Montreal Canadiens, last night’s game was pretty entertaining and certainly easier to swallow than the previous one against Buffalo. The highlight of the game, for this knuckledragger anyway, was the improbable scrap between David Krejci and Mike Cammaleri, both non-fighters and their respective team’s offensive stars. Take a gander.

I like the square off. Krejci moves in with the same slow calmness he seems to use in playmaking situations. Offers to drop the helmet and visor but Cammaleri wants to hang on to the protection. It’s a win for Krejci as he landed the only punches of the fight and bloodied the Habs’ scorer. The good folks at hockeyfights.com agree.

Someone needs to help me identify the commentator in that clip, however, so monsterously uninformed that he refers to Krejci as a Bruins’ “tough guy”. Seriously? Did you get the job yesterday and maybe come over from calling indoor lacrosse? Was this the first time you were inside an NHL arena? New to Canada, are you?

How can you call a game between the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens and not know who David Krejci is?

And if being beaten up by a smallish, playmaking European skill player in his first ever fight in the NHL is a “moral victory” for Mike Cammaleri…?

Then it’s going to be one hell of a boost to his ego when he fights Sergei Samsonov, that’s for sure.

Slow Days

December 16, 2010

Pardon the reduced pace of HGW lately. Seems the Holiday Crunch is affecting my energy and attention a bit (lovely time of year – stress, insanity, traffic, mobs of mouth-breathing jerks in your way everywhere you go – Merry Effin’ Christmas, as I always say). I’m watching as much hockey as I can, I just can’t seem to find the extra time to write too much about it at the moment.

A few catch-up thoughts, however.

  • Last night in Buffalo was a bit frustrating. Not just because of the bad calls, and there were many. I never want to be someone who goes all knee-jerk and blames a loss on the refs unless it’s horrific and blatant. It was more the B’s lack of urgency, especially on the power-play. For the second straight game they were given a game-changing man advatage opportunity and went flat (see the 5-minute major against the Flyers). I promise a more in-depth diatribe on the B’s power play woes which, I believe, are dragging the team down of late. I’ve talked about it forever , it seems, but a full blown rant is due. Suffice to say Claude Julien will be mentioned extensively in that.
  • Then there’s the ongoing questions about the Bruins’ “fire”. Michael Felger on The Sports Hub questioned Cam Neely about it directly on his weekly radio appearance a few days ago and, while choosing his words carefully, certainly seemed to suggest more would be better in the intensity department. He deflected suggestions that some of the team’s conservatism is a reflection of the coach’s personality but you can’t help wondering if he’s looking for higher levels of testosterone. I’ve always said they play better when ornery.

    Case in point, in Buffalo, they waited until the final buzzer had sounded to show some righteous hatred and, by then, it was too late. And here’s a tip for 6′-2″ 230 lb. Nathan Horton. When a potential line brawl erupts and a guy like Cody McCormick goes after your star center recently returned from a devastating concussion? When said star is laying on the ice trying to protect his fragile skull with both hands while an out of control gorilla is attemting to rip it off of his neck?

    Go ahead and drop the stick and gloves.

    I mean, why not? The buzzer sounded and you don’t really need them anymore, right? Might as well have those hands free to protect a vulnerable teammate from an all-out goon attack.

    Sheesh.

  • Went to that game Saturday against Philly, by the way, and, as pointed out by my Columbus Blue Jackets watching compadre Gonz who is quite familiar with Jody Shelley, the man is not a dirty player. I don’t know exactly what happened on that icing even though I was about 12 feet away from where Adam McQuaid hit the boards but I think Shelley’s reaction was immediate and genuine. He wasn’t trying to hurt McQuaid. Might have made a poor decision to go in so hard on a play where he had no chance but so be it. He even went so far as to wait for Adam off the ice and apologize. As far as I’m concerned, that and the 2-game suspension are enough.

    The real fun of the evening was taking my 6-year old daughter in to the game and visiting Faneuil Hall to see all the lights and festivities before hand. A glittering, frosty wonderland it was and the little lady had wide eyes and a rosy cheeked smile plastered on her face. After the game, as we’re walking back to our car she stops me and says, “Dad, I love going to the Big B’s games. I was too embarassed to say it during the game with everyone around but – I love you, Dad.”

    Cue my heart melting. Pan slowly backward from a scene atop some granite steps in a wind-swept, empty Boston Government Center and a man with slightly damp eyes bending down to give his little girl the biggest goddamned hug ever.

  • There’s all the Holiday Spirit I need right there, folks.

    The Death of WEEI

    December 4, 2010

    As a follow-up one of my more ranting articles, The Last Days of WEEI, posted almost a year ago now, I thought I’d share some recent developments that I thought were interesting concerning the current state of sports talk radio in Boston. As reported by the Boston Herald, WEEI is now being thoroughly thrashed in the ratings by upstart 98.5 The Sports Hub almost across the board in the key demographics of 25-54 year old males and 18-49 year old males. WEEI is the home of the Red Sox and Celtics broadcasts while The Sports Hub hosts the Bruins and Patriots.

    What is tells me is that I am not alone in my distaste for the way WEEI has chosen to conduct themselves in recent years. Old fart radio with a clear, heavy political bent versus hardcore sports talk with a younger, hipper, funnier approach (and an FM signal on a highly recognizable station) is obviously winning out.

    Decidedly.

    It’s how it should be. When a listener such as myself, loyal to the station for nearly 20 years, decides he’s has enough and leaves you for good, you know you’re doing something essentially wrong to the format that, for so long, was so successful. Whoever it is that allowed the right wing politics to permeate the airwaves and diluted the sports talk (if indeed they haven’t already been fired) must now see that the Writing Is On The Wall. Listeners like myself have jumped ship in droves and continue to do so.

    And guess what? There’s no going back. After listening to 98.5 for an extended time, any brief switch back to WEEI feels like going back in time to something old, worn out and stale. The stench of death is in the airwaves.

    Amusingly enough, the only WEEI daytime show still beating 98.5 is the Dale and Holley Show, the least political, most balanced and most informative show on their airwaves. There’s a message there, if anyone at WEEI is bright enough to understand it.

    As the current trend has revealed, that seems to not be the case.

    Stamping Tampa

    December 2, 2010

    boston bruins

    I’m pretty sure I heard Jack Edwards have a couple of actual on-air orgasms during the Bruins wildly entertaining 8-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning at home tonight. In fact, after Mark Recchi scored the team’s seventh goal, he leapt from the broadcast booth into the stands and was body surfing the TD Garden crowd in a crucifiction pose. It was that much fun.

    Some noteworthy events besides the offensive explosion and Edwards’ manic revelry.

  • The return of Marc Savard. He didn’t look too bad, actually, and I find myself drooling over what he and Tyler Seguin could possibly do skating together. That’s a shit-load of quickness and talent working together. Add in the reborn Michael Ryder and suddenly the B’s have another wickedly dangerous scoring line. Certainly tonight was a massive tease in that respect. We’ll see how it develops.
  • Dennis Seidenberg’s sleight of hand goal to make it 2-0 just before the end of the 1st was a little slice of genius, faking Mike Smith out of the net on a supposed dump-in that he fired right on goal before Smith could adjust. Love goals like that. Makes the goaltender look like a right fool, that’s for sure.
  • A consistent, relentless attack and regular displays of real emotion from the entire team. They looked on the same page, finally, from the opening face-off where Shawn Thornton was jousting and yapping with David Tyrell. Chara had a big hit and played well. Lucic was an ongoing concern. Boychuck busted out that cannon of a shot from the point. Seemed like the entire team came to play physically. A beautiful thing to watch and it leaves one dreaming of more of the same. The B’s play like that they will sure as hell win a lot more than they lose. Hopefully, they understand that now.
  • David Krejci was dominant. Masterful with the puck. When he’s on his game he makes it look absolutely effortless. Total control, easy little plays that either spring other’s for genuine scoring chances or create his own. I think his recovery from his own concussion may be complete now as he becomes less tenative and feels more comfortable out there. He looked good tonight.
  • All in all one of the more entertaining games I can remember seeing in ages.

    Now somebody go call Jack Edwards from out of the rafters where he’s been swinging around the banners screaming like an out of control chimpanzee. It’s time to turn the lights out so the Bull Gang can go home.

    Sturm To Los Angeles?

    December 2, 2010

    UPDATE: Some serious questions about whether or not this trade will actually be consummated. Is it dead or is it just being delayed? Methinks the answer will not be provided until tomorrow. TSN has retracted their story on the deal.

    marco sturm

    Thanks for that goal in The Classic, Marco. Good luck in L.A.

    Amidst the speculation that Marc Savard will return to the Bruins’ line-up tonight at TD Garden versus the Tampa Bay Lightning , B’s brass seems to have cleared the final salary cap hurdle from their books by trading oft-injured wing Marco Sturm, and his $3.5 million dollar cap hit, to the Los Angeles Kings.

    It was that easy?

    After all that hullabaloo about the B’s salary cap woes it took two somewhat smallish, non-impact moves to get things into the clear. I know that Sturm, when healthy, can be a significant player (but when was the last time he was?) and that Hunwick showed some promise (that he never really delivered) but let’s be honest. Will anyone here really miss either of them?

    Not when the gentlemen previously though to be potential salary cap casualties, i.e. Blake Wheeler, Michael Ryder and Tim Thomas, have essentially played their way into key components of this current team.

    And who the hell would have thought that last season?

    Not me, I full admit.

    The fact is they have, though. Wheeler seems to have “got it” this season. How to use his size and speed and defensive instincts to become, at the least, a very effective, contributing 3rd line winger and possibly more. Ryder, meanwhile, has rediscovered his shot and his offensive instincts and has clicked fairly well with prize prospect Tyler Seguin. Tim Thomas? What do I need to even say?

    All of that made Sturm and his questionable knees (and his hefty salary) very much expendable. The Kings, meanwhile, have about $3.6 million still available under the cap and have essentially made themselves a very early trade deadline style addition. A veteran scoring presence with one year left on his deal. If Sturm pans out it’s an exellent acquisition for them.

    Works pretty well for everyone, eh?

    Unless Ryder and Wheeler go completely cold, that is. Then come back here for some blatant hindsight bitching from yours truly.

    What? You know by now how shameless I am.

    More Jack Edwards Haiku

    December 2, 2010

    From the broadcast of tonight’s 3-0 shutout win over the Flyers in Philly.

      good night irene
      it’s three-zero and there’s not going to be
      a comeback tonight

    Tim Thomas now leads the league in all goaltending categories once again and earns his 5th shutout of the season. Milan Lucic leads the Bruins in goals with 11.

    Good win, exorcising some of last season’s demons but, more importantly, coming out with a decent start and playing hard from the first drop of the puck to the last buzzer.

    Not too much to ask after all, was it?