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Dan Shaughnessy

To fans, job not getting done

By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / March 19, 2010

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The Bruins were beaten by the Penguins, 3-0, last night. There were a lot of boos when the locals skated off the ice at the finish. You would have thought Lou Merloni, Kevin Youkilis, and Boog Powell had been introduced.

“Booooooooo . . . ’’

Fans were incensed. In their view, the Bruins had failed on two counts. They had failed to get true revenge and they had failed to play hard to secure 2 points. In a season of lows, this was the bottom.

I thought the locals would be happy with the two fights we saw. At least the Bruins demonstrated a little pride and self-respect in defeat. They finally stuck up for Marc Savard.

Turns out it wasn’t enough. The atmosphere outside the Garden after the game was hostile. Fans were angry. Some said they would not come back again. One guy walked into West End Johnnie’s, took off his Marc Savard jersey, and gave it to the barmaid.

“I’m done,’’ he said. “This was it. No heart. No heart at all.’’

It was stunning. And unanimous, it seemed.

You would have thought the Bruins did themselves some good with the two bouts. No more talk of conscientious objectors on Causeway Street. No more Lady Byng All-Stars. If nothing else, it was a night when the lost boys of Causeway Street punched back.

Less than two minutes into the horrid loss, veteran winger Shawn Thornton dropped the gloves and took on Matt Cooke, the coward who cheap-shotted Savard into darkness a week and a half ago. Six seconds after Cooke vaulted over the boards, Thornton pounced and pummeled.

It wasn’t Ali-Frazier III. It wasn’t Mike Milbury crushing Rangers fans with a shoe bottom. It was more like Jason Varitek hoisting Alex Rodriguez into the air after shoving his mitt into A-Rod’s face. In the spirit of Lyndon Byers, Jay Miller, and a few of the 1970 Bruins swashbucklers who were in attendance, it was a demonstration that the Bruins will fight back. After 11 days of measured non-response — the kind of levelheaded thinking that infuriates the legions who love this team — it was old-fashioned payback for a dastardly deed that had gone unpunished.

There has been too much civility and political correctness about the 2009-10 Bruins. General manager Peter Chiarelli (“fight fiercely Harvard, demonstrate to them our skill’’) and coach Claude Julien keep talking about 2 points and playoff possibilities while most fans north of the Tobin Bridge are calling for blood and thunder and emotion from the team.

Yesterday morning, NHL discipline czar Colin Campbell came to the Hub in full Neville Chamberlain mode, reminding the Bruins to behave. A veteran officiating crew was assembled and the Bruins resisted the obvious urge to rent-a-goon for the evening.

Boston’s hockey gods of 1970 were honored before the game and a fellow named Bobby Orr said, “We might be put in jail,’’ when asked what the response would have been had Cooke tried his dirty tricks against the Bruins 40 years ago. Hearts beat fast when the likes of Derek Sanderson and Pie McKenzie emerged from the runway for a Stanley Cup bow.

We all know what those guys would have done with Cooke and we’re tired of hearing that the days of frontier justice are gone. That’s why it was a treat when Thornton went for Cooke while the ice was still fresh. The Bruins heavyweight gave Cooke a chance to toss off his helmet before the bout. Cooke declined, so Thornton clawed the shell off Cooke’s head, took him down, then delivered a couple of late rights for good measure. Both players were slapped with fighting majors and Thornton got an extra 10 minutes for late punches.

In the middle of the second, it was treetop captain Zdeno Chara going toe-to-toe with 6-foot-5-inch Penguins center Michael Rupp. Again, this was overdue. Chara hadn’t been accessed a fighting major this season and was one of those MIA when Savard was taken out in Pittsburgh. It’s as if all the fight was taken out of the Slovakian sequoia when he used J.D. Drew’s locker during the Winter Classic.

Not last night. Chara held Rupp at arms length, then bounced him to the ice.

“I was calling guys out, trying to get something going,’’ said Chara.

Amazingly, the Bruins had no other response on this night. They managed a pathetic 17 shots.

“You can’t win when you’re getting five shots a period,’’ said Milan Lucic.

“I don’t think we had energy all night,’’ said Thornton. “Not only after mine. I think after our captain steps up and comes to battle . . . he wanted to try and get the guys going and for us to not bring the energy after that was also disappointing.’’

Julien, sounding more out of touch each day, furnished an embarrassing laundry list of excuses for his team. Flu. Flights. Extra pressure over the Savard situation. It was pathetic.

Any way you cut it, the Bruins are in the throes of a wildly disappointing season. They only recently emerged from the abyss of irrelevance and are in danger of retreating to the land of the invisible. The Winter Classic made us Hockeytown for one glorious day, but most of the season has been five skaters in search of a goal. One year after compiling the best record in the conference (second overall in goals), the Bruins are flirting with the possibility of missing the playoffs.

Does it really matter anymore? You don’t have to be Don Cherry or Stan Fischler to see that these Bruins won’t be playing deep into the spring.

I wanted to say that last night was good because the Bruins finally punched back. But it was not good. Bruins fans are ever passionate and knowledgeable.

And they are furious.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com.

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