A thoughtful look back before we move ahead
Random thoughts, picked-up pieces, and vulcanized ruminations from someone who is about to cover the Bruins in the Stanley Cup finals for a fifth time (see: yellowed, tattered clips from 1977, ’78, ’88, and ’90).
Somehow, I get the feeling this one isn’t going to end like the other four. How ’bout you?
■Slightly lost in the delirium of a thrilling Cup run has been the fact that Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley (two of the most misspelled names in Cup history because of an ever-wandering or oft-misplaced “e’’), is the fact that both fulfilled everything general manager Peter Chiarelli and crew hoped for when they were added around the Feb. 28 trade deadline. As perfect as Friday night’s game plan and execution were, K-e-l-l-y and P-e-v-e-r-l-e-y were equally spot-on as acquisitions, illustrated by the fact that Claude Julien had them on the ice, flanking Patrice Bergeron, for the final 44 seconds. Unassuming. Solid. Old school. Just plain money. Characterized in this space as “40 Regulars’’ upon arrival, each now should be fitted for a working-man’s tuxedo.
■Like 15 other Boston skaters, Tyler Seguin didn’t leave Causeway Street with a point Friday night, but it was by far his best performance in a Black-and-Gold uniform. His line, centered by K-e-l-l-y and with Michael Ryder on the other wing, attempted a total of 11 shots. Seguin took seven and landed three on goal. The 19-year-old isn’t flinching like a bantam out there anymore, and he’s not swinging out of checks or ignoring battle situations. He finished with 10 more seconds of ice time than Nathan “GWG’’ Horton. Not likely we’ll see a better game from him in Round 4, but if we see the same, that’s plenty. Growth spurts typically come by the inch, not the yard.
■ Dwayne Roloson, take a bow, because you were the true No. 1 star (37 saves) in Game 7 (98.5 The Sports Hub made Horton No. 1, Tim Thomas No. 2, and Roloson No. 3). Much as with Thomas all season in the Boston net, the show would have been over midway through the second period if not for Roloson’s dazzling work. One e-mailer to this address late in the game referenced Ken Dryden. Not quite. But thanks, dear reader, for the on-demand heartburn.
■Admit it. If you are in, say, your late thirtysomethings or older, the words repeatedly running through your head as Game 7 grew older and remained 0-0 were, “Too . . . many . . . men . . . on . . . the . . . ice.’’ That’s just not going to go away, even with extended psychotherapy or random acts of exorcism. It’s just there. Forever. The Billy Buck of pucks.
■ I am still not convinced that was Bill Belichick, smiling like a giddy school kid and waving his Bruins rally towel, sitting in the stands, rooting tailgate-like for the Black-and-Gold. Nope. No way. And if it was, which I don’t believe to be the case, then there is something about the word “lockout’’ that the entire solar system should embrace. That’s just what it is, right? I still say it’s as fake as that decibel meter.
■Loved seeing the Thomas-Martin St. Louis buddy-hug in the postgame handshake line Friday night. “Go win a Cup,’’ MSL told his ex-Vermont teammate. The whole handshake line remains an endearing part of the game. Still gets me, seeing the conquered, most of them down on knees, staring from one end of the ice as the victors celebrate. Excruciating. I will never forget that look in Edmonton, 1984, with Islanders captain Denis Potvin kneeling on the ice at Northlands Coliseum, orange and blue balloons cascading down around him as the Oilers celebrated their first Cup.
■For as warped and outrageous as the sports universe has become, the 51-year-old Julien has to be admired for blocking out all the noise and rubbish, including fan and media criticism/scrutiny/blowhards (there is a slight but discernible difference) and sticking with a system he believes in and the players he believes can execute. Julien had every right to sit at the podium after Game 7 and stick out his tongue at a lot of people, especially the Stepford-like Seguin-ophants. Instead, he acknowledged the doubters and said all that mattered was team performance, his players, the fans. Class act. We take you now to the pertinent line in Rudyard Kipling’s “If’’: “If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken/twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools . . .’’
■Through three rounds, Thomas has been extraordinary only at times (see: Game 2 in Philadelphia), but often average and occasionally not near his Vezina standard. Overall, a B or B-plus for Tank. That said, his key postseason numbers are right there with Vancouver stopper Roberto Luongo (the suggested trade piece here years ago for Jumbo Joe Thornton). At the moment, I don’t see either of them owning the finals, not in a Dryden-Billy Smith-Grant Fuhr kind of way. Fine by me. It’s a much better game when the goalies have only the same influence on outcome as the rest of the stick-carriers. Note to league HQs: You really oughta do something about that. Recommendations furnished upon request.
■ Provided Causeway crooner Rene Rancourt gets the anthem call the rest of way (a double dip with the Canucks in town), he has to keep the shimmering gold bowtie for “The Star-Spangled Banner.’’ Outstanding. For “O Canada,’’ maybe switch to one fashioned out of a Canadian dollar? It’s worth more than our Yankee cash these days.
■OK, so here is Toronto GM Brian Burke’s final take for foisting Tomas Kaberle on the Bruins: 1. Former first-round pick Joe Colborne; 2. Boston’s first-round pick this season, No. 29 or 30; 3. A second-round pick in 2012 (figure something in the 40-50 range). That No. 3 piece was conditional, and it kicked in at precisely 10:41 p.m. when the Bruins became the Eastern Conference’s Cup finalist. Hey, some deals work, some don’t. It turned out to be far too much for the 33-year-old Kabber, whose 13:06 in ice time Friday night was the lowest among the defensive six-pack. Sure, his TOI would have been higher if the Bruins had been awarded a power play, but based on the last three months, those added minutes would have proven futile (see: Boston’s 5-for-61 postseason power play). Gross overpayment, unless we see something from Kaberle in the final 4-7 games of the season. Right church, wrong pew. Consider it all a donation to the Vatican of hockey and move on.
■During games in Vancouver, keep an eye on the spooky-looking Green Guys — full bodysuits, including covered heads — who taunt opposition players at the side of the penalty box. Sorry, those dogs just aren’t going to hunt with the Bruins in town. The whole thing has that Mike Milbury Madison Square Garden shoe-beating feel to it. And with Milbury in attendance as part of the NBC/Versus crew, it could be ol’ Microphone Mike himself who provides the hammertainment. The Green Guys go by the names “Force’’ and “Sully.’’ At the very least, the Bruins will have to counter by parking their giant “Bruins Rules’’ bear next to the Canucks penalty box for each game on Causeway. Sometimes, it’s just a look, a very long look.
In 18 postseason games, Thornton collected 3 goals and 17 points, his playoff production just about in lockstep with his regular-season work. The real letdown for San Jose was Dany Heatley, who notched a lone assist in the five games vs. the Canucks and finished a very mediocre 3-6—9 for 18 games.
Though derided as “gutless’’ by NBC/Versus commentator Jeremy Roenick earlier in the playoffs, Patrick Marleau displayed 5-2—7 pop in the five games against Vancouver.
The comp here for many years now for Thornton has been ex-NHLer Pierre Turgeon. Stunning how close Jumbo Joe and Sneaky Pete are in point production.
In 1,294 games, Turgeon had 515 goals and 812 assists for 1,327 points. That’s 1.02550 points per game.
In 995 games, Thornton has 306 goals and 695 assists for 1,001 points. He’s at 1.00603 points per game.
The delta there is a minuscule .01947, but the most significant difference is that goal total pace. It’s highly unlikely that Thornton will make it to 500. If he keeps his current pace, he’ll be around 400 when he reaches Turgeon’s 1,294 games. If he were just a bit more of a shooter, no telling how many Jumbo Cups the Sharks might already have won.
Violence on the brain Kudos to Buffalo News pal Bucky Gleason for an outstanding piece last week on ex-Sabres tough guy Matthew Barnaby, who says now that a lengthy history of fighting-induced concussions could be at the root of some health concerns (this after a domestic dust-up in suburban Buffalo). Gleason quotes Dr. Robert Cantu, the Boston/Concord concussion expert, who said that one day he would love for his Boston University-based Sports Legacy team to be able to study O.J. Simpson’s brain. Cantu mused that the former star Bills running back could suffer from CTE, brain degeneration that BU scientists grow ever more convinced is the product of concussive and subconcussive blows to the head. “I don’t know, but I really wonder,’’ said Cantu. “With his inability to handle frustrating circumstances, violence and all that stuff, it could be. It’s hard to know. I’m not suggesting I know the answer, but if and when the time comes, I would give anything for him to be on our registry.’’
Teaming up in Toronto? Still no official word that the league will return to Winnipeg, with Atlanta again to play Canada’s hard rubber incubator. Meanwhile, rumors circulated last week that a deep-pocketed Yank (is that you, Oprah?) wants to drop another team at the northern edge of Toronto, just out of the Sabres’ 100-mile “indemnity zone.’’ The Leafs likely would need a large dispenser of Prilosec to hold that idea down, but if New York City (Queens and Bronx included) can handle the Mets and Yankees, then hockey-loving TO can handle the Leafs and the TO-Be-Named-Laters. If the new club were added to the Western Conference, it one day could lead to an all-Toronto Cup final. Step No. 2: a National League baseball team to return to Boston, setting the stage for an all-Hub-of-Hardball World Series.
Never fishing for words Of all the coaches to take the podium for postgame chatter, Sharks boss Todd McLellan is among the more impressive. Answers the questions. Understands the necessary give and take. Responses with some meat on the bone. McLellan after seeing his Sharks go belly-up against Vancouver: “We’re going to get our butts back to training camp, where we’re going to work our butts right back to this spot again, and we’re going to make good on it next time.’’ And of Joe Thornton playing Game 5 with that injured shoulder: “I think it’s a tremendous step for him as an individual, and for us as an organization, to have your captain show up and play that way.’’
Mikita ailing Only days after the baseball world lost Harmon Killebrew to esophageal cancer, the Blackhawks announced that Chicago legend Stan Mikita would enter radiation therapy for early-stage oral (tongue) cancer. Initial prognosis is very promising for Mikita, 71, the Hall of Fame pivot who collected 1,467 career points. Mikita was an efficient, steady, clean-but-tough pivot, not as elegant on ice as, say, Jean Ratelle, but equally classy and poised. Later this year, a bronze likeness of Mikita and fellow icon Bobby Hull will be stationed outside the United Center. Mikita said he was “euphoric’’ when word of the statue was released, and that “it will take 100 years to take the smile off my face.’’
Loose pucks The Oilers still haven’t made public their No. 1 pick in the June draft, but betting continues that it will be either Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the Pavel Datsyuk-like center, or 210-pound Swedish blue liner Adam Larsson. The Oilers have many needs, but they have more promise among their forwards than their backliners. But if Nugent-Hopkins is another Datsyuk, passing on him could be the stuff of nightmares . . . Surprised to see 37-year-old Brian Rafalski call it quits, especially with one more year on his Red Wings deal at $6 million. But the slick defenseman had knee and back woes last year and, friends say, grew ever more eager to spend time with his family. Rumors around Hockeytown now have the Winged Wheels using his $6 million to mount a play for restricted free agent Shea Weber, but it’s inconceivable that the Predators would not match whatever gets put on his plate as of July 1 . . . In two weeks or less, we should know how high the bump will be over last season’s salary cap of $59.4 million. Look for something in the 6-7 percent range, something around $63.5 million.