Ten free minutes for me, 10 free throwaway lines for you ...
1. I'm not saying this year's Bruins are going to Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals or beyond; the playoffs are such a brutal grind of attrition, a test of mental and physical toughness, that playing deep in to the postseason is a hell of an achievement in itself. But I'll say this, after our appetite for the new season was whet with a preseason-opening win over the Canadiens: I like this team of Loui Eriksson and Jarome Iginla better than I liked last year's admirable Eastern Conference champs. And I was a big Nathan Horton guy.
2. Angry Tom Brady was about the most interesting thing in that Patriots-Jets Thursday night slop-fest. I suppose he should probably refrain from castigating his receivers every time they go east when they were supposed to go west, or else we're going to have to retract a lot of late-'80s jabs at Dan Marino. But given that when it comes to the playbook they're still learning to add 2 plus 2 while he's mastered advanced calculation, chances are strong he's right when their pass-routes turn into non-linear malfunctions. (Yeah, that's right, I've got math jokes.)
3. Not sure if there's any substance to it or it's just the New York tabloids doing their speculation thing, but the rumors are floating that the Yankees will target Stephen Drew to play shortstop next year. I feel for the Yankee minion who has to break the news to Derek Jeter that he's not Imperial Shortstop For Life. Maybe A-Rod will volunteer to do it.
4. Sunday's Mariano Rivera tribute was good fun, and it marks the second time his humility and good humor has made a moment at Fenway even better. The first, of course, was when he doffed his cap on Opening Day 2005 and laughed along with us at the mock cheer for his "contribution" to the Red Sox' 2004 championship. The second was Sunday night, when the Red Sox dwelled a beat or two too long on their own successes against Rivera, making some of us briefly wonder whether this was a celebration of him, or one of the Red Sox at his expense. He does have 58 saves against them in regular season alone. Surely one or two could have been acknowledged.
5. I'm not sure why Rob Ninkovich remains so underrated. Maybe it's because of his fifth-round-pick pedigree, or that he bounced around between the Dolphins and Saints before settling in New England. But there's little doubt to those of us who watch him every Sunday (or Monday, or Thursday) that he is nothing less than essential to the Patriots' defense, and in a similar way to all that the celebrated Mike Vrabel provided years ago.
6. The huge Celtics banner outside the pro shop at TD Garden/North Station now features ... Avery Bradley. Nice player, right, but in a related note, I'm setting the over/under for Celtics wins at 22. And leaning toward the under. Tell me again that this team has more pure talent than the 15-67 team of 1996-97.
7. I'd rather the Patriots be staring at a 3-3 record after six games than have them hurry Rob Gronkowski back to the field before they are 100-percent certain he is completely healed from his 87 offseason surgeries. They're 2-0, it's a long season, and for once it would be nice to have him healthy for the playoffs.
8. Curious if, after a year away, Tim Thomas turns out to be the full embodiment of Eddie Andelman's old gag about the merits of a super-sized goaltender.
9. Tell me that Xander Bogaerts -- he of the .816 OPS and better-than-expected defense -- is a lock for the playoff roster. He is, right? Right?
10. As for Today's Completely Random Baseball Card:
Twenty-three right fielders are in the Hall of Fame. By Jay Jaffe's terrific JAWS system, Guerrero rates roughly in the middle statistically among those 23. He clubbed 449 homers, posted a .931 OPS, won an MVP and finished in the top three three other times, had throwing arm that made the NRA envious, and his most-similar-by-ages list includes Willie Mays five times and Manny Ramirez and Duke Snider three times each. He retired this week. He'd get my vote in five years.
The first episode of "Behind the B,'' the 13-episode series that offers a behind-the-scenes look at the Bruins, debuted Monday night on NESN.
The social media reaction and the messages in my inbox this morning about the premiere, which began with Claude Julien consoling his team after their season-ending loss in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final, were overwhelmingly positive.
If you missed it, it airs again at 4 p.m. today and 7 p.m. Saturday. The date of episode 2 is still to be determined.
Episode 1 includes segments on new acquisition Loui Eriksson's first visit to Boston, the home lives of Milan Lucic and Jarome Iginla, and a round of golf with Tuukka Rask and David Krejci at TPC Boston.
The series is produced by the Bruins, so those who might have been skeptical of what all-access really meant were probably surprised by the level of candor, particularly when it came to team president Cam Neely and general manager Peter Chiarelli's discussions that preceded some of the team's more noteworthy transactions in the offseason.
But as I noted in last week's media column in the Globe, this is what Neely had in mind when he decided to have the Bruins produce such a program after he was so impressed with HBO's "24/7" production leading up to the Winter Classic during the 2010-11 season.
“I watched ‘24/7,’ my family was into it, my kids and my wife,’’ said Neely. “And for me, I felt like, if my family is really interested in sitting down and watching this as a family, there are plenty more out there that are doing that.
“And then after an episode aired, you’d hear people talking about it, commenting on it, and even the casual fan tuned in to see what it was all about. It made me really think about how we could do something like this with our team and NESN. I really wanted to do some kind of show.”
Neely signed off on buying a few extra cameras for the Bruins’ in-house production team, and had them begin filming footage midway through the 2011-12 season, with the intent of putting the show together last season.
“But we scrapped it for the time being because of the uncertainty of the lockout,” Neely said.
That may have been a blessing, since the 2012-13 Bruins season proved to be downright fascinating, ending with a loss to the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Final.
Neely said he made sure before going forward with the project that staff and players were comfortable with the cameras’ presence.
“We got that comfort level with the coaching staff to make sure they were OK with being around more cameras,’’ said Neely, “and to make sure it wasn’t going to disrupt anything.
“Plus, knowing that we would edit it ourselves, that was reassuring to anyone who might have not been comfortable at first about what might end up on air. That was extremely important, for them to know that nothing that would air to cause concern for anybody.”
So while it’s not exactly all-access and entirely unfiltered, it is nonetheless fascinating.
“This is information that’s always been there with sports teams through the test of time. Now with the opportunity to get it out on film and put it on TV is something I think our fan base will look forward to. A lot has happened, and this might fill in why or how."
Peter Chiarelli could have held on to Tyler Seguin one more season, hoping the on- and off-ice maturity that eluded him at age 21 came around at 22. And we all would have understood.
The most well-worn path is on the easiest route. Sometimes that is even the right way to go.
But in the aftermath of another zany week of bold headlines in Boston sports, it occurs to me that a tap of the stick and a tip of the cap are due Ainge and Chiarelli for the boldness in which they put together their respective teams and go about their professional business.
That was the common thread between the past week's two blockbuster Boston sports stories that didn't involve further revelations about the apparently sociopathic/psychopathic tendencies of a gifted former Patriots tight end.
The general managers of Boston's two winter (but essentially year-round) teams made unexpected decisions that could impact the franchises for years. And neither Ainge nor Chiarelli made the easiest decision, the obvious decision, or the decision that would cause the least sports-radio blowback.
They simply did what they believed was best, public sentiment and expectations be damned. And that's exactly how you should want a general manager to operate the team for which you root.
Be daring, be – there's that word again – bold, make a decision after gathering as much information as possible, and trust the courage of your convictions above all else.
Of the two decisions, the Seguin deal was much higher-risk. He's such a talented kid, and it was lost in his lone-goal playoff performance and the tales and accompanying gifs of his off-ice exploits that he already has had legitimate success in the NHL.
He was the Bruins' leader in goals and points two years ago (29 and 67, respectively), and finished second in goals this year (16) during the abbreviated season. He's already fulfilled some of the promise.
Seguin was devastated in the locker room after the Bruins lost Game 6 of the Cup Final – yes, he cared deeply, despite requiring a lecture or two about professionalism from the respected likes of Shawn Thornton along the way. That disappointment coupled with the potential wake-up call that comes from this trade may spur him to bigger things in Dallas.
(Now, if he could just elude those relentless Twitter "hackers" once and for all.)
Chiarelli knows all of this, and he knows so much more regarding why he traded Seguin. Maybe that intel made it easier for him to send him on his way, and it's not as if he brought an unappealing package of players in return. There isn't a doubt in my mind that Loui Eriksson will be a fan-favorite by, oh, the third home game of the season.
Still, trading a player of Seguin's vast promise takes guts. The fear of having the wrong end of a Jeff Bagwell/Larry Andersen deal attached to your name surely has caused general managers across all sports to shrivel up and go gun-shy on deals they should have made.
Ainge's decision to hire Stevens, the extraordinarily successful and innovative Butler basketball mastermind, wasn't so daring as it was inspired.
I've been kicking myself for not recognizing upon Doc's departure and the advent of the coaching search that Stevens might be on Ainge's radar – his commitment to advanced metrics would instantly make him a kindred spirit with Ainge, who will consider every possible way to gain an advantage. Then again, the Celtics pulled it off in such a stealth way that not even Adrian Wojnarowski apparently had a sniff that it might happen, and he doesn't miss much.
[Brief cardboard interlude: Is that Danny Ainge with more hair on his upper lip than Gus Williams has atop his head? It is Danny Ainge with more hair on his upper lip than Gus Williams has atop his head. Also: A David Thompson cameo -- that's him on the left -- which is always a good thing.]
Hiring Stevens and committing to him for six years isn't so much daring as it is plain smart. But what it suggests – that they're going full rebuild and he's going to be coaching incoming players with whom he's familiar with from college rather than established NBA veterans – is fascinating.
Make no mistake: There will be no basketball purgatory for the Celtics the next few years, no floating around the edge of the playoffs and the back-end of the lottery, no Washington Wizards-style irrelevance. They're going all-in to begin again, and once Rajon Rondo and a few other veterans are traded – and that's when, not if – it's going to feel a lot like 1996-97 around here, with Avery Bradley playing the role of David Wesley, Jared Sullinger as Rick Fox, and Jeff Green as Antoine Walker.
The difference is that the coach who is here for the demolition will reap the benefits of the rebuild.
I'll say it again, with the knowledge that reminders will be necessary along the way: The Stevens hiring is nothing short of brilliant, even with the knowledge that those lean years in the win column are immediately ahead.
Meanwhile, there's that other question that will hang in the air at TD Garden early in the new season: Will the Bruins someday lament the Seguin deal?
Me, I don't believe so. Some of you do, and I certainly understand. Hey, I remember that playoff game against the Lightning way back when and the electricity of promise briefly fulfilled.
But no matter how this week's transactions ultimately play out in the long-term, the process of how Danny Ainge and Peter Chiarelli came to make them is worthy of applause.
Sure, they can afford to be less cautious. Both already have the cachet of champions.
But this isn't about what they've done, but what they're doing.
And such boldness when traveling that easier path could have been justified bodes so well for the future of both franchises.
Go on vacation, and what happens? Only everything.
Tyler Seguin departs. Brad Stevens arrives. And the Red Sox quietly roll on while probably wondering how the Bruins are still stealing their headlines in July.
Thanks in advance for humoring me as I play the annoying role of the sports guy who can't resist weighing in on the news that happened in his absence.
I'm still catching up, and I've got some questions. Such as ...
Will the Bruins regret trading Tyler Seguin?
Not immediately, and probably not in the long-term, either. Lost in all the static about the decision to trade the talented, immature 21-year-old forward to Dallas is the fact that the Bruins not only got a productive, prime-of-career player in return in soon-to-be-28-year-old Loui Eriksson, but one who should be a perfect fit in terms of style, discipline, and professionalism.
To put it another way: Any time you hear a player referred to as a Patrice Bergeron-type, but with a better scoring touch -- Eriksson has four seasons of at least 26 goals -- then you must be positively thrilled to have that player on your team. It will take him five games to win over Bruins fans. Maybe three.
I like this trade a lot, and I like Seguin. He's as immature as ... well, as the median 21-year-old male, probably. (The stuff he's doing now is the stuff that helped make the early '70s Bruins enduring legends.) And it's obvious something significant happened between the time the Bruins rewarded him with a six-year, $34.5-million contract extension in September 2012 and last week, when he was dealt to the Stars. I suspect they have more evidence than what has been revealed so far that his partying has diminished his talent.
But that talent is undeniable, and I thought he worked harder than his reputation would suggest during the playoffs. They might still be playing Game 7 against the Leafs had he not caused the chaos in front of the net that preceded Patrice Bergeron's winning goal.
I hope he grows up and becomes the player he should, but given what the Bruins got in return, there's no reason for regret.
I'm more bummed that Nathan Horton, a genuinely nice guy who had some big moments here, felt like he needed to move to Columbus in order to find the suburbs.
How should we feel about Brad Stevens, Celtics coach?
Love it. Love it. Loved it from the moment I found out about it during the three seconds I was allowed to use my phone on vacation in lovely, isolated Eastport, Maine, which is so far off the grid that Siri thinks she's in Canada and punctuates everything with "eh?"
He's bright, relentless, defensive-minded, innovative, an exceptional communicator, and it's not all about him.
It's an inspired choice by Danny Ainge, and giving him a six-year deal makes all the sense in the world.
He'll be the voice when the core of the next great Celtics team arrives in the NBA, and he'll be the voice when that team fulfills its potential.
It's also a fair, honest commitment to a coach who for the time being is set up to fail. He will and should make his NBA debut with a brutal team.
The 2014 draft, as you may have heard, is expected to be loaded. The Celtics need to aim for that Andrew Wiggins/Jabari Parker jackpot now.
Which is why I would be surprised if he ever coaches Rajon Rondo. Rondo, in good health, is too good and proud to play for a team that should be sacrificing the present for the future.
Any lingering questions about Aaron Hernandez?
Many. But one above all else: How long has he been this person, one allegedly capable of masterminding a murder, perhaps multiple murders?
Asked another way: What has he been involved in that we don't yet know about?
In appearance? Definitely. And that jump shot sure is true, especially for a 7-footer. But you guys know the truth -- it's silly to get carried away with his 25-point Summer League debut.
... someone named Eric McArthur rebounds like Dennis Rodman, and Dionte Christmas looks like a potential rotation player.
This is when you find out who can't play, not who can. That comes later, in the fall, against the varsity. Twenty-five points for the 13th pick in the draft? This is exactly what Olynyk should be doing. As for his long-term hopes, I'll buy into Danny Ainge's post-draft assessment.
"He isn't an explosive athlete but he's got a quick mind; that makes up for a lot,'' Ainge said. "He's got a chance to be a good 3-pt shooter."
Sounds like a good role player on a good team. Nothing wrong with that.
How about those Red Sox?
How about 'em? Fifty-four wins, 36 losses, a 4.5-game lead in the American League East, and a farm system bursting with talent and potential reinforcements.
Oh, and it's a finally a collection of players that actually performs as a team, which only enhances the enjoyment of watching them.
Nope, not bad for a bridge year. Not bad at all.
It's not just a couple of popular players such as Andrew Ference who won't return to the Bruins next season.
NESN announced in a press release at 8:02 p.m. Thursday night that Naoko Funayama, the respected sideline reporter, will not have her contract renewed when it expires this summer.
Funayama worked at NESN since 2007. She was hired after covering Daisuke Matsuzaka's introductory press conference as a reporter for New Hampshire's WMUR during which she aided the Japanese pitcher's struggling translator.
Funayama joined the network full-time in August 2008 as the Bruins reporter.
In the release, NESN said it had "elected to go in a different direction'' and the search for her replacement is underway.
“I want to thank everyone at NESN for five fantastic years and to also thank all the wonderful people I met along the way.” she said, according to the release.
“To have witnessed and covered the Bruins' resurgence during this time has been a thrilling and unforgettable experience, and now I'm very much looking forward to the next chapter in my career."
Funayama was widely respected by players and media alike for her good nature, work ethic, and professionalism, and news of her departure was greeted with remarkable backlash on Twitter.
Naoko is pro at rink and better person. Type to keep, not let go. Genius move, NESN.— Fluto Shinzawa (@GlobeFluto) June 28, 2013
Over the last several seasons, no one worked harder and was more under-used than @NaokoFunayama. Better things ahead for her, I'm certain.— Matt Kalman (@TheBruinsBlog) June 28, 2013
Sad to hear about @NaokoFunayama. Showed up every day, worked as hard as anyone, and did it all with a smile. A rarity in the business.— Dave Goucher (@DavidCGoucher) June 28, 2013
(3/343747) I can't imagine the last three years without her. NESN will not upgrade her position because there is no one better.— DJ Bean (@DJ_Bean) June 28, 2013
I leave you #BringBackNaoko zealots with this: Fighting the good fight is not only the right thing to do, it can be a heck of a lot of fun.— Jack Edwards (@RealJackEdwards) June 28, 2013
@NaokoFunayama naoko .....:(— Tyler Seguin (@tylerseguin92) June 28, 2013
And then there's the irony of Funayama's most recent tweet, regarding Ference's departure:
Sports can be cruel- give everything to the team, so much to the community, and still you're out. We'll all miss @Ferknuckle. One of a kind.— Naoko Funayama (@NaokoFunayama) June 26, 2013
Perhaps it was wishful thinking, a hometown scoreboard's operator's desperate and subliminal hope. Most likely it was a physical mistake brought on by sheer shock at what had just transpired.
But as the Chicago Blackhawks celebrated their go-ahead goal with 58.3 seconds remaining in Game 6, the goal horn confirming the nightmare as the capacity crowd at TD Garden gasped in unison, a brief, erroneous reprieve flashed on the scoreboard:
Next to the Bruins logo: 3.
Next to the Blackhawks logo: 2.
If only it were true. But like the Bruins' hopes of forcing a sure-to-be-epic Game 7 in this invigorating Stanley Cup Finals series, it all proved terribly fleeting.
The goal, scored by the Blackhawks' Dave Bolland, gave Chicago, not the home team, a 3-2 lead.
It came just 17 seconds after Bryan Bickell had tied the score, and 59 seconds before the Blackhawks would celebrate their second championship in four seasons, reveling on the Garden ice in a manner agonizingly reminiscent of the Bruins' party on Vancouver's territory two years ago.
The scoreboard correction was made quickly, gone in a blink, just like the Bruins' hopes. Soon enough, the cruel reality set in. There will be no Game 7, no parade in Boston, and no solace to be found for a long, long time. The Blackhawks, 3-2 victors, are worthy, admirable champions. But dammit, the Bruins would have been too ...
"I mean, you are going to remember forever,'' said defenseman Johnny Boychuk. "You remember winning it but I think you remember losing it a little bit more, now that we have had that happen."
Dennis Seidenberg will turn 32 next month. He's played in the NHL since 2002, for five teams. His name is on the Cup, but there have disappointments along the way. He's seen some things, but never a greater disappointment than this.
"I would say so,'' he said when asked if it was the biggest letdown of his career. "We were up by a goal, on to a Game 7, and to give it away that quickly was pretty disappointing."
Across the room, David Krejci, still in full uniform, spoke in a whisper as he tried to make sense of the game's final moments.
"Before you knew it, [Bickell's tying goal] was in the net. And right after, same thing,'' said Krejci, whose assist on Milan Lucic's go-ahead goal with 7:49 left in regulation was his 26th point of the postseason.
"The second goal hurt so bad, and we just couldn't recover. Then the third one happened. It all of a sudden felt like you had so much weight on your back. You couldn't move, couldn't think, and just couldn't get it done."
Only the habitual self-defeatists among us require or desire a list of the most painful recent defeats in Boston sports lore. They will revel in parades that will never happen and banners never to be raised.
There have been a few such disappointments recently, a few too many, a hazardous side-effect of having so many teams compete for championships. I'll leave it to others who prefer to rank such things to provide the context. But I have a hard time putting this among the worst.
Oh, hell yes, it's absolutely a collapse when you can't hold a one-goal lead with roughly 90 seconds remaining and permit the season-ending goal within the same small window. But in the end, the Bruins lost to a great Chicago team, one that lost seven games during the regular season.
The collapse? Turn the mirror around and see that it was an extraordinary comeback too. And the irony of the Blackhawks rallying in a similar – perhaps even less stunning – manner to the way the Bruins shell-shocked the Leafs in Game 7 of the first round was not lost on the participants.
"I just said to somebody that we did it to Toronto, so I guess we get a taste of our own medicine here,'' said Tuukka Rask, the ever-candid goalie. "It sucks. We did it to somebody, now we get to see what it feels like."
This team deserves a better legacy than being remembered for letting a sixth game – and thus a seventh – bounce away like a skittish puck. To say that they left it all out there would be a cliche. It also might be an understatement.
"So I had a broken rib, torn cartilage and muscles, and I had a separated shoulder ...'' said Patrice Bergeron, the irreplaceable forward, when asked about the mystery injury – or injuries – that sent him to the hospital before Game 5 was complete.
Of course, he played Game 6, as did Nathan Horton with his damaged shoulder, and Zdeno Chara with an injury coach Claude Julien would not reveal. Never far out of mind was Gregory Campbell, who sacrificed his season to stop a single shot en route to the Finals.
Even on the other side, there was Jonathan Toews gritting through his Game 5 injury, and Andrew Shaw, that infernal Marchandian pest, returning to the game after taking a puck to the face that required double-figure stitches. Hockey players don't get hurt while sleeping, you know?
Man, they were tough, and noble in defeat. And that admiration and respect among brothers that you think you see in the Bruins? It's not a mirage, a made-for-NESN storyline. It's real.
If you think Tyler Seguin doesn't care as he should, you haven't seen the kid in defeat. "I love these guys," he said afterward, choking back tears.
"This is the tightest team I've been on,'' said Seidenberg, late of Philadelphia and Phoenix and Carolina and Florida. "We love to play for each other, and we are very tight in this room. There's no excuses, we could have won this game. We've overcome a lot throughout this year this year and in these playoffs, and at the end I think we can be proud."
This team wanted it for another reason. They wanted the city to be proud, to have a reason to celebrate. They matter to the city, and the city matters to them. That was never more evident than the genuine and heartfelt reaction among the players and staff after the Marathon bombings.
"I think that's what hurts the most is in the back of our minds, although we needed to focus on our team and doing what was going to be the best thing for our team to win a Stanley Cup, in the back of our minds we wanted to do it for those kind of reasons, the City of Boston, what Newtown has been through," said Julien.
"It hit close to home, and the best way we felt we could try and cheer the area was to win a Stanley Cup. I think that's what's hard right now for the players. We had more reasons than just ourselves to win a Cup."
As the Blackhawks had their fun, the Bruins lingered. Chara cast a giant shadow near center ice, waiting for the commencement of the handshake line. Bergeron doubled over, staring at the ice. Chris Kelly put an arm around Rask's shoulder. And the remaining Bruins fans, a large chorus still, stood and cheered with one more "Let's go Bruins!'' chant.
The Bruins raised their sticks toward the rafters. Mutual appreciation.
It was a sendoff worthy of a champion, a reminder that there was plenty of sweet before the bitter, so much joy on the way to the frustrating conclusion.
And so that's how the hockey season that almost never got started ended, on a 90-something-degree day in June. Only in its final minute did it feel like winter.
"It's the best time of year to be playing hockey,'' said Julien, pleasant to the end. "I don't care if it's the end of June or the beginning of July. How can you not enjoy coming to the rink, beautiful weather, and best time of year to be playing a game?"
If only there were one more to play. If only the game required 58 minutes rather than 60.
If only the scoreboard's brief late lie somehow told the truth.
CHICAGO -- The frustration of the Bruins' current situation is real and palpable, embodied equally by strikingly opposite emotions: Milan Lucic splintering his stick against the goal post in a justified rage in the final seconds, and the hushed tones in a nearly empty locker room moments later.
But if there's solace to be found in the aftermath of the Bruins' 3-1 loss to the Blackhawks in Game 5 Saturday night, a defeat that leaves them a single loss shy of the end of a season and the dream of another championship, it is probably this:
The Bruins, this core, has a knack for overcoming various, mounting and sometimes self-inflicted degrees of difficulty. They did it so improbably already this postseason, of course, rallying from a three-goal deficit in the third period of Game 7 against the Maple Leafs just to escape first round.
And they set the precedent two years ago en route to their first Stanley Cup since the cherished days of yore and Orr, coming back from a three-games-to-two deficit against the Vancouver Canucks, the same post-Game 5 situation they face now.
"It's do or die. We've been there before, and we've done well in that situation,'' said coach Claude Julien afterward. "Our goal is to create Game 7, and to create Game 7, you've got to win Game 6. So that's our approach to it. We've been good at home, and we need to be good at home next game. It's as simple as that.
If only it were. The trends certainly aren't pointing in their direction. The crowd at the United Center roars with anticipation every time Patrick Kane has the puck and a sliver of space.
In the last two games, since being reunited with Jonathan Toews and Bryan Bickell, he has rewarded that anticipation with breathtaking results. Kane scored twice Saturday, giving him three goals in the past two games and seven in the last seven dating back to his hat trick in the clincher in the Western Conference Finals.
"Sometimes you catch some breaks,'' said Kane, who scored his first goal when he pounced on a loose puck after a Johnny Oduya shot shattered Dennis Seidenberg's stick. "I think I was in the right spot at the right time twice tonight. "Everyone wants to be that guy in big-time games, and I've been lucky enough to step up.''
Kane's emergence has come with an equal and opposite reaction for the Bruins. Captain Zdeno Chara has now been on the ice for eight of the Blackhawks' last nine goals -- five in Game 4, and three, including Dave Bolland's empty-netter with 13.6 seconds left, Saturday night.
"It's not normal,'' said Chara afterward.
Chara was actually on the ice for all four goals -- it was his rocket from the shot that got the Bruins on the board with 3:40 remaining to play, cutting the lead in half at 2-1.
But the Bruins could not get the equalizer, with Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford (24 saves) up to the task after enduring chatter since Wednesday about his alleged weak glove-hand.
"I'm not really listening to that,'' said Crawford. "I have a job to do. Whatever is being said doesn't really affect what I have to do on the ice.''
Crawford's job may have been made easier by a glaring absence in the Boston lineup. Patrice Bergeron, the Bruins' best forward, a player whose skills and responsibilities cannot be replaced by just one player, played just 49 seconds in the second period and not a shift in the third.
His injury was undisclosed, but the news that accompanied his absence was troubling -- he departed for the hospital before the game was through.
"You guys, I'm not going there,'' Julien said when asked for specifics about Bergeron's injury. "So anything else but injury [questions] here. I'll update you when I have an update. There's nothing more. We can ask a million questions. I don't have any more information than probably you guys do right now.''
If Bergeron can't go in Game 6, the degree of difficulty will be greater than it has ever been, especially if Toews, who didn't play in the third period after taking a hellacious hit from Johnny Boychuk, is ready for the Blackhawks.
Perhaps some optimism can be found in the flashbacks to two years ago. You remember the situation: The Bruins were down 3-2 to the Canucks after losing Game 5, 1-0, on a Maxim Lapierre goal.
But in Game 6, back on home ice, the Bruins killed all suspense early, deflating Roberto Luongo's tires with three goals in the first 8:35 en route to a 5-2 win.
In Game 7 ... well, you know. You have the DVD. Probably the t-shirt, too.
They been here and done it, and it's worth noting that the Game 5 loser has gone on to win the Cup in four of the last six years.
"There is no panic,'' said Julien. "You're not going to push us away that easily. We're a committed group, and we plan on bouncing back.''
The question is whether the Bruins have the magic to bounce back again against a tremendous Chicago team.
If Bergeron is out -- and perhaps even if he is not -- it might rank as their most challenging escape yet.
CHICAGO -- Talk about poking the bear.
Jonathan Toews is a wonderful player, a do-it-all-well Selke winner, a Patrice Bergeron with more offensive flash. He's just 25 and already established as the Blackhawks' captain, a confirmation of the great regard in which he's viewed by his peers.
In the handful of times times I've witnessed him interact with the media, Toews's has been subtly funny, friendly, soft-spoken and says little to nothing that will steal a few headlines.
Again: Bergeron-like. Captain material.
Which is why Toews's candor was so jarring after the Blackhawks' 6-5 overtime victory in Game 4 Wednesday in Boston.
Asked what the Blackhawks, coming off a 2-0 loss in Game 3 and struggling to play with their trademark speed, had done differently beyond reuniting him with Patrick Kane and Bryan Bickell on the top line, he said in so many words that rather than avoiding Chara, they attacked him.
"There's certain ways you can expose him. The dump-ins that we made [in Game 4] were going to his side,'' said Toews, who held his ground against Chara in front of the net on Brent Seabrook's winning goal.
"We made sure we were outnumbering him everywhere we went, taking away his stick first. We just try not to be intimidated by his size. We can outwork him, and we did that [in Game 4]."
In other words: We went at him. And the big fella couldn't do anything about it.
He wasn't the only emboldened Blackhawk after Game 5.
"Not a lot of guys attempt it, but to get a hit on him and to see him fall down, it's rare," said Bickell, who toppled Chara with a first-period check in Game 4 and has said the Bruins captain "doesn't like getting hit.''
It's foolish to suggest that the Blackhawks have suddenly solved Chara, who has used his enormous 6-foot-9-inch frame and crazy stick radius to torment offenses for 14 full NHL seasons.
"I mean, they're allowed their comments,'' said Bruins coach Claude Julien. "If they want to think that way, they're entitled to it. I have no response to that except to know that my player is going to be good and ready, and they can try it again if that's what they think."
Chara was on the ice for five Chicago goals in Game 4, a remarkable number given that it often seems he isn't on the ice for five goals in a month. But two came on 2-on-1s, and his overall performance was no more puzzling than that of defensive partner Dennis Seidenberg, who was nowhere to be found on a couple of productive Blackhawks rushes.
People talk about five goals against," said Julien, "but were they all his fault? None of them were his fault, actually."
It's even more foolish to search for fault Chara's physical game, to give him extra motivation. Bickell in particular might want to check the rear-view mirror early in Game 5.
Sure, Chara has had a few unusual hiccups this postseason -- a turnover to the Rangers' Derek Stepan behind the net that led to a bad goal in Game 4 of the Rangers series, essentially the entire first period of Game 2 of this series. And when he's something less than flawless, sometimes you do wonder whether too much is being asked of him.
Chara is 36 years old now. He was drafted in 1996, 56th overall by Islanders, or 48 picks after the Bruins chose Johnathan Aitken. He's shown no inclination to cut back on his mileage.
He's averaged 29 minutes and 59 seconds of ice time during the Bruins' 20 playoff games, which means he's played 10 hours of hockey this postseason. He's first in total ice time this postseason. The Blackhawks' Duncan Keith is second -- 48 minutes behind him.
We know that Chara is in extraordinary shape. If I have this right, his offseason regimen is power-lifting small-to-medium-sized mountains before sprint-biking to their peak. But these Blackhawks, particularly with Kane and Toews reunited, are extremely fast and skilled, and they are relentless.
They are challenging Chara, and they are challenging to Chara. To stop them is a lot to ask of a younger man. But he's done it before, and he's done it to many others along the way.
Let Toews, Bickell and the Blackhawks revel in toppling him once. With the peak so close, it's hard to believe Chara is about to fall again.
CHICAGO -- In the hours before the pivotal fifth game of the Stanley Cup Final -- the fifth game in a 2-2 series is practically obligated by law to be referred to as pivotal, I believe -- I keep trying to catch myself from looking too far ahead in this mesmerizing series between the Bruins and the Blackhawks.
And let me tell you, I'm about as effective at doing that as Corey Crawford is at snatching whistling pucks with his glove hand. Oh, Game 5 will almost certainly be an instant classic. Pivotal, even.
Yet here I am on my personal odd-man rush toward the inevitable Game 7, thinking and thinking again about that thin line after a winner-take-all game between rejoicing and regretting.
I know, the established code of professional sports says you're not supposed to look beyond the next game, well, ever, but particularly not in a taut, tightly-contested series such as this Bruins-Blackhawks showdown. I know that. I get it. One at a time.
Yet I can't resist, not after Thursday night.
Blame that other winter sport that, like hockey, now extends until the edge of summer. And these words in particular:
"Game 7 is always going to haunt me.''
That's not a confession you'd ever expect to hear from Spurs great Tim Duncan, and not just because his default expression is somewhere between laconic and how-dare-you-interrupt-my-nap. He's as accomplished as accomplished gets in this NBA generation ï¿½ a 14-time All-Star, a four-time champion, a three-time Finals MVP, a two-time league MVP.
He hasn't let much get away over the course of his career. And yet there he was after the Miami Heat defeated his Spurs in Game 7 of the NBA Finals Thursday night, the spectre of two late missed layups hovering over him as he put his pain into words.
Again: "Game 7 is always going to haunt me.''
It was devastatingly candid, and it turned my mind back to this series, which has been so evenly matched --the Bruins are outscoring the Blackhawks by a single goal, 12-11, through four games -- that it seems headed for a similar conclusion.
One side will rejoice. The other will be pummeled with regret. And right now, I have absolutely no clue which side will do which.
The Spurs will hear a cruel chorus of how-could-hes? and if-onlys and what-ifs deep into the offseason.
If Duncan's late layups fall, perhaps the Spurs have a different Game 7 fate, or at least prolong it.
If LeBron James is something less than transcendent. If, if, if.
For both the Bruins and Blackhawks, there have already been so many chances seized and chances given away that there are ready-made laments for whichever team loses this series.
What if Chris Kelly can put the puck in the gaping net in Game 4? What if the Blackhawks got more than one puck past stellar Tuukka Rask in the lopsided first period of Game 2? What if there's no double-deflection on the winning goal in triple overtime of Game 1?
So many twists both big and small have turned the tenor of the series multiple times already. There are three games to go in all likelihood, and already I feel for the Tim Duncan of this series.
A series as brilliant as that, as brilliant as this, doesn't deserve such a grim instant postscript. No one should be forcibly adorned with goat horns.
Watching Duncan, an established winner so devastated in defeat, was a reminder to appreciate those who have risen to the occasion when the stakes are highest and the pressure paralyzes lesser competitors.
It has been Duncan in the past who rose up and seized the moment, many times over.
Nathan Horton and Patrice Bergeron are among those -- many -- who have done it for the Bruins. They have experience at thriving under the utmost pressure. They've won when the alternative wasn't "get 'em next time,'' but carrying a loss that never leaves.
If -- right, when -- this series goes seven, the Bruins will enter the rink with their fans' utmost faith. But there's also a way of dodging that suffocating tension in advance:
Beat the Blackhawks on their own frigid turf Saturday night. Then somehow shake the seemingly inevitable, and end this thing at home Monday in six. Hey, Game 7 can't haunt you when you've already moved on to planning the parade.
All right, looks like it's back to the original plan. Might as well start preparing now.
Dig out the blood-pressure monitor, master a few breathing exercises, read one of Phil Jackson's zen comedies, that sort of thing. Probably should add a nap to the midday schedule as well.
There's going to be a Game 7, and there's going to be overtime in Game 7, and there will probably be overtimes in Game 7.
When it's all over, and one side rejoices in the red light's winning afterglow while the other carries a regret down the tunnel that will never leave, there will be an equivalent of eight full games played, probably nine, and maybe an extra period or two beyond that.
The Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks are much too similar, in talent and resolve, to allow for anything else.
The reminder that the eventual winner of this Stanley Cup Final series will have damn well earned that magnificent trophy in every imaginable respect arrived Wednesday night in the form of a 6-5 overtime victory for the Blackhawks in Game 4.
Brent Seabrook scored the winner at the 9 minute 51 second mark of overtime, rocketing a slap shot that eluded Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask as defenseman Zdeno Chara and suddenly lively Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews jostled in front of him.
The goal evened the series at two wins apiece, with the Blackhawks earning a split in Boston, just as the Bruins did in Chicago. The series, which has featured four overtime periods over three games (1, 2, and 4), returns to the United Center Saturday for Game 5.
Chicago now has home-ice advantage back in its possession, and it also provided a harsh reminder for anyone who was expecting the Bruins to cruise to a second Cup in three years after their suffocating 2-0 victory over the Blackhawks in Game 3.
If Game 3 was anything, it was the outlier, the single undramatic win in a series of relentless tension.
Game 4? Consider it the wakeup call. Not that Claude Julien, ever the grounded, in-the-moment realist, needed one.
"I think before it started everybody knew it was going to be a tight series,'' said the Bruins coach. "I don't think anybody that is a fan of hockey is disappointed right now. We as a hockey club went into Chicago and won Game 2 and had a chance to win Game 1. We have to go in there and win Game 5. We have the ability to do that."
It's not as if the victory came easily to the Blackhawks. They scored first, on Michael Handzus's shorthanded goal at 6:48, but the Bruins got even on Rich Peverley's power-play tally a little less than eight minutes later.
The Blackhawks built a 3-1 lead on goals by Toews and Kane two minutes apart in the electrifying five-goal second period that looked like an NHL '94 game come to life, but the Bruins rallied back again. Milan Lucic cut it to 4-3 with his sixth goal of the postseason at 14:43. Marcus Kruger scored 49 seconds later to build the Chicago advantage back to two, but again the Bruins would not relent.
Patrice Bergeron, whose brief detour to the locker room in the second period temporarily sucked the collective breath out of TD Garden, returned triumphantly and in good health, scoring on on the power play at 17:22, then again at even strength 2:05 into the third.
Back and forth they went. Patrick Sharp, the most consistent of Chicago forwards in this series, put Chicago up 5-4 midway through the third on a power play. But Johnny Boychuk would force the overtime with a blistering shot from outside the right point with 7:46 left in regulation.
Then, Seabrook's shot, and a silent Garden, and suddenly it's a best-of-three series.
"You think you have a good lead at 3-1. They make it 3-2. We score a big goal the next shift. 4-2. Then they score on a power play. It was just kind of back and forth the rest of the game,'' said Kane. "I guess it was just our turn to score again."
And their turn to win again. The Blackhawks have no plans to go quietly, and they're not about to back down from anyone. Even Zdeno Chara, if you believe Toews, who reunited on the first line with Kane for Game 4 and scored his first goal of the series and second of the playoffs.
"You can't give [Chara] too much respect and want to compensate the way you play as a line considering the fact he's out there against you guys,'' said Toews, who scored a goal in the same game as Kane for the first time this postseason.
"I mean, there's certain ways you can expose him. I think the dumpings that we made tonight were going to his side. We made sure we were outnumbering him everywhere we went, taking away his stick-first thing. We just try not to be intimidated by his size. You have to get to the net, find a way inside, not be, like I said, intimidated by that. We can outwork him, and we did that tonight, and we want to continue that."
Imagine that: The Blackhawks are talking of outworking the indefatigable Chara. They pierced Tuukka Rask for six goals. They demand respect, and they deserve respect.
But you know this: so do the Bruins, who spent Game 4 punching and counterpunching, ceding nothing, rallying and rallying and rallying again, nearly stealing a Game 4 that they never led.
The truly amazing thing about this series isn't that three games have gone to overtime -- so far. It's that one game between these two remarkable teams did not.
As is usually the case when the Bruins prevail in their quintessentially relentless and disciplined way, the traditional three-stars salute does not come close to acknowledging all of the contributors to victory.
Take Monday night, and the Bruins' 2-0 suffocation of the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final. It was defenseman Dennis Seidenberg who wore the symbolic Army Ranger jacket after the Bruins managed the first regulation win in this series, claiming a 2-1 lead and bringing them two victories from securing their second Cup in three years.
The honor is bestowed with thought and dignity by teammates and thus is beyond serious question or debate by the media. Yet even to a more than casual observer of hockey, the performance didn't appear to be anything more than a typical Seidenberg game – 25 minutes of ice time, six blocked shots, four hits, and nothing resembling a mental mistake. That's who he is, and what he does on more nights than not.
Oh, sure, it's always nice to see Seidenberg, an admirable player once discarded by the Coyotes and gifted to the Bruins via Florida in March 2010 for a package headlined by the iconic Byron Bitz, get a proper salute.
He's worthy. Like many of the Bruins, he's almost always worthy. But on this night, there might have been worthier.
Here are two, with a semi-copout on the third ...
The first star from this ninth-floor vantage point was Patrice Bergeron, who did so many of those uniquely Patrice Bergeron things that he could have been all three stars unto himself.
He he won 24 of 28 faceoffs, potted the second and final goal off a Jaromir Jagr cross-crease pass that could have come from his 1992 highlight reel, and vaporized Patrick Kane to the point that you wondered if Marian Hossa wasn't the only Blackhawk who was last seen during pregame warmups.
"[Patrice] just makes the right reads all the time,'' said goalie Tuukka Rask, who stopped all 28 shots aimed his way. "Then when there's time to lay down or block a shot, he does that. He does a great job standing on his feet, too, and taking care of those passing lanes. He's got to be one of the best in the league for doing that. I like playing behind him. It's awesome."
Though he was not asked to expound, chances are Rask would throw similar praise Daniel Paille's way these days. The hockey hero of Game 2 – he scored the winning goal in overtime to change the tenor of the series – would be our No. 2 star in Game 3.
Not only did it give the Bruins the often essential first goal, it assuaged any fears and frustrations that they'd regret missed opportunities early in the game, as the Blackhawks did in Game 2.
The TD Garden surface, choppy after a humid June day, took some getting used to. "When you shoot, try to swing your blade on the ice, it feels like sandpaper,'' Seidenberg, not one prone to idle gripes, said after the game.
But while the surface was a nuisance, the venue's patrons provided a jolt. Playing their first home game after splitting a pair in Chicago, the Bruins came out buzzing early behind a roaring crowd, jumping to a 7-2 shots advantage less than five minutes in.
Those early efforts – a backhander by Jagr 4 minutes and 44 seconds in, a stop-on-a-dime rocket by Seguin a minute and a half later – went unrewarded. When Brad Marchand's quick breakaway attempt was thwarted by Crawford, his smashed his stick upon returning to the bench, the splintered blade left behind on the ice, a victim of one too many failed chances.
Paille, thriving on the revamped third line alongside center Chris Kelly and Tyler Seguin, made sure there would be no regrets with his fourth goal of the postseason. Less than 12 minutes later, he also contributed indirectly to Bergeron's goal, drawing a tripping penalty on Niklas Hjarlmarsson with hard charge to the net that set up the power play.
The Bruins are 7-0 in the playoffs over the past four seasons when Paille scores, and 3-0 this spring. Not bad for a guy who was such an afterthought as a Buffalo Sabre that he was dealt to the Bruins in October 2009 for a couple of draft picks, the first in-season trade between the rivals in 39 years.
"He plays an honest hockey game,'' said Kelly of Paille, who scored a career-high 19 goals for the Sabres in 2007-08. "I don't think he gets many power-play chances, and [his goals] are hard-working goals. He's got great instincts, shoots the puck well, and skates terrific."
As for that third-star copout ... well, under most circumstances, the stick-tap would go to the goalie who pitched the shutout.
But with Rask, who is using extraordinary poise, positioning, and confidence to somehow trump Tim Thomas's frenzied brilliance of two seasons ago, this is kind of expected now, right?
The Blackhawks rarely challenged him Monday night save for an unrewarded gasp in the final moments. The suffocation was already complete, and a two-goal lead felt like five.
Rask was typically excellent, but otherworldly brilliance was not required on this night. So the goalie can share the third star with Seidenberg, Zdeno Chara and his table-hockey-defenseman reach, and the rest of the defensive corps with whom he is working in such impressive sync.
"It's fun,'' said Seidenberg. "I enjoy playing tough minutes and doing the little things, just like everybody else in this room. We all thrive in tough games."
That's proven true, time and again. And even after saluting the Bruins' particular standouts after another stirring victory, we know this to be true:
It's more than just the Bruins stars who are making the Blackhawks' stars disappear.
It's just about everyone, and if this keeps up for two more games, that Army Ranger jacket will be draped around the Stanley Cup before the Blackhawks know what hit them.
CHICAGO -- One break. One bounce.
One hustle play that ended with the red light aglow, one whistled wrister that resulted in triumphant arms raised skyward.
One shot off the post that finally rang true.
The Bruins needed something, anything, to go their way in this taut, rollicking Stanley Cup Final matchup of two teams so similar that the visiting team will always look like the evil twin.
The break arrived in Saturday night's Game 2, twice, from among the unlikeliest Bruin sources, and after the most hideous of beginnings.
It was imperative that the Bruins head home to Boston at even strength rather than facing an 0-2 deficit against the worthy, accomplished Blackhawks, who won Game 1's one-hour-and-52-minute marathon, 4-3, in three overtimes.
It was Daniel Paille who made sure the Bruins got what they needed.
The speedy forward, whose contribution often has more to do with shutting down goal scorers than finding the net himself, took a feed from Tyler Seguin at 13:48 of overtime, his shot eluding goaltender Corey Crawford's glove and appearing to ricochet off some metal to give the visitors a 2-1 overtime victory.
"The bottom six [forwards] have all played together. We're all familiar,'' said Kelly. "[Coach] Claude [Julien] as a pretty good feel for what guys will fit together at a given time."
It was Kelly, and not Paille, who provided the biggest surprise contribution in Game 2. It's not that Kelly, a 32-year-old veteran of nine NHL seasons, lacks accomplishment; he scored a career-high 20 goals last season, and has 100 for his career.
But just three of those goals came during this regular season, and he didn't contribute a single point this postseason through the first 17 games. That changed at 14:58 of the third period, when he punched in a rebound in the slot after a steal and shot by Paille.
Kelly struggled mightily in Game 1, finishing at minus-3 and losing 15 of 22 faceoffs. But Saturday came redemption. For the first time in a long time, Kelly was in the right place at the right time.
"I try to score consistently,'' said Kelly, who after scoring his first goal since April 17 was wearing the Army Ranger jacket awarded by teammates to the player of the game. "For whatever reason, I haven't. So I try to stay positive and other ways. As long as we win, that's what matters. That's how it is in our room.''
One can only imagine how it was in the Bruins' room after the first period, which looked -- and this is no hyperbole -- like a 20-minute Blackhawks power play. The Bruins slogged along as if they'd played a triple-overtime game that morning, with Blackhawks gnat Andrew Shaw reveling early and often as he dodged Zdeno Chara's weary swats.
The Blackhawks put 19 shots on goal. The Bruins? Four. Upon sending the Stat Sheet Investigative Team into action, it turned out that wasn't even the worst of it.
The Blackhawks took 30 shots to the Bruins' five. They outnumbered them in scoring opportunities, 15-1, and Sharp (six shots on goal) and Marian Hossa (five) each out-shot the entire Bruins team.
Yet for all of the rubber launched Tuukka Rask's way, only one eluded him. Patrick Sharp collected a loose puck that escaped a pile-up in front of the net, spun, and snapped it through traffic at the 11:22 mark to put the Blackhawks ahead.
A little more than a minute later, Jonathan Toews appeared to tuck the puck under Rask, but the no-goal call on the ice held up upon video review.
"He said his intention was to blow the whistle,'' said Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville when asked how the official explained the disallowed goal.
Had Rask, who made 18 of his 33 saves in the first period, not been anything less than sensational, Sharp may have had a hat trick before the first intermission.
"It looked like they had more guys out there than we did,'' said Rask. "They were bouncing on every single puck in front of net, had a lot of chances. We definitely played pretty bad. But it was good we were only down by one, and we regrouped after that."
That they did, outshooting the Blackhawks 16-9 over the second and third periods. And in overtime, the ice tilted their way, with the Bruins firing seven shots before Kelly's winner, including a couple of how-did-that-not-go-in? opportunities that Crawford (26 saves) somehow denied.
The most notable came in the first two minutes, when Jaromir Jagr, who played marvelously from the second period on, hit the post in the first two minutes.
The near-miss would have been exasperating had the Bruins lost, and given that he's still looking for his first goal of the playoffs, the question can be asked:
How many posts, crossbars, and other metal-based obstructions to victory has he hit this postseason?
Actually, hold off on that lament, Bruins fans. Jagr hasn't found his bounce, that break, the generous crossbar.
But in Game 2, other Bruins did. And for one reassuring night, it was everything they needed.
After the Bruins played 1 hour 52 minutes and 8 seconds of hockey Wednesday night only to skate off in weary, frustrating defeat, coach Claude Julien required only few seconds during his postgame press conference to provide a reminder that this core of Bruins has overcome greater obstacles than one Klima-style loss.
"Last time we won the Cup, we lost the first two games in Vancouver," said Julien. "It never stopped us from coming back and this certainly won't."
It was the right sentiment at the right time, a reminder that while the 4-3 triple-overtime loss was nearly the length of two full games, it still counts only as one.
But it also obscures one critical truth:
The Bruins cannot afford to lose Game 2 Saturday night. They can't, at least not without greatly enhancing their degree of difficulty in their quest for a second Stanley Cup in three seasons.
The circumstances are different this time than they were two years ago. The Blackhawks are the real deal, an extraordinary team, with a 24-game point streak to start the season and eight wins in their last nine games this postseason. They bear remarkable resemblance to the Bruins but feature perhaps just a little more pure talent. They are fiercer and far more focused than the weak-kneed, front-running 2011 Canucks.
Now, it would be skating a stride too far toward panic to suggest that the series is over if they don't prevail tonight. As the Bruins have proven time and again over the past couple of seasons, the only true must-wins are Game 7s. And even then, they've survived to play on after not showing up until 10 minutes remained in the third period in one memorable instance.
But making it hard on themselves could be fatal this time. These teams are so even that the Bruins need to pull even. Losing tonight would mean they Bruins would need to beat the Blackhawks four times in five games to seize the Cup. If they pulled that off, it would arguably be their greatest feat of the past three seasons.
The Bruins could use more luck in Game 2 than they had in the opener. They've already had some good fortune Saturday, or at least good news, in terms of personnel. Nathan Horton, who appeared to re-aggravate a shoulder injury during the first overtime of Game 1 and did not return, is a go for Game 2.
Horton, the second-leading scorer in the postseason (18 points) to linemate David Krejci and a plus-22 in the playoffs, is essential to the Bruins' hopes. He hasn't been close to 100 percent for a while, having originally suffered the injury April 20 in a fight with the Penguins' Jarome Iginla.
And yet he's somehow performed brilliantly, including a gorgeous redirected pass to Milan Lucic to set up his linemate's second goal in Game 1. Hard to believe the Florida Panthers once questioned Horton's heart. Then again, that's why they're the Panthers.
Horton's return jostles the memory of two years ago and how so much changed. The Bruins lost Game 1 in Vancouver on Raffi Torres's goal in the final minute. Game 2 brought anger along with disappointment -- the winning goal was scored in overtime by Alex Burrows, the saw-toothed weasel who had bitten Patrice Bergeron's finger in the opener.
The eulogies on the Bruins weren't completed two games into that series, but the first-drafts were being written. Here's Scott Burnside of ESPN.com after Game 2:
Again some of the [Bruins'] best players seemed to wilt under the pressure.
Nathan Horton, playing with Lucic and Krejci, has been a non-factor through the first two games.
We know how it went from there. Horton's season ended when an Aaron Rome cheap shot left him with a concussion. The Bruins rallied around him and in his absence, routing the Canucks, 8-1, in Game 3.
Nine days later, with Horton in attendance and not-so-covertly delivering some bottled karma from home ...
... the Bruins hoisted the Cup on Vancouver's ice.
Today is the two-year anniversary of winning that Cup. It's also the day we'll get an important clue about their chances of winning another.
... while having to constantly remind myself that Game 2 is Saturday, not Friday. Feels like it should be tonight, doesn't it?
1. The Bruins' first line of Nathan Horton, David Krejci and Milan Lucic features the top three scorers in the postseason, with 21 goals, 57 points, and a combined plus/minus of 51. Tyler Seguin leads the Bruins in postseason shots (62). He has one goal (1). That's a shooting percentage of 1.61290322580645 (not good).
2. Seguin seemed to get a little jump from playing on the first line after Horton's injury. But even if he suddenly finds some semblance of touch – he has a career 10.5 percent shooting percentage – it will be pretty close to devastating if "day to day" Horton misses more than a game. The Bruins can't afford further attrition, and for all of his talent, there are no indications that Seguin can replace him.
3. Biggest revelation to me from Game 1? That Corey Crawford is legit. I suppose there was ample statistical evidence of that -- he entered the Stanley Cup Final with a 1.74 goals-against average in the postseason -- but Tuukka Rask was so steady and sensational against the Penguins that it was impossible for a Bruins watcher to see him as anything but a significant advantage over just about any counterpart. Crawford was great and lucky in Game 1, stopping 51 shots, including 29 in the three overtimes. Rask was great and unlucky. But both are playing the position exceptionally well.
4. I'll admit to holding Crawford's pedigree, or lack thereof, against him. He's been a starter for three seasons. He was terrific this year, but last season, he did not crack the top 20 in save percentage or goals-against average. He never put up take-notice numbers during his five seasons in the AHL ...
... but the lesson that a goalie can gradually yet significantly improve over several seasons is one Bruins fans should already know well.
5. Dan Shaughnessy asked the question in his column this morning: will the Bruins' triple-overtime loss in Game 1 have the same deflating effect that Petr Klima's 3-OT winner in the opener of the 1990 Cup Final had then? Those Bruins, you may remember, went on to get swept by the Oilers. I say there's no chance. Those Oilers, led by 124-point scorer Mark Messier, were a force of nature, winning their fifth Cup in seven seasons. This series matches up two freakishly similar teams. Right now, I expect it to be a seven-game series, with roughly 42 total periods of hockey.
6. Seriously, hockeyphiles: where has Seguin's finishing touch gone? Is it mental? And is it me, or does he add unnecessary degrees of difficulty to the majority of his scoring chances?
7. Finally caught a replay of NBC's broadcast of Game 1. Mike Emrick, whose default status is greatness during any game and circumstance, actually seemed to get better on the call the deeper the game went into the night. The man is 66 years old, and he remains the hockey broadcaster equivalent of 1970-71 Bobby Orr. Amazing.
8.The Michael Jordan statue outside the United Center is sharp, and there's no doubt it ranks among the top photo-ops for Chicago tourists. But it's not the coolest artistic homage outside the building. The Stan Mikita and Bobby Hull statues are mesmerizing.
9. I've got no issue with the Chicago Tribune "taking back'' the Bruins aspect of its thoughtful tribute to Boston after the Marathon bombings. The original gesture was genuine, and this is all in good fun.
10. The atmosphere at Blackhawks games is one of the most electric I've ever experienced in person, particularly the pregame presentation, when the crowd roars through the singing of the National Anthem. Don't scold – it's a respectful tradition.
11. But the perception that it's always been this way here, that Blackhawks fans are loyal through and through, just isn't accurate. There was time in the '90s when their games weren't broadcast on local television. Tony Amonte, who played here from 1993-94 to 2001-02, told me there were sections of the building that were completely empty at times. Darren Pang remembered the same.
12. Despite his brutal turnover for the Blackhawks' second goal in Game 1, I hope the Bruins don't bury Torey Krug. He handled the situation with remarkable poise, and there were flashes of his dynamic offensive skills at times in the opener. But if I had to bet, I suspect Matt Bartkowski gets a shot Saturday night.
13. In Game 1, Johnny Boychuck, Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg, and Andrew Ference combined for three hours and 37 seconds of ice time. All right, I guess that means the second day off between games is a good idea.
CHICAGO – It's perhaps the cruelest irony of a meaningful missed opportunity: Once the moment is gone, it's with you forever. The regret is instant, and the memory of what slipped from grasp becomes permanent.
So, Kaspars Daugavins figured, if he has to live with the knowledge that he had the last, best opportunity to end the epic Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals on the Bruins behalf midway through the third overtime only to fail to guide the puck into the gaping net, he might as well make sure that the details of whole damned episode were accurate.
"Yeah, I looked up [at the video board],'' said Daugavins in the Bruins locker room no more than 15 minutes after Andrew Shaw scored on a double deflection to give the Blackhawks a 4-3 triple overtime victory.
Then, his unnecessary confirmation: "It was painful to watch.''
Daugavins's folly was losing the puck on the backhand with Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford flailing prone and out of position and the far side of the net wide open and waiting for the winning goal's imminent arrival.
But Daugavins, a late-season refugee from Ottawa who is in the lineup only because of the season-ending injury to Gregory Campbell, could not finish the would-be highlight.
He could have been Petr Klima, whose goal for the Oilers in triple overtime beat the Bruins in the opener of the 1990 Final. Instead, he's going to be familiarized with the saga of Glen Wesley, whether he's aware of it or not.
"I should have shot sooner,'' he lamented.
A few minutes later, at 12:08 of the third overtime of the fifth-longest game in Stanley Cup Final history, Shaw became the hockey hero Daugavins could not.
The winning goal began its journey to the net as a Michael Rozsival slap shot, deflected off Dave Bolland's stick, then appeared to catch Shaw's leg on its way past Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask.
Rask made 59 saves, but he had no chance on the double deflection.
"When you look at the game, it could have gone either way,'' said Bruins coach Claude Julien. "I thought we had some great looks in overtime. With a little bit of luck, could have ended it before they did."
Daugavins had the best opportunity to end it during the trio of overtimes, but it wasn't the only opportunity.Tyler Seguin was denied on multiple occasions, his game picking up after he replaced the injured Nathan Horton on the first line, but the results remaining minimal. Zdeno Chara hit a post. David Krejci missed from close range. Milan Lucic whiffed on a rebound. And on and on it went.
Luck was not on the Bruins' side, and Crawford (51 saves) was on his game. To fit Daugavins or anyone else for goat horns would be to neglect giving the Blackhawks their just due for rallying from a pair of two-goal deficits, including a 3-1 hole with less than 14 minutes remaining in the third period.
Of course, Rask, candid as always but this time with an edge, didn't quite see it that way.
"We had the game," said Rask in the aftermath. "We're up 3-1 in the third and then a terrible turnover leads to a second goal, and then a tough bounce [a deflection off Andrew Ference's skate] leads to the tying goal. We just gave it away."
After six periods, seven goals, 117 shots (63 for Chicago, 54 for Boston), 120 hits (Chicago 61, Boston 59), and 112 minutes and 8 seconds of action, the exhaustion in both locker rooms was apparent.
"We just basically played two hockey games in one night,'' said Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville, who used defenseman Duncan Keith for 48 minutes and 40 seconds, four seconds longer than Bruins ice-time leader Dennis Seidenberg.
But for the Blackhawks, the exhaustion was accompanied by the exhilaration of winning the first game of a series between two extraordinary, evenly matched teams. You thought this was grueling and tense? Get used to it.
For the Bruins, the exhaustion was paired with frustration. But as tough as it was to lose in that manner, this coach and core of players have found their way out of grimmer predicaments.
"Last time we won the Cup, we lost the first two games to Vancouver,'' Julien said. "It never stopped us from coming back. This certainly won't."
CHICAGO -- Just in case your game-day ire for the Chicago Blackhawks somehow requires further raising, well, there's this:
Of course, for those of you who still refuse to believe that Robert Gordon Orr ever skated a shift for anyone other than the Bruins, the proof here is hardly 100 percent conclusive -- the jersey is clearly airbrushed, as evidenced by the Bruins player behind him.
Besides, as anyone familiar with Orr's departure from Boston knows, the real hatred -- and that is the right word -- should be aimed at Alan Eagleson, not the Chicago franchise.
But beyond contrived Bobby Orr debates, it actually seems like it would be pretty tough for a Bruins fan to work up any antagonism for the Blackhawks beyond their current status as the team standing in the way of Boston's second Stanley Cup in three years.
Their mutual Original Six status certainly does not make for a natural rivalry. Wednesday's Game 1 is their first meeting this season, their two scheduled regular-season games lost as casualties of the lockout.
The last time the Bruins and Blackhawks played, on Oct. 15, 2011, the Bruins won, 3-2, on a Tyler Seguin shootout goal. I'll pause here while you ask if that's the last time he put a puck in the net.
But the real reason the Blackhawks are an opponent worthy of respect? They are very much like the Bruins. You could see yourself rooting for Chicago if the opponent were the Rangers, Penguins, Leafs, or pretty much any team other than the one that is responsible for so much of your wardrobe featuring the colors black and gold.
The Bruins have won 9 of 10 games, starting with their already-legendary comeback against the Maple Leafs in Game 7 of their first-round series. The Blackhawks have won 7 of 8 after falling behind, 3-1, to the Red Wings in the second round.
They feature a gifted offensive star in Patrick Kane, whose hat trick in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals delivered the Blackhawks to this point. The Bruins counter with David Krejci, who is the leading scorer in the playoffs (21 points), just as he was during the Cup run two years ago.
They have an admired Selke Trophy candidate in Jonathan Toews, who means to Chicago what Patrice Bergeron does to Boston. Bryan Bickell, with eight goals in the postseason, has been their Milan Lucic. There's even a genuine shutdown defensive pairing, a la Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg, in Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook.
Their goalie, Corey Crawford, was a backup when the Blackhawks won the Cup in 2010, just as Tuukka Rask was a season later for the champion Bruins. Now they're both trying to prove that they can backstop a team to a title, and they are making a similar case that they are up to the challenge. Crawford's 1.74 goals-against average in the playoffs is 0.01 lower than Rask's.
It's an incredibly even matchup, one that seems destined to be a classic. Yet I'm picking the Bruins to prevail with relative confidence.
Because Rask's performance against Pittsburgh -- two goals allowed in four games -- was matter-of-fact brilliance, matching and perhaps surpassing anything Tim Thomas accomplished two years ago.
Because Zdeno Chara, whose precise dominance was something several Blackhawks cited as something they respect about the Bruins, and the rest of the defense is working in such incredible synch with the goaltender.
Because they are ever-so-slightly deeper, and with 17 players remaining from their championship team two years ago, the trust is there that they can win together.
It took seven games two years ago. It will take one game fewer this time around.
And as with the beloved Orr-led champs of 1970 and '72, the city will have two hockey titles to celebrate in a span of three seasons.
Here's to beating a worthy opponent, and enjoying the journey through the Cup Finals, all the way to a parade.
The Penguins were supposed to do this to them. Wasn't that how the plot was supposed to unfold?
The Boston Bruins? Nice team. Deep. Disciplined. Well-coached. Play well together. Whupped those soft-serve Canucks for a Cup a couple of years ago.
Why, they'd be little more than a speed bump on endless rewarding rushes over the blue line.
Isn't that what Jarome Iginla told us in actions if not words back in March when he single-handedly dismantled a done ï¿½ yes, done ï¿½ deal to the Bruins so he could go play for the Penguins, the star-studded destination team, the Miami Heat of the NHL?
Iginla has 530 NHL goals in 16 seasons, but his name is not etched on the Stanley Cup. He deduced roughly 10 weeks ago that Pittsburgh was the best hope of turning his heaviest unfulfilled hockey dream into reality.
After four games and four very different losses to those Bruins in the Eastern Conference Finals, the goal has vanished again.
So ... care to reconsider, Jarome?
"The Bruins, they played very well, they're a very good team,'' Iginla said after the Bruins' 1-0 victory Friday night gave the Bruins the series sweep, sending them to their second Cup Final in three years. "I was fortunate to have that choice, and when you make it you definitely believe in the guys here, and we played some great hockey up until this last series."
Bruins coach Claude Julien, perhaps in a bid to stay in the hockey gods' good graces, was quick to acknowledge that the Penguins had very little luck in the series. But the larger truth is that his team made the Penguins' stars vanish into a cloudy sky. Yes, the Penguins hit a few posts. They didn't hit much else. They played so poorly it was jarring at times.
Iginla did not contribute a point. Neither did Crosby or Malkin, arguably the two best players in the world. They were neutered by the Bruins' tireless defense, disciplined, relentless checking, and the almost casual brilliance of goalie Tuukka Rask, who stopped 158 of the 160 shots he saw in the series.
That's right. The Penguins managed just two goals in four games against Rask, who's matching Tim Thomas's otherworldly results of two years ago with a style that could not be more different; it's not so much that he saves the puck as he shrugs it away.
Meanwhile, the Bruins scored 12 goals. The Penguins never even held a lead.
"We don't have the superstars on this team. We don't have the best player in the world. But we might have the best team in the world," said David Krejci, a previously accomplished superstar in the postseason if not yet by reputation. "We play as a team."
The lone goal in Game 4 came via the stick of Adam McQuaid, because ... well, because of course it did. It was that kind of series. Everyone contributed, from Gregory Campbell stopping a shot with his fibula in Game 3, to his replacement, Kaspars Daugavins, who nearly scored a late goal Friday night.
We play as a team.
McQuaid, the stay-at-home defenseman who endured a trying season physically, scored exactly once in 32 regular-season games. He has twice that total now in half as many postseason games (16) this spring, scoring on a slap shot from the weakside point at 5:01 of the third period after collecting a clever pass from Brad Marchand.
Marchand, as usual, was in full-nuisance mode for much of the game, earning roughing and interference penalties less than three minutes apart in the second period, then drawing a hooking penalty on the Penguins' Brenden Morrow a couple of minutes later.
That feistiness hadn't yet waned as the usually unassuming Marchand was surrounded by media in the postgame locker room.
It was suggested to him that McQuaid wouldn't have been high on the list of candidates to score the lone goal.
"Why?,'' Marchand parried.
Maybe because he had, you know, one goal during the regular season?
"I would have picked him,'' he said, letting his defiance hang in the air for a moment before cracking a smile.
"Hey, people kept counting us out. We heard it,'' Marchand admitted. "Guys have a different kind of focus this time of year. That's really what it is."
A short pass to Marchand's left, Jaromir Jagr held court, wearing a pom-pommed knit Bruins cap and the look of someone who is savoring the familiarity of what's happening now. He's 41 years old now, with his sixth team, 22 seasons removed from his debut with the franchise he'd just helped conquer and 21 removed from his second and most recent Stanley Cup.
He was the decorated but ancient consolation prize after the Iginla deal collapsed, and while his legs work at their own pace now and he has had little luck putting the puck in the net, he has contributed. His nifty play to take the puck from Malkin during Game 3's second overtime preceded Patrice Bergeron's winner.
Jagr's effort and obvious appreciation of time and place suggests one of the NHL's all-time great individual talents has genuinely bought into the Bruins' team concept.
"The younger me would have scored 5-6 goals [in this series]," he said, grinning. "Back then, no one would have asked me to play defense. They would have said, 'Jagr, do what you want!'"
In the aftermath of victory, there was room to muse, room for perspective. They appreciate how their fate turned. Much has happened in the interim, but it wasn't that long ago that they were 11 minutes from extinction, headed for the solemn side of the handshake line in Game 7 against the Maple Leafs.
Had they lost, there would have been fallout, and they haven't forgotten.
"I've been here six years,'' said Julien, half-jokingly acknowledging the tenuousness of it all. "I think I've been fired five times."
After the frenzied final few minutes, which ended with the damn perfect scene of Rask triumphantly snatching Iginla's desperation 35-foot wrister as the final split seconds ticked away, the Bruins held an understated celebration.
They put on their crisp, white Eastern Conference champion hats, and posed for a group photo with ï¿½ but never touched ï¿½ the Price of Wales Trophy. The crowd serenaded them with chants of "We want the Cup!"
It was nice scene. An hour later, after all of the interviews were complete, all the backs had been slapped, and all the congratulations collected, I found another.
As Gregory Campbell hobbled methodically down the gray third-floor corridor toward the elevator, his head down and his crutches obviously still an unfamiliar companion, teammate Chris Kelly approached.
"See you, big boy," he said, seeming to make sure Campbell didn't feel detached.
Campbell looked up.
"See you, man.''
For for the city, for themselves, for their hobbled buddy Campbell, the Bruins want the Cup.
Of course, so did Jarome Iginla.
The difference is that the Bruins have a real shot. Iginla? He blew his in March.
Who would have thought then that by sabotaging the deal to Boston, he was diving to block his own shot.
Scooping up some loose pucks while wondering how Milan Lucic resisted going Full Neely on Matt Cooke when he had the chance ...
1. David Krejci, that recurring postseason ace, notched the game's first goal just 1 minute and 42 seconds into what would be an epic 2-1 double-overtime victory over the Penguins in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals. And for those wiseguys who suggested the Bruins were slacking given it took them just 28 seconds to put a 1 on the scoreboard in Game 2, the joke was on them, for it would be 93 minutes and 37 seconds before the Bruins would score another.
The Bruins and Penguins might still be playing as you pull up to the Dunkin's drive-thru this morning if not for a particularly savvy play by the oldest and most accomplished player on the ice. Jaromir Jagr won a battle along the boards for the puck, sent it ahead alertly to Brad Marchand, who fed Patrice Bergeron in a play so familiar and effective this postseason that the two should have it trademarked by now for the winning goal at 15:19 of the second overtime. Bergeron finished the play and ended the game, but it was the sly Jagr who made it happen.
"Everyone is buying in to get the wins,'' said Bergeron afterward. "It doesn't matter who it is or what the job is. 'Jags' is a perfect example. He's a legend, he's going to be a Hall of Famer, and there he is, fighting for the puck. You notice that as a teammate."
Jagr was noticeable more and more as the game surpassed one overtime and went into a second. He almost appeared to find some of the speed of his ancient prime. He didn't, of course; he's getting older, and his teammates are staying the same age, if you know what I mean.
What he did was maintain his usual pace – let's gently call it methodical – while the players younger than him, meaning every one of them, even fellow '90s refugee Jarome Iginla, lost a stride or two as the game ticked well past a reasonable hour of conclusion.
Even with some recurring issues in the defensive end, Jagr's performance was remarkable to watch. It left me more convinced than ever that Jagr will someday be the greatest 50-year-old rec league player ever. That is, if he's not still doing his thing in the NHL at that point.
Trading for Jarome Iginla would have been fun if perhaps not as impactful as the size of his name would suggest. But I'm glad they ended up with the 41-year-old hockey-genius consolation prize instead.
2. There's tough, and then there's hockey tough. Tough is getting drilled in the ribcage with a 95-mph fastball and managing to walk 90 feet without fainting or calling your agent to gripe about the pitcher.
Hockey tough is taking an Evgeni Malkin slapshot – let's conservatively put its velocity as the same as the aforementioned fastball – off the leg, then somehow remaining on the ice, one-legged and in agony, to help kill off a penalty.
Gregory Campbell, if you could, give us the visual definition of hockey tough:
According to a report by ESPN Boston's Joe McDonald late Wednesday night, Campbell suffered a broken leg on the play and is lost for the season. Given the contributions of the Bruins' proud and relentless fourth line, it's a difficult blow to absorb.
But should the Bruins accomplish extraordinary feats that suddenly look very realistic, Campbell's play and the rousing chant of his name as he departed the ice for the final time this season will stand as a testament to the effort that this Bruins team puts in on every single shift and every single shot.
That was a hell of an appropriate way for him to go out.
3. I don't suppose it's any comfort for beleaguered Penguins coach Dan Bylsma at the moment, but at least the Penguins should be confident that they made the right choice in net.
Tomas Vokoun was very good, stopping 38 shots a game after he was relieved by Marc-Andre Fleury before the first period was through.
Based on how Fleury played in the first round against the Islanders and his two-plus periods in Game 2 of this series, there's no chance he delivers a performance equal to the one Vokoun provided Wednesday night. Putting him in net was the right call.
The real mystery with the Penguins is why Sidney Crosby was a healthy scratch.
(Wait ... you're telling me he played? Are you sure?)
(Sorry, couldn't resist. He has been held scoreless for three straight games, you know.)
4. Tuukka Rask has backstopped the Bruins to eight wins in their past nine games.
He made 53 saves Wednesday night.
This postseason, he has a 1.85 goals-against average and a .940 save percentage.
Against the high-octane Penguins, he has a 0.56 GAA and a .982 save percentage.
Rask may not being doing it the way Tim Thomas did two years ago, but he is doing exactly what Tim Thomas did.
5. If you don't have personal or provincial rooting interests in this series, you might have some sympathy to offer the Penguins, who haven't lost three games all season until now.
I suspect few sympathizers can be found in this particular audience. But they did outplay the Bruins for much of Game 3, particularly in the second and third periods, and a popular press-box refrain as the game entered overtime was that the Bruins were fortunate to make it so far.
But it also must be remembered that the Penguins put themselves in this must-win predicament, by underestimating the Bruins in Game 1, then punching out early in Game 2 when they fell behind by three goals in the first period.
Perhaps they deserved better fortune last night. But I see it this way: if the long-term rewards rightfully belong to the more disciplined, hard-working, superior team, it's hard to argue that the Penguins deserve anything other than that blinking neon zero in the win column so far.
Scooping up some loose pucks while wishing NBC would mic up Brad Marchand just so we could hear him chirp every hilarious (and probably vulgar) word ...
1. Who would have thought that the Bruins – who played brilliantly in their standard way and were blessed with some good fortune in Game 1 – would actually trump that performance in Game 2? I certainly didn't, which is why I must publicly denounce myself as a nitwit prognosticator (again) for picking the Penguins to prevail on Monday's edition of Boston Sports Live. The crystal ball apparently overrates Sidney Crosby, too. But man, what an encouraging game that was if you're a Bruins fan. They so thoroughly dismantled the Penguins in Game 2, taking a lead on Brad Marchand's goal 28 seconds in and countering every desperate Pittsburgh gasp en route to a 6-1 rout, that you have to ponder some pretty crazy possibilities. Is it possible the Penguins aren't going to show up for this series at all? There's too much talent there to believe so, and I'm sure as heck not predicting a Bruins sweep, but they sure do look like a colossal and possibly incurable mess as the series heads to Boston. They don't have a goalie, the offense cheats at the expense of its defensive chores, and the defense has been exposed as undisciplined. Most damning of all, they're too often floating, as NBC's Ed Olczyk pointed out when Evgeni Malkin half-heartedly pursued Nathan Horton down the ice at one point in the second period: "Those plays can't happen. Unless that changes, the score won't." And unless something – make that some things, starting with effort – changes with the Penguins, the tenor of the series won't change, either.
2. While Tuukka Rask just keeps stopping everything the Penguins shoot his way -- well, almost everything, since Brandon Sutter's first-period goal in Game 2 became the one shot in 56 attempts so far to elude the Bruins goalie – the Penguins' situation in net is in utter disarray. After giving up three goals in the first 16:31 of Game 2, Tomas Vokoun was pulled for Marc-Andre Fleury, who promptly allowed a goal to Brad Marchand on the first shot he faced, then two more in the third period. At this point, it seems like the Penguins should go back to Vokoun for Game 3, with the rest of their goalie options lining up in this order: 1. Vokoun. 2. 48-year-old Tom Barrasso. 3. Former Northeastern goalie Brad Thiessen. 4. Ron Tugnutt. 5. Fleury.
3. After Game 1, David Krejci was asked a question along the lines of whether he thought he was a superstar like Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby. His answer was perfect – he essentially said no, we're not superstars here but a true team. It was an appropriate sentiment, but I'm not sure I entirely believed him. Krejci has extraordinary confidence in his own ability, which occasionally surfaces in casual self-assessment that might sound cocky if it weren't delivered so matter-of-factly. He knows he's very, very good, that self-confidence is manifesting itself with another huge performance when the spotlight is brightest. You won't see many prettier goals than the one Krejci scored to give the Bruins a 3-0 lead in the first period Monday night ...
... and with 20 points he's just three shy of his postseason-leading total from two years ago. He's a great player. He knows it. It's cool everyone else is finding out, too.
4. It really is amazing how thoroughly the Bruins' first line has completely outperformed Pittsburgh's stars. Krejci, Nathan Horton, and Milan Lucic have totaled 10 points already in the series, while Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin remain scoreless. Lucic is clearing space in front of the net like a homicidal Zamboni; he's been everything fans want him to be from the point in which there were roughly 10 minutes remaining in Game 7 against the Leafs. And like Krejci, Horton is elevating his game yet again in the playoffs – he has five points in this series after a goal and an assist in Game 2, and is now plus-19 for the playoffs and plus-32 for his playoff career. And to think he was labeled by the Panthers as someone with "no heartbeat" when they delivered him to the Bruins three seasons ago.
5. Regarding Crosby, who is leading this series in sniveling, poorly-sold collapses at the blue line and nothing else, I thought Tony Amonte had some compelling comments on Comcast SportsNet New England's postgame show on why he has become such an unlikable player. Amonte, who retired six seasons ago after scoring 416 career goals (six more than Ray Bourque), is still plugged in around the league, and he's become more candid on TV as he's grown comfortable. "I don't know. I don't know what made it turn. But something turned with Sidney Crosby,'' Amonte said. "The way he approached the game, the way he approached the fans. It doesn't feel right to me. It doesn't feel sincere. And that's why I kind of turned on him. Hearing some different stories about him inside the locker room and the one thing that I kind of think I know is ... the Conn Smythe. I think he is so jealous of Evgeni Malkin winning that trophy [as the playoff MVP] a few years ago. I'm telling you – he wants it all. He thinks he is an elite player, in the same conversation with Mario Lemieux, Wayne Gretzky, Joe Sakic and these guys, and to do that, you need to win a Conn Smythe, you have to have that on your resume if you want to be talked about the way those guys are. I think it eats him up that they won that Cup and he didn't get the Conn Smythe."
1. Always get a kick out of David Krejci's "celebrations" after scoring a goal. He usually offers no more than a nod or maybe a slightly raised fist, as if he's saying, "Yep, I scored. Surprised? I'm not.'' Though he still doesn't get his due nationally, his knack for playing his best when the stakes are highest is no surprise around here. With two goals Saturday, Krejci now has 27 in 72 career playoff games -- his single-season best is 23 in 79 games. He was the leading scorer in the postseason two years ago, and he's tops again this time around, with 19 points. He's also plus-11, second only to linemate Nathan Horton (plus-17). I've said it before, and I'll say it again: He's the Rajon Rondo of the Bruins, bored by inferior competition and up to every challenge provided by a game with real meaning and consequences. If there's a more underrated great player in Boston right now than Krejci, give me a name, because I'm not finding one.
2. A lot of words have been spent discussing Matt Cooke's alleged reformation, and it should be noted that his five-minute major (and game misconduct) for his hit on Adam McQuaid Saturday night was his first penalty of that length or longer since his infamous hit on the Rangers' Ryan McDonagh in March 2011. I never bought it, and I suspect you, the Bruins, Eric Karlsson, Marc Savard are right there with me. Hell, I doubt even his Penguins teammates did. But past history and parochialism aside, he probably doesn't deserve to be suspended for the McQuaid hit -- the defenseman did leave himself vulnerable -- and I'm not sure there was any more malice in Cooke's intent than there was on Brad Marchand's similar shot on James Neal late in the second period.
3. Evgeni Malkin looked on the verge of scoring a couple of times in the the opener, and even seemed to get the best of Patrice Bergeron in their unlikely rumble. He's terrifying. But that other Penguins superstar? Sidney Crosby was shockingly abysmal, managing four shots and losing 11 of 17 faceoffs, and at times he looked on the verge of taking his puck and going home. He has that LeBron-like manner of sniveling entitlement with the officials, as if rules are merely suggestions when they involve him. I have to give NBC credit for showing a montage of Crosby weaseldom before the third period, from his stick-tap of Tuukka Rask to a half-punch at Brad Marchand to his yapping with Chara. What a weird game for him. He was a nuisance in every way but the one that matters.
4. I wasn't surprised that Claude Julien turned to Andrew Ference rather than Matt Bartkowski in Game 1. Ference's defense-first mind-set has more value against the freewheeling Penguins than having a second offensive-minded defenseman in Bartkowski, who was not going to get the nod over Torey Krug at this point. But I was surprised that Ference was so effective immediately, particularly on the offensive end, where his aggressiveness in jumping in on the rush led directly to the Krejci's first goal.
5. Ultimately, that victory was pretty much straight from the blueprint, wasn't it? Rask was exceptional (29 saves, his first career playoff shutout), the first line excelled, the defense was disciplined and the checking relentless, and the Penguins grew increasingly frustrated by the Bruins' approach. I'm not sure going forward that we can expect everything to go quite so well -- the Penguins hit, what, three posts in Game 1? -- but at the very least we have confirmation that this is going to be a knock-down, drag-out series, and the Penguins advantage in pure talent may be their only advantage. It feels like Vancouver, June 2011 all over again to me. And I think we were all quite OK with how that played out.
We can forget about it now, right? We can stop dredging up May 2010, and the Flyers, and punted three-game leads, and regrets, and ...
Sorry. It's probably hypocritical to scold Bruins fans for dwelling on the blown three-game lead three seasons ago in the Eastern Conference semifinals, then spend my first words here after a thrilling, fulfilling, series-clinching 3-1 victory over the Rangers Saturday night to dredge it up.
It's just that the sky-is-falling mentality about this particular team – a sports-radio creation, sure, but one willingly co-opted by way too many among us – was just so unnecessary. I don't get why anyone would want to revel in misery and worst-case scenarios before trouble is anything more than a lonely dark cloud in a crisp blue sky.
It's patently ridiculous that there would be more talk about the blown series of three years ago than the Stanley Cup champions of the season that followed. But that's how it was around here this week, even as the Bruins won three of the first four games against a team that appeared to be an even matchup on paper. I've lived here my whole life – hell, my first season as a fan was spent following the submergence of the 1978 Red Sox – and still, I'll never get the mentality of reveling in misery before it exists, of preferring to rain on a parade rather than cheering one.
I say all of this with some hindsight, sure – had the Bruins lost Game 5, Game 6 at Madison Square Garden would have been unbearably tense, and the chronic reminders of three years ago somewhat justified.
But, you know, they didn't lose Game 5, and all of the worry was way too much, way too soon. In retrospect, Game 4 was the predictable last gasp of a doomed team on its home ice. When the Bruins needed an extra defenseman or two, they reached down to the minors for Torey Krug and Matt Bartkowski, who have been sensational and very good, respectively.
When the Rangers needed an extra defenseman, they turned to lumpy 39-year-old Roman Hamrlik, who was the first pick in the NHL Draft the year the Bruins spent their first-rounder on – now this is ancient history – Dmitri Kvartalnov. Yeah, Hamrlik's been around awhile. Based on his disastrous play in Game 5 – his turnover led to Gregory Campbell's go-ahead goal – that may have been his farewell performance.
The Bruins did what any would-be contender must do – they came home and prevailed, and in remarkably reassuring fashion. They played with we-know-how-this-is-done poise even after falling behind on Dan Girardi's power-play goal midway through the first period, particularly goalie Tuukka Rask, whose almost casual confidence helped him overcome an epic gaffe from Game 4. Rask has now won three of four playoff series in his career. Yes, he can close out a series.
The Bruins were unrelenting Saturday, from the first line to the fourth. The latter was so consistently effectively in this series that members Daniel Paille, Campbell (two goals in Game 5), and Shawn Thornton, who totaled 10 points and countless subtle contributions, are no longer unsung. They're getting pretty sung around here, and they deserve every praising lyric.
Now, about a more pressing matter: Jarome Iginla or Torey Krug? Yes, you've got the question right: Which player would you rather have on the Bruins right here, right now?
[Note: This is just a goofy hypothetical, not a suggestion that Krug was headed to Calgary for Iginla.]
I was going to try to pretend I was asking this facetiously – after all, Iginla is an all-time great, with 530 regular-season goals to his credit. That's 530 more than Krug has in his regular-season career, which consists of all of four games. But the more I consider it, the more I recognize that there's some legitimacy to it, at least if Krug continues playing like a perennial All-Star rather than a kid who was recalled from Providence on an emergency basis after injuries to three regular blue-liners.
It would have been great to have Iginla with the Bruins, and it stinks that he sabotaged the deal here to go to Pittsburgh. But Krug, who scoring the tying goal Saturday night on a blistering slap-shot, has given the Bruins something they truly lacked – a skilled, fearless puck-moving defenseman.
One of the great joys of sports is watching a rookie burst onto the scene out of nowhere, especially when the success looks real and sustainable. Krug seems legit, doesn't he? He had four goals in the Rangers series – the same number of goals Iginla has this postseason – including three on the power play. He's been everything Tomas Kaberle was supposed to be two years ago and then some – I mean, he did this against Henrik Lundqvist, not some Jim Carey/Blaine Lacher combo.
I think I would take this version of Krug over Iginla for this series, which is a statement that would have been unfathomable 10 days ago. At the least, Krug's emergence is one of the reasons that Bruins fans should feel very good about this team's future. But that's a consideration for later, a thought to be saved for the offseason.
Right now, let's savor the present, because as Game 5 reminded us, following a winning team's trek through the Stanley Cup playoffs is one of the most enjoyable experiences in sports. The Bruins somehow flipped the switch midway through the third period of Game 7 against the Maple Leafs, and the bright lights haven't flickered since.
Funny game, hockey. The Bruins were so close to being done. But after vanquishing the Rangers against a backdrop of unnecessary concern, the ending feels like it's a long way away. If you want to make 2011 comparisons, well, maybe they're premature, but those I would love to hear.
Follow Chad on Twitter @GlobeChadFinn
Beware: It's going to be a busy day for those among us who find satisfaction in harping on harbingers.
You probably knew that. But an extra warning never hurts in matters such as trying to maintain your sanity in a world of piping-hot sports takes.
Oh, the of-course-I'm-worried-aren't-you? caterwauling will be in full eardrum-puncturing effect in the immediate aftermath of the Bruins' 4-3 overtime loss to the Rangers Thursday night.
Never mind that the Bruins lead the series, 3-1, with a chance to close it out at home Saturday against a Rangers team that saved some face Thursday night but has looked the part of the inferior team for much of this series.
The easy narrative today is that – let me make sure I get this straight – there were quasi-relevant reminders of past Bruins failures in Game 4, which means that more bad things must be ahead and history will probably repeat itself.
Do I have that right? It's just that ridiculous, right?
Hey, I do suppose those harbingers, with all their loose connections to history and reality, are there if you want to spend time looking for them. The Rangers scored their third and tying goal at the midpoint of the third period on a power play after the Bruins were whistled for too many men on the ice.
... even though the magnitude of the moments are not even close.
Then there's the fact that the Bruins lost Game 4 in overtime – which just happened to be the case three years ago in Game 4 against the Flyers. The Flyers, as you may hear a time or two, came back to win the series in 7.
Did you just shiver in fear? You shivered in fear, didn't you? It was definitely a fear shiver.
Even the recent fate of the Providence Bruins is being cited as an ominous sign for the parent club. In case you missed it, they recently blew a 3-0 series lead to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton
Schrutes Penguins in the AHL Playoffs.
The kids are taking after the parents! We learned it from you, Dad!
Actually, I'm going to say the real reason Providence fell apart is because Torey Krug and Matt Bartkowski were called up to the big-boy playoffs, where they have starred. It's not a choke thing so much as it is an attrition thing. You know, sort of like the Bruins-Flyers series three years ago, when David Krejci got busted up in Game 3 and Simon Gagne healed and everything changed.
So far as I can tell, the Bruins survived Game 4 Thursday without significant injury to anything but their goalie's ego – you could spend the weekend watching every game at Hockey Town USA in Saugus and you won't see a softer goal than the first one Tuukka Rask allowed Thursday.
They're fine, and they will be fine.
Last night's loss was the essence of playoff hockey. The margin between victory and defeat is thinner than the blue line. You need bounces and fortunate breaks. It's what makes it so great, and alternately so tense.
But the harbinger stuff? C'mon. None of that has anything to do with anything, unless the Bruins allow it to. And they won't. You know them. They're just upping their degree of difficulty as usual.
Like any hockey game, there's was plenty of good, bad, and ugly in Game 4. Let's slowly step away from the panic button and sort it all out.
Good: It took way too long – the 49th minute of the 11th postseason game – but Tyler Seguin finally scored his first goal of the Stanley Cup playoff. He executed a textbook give-and-go with Dougie Hamilton, then pounced on his own rebound to give the Bruins a short-lived 3-2 lead in the third period. Loved Seguin's reaction after scoring – he sucker-punched the glass behind the net, which surely scared the hell out of some New York junk bond trader who was sitting in the front row ... What else is there to say about Torey Krug other than that I'm entirely buying in? He scored the Bruins' second goal with a rocket from the high slot that completely baffled Henrik Lundqvist, who has to be the kid's biggest believer at this point. Krug, who plays with such remarkable poise given that he's appeared in exactly as many games in this series (4) as he had during his entire NHL career leading up to it, nearly got a go-ahead goal past Lundqvist with just under four minutes remaining. The offense reminds you of Greg Hawgood, but the defense is much, much better. He's going to be here for a while, folks. What a revelation.
Bad: Well, we've touched on most of it already ... It should be noted that it was an up-and-down night for Hamilton, who flashed his talent with the assist to Seguin but was outmaneuvered and outmuscled by Chris Kreider on the winning goal in overtime. He's just not strong enough yet to play with the necessary physicality. Come back soon, Dennis Seidenberg ... Zdeno Chara submitted an uncharacteristically sloppy and sluggish performance. Derek Stepan picked his pocket and scored the Rangers' second goal to tie it at 2-2 a little over a minute into the third period...
... a play that becomes more embarrassing the more you watch it. He looks like he could have benefited from the extra rest a sweep would have permitted ... So maybe Marc Savard's crystal ball isn't always accurate:
Hey, maybe it all was Brad Richards's fault after all. Good thing he has just seven years remaining on his $60 million deal.
Ugly: This, and this alone:
Rask, as you may have heard, is now 2-8 in closeout games. Four of those came in the Flyers series three years ago. He'll get his chance to exorcise that annoying ghost on Saturday and silence those who race to summon it after every aggravating loss.
One loss does nothing to convince me he won't be up to it, provided that he remembers how to stay upright.
Well now, this suddenly feels like it might end with a parade, doesn't it?
I know, I know, it's foolhardy business to peer too far ahead in the Stanley Cup playoff before the task at hand is complete. The Bruins' bloody, stirring 2-1 come-from-behind victory in Game 3 over the Rangers Tuesday night in their Eastern Conference semifinals series gave them a 3-0 lead in the series.
It was a win rich in both style and substance, and if you're not enthused about the Bruins this morning, I have no choice but to suspect there's a 20-year-old Mark Messier sweater buried somewhere in the back of your closet.
The Bruins' advantage seems safe and insurmountable, a suggestion to which the more cynical Bruins fans will reflexively reply: "Yeah, but the Flyers three years ago ..."
I suppose it's a fair warning, at least on the surface. If ever a reminder is needed to never take any advantage in a series for granted, the blown 3-0 lead to the Flyers in the second round of the 2009-10 postseason is always handy.
But in regard to this particular 3-0 lead, it doesn't apply. It doesn't. There's nothing to fear here. The Bruins, so brilliant at the beginning of the season, exasperating in their complacency at times through the middle and end, have found that mojo and then some that they had in the early going. They're what they were supposed to be all along.
These are not the Bruins of three years ago. But they sure are starting to look like the team from two years ago, one that stepped on the accelerator after a harrowing seven-game first-round series in which defeat may have changed everything and floored it all the way to Vancouver and their first Stanley Cup in 39 seasons.
See, it's not just that they're winning, it's how they're winning. It's with that depth that many of us presumed would be a particular advantage during the abbreviated season.
The third victory of the series was delivered in large part by the stellar play of the Bruins' Don't-Call-'Em-The-Fourth-Line of Shawn Thornton, Gregory Campbell, and Daniel Paille and the continued unexpected scoring touch of defenseman Johnny Boychuk. As one Twitter jokester put it after Boychuk's hard-earned fourth goal of the postseason tied the game at 1-1 at 3:10 of the third period, he's become a Manchuk in these playoffs.
That goal, a laser from the right point, was set up by the relentless forechecking of Thornton, Campbell and Paille to keep the puck in the zone and the pressure on goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who was sensational Wednesday night, particularly in the second period when the Bruins could not pierce him despite a 14-5 shot advantage.
So it was only just that the fourth line, so deserving of praise and plaudits ...
Merlot line does the little things. They take care of the puck and get to the danger areas. Simple game. #BruinsTalk— Bobby Allen (@bobby_allen2) May 22, 2013
... would score the winning goal against Lundqvist, whom the Bruins have now beaten at his worst (he allowed five goals in Game 2) and at his best (he was 12-3 career with a 1.92 goals-against average on his home ice against the Bruins entering Game 3, and he looked like that guy Tuesday night).
Paille got the winner at 16:29, a goal born from uncanny awareness and pure hustle. After Paille kept the puck in along the boards, the Bruins went on the attack, with one shot trickling behind Lundqvist but suddenly spinning away from the net after approaching the goal line. With extraordinary alertness and the quickness to beat two Rangers defensemen to the scene, Paille batted the loose puck over Lundqvist's glove to provide the winning margin.
Each member of that line could have registered as one of the three stars, but the Bruins had more nominees than that. Young defensemen Matt Bartkowski and Torey Krug were again dynamic, and it makes you wonder if there are any other gems hidden in Providence at the moment.
Tuukka Rask was somewhere between steady and brilliant, and his performance continues to be encouraging given his presence in net is the primary difference between this team and the one that hoisted the Cup two years ago, when Tim Thomas defended his turf the way he now presumably defends his favorite amendments.
*** RANDOM PIERRE MCGUIRE INTERRUPTION ***
(Yes, you are reading that correct. He's not Pierre from Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu. He's really Regis from Jersey.)
*** END RANDOM PIERRE MCGUIRE INTERRUPTION ***
Actually, there is a segue here. McGuire was pretty great last night during NBC Sport Network's broadcast when he ripped the Rangers' disjointed and disinterested power play. The morning after, the sequence stands out as one piece of evidence that the uninspired Rangers aren't capable of making this a series. But hardly the only piece of evidence.
It's so bad for the Rangers, the end so inevitable, that coach John Tortorella, who prefers to communicate in grunts, smirks and eye-rolls, was teetering on introspection after the game. He noted that the Bruins' ability to "roll four lines'' was essential and a significant advantage against what he called his own short bench.
Actually, now that I re-consider it, that's not introspection. That's the coach recognizing the dead-end ahead and rolling out the first line of excuses. Barring an injury to the Bruins akin to David Krejci's momentum-shifting absence three seasons ago, the Rangers are not capable of coming back. They were sluggish upon returning to their home ice last night, a telltale sign of a motivational void. They were disorganized on the ice. There is no Simon Gagne on the horizon to rescue them.
Whether it happens Thursday in New York or Saturday in Boston, the Bruins will provide a favorite satisfaction in our city – ending a New York team's season.
The Rangers are done. The Bruins? Far from it. They may have only just begun.
Sure, there's a long way to go on the journey, with potential roadblocks ahead in Pittsburgh and Chicago and Detroit and on and on. Winning a Stanley Cup is the most grueling journey in professional sports. We know that. We've cherished it.
But this is starting to feel familiar in all the right ways, and it's best to be prepared. So someone with such access might want to check the oil in the duck boats. Gotta make sure they're ready. June isn't so far away.
Is the kid really this good?
Are they really this good?
We'll start with the latter question first, since we can clear this one out of the way like Tuukka Rask casually sweeping aside an unthreatening shot.
I don't know. I don't, neither do you, and I'm pretty sure Claude Julien, Cam Neely, and Peter Chiarelli don't know, either. I mean, yes, obviously, what we've seen from the Bruins through two games and two victories in the Eastern Conference semifinals is buoying and encouraging.
Maybe their relentless, often dominating 5-2 victory over the New York Rangers Sunday in Game 2 of their series is foreshadowing big things ahead.
But you know ... it's these guys. The core of this team, with one very notable absence, brought Boston a parade two years ago, and it's not far-fetched right now to believe right now that they're capable of hoisting the Stanley Cup again.
But they haven't always handed postseason prosperity well. They have a maddening habit of self-inflicting unnecessary degrees of difficulty, not only during the first-round series with the Leafs, but throughout the second-half of the regular season. The city loves this team, and it should. But they don't always make it easy, and I find it hard to believe they'll knock out the Rangers without having to fend off some counter-punches.
A quick inventory of the Rangers reminds us that they have an all-world goalie (albeit one in Henrik Lundqvist who gave up five goals Sunday for the first time since March 2011), a coach who acts like he'd choke the air out of a fourth-line forward just to watch him wheeze, a core of defensemen who block shots with no regard for their front teeth and orbital bones, a captain in Ryan Callahan who would be beloved in Boston, and a sniper in Rick Nash who appears to be waking from his slumber.
They have a lot, and a 2-0 hole won't faze them. Somewhere near the first tee, the Capitals are nodding in agreement. It would shock me if the Bruins don't win this series. It would surprise me if they wipe out the Rangers with the ease of Sunday afternoon.
But to say the Bruins will make it hard on themselves solely because that's who they are is to dismiss the coolest development of this series so far, one that perhaps alters their makeup in a good way.
I'm talking about the emergence of the kid, and given that Torey Krug, Matt Bartkowski, and Dougie Hamilton have all rescued the Bruins on their seemingly depleted blueline to some degree in this series, I should probably specify which kid. But if you watched Sunday's game, you probably know the answer in advance.
Where have you been all winter and spring, Torey Krug? Actually, the literal answer is Providence, where the offensively gifted 5-foot-9-inch defenseman scored 13 goals in his first professional season after scoring a dozen his final year at Michigan State.
He had all of three NHL games to his credit when he was recalled last week after Dennis Seidenberg, Mr. Dependable especially this time of year, was injured in Game 7 against the Leafs. With Andrew Ference already out and Wade Redden also nicked up, Julien had no choice to turn to the underclassmen.
While Hamilton is the heir apparent at 19, and Bartkowski is the "old" man with the reprieve – the 24-year-old was supposed to go to the Flames in the Jarome Iginla deal – it's Krug who has the most compelling argument that he was born to be a Bruin.
He arrived on April 12, 1991 – the off-day between Games 5 and 6 of the Bruins' playoff series with the Hartford Whalers. That team was coached by Mike Milbury, starred Cam Neely, and eventually lost in the Eastern Conference Finals to a Penguins squad that included Mark Recchi and – you know it – Jaromir Jagr.
Perhaps Krug could take Jagr aside before Game 3 and give him some tips on turning chances into goals.
All right, that's a two-minute minor for cheap facetiousness. Really, I'm not ready to suggest losing Seidenberg was anything close to a blessing in disguise. He is essential, and they will need him along the way. Ideally, they would have found out what Krug can do without having an injury to Seidenberg serve as the catalyst.
But there's rarely room for let's-give-this-kid-a-chance idealism in the Stanley Cup playoffs, and it has been a pleasure discovering that Krug can be a catalyst for a Bruins' offense that has received production from unlikely sources. (Johnny Boychuk and Gregory Campbell joined Krug, Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand as goal-scorers Sunday.)
Krug scored the tying goal on the power play in the third period of Game 1, and watching his skill in that situation instantly suggested that he may be part of the solution to their annual power-play woes. He was that poised, that polished.
Sunday, he was even more impressive, performing like some sort of Brian Rafalski/Greg Hawgood-circa-1989 hybrid. He scored the Bruins' first goal, and he did it in style. Taking a pass from Nathan Horton just outside the left faceoff circle, the puck slipped between his skates. Krug deftly poked it from right to left behind his left skate, corralled it, and fired a wrist shot past Lundqvist, who surely wasn't expecting that.
He later picked up an assist on Campbell's goal, his shot ricocheting off Dan Girardi's skate and leaving a juicy rebound, which Campbell obligingly backhanded into the net. It was a fine day for an established upper-echelon veteran, let alone a player whose focus was on a series with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins a week ago.
Krug's goal is a lock for the Bruins season highlight real. And yet it might not have been my favorite play he made in Sunday's game. Did you catch this one? Pierre McGuire sure did.
With about three minutes left in the second period, Krug collected the puck in the corner, swerved from left to right behind Tuukka Rask's net, then, as if he'd hit the turbo button on his skates, took off down the middle of the ice, breaking free through the Rangers' helpless attempts at forechecking.
"That's what you do, skate yourself out of troub .... WOW,'' blurted McGuire, NBC's rinkside analyst.
After zipping through the neutral zone and into Lundqvist's consciousness, he pulled off a half-spin and left the puck for Horton, who fired a rocket that the goalie managed to deflect.
As the Boston crowd – appreciative of a defenseman who can rush from end to end for at least the past 45 years or so – roared, McGuire noted that Krug had never been drafted:
"Think the scouts made a mistake?,'' McGuire asked rhetorically.
Well, that much we're sure of. Krug can play.
But even with the fresh element he's brought, I'm not counting out the Rangers until the Bruins are the ones smiling in the handshake line.
I believe in the new kid. But I'm not bidding farewell to the old habits just yet.
What do you say, Bruins fans? Three more in a row, just like that one, then on to the next series?
Not happening, of course. At least, not happening in a four-game sweep. Besides, our quota of improbable demands was met with the borderline miraculous comeback in Game 7 of the first-round Stanley Cup playoff series with the Maple Leafs. After that, it's best to be realistic for a while.
The Leafs were not easily dismissed, and the Rangers won't be either. This is going to have to be earned, stride by stride and shot by shot.
The first pelt belongs to the Bruins, who did some fine work in gaining an advantage in the series Thursday night with a 3-2 overtime victory at TD Garden. It was a win that was every bit as hard-fought as the pre-series tale-of-the-tape between these two similar teams suggested.
For the Bruins, encouraging signs aren't hard to find. It was the Bruins' third straight overtime victory this postseason, and they're beginning to flash those saving-our-best-for-last characteristics reminiscent of their run to the Cup two years ago, when they won three seventh games along the way.
Of course, that may also have something to do with who is winning the games as much as it is how they are winning.
Brad Marchand, much-maligned during the Toronto series, scored the winner 4 minutes and 20 seconds into overtime off a lovely pass from Patrice Bergeron. Bergeron, of course, broke through with his instant-legend performance in Game 7 against the Leafs, but this was his linemate Marchand's first goal of the postseason.
Marchand, a.k.a. the Little Ball of Hate, is popular among Bruins fans for his feisty style, a talented nuisance with more than a little stylistic resemblance to Ken Linseman. But until last night, this postseason hadn't exactly gone his way. The second line, featuring Bergeron and the enigmatic Tyler Seguin, struggled against Toronto until the season was teetering on the brink.
Even Thursday wasn't perfect -- Marchand appeared to suffer an injury during the morning skate, fortunately a false alarm. And during NBC Sports Network's broadcast, he was referred to by Pierre McGuire as "Todd" Marchand, presumably an accidental reference to the erstwhile former Oiler and Duck, Todd Marchant, whose greatest career feat might have been that he was an unstoppable force on NHL '98.
To see Marchand's Thursday end well, just as Game 7 against the Leafs had a storybook flourish by Bergeron, is to be reminded of how essential both were in the run to the Cup two years ago, particularly in combining for all four goals in the title-clinching victory in Vancouver. To see them thriving now is to be reminded of what can happen when they are at their best.
But the true stars of the game for the Bruins were the defensemen, and not the usual suspects. Oh, yes, captain Zdeno Chara was brilliant, piercing Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist for the first goal, tormenting Rick Nash, and logging 38:02 minutes of ice time. But with his usual defensive partner, Dennis Seidenberg, sidelined with an injury suffered after 37 seconds of play in Game 7, and veterans Andrew Ference and Wade Redden also out, the Bruins had to turn to three young blueliners, two of whom were playing in the AHL playoffs just a few days ago.
And you know what? They saved the day. They did. Dougie Hamilton paired up with Chara and playing the part of a veteran, carrying over his strong performance from Game 7. Though he's a certain future star and just 19, it's not that much of a surprise to see him play well.
But Matt Bartkowski and Torey Krug, postseason stalwarts? Yeah, didn't see that coming. Neither has a regular-season goal in the NHL, but now each has a playoff goal. Amazing. Any other defensemen in Providence who want to come up and join the party?
Bartkowski got his goal early in Game 7, and the swift puck-mover was again superb Thursday night while logging 26:42 of ice time, third only to Chara and Johnny Boychuk (26.55). Is it possible that it will be a blessing in disguise that the Jarome Iginla deal fell through and he never did become a Calgary Flame? I'm not ready to say it yet, and I suspect you aren't either. But the kid is playing very, very well. Bartkowski belongs.
Krug, I fear, is never going to make it here, at least until he learns to stop shooting the puck on the power play. I kid, but man, wasn't it refreshing to see him come out firing on the power play early in the third period after the Rangers had taken a 2-1 lead? His tying goal came with 17:05 left in regulation, the first of his career in just his fourth NHL game.
Given Lundqvist's habitual brilliance – it's almost a surprise when he gives up a goal – and a shot-blocking defense that is more than willing to risk facial reconstructive surgery if it means the puck has been safely detoured away from the net, three goals feels like a Bruins offensive onslaught in a way.
It wouldn't shock me if this is the first Stanley Cup playoff series in NHL history to go seven games, all settled in overtime. The Rangers – hard-hitting, deep, disciplined – are about as similar as it gets to the Bruins in philosophy and talent.
The only significant difference is that their coach, the hilariously brusque John Tortorella, carries himself like a soap-opera villain, while Bruins coach Claude Julien looks like he stepped out of the 1930-31 Montreal Maroons team photo.
It's a fascinating matchup, this first Bruins-Rangers postseason meeting since 1973. And Game 1 did not disappoint.
Get used to it. This is how it's going to be between these proud, similar teams. Probably all the way through a seventh game. And not to get too far ahead, but you might want to prepare for overtime for that one, too.
General rule of sports: After one playoff game or series ends and another approaches, the standard mode of operation for players, media and fans alike is to immediately look forward rather than back.
But as you may have heard, there was nothing standard about the Bruins' 5-4 overtime victory in Game 7 against the Leafs Monday. I've been fortunate to cover some amazing athletes and events, including the Bruins' Game 7 win in Vancouver two years ago. And nothing was quite as fun to witness as the final half of the third period and overtime Monday night. Nothing. I mean that. I can't stop thinking about it.
Sure, the Rangers lurk, and how is it that these two franchises haven't met in the postseason since 1973? But that showdown commences Thursday. Until then, who can resist savoring what happened Monday just a little longer?
So here's a hat trick's worth of Bruins thoughts as the buzz lingers Monday, a victory in which the term "instant classic'' feels like an understatement ...
1. Why can't he do that all the time? Why doesn't he?
Milan Lucic was dominant Monday night – specifically, he was dominant from roughly halfway through the third period through overtime.
He hit everything in sight that was wearing blue and white, posted up in front of the net and battled for James Reimer's inevitable fat rebounds, set up Nathan Horton's goal at 9:42 that cut the margin to 4-2, told his teammates, "That's one" after that score as if he honestly believed a comeback was feasible, cut the margin himself to 4-3 with 1:22 left, and continued on his wrecking-ball rampage for the rest of his shifts until Patrice Bergeron's eventual OT winner.
It was a tour de force, the Lucic we always want to see, playing with a relentlessness that seems as if he's being controlled by remote by Cam Neely from the Garden's ninth floor.
It's as if Lucic consciously turned it on and took over at the very last moment before all would be lost. Which, of course, is both reassuring and frustrating as hell, because he should be this player all the time.
Perhaps he was fueled by a realization he acknowledged thinking about late in the game -- that this Bruins team very well might have been broken up had they lost.
Whatever it was that got the likable enigma to play with that skill and ferocity when it was needed the most, here's hoping it's at his disposal going forward. As we were reminded Monday, with that Lucic, anything is possible.
2. I can't think of any Bruins player whose legacy and perception was more affected by Monday's win than Tuukka Rask.
Had the Bruins lost, he'd be known, foremost and probably fairly, as the goalie who was in net for the blown three-games-to-none lead over the Flyers three seasons ago and then blown 3-1 lead over the Leafs. The goalie who seemed to melt when it mattered. The goalie who was no Tim Thomas in the biggest moments.
Instead, rather than letting the game get away from the Bruins when it was 4-1, he gave his team a chance for its improbable rally, make a handful of exceptional saves late in the third period and early in overtime, doing his part to make sure there was at least a small glimmer of hope.
Now? Now he's the guy who rose to the occasion when all seemed lost. Given that he seemed to face many more quality scoring chances than his counterpart Reimer and still ultimately won, the lasting perception regarding his performance in the series is that he was at his best when he needed to be.
It's more proof that a goalie's reputation can change in an instant, something the candid, unassuming Rask acknowledged with his now-famous postgame quote: "It's do or die. You're either a hero or an [expletive].''
Come to think of it, that's such an accurate portrayal of a goalie's existence that it should be mandatory for every netminder to have the quote engraved on his helmet.
3. There's no one on that roster I'd rather have seen score the tying and winning goals than Patrice Bergeron. You don't root, but ... let's just say I'm glad it was him.
The Bruins have had more than their share of legends and leaders, but few master both and become worthy of universal admiration. Bergeron is one who has. He carries the workload and responsibilities of three players, he's a dignified and well-spoken example of how to be a professional, and he has been through so much with the concussions and the aftermath that you really have to be a scoundrel to not wish the best for the guy.
He's a beloved Bruin already, an admired veteran at the ripe age of 27, and he's earned all of it. It was reassuring to see him salvage what had been an unusually rough series for him (at least scoring-wise) by coming up with two goals that will be at the very beginning of the highlight reel the day his No. 37 is raised to the rafters.
Did that really happen? It wasn't just some weird, fleeting hockey dream, too improbable to be real, right. Tell me it didn't vaporize when you opened your eyes.
This is legit. Like the Flutie's Hail Mary, and Vinatieri's kick through the snow-globe conditions, and Roberts's steal ... this happened, this night where reality was so amazing that hyperbole became an understatement. It did. Right?
Please, tell me we all saw the same incredible plot twists unfold at TD Garden Monday night. Because no one is going to believe us if our stories don't jibe.
Here's what I saw: I saw the Bruins rally from an impossibly deep 4-1 hole with 10 minutes left in the third period, turning certain defeat into a season-saving 5-4 overtime victory against the poor, tortured Maple Leafs.
I saw the Bruins pull off a victory for the ages, one that doesn't require the context of how the rest of the postseason plays out before it takes its place among the greatest of comebacks in Boston sports history.
I saw the Bruins – our maddening, beloved Bruins – become the first team in NHL history to win a Game 7 when trailing by three goals in the third period.
I saw Patrice Bergeron – beloved, but maybe mildly maddening in this series – score the tying goal with 51 seconds left in the game and the season, then double up with the winner and series clincher 6:05 into overtime to save it all.
I saw Bergeron get that winner by pouncing on one more plump James Reimer rebound, the red light flashing as confirmation that this one found the back of the net. And then I heard those famous words of Jack Buck echo in my mind:
<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jdpImFSHhDA">I don't believe what I just saw.</a>
Do you believe it? Tell me you saw it all, too. Tell me that Phil Kessel wasn't vindicated and victorious, that Cody Franson (two goals) didn't join the likes of Joel Ward, Simon Gagne, and Scott Walker as recent Bruins postseason tormentors.
Tell me you didn't turn off the television or leave the Garden in hopes of being the pace car on the Mass Pike.
Tell me you stuck around, savored the postgame bedlam, the delirious chaos on a night that for so long felt like disaster, like the end of something that mattered.
That is how it felt, isn't it? Even the players, 16 of whom were around for the run to the Stanley Cup two years ago, knew that defeat assured changes.
Foremost, this core group will be remembered for the championship. That's only right. But many of them were around when they they lost four straight to the Flyers three years ago after taking a 3-0 series lead. The legacy for the likes of Tuukka Rask and Tyler Seguin would not be untarnished.
And had they lost this, after taking a 3-1 series lead ... well, let's just say the hypotheticals regarding whose jobs would be lost and who would be traded were flowing on Twitter and such before the puck was dropped for Game 7. Scapegoats were already being lined up on the blueline for a quick and unforgiving trial.
The perception of this core of Bruins didn't just change in the furious final minutes. The course of Bruins history changed. Even some players admitted letting the minds drift toward thoughts of inevitable change when the outlook was bleakest.
"You're looking at the clock wind down, with half a period left at 4-1, and you start thinking to yourself, is this the end of this group here, because it probably would have been if we didn't win this game,'' said Milan Lucic, whose goal with 1 minute and 22 seconds remaining cut the margin to 4-3. "You've got to have bounces, you've got to have luck, you've got to have everything go your way, and that's what happened in the last 10 minutes there."
"Unbelievable,'' added defenseman Johnny Boychuk, who provided 28 minutes and 30 seconds of relentless effort in the absence of Andrew Ference, Wade Redden, and Dennis Seidenberg, the latter of whom played just 37 seconds because of an apparent leg injury. "That's one thing you're going to remember probably for the rest of your life. Everybody probably thought we were done."
Their bosses included, most likely. When it was all over, team president Cam Neely stepped on the ninth-floor elevator looking like he just played a Zdena Chara-esque 35 minutes himself.
Silent but for a thank-you to the doorman, he wore a look not befitting the president of a team whose team had just completed a comeback as exhilarating as it was improbable, but the look of someone who spent the first half of the third period staring a three-goal deficit and pondering difficult but inevitable changes.
He may have been exhilarated, and perhaps the NESN cameras caught him giving a trademark metacarpal-shattering high-five to Peter Chiarelli after Bergeron's winner, but he looked exhausted.
So did coach Claude Julien, who may well have been the first casualty had they lost.
"I'm a tired coach, I can tell you that much, trying to find a way to get these guys to give us what we want out of them,'' he said. "We make it tough on ourselves. We're being honest here. Not being able to close it out in five [games], we've always had trouble with the killer instinct. That may be a fault of ours, but the strength of ours is the character that you saw tonight.''
Character was a word that recurred no matter which Bruin was in front of the microphones. And perhaps that's the most reassuring development to emerge from this game, this series – despite the frustrations of recurring lost leads during the regular season and the unnecessary drama of this series, at least we now know that they will never quit.
The resilience of a champion – that character – remains intact as the Bruins play on.
"It looks like it's going to be the Rangers [in the second round],'' Lucic said, and indeed he was correct. "Boston-New York, Red Sox-Yankees, Giants-Patriots, Knicks-Celtics this year, and now we have this. So two cities that there's a lot hatred between in sports, and from a fan's perspective and a player's perspective, it's something to look forward to.
Game 1 between the Bruins and Rangers is Thursday. It's a rivalry matchup in the Stanley Cup playoff, which essentially assures that it will be memorable, probably even epic.
But before you look forward, look back again. What we saw Monday night, well, heck yes, it really happened. But tell me you saw it, too. Because I'm not going to be ready to stop hearing about it anytime soon.
Quick question: When you reminisce about the Bruins' Stanley Cup run two seasons ago, who is the second player to come to mind?
I mean, I think the first is pretty much unanimous among us, right? Tim Thomas is out of sight now, presumably somewhere in Colorado protecting his property with the fervor with which he once protected the net.
But he'll never be far out of our minds, his performance during the journey through the 2010-11 postseason redefining the concept of a hot goalie.
But second? That's interesting. There are more than three stars' worth of candidates deserving of consideration.
Was it Zdeno Chara, the indefatigable captain and defensive bulkhead? Or Mr. Overtime, Nathan Horton?
How about Brad Marchand, his beak the beacon to the clinching victory in Vancouver?
Maybe Patrice Bergeron, another Game 7 stalwart whose array of skills both subtle and obvious gives him the value of multiple quality players?
All worthy choices. But as we were reminded once again during the Bruins' exhilarating 4-3 overtime victory over the Maple Leafs Wednesday night in Game 4 of their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series, it's always wise to remember what David Krejci brings to this team.
Which, plainly put, is a knack for using his extraordinary talent to produce extraordinary performances when the games matter most.
It's tempting to suggest that Krejci's hat trick in Game 4, including an almost casual winner at 13:06 of overtime in which his celebration – essentially a half-fist-pump and a smile – suggested the ending was hardly unexpected to him, was the game of a lifetime. The reality, sometimes lost amid the plaudits dished to his teammates, is that he's been doing stuff like this when the stakes are high for more than two years now.
In 63 career playoff games, Krejci has 25 goals – a number he has never achieved in a single regular season – and 32 assists, with a plus/minus of 25. Two seasons ago, during the Cup run, he was the leading scorer in the postseason with 12 goals and 23 points in 25 games.
The year before that, he had eight points in nine games before his season ended with a dislocated wrist in the second-round against Philadelphia. He was pivotal in building a 3-0 lead in that series, and the Bruins would not have lost the next four games had he not been lost.
He's been downright stellar in every postseason but the last one, when he had a goal, two assists, and was symbolically flattened by a pane of glass falling from the boards as the Bruins' reign ended in a seven-game loss to the Capitals.
Still, over his last 45 playoff games, he has 22 goals and 22 assists, and he's the leading scorer thus far during this postseason with 10 points in five games. Playing with the calm and poise of a point guard whose command of the game seems to slow everything down and slice through the chaos, he nearly had two more goals Wednesday night. He hit the side of the net when the Bruins were in an early 2-0 hole in the first period, and he nearly duped Leafs goalie James Reimer with a quick shot between a defenseman's legs minutes before he finally ended it.
I should note that's not the first time I've made the point guard comparison with Krejci. He's not quite as bullheaded, but sometimes I do think of him as the Bruins' version of Rajon Rondo, a player as smart as he is gifted and yet one prone to playing down to the level of competition sometimes.
Krejci has admitted as much, that he does get bored sometimes during the regular season, that a Tuesday night game in February in Winnipeg can be work rather than play. Conversely, like Rondo, he also is supercharged and at his best when the spotlight is on and the competition is of high quality. I'll never forget watching Krejci sparkle at the Vancouver Olympics and realizing that not only can he hold his own with the elite players in the world, but he can actually outperform them.
Krejci glides. That can be good (the graceful performance Wednesday) and bad (the expectation of more during the regular season can be exasperating when it doesn't happen).
But he's everything you could possibly want in the big moments – calm, poised, skilled, and consistently productive.
It's that time of year. His time of year. David Krejci is rolling, and with help from his friends, the Bruins might just be rolling too.
In a past hockey life, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli was a dependable stay-at-home defensemen for four seasons at Harvard, a player whose skill-set and approach probably would have appealed to Claude Julien's sensibilities.
Tuesday, the old defenseman proved he still has one of the most necessary attributes of the position: the ability to recover and make the right play when it appears you've been beaten.
Chiarelli acquired legendary and still-productive 41-year-old forward Jaromir Jagr from the Dallas Stars for fringe prospects Lane MacDermid and Cody Payne and a conditional second-round draft pick that could become a first if the Bruins reach the Eastern Conference Finals.
It's a brilliant trade, the perfect response to the one that got away.
The frustration among Bruins fans was still palpable six days after aging Flames power forward Jarome Iginla derailed an all-but-done deal by choosing Pittsburgh (or more accurately, the chance to play with Sidney Crosby) over Boston.
Iginla seemed like the perfect fit, a prototypical Bruin in style even though he never has played (or probably ever will play) for the franchise. Acquiring him was a longstanding hockey daydream that vanished right when it seemed to be on the verge of coming true.
That the deal collapsed after most of us went to bed believing it was complete was beyond frustrating, particularly since Iginla willingly joined forces with a conference rival. But as consolation prizes go, it's hard to imagine it gets much better than acquiring a player with 679 goals and 1,000 career assists, especially when the price was much less than it would have cost for Iginla.
Plus, given that Jagr was a Penguin during his electric prime, it's instantly easy to anticipate the intrigue of a Boston/Pittsburgh Jagr/Iginla showdown in the postseason.
Of course, unless you ignore hockey to the degree that, oh, ESPN does, you know Jagr is no longer the awesomely/ridiculously maned force of nature who racked up five seasons of 42-plus goals for Pittsburgh while often riding shotgun with Mario Lemieux more than a decade ago. He's not the same. Heck, the NHL is not the same.
But it's always cool when the team you follow acquires a genuine legend of the sport. It's even cooler when the legend can still play at a high level (sorry, circa 2000-01 Paul Coffey). Sure, Jagr has been around so long that many of his peers are long since out of sight and out of mind -- for instance, he was the Penguins' top pick in 1990, the year the Bruins used their No. 1 on Bryan Smolinski. Jagr's rookie season was then-teammate and future Bruins Stanley Cup winner Mark Recchi's second full year. His teammates that season included Bryan Trottier, Tom Barrasso, Ron Francis, Joe Mullen, and Barry Pederson.
But Jagr can still play, and play very well. He has 26 points, more than Tyler Seguin, and his 14 goals are as many as Bruins leader Brad Marchand. Not to mention five more than Iginla's season tally so far.
It'll be interesting to see whether Jagr is as committed and disciplined defensively as Julien demands, but perhaps it will be beneficial to have a player who doesn't fit their prototype.
He may make the Bruins less predictable on instinct alone, and there is zero doubt that he will be an asset in at least one essential way. Jagr should provide a significant boost to the Bruins' feeble power play, which ranks 24th in the NHL at a 15.2 conversion rate and has been particularly abysmal on the Garden ice. Jagr alone has six power-play goals this season. The entire current Bruins roster has 14 -- total.
Perhaps there will be some ancillary benefits of bringing him aboard. As much as I'm an apologist for Nathan Horton, I'd love to see Jagr skating alongside David Krejci on the first line. There was a lot of talk when it looked like Iginla would be delivered to Boston that many of the players in the Bruins locker room were eager to play with someone many grew up idolizing. Maybe this has the same effect.
At the very least, he'll be a skilled, savvy, important piece on a team that relies on its depth more than most.
And the truth is that the Bruins, ailing and too often sluggish lately, needed something. A couple of somethings, really, if they're going to make a legitimate run at their second Cup in three years. Maybe the trade deadline delivers a playmaking defenseman such as Mark Streit or the expensive Brian Campbell.
But acquiring Jagr is an excellent start. Not to mention a rather impressive recovery.
Don't forget: Chat at 2:30. So, you know, 2:35 ... 2:38 at the latest.
Today's media column on the Bruins' massive ratings on NESN is here. Talked to Andy Brickley, not exactly a disinterested observer, about why he believes fans in Boston came back so quickly after the lockout. Here is one thought from Brick that I didn't use in the column, on how the accessibility of the players seemed to accelerate the fans' forgiveness.
"One of the things you try to do is expose these guys so that the fans get to know these players and their personalities,'' said Brickley. "I don’t think a Belichickian approach works in hockey. Everybody knows that hockey players are salt-of-the-earth people. But they’re in the community, and fans have access. They live in town and are out and about in town but they live the right way. They’re out amongst their fanbase and you get to know them. That matters to people."
Because today's column was a one-topic deal, here are a few items I wanted to touch on but didn't have the room. I may make this a regular Friday feature. Consider them the deleted scenes:
ESPN formally announced the hiring of Ray Lewis as an NFL analyst/personality this week, a story Sports Illustrated's Richard Deitsch was all over several weeks ago. While his history makes him something of a controversial choice, his appeal to ESPN is obvious -- he's a truly great player with the charisma to succeed. I'm curious how they'll use him -- I supect he'll be turned into a fake-preaching cartoon character designated to give "inspirational speeches'' to various teams and players. I do hope he's not a significant part of the "Monday Night Football'' broadcast -- Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden tandem is just fine as is. And it will probably be an adjustment for Lewis, getting less camera time now in an actual TV gig than he did all those years playing to the cameras before, during, and after Ravens games.
The NFL Network apologized Wednesday, a day after someone on their set -- believed to be Warren Sapp -- commented in less-than-network-friendly language about a segment that was underway featuring Scott Pioli discussing the Patriots' philosophy in team-building. While Pioli, who worked in the Patriots front office under Bill Belichick during the three Super Bowl victories, was talking with host Scott Hanson, Sapp The Voice could be heard whispering, “It’s the same [expletive] segment we had Mike Lombardi do. The [expletive] Bill Belichick [expletive] angle.” Chris Rose presented the apology, saying in part, "Last night during some live programming, we accidentally aired an expletive. It will not happen again." I suppose the apology was necessary, but what the network should really apologize for is continuing to employ Sapp. It's obvious why information about the Patriots matters -- insight about what they do and how they've maintained their run of success for more than a decade is at a premium. No one is asking much about the 2002 Tampa Bay Bucs these days, you know?
The rumor that Bob Ryan is co-hosting a show on 1510 is not accurate. He is doing six hits a week with Marty Tirrell on Yahoo! Sports Radio's "Calling All Sports,'' which is broadcast on 1510. But it's not a full-time thing, and he says he doesn't want one. He is expected to join Sean Grande as the color analyst on the Celtics-Bobcats game Saturday night on WEEI, possibly in an every-other-quarter role with ESPN's Ryen Russillo. They will be filling in for Cedric Maxwell, who is being honored by the Atlantic-10.
Regarding Bill Simmons's three-day Twitter suspension by his ESPN bosses for a series of tweets criticizing Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman's battle with Skip Bayless on the abomination known as "First Take,'' I'll stick to what I more or less said on ... well, Twitter. Maybe as an employee Simmons should have had more discretion, and I'm sure he was warned before. (He was previously suspended for ripping WEEI, which has a partnership with ESPN). But man, was he ever right. Kudos to him for speaking the truth.
Dale Arnold, Gerry Callahan, and Kirk Minihane is a very good show. As we heard this morning, Callahan and Minihane alone (with the latter handling getting in and out of the breaks and other duties that the absent John Dennis does well) might be even better. If there was any concern before this week regarding how to repair the morning show, there shouldn't be now. Seems to me they've found two solutions.
Looking for a Ted Sarandis update? You know you have, and we've got one for you. The former voice of Boston College basketball and WEEI evening host (among other gigs) will debut a new college basketball program on WATD 95.9 beginning this Sunday at 9 p.m. Titled "College Basketball Tonight,'' it is co-hosted by former BC coach Al Skinner and will air through the end of the month. It also will be streamed online at hoopville.com.
Jerry Remy won't be part of NESN's spring training Red Sox broadcasts over the weekend. The network said it is because of a previously planned family commitment. Jim Rice will fill in tonight against the Twins. It's one of their co-produced telecasts, so Twins analyst Ron Coomer will team up with Rice. Don Orsillo will split time with Twins play-by-play announcer Dick Bremer. Orsillo and Rice will handle Sunday's game with the Rays. Guess a Rays legend like Ryan Rupe, Tanyon Sturtze or Julio Lugo wasn't available to share the booth.
Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton are still skating the early shifts of what should be long, accomplished, perhaps even decorated careers. But their obvious if unfinished talents have already made it tempting to project Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli's September 2009 deal, which sent Phil Kessel to the Maple Leafs for a hat trick of draft picks that became Seguin, Hamilton, and Jared Knight, as an all-time heist, the hockey version of Kevin McHale and Robert Parish for Joe Barry Carroll and Ricky Brown, or Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek for Heathcliff Slocumb.
Maybe Hamilton will become Zdeno Chara's successor as the defensive fulcrum and Seguin will win multiple scoring titles and the deal will surpass Barry Pederson for Cam Neely or Ron Grahame for the pick that became Ray Bourque as the most lopsided swaps in relatively recent Bruins lore. I suspect it will be regarded precisely that way, and Chiarelli deserves all the praise he is already getting for that particular deal.
I'm just not sure Chiarelli, for whom an argument can be made that he is one of the most successful recent general managers across all major sports, gets enough credit for the other stuff, the subtler trades and transactions that don't demand big headlines.
The accumulation of these deals over the years have gone a long way toward making the Bruins, accelerating though the abbreviated season with a 12-2-2 record, a true contender not only because of talent, familiarity with each other, and discipline, but exceptional depth, something most teams lack and something coach Claude Julian utilizes to great effect.
Consider these smaller but essential trades -- just trades, excluding savvy signings such as Shawn Thornton -- that Chiarelli has pulled off through the years, helping the Bruins win one Cup and surely contend for a couple more. These are just players on the current roster:
May 16, 2007: Acquired Adam McQuaid from Columbus for a fifth-round pick.
June 24, 2008: Acquired Johnny Boychuk from Colorado for Matt Hendricks.
October 20, 2009: Acquired Daniel Paille from Buffalo for a 2010 third-round pick.
That's a pretty extraordinary knack for the secondary or supplemental deal. Ben Cherington should have such a deft touch with his remodeled Red Sox roster.
I'm not sure why Chiarelli doesn't get more than the occasional stick-tap of credit, though I have my theories. The first and most obvious is the Cam factor. There are few more universally beloved athletes in Boston sports lore than Cam Neely, and in some ways he remains the face of the franchise as the club president, a position he has held since June 2010. The Bruins are tough and intense and resilient, built in his mold, and it's very easy -- and right, in a lot of ways -- to give him the credit for what the organization has become. The perception is that Neely is forever the goal scorer. Still, Chiarelli is responsible for more than just dishing out assists, you know?
I also believe the odd circumstances of Chiarelli's arrival and his tense, lawyerly persona worked against him from the beginning. He was hired in May 2006 but didn't officially join the franchise until July 11 because his employer, the Senators, wanted him to work to the end of his contract. In the interim between when he was hired and when he actually started the job, the Bruins, with interim GM Jeff Gorton and director of amateur scouting Scott Bradley running the draft, chose Kessel, Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand, three players directly or indirectly essential to their franchise's turnaround.
In the same span, Chara -- whom Chiarelli knew well from Ottawa and absolutely coveted -- Marc Savard, Shean Donovan and Mark Mowers were signed, while the Maple Leafs were mined for the first time, accepting Andrew Raycroft for prospect Tuukka Rask.
How much of that was his doing? In discussing the moves the occurred during his purgatory, Chiarelli told the Globe in July 2006, "Let's just say what I set forth was very specific."
Of course, there were hiccups along the way, just as there are for every successful general manager. Chiarelli's first coaching hire, Dave Lewis, was weird, disorganized, and had committed to a terrible decision in facial hair. (Chiarelli did want to interview Claude Julien at the time, but he had just been hired by the Devils.) He paid Manny Fernandez when he had Tim Thomas on the roster. The Tomas Kaberle swap in 2010 was a flop, though the process made enormous sense even if the results weren't there (I'm beginning to wonder whether Kaberle put a curse on the Bruins' power play). He got the worst of deals that sent Brad Boyes and Kris Versteeg to success elsewhere.
But it's a good sign, as the rumors start to fly about the upcoming trading deadline, that it takes a pretty extensive search to come up with just a couple of mistakes by Chiarelli. With plenty of cap room, perhaps the Bruins will add a name player such as Jarome Iginla, Daniel Briere or Daniel Alfredsson.
But if it's just small deals the Chiarelli makes, there's six-plus years of history suggesting that whatever he does and whomever he acquires, there's a good chance they'll turn out to be just what the Bruins need.
But with Zdeno Chara -- perhaps the most underrated outstanding player in recent Boston sports memory and someone who probably could give the Celtics a boost on the boards right now -- and the 6-1-1 Bruins taking on the 6-2 Canadiens Wednesday night in Montreal, I figured there's no better time for a hat trick's worth of observations on a team that should be a genuine championship contender ...
* * *
You know the pattern. A promising young player makes a great first impression, and the second and third impressions are just as encouraging, maybe even dazzling, and all of a sudden he's an instant fan favorite drawing irresistible comparisons to the legends who played the same position for the same franchise before him.
It is not long after that there's something of a backlash, or at least a warning to put the brakes on the hype for a while. Often, this admonishment comes from the same people who were first in line to crank up the hyperbole. It is as frustrating as it is inevitable.
I bring this up because Dougie Hamilton, the Bruins' superb rookie defenseman, has been caught in that spin cycle lately, but with sort of a unique, meaningful twist. While some in the media have praised Hamilton and then cautioned against overpraising him pretty much within a couple of breaths, it's the words of his coach that offer the strongest indication yet that the belief Hamilton will be a franchise cornerstone is an accurate one.
"He's tall, and he's not going to run anybody through the boards," said Julien back on January 29. "But he's solid and he moves the puck well and sees the play well. I think everybody knows Larry was a pretty good player."
OK, maybe he wasn't exactly over the top. But he's talking about Hall of Famer Larry Robinson, one of the finest defensive blue liners in league history and someone who strikes you as conservative Claude's ideal of what a hockey player should be. That considered, excuse me while I believe every word of praise sent Hamilton's way.
* * *
All right, so 25 of those came in 29 games when he played in Switzerland during the lockout. Seguin, who had 29 goals last year in his breakthrough second NHL season, has just one in the NHL this season, an empty-netter January 28 against the Hurricanes.
Given the expectations that were on the 21-year-old's shoulders when the season began, the drought is surprising, and you wonder if playing on the larger ice surface in Europe, which of course suits his elite speed and skill, has led to bad habits or at least a period of unexpected readjustment. He's scored on just one of 27 shots, which sounds like a bad night for Jason Terry pre-Rondo injury.
But is it alarming? Nah. Had this "slump" occurred from, say, games 25-32, it would barely register a line or two in Fluto's daily Bruins notebook. It's nothing a couple of goals tonight wouldn't cure. Seguin will be fine.
* * *
While Brad Marchand's injury will deny us the opportunity to watch him and the Canadiens' PK Subban out-annoy each other -- that's one of the great love-him-on-you-team-loathe-him-as-an-opponent matchups in the league -- it does give Bruins fans a chance to get their first look at Ryan Spooner, who will be making his NHL debut, centering fellow recent callups Lane McDermid and Jamie Tardif.
Spooner is an interesting prospect -- he's exactly one day older than Seguin and was chosen 43 selections after him in the 2010 draft. He's a small, speedy, skilled forward who had nine goals and 21 assists at Providence this season, his first prolonged time at the AHL level after dominating in the Ontario Hockey League.
At the very least, he's evidence of real organization depth, which they've already needed with injuries to Shawn Thornton and Daniel Paille and will surely need again during this abbreviated, compact season.
According to HockeyFuture.com, he occasionally had a habit of showboating in juniors, but his on-ice intelligence has caught the attention of Julien.
The coach, it should be noted, has thus far resisted comparing him to Yvan Cournoyer.
New England sports fans have been so incredibly blessed during the last decade-plus, with the four major sports franchises (sorry, Revo) tallying seven championships since 2001. But we're also reminded of that old Tom Brady go-to line when he's asked which championship is his favorite: "The next one.''
I chatted with Kevin Paul Dupont on the topic of which Boston team will deliver that next one on "Globe 10.0" the other day. But two minutes of jovial bickering apparently didn't do the topic justice since the idea has been ricocheting around in my skull ever since, so here's a couple hundred bonus words on the topic ...
Championship contention? This franchise? I don't know. Do you know? I don't know.
I've gone on record time and again this winter as approving of Ben Cherington's long-range approach toward restoring this franchise's credibility on and off the field. Signing proven, respected veterans to short-term deals as the bridge to a core of prospects the organization truly believes in, all the while holding the reasonable expectation that previously established high-caliber players will return to health and/or form, is a very prudent way to go.
But does that translate to true contention? Probably not, unless a deep bullpen masks all question marks in the rotation, everyone in the lineup has a healthy, productive year, a premier player who fits their needs becomes available at midseason, and either Jackie Bradley or Xander Bogaerts emerges ahead of schedule. That's probably too much to ask, but at least the Red Sox will be worth your time again.
Next season of serious contention: I'm telling you, they'll be in the wild card mix this year, but that doesn't count, does it? Let's go with 2015, though I don't think even Cherington's crystal ball can provide an accurate forecast at this point.
If we couldn't admit it before Rajon Rondo's injury, we can now: The only way the Celtics were going to have a shot at reaching the NBA Finals is if Dwyane Wade went on a league-wide rampage of cheap shots unprecedented since the collective 1987 Pistons, with his misguided hackery, undercutting, and elbow-stomping somehow claiming teammate LeBron James along the way. So yes, we're saying there was a chance.
I'll miss watching Rondo doing stuff like this ...
... and this ...
... and I have no idea where Danny Ainge goes from here, though Zach Lowe's suggestion that the Celtics and Warriors might have a match with a Paul Pierce for Harrison Barnes/Richard Jefferson swap at least elicited a "hmmmm, interesting."
Next season of serious contention: Probably about the time Tim Duncan's son is eligible for the draft. He's five.
Rodney Harrison, whom Bill Belichick really should have cloned for future use during his peak years, is on The Dan Patrick Show as I'm writing this, and he just admitted to something that surprised me, though maybe it shouldn't. After some prodding by Patrick and a couple of verbal detours about the challenges of Super Bowl week, Harrison admitted that he thinks about the Patriots' Super Bowl loss in 2007 far more often than he considers the victories in 2003 and '04.
I suppose it's not news that he's tormented by the David Tyree catch, but it was a jarring reminder that the Patriots have had an almost unfathomable string of "what-ifs" since that last championship eight years ago. What if Harrison can pry that ball loose? What if Rob Gronkowski isn't injured last season and again this year? What if Deion Branch was still here in '06? What if ... well, that's enough. You don't require the reminders.
It's been a truly extraordinary dozen years for the Patriots -- they don't get enough credit for essentially turning over their entire roster save for the quarterback without as much as a hiccup -- and that should never be taken for granted. I just hope we never get to the point around here of remembering the disappointments ahead of the many victories.
Next season of serious contention: The pursuit of the elusive fourth ring -- that coveted "next one'' -- for Tom Brady and Bill Belichick begins anew in September.
Now, I'm not disregarding all of the people who lost income when the NHL owners and players were engaged in their petty little lockout showdown. But purely from a hockey sense, is it possible that all of the labor melodrama actually benefited the Bruins in a meaningful way?
A league-high 12 of their players went overseas, giving them somewhat of a conditioning advantage. The core of their championship team from two years ago is still intact, so perhaps training camp isn't as essential to them as it is to teams with considerable roster turnover. They have tremendous depth and should be able to navigate the condensed schedule with relative ease. Nathan Horton got extra time to make sure the clouds had gone away.
And how about that fortunate timing, essentially beginning their season as the Patriots were fading out? I think that went a long way toward limiting the potential lockout backlash, almost as if Boston fans realized, "Wait, how fortunate are we to be going from one championship contender right into the season of another?" OK, maybe it didn't quite work that way. You guys just can't resist hockey.
Next season of serious contention: We're five games into it. Thank goodness they came back.
Well, I think we're probably in unanimous agreement around here that we hope Channel 4's Steve Burton is correct and, spurred by a secret meeting Monday, the NHL lockout could end in the next couple of days. The winter doesn't feel right absent the best hockey has to offer.
But the lingering question is this: Since no one with stronger established ties to the NHL is corroborating what Burton said on the Monday's 10 p.m. newscast -- and some are shooting it down -- is there a snowball's chance in Phoenix of the report proving wholly accurate?
First, here is what Burton said:
"Today is Day 79 of the NHL lockout. A select group of owners and players are scheduled to meet tomorrow in New York. My sources tell me that an unannounced meeting was held today with a high-ranking official from each side and significant progress was made toward salvaging the hockey season. It's possible that an announcement could come as early as tomorrow or Wednesday."
Burton then segued into an interview with Milan Lucic from the Joe Andruzzi Foundation's "New England Celebrities Tackle Cancer Gala'' Monday night at Gillette Stadium.
I'm not about to speculate about Burton's sources. Presumably, or perhaps naively, they should be strong and have his complete trust given that his report ran three minutes into the newscast. And he has broken Bruins news before, most notably regarding Phil Kessel's cancer diagnosis in 2006.
But it cannot be ignored that at the moment, Burton remains the lone wolf reporting this -- that is, unless you want to count comedian Lenny Clarke, who was also in attendance at the Andruzzi event last night and according to his comedian pal Jimmy Dunn .. well, you read it:
Take that for what you wish -- whether that's a real clue that this is about to be over or simply gossip that inevitably emerges from a good time.
But keep in mind -- above all else -- that reporters who make their living and their reputations by covering the NHL have not been able to substantiate any of this yet:
Asked if there was ANY MORSEL of truth to WBZ report that deal is imminent, B.Daly: "Not even a single morsel..." Great. And now I'm hungry.— Sarah Kwak (@SI_sarahkwak) December 4, 2012
Three separate sources, closely involved with #NHL CBA process on all sides, say reports of potential settlement are without basis— Michael Grange (@michaelgrange) December 4, 2012
TSN's Bob McKenzie, who knows his way around a scoop, used more than 140 characters to respectfully elaborate on Burton's report and what he's hearing:
Getting a LOT of questions about a Boston-based report suggesting a significant breakthrough/possible deal to end lockout. Here's my take:— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) December 4, 2012
If I had info to that effect, I'd have reported it. I don't have that info and I didn't report it. I have no knowledge of any breakthrough.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) December 4, 2012
As of this moment, I don't believe the lockout is any closer to ending than it was, say, on Sunday. We'll see what happens today in NYC.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) December 4, 2012
I try not to be in the business of shooting down someone else's report. I always allow that person may have better info than me. Or not.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) December 4, 2012
So, just to be clear, I'm not saying the Boston report is untrue or not accurate. I'm saying I can't get info to support it. That's all.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) December 4, 2012
But the clearest perspective may have been provided by The Hockey News's Adam Proteau:
When the NHL lockout actually ends, few will care who broke the story. Quick -- who was first to report the 04-05 lockout was over? Exactly.— Adam Proteau (@Proteautype) December 4, 2012
It's true. Few, especially outside of the media bubble, will care about who gets the scoop on the lockout's eventual end -- they'll just care that it's over.
Burton is yet to return a message seeking comment, but it's fair to assume he must care about the credit.
Because by saying it could come "as soon as [Tuesday] or Wednesday," he's put a loose deadline on his own credibility.
Ten free minutes for me, 10 free throwaway lines for you ...
1. I suppose the five hits he has in nine at-bats since his return to the lineup has served as a reminder, but I thought not enough was made of Jacoby Ellsbury's absence and the effect it had on the Red Sox. Based on MVP balloting, he was the best offensive player in the league last season, and his numbers (212 hits, 32 homers, 46 doubles, 39 stolen bases, .928 OPS) stand as a historically great season. Future NL-pinch-hitter-extraordinaire Daniel Nava filled in beyond expectations in Ellsbury and Carl Crawford's absence, and Scott Podsednik had his moments, but the Red Sox also had to endure 268 mostly fruitless at-bats from Marlon Byrd, Darnell McDonald, and Ryan Kalish while biding their time until the varsity (copyright Larry Lucchino) returned. Seeing Ellsbury back at the top of the lineup makes it easier to have optimism about this team without searching too hard for it.
2. A three-run homer every once in a while would be swell, but any grievances regarding Adrian Gonzalez should stop well shy of suggesting he's jaking it by missing games due to illness and a back issue recently. He's a player who prides himself of being in there every day -- the fewest games he's played any season among the previous five is 159. He may be a disappointment, but he's not a malingerer.
3. One way to kill time before the start of Patriots camp, which can't get here soon enough: Stare at the depth chart, rattle off the names, and marvel at the talent Tom Brady will have at his disposal this season in the passing game alone: Rob Gronkowski, Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez, Brandon Lloyd, Jabar Gaffney, Deion Branch, Donte' Stallworth, Julian Edelman, as well as Danny Woodhead out of the backfield. There will be attrition, of course, and someone like Stallworth may not even make the cut. The passing game probably won't be as productive as the record-setting Randy Moss/Wes Welker fireworks show of 2007, but it will be able to torment a defense in more ways.
4. As far as the running backs beyond Woodhead are concerned, you have to figure Stevan Ridley, who suffered from acute fumbleitis late in his rookie season, will pick up most of BenJarvus Green-Ellis's carries, presuming he spent the offseason carrying a football everywhere he went like Darnell Jefferson in the "The Program.'' I can't envision Joseph Addai being anything more than the new Fred Taylor. Shane Vereen, whose rookie season was lost from the beginning, is my sleeper. The kid is electric in the open field.
5. Bruins one-timer: I'm probably in the minority on this, but I'd rather trade Milan Lucic than David Krejci in a deal for Anaheim's Bobby Ryan or another top-shelf forward. As enigmatic as Krejci can be -- he reminds me of Rajon Rondo in that regard to some degree -- he also has a track record of playing his best when the spotlight is brightest. But if it's Krejci or Lucic and Dougie Hamilton, forget it.
6. The theory that he was having ex-Celtics Remorse is interesting, and Ray Allen was certainly subdued at his introductory press conference (perhaps he was expecting a house DJ and maybe some pyrotechnics?) but it's hard for me to figure anyone going to Miami for millions of dollars to play with LeBron James is going to be bummed about much of anything for long.
7. As you probably can imagine, I can't get over the story about the haul of rare baseball cards found in someone's attic in Ohio. It's every baseball fan's daydream. Or a fan of loot and money, for that matter. I spent hours as a kid scouring my grandmother's attic trying to find my dad's extensive collection of '50s baseball cards, with not a trace of vintage '52 cardboard to be found. We all have a similar story, don't we? I can tell you this: Those cards, estimated to be bring $3 million if they are sold or auctioned, will go for a lot more than that. I'd bet double.
8. So assuming that Andrew Bailey returns to the Red Sox while the games still matter this season, is he the closer immediately, does he have to prove himself in a setup role first, or has Alfredo Aceves done enough to keep it? I'm leaning toward the latter, though there are fantasy baseball biases at play there.
9. Brent Lillibridge has a minus-33 OPS+ in 16 plate appearances for the Red Sox. It's a puny sample-size to be sure, but I look at his career 67 OPS+ in 600 at-bats -- not a puny sample size -- and I find myself hoping that the Red Sox don't ditch Ryan Sweeney to keep Lillibridge around, even considering his speed and defensive prowess. For some noodle-bat perspective, Craig Grebeck had a minus-55 OPS+ during his 43 plate-appearances with the Red Sox in 2001, while Cesar Crespo put up a beastly minus-4 OPS+ in 79 plate appearances in 2003.
10. As for today's Completely Random Baseball Card:
Still waiting for Lucchino's report on how "cheerful" he was after Bobby Valentine called him out for a lackadaisical defensive play Sunday.
So this is how a championship reign ends. A turnover, a shot, a bounce, a backhand, a red light. And then, pandemonium amid a swarm of sweaters you won't find for sale in the home team's gift shop.That's how it ends. That's how it's over. With Capitals forward Joel Ward, a 31-year-old who collected all of six goals this season, pouncing on a rebound of a Mike Knuble shot and flipping it past helpless Bruins goalie Tim Thomas at 2:47 of overtime. That's how the curtains fell on the Bruins' season with a 2-1 defeat, how they became the seventh defending champion in nine years to bow out in the first round.
Ward did to the Bruins what the dearly missed Nathan Horton did to the Canadiens and Lightning last season en route to the franchise's first Stanley Cup in 39 years: He scored the Game 7 goal that extended his team's season and extinguished an opponent's. With two more first-round Game 7s scheduled for Thursday, such endings are beginning to feel like they're somewhere between inevitable and predestined in the Stanley Cup playoffs. But the Bruins never saw this particular ending coming down the way it did.
"I'm probably in shock," said Thomas in the Bruins' locker room afterward. "I really believed that we were going to win tonight. I thought that. I really had a deep feeling that this wasn't the end of the road for us tonight. That this wasn't going to be the last game of the season."
Added Dennis Seidenberg, the indefatigable defenseman who was the Bruins' best player in the series, "It's just a weird feeling. One minute you're battling to move on to the next round, and the next minute you're standing here talking about being done. You wonder what time practice is tomorrow, but there is no practice."
So this is how a championship reign ends. With Andrew Ference wrapping a consoling arm around Thomas, the Conn Smythe Trophy winner last postseason but just pretty good this time around, along the boards while awaiting the ceremonial postgame handshake.
With the Bruins giving proper acknowledgement to their Capital conquerors, who won three games on Garden ice, limited the Bruins' trio of Tyler Seguin, David Krejci and Milan Lucic to nine points in seven games, all decided by a single goal, got a performance from rookie goalie Braden Holtby that was hardly Drydenesque but certainly reminiscent of Steve Penney, and ultimately prevailed in a taut, tense series that saw one team lead by two goals exactly once, for about three minutes during Game 5.
And it ends with the Bruins and the fans mutually acknowledging each other, the players raising their sticks in salute as they trudged off the ice while the remaining fans roared a thank-you and farewell. There will be no need to get the Duck boats ready, no parade to anticipate on a June afternoon this year, yet the disappointment seemed to come with an appreciation of all the good fortune and hard work that was required to make the best memories happen. The Bruins spoke often in their championship aftermath of understanding what winning the Cup meant to Boston, and to a man they embraced their place as part of the fabric of city. It was as evident in defeat last night as it was in victory last June.
The Bruins sure tried to do it again, and they believed they could do it again, could become the first repeat champions since the Red Wings in 1997 and '98. "I had the picture in my head of holding the Cup again this year,'' Thomas said. The effort was never more evident than on Tyler Seguin's goal at 14:27 of the second period in which he lunged to tip a loose puck past Holtby while fending off Caps defenseman Karl Alzner, who was holding the Bruin's stick and perhaps a couple of limbs. That knotted it at 1-1 after Matt Hendricks gave the Caps a first-period lead.
The way the building was rocking after probably the grittiest goal of Seguin's young career, the tie felt like a Bruins lead. But they couldn't turn the momentum into results, with that anemic power-play (2 for 23 in the series, 0 for 3 Wednesday) again devoid of any signs of cohesion or electricity. An opportunity with the man-advantage in the final minutes of regulation was so ineffective that the Bruins almost appeared to be killing a penalty, not trying to take advantage of one. And while the Bruins outshot the Capitals, 32-27, coach Claude Julien lamented the lack of truly legitimate scoring chances.
One golden opportunity did come around 30 seconds into overtime, and if you could choose any Bruin to score the winner, wouldn't Patrice Bergeron be on your short list? The do-everything forward, playing through an upper-body injury that is ill-defined but limited him to the point that he could not even take faceoffs (he won 59.3 percent during the season; the Bruins won just 27 of 59 last night), nearly won the game and the glory. Bergeron found himself with the puck on his stick near the left post and some open space between Holtby and the back of the net. But his shot flew wide.
"It just exploded, it kind of rolled off my stick,'' Bergeron said. "The puck was bouncing and I just tried to go quick obviously and the puck wouldn't settle.''
We'll find out in the coming days the extent of the injury he suffered in Game 5. And chances are we'll wonder, how did he ever play with that?
"I don't want to use that [as an excuse] tonight,'' Bergeron said. "I'll let you guys know.''
So this is how a reign ends. With Zdeno Chara answering questions in Slovak in the far left corner of the quiet locker room while Bergeron converses softly in French over on the right side. Seidenberg fulfills his duties with the media scrum while standing just to the left of a sign that reads, "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.''
While the players offer their hushed postmortems, Bruins president Cam Neely walks in wearing an expression like you just introduced yourself to him as Ulf. He shakes one player's hand, doesn't say a word to anyone, and exits through a black curtain at the other end of the room.
That is how a championship reign ends. With a hard-fought defeat to an opponent that made excellence a habit just a little more often. And with a black curtain failing to camouflage how difficult it is to accept.
Question, Boston sports fans: How many times did you replay Tyler Seguin's winning goal in Game 6 immediately after it happened? Five? A dozen? Or are you still hitting the rewind/play combo on your DVR this morning, two days after one of the most beautiful big-moment goals you'll ever see and a day before one of the most delicious events in sports, a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
There were so many reasons to watch his game-winner, then watch it again and again and one more time again. The magnitude of it, for starters, for his OT score kept the defending champions' season alive against Alex Ovechkin and the gifted, enigmatic Washington Capitals. Milan Lucic's gorgeous, almost casual, pass that sent Seguin on his way. The roadrunner-on-skates beep-beep speed with which he left the defense in his wake and closed in on Caps goalie Braden Holtby. The shot itself, which was from an angle you didn't need to be a geometrician to appreciate.
For me, and probably a lot of you too, there was one aspect of the play that impressed me more than the rest: Seguin's extraordinary patience.
I mean, for a 20-year-old athlete to have the presence of mind in that situation to wait ... and wait ... and wait to shoot the puck until the goalie all but says, "Will you please *$*@*($@ shoot the puck already, eh?'' before committing and essentially leaving an open net ... well, the poise Seguin showed under those circumstances, when he could have shot sooner, is just an incredible thing. That's why I kept hitting rewind and babbling to my sighing 8-year-old daughter why the play was so special.
Pardon me if this strikes you as a stretch of a connection, but I don't believe it is. See, it hit me like a Zdeno Chara check in the aftermath of the Game 6 victory that there is something all of us can take from Seguin's approach to that moment when it comes to our approach to following professional sports:
The value of patience.
To me, it seems like it's in shorter supply among sports fans and media members nowadays than it has ever been. I'm sure a large part of it is due to the prevalent sports-radio culture, in which every loss and negative play is magnified and dissected beyond recognition, and two losses in a row guarantee that the carcass will be picked bare. Everyone has to have a take, and you're not going to get your 30 seconds on the air with your favorite over-caffeinated host by being reasonable.
I don't like that, but I do get it. What I don't understand is how it rewards you as a fan, or where the satisfaction comes from when patience pays off. What do fans who were yelping for Danny Ainge to "blow it up'' and trade Rajon Rondo just a few weeks ago -- usually without any logical solutions regarding what they could and should get in return -- think now that the Celtics are the team no one wants to play in the Eastern Conference playoffs and Rondo has played his way into All-NBA consideration?
Do they admit that waiting it all out is sometimes the best route? Do they find joy in watching this fascinating team, which bickers like family and has each others' backs like family? Or when the going gets good, do they just move on to the next projected crisis, finding more satisfaction in griping than in success?
I suspect the same people who were piling on Danny Ainge back in February are the same ones who will shriek when Bill Belichick passes up that outside linebacker/defensive end hybrid you just know is the perfect fit for the Belichick scheme, if only he'd see it himself, to take a defensive tackle or a guard in the first round during the upcoming draft.
And yes, of course this is about the Red Sox. They've been awful, no doubt. Hideous. Bobby Valentine has made more curious decisions in 15 games than Terry Francona did in eight years, and that's only a slight exaggeration. The bullpen is a Toby Borland Tribute Band. Proven players such as Kevin Youkilis and Clay Buchholz have been brutal, and it's natural to wonder whether they'll perform up to their expected levels. There are real issues to fret about.
Which is why it puzzles me that some fans and media seem to invent things to worry about on top of the real problems. Barring injury, Adrian Gonzalez is going to hit for power; his second home run last year didn't arrive until May 3. When he gets hot, he will carry them. Barring injury -- again with that caveat -- the starting rotation will be better than a season ago. Jon Lester has actually had a better April than he usually does. There's no reason Josh Beckett will not remain a top-of-the-rotation starter. Buchholz's command isn't there yet, but is that really unexpected for someone who didn't throw a meaningful pitch after mid-June last year?
And the back of the rotation will be better. Between them a season ago, John Lackey and Tim Wakefield gave up 202 earned runs. That's 31 fewer than Clayton Kershaw has allowed in his 738.2 career innings in the major leagues. Felix Doubront and Daniel Bard have both shown the potential to be more than back-end starters, and should Bard be called upon to rescue the bullpen beyond his start Friday, mediocre Aaron Cook and his career 4.53 ERA should still be an upgrade on what they had last year.
I know, you're probably not going to listen to me. Sometimes I'm too patient -- I was with my wife for 12 years before we got married -- and this Red Sox team is legitimate turmoil in some ways. But there's too much talent here for it to stumble for long, and the schedule ahead is favorable, with lots of Kansas City, Baltimore, Cleveland and Oakland in the near future. But you should listen to me, because reason is often proven right, and I'm still all right to smile.
What's that? Why yes, that is a line from a certain Guns 'n' Roses song. "Patience,'' as a matter of fact. Right, the one with the whistling.
And if it's going to prevent you from coming up with cockamamie sports problems to worry about, you bet I hope it's stuck in your head for the rest of the day.
Dale Arnold's contract at WEEI expired today. But he's not going anywhere.
Arnold, who has been on the station's airwaves since it switched to an all-sports format in September 1991, will remain at WEEI in a slightly expanded role.
Under his new deal -- terms have not been confirmed -- he will add some Saturday duties to his current weekend role as the host of the morning "Sports Sunday" program, and he will also be the primary fill-in for morning drive hosts John Dennis and Gerry Callahan and afternoon drive personalities Glenn Ordway and Michael Holley.
His decision to remain at WEEI was a mild surprise given the events of February 2011, when Arnold was blindsided by a programming shakeup that left him without a weekday role.
Holley, Arnold's co-host since March 2005 on WEEI's midday show, was paired with Ordway and moved into the more prominent day part.
Arnold, who had worked with such varied co-hosts as Eddie Andelman, Bob Neumeier, and Holley, was demoted to fill-in and weekend duty and occasional play-by-play.
Mike Mutnansky and Lou Merloni took over the the midday program and have struggled in the Arbitron ratings compared to their counterpart at competitor 98.5 The Sports Hub.
There was some backlash against WEEI and parent company Entercom's decision to demote Arnold when the Bruins made their run to the Stanley Cup.
Arnold, formerly the team's play-by-play voice on NESN, discussed hockey (as did Holley) when it was a subject of mockery on other WEEI programs.
He gave up his role calling Bruins games on NESN in 2007 when the network wanted him to call road games. He decided he could not do so because of his commitment as co-host of WEEI’s midday program.
Arnold returned to NESN in September as the studio host for Bruins telecasts. That will remain his primary job.
Hope all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and for those among us who dare brave the shopping malls today, I hope you get through it with only surface injuries.
Just a quick pre-chat note here to link to today's media column, which leads with NBC's attempt, beginning with today's Red Wings-Bruins matchup (1 p.m.), to make the "Black Friday'' matinee game as national tradition just as it has been in Boston since the early '90s. Mike Milbury, who is in his usual studio analyst role today, said he's extremely impressed with how the Bruins have recovered from their slow start.
"They're playing hard and they're playing with passion, and they've gotten back to playing the way they did during their run to the Cup last year," Milbury said. "And you can't really blame them for starting slow. Last season was so long, with three seventh-game victories, and they had the right to have a great time over the summer, to celebrate what they accomplished. But it was such a short time away -- what did they have, eight or nine weeks off, really? -- so the slow start wasn't unexpected, and the recovery from it has been impressive."
There's also an item on NESN's hunt to replace Heidi Watney as its in-game Red Sox reporter, noting that Molly Sullivan (a Las Vegas native, North Carolina graduate, and self-proclaimed Red Sox fan) is perceived to be the front runner at the moment.
Dale Arnold has long been familiar NESN viewers and Bruins fans -- just not in the role he will have on the network's coverage of the Stanley Cup champions this season.
Arnold, who spent 11 seasons as the Bruins play-by-play voice on the network, will return to NESN this season as the studio host for the team's telecasts, industry sources have confirmed.
Arnold replaces Kathryn Tappen, who departed NESN for the NHL Network in July. Tappen had hosted NESN's pregame, in-game, and postgame coverage since arriving at the network in 2006.
Arnold called Bruins home games on the network from 1995-2007 (the 2004-05 season was lost to a lockout), but gave up the job before the 2007-08 season when the network asked him to call road games as well.
At the time, he said he could not make the commitment because of his role as the cohost of WEEI's midday program. Jack Edwards, who had been calling road games in the 2005-06 season, then took over as the full-time play-by-play voice.
Arnold's role at WEEI was significantly reduced in February. In an unexpected lineup shakeup, co-host Michael Holley was moved to afternoon drive while Mike Mutnansky and Lou Merloni took over the midday program. Arnold was reassigned as the primary fill-in host. He said in retrospect he lamented his decision to leave the Bruins broadcasts.
Arnold, who will remain at WEEI, also co-hosts a weekend program with Steve Buckley and joins Joe Castiglione in the Red Sox booth on Wednesdays when Dave O'Brien has an ESPN commitment.
One last thought on the Stanley Cup champs while marveling at how enjoyable it can be when a bandwagon turns into a fleet of duck boats . . .
It won't linger as the most memorable plot twist in the Bruins' storybook run. The peaks and valleys of the postseason journey, the rolling rally that was the most sheer fun of the seven (seven!) we have been fortunate enough savor the past decade, and the realization that the players, to a man, absolutely get what this means to the city and delight in sharing the accomplishment . . . those will be the nostalgic details we'll share and share again with our children as we help lace up their skates on a cold December morning.
But it is a pleasant effect to achieving a feat that satisfies generations of Bruins fans: Our perceptions of so many of these players have changed permanently, and for the better. Zdeno Chara is no longer the emotionless defensemanbot, but a Captain, capital C, whose cathartic howl after hoisting the Cup will live on in sports-radio sound-board clips long after he retires. It was Chara who literally brought the Cup to the people during the parade; who knew he was so good in front of a crowd?
Tim Thomas is no longer the unorthodox goalie who wasn't quite good enough to steal a series; he's the unorthodox goalie who is forever a Boston sports icon in the manner of Adam Vinatieri or David Ortiz, a man who rose to meet the big moment, at least when he wasn't sprawling spectacularly to prevent it.
It would be easy to turn a few lines of praise into a few paragraphs with just about everyone on and associated with the team. There couldn't have been a better Game 7 goal-scoring hero than Patrice Bergeron, who has overcome so much and at 25 carries the respect of a 10-year veteran. Claude Julien gets his just reward for staying true to himself, and it couldn't happen to a more grounded guy. Brad Marchand, Nose Face Killah himself, the 2011 Bruins' version of 2007 Dustin Pedroia. Nathan Horton, tagged with the "no heartbeat" label with hapless, hopeless Florida, proving to be not only clutch but a popular teammate who can't stop smiling about his good fortune in finally playing where and when it matters. The tireless Dennis Seidenberg. Nails-tough Milan Lucic. The relentless fourth line of Shawn Thornton, Daniel Paille, and Gregory Campbell. Everyone.
And everyone has gotten his due in the delirious aftermath, but there's one person involved with this who is probably worthy of a few more shifts of appreciation. (No, not you, Mr. Jacobs. And why is Cam looking at you like your name is Ulf?)
David Krejci, the unassuming first-line center, finished as the postseason leader in goals (12), points (23), and winning goals (four). He had a hat trick in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals and beautifully set up Horton's winner in Game 7 against the Lightning. His deft and subtle passing skills sent teammates in on Roberto Luongo probably a half-dozen times in the Finals. His knack for bringing out the best in his linemates helped Rich Peverley and Michael Ryder fit seamlessly on the first line after Horton's injury. He wasn't as pesky as Marchand or resilient as Bergeron, but when he was on the ice, he was often the best offensive player, and better in the Finals than all of the Sedins added together, parents included.
I'm sure most Bruins fans have been quick to salute Krejci. You guys have been quick to salute everyone, and it's been a blast to watch. But given how well he played -- and how much fun it is to remember all of the superb performances in this series -- what's one more tip of that brand-new championship hat to another player who did his part to make it all possible?
So . . . not a bad parade, huh? Just wish Mayor Menino had attempted "Zdeno."
Wouldn't call these three stars, exactly, but here are a couple of quick links to my Bruins stuff that was elsewhere on the site this week, including today's story on the celebration and the Bruins players' reciprocation of the fans' admiration.
Also, here's a brief story on Marc Savard joining his teammates in the rolling rally, and if you missed it, Friday's media column on Dave Goucher getting his chance to call a championship moment, just as Gil, Castig, and Grande have in recent seasons. Got a nice e-mail from Gil today saying how much he enjoyed Goucher's call.
TATB will be back to its regularly scheduled programming this week. (In other words: it's baseball season. It is mid-June, you know. Where did May go?) As for the Bruins: I'll always appreciate the chance to skate a lane and help cover this team the past few weeks. The three cross-continent trips and 12 plane rides in 15 days were exhausting
and looting and rioting is way more tiring than I thought.
But watching this genuine, admirable group of players win and seeing the beloved, stoic Cam Neely tearing up on the ice after Game 7 was worth every dull moment stuck in a terminal choking down another $4.29 bag of peanuts from Hudson News. Was it ever.
During our always parade-ready Friday chat, we discussed your 2010-11 Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins, with a sprinkling of some Red Sox and media matters as well. Click the replay button below to join the fun.
VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Live from the bowels of Rogers Arena, here is a hat trick's worth of thoughts on Arguably The Coolest Event in Sports, a Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final . . .
1. I think we all agree on this, so let's get it out of the way immediately: The key tonight for the Bruins is to score on Roberto Luongo early, to get that out of the way immediately. Remind him that they can turn him into a puddle here just as they did during the three games in Boston. Turn those "Looooooooooos" from the Vancouver crowd into boos. Deflate his tires. Then, ideally, deflate 'em again, to the point that Alain Vigneault has to have Cory Schneider warming up in the bullpen before the first period is halfway complete. The script worked so well in Game 6, right?
The mood of Canucks fans here today is overwhelmingly optimistic. Perhaps it's a New Englander's cynicism at work here, but I'm taken aback at their complete (blind? delusional?) faith in their goalie. Luongo is such an enigma, even by the generally goofy standards by those who play the position. He's calm in the net, but often frazzled in front of the cameras, an engaging, friendly guy -- no, really -- whose out-of-character shots at Tim Thomas revealed . . . well, insecurity for sure, and perhaps jealousy, too.
The Bruins must take advantage of this, and must take advantage of it early. Luongo depends on those comforts of home. If they can make him feel like he's on an island, that everyone has turned against him, that will go a long way to assuring that the Stanley Cup will be a hood ornament on a duck boat in a few days.
2. I adore this city -- seriously, if you're young, single, and willing to roam, move here and thank me later -- and the people are beyond friendly. But when it comes to their Canucks, they're so irrational that it makes you long for the relative sanity of Canadiens fans.
The latest example of seeing everything through green-and-blue colored glasses is the venom directed at Johnny Boychuk for his hit in Game 6 that left Canucks forward Mason Raymond with a compressed vertebrae in his back. Sample reader comment from the Vancouver newspaper The Province this morning: "At least they didn't call Raymond for embellishing. We got off easy there." Well-said, Ron from Kamloops.
It's awful what happened to Raymond, and Bruins fans who remember how concerned they were for Nathan Horton after he was leveled by Aaron Rome should be ashamed for cheering while he was down. But the plays were not close in terms of violence or intent: Rome took two clean strides before belting an unsuspecting Horton in the head. Raymond appeared to have lost an edge as he went into the corner with Boychuk, and it was not the hit itself but the terribly awkward angle that led to the injury. The real question is not whether Boychuk should have been suspended, but what the hell the Canucks trainers and medical staff were thinking in not bringing out the stretcher for Raymond, instead helping him off the ice while he was hunched over at an odd angle like a broken scarecrow.
Raymond is a gregarious kid -- upon the conclusion of a media session earlier in the series in which he wasn't asked a single question, he laughed, saluted the assembled reporters, and joked, "Thanks for coming! Glad to help!" More relevantly, he's one of the Canucks' more skilled and honorable forwards, and while he hasn't had a productive series, he's created his own chances with his speed, particularly in Game 2. He leaves a void on the second line, and while the capable Jannik Hansen will fill in for him, that weakens the Canucks' pesky third line. His absence is frustrating to Canucks fans. But the reason for his absence should not be. What happened to him was not evil, dirty, or devious. It was an awful reminder of the dangers of playing this wonderful sport.
3. Prediction? Score-wise, I can't get a feel for how it might go, or maybe I just don't dare. But considering how perpetually thrilling this series has been -- and how tight the previous three games have been in this barn -- doesn't overtime seem inevitable? You have to figure the hockey gods aren't going to let this one go without a few minutes of extra drama.
But I can tell you how I would like it to end. Patrice Bergeron beating Alex Burrows -- or Maxim Lapierre if you prefer -- to a loose puck, then beating Luongo, who for some reason has strayed, perhaps in a subconscious tribute to Tim Thomas, from the security of his usual perch between the two pipes. Why Bergeron? Because he embodies the all-around effort and discipline of Claude Julien's team. Because a Canuck nearly forced him to get a rabies shot. And because an overtime winner from a teammate who has endured what Nathan Horton is going through now would seem so appropriate.
And if it isn't Bergeron? Well, let it be Mark Recchi. I was blown away by his grace in disappointment last year in the immediate aftermath of the Game 7 loss to the Flyers when he answered every question with candor, and his class and leadership are the genuine articles by all accounts. Plus, anyone who was playing in the NHL when I was a senior in high school is cool in my book. It's pretty obvious that this is the final game of his decorated NHL career, and if anyone is deserving of a satisfying final scene, it's the admirable old man in front of the net.
VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Checking in from auxiliary box 517 high above the ice here at Rogers Arena, where the Bruins will try to secure a split with with the Canucks in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final tonight, and I'll continue to wonder why Vancouver fans refuse to acknowledge that Colin Campbell played for their team. (Yep, still bludgeoning that angle.)
While the Zamboni does it's thing on the ice and Chicago's "Saturday in the Park" blares over the P.A. system, here's a hat trick's worth of pregame thoughts.
1. Alain Vigneault is a riot in a Belichick-like way, and I know that makes no sense whatsoever. The attempted explanation: When it comes to injury information, such as the status of Manny Malhotra and Dan Hamhuis entering tonight's game, he makes it pretty clear he'd rather loan Ryan Kesler to the Bruins for the rest of the series than give away any information that may benefit the opponent.
Which, of course, makes all the sense in the world, just as it does for Belichick and the Pats. The difference is that Vigneault is upfront about his stonewalling, and he does it in a pretty amusing way.
This morning, after the Canucks' skate, Vigneault came to the media room, sat down at the podium, laughed, and said, "Go ahead, ask the question."
Reporter, knowing exactly how it was going to go: "Guess it's my turn. Will Manny play tonight?
Vigneault: "Game-time decision."
Reporter: "And Dan?"
Vigneault, smiling: "Game-time decision."
Later in the press conference, Vigneault, who also admitted it took him three years to tell the Sedins apart, explained why he puts up his roadblock on the information highway:
"At the end of the day, at this time of the year, when there's this much at stake, you don't want the opposition to know something, to be able to exploit something," Vigneault said. "It's as simple as that. During the season, we share everything, try to be as open as we can. But we don't play the same team two nights in a row."
As frustrating as it can be for the media -- whether here or back at Gillette Stadium, where every one of the 16 games on the schedule matters -- Vigneault's approach makes sense.
2. The Bruins' inept power play -- they've converted 7.5 percent of their man-advantages this postseason -- has been a punch line in the papers here in Vancouver, where the Canucks (25 percent conversion) make it look so easy that there's suspicion of telepathy. The low point for the Bruins may have come during yesterday's practice, when observers couldn't recall afterward seeing the Bruins score once during their power-play drills. (No doubt Claude Julien would look at this as a tribute to his penalty kill.) So here's a
foolish fearless prediction: The Bruins score not once, but twice on the power play tonight. Zdeno Chara gets one on a rebound that lands on his stick, and Mark Recchi nets the other, because while he looks two strides slow these days, he's built up a reservoir of good karma with the hockey gods during his 23 NHL seasons, and it's only appropriate that his scoring drought ends at the same time that the power play comes to live.
3. If you wish, consider this fearless prediction No. 2: Bruins 4, Canucks 2. Roberto Luongo, who comes across as far more relaxed and confident now than he did during the Olympics, reverts to his occasionally jittery ways, Tim Thomas stands on his head, flops on his stomach, and uses every other trick in his unorthodox repertoire to stone the Canucks, and we have ourselves the proverbial pivotal Game 3 come Monday.
I like Claude's chances, by the way. No matter what Stan Fischler says.
Anyway, I have a few baseball posts queued up and ready to go that will be posted over the course of the week. The chat on Friday is probable, and I'll also chime in from time to time here with a hockey thought or two (bandwagon, meet feet).
And while I've got hockey on the mind, here's last week's media column on the coverage of the Bruins so far.
See you in Vancouver. Bruins in 6.
If you're into royalty, the Revolutionary War, and can't hide your disdain for the Canadiens, you'll take this as wonderful news.
If you host a Saturday morning show on WEEI, well, probably not so much.
Jack Edwards, who has developed a persona both popular and polarizing with his enthusiastic calls of Bruins games on NESN, has agreed to a multi-year contract extension with the network. [Terms were not disclosed. I have a call out to Jack and will update here if I hear back.]
The 54-year-old Edwards began calling road games alongside analyst Andy Brickley in 2005, and took over the full schedule of games on NESN in 2007 when Dale Arnold departed.
In recent seasons, Edwards, a former ESPN ‘‘SportsCenter’’ anchor and NHL play-by-play voice at the network, gained notoriety -- and become a favorite sports-radio topic, sometimes at the expense of discussing the Bruins' success -- by becoming more subjective and over-the-top during Bruins broadcasts.
During Game 3 of the Bruins’ first-round series victory over Montreal, Edwards yelled, ‘Get up!’’ after Montreal defenseman Roman Hamrlik fell to the ice in a perceived attempt to draw a penalty.
And Edwards's scripted attempts to wrap-up the night's events during the postgame often turn into soliloquies that reference pop culture and history and are abstract enough that they've gone viral with the aid of such websites as Deadspin.
What's your take, Bruins fans? Happy Jack's back? Do you still miss Dale?
Or like me, do you still long for Fred and Turk?
Let's hear it in the comments . . .
Goucher is a polished, no-nonsense play-by-play voice who has that knack, just like Bob Wilson and Fred Cusick, of telling you a scoring chance might be coming up just by a slight change of inflection in his voice. And maybe it's a result of having called nearly 1,000 games together, but he and Beers rarely fail to be in sync, with the analyst dotting the call of the game with quick, insightful observations that are technical yet understandable to casual (or bandwagon-hopping) fans.
I had intended to write about them for today's media column as sort of a contrast to last week's column on Jack Edwards, but the NFL Network's decision to hire Brad Nessler alongside Mike Mayock on its game telecasts took precedence. (Don't forget to unclip those microphones on your way out, Theismann and Millen!)
I never did catch up with Beers, the former Bruins defenseman and UMaine Black Bear. But despite his lack of a hockey card to use here, I did talk to Goucher, who as usual was candid and reasonable about the state of the Bruins.
Here's a transcript of that conversation to help whet your appetite for Game 4.
So, a 3-0 lead over the Flyers. Does this seem familiar at all? I imagine we're in agreement that this is an entirely different circumstance from what happened a year ago, with the Flyers being worse than they were and the Bruins considerably better
Goucher: [laughs] "The similarity is they had a 3-0 lead last year over Philly. But this year feels different, and it is different. Just the way they've played these first three games. The Bruins blew them out in Philadelphia the first game, in Game 3 they won handily as well, and they were able to come back from a deficit early on in Game 2 and then got great goaltending from Tim Thomas. So, to me, the 3-0 lead this year feels much, much different than the 3-0 lead last year. It's just a coincidence of opponent and round more than anything else."
Last year, the turning point in that series was easy to pinpoint. David Krejci, who was playing brilliantly, got hurt in Game 3. And Simon Gagne came back. The Flyers became the better team.
Goucher: "Yeah, and I thing there was even more to it than that beyond Krejci getting hurt. Marco Sturm, who led them with 22 goals last year, got hurt in the first game against Philly and never did return, [Dennis] Seidenberg didn't play in the playoffs last year, Andrew Ference was coming off an injury, Tim Thomas wasn't even part of the equation. So you factor all that into it, it feels so much different now than it was a year ago. I know people keep drawing parallels and it's understandable. But the Bruins have also had a lot of turnover from last year to this year. They've got, I would say, a half-dozen key players this year who weren't part of that series last year. So that's benefited them as well."
How has the feedback been from Bruins fans? Do you get the sense that there is real optimism about this team, or does the cynical mindset that the "same old Bruins" will let them down in the end still exist?
Goucher: "Well, I understand that. I know people maybe have a mindset like they're waiting for the other shoe to drop. And that's understandable. They've been disappointed like the Bruins have the last three years in the playoffs, especially the last two. But I also think this team has grown from losing in heartbreaking fashion last year, those who were here, and the turnover with the people they brought in, be it Nathan Horton, Chris Kelly, Rich Peverley, Brad Marchand wasn't a part of it last year, you can understand maybe a cynical outlook overall from some fans, but I must say the feeling so far is one of optimism. And I think part of that is that they were able to get over that hurdle in the first round, winning Game 7 against the Canadiens. To do it overtime against their most hated rival seemed to get them over the hump and now here they are on the verse of trying to sweep the team that caused all the disappointment last year."
It seemed like the relief was almost palpable after beating Montreal in Game 7. Now, it feels like what's happening is the definition of momentum.
Goucher: "Yeah, and the other part of it is, they were down 0-2 to Montreal, and I can remember sitting at the morning skate prior to Game 3 in Montreal and wondering, you know, where's this going to go from here? They're down 0-2, there's been so much discussion about potential changes, and is that something that's in the very near future. And the next thing you know, they win two games in Montreal, they win three overtime games in the series, and now they're on the verge of hopefully advancing to the next round. It's amazing, and they learned this from last year, how quickly things can change. You start to take a turn for the better in that Montreal series, and especially after Game 7, they really seemed to be riding it since then."
The Sports Hub has been using your call of David Krejci's overtime winner in Game 2 in its promos, and it's really fascinating to hear how you and Bob handled the uncertainty when it appeared the puck was in the net but play never stopped. As a play by play guy, how do you avoid sounding confused when it's uncertain what just happened?
Goucher: "I think you have to hedge it a little bit. It looked like he scored, and Milan Lucic standing right in front of the net raised his arms as if he'd scored and he had the best view of anybody. He was pretty certain it was in. The problem that we had was, neither referee signaled that it was a goal, the goal light never came on, and those three people were much closer than we are. So you start to think, well maybe it did hit the crossbar, because we're a lot further away than them. You have to hedge it because what if it was crossbar and out of the net? So you just try to convey that. I yelled 'Score!' and then we said, well, wait a minute, maybe that hit the crossbar. Then we said something along the lines of, 'Milan Lucic is sure acting like it's in,' and as we said that we got a look at a replay and it was clearly evident it was in so we said immediately, 'he's right." You know, I always hope that with overtime goals they're just clean goals, like Horton's goals in the first round and Michael Ryder's goal in the first round. This one looked obvious, then it was as obvious, and then it turned out to be an obvious goal after all."
The Bruins were essentially a punch line on sports radio in Boston for years. The Sports Hub emphasized treating them as an equal to the other three major pro teams here from the get-go, obviously in part because they held the radio rights. But the response has been remarkable, and it's become clear the interest in a real outlet to talk about them has always been there. Has the switch to 98.5 and the increased discussion of the Bruins had any effect on your broadcast?
Goucher: "It's increased dramatically for all of us from an exposure standpoint. The one big thing we had on the [WBZ-1030] was obviously a powerhouse signal at night that stretched into 38 states. But what we gain from being on an all-sports FM is not only 24/7 sports talk, but a lot of that revolving around the Bruins. Now we have the weekly one-hour hockey show, and overwhelmingly the feedback has been positive. It's really increased the profile of what we do because people are talking about the Bruins now most of the day and they keep it right in the same spot on the dial to hear the games at night. It's broadened the spectrum of what we do over the last two years. There's no question we've benefited from the team being good. There's not any doubt about that. But we've also benefited from that sports talk all day long, and so much of it being about the Bruins. That's been a huge, huge positive for us.
"Bruins fans are incredibly passionate and incredibly loyal over all these years, and now I think they feel like they have a forum to express their opinions, good or bad. They've been so loyal for so many years, and now I think there's a the thought that they have a team that is ready to take the next step, and they are waiting for them to hopefully go on to do bigger and better things. They have a place to talk about it now, every day, throughout the day, which I think is great."
You guys have one significant advantage over the TV guys, other than your refusal to work royalty and the Revolutionary War into your broadcasts: You get to call every game through the playoffs, while NESN is done after this round, ceding the games to the network.
Goucher: "That’s what I like about doing radio the most, to be there however far they go. If the Bruins are fortunate enough to go on and do some really good things, where else would you want to be but in the booth calling it? I love that aspect of it. It's irreplaceable. Radio allows us to do that. And that will be more pronounced next year when none of the local outlets will have games in the second round because of the national networks claiming them in the new television deal. I'm sympathetic to that, and NESN does a terrific job. But for what I do, that's the part that I like the most, that we're there until the end no matter how far they go."
And so opening day of 2011 concludes with me plunked on the couch, watching the Winter Classic/Slush Hockey Spectacular with the sound down (no offense, Mike Emrick) while simultaneously playing NHL 2K11 on the iTouch in season mode.
The Bruins are my chosen organ-eye-zation, and thus far, the trades for TATB post-Olympic favorites Jonathan Toews and Ryan Kesler are working out spectacularly, as is the savvy free agent signing of
one-hipped multi-concussed mighty Black Bear Paul Kariya. I don't know, Chiarelli, this GM thing looks pretty easy to me. Hey, I wonder if the Sabres would take Tim Thomas straight up for Ryan Miller . . .
As you can tell, the New Year is off to a rousing start by my standards. But there is a point here amid the nonsense: All of this hockey action served to remind me that I neglected to post Friday's column, which looks at the synergy between NBC's preparation for the Winter Classic and HBO's spectacular four-part "24/7" series leading up to the game with a rollicking behind-the-scenes look at the Penguins and Capitals. I can comfortably say that I've enjoyed "24/7" more than any season of "Hard Knocks," and I love "Hard Knocks."
So that link to the media column is here. One last hockey thought: Give him a month to find his lungs, and I'm pretty sure Mario Lemieux, who is allegedly 45 years old but looks 10 years younger, could outscore any Bruin this season. Check out the embedded video above from "24/7." Damned if he doesn't still have the magic.
Hmm, wonder if he's available on 2K11 . . .
* * *
Also, just as a bit of housekeeping, I'll be blogging all day from the Brian Hoyer Extravaganza at Gillette tomorrow. Be sure to check out Extra Points for all the updates. The Patriots might not play their starters, but ours will be there all day.
Ten free minutes for me, 10 free throwaway lines for you . . .
1. OK, suckers, answer me this: Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell to Florida for Hanley Ramirez -- who blinks, Marlins or Red Sox?
(Yes, this is a test. If you're pondering the question seriously, I'm going to assume you're probably on hold with Ordway.)
We all heard the stories about Hanley's maturity issues when he was in the Sox system, but you'd think, at age 26, he'd be past the point where teammates want to beat him up every other day.
Yet there he was, dogging it so blatantly last night that even Manny Ramirez is probably insulted by his lack of respect for the game, then showing an utter lack of accountability and class afterward in undermining his manager and enraging his teammates.
At least there was usually a goofy charm to Manny when he was driving us crazy with his antics. Hanley's petulant insubordination seems a little more foreboding, and it's going to be fascinating to see how this plays out, because humility and contrition clearly aren't among his many tools.
2. To those of you who have wondered why I've always been steadily but vaguely skeptical of the alleged leadership virtues of Mike Lowell, today's passive/aggressive statement in which he says he might consider asking for his release -- coming a day after an absolutely devastating loss in which the club really doesn't need petty distractions -- goes on the board as a point in my favor.
3. I've always thought signing Lowell was the only truly sentimental move the Sox have made in Theo's reign. Fans desperately wanted him back, he'd just been named the World Series MVP. . . ah, hell, Jed, why not, we'll give him the three years.
I suspect today isn't the first day they've had some level of buyer's remorse, even with his decent production when healthy.
To Lowell's credit -- and this must be acknowledged -- he did turn down four years and $50 million from the Phillies to remain with the Sox. That home-team discount isn't ending well for either side.
4. NESN has been showing so many Taylor Hall highlights lately that you'd think the Bruins have the first pick rather than the second. Yet from what I've read outside of this market, it's very far from a sure thing that Edmonton will pick Tyler Seguin just because they need centers.
In a related note, this is the first time in my life I've been more interested in the NHL Draft than the NBA Draft, including the year the Bruins snapped up Joe Thornton first overall. You might recall that just four days after Jumbo Joe was drafted, Tim Duncan went to the Spurs, and Rick Pitino assured us that Chauncey Billups and Ron Mercer were the future.
5. Ideal offseason for the Bruins: re-sign Dennis Seidenberg and Johnny Boychuk, convince Methuselah Recchi to stick around one more year, swap Tim Thomas for a forward with a nose for the net, let Shaun Thornton depart, bring in a cheaper character fourth-liner or two, send maddening softy Blake Wheeler on his way to become someone else's enigma, tell Milan Lucic he was right to be frustrated that they went into the equivalent of a prevent defense in Game 7, send subliminal messages to Oilers GM Steve Tambellini to take Seguin, and hope David Krejci hands haven't lost any magic because of his devastating injury.
Voila . . . 2010-11 Eastern Conference champions, no?
(Don't you love how I'm suddenly Mr. Puckhead after covering two playoff games? OK, smart guys and girls, you tell me what the Bruins should do.)FULL ENTRY
Don't mind me. Just wanted to move my game story from the Winter Classic over to the blog, since it's probably my favorite event I've ever covered, including other memorable moments in that particular ballpark. Sorry, Trot.
I'm not thrilled with the story, but I am thrilled to have written proof that I was there when, amid a joyously nostalgic New England winter scene, the Bruins delivered an ending appropriate of the vibe and venue. If you're a lapsed hockey fan -- go ahead, call me a Gold Hat if you must -- it was a reminder that the Bruins once owned this town, and could again. The sweet sentiments from this one will linger. Three days later, and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it. Damn, that was some fun.
* * *
(Jim Davis/Globe staff)
(Yoon. S. Byun/Globe staff)
Today's much-anticipated Winter Classic matchup between the Bruins and Flyers at Fenway Park was not supposed to be about a game, but the game, an annual showcase for the sport of hockey itself.
But with a glance at the unfamiliar standings posted on the Green Monster, where the likes of Buffalo and Montreal and Ottawa replaced the familiar summer residents New York, Tampa Bay, and Baltimore, the reminder came that the outcome mattered, that a meaningful National Hockey League game would be played.
With a flick of the wrist, Bruins forward Marco Sturm turned the Winter Classic into an instant classic, ensuring that the fortunate 38,112 in attendance -- not to mention the giddy grown men on the bench -- would savor victory as much as the event itself.
Sturm took a pass from Patrice Bergeron and quickly flipped the puck past Flyers goalie Michael Leighton at 1:57 of overtime, helping the Bruins cap a pitch- and picture-perfect day at Fenway Park with a 2-1 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers.
"When Bergy had the puck, I saw two guys go at him a little bit, and I just tried to go to the net," Sturm said. "I think he had Z [Zdeno Chara] open a little bit, too, but he made a nice play for a tip in."
With the victory, the Bruins became the first home team ever to win the Winter Classic, the NHL's fledgling but already wildly popular New Year's Day tradition that aired for the third straight year on NBC. The meaning of the moment to the players became as clear as the Fenway ice when, after Sturm's walk-off goal, they spilled onto the ice in a celebration reminiscent of a Game 7 victory.
"Marco scored that winner, and it was one of the most incredible feelings I can remember," said Bruins goalie Tim Thomas, who stopped 25 shots.
Sturm's team-best 14th goal capped a Bruins' rally that for the majority of the game seemed unlikely to develop, their offense stuck in neutral despite relatively ideal conditions for outdoor hockey. The temperatures hovered near 40 degrees -- the highest for any of the Winter Classics so far. And while players such as the Bruins' Chara wore eye-black in anticipation of glare, the steel-gray sky rendered such preparations unnecessary.
The Bruins struggled to create legitimate scoring opportunities for much of the afternoon -- they managed 15 mostly uninspiring shots through the first two periods -- but finally broke through at the 17:42 mark of the third period when former Flyer Mark Recchi tipped a Derek Morris shot past Leighton for a power-play score, tying it at 1.
The score ended Leighton's shutout streak at 1:54:07. It was the 41-year-old Recchi's ninth goal of the season and 553d of his career. A retrospective of Recchi's career highlights might reveal that roughly 500 of them have come in a similar manner.
''We really wanted to accomplish something here, we wanted to have a big win," said Recchi when asked where the goal ranks among the highlights of his 22-season career. "Derek made a heck of a play there. I was in my spot, and fortunate to bank it in. It's a pretty cool experience today, and definitely something I'll never forget."
The Flyers' goal came on an inexcusable mental lapse by Thomas in the second period. Thomas, distracted by Philadelphia forward Scott Hartnell, took an ill-timed opportunity to get in a shot on the Flyers' pest, cross-checking him just as Philadelphia defenseman Danny Syvret launched a long-distance shot. As Thomas lunged at Hartnell, the puck zipped past the unknowing goalie and found the back of the net. Syvret's goal, which came at the 4:42 mark, was the first of his 43-game NHL career.
After the game, Thomas was quick to admit his emotions got the best of him, explaining that Hartnell ran him over while he was making a save and left him in a dangerous position moments earlier.
"I ended up in a vulnerable position where the guy ended up taking a slap shot and I'm laying flat on the ice," Thomas said. "Thank goodness it was down toward my pads, because if it was up toward my head or neck area, I have no way to protect myself. That made me mad when he came that close. I retaliated but I just happened to be retaliating at the same time someone else was shooting. Obviously, I didn't realize that at the time and that's what happened."
Naturally, he was appreciative when Recchi -- and eventually, Sturm -- took him off the hook, helping the Bruins (21-12-7, 49 points) pick up two points to pull to within three of division-leading Buffalo.
"You could feel the energy when we tied it up with two minutes left," said Thomas, whose eventful day included confirmation that he has been named to the US Olympic hockey team. "And at that point, I was very grateful to tie the game, because the goal was basically because I lost my cool and wasn't following the puck. So when we tied it up, it was very exciting. But I wanted to take it that one step further, I think everybody on our bench wanted it so bad."
Until Recchi's timely tally, it appeared Syvret's goal would stand up. The most eventful action otherwise in the first two periods came when the Bruins' Shawn Thornton and the Flyers' Dan Carcillo squared off at the 12:01 mark of the first. The affable Thornton, who hinted this week that he was intrigued by the chance to be involved in the first fight in Winter Classic history, didn't have the bout go the way he'd hoped. He wound up on the receiving end of a vicious uppercut by Carcillo, who wears a mustache in homage to the famed "Broad Street Bullies" Philadelphia squads of the '70s and did the likes of Dave Schultz proud this time around.
Though the play was not unexpectedly uneven on the outdoor surface, the event lived up to the hype long before the outcome was determined. The nostalgic tone was obvious but not overbearing, the warm sentiments for the cool game elegantly presented. It was the ideal scene and tone to jostle those pond-hockey memories. A dusting of snow would have completed the picture-perfect winter postcard, but the week-long fears of rain or heavy snow were unfounded. It was logical to conclude that Mother Nature must be a hockey fan.
Helping to complete the scene, the head coaches each wore a varsity jacket and Fedora; Claude Julien's made him look like he just stepped out of the team photo of the 1935 Montreal Maroons. Bobby Orr, who received a raucous and heartfelt ovation rivaling that given to Dave Roberts during the Red Sox' Opening Day 2005 ring ceremony, offered every Bruin a pat on the back on the bench before he met Flyers honorary captain Bobby Clarke at center ice for the ceremonial dropping of the puck. It would have surprised few in attendance if some old familiar chippiness ensued between the '70s rivals.
The early arriving crowd, with a remarkable number of them adorned in brand-new commemorative jerseys, found their seats early. Those fans in the ritzy baseball seats near the dugouts stood for much of the game to see the action; for this sport, the grandstand provided a better view. Meanwhile, on Yawkey Way, the sights and smells were familiar. Anyone up for a sausage (onions and peppers optional) at 9:30 a.m. had some options. Certainly not the most appealing breakfast for many of us on New Year's Day.
Another sight was a bit surreal, even if you expected it was coming: the red and white jerseys and t-shirts of summer have given way to the black and gold sweaters more commonly seen around Causeway Street this time of year. It was a pleasant reminder that the Bruins have perhaps the most loyal core of fans in the city.
And at the end of the day, just as the NHL had hoped, the day at Fenway would prove as fulfilling and memorable for all involved as a childhood skate on the neighborhood pond.
"Just this whole day, overall, this will go down as one of the most memorable days of my life, of my career," said Thomas. "Between winning, and the way that we won, and being named to the US Olympic team, I mean, it's my oldest goal, I've been waiting 30 years for this."
Terry O'Reilly, my favorite hockey player as a kid -- as if it could be anyone else for an Irish boy in New England. And that's my favorite hockey card from my childhood, though if I recall correctly my copy was considerably more mangled than this one. Looked like it had been through a couple of heavyweight bouts with Clark Gillies.
Anyway, no chat today, but I've got an excuse that I'm downright thrilled about -- I'll be skating the Winter Classic Blog Boy shift over at Fenway alongside Fluto, Dupey and our usual Bruins-coverage first-liners. Getting to cover this . . . well, it sure is some kind of good way to begin the new year.
The plan is to write about the pregame scene over at our Bruins Blog, post a quick game story, and add various morsels of color and commentary in the postgame. Yes, we'll probably even shoehorn in a "Slapshot" quote or two. So get your hot chocolate ready, turn on the telecast, fire up the laptop, and join us for the fun.
Took a night off from sports last night. (Well, to be precise, the "night off" began after Tim Wakefield's game-altering pitch to Mike Napoli, but before it cleared the wall in center field for a game-changing three-run homer. Totally saw that one coming.)
Finally watched "Gone Baby Gone" instead. A masterpiece for Ben Affleck (did I just write that?), wholly superior to the "The Departed" . . . and absolutely crushing if you are a parent or Morgan Freeman. Pretty sure I'll never watch it again. And I especially wished I'd stuck with the Sox after realizing I'd missed Daniel Bard's debut.
Oh, well. I'm not missing a sporting thing tonight, what with yet another Bruins/Celtics simultaneous postseason doubleheader. As a matter of fact, I've already drawn up a short list of things I'm hoping to see. Such as . . .
. . . J.J. Redick continuing to shoot like he's still at Duke and a Final Four berth is on the line.
. . . Dwight Howard getting his wish and getting the ball in the clutch. I'm all for a 57 percent free-throw shooter with no offensive game to speak of outside of six feet demanding the rock.
. . . Perk, doing his usual dirty work. Gotta write a full column about him one of those days. He's beast, you know.
. . . Dick Bavetta forgetting which team is playing at home.
. . . Stan Van Gundy's shrill, cliche-ridden, completely uninspired instructions during a timeout.
. . . The "We just have to listen to this guy for two more games, tops" looks on the faces of the Magic players.
. . . More of that dipstick Skip To My Lou. Less of Courtney Lee, who could be the Rodney Stuckey of this series if Van Hedgehog would let him.
. . . Rajon Rondo shaking off his strange recent lethargy and making the Magic pay for daring him to shoot.
. . . The Truth and Shuttlesworth on fire in the same game for once.
. . . Big Baby driving up his price even more with a 20/10 performance. You can bet the Magic fans on the sidelines will be aware of his whereabouts at all times tonight.FULL ENTRY
If you missed it while enjoying your holiday festivities, this week's OT column is right here. As a bonus, I'm posting here a few of my Boston sports predictions for 2009 that didn't make the cut.
(Yep. I wrote too long. Again. But by only 500 words this time. That's what you call a craftsman's discipline, baby.)
Anyway, I'll be back with an original column Monday -- at last, one in which the names "Teixeira" and "Boras" will not be mentioned. Until then, here are few deleted scenes that left out of the OT original . . .
Feb. 10: With “Justice” written on one fist and “For Cam” on the other, the Bruins’ Milan Lucic pummels 43-year-old Sharks forward Claude Lemieux so brutally that the longtime villain attempts to announce his re-retirement while cowering on the ice. Neely proudly nods his approval from management’s box, while NESN’s Mike Milbury chucks a shoe in Lemieux’s direction for old time’s sake.
May 23: Assuming it’s no different than taking a mid-game leak inside the Green Monster, Manny Ramirez urinates on the sacred monuments beyond the left field wall at Yankee Stadium during the seventh inning of a 21-3 loss to the Phillies. The entire city of New York is aghast. The ghost of Babe Ruth, however, finds it hilarious.
June 10: The Celtics deliver the ultimate indignity to the Lakers in Game 3 of the NBA Finals when Eddie House’s grade-school-aged son, Jalen, blows past Sasha Vujacic for a reverse layup and a foul with 1:22 remaining, giving the Celtics a 133-82 lead. Vujacic retreats to the LA bench, slaps a folding chair, shakes his hand in agony, and immediately bursts into tears. Little House chest bumps his proud pop, then says: “Dad, you told me there was no crying in basketball.”FULL ENTRY
About Touching All The Bases
Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.