CHICAGO — During the first intermission of Saturday night’s Bruins-Blackhawks Game 2 telecast, NBC Sports hockey analyst and former Bruins player, coach, and general manager Mike Milbury took a shot at veteran Boston forward Jaromir Jagr.
“He can’t skate in this series, and they gotta get him off this line,” Milbury said on the air. “If he can do something when he gets the puck standing still, fine. But he can’t forecheck, he can’t participate with this line, two very good players with him [on the highlight being shown]. He turned the puck over repeatedly. He can’t get anything going here. They can’t sustain anything with him on this line. He’s not quick enough to get into the forecheck, and if his hands are going to act like that on him, he’s got a problem. I think the Boston Bruins got to recognize this. Don’t be looking at Jaromir Jagr the legend, this is Jaromir Jagr in real life… there’s no hustle to get to the bench, absolutely lazy in a Stanley Cup Final… That to me is a guy that is too tired to play in this final. That’s a guy that has to be replaced.”
Before leaving Chicago to head back to Boston Sunday, Milbury didn’t back off his criticism of Jagr and elaborated on the veteran sniper’s game and why he doesn’t think it fits with the Bruins current style of play.
“He doesn’t hustle to get to the right place,” Milbury said. “He’s smart enough to know where to be, and he’ll pick up the garbage. When the puck comes to him, then he’s a dangerous player, like when the loose pucks pop his way, and they did [in Game 2]. He rattled one off the post in overtime.”
Jagr actually led the Bruins attack with five shots Saturday night, but Milbury thinks that stat doesn’t tell the whole story.
“The first two came off garbage turnovers and he ripped some shots off,” he said. “So when he gets that, and what he loves to do is one-on-one stuff, he’s still OK, as long as he gets the puck.
“You can’t count on him on the forecheck, he’s not going to participate as a group effort to go retrieve the puck, and so using him in selective areas I think, is important but Claude [Julien] just throws him out one after the other. God bless Claude, I love him, but I don’t get it because he’s got no goals, he’s got no goals.”
During the overtime period in Game 2, Jagr clanged a shot off the crossbar causing the 41-year-old hockey legend to scream to the high heavens.
“I said, ‘God. Where are you?’ ” Jagr said in the locker room when asked after the game what words he was howling.
The former two-time Cup champion and former NHL MVP has in fact not scored a goal in the postseason, last hitting the back of the net on April 21 against Florida. But Jagr showed a late burst of energy and seemed destined to turn on the red light Saturday night.
“That’s the way it is,” Jagr said after Game 2. “I’ve got no problem with that if we keep winning. That would be kind of sad if we would lose the hockey game, but there is always next time because we won. I don’t worry about it right now.”
Milbury appreciated Jagr’s spirit when told of his comments after Game 2 when Jagr told the assembled media that he skates at the TD Garden rink alone after games sometimes so he can score some goals.
“Well that’s funny, and he certainly works hard at it,” Milbury said. “When you watch it and you try to be… and I’ve watched it for a long time, I’ve been critical of of him in the past but I’ve also been an admirer of him in the past because his skill set is just phenomenal but it’s a different mindset that goes into his approach to the game.
“I sometimes get frustrated by that as a former coach watching it but the skill set is still there… you can see it from time to time, but these two teams are teams that forecheck. When they’re going good, it’s on the forecheck. He’s not part of any forecheck blanket, he’s part of the receiving team.”
Former Bruins coach and current CBC broadcaster Don Cherry weighed in on Jagr as well on Sunday when he arrived in Boston, giving the right winger some props.
“Well he hasn’t scored any goals but he has been effective,” Cherry said. “[The Bruins] wanted Iginla and poor Jerome had an awful time and they ended up with [Jagr]. He hasn’t had a goal, but I’ll tell you, he’s a big factor out there.”
With the Cup final now knotted at one game apiece heading into Game 3 Monday night in Boston, Milbury was asked how he thought the series might play out going forward.
“I have no idea,” Milbury said. “I thought it was over at the end of the first period [in Game 2] and what the Bruins have done so well over the last few years is their resiliency pops up and they come back and play hard, and I admire the hell out of them for that and I expect that will continue to be the case.
“But the Hawks are pretty resilient, too. It will be interesting to see if they can win it without the benefit of a Jonathan Toews, who has just one more goal than Jagr. I know he’s a bit of a decoy, he takes a lot of punishment, gets a lot of attention, but still, you see [David] Krejci, he gets a lot of attention, too now and he’s putting up some pretty good numbers, but I don’t know where it all settles in. It didn’t look good for the Bruins at the end of the first, the shots on goal advantage was crazy… so we’ll see.”