Friday, February 27, 2009

Bruins Have Ducks in a Row

Another great effort with very sharp play. If the Ducks were an Eastern Conference team they might have known better than to try to intimidate the B's in their own building. The last team to try that was the Stars back fall and they regretted it too.

I wonder what's up with Savard? He missed the 3rd period with an "upper body" injury and is likely to miss the next game as well. He was a target all night and ended his game being thrown down to the ice in a brawl with Niedermayer. But I noticed his play was off right from the start. In the 1st period he uncharacteristically seemed to have trouble finding the puck in front of the net, missed several passes, and in general had difficultly handling the puck. Something was clearly bothering him even then.

And I agree with jimbuff that Looch needs to stop when the other player is down. I am proud of the fact that my Bruins play a clean game and I'd hate to see Looch get a bad reputation. It seemed pretty clear to me what happened last night--for once he got a bit of his own medicine, taking a hard punch to the jaw early in the fight. It appeared to make him so angry that he just unloaded on the guy. Not pretty.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Bitz and Pieces

Last night the Bruins and Panthers didn't look like the same two teams that played last week. The B's were in their all black and the Panthers were in their old familiar road whites--a uniform that strikes fear into the hearts of no one. But more importantly, after a freaky role reversal last time, the two teams got back to being who they really are.

We haven't seen the Bruin team was saw last night in a very long time. They were completely dominating in all three zones, and had that crazy killer instinct where after every goal they only wanted more. How were the Bruins better than in their recent efforts? In every single possible way.

If you asked me to pick the best three Bruins or tell you which player had a poor night, I'd be at a loss because this really was a total team effort. From the goal out: spectacular and timely goaltending, hard hitting nasty defense, good quick decisions on the breakout, tape to tape passing, a jump in the offensive zone, domination on the forecheck, and "finish."

I am sure B's fans everywhere had big smiles after this one. It was like starting the season over again. After seeing them struggle we bear witness to the full rebirth of this amazing, absolutely dominating, team. It was sweet and worth the wait.

The fans who think this team needs more talent need to stop and think. I keep reading pure lunacy, like trading Axe for a rental, or giving up their young talent for one. The B's don't need more talent. Hockey is a team sport. Doesn't anybody remember the 1980 Olympics? Or at least seen the movie? Teamwork and hard work trump talent. If you add, say, an Eric Cole, you add talent, but risk screwing up the team chemistry. Chiarelli has shown a flair for making that little trade with solid positive results and I'm hoping he pulls it off again this time. Just look at his signing over the summer: people, myself included, were worried that Ryder, his struggling replacement for Muzz, would struggle for the B's too. But instead he thrived. Just like Julien said he would.

While it is tempting to think in the short term for a cup run, I think Chiarelli should instead look to the long term. Trade Fernandez while he still has some value. Trade him for some future: a draft pick or prospect. The Bruins aren't going to win a cup with Fernandez in goal. He's just not consistent enough. If Timmy goes down with an injury the only thing that would get them there would be an amazing rookie run by Rask. On the other hand, we need Timmy rested. I'm worried he's going to burn out again. I'd bring Rask up and let him play every other game until the end of the season. It would be good for both of them.

Now for the actual Bitz and Pieces:
  • Hearing the crowd chanting "We want Bitz" at the end of the game was great! And the big roar when he skated out. How fun was that?
  • Seeing the hard working but snake bit Bergeron take that puck to the net... I swear my heart actually stopped. And when he scored! How fun was that?
  • Ryder played like a starving dog with a piece of meat dangling in front of him! One has to wonder if Ryder wasn't the spark that made this team explode again. Is Ryder, next to Thomas and Chara, one of the essential ingredients to this team?
  • Axe's big hit and all around physical play. How can you tell the difference between someone who understands hockey and someone who doesn't? Just ask them what they think of Axe. If they say he wouldn't be missed... they don't get it.
  • Kobasew and Looch played like cruise missiles looking for something to explode on. And the best part was that their hits weren't just statements, they often resulted in a turn over or scoring opportunity. Now that's hockey!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Just What the Doctor Ordered

Prior to last night's game against the Canes I was thinking that what the B's really needed was one of those 7-2 blowouts to rebuild their confidence. It turned out that 5-1 was good enough.

It was Shane Hnidy who made it happen. Ever since that puck went off Thornton's skate into the goal, the puck hadn't been bouncing the B's way. You could see their confidence sag, particularly against New Jersey. New Jersey won that 1-goal game on a fluke that went under Thomas. The Bruins couldn't buy a goal, even a fluke. It seemed the Hockey Gods were aligned against them.

After his goal last night Hnidy said he was just putting the puck near the net and it just happened to go in. After that, the Bruins skated harder and made better decisions more quickly. You could see the room to skate opening up as their confidence swelled. Throughout the last few games the most obvious difference was that there seemed to be less room. The breakout was stalled because a defender would be all over the forward when a pass arrived. The other teams were pressing hard in all three zones. But after Hnidy scored that began to change. As the B's had more room to skate you could see their confidence swell with each shift. And in turn they had even more room. With six minutes to go in the 3rd the Bruins were ahead 2-1. Six minutes later thay had added four goals.

Take a rest boys--you earned it.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Devil of a Game

This was a great game. It had a playoff feel to it with both teams playing at their best. New Jersey played the best team defense I have seen in ages. The Bruins rolled all four lines with hustle all night long. Those 7-2 Bruins wins earlier in the season were fun--don't get me wrong--but last night, now that was Hockey!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

THE Game

Well, I missed it. Yeah, I missed the biggest game of the season. Didn't even hear it on the radio. Thanks to Dish Networks' little flap over Versus that put it on the most expensive tier (with nothing else I want). Thanks to a hellish day at work that made me forget to put my backup plan to record the internet radio broadcast in motion. Thanks to a snowstorm that kept me from getting home in time to listen in person.

From what I've been reading the B's forgot who they were in the 3rd period. I wish I could say I was surprised, but this team hasn't had to dig deep in a long time. Not since they played the Wings last fall. It's easy to forget how to do it.

But you know, even before the game I was thinking that a loss wouldn't be such a bad thing. Sure it stings now, but you can bet it stings in the locker room even more... and that's the stuff that builds a cup team.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

So This is It Then

This is it, this is what we Bruins fans have waited for all these years. It's really quite amazing, and different, to be a Bruins fan this season. On TV I watched yet another team head for the locker room in dejection and disappointment. I wonder if the Flyers will go into a long slide now, as other devastated Bruins opponents have. But mostly I wonder if they even realize that they didn't come close to seeing the best that the Bruins had to bring... because they simply weren't good enough to bring it out in them.

Ah, but there's the rub. I know that some fans will want to hit me over the head with my beloved copy of "Black and Gold" for saying it, but this is getting boring. We've recently seen that you have to remove at least one full line of forwards from this team to make it a fair contest. Otherwise they just breeze past most opponents like they aren't even in the same league. There's no drama.

In a weird way I miss the previous three seasons. The Bruins struggled. They were always the underdog. Some idiot fans even wanted Timmy replaced because they couldn't tell a great goaltender from an armadillo... unless the team was winning. That was drama. When the Bruins won against a good team it was due to sheer grit, heart and determination. Every game was a battle... drama.

Now I tell my 10-year old that the Bruins won "again" and he looks at me as if to say, "So?" I watch other teams play each other and I'm struck by how poorly they seem to play. "Why didn't he just pass it to the other D man behind the net?", I ask the TV. Or, "Why do they have so much trouble on the breakout?" I mean, it's not like it's all that hard. I've seen the Bruins do it, again and again and in pretty much exactly the same way, something like 500 times. Other teams don't seem to be playing the same game. How weird is that? It's like playing NHL '06 after you long ago figured out how to score at will. Every game and every goal is the same.

Now some people will think that this can't last. The Bruins may fall like Ottawa before them, and I'll regret not enjoying it more. But that's just the point: we learned last year that this team has huge reserves of heart that it can draw on when facing adversity. This team has enormous character, but they seldom need it anymore. I cannot imagine much that can stop them from cruising into the playoffs, and past the first round.

Only after that will the drama finally begin.

Other than February 10th of course. Damn, I need to find someone who gets Versus!