Saturday, March 21, 2009

I'm Loving It!

I'm loving this! And they say Rask isn't competitive enough...

Thursday, March 19, 2009


I'm really getting sick of what I read in the papers these days. Recent headlines scream, "What's wrong with the Bruins?" Comments on articles and forums are full of hate for the team or various players on it. You'd think they were in last place!

Get real, people. The only thing broken is the fair weather "fans" lack of faith in the team.

Right now the only thing that truly matters is game 1 of the playoffs. The players know it, the coaches know it, management knows it, and most the fans who didn't tune in only last month know it. Yet it's only natural that everyone is nervous.

Let's say the team losses its confidence just before the playoffs. That's good reason to be nervous.

But how many times have we seen a high-flying team with a big point lead at the end of the season lose in the first round? If the B's were still flying high, I'd still be nervous, and I suspect many others would be as well.

So either way, it's only natural to be nervous. It's how we express this nervousness that matters. Do players tear each other down? Does management pressure the coach into desperate decisions? Do the fans attack the team they claim to love, like a bunch of spoiled rabid children?

I believe that as long as nobody is seriously injured--particularly Tim Thomas--it simply doesn't matter what happens in these last nine games. We are going to remain nervous. And nobody is going to remember them come summer, except maybe a few bitter "fans" who will act like the world came to an end when the B's lose in the conference final (or whenever).

The fact is that no matter what, everything will be reset in game 1 of the first round. Personally, I'm looking forward to it (and trying not to read the papers).

Monday, March 9, 2009

Much Ado About Little

It was an interesting weekend for the Bruins. Against the Blackhawks on Saturday the B's had a good strong effort. The Hawks are a very good team, although it seemed apparent why their reputation doesn't match their record. It seemed to me that the Hawks played like a young team often does; they showed a high talent level but a lack of consistent play. Look for these guys to be a force next year.

The game on Sunday was a weird one, in part because it was on NBC. It's always fun to watch those guys put their own spin on a game. They made the choice before hand to concentrate on Chara and Recci for the B's and Avery for the Rangers. The very idea of making Sean Avery the focus of their positive attention made my skin crawl. It is also funny to watch Milbury squirm in his NBC gig. He's clearly very uncomfortable. Given how he sometimes intimidates his NESN coworkers, making them uncomfortable at times with the sheer force of his personality, it was sort of fun to see him squirm. On the other hand I felt sorry for him. That kind of sums up my feelings about Milbury: it's a love-hate sort of thing. On the one hand I like and admire him, and on the other I think he's a big jerk. Mostly, I'm thankful I don't have to work with him! Been there, done that, with his sort of personality.

As for the game itself, the B's played very well and very likely would have won had it not been for their goaltending. Fernandez had a nightmare of a game. He failed to hold close enough to the post on one goal, and actually put the puck into the net with his own stick. Then he foolishly spun around in the crease when he lost the puck, kicking it into the net in the process. And for a finale he tried to kick a wide shot to the corner and missed. When the puck took a weird bounce and came out the other side of the goal to a Ranger he was completely out of position. That last goal in particular really hurt, coming late in the game when it was tied and the B's were dominating the Rangers in the offensive zone. In retrospect I'm sure the coach wishes he'd pulled Fernandez or even started Timmy two days in a row.

But I'm not about to write that Fernandez sucks or that Julien is an idiot. I'll leave that to the juvenile posters on the Bruins boards. All goaltenders have bad games, or I guess at least most of them. It's been so long since Timmy had one of these games I can't even remember when it was. But he's the exception. I once saw Patrick Roy shoot the puck into his own net and then play like he was completely disinterested afterward. Patrick Roy obviously did not suck, but he sure could have a bad game.

Likewise I'm not going to second guess the coach's decision to leave Fernandez in. Had the B's won that game, and they almost did, it would have helped Fernandez regain his confidence. Leaving him in was a gamble, and when you gamble, sometimes you lose. Maybe Fernandez will battle back. Maybe they will bring up Rask. Either way, I think it imperative not to play Timmy too much going into the playoffs. He does have a tendency to burn out late in the season if played too often. Once the playoffs start it will be too late to rest him.

All-in-all it was an entertaining weekend, and the B's look fine to me. No worries. Fifteen games to go.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Lets Get on with the Playoffs Already!

I wrote a blog by the title So This is It Then in early February. For the two of you who read it, my words may have seemed oddly timed. It was about how it felt to be a fan of a team that did nothing but win. I wrote that blog then to capture the feeling, because I knew that it wasn't likely to last much longer. By February 5th the B's were already falling back to earth.

I'm not sure I like it, this business of streaking to the top of the NHL. Once you reach the top expectations are heightened, yet there is nowhere to go but down. The winning gets just a little boring, and the losing stings more than it used to.

There are now 17 games left in the season. What are the Bruins playing for? Pride? Even if they lose every remaining game they will still likely make the playoffs. The number of series you need to win for a cup is the same either way. If I'm a player I'm wondering if pride is worth an injury that might give me a top row seat for the playoffs. And now other teams are fighting for a playoff birth, some coming to top form to get there. That makes winning all the more difficult.

Confidence was a primary reason the B's played so well earlier this year. Losing your way to the post season can only erode it. If I'm the coach I'm wondering if these guys are going to play well enough to win in the first round.

It's kind of ugly, isn't it? No matter what happens in the next 17 games, the season will start again in the playoffs. The B's may lose their sting. More likely they will find it again. Either way, the next 17 games are not likely to be pivotal. My prediction is that they will go 6-7-4 for a total of 109 points to finish second in the east.

Then we can get on with it.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Trade Day is Over

Once again Peter Chiarelli has shown why he's the guy paid the big bucks (rather than fans and bloggers). The trades he made today improve the team for the playoff run without giving away too much in return. Both acquisitions are rentals which will give him options come summer, and the new players should fit into the room. Always true to his word, that's exactly what he told everyone he was setting out to accomplish. I personally think it's rather humorous that many fans will go with the wildest rumors rather than just take the GM at his word.

Anyhow, here is the big picture on the roster moves (rather than the usual who was traded for whom):

1. The B's swap Lashoff for Steve Montadore at defense. Montador is a solid defenseman who has played every game this year. At least in theory he will be a great fit in the room because he's a Right to Play guy. Both Chara and Ference are big in Right to Play and there will be a natural solidarity due to the fight to get the organization unbanned from the Olympics. Montador travelled to Africa with Ference last summer. He also made it to the cup final with teammates Ference, Kobasew and Yelle. His contract expires in the summer.

Lashoff is a defensemen who has great potential, but he was failing to truly thrive in the Bruins system.

2. The B's swap Karsums and Nokelainen for Mark Recchi at forward. Recchi is that left-shooting forward with experience the B's said they wanted. He will likely replace PJ on the power play, which will likely improve it and definitely make a lot of knuckleheads happy. As for experience and familiarity, Recchi won a cup in Carolina with Aaron Ward.

Karsums and Nokelainen are both promising forwards but both of them had yet to permanently make it into the NHL. There is a chance that one or both will thrive in time and make some wish they hadn't been traded away for a rental, but that isn't a given.

As far as I'm concerned, I really like these moves. Our team improves yet stays intact, and there is every reason to hope that the new blood will inspire the team to get out of it's current doldrums.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

I Hate This Time of Year

I really do. I just hate it. I should stop reading anything for at least a week prior to the trade deadline for the sake of my blood pressure. The trade deadline brings out all the idiots who never laced up a pair of skates and think they know more about hockey than the coaches and GMs who are paid to do it for a living. It brings out the quick fix people who would trade away the heart and sole of a team for a "name" player. It brings out the juvenile sports fans who watch three games per season and can't talk about hockey except in baseball metaphors. It brings out all the fickle fans who only tune in for the playoffs, but shoot their mouths off like they have been following the team closely all year.

I can't wait for it all to be over. Let's get on with the hockey.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Bruins Get Slap in the Face From Headline Writers

I saw at least two articles about the game against the Caps with a headline about the B's being slapped in the face. Clever, yes, but accurate? No. In fact these two teams are very well matched. If they do meet in the playoffs it will be a series to remember. I'd give an edge to the Bruins 5 on 5 throughout a long series because they have greater depth. But it seems an edge also goes to the Caps for their OT play; they get it done.

With regard to the fluke 70-foot slapper that ended the game--I finally understand that old phrase, "the exception that proves the rule." That never made logical sense to me, but now I get it. It's the one mishap that puts history into perspective. That goal was unexpected and surprising because Timmy almost never lets in soft goals of any kind. Rather than start the "Thomas sucks" chants, as I am sure a few idiots are doing, it reminds us just how well he plays night in and night out; it's the exception that proves the rule.

But I fear that if the Bruins keep starting Thomas in every game we are going to see more of this. A big part of goaltending is mental, and for Thomas it may be even more so because of the intensity he plays with. Whether it be Fernandez, who has looked less than stellar lately, or Rask, Timmy needs to be rested before the playoffs.

I noticed that the B's web site has a poll running. The question is, "If the B's were to make a trade before the deadline, which position should they focus on?" The choices are forward, center, defense, and "they don't need to address anything." Notice what's missing? They left goaltending off the list entirely because there would be no point to it. Long time Bruins fans can appreciate how comforting that is. They say that teams are built from the goal out, and nobody is questioning the foundation of these Bruins today. The way I see it the Bruins have a shot at winning the cup this year, but it's only a shot. I've been around for a while and this story usually plays out with a loss in the final or conference final. The Cup comes the following year when they are truly hungry for it, assuming the team hasn't been dismantled in the off season. That is why I feel that the number 1 job Chiarelli has is to sign Tim Thomas, who will be a free agent in the summer.