Friday, May 08, 2009
APPARENTLY ONLY ONE BOSTON TEAM CAN WIN PER NIGHT
Things seem to be falling apart for the Bruins. Or are they? I'm pretty pissed about the lack of control the Bruins have shown, and they certainly deserve to be down 3-1. But they aren't out. All that pre-game nonsense about Friday night's contest being a "must win" was bullshit. But clearly now, the Bruins are in a must-win situation.
Before I pepper the Bruins with my rage filled criticisms, let's remember how few breaks they got in this game. A pair of posts hit in the 1st (one by Kessel, one by Chara), as well as Cam Ward's guessing save on Axelsson's breakaway (he moved before P.J. shot the puck, and just so happened to guess right). The tempo of the game would have changed a great deal had the B's drawn first blood and been up 1-0, 2-0, or even 3-0.
Then there was Carolina's first goal. Jussi Jokinen flopped after David Krejci brushed him, the Canes got a power play, and Staal scored. Krejci shouldn't have given Jokinen a chance to flop, and also given the referees a chance to make a questionable call. But Krejci will get his abuse later in the post.
Carolina got a power play early in the 3rd thanks to a botched hooking call. To be fair to the refs, they've called a great series, and the game was 99% well-called, which is as good as it gets. But Chara didn't commit an infraction worthy of a power play. Carolina took advantage and Jokinen scored.
All this bad break business being said, THE BRUINS WERE THE ONES WHO LET THESE UNFORTUNATE EVENTS DESTROY THEM. Krejci could have avoided a penalty by not making contact with Jokinen from behind. After Chara committed the penalty, and Jokinen scored, it was only a 1 goal game, but the Bruins played like they were down by 4 or 5 scores.
From the 2nd period to the 3rd, I felt like a proud parent who watched his 20 children go from the honor roll to injecting heroin. The Bruins' 2nd period was their best period of hockey in this series. Outstanding forechecks, winning one-on-one battles, winning faceoffs, testing Ward, and dominating in all three zones.
Then in the 3rd, the B's let one bad thing (a penalty on Chara), turn into a worse thing (a goal), then into an even worse thing (17 minutes of atrociously sloppy hockey).
The Bruins' lack of experience is being exposed. But it's more than that. A few key players are trying too hard to be perfect, and are making costly mistakes.
He's sucked this series. His goal-scoring cooled off long ago, but he had always been a good two-way player on the 3rd line. I was glad to see him demoted to the 4th line, especially with how good Bitz looks. Wheeler seems to find himself offside at least once a game in a pivotal spot, spoiling a quality Bruins' offensive rush. He's also not taking full advantage of his size.
How many times has he forced Tim Thomas to make unnecessary saves with turnovers near his own blue line? He is slow on offense, letting the puck get past him instead of being instinctive and opportunistic. He's sloppy in the neutral zone, giving the Canes additional chances.
He has single handedly raised my blood pressure to dangerous levels in this series. Too many giveaways, both pressured and unpressured. He also telegraphs his shots, allowing the Canes to set-up their shot-blocking counterattack.
He's been mostly invisible, and he too has telegraphed his shots.
He's supposed to be a low-key, high percentage puck handler kind of guy. But he's turned the puck over quite a bit. He's sucked in the neutral zone, and been a ghost in the offensive zone. Apart from penalty killing, the lesser we see Yelle, the better.
On the bright side, Thomas is playing great. Michael Felger, and anyone who wants to suck-off Cam Ward while simultaneously criticizing Thomas need to be banned from Bruins games FOR LIFE. Thomas is the sole reason the Bruins had a chance in Games 3 and 4. And Cam Ward has been allowed to relax in his cage. The B's only got 21 shots on goal in Game 4 and 23 in Game 3.
I want to see more Byron Bitz in Game 5. Putting him on the 3rd line is great. Speaking of line juggling, I've never been a fan of Lucic alongside Kessel and Savard. You get Lucic trying too hard to be a fancy hockey player, and when he does win battles along the boards, Kessel and Savard aren't in the crease to take advantage of it. I'd like to see Lucic on the 2nd or 3rd line, and maybe even Axelsson or Recchi or Ryder on the 1st line. I'd prefer Lucic on the ice at the same time as Kobasew, so the two tough forecheckers can feed off each other, and help each other out.
If the Bruins play like they played for 25 or 30 minutes in Game 4, Carolina needs to get lucky to win. That's just the way it is. The Bruins have dug themselves this hole, but they're good enough to get out of it.
It's up to the 20 men in that locker room. They just need to play good solid hockey. It's not that complicated.
Game 5, Sunday night, in Boston, on Versus.
AP Photo/Gerry Broome
AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker