Friday, May 01, 2009


I hope the committees/voters of all the NHL awards were watching this game. They would have seen why Tim Thomas deserves the Vezina (best goalie), why Zdeno Chara deserves the Norris (best defenseman), and why Claude Julien deserves the Adams (best coach).

Tim Thomas made 26 saves, and 3 or 4 of them were game changers. 18:10 into the 2nd, he stopped a breakaway opportunity from Ryan Bayda, that would've made it a 3-2 game, and given Carolina some momentum going into the 3rd. He made two more ridiculous stops in the final period, protecting a 2 goal, then a 3 goal lead.

Nicklas Lidstrom and Mike Greene have the scoring stats covered in the Norris Trophy race, but Zdeno Chara puts the defense in defenseman. He uses his unprecedented reach and unbelievable leverage to make plays. Eric Staal was a non-factor tonight, thanks to Chara's blanket coverage.

And props to Claude Julien. After a mediocre 1st period, he shuffled some lines, and the Bruins adjusted their approach. They were more aggressive against Cam Ward, taking more "bad" shots. They spent more time near the net (Lucic owned the crease tonight), hit harder, forechecked more aggressively, and clamped down in the neutral zone.

And maybe there should be a Ryder Trophy for best quiet free agent acquisition that turns out to be fucking amazing. Or something. Because Michael Ryder has been nothing short of amazing, in all three zones. His unassisted goal in the 2nd was the game clincher. 5th goal in 5 playoff games this year. He also got an assist on Krejci's 1st period score.

I loved how opportunistic the Bruins were in this game, moving players in and around the low slot and the crease. Lucic screened on Krejci's 1st period goal. Marc Savard's first goal was a product of him being in the right place near the net. And if a puck bounces here or there, the Bruins could have easily scored 5, 6, or 7 goals tonight.

But it's not all sunshine and flowers from Game 1. There was some rust, and some poor play. Steve Montador had a forgettable game. He struggled getting the puck out of the zone, which had been his greatest strength, so probably just some rust.

The power play was confused. The Bruins didn't seem to know what exactly they were trying to do. But I think they're simply testing different things, sniffing around for weaknesses, not allowing Carolina to become used to one way of doing things. The power play will improve as the series progresses.

Marc Savard's goal in the 3rd period came after a sequence of Hurricane and Bruins turnovers. And although the goal was terrific, and the shot was of Navy SEAL vs. Somali pirate quality, the play leading up to it was sloppy.

The B's were sometimes too fancy on their multitude of breakaway opportunities. They seemed to respect Cam Ward too much, trying to create the perfect shot instead of simply letting loose and seeing what happened. An several odd man rushes, the Bruins didn't even get a shot off. That's inexcusable.

But, all the problems displayed by the Bruins were quite fixable. And I think they will be remedied. And even with those problems, the Bruins were clearly the superior team. The Hurricanes shied from 1-on-1 battles, and struggled mightily to pass the puck out of their own zone.

Game 2 is Sunday night at 7:30 and it's ONLY on Versus. If you don't get Versus, the radio guys do an excellent job describing the action on WBZ 1030 AM in the Boston area.

Yeah, I have Versus and I'm fucking pissed that the game is not available in New England households. Fuck that shit.

But on the bright side, first 5 game playoff winning streak for the Bruins since 1992.


Photo Credits:
AP Photo/Winslow Townson
AP Photo/Charles Krupa


It‘s Bruins/Whalers, another classic Adams Division rivalry rekindled in this 2009 playoff season. In their last series, the B’s beat the Habs in the playoffs for only the eighth time in 32 attempts. When it comes to Bruins vs. Whalers/Hurricanes, however, it is the Bruins who have had the decided postseason edge, winning all three series played.

In the 1999 Conference Quarterfinals, the Bruins beat the Hurricanes in 6 games. Until the recent 4 game sweep of Montreal, this had been the last Bruins’ triumph in the playoffs. In 1990 and 1991, the Bruins handled the Whalers in the opening rounds, with some classic games mixed in.

The Whalers left Hartford for Raleigh in 1997. They’ve garnered a passionate fan base, and won the Stanley Cup in 2006, something the team never did in Connecticut. Current Bruins Mark Recchi and Aaron Ward were on that team. These two provide the bulk of the playoff experience on the Bruins’ roster.

The Bruins beat the Canes four times in four games during the regular season. The scores were 4-2, 4-2, 5-1, 5-1. Highlights of these games (BTW, thank you NHL for not being jerks like the other leagues and allowing hockey highlights to remain on YouTube):

But since the last time they met (on February 17), the Canes won 18 of 25 games to close the season. They defeated a tough New Jersey side. They have momentum, and a bit of that Stanley cup magic. They were all-but eliminated, on New Jersey’s ice, and beat Martin Brodeur twice in 80 seconds. They have a Conn Smythe Trophy winner in Cam Ward. That’s a powerful card to have up one’s sleeve.

But the Bruins aren’t suckers. They’ll be rusty when the puck first drops, and perhaps a little sluggish after a short but emotional series against Montreal. Unfortunately for Carolina, Phil Kessel is on his game, scoring 4 goals against the Habs, not to mention his hat-trick in game #82 of the regular season. David Krejci also had a good opening series, and has 3 goals with 4 assists against Carolina this year. Andrew Ference could be back from his injury, deepening a defensive corps that needs to be stronger at the bottom. And Timmy Thomas, well he’s the only Vezina finalist still playing.

On paper, the Bruins are heavy favorites. But hockey is played very far away from paper. One possible scenario is that a rusty Bruins team struggles to get going, the Canes win a game (or two) in Boston, an inexperienced Bruins squad can’t handle the adversity and folds. I don’t think it will happen, but it’s a possibility. That being said, even if Carolina won the first two games of the series, my money would still be on the Bruins to win.

Bruins in 5.