Monday, May 11, 2009
$2,500. That's how much Aaron Ward's orbital bone is worth, according to the NHL.
The National Hockey League is a lot like the Democratic Party. They come up with all sorts of lofty goals and officiating philosophies, but when the proverbial shit hits the metaphorical fan, the NHL loses its nerve, goes flacid, and tucks its tail between its tail.
The NHL's latest failed crusade was a campaign against "message sending" in the postseason, particularly at the end of games. You get a 3 or 4 goal blowout, one team decides to take advantage of the situation and get under their opponents skin. But with 2:47 left, when Scott Walker punched Aaron Ward - who had his gloves on and his fists down - in the face, the NHL went out of its way to not punish Walker or the Hurricanes.
Technically, Scott Walker was suspended. An instigator penalty in the final 5 minutes of a game is an AUTOMATIC SUSPENSION, that can only be lifted if the Commissioner pardons the offending player. In other words, Walker was guilty until proven innocent, at least that's how the NHL saw it.
Lucic was suspended for 1 game, and rightfully so.
And remember this?
Avery got 6 games for that.
So make fun of an opponent's choice of girlfriends, you get suspended for 6 games. Punch an opponent in the face in a game that's all but over, and you get fined $2500.
Gary Bettman and the NHL honchos might be the worst bosses in the world of sports, and this is example #16,542 of their ineptitude.
Aaron Ward will travel to Raleigh with the team, but it's still unclear if he'll play. The Bruins were already hurting at the defenseman position, and Carolina won't even lose a game from their mediocre 5 goal, 10 assist winger. But he'll lose $2500. That's 0.3% of his average annual salary. Think he'll need a pledge drive to pay it off?
The NHL failed to do several things in this situation:
Discourage message sending late in games
Discourage dirty play in general
Encourage the notion that dirty play will punish both the player and the team
Keep the series under control by punishing dirty play, instead of letting Shawn Thornton do the punishing in Game 6.
If I'm Scott Walker, I'd keep my head on a swivel, because Shawn Thornton, Milan Lucic, Zdeno Chara, and Byron Bitz will all know when and where Walker is. Hopefully they let Walker spend all of Game 6 fearing retribution. But I can just see Chara going after Walker, getting an instigator penalty, and NOT having his automatic suspension pardoned by the NHL.
The Red Sox hadn't won a series against the Rays since last June. Pathetic, right? Finally, that streak came to an end.
Should the Red Sox just sign Jason Bay right now? Another clutch performance for Bay, who was 2 for 4 with a pair of doubles and the game winning RBI.
Josh Beckett was good, not great, and we're still waiting to see that Ace reemerge. But putting two solid starts together in a row is a step in the right direction. And he gave the team a chance to win, which is the first job of a starting pitcher.
Jonathan Papelbon's save wasn't the prettiest, but it had its own appeal. He struck out the side while giving up some baserunners and making Fenway Park nervous. But maybe he saw Big Baby's dramatics earlier and wanted to outdo the Celtics.
Dustin Pedroia "tweaked his groin" and left the game in the 3rd. He should be back by Wednesday, though. I was a bit nervous, because it seems like the injury bug has removed the hottest Red Sox hitter from the lineup. First Kevin Youkilis, then Pedroia? Then Bay?
Man of the Game: Jason Bay... again.
The Sox embark on their last West Coast trip of the year, first to Anaheim, then Seattle. Jared Weaver and his 3-1 record and 2.66 ERA take on Justin Masterson Tuesday night.
AP Photo/Michael Dwyer
"When torrential water tosses boulders, it is because of its momentum"
-Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Last year, the Bruins demonstrated they are not an easy team to knock out. And hockey teams in general usually put up a good fight when facing elimination. Except, of course, the Canadiens, which is merely a testament to the Habs' lack of class and character.
Apparently, Carolina forgot this was a best of 7 series, because they did not show up for this game at all. The Hurricanes didn't get their first shot on goal until 11:03 into the 1st.
The only spark Carolina was when they decided to be cheap.
Jussi Jokinen slashed Zdeno Chara in the ankle. The dirty hit went unnoticed by the refs, but it felled the 6' 9" Chara for several minutes. The Garden went nuts when the big man climbed over the boards and returned to the ice in the 3rd.
Scott Walker sucker punched Aaron Ward in a 3rd period post-whistle confrontation. The unofficial word from the Bruins is that Ward has a broken orbital bone. He's to be reexamined today. Walker received a 2 minute penalty, a 5 minute major, and a 10 minute misconduct. Considering the nature of the punch, the apparent severity of Ward's injury, and the NHL's anti "message sending" crusade, it's safe to say Walker's series is done.
But it's no coincidence that the Canes went after the Bruins' top two defenseman. And if the Bruins lose Ward, or even have to reduce his playing time, it will test an already thin D-corps. And losing Scott Walker is hardly a big loss for Carolina. He only had 5 goals and 10 assists this year.
Hopefully Big Z and A-Ward will be fine for Game 6. And hopefully Carolina's Montrealesque attempt to get under the Bruins' collective skins was in vein.
Back to the hockey in Game 5...
Timmy Thomas continues to prove to any and all doubters why he will be the Vezina winner. He only had to stop 19 shots, but some of his saves, and clears, were simply stunning. He utilized his athleticism, and his ability to remain balanced in every position. And these kinds of games can be tough on goalies. Like I mentioned above, no Carolina shots for the first 11 minutes. Goalies don't like to be peppered with shots, but they like to build a rhythm.
First career playoff shutout for Thomas.
Phil Kessel was Phil Kessel again. After only getting 12 shots on goal in Games 1 thru 4, Phil fired 6 on Cam Ward. And 2 of those went in.
Kessel was keyed by Marc Savard, who was the Marc Savard we've all come to know and love over the past 3 years: The Assist Monster.
Zdeno Chara was the 1st Star, and he earned it. He was +3 with 2 assists, 5 massive hits, and still managed 24:34 of ice time, despite Jokinen's slash.
Milan Lucic continues to shine in postseason hockey. His 3rd period goal eliminated any chance of a Carolina comeback. He was also +3, with a goal, an assists, and 2 arena shaking hits. He gave energy to the crowd, to his teammates, and took energy from the Canes.
Blake Wheeler was a healthy scratch, a la Phil Kessel in 2008. Byron Bitz took his place in the lineup, and had a solid 10 minutes of 4th line grinding. Hopefully we'll see more Bitz in Game 6.
Bad news: the Bruins failed to score on 9 power plays
Good news: they had 10 power plays
The power play actually looked very good. Excellent puck-cycling, and they got some nice shots on goal. Cam Ward is a good goalie. He's not god, as some douchebags think he is. Cam Ward is quite mortal.
We're still waiting to see David Krejci and the 2nd line come up with another big game. They all had solid nights in Game 5, but nothing extraordinary. Since Game 1, Ryder and Krejci have been quiet, but I think if given enough time, that line will have a multiple goal night.
Shawn Thornton was back in the lineup. 4 minutes, 25 seconds on the ice. 6 minutes in the penalty box. And he was the one to respond to Carolina's cheapness, so he did his job, and the Bruins don't lose Lucic via suspension again.
Steve Montador once again had a failure of a game. He made one or two good plays, but he couldn't keep the puck in the offensive zone, struggled to get it out of the defensive zone, and I didn't notice him much in the neutral zone. He's not a good puck handling defenseman, at all. He's a liability with the puck.
And that sucks. Because if Aaron Ward goes down, thats 20+ minutes of ice time that has to be eaten by lesser defenseman, including Steve Montador. And that's penalty killing ice time, power play ice time, crunch time ice time.
I don't know what to expect in Game 6. But I'm glad the Bruins didn't go out with a whimper in Game 5. It was the best Bruins game I've ever been to, in terms of the building's intensity, and the players' intensities. They flat-out rolled over Carolina.
Game 6, Tuesday night, 7 PM, in Raleigh, NC, and it's on NESN.
AP Photo/Charles Krupa
AP Photo/Winslow Townson
What a night. What an incredible, unbelievable night. The Bruins stay alive, the Sox beat the Rays, and Glen Davis wins Game 4 for the C's with a buzzer beater. Such a great night, it was a shame the sun had to rise.
And what a postseason Glen Davis is having. He's emerged as a quality player in the absence of Kevin Garnett. His game winning shot was merely icing on the cake that Celtics fans have enjoyed for weeks.
Marv Albert sounds depressed as Davis shoots, then explodes. I love it.
But Paul Pierce was the hero in this game. He stepped up with 27 points, and of course he was the one who found Davis in space for the game winning shot.
Rajon Rondo continues to impress. He had yet another double-double with 21 points, and 14 rebounds. His 7th double-double or better in this postseason.
Perkins also had a nice game, with 12 points and 13 boards.
The starting five had to perform, because the bench provided a minuscule 2 points. I think the Scalabrine well has run dry.
It sucks that the Celtics let Orlando have a chance in this one. I've harped on this whole "killer instinct" the C's seem to be lacking this year, and last night was a perfect example of said lacking. But they atoned for letting their opponent have extra life by simply killing him later.
And think about how big that shot was? A miss, and the Celtics are down 3-1. A make, and it's a best of three series with two games in the Garden.
Speaking of the Garden, Game 5 is there on Tuesday night.
AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack