Wednesday, March 31, 2010


The Bruins put themselves in a tight spot with their 3-2 loss to Buffalo. They needed at least 1 point down in New Jersey, and they got 2.

Despite the lack of goals for 64 minutes and 41 seconds, the Bruins played one of their best games since last season. And they did it against a good team, on the road, and there's no shame in being shut down by Martin Brodeur either. But the B's were in control of the game, even when they didn't have the puck. They had long possessions in the Devils' zone and kept the pressure on New Jersey.

That persistence finally paid off with a few seconds left in OT, as the B's took advantage of two Devils colliding, stole the puck, then took advantage of a Devil that lost his stick. It was a fortunate scenario, but the Bruins played well enough to benefit from such a situation.

Bergeron's game winner was a huge goal. Both Atlanta and the Rangers won, so the B's needed both points last night to maintain their lead. They're also tied with Philly and Montreal, only tie-breakers keeping them in 8th. There are 5 Eastern Conference teams within 4 points of each other:

6: Philly - 82 points
7. Montreal - 82
8. BOSTON - 82
9. Atlanta - 80
10. NY Rangers - 78

The B's have a pair of easy games to possibly extend slim lead in the playoff race. They host the Panthers Thursday and play up in Toronto on Saturday.


Photo Credit:
AP Photo/Bill Kostroun

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


It was a crazy weekend of college hockey. The Frozen Four is now set and will play in two weeks time for the NCAA Championship at Ford Field in Detroit.


RIT was making their first tournament appearance ever, after dominating the lowly AHA with 28 wins, and sweeping through their conference tournament. But they were in a bracket with College Hockey Royalty: Denver, Cornell, and UNH. Combined these three have made 54 NCAA Tournaments, 29 Frozen Fours, and won 9 National Championships. Oh, and these teams boast 4 Hobey Baker Award (the Heisman of hockey) finalists. RIT was supposedly the pushover of the foursome, there to fill out the bracket. Their goalie to be used by Denver as target practice.

But playing in front of many of his team's fans in Albany, goalie Jared DeMichael stood on his head and stopped 39 of 40 Denver shots. The RIT Tigers won 2-1. But they weren't finished.

After dispatching Cornell 6-2, the UNH Wildcats probably felt like RIT had done them an immense favor, giving them an easy road to the Frozen Four. I'm sure some of their fans were already searching Priceline for hotel and flight packages to Detroit.

Then RIT woke them up and out of their dreams, won every battle along the boards, outmuscled and outhustled UNH, and crushed them 6-2. RIT outshot the Wildcats 33 to 26. #4 seeds have upset big teams before, but never in such dominating fashion.

Detroit's only a 5 hour drive from Rochester, a short 325 miles across southern Ontario.


Wisconsin will be gunning for their 7th National Championship as they make their 11th Froze Four appearance. They finished 2nd in the WCHA and 3rd in the WCHA Tournament. But on Saturday night they vanquished the team that knocked them out of that tournament: St. Cloud State. This was after coming from behind against Vermont. On paper, Wisconsin is a better team than RIT. But as RIT has proven, the game is not played on paper.

Think about this: RIT's three opponents have combined for 32 Frozen Fours and 16 National Championships.


BC's road to their 22nd Frozen Four was not a smooth one. Both Alaska and Yale gave them tough fights, and frankly the Eagles will have to improve if they want to claim their 3rd Championship of the decade.

But winning is winning is winning, and that's all BC has done lately. They're 15-2-1 since January 29th. They've scored 82 goals in that stretch or 4.56 goals per game. Their Achilles heel is their defense, as demonstrated in their 9-7 slugfest against Yale. A team that's fast like them, or physical yet clean, can expose them if they're not careful.


Miami were the victims of BU's miraculous last minute comeback in last year's Championship Game, only 61 seconds away from their first National Championship in any sport, up 3-1, they gave up the lead then lost in OT. Most of that team is back, and are the only team from the '09 Four to return. But it was far from easy to get here.

Michigan - normally a powerhouse, this year a bit of a Cinderella (they needed to win the CCHA Tournament to gain admission to the NCAA) - almost pushed Miami over the edge. The Wolverines dominated all of the Redhawks except goaltender Connor Knapp (who's typically the backup behind Hobey Baker nominee Cody Reichard), stopped 55 Michigan shots, including 20 in the 1st OT, which Michigan controlled. Early in the 2nd OT, Alden Hirschfeld threw a token shot on net that slipped between Shawn Hunwick's (yes, that's Matt Hunwick's little brother, and I mean little, he's 5' 7" and 165 pounds) legs and the RedHawks won 3-2.

So it's Miami vs. BC, Wisconsin vs. RIT. Quite an eclectic mix. Two public schools, two private. One Catholic school, one technical school. Two teams that are in power conferences for other sports, one that's in the MAC, and one that's in D-III for everything but hockey. Two teams that are looking to expand their already busting college hockey trophy cases. Two teams looking to start new ones.

The Frozen Four starts a week from Thursday.



The 5-0 win over Calgary was quickly forgotten last night as the Bruins once again changed directions. Were I a professional sports gambler, I'd NEVER bet on a Bruins game, because they come out amazing, or come out dazed.

The simple-minded Bruins fans out there can blame Tim Thomas for the Sabres' 3 unanswered. They can question Julien for starting Thomas at all while Rask has excelled against Buffalo.

It does seem as though the Bruins play more inspired when Rask is in net. Which is extremely sad and pathetic. But even if true, the B's didn't display anything like that in their 5-0 victory on Saturday. And with back-to-back games Monday and Tuesday, you'd need to use both goalies anyway. Rask has good numbers against Buffalo, Thomas had yet to play against them this season. But against New Jersey, Thomas is 0-2, with a 3.80 GAA. I have no problems choosing to use Thomas to start this game.

And where was the offense. It's true the Bruins got 42 shots on net, but how many of them were of any quality? I'm not asking for Mario Lemieux calibre stuff.

A quality shot is one set-up by quality puck movement. There's nobody on the Bruins who's capable of beating Ryan Miller straight up. You get him to move around, which opens up the holes in the wall. Krejci's goal was a result of persistent movement and pressure, which drew Miller (who like all good tenders, is prone to aggressiveness) out of position, and Krejci bounced it off the goalie's skate and in.

It speaks to how good Ryan Miller is that both Bruin goals were odd bounces off Miller. He was never flat out beaten.

The Bruins remain in 8th, 2 points behind Philly and Montreal, but only 2 points ahead of Atlanta. They're at New Jersey tonight. The Devils are struggling lately, only winning 2 of their last 6. But their record at home is impressive (25-10-2).


Photo Credit:
AP Photo/Charles Krupa

Monday, March 29, 2010

BC 9, YALE 7

When a hockey game ends 9-7, you don't need anyone to say "It was a crazy game." Yale used 3 goalies, BC only used 1, BC never scored a power play goal, there were 78 total shots, each team had one player with a hat trick, and believe it or not it was a tight 2-1 game at the end of the 1st period.

BC can score. They have a conga line of talented forwards who can all skate, pass, and finish. But the Eagles struggle to switch directions. Their best defense is their relentless offensive attack, keeping the puck 150 feet from their own net.

Of course, when you surge to a 6-2 lead, then later a 9-4 lead, you're bound to get a little too comfortable, and let up some soft goals.

BC will face Miami (OH) in the Frozen Four a week from Thursday. We'll have a full recap of all the Frozen Four teams tomorrow.


Saturday afternoon was an excellent "reboot" game. The Bruins were coming off of a wretched 5-2 loss to Tampa. Their power play was impotent, their defense shaky, and they had fallen to .500 on home ice.

But I'm not going to get too amazed by this. The Bruins played a West Coast team at 1:30 in the afternoon. A 9th place West Coast team. And as good as the Bruins looked, the Flames looked equally as awful.

The B's power play unit simply toyed with a sluggish Calgary PK. They were allowed to move the puck at will, and the Flames failed to fill the shooting lanes. Seidenberg, Krejci, and Chara all scored on the power play. The Bruins had only 4 PP goals in March, and they nearly doubled that total in an afternoon.

Thomas was in net, and earned his 5th shutout of the season. He was outstanding. It's almost as if he performs better when expectations for him drop to below certain level. Or maybe it's when he has to compete for his job. Rask is still the clear #1 (right now), but with back-to-back games on Monday and Tuesday, Thomas should get more time in net.

The fans voted Milan Lucic the player of last week. But it should have been Krejci. He's finally playing like he did last year, quarterbacking his line, making plays for his teammates. He has 6 points (2 G, 4 A) in the last three games, and 15 points (5 G, 10 A) in his last twelve games. That's pretty impressive when Michael Ryder is your linemate.

How much of an unexpected savior has Mark Recchi been? 42 years old and he's 3rd on the team with 40 points, and 2nd with 17 goals. Three more scores and he'll have his 17th career 20 goal season. That's insane. Where would the Bruins' offense be without him?

Big game Monday night as the Sabres come to town. It's on Versus, and it could (hopefully) be a preview of the playoffs. The Bruins are technically 8th, but only 2 points behind 6th and 7th place Philly and Montreal. The B's also have 2 extra games left to play.


Photo Credit:
AP Photo/Michael Dwyer

Friday, March 26, 2010


The NCAA Hockey Tournament commences tonight, and there's actually a number of games available on TV. Here they are. All times are Eastern, and this is likely for the Boston area only:


3:00pm - ESPNU - #1 Denver vs. #4 RIT
6:30pm - ESPNU - #2 Cornell vs. #3 UNH
9:00pm - ESPNU - #1 Wisconsin vs. #4 Vermont
11:30pm - ESPNU - #2 St. Cloud St. vs. Northern Michigan

The 9 and 11:30 games are actually tape delayed, like that matters.

1:30pm - CSN - #1 BC vs. #4 Alaska
4:00pm - ESPNU - #1 Miami vs. #4 Alabama-Huntsville
6:30pm - ESPNU - East Regional Final (Denver/RIT vs. Cornell/UNH)
9:00pm - ESPNU - West Regional Final (Wisconsin/UVM vs. SCSU/NMU)
11:30pm - ESPNU - #2 Bemidji St. vs. #3 Michigan

The BSU/Michigan is tape-delayed.

5:30pm - ESPNU - Northeast Regional Final (BC/Alaska vs.North Dakota/Yale)
8:00pm - ESPNU - Midwest Regional Final (Miami/UAH vs. BSU/Michigan)

The BC/Alaska game will be aired on ESPNU Sunday at 9:30am. The North Dakota/Yale game will be tape-delayed broadcast at 12 noon on ESPNU.

So if you have ESPNU and like hockey, this is an enjoyable weekend. The best 1st round games would be the Cornell/UNH and SCSU/Northern Michigan.



That's all I can really say. The Bruins and Ference agreed to a 3 year extension worth $6.75 million, or $2.25 million a year. Ference is constantly plagued by various injuries and hasn't played more than 60 games since the 05-06 season. He'll likely require off-season surgery for a groin injury that's sidelined him most recently.

When healthy, he's a respectable 4th or 5th defenseman, adding depth at the blue-line. But he's not an offensive threat. He's 5' 10" and 189 pounds, so even though he's physical, he's hardly dominating. And he's 31 years old.

So this deal perplexes me a bit. I think the Bruins could get someone with more reliable health for the same amount of money. Because even when he's healthy, he's far from great.

I wouldn't be surprised if this is a sign that the Bruins intend to shake up their defensemen in the off-season. Seidenberg is an unrestricted free agent, Stuart and Boychuk are restricted free agents (Stuart makes $1.3 million this season, Boychuk $500k, both will likely merit more money). They might try to trade Wideman (please, God), and don't be shocked if they move Chara ($7.5M cap number), or at least try to.

As I look at this more and more, I don't like it. You can get better AND healthier defensemen for this amount of money.



The Bruins win 2 road games against teams they're fighting against to get into the playoffs. Two very nice, very solid wins in a row. Then they come home against a team that's the 5th worst in the NHL. And they lose. Of course. It's getting so utterly typical of this Bruins squad.

I'll criticize the refs a bit. They missed an offside call that directly led to Tampa Bay's first goal. Then again, Mark Stuart has to play until the whistle in this situation, not just assume that the refs will get the offside. Stuart isn't Dominek Hasek.

Then there was the interference penalty on Wheeler in the 2nd. Wheeler's standing in the offensive zone, a few diagonal feet from the net. Steven Stamkos, from behind, skates into him, they both fall down. Whistle and Wheeler gets 2 minutes for interference. Stamkos scores on the ensuing penalty.

OK, so the refs helped the Lightning. But the Bruins didn't help themselves. Dennis Wideman had one of his worst games of the season, which is saying quite a bit. And his bonehead kneeing penalty to start the 3rd was a prime example of his lack of focus. He got beyond himself, trying to make an excellent play, and it cost his team a power play, and a crippling 5th goal.

You can say that the Bruins didn't get bounces, but hockey isn't pinball. Both Wheeler and Lucic had multiple golden opportunities to knock in rebounds, but both lack the requisite skill sets to consistently complete that task.

Sorry folks, but Milan Lucic is a 4th line player. He has heart, he has toughness, he has strength, but he has no skates and no hands whatsoever.

But he's better than Michael Ryder. Everyone in the NHL is.

If this team gets a 6th seed, it can play and beat the Sabres. But they get so complacent so easily. They think they've clinched just because they beat the Rangers and Thrashers. They didn't show any fire or desperation until 10 minutes were left, and they needed 3 goals to tie.

The Bruins better pick it up by Saturday, because Calgary is playing for a spot in the postseason too. Although they lost to the Islanders tonight.


Thursday, March 25, 2010


That's a bear stretching.

What a difference a year makes. With 10 games to go last year, the Bruins had just reached the 100 point plateau. But in a way, the Bruins are playing better right now then they were 72 games into the 08-09 season. The Bruins actually struggled down the stretch last year, if you remember.

This year, of the Bruins' remaining 10 games, 6 are at home, 4 on the road. This might actually be a bad thing, as the Bruins have been much better away from the Garden (42 points on the road compared to 36 at home).

5 of the remaining 10 games are against teams that are currently in the playoffs. 1 game is against Calgary, who stand 9th out West. 2 games are against mediocre teams (Tampa Bay, Florida), 2 are against horrible teams (Toronto, Carolina).

Those 5 games against playoff teams aren't easy. Two games in Washington (who would play the Bruins in the playoffs were the season to end today), a game in New Jersey, and two home games against the Northeast leading Sabres.

Believe it or not, the B's can still mathematically win their division. Of course, they'd need Buffalo to lose all 11 of their games (in regulation), they'd need to win all 10 of their own games, and hope Ottawa only gets 5 points in their remaining 8 games, and Montreal only gets 9 points in their remaining 9. It's not going to happen.

The realistic goal for the Bruins should be 7th or 6th place in the East. There's a big difference between playing Washington and playing Pittsburgh, New Jersey, or Buffalo. A 6th seed would be ideal, because the Bruins matchup well against the Sabres. They're 3-1-0 against Buffalo this season.

But first thing's first: make the playoffs. The Bruins' magic number (how many points they need to mathematically clinch a spot) is 15. Now that's if Atlanta wins every single game they have left. And I think we all know that won't happen. So really, I think 10 points will be quite sufficient to assure the Bruins a playoff spot.

10 points, in 10 games. But more needed if the Bruins want to secure a favorable 1st round opponent.


I've been pretty pessmistic about the Celtics this season. And despite beating the West's #3 team by 14 points, I still don't have confidence in this old team to go past the 2nd round of the playoffs.

BUT, there was a time not long ago when making the playoffs was an absurd dream. And there was an even lengthier stretch when winning the Atlantic Division was an impossible task.

But the Celtics are in the playoffs for the 3rd straight year. And that deserves some mention, some applause. And the magic number to clinch the division is 2.

There's still work to do. The C's are tied with Atlanta for 3rd in the East. The difference between a 3rd seed and a 4th seed is time. As in the time you face the #1 seed Cavaliers, in the 2nd round or in the 3rd.


Photo Credit:
AP Photo/Elise Amendola

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


The NFL has finally done something about their hotly debated sudden death overtime. Albeit, only in postseason play. The standard OT rules will remain for regular season games. The NFL owners approved the change by a vote of 28-4.

The new system is actually similar to one I've proposed in the past. There's a coin toss, determining first possession. Now if the first team with the ball scores a touchdown, the game is over. But if they only manage a field goal, the other team gets a possession as well. If both teams get field goals, the game will thereafter resume as sudden death (so another field goal would win it).

It certainly removes some of the air of illegitimacy from coin-toss winners moving the ball 40 yards then kicking a field goal. OT winners will have more certainty and less doubt about whether or not they "deserved" to win, or were simply beneficiaries of a lucky coin-toss.

It's strange that the rule is ONLY for postseason play. The NFL is essentially admitting that their old overtime rules are inferior, yet they're keeping them in place. This convinces me that the rule change isn't about fairness, it's about legitimacy.

Then again, there'd be no ties at the end of a postseason overtime, they'd just play another 15:00 period. So it makes sense not to increase the likelihood of tied games in the regular season.

Ironically, Minnesota was one of the 4 teams that voted against the change, even though it was they who the Saints beat in OT after the toss of a coin.


If it weren't for the buffoonery of Dennis Wideman, I would've thought NESN were broadcasting a game from last season. Lucic and Krejci were back to form, Wheeler was solid, Chara was a threat from the point, it was great.

I'll take this with a big chunk of salt, though. Atlanta just isn't that good. As I mentioned in my preview, the Thrashers had won 4 straight, but that came after 6 straight losses. That team down there is more bipolar than the Bruins.

And the Thrashers played like complete crap. Their fans showed up more than they did, which is saying something. Why the hell is there a team in Atlanta anyway? You're talking about a warm weather city that barely supports its warm weather teams when they're good.

This was another big win for the standings though. Two points for Boston, 0 for Atlanta. That creates a 3 point cushion between teams, with the Bruins having an extra game to play. It also puts the B's only a point behind Montreal and Philly. And there is a HUGE difference between the quality of opponent the 8th seed will play compared to the 6th.

And I'll give some accolades to Tuukka Rask. He made some tough saves early in the game, and even stopped a penalty shot. It was his 4th shutout of the season, and he's clearly the #1 goalie going into the playoffs.

Bruins host Tampa Bay Thursday night.


Photo Credit:
AP Photo/John Bazemore

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Atlanta is the streakiest team in the NHL. They've won 4 in a row, but that's right after losing 6 straight. They've got offensive talent, but not nearly as much since they traded Kovalchuk. Their goaltending's mediocre and their defense is far from stifling. They've allowed the 3rd most goals in the NHL.

On paper, the Bruins are clearly superior. But which Bruins team will show up each period?

I think the Bruins will play well for 30 to 40 minutes in this game, which should be enough to score 3 goals against the Thrashers. It'll be closely fought, as both teams are playing for a playoff spot, but the Bruins are simply a better team. And I can see this game going to overtime. But Rask pushes the Bruins over the top.

Bruins 4, Thrashers 3, shootout win for the B's.


To give you a break from basketball, here's my NCAA Hockey Tournament preview...

Four New England teams made the tournament, three from Hockey East (BC, UNH, Vermont) and one from ECAC (Yale). BC won the Hockey East tourney, earning a #1 seed and the privilege of playing in Worcester. UNH is a #3 seed and will be playing their games in Albany. Yale is also a #3 seed and will also be in Worcester. Vermont barely squeezed in as a #4 seed and will play all the way out in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Northeast Region (Worcester, MA):
#1 Boston College Eagles vs. #4 Alaska Nanooks
This is BC's 29th NCAA appearance, it's Alaska's 1st. The Nanooks are just happy to be there, while BC will be doing work, trying to get to their 22nd Frozen Four. Both teams are fast, BC is faster and stronger, and will prevail.

#2 North Dakota Fighting Sioux vs. #3 Yale Bulldogs
UND won the very tough WCHA tournament title, while Yale finished the season losing 3 of 4 and being eliminated from the ECAC tourney by lowly Brown. But before those 4 subpar games, they ripped off 7 straight wins and won the ECAC regular season title. But I have to go with the experienced Fighting Sioux to win this one.

So it'll be BC/North Dakota in the Northeast Regional Finals. This is a nice non-geographic NCAA rivalry here. I think BC gets a few calls, scores a few PP goals and squeezes by the Sioux to advance to the Frozen Four.

East Region (Albany, NY):
#1 Denver Pioneers vs. #4 RIT Tigers
Denver has been dominant all season before losing in the WCHA semis. RIT is much closer to Albany, but Denver should be used to travelling long distances (the WCHA spreads teams from Alaska to Michigan). RIT won the weak AHA tournament and will be obliterated by Denver.

#2 Cornell Big Red vs. #3 New Hampshire Wildcats
A very good matchup here. Cornell won the ECAC tournament and fell short of the regular season title by only 1 point. UNH won the Hockey East regular season, but were knocked out in the first round of the tourney by Vermont. This will essentially be a home game for Cornell, and the Big Red are a very patient, confident, big team. I think they prevail over the Wildcats.

So it'll be Cornell vs. Denver. I'm going to be biased and say Cornell advances to Detroit.

Midwest Region (Fort Wayne, IN):
#1 Miami (Ohio) RedHawks vs. #4 Alabama-Huntsville Chargers
Miami's been on a mission since their heartbreaking last minute defeat to BU in the NCAA Finals a year ago. They absolutely dominated the CCHA, losing only 2 conference games and winning the regular season title by 20 points. Bama-Huntsville won the CHA tournament, which is as unimpressive as it gets. The CHA is folding after this season and UAH will be an independent next season. This will likely be their last NCAA bid for awhile, and it won't last long. Miami advances, PDQ.

#2 Bemidji State Beavers vs. #3 Michigan Wolverines
A contrast here as BSU dominated the regular season in the CHA, while Michigan finished 7th in their conference. BSU somehow lost in the CHA tourney, while Michigan needed to win the entire CCHA tourney to get here. Big Blue is red hot, winning 8 of their last 9, and it's only a 150 mile drive from Ann Arbor to Fort Wayne. Michigan wins.

So the final will be Miami vs. Michigan. The Wolverines beat Miami in the CCHA semifinals, but I don't see that happening again. Miami moves on to the Frozen Four.

West Region (St. Paul, MN)
#1 Wisconsin Badgers vs. #4 Vermont Catamounts
Wisconsin finished 2nd in the mighty WCHA, but watch out for Vermont here. The Catamounts were 8th in Hockey East, so how did they make the NCAA tournament? By beating quality teams. They split a pair of close games with Denver (in Denver) in October, beat BC 2 of 3, beat Yale in November, beat Bama-Huntsville, and shutout UNH twice in the Hockey East quarterfinals. Against NCAA tournament teams, they're 7-5-1, so Wisconsin better be ready. But I think they will be, and the Badgers move on.

#2 St. Cloud State Huskies vs. #3 Northern Michigan Wildcats
In a tournament with Badgers, Catamounts, Nanooks, Fighting Sioux, Beavers, and Big Reds, these two teams have the most unoriginal nicknames. St. Cloud State was very close to garnering a #1 seed, and Northern Michigan is a bit of a late-comer to the national scene. The game's in Minnesota, so I'm picking St. Cloud State.

And Wisconsin will beat SCSU.

So my Frozen Four:
Boston College

But don't be shocked if Michigan sneaks in.

The games start Friday. UNH/Cornell will be at 6:30pm. Vermont/Wisconsin will be at 7:00pm. On Saturday, BC/Alaska will be at 1:30pm.


Not really.

As much as the super-optimists and bright-siders surrounding the Celtics want to gush about them winning 2 of 3 on a tough road trip, and 4 of 5 overall, I can't help but see the same malfunctions that have plagued the C's since Christmas.

Utah's a good team, #4 in the West, and losing to them in Salt Lake City is nothing to be ashamed of. Unless you're up by 5 at halftime, only to lose by 13 in the end. And those afore mentioned ultra positive Celtics apologists can harp on the bench scoring 42 points, which is lovely, but when the team is -17 when Garnett and Ray Alen are on the floor, something's wrong.

This is an old team that gets tired. It's as simple as that. When the playoffs do come, they'll be able to "flip the switch" and have enough juice for 5 to 10 games. But a Championship run requires a minimum of 16 games, and as many as 28 games. That's 1/5 to 1/3 of a season. In '08 the C's needed 26 games to claim the title. They don't have the fuel to keep the fires burning for that long.


Photo Credit:
AP Photo/Danny Chan La

Monday, March 22, 2010


BC Assistant Captain Matt Lombardi entered Saturday night's Hockey East title game with 3 goals on the season. He had 3 goals in the game, as the high-flying BC offense held off a hungry Maine side that refused to go down without a fight.

I'm a BC fan, but I'll admit to wanting to see Maine win here. They've had a solid year after back-to-back dismal 13 win seasons, and a win would've given them an automatic berth in the NCAAs. Their resume is not good enough for an at-large bid.

The Black Bears never led the game, but they never trailed by more than 2 goals. Three of their scores came on the very next shift after BC had scored. They never let the Eagles get out of sight. But the Eagles were too good, too loaded.

BC has potential to do some serious damage on a national level. They've earned a #1 seed, along with the privilege of playing the first two rounds in nearby Worcester. They're a fast, deep team with ample experience at several key positions. This will be the 3rd NCAA Tournament for some of BC's seniors.


I won't get too excited over Sunday's 2-1 victory over the Rangers. The game can be summed up thusly: a solid Bruins team with good goaltending took advantage of two Rangers' missteps to score twice and beat a 10th place team.

The Rangers are almost as offensively inept as the Bruins, averaging just 2.58 goals per game. Despite having some recognizable names on their roster, they've been a disappointment all season, failing to fully function as a team. And you saw that yesterday when their defencemen were easily "mesmerized by the puck" and drawn out of position, allowing Miroslav Satan, then Dennis Wideman time and space to score.

You know every time the Bruins' power play fails, I not only miss Marc Savard, I think to myself "The loss of this unit's effectiveness resulted in only 11 seconds of retribution?" I'm still not over Thursday night's shortcomings, at least in the revenge department.

But this win is what the Bruins must do if they want to make the playoffs. It's what they must do to control their own destiny. It's what they must do to maintain hope of avoiding Washington in the 1st round.

The Bruins are a mere 3 points behind 5th, 6th, and 7th placed Ottawa, Philadelphia, and Montreal. The Bruins also have an extra game remaining. Unfortunately, the B's are also only 1 point ahead of 9th place Atlanta, who they play Tuesday night in Atlanta. The Thrashers have won 4 straight.


Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Friday, March 19, 2010


I am not entertained in the least.

It started off beautifully. Shawn Thornton, as if imbued (inspired/possessed) by the '70 Bruins who were honored pregame, totally whaled on Matt Cooke. It was more than a fight, it was a beatdown, and Thornton got in a few shots after the linesmen tried breaking it up. He got an extra 10 minutes for it, but it well was worth it.

What happened to Cooke after that?


Seidenberg sort of hit him with a bodycheck I guess. Krejci, to his credit, tried to rattle his cage a bit with a forgettable "check." But nobody dropped the gloves with him again, nobody took aim at him. I guess losing your best player for the season is only worth 11 seconds of fisticuffs.

But in the 1st period, at least, the Bruins were physical and fought well. Lucic looked like the Lucic from last year. And the play was generally even, if not favoring the B's. They allowed a silly breakaway and a goal, but so what? They hit some posts, and M.A. Fleury was flailing about like the utter spaz he is. Goals were imminent.

But things seemed to change after the 1st intermission (thanks for the unpep-talk, Claude). The Bruins left Cooke alone. NESN's announcers kept saying that there was a "dance card of guys willing to tangle with him." Stuart, Lucic, Begin, Chara, and Sobotka are the names that come to mind. But Cooke was just sort of left to his own antagonistic devices.

It was as if Luke, Obi-Wan, and Leia decided to go to the mall in the middle of Star Wars instead of trying to destroy the Death Star. "Yeah, they blew up Alderaan, but we destroyed 6 of their anonymous fighter pilots, so we're done. Let's shop!"

Even when the game was 3-0 and out of hand, the Bruins were more focused on being embarrassed by the Penguins on the ice, than piledriving Matt Cooke through the ice. They were still trying to claim points in a game that was by then pointless.

When the game was about revenge, the Bruins played focused hockey. They all had the same fire, the same goal, the same ideals. They were still limited by their own physical (Krejci) and mental (Satan) shortcomings, but they appeared to be playing at their best levels, and playing together.

Then when Julien tried to refocus the Bruins on getting 2 points, not so mysteriously they lost focus on their jobs. They were focused on moving a number in the standings, not on getting to loose pucks or making tape-to-tape passes. The result was then made inevitable.

Michael "Appendix" (because he serves no purpose) Ryder has another new nickname: It's Michael Bystander. At the start of the 3rd period, he's lined up with Cooke on the wing for the faceoff. Not even a nudge when the puck drops. He actually gave Cooke 2 or 3 feet to maneuver. Michael Bystander is completely useless, and I'd rather see Tim Thomas play right wing. Or sign Glen Murray again!

So even though the headlines are saying "The Bruins Got Revenge, but Lost the Game," I obnoxiously disagree. The Bruins got no revenge. Do you think Cooke will think twice the next time some premier centreman is vulnerable in their backswing? Do you think the next goon will have any apprehension when he has Patrice Bergeron in his crosshairs?

Nope. Cuz all they'll have to endure is 11 seconds of hell with Shawn Thornton, and that's it. Is that vengeance enough? Is it retribution, "payback," repayment, retaliation. Does it even things up? Is it justice? Is it fair?

When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, did we bomb Tokyo just once? No, we bombed it until we obliterated it. Then we bombed other cities.

If someone steals $1,000 from you, are you satisfied if they give you $100 back?

If a dog attacks a human, does the human get to bite the dog? No, the dog gets destroyed. That didn't happen to Matt Cooke.

Bruins will get shutout by the Rangers Sunday afternoon, and they will either miss the playoffs or get swept out in 4 games. This team has no heart, no soul, no chance. I feel as depressed and cynical as Randy Quaid in the middle of Major League II.

Thankfully, at least Shawn Thornton had the right idea.


Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Thursday, March 18, 2010


As much as I dislike Crosby, he's a relatively clean player. And he bears no responsibility for what happened to Marc Savard.

Then again, it's a team sport, isn't it? And let's say the Bruins go after Matt Cooke tonight, and even injure him, does that seem fair? The Bruins' #1 offensive threat goes down, while the Penguins lose a 3rd line winger. That's about as balanced as The Treaty of Versailles, and as fair as Fox News' political coverage.

Is a fight gonna satisfy you? Shawn Thornton steps up to Cooke, they both drop their gloves, dance a little, maybe Thornton lands a big punch or two, but so what? 5 minutes later and it's forgotten. Is that sufficient justice?

And what about deterring future goons from harassing top-flight Bruins players. Will they bat an eye the next time they have a chance to light up Patrice Bergeron, for fear that they'll have to drop the gloves and fight? Nope.

Go after Crosby. Punish the PENGUINS for what THEY did to the BRUINS. Like when a pitcher throws at Youkilis, the Sox pitcher has to nail the opponent's best hitter, not the #8 hitting short-stop.

Punish Matt Cooke, but not psychically. Make his teammates blame him for what happens to Crosby. Make him and every other cheap-shotting goon think twice about blindsiding an opponent, knowing that it'll cost him their best teammate.

Most of all, punish the Penguins.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


After the 5-1 over Philly, I was thrilled. But this team has shown sparks before, only to fail in kindling those sparks into a lasting fire.

There's been a theory floated that the Bruins play much more inspired hockey when Tuuka Rask is in net. I'm starting to give this notion more credence as it's tough to argue with it after last night. But if true, I think it's utterly pathetic. You obviously go with Rask then, but how long will the Bruins give 100% in front of him?

This team is like a combination of Wizard of Oz characters. They lack heart, they lack brains, only Mark Stuart seems to have courage, and Dennis Wideman just wants to go home.

They lack coaching too. For New Jersey's first goal, Julien opted for a line of Sobotka-Satan-Lucic, with Hunwick and Boychuck as the defensive pair. This was for a faceoff in the defensive zone, after the Devils had turned it into a shooting gallery.

And what the hell is Satan doing on a line with Sobotka and Lucic? That's like putting high performance racing tires on an '88 Buick.

Speaking of Lucic, while it's not his fault, he really is useless on the ice. He's obviously nursing multiple injuries, which prevent him from playing the physical game he's known for. The problem is, he doesn't possess much in the finesse/skills department. And his Hockey IQ has always been in the meaty center of the bell curve. A healthy Daniel Paille is twice as effective as the current version of Milan Lucic.

The Bruins sit one point ahead of the Rangers for the 8th and final playoff spot. They play at lowly Carolina tonight. Anything less than 2 points is inexcusable.


Monday, March 15, 2010


The top teams in Hockey East struggled this weekend as 3 of the 4 quarterfinal series went the full three games, and the regular season champs were eliminated.

BC beat UMass in the only sweep of the weekend. The Eagles tallied 11 goals in two games, but they also allowed 7. The Eagles are vying for a potential #1 seed in the NCAA tournament, and they'll likely need to get at least to the finals for that to happen.

UNH won the regular season title, but their struggles against Vermont ended their efforts to win the tournament title. UNH won a 7-4 battle Friday night, but those were the last goals they'd score as UVM goalie Rob Madore put together 6+ periods of shutout hockey.

UVM will meet BC in the semis Friday night at TD Garden.

BU needed three games to thwart Merrimack, but their series clinching win was quite convincing. The Terriers are a dangerous team. Right now, they're on the outside of the NCAA tournament, so they're going to be highly motivated to win two more this weekend.

Maine barely scraped by UMass-Lowell. It's nice to see the Black Bears relevant again. They only won 13 games last year, and 13 the year before that. Those two awful seasons came after back-to-back Frozen Four appearances.

Maine vs. BU Friday at the Garden. Both teams likely need to win the tournament to make the NCAAs.


Vermont is the only representative of New England in the tournament this season. It's been a forgettable year for college bball up here, with UConn playing like crap, BC struggling, URI coming up short at the end. The best team in the region might have been Jeremy Lin's Harvard Crimson. Which, no offense to the Ivy League, is kind of sad.

To put this in perspective, New York has 3 teams in the tourney. Pennsylvania sent 5.

Friday, March 12, 2010


The 26th Hockey East Championship will be decided in the next two weeks. UNH won the regular season title (their 8th), and BC came a very close 2nd, only 1 point behind. Both UNH and BC will likely be in the NCAA Tournament. But there are several bubble teams that need strong showings in order to make that 16 team field.

The bracket:

The opening round is played at the campus of the better seed. It's also a best of 3 series. The semifinals and finals will be held at the TD Garden next weekend, and those rounds are 1 and done.

Vermont Catamounts @ New Hampshire Wildcats
UNH won the regular season title, but ended the season with a tight loss at BC. In fact, they never beat BC, tying them twice in their remaining meetings. They also didn't dominate Vermont, going 1-0-2 against the Catamounts. UVM is 17th in the PairWise Ranings, which is an unassailable indicator of a team's chances of making the NCAA tournament. In other words, they need to beat UNH in this round. And I think they will put up a good fight, but lose in 3 games.

Massachusetts Minutemen @ Boston College Eagles
BC needed overtime to beat UMass a few weeks ago. The Minutemen's size posed some problems to BC's small but speedy forwards. But in a 2 to 3 game series, BC's depth will wear down a team like UMass. BC wins this series in 2 games.

Merrimack College Warriors @ Boston University Terriers
BU has surged in the 2nd half of the season. After starting off 2-9-3, the Terriers have gone 12-5-0, earned 3rd place in Hockey East, and now have an outside shot at an NCAA bid. Albeit a VERY outside shot. They need to make the HE Tourney finals, at least. Merrimack's been a nice surprise, but when BU is motivated, they're always a hard team to beat. BU sweeps in 2 games.

Massachusetts-Lowell River Hawks @ Maine Black Bears
These teams were tied in points, Maine won the tie-breaker, and so gets home ice advantage. Maine's been a bipolar team, sometimes beating UNH twice in a weekend, sometimes losing to Vermont twice in a weekend. They took 2 of 3 from UMass-Lowell. Big things were expected from the River Hawks this year, so while normally 5th place is a good year for them, they've got to be a little disappointed. UMass-Lowell has struggled on the road, as has Maine. Since the games will be in Orono, I'm giving the edge to the Black Bears in 3.

Semifinals prediction:
Maine upsets New Hampshire
BC beats BU

BC beats Maine

Hockey East


How can you not love Billy Guerin, a.k.a. the Pride of Wilbraham?

"If a guy gets hurt like that with a shot to the head, there's got to be something. Actions happen. Guys don't mean to hurt each other, but they do. You got to pay a price for that... We're all under the same umbrella, whether the guy's on my team and I'm sitting right next to him or he's playing in California. It doesn't matter. We're all playing in the same league. We all want the same safety. We all want to be looked after the same way. I understand he [Cooke] is on my team but, hey, he's in a tough spot."

So what does this say about the inaction by both the Bruins and the NHL? You've got Matt Cooke's teammate of 2 years, who he won a Stanley Cup with, telling the media that he thinks Cooke deserved some sort of discipline.

Unfortunately, Guerin's remarks are about ten times stronger than Claude Julien's in the aftermath of all this. Maybe Guerin should be in the suit behind the Bruins' bench.



168 minutes, 57 seconds. That was the gap between multi-goal Bruin leads. It was March 6th on Long Island when the Bruins last held a 2+ goal advantage.

I'm going to bathe in this victory a bit. Not just because I hate the Flyers. Not just because I hate Philadelphians and Pennsylvanians. Not just because it was the B's first multi-goal margin of victory since February 7th. Not just because this was without Savard. Not just because the Bruins have a 5 point cushion over the 9th place Rangers (and a game in hand). Not just because Philadelphia is a playoff team.

But because it was the best Bruins game I've seen them play since... well, a long enough time. In a pre-game interview, Mark Stuart said the team was hoping for an "ugly win," simply wanting anything to get them 2 points. This win was far from ugly.

Normally, my Bruins' recaps are an airing of grievances, Frank Costanza on Festivus style. But this will be the opposite: a list of praise, because quite a few Bruins put in very good efforts last night.

Tuuka Rask got Daisuke Matsuzaka support from his offense, but he had an excellent game in his own right. He made a huge cross-crease save in the 1st when it was 0-0, and that certainly changed the dynamic of the game early on. He also made another athletic stop when it was 4-1, which essentially closed the door on the Flyers' chances of winning.

Patrice Bergeron had a goal and 2 assists in an excellent three-zone performance. The Bruins need his offense in order to consistently score goals.

David Krejci and his line looked like they did last year. Krejci-Wheeler-Ryder totaled 70 goals last season. They're only up to 41 this campaign, but they were outstanding last night. Wheeler's first goal was the end result of textbook hockey played in all three zones. Wheeler and Ryder harassed the Flyers as they tried to carry through the neutral zone. Then Wheeler forced a turnover, passed it up to Krejci, who carried it into the offensive end. Then Wheeler got it, and calmly made a slick move that beat Leighton and put the B's up 1-0.

Brad Marchand's stat line looks pretty dull. 11:02 on ice, 1 hit, 0 shots, 0 assists, 0 blocks, 0 PIM, etc. But that one hit was when he sent James van Riemsdyk over the dasher and into the Philly bench. Marchand had a solid night, didn't make mistakes, played within himself, and did what he could when he could.

The same can be said of Vladimir Sobotka, who was a bit busier. He made his presence felt, and I was actually surprised to see that he was only on the ice for 12 and a half minutes because he made so many solid plays with and without the puck.

A lot of people have whined that the "Bruins didn't do anything on deadline day." Tell that to Dennis Seidenberg. It's fun to watch him and Chara play on the ice at the same time. And it's a relief to have him on defense as opposed to Derek Morris. Seidenberg had his best game in black and gold. He had a clever assist, was a deserved +3, and blocked 4 shots. Maybe it's because he's from Villingen-Schwenningen, Germany, but he's quickly found a place in my exclusive Bruin Binky Club.

I'll give marginal credit to Dennis Wideman too. He had a good game, and was actually consistent for 60 minutes.

Mark "Crazy Eyes" Stuart scares me sometimes. Lucic and Thornton might be the brawlers on this team, but Stuart has the most rage. A pair of fighting majors and a nice display of intensity.

The Bruins are 7-2-1 in their last 10. Hard to believe.

Now, this is just one game, one mile-marker on a very long and harsh road. There's a big game on Saturday in Montreal that has lots of playoff implications. It starts at 7.


Thursday, March 11, 2010


The NHL showed once again that it lacks testicular fortitude, as it allowed Matt Cooke's hit on Marc Savard to go unpunished.

Quick question: how many Matt Cooke shirts do the Penguins sell? Because I'm perusing the Pittsburgh Penguins' Pro Shop. I see lots of Crosby and Malkin shirts and jerseys. A few Fleury items. Bill Guerin, Paul Coffey, Chris Kunitz, and an old-time Ron Francis shirt.

No Matt Cooke gear.

I even searched eBay for Matt Cooke paraphernalia. All I found were token autographs and $1 trading cards.

Yet he's allowed to injure the Bruins' best player, a guy the B's signed to a long-term deal, and nothing happens.

The NHL is all talk when it comes to preventing head injuries. And it's not only morally objectionable, it's bad business. Do you think parents want their kids playing a game where hits like this are condoned? Do you think parents want their kids even WATCHING this game?

And what about the message sent by this inaction to all the goons out there? They've been given a license to kill. Instead of being pro-active, even tokenly so, the NHL has essentially announced that dirty hits, so long as they're disguised within the letter of the law, are hunky dory.

What if someone did this to Alex Ovechkin, or (heaven forbid) The Golden Canadian: Sidney Crosby. Would the NHL be so tolerant? Maybe it's time to find out.

And I'm not letting the Bruins off the hook here. They did NOTHING to police this situation themselves. And I hope that on March 18th, when the Penguins come to Boston, that Thornton, Lucic, Chara, and anyone on the ice with Cooke, forgets about hockey for a shift and focuses on shortening Matt Cooke's career, if not his life.

Or you know what, instead of trying to punish Cooke with physical torment, maybe a more fitting deterrent would be to go after Crosby. Most goons are tough/arrogant enough that they don't fear physical retaliation anyway. But if goons are put in a position where their behavior risks the health of their team's best players, they might clean up their act.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


In a very weird maneuvre, the Red Sox signed Nomar Garciaparra to a minor league deal, then he retired. The ex-Sox star said “I’ve always had a recurring dream, it was to be able to retire in a Red Sox uniform.” It's funny how that dream's importance diminished when the Sox offered him a 4 year, $60 million deal before the 2004 season.

After inking the minor league deal, Nomar announced his retirement, and declared his intention to work as a baseball analyst for ESPN. This brings Mr. Garciaparra full circle, as he was as vehemently anti-media as a player.

Red Sox CEO stated “When the history of the Boston Red Sox is written again, there will be a very large and important chapter devoted to Nomar Garciaparra.” Yes, Nomar played a key part in Red Sox history. After all, it was his departure which triggered the Sox' World Series run in '04.

I can just see the PR/merchandise machine that is the Red Sox Front Office deciding to retire #5 in a few seasons.

Long Live Orlando! ¡Viva Cabrera!



Would you want a plastic surgeon's knife mutilating Angelina Jolie's lips, Scarlett Johansson's chest, or Natalie Portman's eyes? Would you want Tom Brady to change his throwing mechanics, maybe go back in time and tell Ted Williams to try hitting right-handed?

The NCAA Tournament is as close to perfection as any sports contest can be. It's 65 teams, playing all over the country, non-stop, for a few weekends in March. EVERYONE in the country obediently watches. It's thrilling, compelling. You cannot NOT watch it.

Yet, the NCAA wants to ruin its own perfect baby. Why is it that they want to expand the field of the already massive basketball tournament (65 of the 347 teams in Division-I or 18.7% of all teams make the tournament), yet keep the college football championship field to 2 teams (2 of 120, or 1.7%)?

Adding 3 more play-in games wouldn't be a bad idea. The 16th seed teams are really awful, and this could raise the average quality of the field. But let's keep the changes small and gradual. Baby steps.

Who complains about the NCAA tourney? Who is out there screaming "We need more teams!" "96 or bust!" Why is it that millions bitch about the BCS and nothing happens. Then nobody says a bad thing about the basketball tournament, and the NCAA wants to tinker and toy with it.

And isn't the money enough for the NCAA and all the conferences? CBS pays $545 million to broadcast these games. Every year. Is that not enough this day and age?

And who's going to watch these extra games? An expanded field of 96 would dump most of the small conference champions together, eliminating half of them before the REAL tournament started. It would essentially create a boring, pre-tournament, that nobody really watched. Nobody wants to see IUPUI play Weber State. They want to see IUPUI challenge Georgetown. David vs. Goliath was interesting because Goliath was there.

I love the NCAA tournament. 80% of the college basketball that I watch in a season is in March.

Don't fuck with it.


Just to put this season in perspective, the Bruins now have 70 points. Last year, they attained this 70 point level on January 15.

What they don't have much of is character. Or fire. Or grit. Whatever you want to call that intangible thing that gives winning teams an additional edge in a fierce battle.

After Savard went down on Sunday, the Bruins didn't retaliate. They tried to win their game. And that was acceptable to me at the time. They're in a playoff race, the points are vital, focus on winning. But the Bruins weren't focused on winning last night in Toronto, they were focused on playing just good enough to not get embarrassed.

Toronto sucks. You saw their goaltending, their defense. And even without Savard and Chara in the lineup, the Bruins are significantly superior to the Leafs. On paper.

Michael "appendix" Ryder is a completely useless waste of space. He serves no purpose. His linemates should get credit for short-handed time on ice, because he really is a great big nothing out there. -3 last night.

And why is it that whenever an opposing player scores a junk goal off a rebound, they always share the crease with Dennis Wideman? He looks like Hal Gill more and more every day. He's just a big screen in front of Thomas out there.

In the next week, the Bruins are at Philly, at Montreal, at New Jersey. That's the 6th, 7th, and 4th place teams in the East. This upcoming stretch is key.


Photo Credit:
AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Frank Gunn

Tuesday, March 09, 2010


As much as I like to dump on the NHL, there has been something decidedly positive growing in the American Midwest: The Chicago Blackhawks.

Chicago is the 3rd largest market in the country. It's a cold weather city, with 2.8 million citizens, and 9.8 million in its metro area. But colder than the weather has been the city's affection for its hockey team.

The Blackhawks, historically, suck. They've existed for over 83 years, and have only 3 titles, and their latest came before the Vietnam War. From 1998 to 2008, they made the playoffs just once.

But last year they made a serious run in the postseason, going all the way to the Conference Finals against Detroit. And this year, they have a stranglehold on the Central Division (haven't won a Division Title since '93), and are vying with San Jose for the #1 seed in the West.

They're averaging 21,174 in home attendance. That's 2nd behind the Canadiens.

So maybe instead of incessantly trying to develop the game of hockey in Florida, Arizona, Africa, and Nashville; maybe the NHL should try to bolster the big market Northern cities. They did a good job last year, awarding the Winter Classic to Wrigley Field. But more could be done.

I think the best way to reward big market teams that develop successful talent is to allow them to keep it. Sorry, Buffalo, but big market teams make the big market bucks. So they should be helped in keeping the big market talent.

We shouldn't let teams in New York, Chicago, Philly, Toronto, and Boston go out and BUY new talent like the Yankees. But if they develop their own guys, or even sign cheap talent, why not give the club some sort of cap exemptions to keep them?

To use the Bruins as an example, developed talent like Krejci, Lucic, Boychuk, Rask, these guys count as much against the cap as free agents like Chara, Sturm, or Seidenberg. And how about Tim Thomas, who the Bruins acquired cheaply, but now counts as $5 million against the cap. Why not reward teams for finding cheap, quality talent, by giving them a rebate on their cap numbers?

Chicago is a good team. I'd hate to see this burgeoning hope for the NHL in the Windy City blown away by lack cap space, just so the Islanders can afford to make their payroll.

Monday, March 08, 2010


So far, the C-word is the only word on Savard. He suffered a concussion yesterday, and will fly back to Boston this afternoon. There's no clairty on how severe the concussion is, and certainly no timetable concerning Savard's return.

Conveniently, the 30 NHL General Managers are having a scheduled meeting in Florida this week, and hits to the head will be the main issue of this conference.

I didn't think Cooke's hit was dirty. I thought it reckless, careless, no worry of consequences. Because right now, there are no consequences for Cooke. He wasn't penalized, the Bruins did nothing to make him pay (perhaps to their credit, as they had a 2-1 game to try to win), and the League has been inconsistent when it comes to punishing hits to the head.

The NHL's senior vice president stated the unfortunate truth: "It's like football: We have an issue with concussions, and the majority of concussions come from normal playing rules."

But certainly players shooting the puck deserve as much care and consideration as a punter, kicker, or QB in the NFL. And certainly when the shooter is so far away from the goal, and the hitting player comes from so far away the shooter (isn't that technically charging?), there's room for improvement, in the rule book, and with the on-ice officiating.

Boston Globe

Photo Credit:
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images


I'm pretty pleased that the Patriots doled out some money to Vince Wilfork, said to be $40 million for 5 years. You could make an argument that #75 is the 3rd or 2nd most important individual on the Patriots' roster, and perhaps the most important. His inhuman combination of size, strength and speed is one of the few sure-things in an extremely questionable defense.

Moreover, if the Patriots are able to get anybody else on the defensive line, or in the LB level who can rush the passer, they'll either be freed up by the double-team Wilfork absorbs, or they'll free up Wilfork and allow him to devour quarterbacks.

Thanks to a big piece like Wilfork, the Pats are only a few small pieces away from having a decent defense.

Hartford Courant


A mixed emotion weekend. A win, a valiant loss, and what looks like a major injury to a significant player.

The B's are two games into a seven game road series. It has the potential to make or break their season. They still have an outside chance to win the Northeast Division. But they can fall as much as they can rise. A mere 3 points cushion them from 9th place.

Tim Thomas had an excellent weekend, thankfully so. Rask was sidelined with a "knee injury." Timmy stopped 37 shots Saturday afternoon, then stopped 31 in Pittsburgh. Although on Sunday, he appeared to tire, and was decidedly less crisp in the 3rd period.

The offensive woes persisted Sunday afternoon. The B's managed a token junky goal as Blake Wheeler yanked the punk from under M.A. Fleury and slid it in the net. But they never got that pivotal 2nd goal.

David Krejci and Miroslav Satan demonstrated some skillful passing, but it was a bit too dandy for my liking. Pretty passes are indeed pretty, but when a give-and-go-and-give-and-go results in zero shots, I'm not impressed. Before he was dispatched, Savard was also guilty of trying to be too clever.

About Savard's injury, or rather the hit that caused it. I wouldn't call it dirty. I would call it reckless. Unnecessary. A player having just shot the puck, in his follow-through, is as vulnerable as a punter on an NFL field. Even though Matt Cooke tucked his elbows in, it was a late hit, a hit to the head, and a hit on a vulnerable player. I felt it warranted a 2 minute minor.

Instead, play continued 5-on-5. Which was odd. The refs had shown some minerals earlier when they called 4 straight penalties on the Penguins. But then they swallowed their whistles, allowed Ruslan Fedotenko to run amuck, and allowed Cooke's reckless hit to go unpunished. Too bad.

But in the end, the Bruins lost to the Penguins because they simply have a better team out there. There's a reason that Evgeni Malkin's squad is #2 in the East, and it's not referees.

The Bruins have a should-win game in Toronto Tuesday night. Then at Philly, at Montreal, and at New Jersey. Three playoff calibre teams, a very tough but potentially lucrative stretch of games.


Photo Credit:
AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

Friday, March 05, 2010


That's supposed to be a play on the word "counterintuitive." Because that's how the Bruins acted on deadline day this week. The team has struggled for offense all season (last in the NHL in goals scored, 16th in power play percentage). So on deadline day, they sacrificed offense to improve their defense? Why would you do that? Why would you weaken what was already your weakness?

Two reasons:
#1: There was no way the Bruins could significantly improve their offense. Even if they'd dealt away every draft pick they had, traded every prospect, traded Tim Thomas and wrapped him in platinum and gold, there was not enough offensive firepower in the market. After Kovalchuk went to the Devils, there was no A-class type of forward out there. Nor were there a bevy of B-level forwards that could fill the Bruins' holes.

I look at the names that were shipped on deadline day. Clarke MacArthur. Scott Walker, Stephane Yelle. Alexandre Picard. Eric Belanger. Jeff Halpern. Hey, the Coyotes got Wojtek Wolski, and he has 17 goals. But do these sound like the guys that will turn the Bruins into a Stanley Cup contender?

#2: Seeing that trying to strengthen their weakness was futile, the Bruins decided to strengthen their strength

This team has allowed the 6th fewest goals in the NHL. It has the best penalty kill percentage in the League. Tuukka Rask has the lowest GAA in the League at 2.14. The Bruins can prevent other teams from scoring. And that's the best chance they have to win games.

It's frustrating to watch this team try to score goals. They look like they've never practiced together before. Centering passes will go through a crease that has 2 opposing defensemen in it, and no Bruins. Then, when a Bruin is in the slot, there will be no centering passes, no shots on goal in want of deflection. Either that or the player in the crease will be slow to react. They'll deflect the shot horribly wide, or miss it completely. Krejci is the best on the team at fucking up in this way.

But if the Bruins are to do damage in the playoffs, it'll be in 1-0 and 2-1 games. It'll be with hardwork goals, conservative neutral zone play, tough defense, and flashy goaltending.

The Bruins can put Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg on the ice at the blue line. Johnny Boychuk has been a pleasant surprise this season, and Mark Stuart is solid as ever. After that, it gets dicey, with Ference, Hunwick, and Wideman. But with defensive forwards like Bergeron, that can be counterbalanced.

Don't get me wrong, I'm as pessimistic as ever about the Bruins' chances to do anything in the Stanley Cup playoffs, if they even get that far. My friend in Vegas informed me that the odds for the B's to win the Cup are 15:1. That's too low for my money. I'd need 40:1 or better to risk a dime on that.

But at least the prospects for the future are largely intact. Seidenberg might be resigned, he might not. More significant trades can be made. I'd like to see a stretch of Tim Thomas playing so we can accurately gauge his value, and possibly trade him (or Rask) to get some scorers.

There's not much hope for the 09-10 Bruins. I don't know why fans are so pissed that there wasn't a savior for them on Trade Deadline Day. Saviors usually don't get traded. They're usually on winning teams already.

Thursday, March 04, 2010


A minority owner of the Boston Red Sox - Jeff Vinik - just completed his purchase of the Tampa Bay Lightning. The deal includes the company that operates their arena, as well as 5 acres of adjacent land. Total cost: $110 million.

The previous owners paid $206 million when they bought the team in '08.

That's almost a 50% drop in value in just 2 years. How? Why? Shouldn't the implementation of a salary cap help to make a sports franchise more valuable?

The Lightning won the Stanley Cup in 2004. But they've only qualified for the playoffs twice since then, and lost in the first round. Percentage wise, their attendance is 3rd to last in the NHL. Nearly 25% of their seats are empty on average. And their road attendance is the 2nd worst at 89.2%. Only the Florida Panthers draw smaller crowds when they travel.

The Tampa area is the 20th largest media market in the country. Why is there a hockey team there?



The Sox crushed Northeastern, allowing only 2 hits. Casey Kelley had a perfect, 2 strikeout 1st in the start. David Ortiz hit a homerun. In the nightcap, the Sox beat BC 6-1. Boof Bonser got the start and the win. Jose Iglesias had a 3 run double.

The Sox play the Twins tonight, tomorrow, and in split-squad action Saturday.


Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Wednesday, March 03, 2010


The Bruins traded defenseman Derek Morris to the Phoenix Coyotes in exchange for a 4th round pick. And while that sounds like an awful trade (as much as I've criticized Morris, he's a better defenseman than you'll get in the 4th round of any draft), the move cleared up the remainder of the $3.3 million Morris was getting. Morris was to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and the Bruins were carrying 7 defensemen anyway.

Then the Bruins turned around and shipped Byron Bitz, Craig Weller, and a 2nd round pick to Florida in exchange for Dennis Seidenberg and a college defenseman.

Seidenberg has 16 career goals in 357 games. He's a solid blue-line presence, and is a much better defensive defenseman than Morris was. Morris has struggled all year to be consistent on offense, and to be a factor on defense.

And believe it or not, this does help the Bruins' offensive woes. A good defensive tandem that can stop opponents' possessions quickly leads to easy and fast breakaways.

So the Bruins are slightly better today. Which is like saying that Kevin Smith minus 5 pounds is slightly less fat. It's true, but he still can't jam into an airplane seat.

So far, the Bruins have given up a 2nd round pick, a prospect, a solid player with potential to be a bruiser in Byron Bitz, and Derek Morris. They've gotten a prospect back, a 4th round pick, and Dennis Seidenberg.


But there is still a little more than $1 million in cap space still open.

Oh, and the Bruins are now the most German team in the NHL.