Friday, May 28, 2010


The Bruins lead to change. They need better leaders, and fewer followers. They need scoring. They need consistency. They have to build on their strengths, and try to hide their weaknesses.

Julien has to go. He's an excellent defensive coach, but look at the playoffs this year. Scoring wins as much as defense. Moreover, he's not a playoff coach. An excellent strategist, but an uninspirational leader. He's Brutus, not Mark Antony. He's the math teacher, not the gym teacher.


Pretty obvious. Loyal readers know how much I love Thomas. And I like Rask, just hate the reactionary fans who fell in love with him after 20 games. Rask still has holes and flaws. I for one, do not like his collapsing style. But he's cheap, he's young, and he might be the most valuable player in the NHL because of those factors.

What do the B's get for Thomas? Probably not much. His contract is heavy, he's not in his prime, everyone knows the Bruins have to trade him.


I love Zdeno Chara. He's my favorite non-German Bruin. But he's not a Captain. I think that "C" on his chest weighs him down. He expressed being "nervous," during the Philly series. He's an excellent player, and deserves an "A," and is a great leader-by-example. But I think he'd be a better leader if he were demoted.

The Bruins have an excellent stack of defensemen. Chara, Wideman, Hunwick and Ference are under contract. They need to retain Seidenberg, and try to keep Boychuk. Chara-Seidenberg, then Wideman-Boychuk, then Hunwick-Ference. If you can trade Ference and keep Stuart, even better. That's 6 excellent D-men, 5 of whom can skate on the power play, and 4 of whom would are excellent penalty killers (5 if Stuart is retained). They all get involved in the offense when possible, and they all help out Rask.

I want Bill Guerin. He'll turn 40 in November. But he scored 21 goals for Pittsburgh last season, 11 on the power play. He's experienced, and a leader. He's won the Cup twice, and has 140 playoff games under his belt. He could be worthy of a "C" on his chest. He could be got for a $2.2 million, 1 year deal. That's less than what Blake Wheeler was paid this season, and Guerin certainly brings much more than Wheeler.


Ilya Kovalchuk is the prize jewel free agent of this off-season. Only 27 years old and he's already scored 338 times. At 6' 2" and 230 pounds, he's a big guy who can skate and finish. He's Phil Kessel with balls. But he won't be cheap. He'll be contested and bid on like a date with Jessica Alba on eBay. And he's likely out of the Bruins' price range.

The other top free agent is Patrick Marleau. Unless the Bruins trade a center, Marleau doesn't help them much. Although he's a sick player. 44 goals for the Sharks this season. Again, he wouldn't come cheap, and the Bruins might have 5 centers as it is. Could Savard play wing?

There are a lot of solid types available. These guys can be gotten at fair value, and can be solid contributors. To be honest, I think a reasonable goal for the Bruins would be to assemble 2 solid lines of scorers, and combine them with 2 checking lines that will rarely score, but maintain possession of the puck.

One name on the free agent list that jumped out was Paul Kariya. The winger will be 36 during the season, and he only scored 18 goals last year, but he has experience and can find the net.

Alexander Frolov is a more appealing option. He's perennially around the 20 goal mark (averaged 24 per season over the last 7), and he's only 28.

The Bruins might also consider getting aggressive and tendering an offer sheet to restricted free agent Chris Stewart. The 22 year old scored 28 times last year, and has ridiculous upside. But extracting him from Colorado will be near impossible.

If the Bruins get Kovalchuk, they can't afford to re-sign anybody significant. And it might actually be worth it. A front-line of Kovalchuk, Savard, and X would be impressive. But let's be realistic. The more likely scenario will be that the Bruins retain their defensemen, and their grinding forwards like Sobotka. Wheeler might be let go, as might Satan and Recchi. Some modest acquisitions like Guerin and Kariya/Frolov could fill in the gaps. And then you just hope that Ryder and Lucic find their 2008-09 form.


The Bruins have 4 top 50 draft picks. They'll be freed of Chara's contract after next season, same with Bergeron's $4.75M salary, Ryder's $4M. They'll have unbelievable flexibility. So I actually don't mind going after Kovalchuk and foresaking any depth for the 2010-11 season. In 2011-12, it might be all worth it, when cap space and a new generation of young players can refill the depth.

It's difficult to suggest which course the Bruins should go. Either take a chance that the draft will work out in the future and foresake yourself now (which might mean Chiarelli's job), or try to build on what the Bruins have. And this team has advanced to the 2nd round of the playoffs two straight seasons. So they can't be doing everything wrong.

Frankly, I'm a gambler. I say trade some talent, make enough space for Kovalchuk. Get him, probably fail in the playoffs again, then build a new team around him and Rask. Go big or go home. But that's probably not even possible. So build a solid team of decent forwards, build some depth at the position, hope you can have multiple threats to score 3 goals, while Rask and the defense limits your opponent.


A tale of two cities, of two teams, of two historic franchises long overdue for some silverware. The Blackhawks rode the high road to get here, winning 52 games, claiming the 2nd seed in the West, and going 12-4 in the playoffs, rolling through their competition. The Flyers, took the low road. They squeezed in on the last day of the season by the slimmest of margins: a shootout goal. They're 12-5 in the playoffs, but were once on the brink, down 0-3 to the Bruins, before surging back, then thumping Montreal.

The Blackhawks haven't won the Cup since 1961. The Flyers since '75.

Philly's playoff run has been, in a word: compelling. They lose Jeff Carter, but are able to beat Brodeur and the Devils in 5 games. They fall behind Boston 3-0, even losing their goalie, then comeback and win the series in the Bruins' ice. Then they face the giant slayers from Montreal, who could beat Washington and Pittsburgh, bet couldn't handle the Flyers. Not even close.

But I'll burst your bubble, Philly. The playoffs are about weaknesses more than they're about strengths. The Flyers have a balanced offense (10th in scoring) with multiple threats (7 players with 4+ goals this postseason). They also boast 4 stalwart defenseman, including the guy with a triathlete's endurance: Chris Pronger. Where's the weakness? Goaltending. Despite their solid defense, the Flyers were 15th in goals allowed this season.

But in the playoffs they have the best GAA, an impressive 2.12! Have Leighton and Boucher stepped up in the postseason? Yes. But that's not the total story. Certainly both have been solid, but they've also benefited from their opponents' lack of offensive prowess.

The Devils were 19th in the NHL in goals scored. The Canadiens 23rd. The Bruins 29th. The Devils had Kovalchuk and Parise. The Bruins' offense was spearheaded by a 42 year old in Mark Recchi and a scrap-heap acquisition in Miroslav Satan. The Canadiens had Mike Cammalleri, and nothing else.

Chicago had the 3rd best offense in the NHL's regular season, averaged 3.31 goals per game in the post-season thus far (behind only Vancouver and Detroit).

They get offense from multiple players, just like Philadelphia. Six Blackhawks have 4+ postseason goals. Six Blackhawks had 20+ regular season goals.

Moreover, Chicago will be playing with home ice advantage. Philadelphia was 17-21-3 on the road during the regular season, and 5-4 during the playoffs. Chicago was 29-8-4 at home this season. But they've actually been better on the road in the postseason, with a spectacular 7-1 record away from Chicago.

Now what's Chicago's weakness? It might just be goaltending too. Antti Niemi's had an impressive 2.33 GAA in the postseason, but his SV% is much less staggering, at .921, it's 5th among playoff goalies with 4+ starts.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that there will be goals. Both teams have good offenses and exploitable goalies. Chicago's power-play wasn't very good in the regular season (17.7%), but it's been decent in the postseason (22.6%). Then again, both teams are very good penalty killers. (85.0% for Chicago and 83.0% for Philly in the regular season, 86.6% and 87% for them, respectively, in the playoffs).

So who has the edge? Chicago. While Philadelphia's Top-4 D-men have been outstanding this postseason, they've yet to face a team that can roll 2 to 3 good scoring lines. Moreover, Chicago can keep possession of the puck, wearing out those 4 defensemen.

My gut wants to say Chicago in 5. But I'll temper that with some pessimism and say Chicago in 6.


Antti Niemi, G, CHI - 2.33 GAA, .921 SV%, 2 shutouts
Michael Leighton, G, PHI - 1.45 GAA, .948 SV%, 3 shutouts, 6-1 record
Jonathan Toews, C, CHI - 7 goals, 19 assists, +4, 3 GWG
Mike Richards, C, PHI - 6 goals, 15 assists, +6
Patrick Kane, RW, CHI - 7 goals, 13 assists
Danny Briere, C, PHI - 9 goals, 9 assists, +4, 4 GWG
Claude Giroux, RW, PHI - 8 goals, 9 assists, +10
Patrick Sharp, C, CHI - 7 goals, 9 assists
Chris Pronger, D, PHI - 4 G, 10 A, 26 hits, 51 blocks, like 30:00 per game
Brent Seabrook, D, CHI - 3 G, 6 A, +8, 60 hits, 41 blocks
Dustin Byfuglien, RW, CHI - 8 G, 2 A, 4 GWG, 56 hits


Well we've all seen flashes of brilliance from Daisuke. And we've all seen the kind of bizarre performance he staged last night. Seriously, why does anyone swing at any pitch from this guy?

Matsuzaka walked 8 batters in 4.2 innings. He faced 24 batters, and walked a third of them. He threw 112 pitches, only 60 strikes and 52 balls. But hey, he only allowed 2 singles and no other hits.

The shortness of the outing brought in Joe Nelson, whose very entrance in a game diminishes the Sox' chance of winning by about 40%. I'm just guessing at that figure, but I dare anyone to prove me wrong.

The offense was equally inept. Bill Hall hit a solo shot in the 5th. JD Drew knocked in a run with a double in the 6th. Beltre had an RBI single back in the 4th. But the Sox hardly got any baserunners against the great Brian Bannister, then the vaunted Royals' bullpen. In fact, the KC bullpen pitched 3 perfect innings of relief.

It's difficult to be negative and pessimistic after what the Sox did in Tampa Bay and Philadelphia. But this was a vintage Daisuke disappointer. Then the bullpen couldn't keep the deficit stable. And the offense didn't do enough to win, against subpar pitching.

Tim Wakefield opposes Kyle Davies tonight.

Photo Credit:
Getty Images

Thursday, May 27, 2010


Well the obvious answer to that is Tim Thomas. He's expendable. The Bruins have a cheap, young goalie in Tuukka Rask. This is a lay-up. The Bruins need to trade Thomas for just about anything, even if it's below fair value. Other teams know the B's want to trade him, and he has a deal that will last until 2013.

As much as I love him, it would be really liberating to trade Chara, freeing up $7.5 million in cap space. But that makes him difficult to trade. Fortunately, this upcoming season will be the last year on that deal. He's a phenomenal defenseman, a Norris candidate every season, but that's too much money to spend on an individual player who isn't scoring 40 goals a year.

Do I want to get rid of Marc Savard? No. Is he tradeable? Yes! He doesn't make much money, and the Bruins have depth at center. The B's have a lot of playmaking forwards, but very few play-FINISHING forwards. Savard's an assist guy on a team devoid of goal scorers. What's the point? If the price is right, Savard is tradeable.

In fact, EVERYONE is tradeable, except Rask. It's unimaginable that any team could offer enough to get Rask, a young, successful goalie making $1.25 million. 15 Bruins made more than that this season.

I would love to see Michael Ryder traded. He's just awful. The two or three sparks of brilliance only illuminate his inconsistency. He gets $4 million. He's a member of Claude's Think Tank. The puck finds his stick, and he always tries to settle it. It could be a perfect pass or rebound, and he'll take a second to give it a think. Meanwhile, the goalie's moved into position and opposing defensemen have honed in on the puck.

The Bruins should take just about anything to dump Ryder.

So in summation, everyone but Rask can be traded. Everyone but Thomas might have to stay. Thomas has to go. Rask has to stay. Other than that, move based on what you can get.

This team needs top to bottom change, so don't be afraid to make as many deals as you can.


Normally ascending to 3rd place is hardly something to be be proud of. But to do it by sweeping the Tampa Bay Rays on the road changes things. The Sox got yet another Quality Start as John Lackey went 6.1, allowing only 2 runs despite the 8 hits and 4 walks he allowed. He held the Rays to 1/14 with runners in scoring position.

He was helped by a Sox offense which surprisingly knocked around Matt Garza. Beltre hit 2 homers, and Ortiz hit his 10th of the season. He hit his 10th of last season on July 8th. Beltre was 4 for 6. He also had a triple, and knocked in 6 runs.

While Jason Varitek's offensive production has expectedly dissipated (he's hitting .250 in May), it's probably not coincidental that he's been a consistent presence behind the plate, and the starting pitchers have excelled. I'll reluctantly give him half of an assist for the recent quality of starting pitchers. But in the end, pitchers still have to pitch.

Sox now sit in 3rd, 3 games behind New York in the loss column, and 6 behind TB. But they host the 19-28 Royals for 4, then the barely above .500 Athletics, then they play the abysmal Orioles. So this is a good time to compile some wins and chip away at some deficits.

Matsuzaka vs. Brian Bannister tonight.


I don't want to make a mountain out of a molehill. I don't want to sound pessimistic. But I'm noticing some alarming coincidences here. Game 3 of the Bruins/Flyers series, the B's blow Philly out of the water, and everyone assumes the series is over. Game 4, and although the Bruins are never out of it, they're never really in control. They need to score late to force an OT, but they're outplayed in that extra period, and lose. Then Game 5, the Bruins get blown out by the Flyers.

Now what matters is that the Celtics have two remaining games to avoid repeating what their ice-skating, known-for-choking counterparts did a few weeks ago.

What's scary though, is just like the Bruins losing David Krejci, the Celtics have some potential injury-related complications to deal with. Glen Davis was concussed. Rajon Rondo might be dealing with something. KG seems to be playing through something, and not playing well. And the NBA will need to rescind one of Perkins' technicals in order to keep him in the lineup.

Let's mention officiating. Game 5 was ridiculously tight, most remarkably when Perkins had two technicals called on him, which were both quite insane. He missed more than half the game, which meant a downgrade in defense, and the loss of his 3 remaining personal fouls. But was that enough to give Orlando such a lopsided win? NO! So I don't want to hear any bitching about the officiating beyond the possible Perkins suspension.

Ray Allen shooting 3/11. KG only scoring 10 points. Getting outrebounded 43 to 26. These are the kinds of reasons the Celtics lost. But also give some credit to Orlando. Howard had 21 points and 5 blocks, Nelson had 24. Reddick had 14, and the bench kept the pressure on the Celtics, combining for 38 points.

Now it was a bit freakish. The Magic came out of the gates and lit up from beyond the arc. That kind of stretch will be hard to duplicate. That gave Orlando that initial lead. All Orlando had to do was not blow it.

So the series comes back to Boston, where hopefully Kendrick Perkins will be allowed to play. He received his 6th and 7th technicals of the postseason last night, which would mean automatic suspension. Unless the NBA rescinds the calls, which they should.

But the Celtics need big men to foul Howard and limit his scoring. Sheed seems hurt, Davis definitely is hurt, and the C's are depending on the NBA to do the smart thing to allow Perkins to return. That's not a pleasant situation to be in.

Orlando has momentum, but momentum's only as good as your next shot. Unlike the Bruins, the Celtics are essentially winners. I've a reasonable amount of faith in the players in green and white. But if hurt, especially if Rondo and KG are hurt, this could be one of the ugliest springs in Boston sports history.

Game 6 Friday night.

Photo Credit:
Getty Images

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Here are the soon-to-be free agents currently on the Bruins roster:

Mark Recchi, RW
Steve Begin, C
Miroslav Satan, RW
Shawn Thornton, LW
Dennis Seidenberg, D
Johnny Boychuk, D

Blake Wheeler, RW
Daniel Paille, LW
Vladimir Sobotka, C
Mark Stuart, D

Hindsight is 20/20, but the Bruins only signed Boychuk to a 1 year deal after he won the Eddie Shore Award in AHL Providence. The B's seem to have a habit of re-signing guys at their peak (Thomas, Wideman, Krejci, Savard, Lucic). They struggle to buy low.

The B's are negotiating with Seidenberg, which I think is very wise. Not only is he German, but he's a very solid defenseman. He's only 29, he takes care of the puck, he blocks shots, he can play the power play and penalty kill. As a partner for Zdeno Chara, he's perfect.

Boychuck is another guy I really want the Bruins to keep. But his price might go too high. I'm sure he wants to stay in Boston, where defensive hockey is really important, and where he's allowed to get involved in the offensive game. He's got a great shot for a defenseman, although he frequently takes too many shots without an adequate shooting lane.

As much as his postseason exploits endeared him to Bruins fans, they also may have garnered the attentions of too many GMs. I think his price might prove to be too high. The Bruins have depth at this position, and don't need to overpay to keep Boychuk.

Miroslav Satan will turn 37 in October. He could score 20 goals (had 9 in 38 games with the Bruins), and he dazzled the fans in the playoffs. But he's not a complete player. His finish isn't good or consistent enough to pay him like a pure scorer. I'd rather get a grinding forward for a cheaper price. Then again, if he wants to play for $700,000 again, then he's worth it.

Recchi is old. And as much as I love him, can he endure a long postseason? I don't think so. He'll show sparks, but I think his age caught up to him at the end of the Philly series, when he disappeared from the checking game. Again, keep him only if he accepts a cheap contract.

Begin is a nice 4th line center. A grinder, a checker, a guy who can help keep the puck in the offensive zone. You can move him to the wings, though. Put him on a line with Sobotka and Thornton, and that's terrifying for the opposition to face. He's also an adept penalty killer.

You can retain Shawn Thornton for low money. He's not just a fighter. He's a good checker, and is capable of handling the puck with modest skill. Still, he's the team's fists, and was the only guy who showed in heart in the Matt Cooke game. Keep him as a 4th line winger getting less than 10 minutes of ice-time.

Blake Wheeler seems like a neverending project. He has no identity as a player. He doesn't have the puck skills or reflexes to be a scorer. He doesn't play with the size or moxy of a grinder. I think you could get the same kind of production from a much cheaper player.

Daniel Paille was an emergency acquisition last year, but he's completely useless on offense. Write a "thank you note," and cut him loose.

I wish the Bruins had given Mark Stuart a contract extension instead of Andrew Ference. Stuart gets crazy eyes, he gets involved on offense, and he's aggressive on defense. What happens with Seidenberg and Boychuk will determine what should happen to Stuart. If those two guys stay, Stuart is very expendable. If neither sign, he becomes indispensable.


Talk all you want about infield defense, UZR, and all that mumbo jumbo. What truly prevents runs is good pitching. And that's what the Red Sox have gotten the last few days. They've beaten two very good teams on the road because of excellent starts from everyone in their rotation except John Lackey, who'll pitch tonight.

Maybe the Rays aren't a .700 team. That's kind of obvious, as a .700 winning percentage would result in a 113 win season, and as good as Tampa Bay is, they're not 113 wins good. But the Rays haven't really played anyone. 6 games against Baltimore, 6 against Seattle, 5 against Oakland, 4 against KC, 3 against the White Sox, 3 against Houston, 3 against the Angels, 3 against Toronto.

I still don't think the Sox will catch the Rays in the East. But maybe they'll catch the Yankees? The Sox are still in 4th, but only 1.5 behind the 2nd place Yankees.

Willy Aybar hit a single in the 4th. That would be Tampa Bay's only hit off Lester or anyone else. Although Lester did walk 5, and needed 111 pitches to go 6 innings, you can't do much better than that. Delcarmen, Bard, and Papelbon completed the shutout.

This was Lester's 5th Quality Start in his last 6 outings. He's allowed 7 earned runs in his last 7 starts (49.2 IP, 1.27 ERA). He's 4-0 in May. He's the Ace of the Sox staff. Or at the very least, he's The Rock. The Cornerstone.

David Ortiz will get some deserved publicity for his reemergence as an offensive force. His double knocked in both Sox runs in the 3rd. He's hitting .361 in May, and slugging .787 with 9 HR and 19 RBI.

I'm not optimistic about the excellent starts continuing, as Lackey goes tonight against Garza. But taking 2 in Tampa is huge. The Sox have played their last 7 games against 1st place teams, and are 6-1 in that stretch. That's impressive.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


That was fast and easy. After 10 of the previous 12 playoff series went 6 games or more, both Conference Finals were quick and painless.

PHILADELPHIA 4, MONTREAL 2 (Flyers win series 4-1)

Mike Richards had a goal and two assists. Jeff Carter scored twice. Montreal needed Halak to be miraculous in this series. He was human. A very good goaltending human, but still human. And Cammalleri finally cooled down, scoring only 1 goal, 0 assists, and was -5 in the series. And thank God. I couldn't stand to see Les Habitants celebrating. Hopefully a few dozen of them ended their lives last night.

So it's Philadelphia vs. Chicago. The NHL should be happy. There hasn't been a matchup between TV/hockey markets of this size since 1997 (Detroit/Philadelphia). Both teams are fast, get goals from multiple sources. There's not the star-power of an Ovechkin, or Crosby, but maybe this is the introduction of a new star. Patrick Kane perhaps? Mike Richards maybe?

We'll have a Stanley Cup Finals preview sometime this week. There's plenty of time. The Finals don't commence until Saturday.

Monday, May 24, 2010


I have to say these series haven't been as entertaining as the 1st and 2nd rounds were. But they've been very fast. Chicago's already won, and Philly is on the verge of following suit.

CHICAGO 4, SAN JOSE 2 (Blackhawks win series 4-0)

Chicago is going to the Finals for the first time since 1992, hoping to win their first Cup since 1961. And they got there in style. They blew out the Sharks in Games 1 and 2, then edged them out in two close games at home. The Sharks surged to a 2-0 lead, but the Hawks kept composure. Seabrook and Bolland equalized things in the 2nd. Dustin Byfuglien scored the 3rd period power play goal that turned out to be the game-winner. He scored in all 4 games, and 3 of those goals were game-winners. That's how you get your name onto a Conn Smythe watch-list.

PHILADELPHIA 3, MONTREAL 0 (Flyers lead series 3-1)

Michael Leighton will be first-billed in the storyline. He's recorded 3 shutouts in this series. And not to take anything away from him, but it's been a full team effort. Philly has a better team than Montreal. The Habs have Halak and Cammallari, along with one solid tandem of defensemen. The Flyers can get scoring from 6 or 7 guys, have 4 good defensemen who play all game (Pronger played 31 minutes in Game 4), and a fundamentally sound goalie. It's not too difficult to get a shutout when your opponent is held to 17 shots, and only 1 in the 2nd period. Montreal might steal a Game 5, but they cannot win 3 games.

Tonight's game:
7pm: Montreal @ Philadelphia - Versus (Flyers lead series 3-1)


It's taken a little more than a week for Game 7 to properly settle in. I'm only recently cleaning up the empty beer cans around my house from this series, like spent artillery shells from the battlefields of World War I.

It was such a weird ending. The Bruins upset the Sabres, with relative ease, in 6 games. Then they draw the 7th seeded Flyers. Everyone anticipates a hard-fought, back-and-forth series. The Bruins win the first two, but in very tight contests.

Game 3 convinced us all that the Bruins had found a new gear. A 4-1 win on Philly's ice, going up 3 games to 0, an historically insurmountable lead. Then Game 5 convinced us all that the Bruins had taken their foot off the pedal, and had dropped a few cylinders in their engine. While Games 6 and 7 were close battles won by Philly's grit and their better finishers, Game 5 was a travesty. Losing 4-0, on home ice, against a backup goalie. Game 3 made us relax in Boston, Game 5 made us buy extra cigarettes and douse our livers with poison.

And while we'll always remember the last mistake in the final battle, that too-many-men call, it was allowed to happen by a completely pitiful effort in Game 5.

How can a team soar so high, then 4 days later crash so low? It's not an easy question to answer. But let's try.

Claude Julien is an excellent strategist, and a great defensive coach. He's instilled a game-changing defense and penalty kill scheme here in Boston. He deservedly won the Adams Award last season, and he's gotten a lot from the talent available to him. The Bruins have lacked the stars that other perennially successful teams have (Washington's Ovechkin, Green and Semin; Pittsburgh's Crosby and Malkin; Detroit's Zetterberg and Datsyuk; so on and so forth).

He is perhaps the best regular season coach in the NHL. Which is insufficient for the Bruins and their fans.

The Bruins are a moody team. Maybe it just seems so because we're familiar with them, but do other teams have moods? Do the Red Wings have good moods and bad moods? How about the Penguins, Blackhawks, or Devils?

In 2008, the Bruins squeeze into the playoffs as an 8th seed. The Bruins fall behind 2-0 against Montreal in the playoffs, then 3-1. They rally, winning an epic Game 6 5-4 in overtime. Then Game 7 comes around and the Bruins play a flat, uninspired game, losing 5-0. Nobody really criticizes them because they were an 8 seed, and it was an accomplishment to merely force 7 games.

In 2009, the Bruins have their best regular season since 1971-72. The top seed in the East, they roll through the Canadiens like Rommel through the Ardennes Forest. The Bruins win Game 1 of their 2nd round series against Carolina, dominating the Canes 4-1. Then they get complacent. Cam Ward has a great Game 2, the Bruins lose in OT in Carolina, then actually fall behind 3-1 before waking up. They win Games 5 and 6. But once again, lose in Game 7, this time in OT. The Bruins went from confident to arrogant to complacent, and they let the Canes take control of a series that never should have gone 7.

In 2010, the Bruins earned a 6th seed in the East. Disappointing compared to pre-season expectations, pleasing compared to mid-season expectations. They outfight the Sabres. But still saw themselves struggling to eliminate them in Game 5. In fact, Buffalo throttled them 4-1.

Then we know what happens next.

Claude Julien has been the Bruins coach for 3 seasons. He's made the playoffs 3 times, and has won 2 playoff series. Not bad at all. He's won the Adams for coach of the year, he's 133-78-35 as Bruins' head coach, or approximately 44-26-12 per season (that's an average of 100 points, which is usually good enough to vie for a divisional title).

But in the playoffs, which are a completely different game, his Bruins teams are 14-14. He was 4-7 in the playoffs when he coached in Montreal. So he's 18-21 overall. Most striking, he is 3-7 when his team can eliminate their opponents. He is 1-3 in Game 7s.

Maybe it's just coincidence. 10 games is indeed a small sample, and 4 of those are Game 7s, which are utter mayhem. Numbers can be so selectively chosen to suggest something larger at work. So let's get back to the human side of this.

We all saw how fierce the Bruins were in Game 6 of the '08 series against Montreal, seeming to will the puck into the net with their hearts and minds. Then we saw an empty, heartless, indifferent Game 7.

We all saw how intensely the Bruins crushed Montreal in '09. Then how they struggled with a basic 2 man forecheck, and couldn't maintain possession of the puck for 3 straight games.

Then there was this season. It'd be one thing if the Bruins and Flyers played 7 ridiculously tight games (like Games 1, 2, 4, 6 and 7), and it was almost coincidental the the Bruins won 3 then Philly won 4. But that's not how it happened. The Bruins broke the Flyers in Game 3. Then humiliated themselves in Game 5.

It's always hard to close teams out. A few weeks ago, a friend of mine was looking for a good hockey bet and I advised him to bet on any team down 3-0 in Game 4. But when the Flyers ignited and showed some serious fire, what was the Bruins' response? To shit the fucking bed.

I remember hearing before Game 4, that Claude Julien had ordered his players not to use the word "sweep" during practice or at any other time. Is that the attitude of a winner?

Hockey teams occasionally need inspiration. Laviolette provided that to the Flyers in Game 7 when he called a timeout. He kept his team confidently calm, but also energized and motivated. I'm not saying Claude should be Bill Parcells behind the bench. There are plenty of ways to inspire. And he just doesn't do it. Does he look or act inspirationally behind that bench?

The city of Boston is blessed with two of the best hockey coaches in the world: Jerry York and Jack Parker. The last 3 NCAA titles belong to these two giants. And their styles are completely different. York is the quiet and stern old man who seems friendly but you're also terrified to disappoint him. Parker is the aggressive, assertive guy who very vocally demands nothing but the best at all times.

What's Claude Julien? What's his personality? What do the players feel when he feels something? Claude's smart. He's a thinker, a master strategist. But to paraphrase Tedy Bruschi, hockey isn't like chess, it's like rock em sock em robots. And it's not like Julien is a nerd or anything, he played the game, he just puts too much emphasis on thinking and not enough on doing.

How many times did Dennis Wideman seem to overthink things this season? How about Michael Ryder, or Blake Wheeler? This was not a dumb team, but an extremely indecisive one. How many hesitations in the crease did we see? How many too-many-men penalties were there (that's a result of indecision, like Savard calling for a change, then staying on the ice).

It just doesn't seem to gel with this team, and I don't think it would work with any team, at least not work all the way to the Cup Finals. This team was at its best from Game 2 of the Buffalo series to Game 3 of the Philadelphia series. They took chances, were aggressive, and decisive. Then they get up 3-0 in a series, or 3-0 in a game. Then they start trying to adhere to some sort of gameplan. Fuck that, just play.

Gameplans and strategies are good to have before a game, and to keep in the back of your mind. But reality is unscripted, unplanned, and it just happens. In hockey, it happens even quicker.

So 2 things can happen for the Bruins to be successful

#1: Claude Julien needs to get fired and a more relaxing and less cerebral coach needs to replace him.
#2: Claude needs to change, maybe with the help of his players.

If the Bruins are unwilling to cut Claude loose this instant, he at least has to be on probation. And he needs veterans of the Mark Recchi ilk, players who will act, not contemplate. Maybe give him 20-25 games in 2010-11 to see if things function properly. If not, it's the axe.


You have to give the Sox credit. Going into Philly and taking 2 of 3 isn't easy. So this weekend saw some good signs. It saw Daisuke mow through Philly's lineup, nearly getting a no-hitter. More surprisingly, it saw Wakefield mow through that same lineup, as he had his best start since April of '09.

Obviously the Phillies are in the National League, so they're the best of the secondary circuit. Nevertheless, this series victory provides Sox fans with some promise. The whole BS "run prevention" philosophy starts and ends with starting pitching. So when the SPs excel, winning awaits.

Of course, Daisuke's most notorious problem is his consistency. What he does in his next start is an unpredictable variable. Ad I don't think Wakefield will have too many more 8 inning, 0 run outings. Call me pessimistic, if you must.

Sox @ Rays for 3 and what amounts to a big divisional series to this team. Buccholz vs. Wade Davis.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo


I believe the Celtics are the better team in this series. You know who else believes that? The Orlando Magic. They only needed a few minutes of convincing Saturday night. Once the Magic missed a few threes, and the Celtics hit some shots while forcing a few turnovers, the game was over. The Magic had no heart, no fight.

Halfway through the 1st, when Ray Allen drove and dunked, the game was over. It was only 9-6, but that's as close as Orlando got to victory. They played heartless defense, didn't fight for rebounds, and their offense was base and simplified. They looked like that token college team that somehow made the Sweet 16, then stopped hitting three-pointers. Except they were also unmotivated.

Dwight Howard scored 7 points, and was -29. The Magic starters scored 43 points. The Celtics BENCH scored 38.

Glen Davis led the scoring for the Celtics with 17. He was on fire, shooting 5 of 9. Rondo, Pierce, Garnett, Ray Allen, and Sheed were also in double digits.

It was too easy. The Magic simply don't believe they can win these games. No spirit, no compete level, just a listless group of guys showing up for paychecks.

And while I think the "Beat LA" chants are still premature, it's looking very close to inevitable. Game 4 Monday night in Boston.

Photo Credit:
Getty Images

Friday, May 21, 2010


The Eastern finals went North to Montreal, and the Canadiens answered a few big questions. Like will Cammalleri score, and will Halak stop Philly's scoring?

MONTREAL 5, PHILADELPHIA 1 (Series tied 2-1)

Cammalleri scored Montreal's first goal of the series, only 127 minutes into it. And for once, he actually got support from his mates as the Flyers yielded 38 shots, and Leighton let 5 of those slip by him. To be frank, neither team in this series impresses me. Philly showed a lot of fight in coming back from 3-0, but they got a major assist from a careless and nervous Bruins team. And the Habs beat the Caps, who have a history of choking, and the Penguins, who got nothing from the flighty Malkin. Whoever wins this series will get mauled by the Blackhawks or Sharks.

Tonight's game:
8pm: San Jose @ Chicago - Versus (Blackhawks lead series 2-0)


At the quarter post of the season, there's no team as good as the Tampa Bay Rays. 30 wins, 4.5 games ahead of every other team in baseball, 19 games over .500. They're also exciting. 2nd best offense in baseball (despite being 18th in batting average, there's a lesson there), 3rd most stolen bases, the 2nd best pitching staff in baseball (2.77 ERA, in the AL East), 3rd best Save percentage in baseball, so on and so forth.

The Rays are good, but their fans suck. Well actually, what fans they have are probably OK, it's just there aren't enough of them.

The Rays are 21st in average attendance, a mere 22,821 per game. That's only 884 more people than the Orioles draw to watch their 13-28 crime against humanity.

Then consider the cavalcade of minor league promotions the Rays stage to draw people to the crowd. Consider that most tickets are only $10 (the price of half a beer at Fenway).

The Rays have been hurt by having their home schedule thus far dominated by uninteresting teams. Kansas City, Cleveland, Baltimore, Toronto, Oakland, Seattle.

Nevertheless, this is a great team going to waste in a lousy sports town. Apart from football, and MAYBE basketball, pro sports just don't belong in Florida. And baseball certainly doesn't belong in Tampa Bay, where Yankees games draw more TV viewers in the TB Area than Rays games.

When Carl Crawford takes a bucket of cash to play for someone else, some baseball fans might moan about the poor Rays being unable to afford to keep their homegrown talent. Well you know who's to blame? Some guy in St. Petersburg who'd rather buy 10 PowerBall tickets than go to a ballgame.


It's pretty obvious by now, that Lester is the rock of the Sox' rotation. But that's not just a recent assessment. He has been for more than a season now. And unlike Beckett, who has had sporadic injuries, and has been consistently inconsistent, Lester has been reliable, even predictable. In a good way.

He was a model of efficiency last night, only needing 103 pitches to go the full 9 innings. He didn't walk anybody and he struck out 9. After a shaky April, he's settled into a typical Jon Lester groove. He's gone 7+ in 5 consecutive starts (imagine how bad the bullpen would look without that help), and he's only allowed 7 earned runs in his last 6 starts (1.44 ERA).

This is a very mediocre Red Sox team. But without Lester, it's a bad team.

Red Sox @ Phillies tonight. Lackey vs. Hamels.

Monday, May 17, 2010


Well, the final four are set and have already met. Two Original Six franchises, another team with plenty of history, and then a team founded in 1991. Two large American markets, a large Canadian market, and a California team. I'd say the NHL could be content with that. But I'm sure they're hoping for a Philly/Chicago final, as am I.

As difficult as it is to actively support the Flyers, it's impossible to root for Montreal. And I'd rather Joe Thornton not get his name on the Stanley Cup, so go Blackhawks!

Before getting to Sunday's games, why does the NHL insist on waiting for every series in a round to complete before even scheduling the next round? It makes sense in the 1st round, as teams are re-seeded afterward. But there's no re-seeding for the Conference Finals. The last 2 teams play each other. So while the Bruins and Flyers played Game 7 on Friday night, the NHL could have scheduled Game 1 of the Western finals for Saturday afternoon. That would avoid any competition with the NBA, and would allow the two series to alternate nights. West, East, West, East. Yet another fuckup.

Another, quicker question: Could the NHL please boycott Arizona too?

CHICAGO 2, SAN JOSE 1 (Blackhawks lead series 1-0)

Antti Niemi might be the best goalie left in the playoffs, and he's only now getting some credit for it. He stopped 44 of 45 shots in this win. The 26 year old Finn also had a 2.25 GAA in the regular season. Jason Demers scored his first goal of the postseason in the 1st, but that was it for San Jose. Patrick Sharp tied it in the 2nd, then Dustin Byfuglien netted the game-winner in the 3rd. Byfuglien has been a bit of an unlikely hero for Chicago. This was his 5th goal of the playoffs.

PHILADELPHIA 6, MONTREAL 0 (Flyers lead series 1-0)

The Flyers run has been nothing short of spectacular. On the last day of the regular season, they hosted the Rangers, with the winner earning a playoff spot and the loser seeing their season end. They won the game 2-1, thanks to a 2-1 shootout win. Then they upset 2nd seeded New Jersey, made history in Boston, and now they've annihalted the Canadiens.

But I wouldn't be too confident if I were Philly. They may have toyed with Halak in Game 1, seeing him pulled halfway through the 2nd, but Halak faltered in Game 1 of Montreal's series with Pittsburgh. He then allowed a mere 11 goals in the next 6 games, with a .945 SV%. This series will be a long one.

My Conference Final predictions:
Chicago in 6
Montreal in 7


Mike Cammalleri, LW, MON - 12 G, 6 A, 2 GWG
Jonathan Toews, C, CHI - 6 G, 14 A, 3 GWG
Mike Richards, C, PHI - 5 G, 12 A
Dany Briere, C, PHI - 7 G, 8 A, 3 GWG, +3
Joe Pavelski, C, SJ - 9 G, 6 A, 3 GWG, +7
Chris Pronger, D, PHI - 4 G, 7 A, +3, 29:39 ATOI, 34 BS
Brent Seabrook, D, CHI - 2 G, 6 A, +5, 44 Hits
Hal Gill, D, MON - 54 blocked shots
Josh Gorges, D, MON - 20 hits, 44 blocked shots
Jaroslav Halak, G, MON - 8 W, 2.42 GAA, .933 SV%
Evgeni Nabokov, G, SJ - 8 W, 2.43 GAA

Tuesday's games:
7:00pm - Montreal @ Philadelphia - Versus (Flyers lead series 1-0)
10:00pm - Chicago @ San Jose - Versus (Blackhawks lead series 1-0)


During the Bruins' regular season, I once "advised them" to watch BC's hockey team play, and maybe learn a lesson on how to score goals. Now, I think the Bruins should be forced to watch the Celtics' continuing playoff run, to learn a lesson on how to win.

Not many gave the Celtics a chance, including myself. And I took great care to ridicule those that did predict another deep postseason venture. But the Celtics have played as a team, and that's allowed them to beat some individuals. The C's don't have anyone as good as Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, or Dwight Howard on their roster. But the Celtics, at least in theory thus far, have had a better team.

Howard was held to 13 points as the Celtics gutted out a 92-88 win over the Magic. It can be argued that the C's could have and should have won more comfortably, and that they let Orlando buzz around for too long. But you also have to give credit to the Magic for that.

Ray Allen was 8/16 shooting with 25 points. Pierce was 6/8 with 22. He made 8 of 10 free throws. Rondo was stymied, reduced to just 8 points, 8 assists and 4 boards. KG only had 8 points. But that's sort of the whole strength of the teamwork. There's layers, so when Rondo and/or KG have bad outings, Pierce and Allen are there to pick up the slack. The bench also contributed. Sheed had 13 in 20 minutes, and the bench combined for 25 total.

This won't be an easy series, but winning Game 1 on the road was huge. The Magic may have been rusty, a little underprepared. The C's played on Thursday, which means they were fresh but still in rhythm. Orlando hadn't played in nearly a week (last Monday). And the competition they'd encountered in their previous series was of pushover quality.

They weren't ready, the Celtics shot well and took advantage. That's what you do to win, exploit every opportunity, protect every weakness.

Game 2 Tuesday night in Orlando.

Photo Credit:
The Canadian Press


Heads are going to roll. And the first head that should roll is the bald, beefy melon of Claude "Les Choke" Julien. This guy is now 21-21 as a head coach in the playoffs, 1-3 in Game 7s (0-3 with the Bruins), and behind the B's bench his teams are 2-7 in games that they can eliminate their opponents. This guy is not a winner. Just replace "Elliot Ness" with "Claude Julien" in this clip:

And of course, it was a too-many-men penalty that allowed Philly to score their game-winning goal. The Bruins have been notorious for having too-many-men penalties called on them all season. I can't find the actual statistics for it, but I'd venture to say that the B's have had too-many-men on the ice about a dozen times this season. And of course, Philly fans will revel in the irony, as it was a missed too-many-men call that allowed Marco Sturm to score the game-winner in the Winter Classic.

But to pinpoint only one failure, one mistake, would be taking it easy on the Bruins. This was such an epic Bruins collapse that it can't just be because of one play, or even two. Countless errors, shortcomings, and fuckups have led us to this sad place. This was a clinic of defeatism. This is the biggest choke in Bruins history, which true fans of this team know is quite an allegation. It's like accusing the French of having the biggest defeat in their military's history.

The Bruins went up by 3 goals in Game 7. How? By outplaying Philadelphia. Plain and simple. The first goal was a great sequence, with Lucic blocking a shot, keying a breakaway which failed, but then winning the puck on the boards, allowing Savard to take a nice shot. The puck dribbled out to the neutral zone, but a tired Hartnell got sloppy with his stick and the B's earned a power-play. Faceoff win, Chara shoots, big rebound, Ryder has the best finish of his season and it's 1-0 B's.

Second goal: Wideman carries the puck in on another power-play, brilliant centering pass to Lucic, who simply has to tap it in. 2-0 Bruins.

Third goal: Lucic wins a battle in the defensive zone, with Philly's defensemen so involved on offense, this win triggers a 3-on-1 breakaway. Lucic wisely keeps it himself and goes 5-hole on Leighton. 3-0 Bruins.

But I have a saying for Claude Julien's Bruins. I'm much more comfortable with a 2 goal Bruins lead than a 3 goal lead. The B's get foolish with 3 goal leads. They try to be too clever. They don't value possession of the puck anymore. And they typically forget what it was that actually got them that 3 goal lead. In poker it's called "reverse tilt," when things go so well that a player kind of goes nuts, just assuming that he'll continue to get lucky and run well forever.

The B's kept the pressure up, and showed good puck support. They were relentless along the boards. Then in the defensive zone, that puck support failed. Wideman moved the puck along from the corner, but Satan whiffed on it. This allowed Philly to regain possession. A couple odd bounces later, and it's 3-1. But the bounces would have never happened had Satan played Hockey 101 and been able to move the puck along and out of the zone. Inexcusable.

The 2nd period has been dominated by the Flyers in this series. A clear indication of Peter Laviolette's outcoaching of Claude Julien. Going into Game 7's middle frame, Philly had outscored Boston 8-3 in 2nd periods. That turned into 10-3.

The Bruins came out decently, but couldn't get much on net. Leighton was reeling but the B's weren't able to do anything to capitalize. They were actually shooting too much, instead of waiting for clear shooting lanes, they allowed the Flyers to block shots (18 in total). Then Hartnell outworked the Bruins in the offensive zone and was able to sneak in a severe angle shot. 3-2 Flyers. Wake up time, right? Not for a Claude Julien team. Snooze button time.

The Flyers continued to get to every loose puck. They were hungry again. And should we be surprised? That's how Philly has been when they've faced defeat. Briere scored an excellent wraparound goal. And what a surprise, Andrew "Why Did I Get a Contract Extension" Ference was on the ice, and fell down as Briere maneuvered around him then the net.

But hey, the B's ended the 2nd period with a nice 5 minutes of possession, getting a few shots on goal, keeping Philly from doing anything more. Like a girl with a pretty face, nice legs, and a pudgy beer belly, the 2nd period had a good start, an ugly middle, and a good end.

The 3rd was crazy. Leighton made some big saves. Rask made some big saves. The Bruins were giving away the puck too easily, particularly Wideman and Chara. But Rask was forgiving them. The Flyers hit a post. The Bruins hit two posts. It seemed as though OT was predestined. Then the Bruins put 6 skaters on the ice.

It was unforced. And by that I mean that there was no panic, no confusion in a hurried situation, it was just your run-of-the-mill fuckup. It wasn't like when the puck drifts toward the benches during a change and someone plays it too early. It was an inexcusable, unforgettable, unbelievable mistake. The Bruins put 6 skaters on the ice. As if it were no big deal. But the refs can count to 6.

And give credit to Simon Gagne. As much as I'm blaming the Bruins for this loss, the Flyers showed us here in Boston how real scorers finish. Gagne's goal was just good solid offense.

Then air. A few near misses, a few nifty saves from Leighton, but the clock dwindled down seemingly at double-speed. And the season was over.

It's silly to discuss, but if you'd asked me in February if I'd be happy if the B's lost in a Game 7 of the 2nd round, I'd say "Yeah, sounds like a good season for this struggling team." But once you add the caveats that the Bruins were up 3-0 in the series, and up 3-0 in Game 7, I'd say "Fuck you, I'd rather lose in the 1st round or not make the playoffs at all."

Marc Savard had his worst game of his tenure here in Boston. I know he's concussed, but he'd been apparently fine until Friday night. In the 2nd he launched a breakaway shot about 10 feet above the net. This is against a goalie who has shown susceptibility to low goals, particularly in his 5-hole. Savard got a retarded hooking call in the 2nd (his actions were retarded, not the call), he aired on another breakaway shot from the top of the faceoff circle, and he completely failed to even touch the puck in the neutral zone, which allowed Hartnell to take possession, then Hartnell found Briere, and Briere scored his game-tying wraparound goal. At one point in the 3rd, Savard tried a no look pass between his legs. There's a two letter abbreviation for that: GV. It's short for giveaway.

Blake Wheeler was hit and miss. He had some solid plays, but wasn't the force he was in the Buffalo series. Same goes for Sobotka. Sometimes good, sometimes bad.

Lucic and Ryder woke up, especially Lucic. Milan outskated everyone, at least in the 1st period. His game depends entirely on skating. He's not a clever offensive player, nor is he a defensive genius. But he atones for those shortcomings with strength. But that strength is useless if he's not skating hard enough to get in on the play.

Chara gaveaway the puck too much, and wasn't much of a force on offense. He got an assist on the first goal, but that was because his slapshot was saved, then Ryder swatted the rebound in. To be fair, the guy has played about 2,000,000 minutes for the Bruins, plus the Olympics.

Satan gaveaway the puck too. He was to blame for Philly's 1st goal. And offensively, he never did anything of serious note. To be fair to him as well, he's carried the Bruins in this postseason, even though he was an add-on, garbage-heap kind of player, wallowing in the European leagues until the B's snagged him.

Daniel Paille is completely useless on offense. But he's only playing 19 minutes because other forwards are hurt, and because the B's traded Chuck Kobasew. Unfortunately, seemingly half of the Bruins' breakaway opportunities found the stick of Daniel Paille. If this guy were a Mortal Kombat character, his finishing move would be to shoot a puck 10 feet to the side of his opponent.

Briefly looking ahead to 2010-11, what do the Bruins need to do?

#1: Fire Claude Julien and hire anyone else in the Universe to replace him. I nominate Phil Esposito.

#2: Trade Thomas. As much as I love him, there are too many needs elsewhere to absorb his contract as a backup goalie.

#3: Bribe and/or blackmail Andrew Ference so he asks out of his contract.

#4: Re-sign Seidenberg. This team has great defense (Chara, Seidenberg, Boychuk, Hunwick, Wideman, Stuart), let's build around that.

#5: Get a solid, 20 goal type of forward (possibly in the Thomas trade).

#6: Hope the #2 draft-pick is a quick learner.

The Bruins need some ondemand offense. We saw in the last week how an effective counterattack can turn a series in an instant. Right now, the Bruins offense is based on the notion that if you shoot 40 times on a goalie, one or two pucks will randomly go in. When the Bruins get breakaways, it's a guarantee that they won't score. The best finishers on the Bruins are: Recchi, Chara, Boychuk, Krejci, and Savard. Recchi's collecting social security, Chara and Boychuk are D-men, and Krejci and Savard are supposed to be the set-up guys, not the finishers. They're on this short list by default.

The B's didn't skate in the 2nd or 3rd periods. Maybe they got tired and ran out of gas. Maybe they weren't properly motivated. Whatever the case, they lost, Philly won, deservedly so. Let's get a guillotine (spelled correctly on the 1st try), behead Claude Julien, then use his skull to play some pick-up soccer while we enjoy the World Cup.

NHL Draft is June 25th. The Bruins pick 2nd, 15th, 32nd and 45th.

Friday, May 14, 2010


You have to appreciate the zealous enthusiasm Canadiens fans show for their team. But they sometimes go too far beyond sports fandom and it just rubs me the wrong way. It pisses me off. So whoever wins tonight's Game 7, either the Bruins or Flyers, I hope they go on to throttle the Canadiens. I hope that those cheese-eating, wine-swilling sons of surrender monkeys up North get swept and embarrassed. Twatreal fans are a bunch of babies and pussies, just like their teams.

Wednesday, they had 21,000 fans packed into the Bell Centre to watch the Canadiens play in Pittsburgh. That's pretty cool. Then they all took the streets and celebrated. Still fine, but also pushing it a bit. It's the 2nd goddamned round of the playoffs. Then they started rioting, and looting.

Canadiens fans and Quebecois identify with their team as a sort of National Representation. Quebec isn't technically its own country, but its inhabitants (Les Habitants) are kind of like Southerners in the US. They're part of our country, but they're also part of their own sub-country. A nation within a country, like the Welsh in Great Britain, or Bavarians in Germany, Catalan in Spain, and so on. So they feel like the Canadiens represent them as a people. Hence the nickname: Habs (which is also what the descendants of French settlers are called). And that's all well and good. But what do they do to celebrate their Provincial Team's victory, what should be a glorification of French Canada? Attack and steal from the businesses of other French Canadians!

Fuck that shit!

Imagine if USA won the World Cup, and us Americans celebrated by burning the flag.

And then there's how those classy Montreal fans treat our national anthem...

Compared to how we here in Boston treat the Canadian anthem...

Even Philadelphians, who boo everything, don't disrespect their anthem...

All I can really say to these Quebecois cunts is to just get over yourselves. You riot after winning a 2nd round series. You riot after winning a 1st round series in 2008. You wanted to murder Kyle McClaren for what he did to Richard Zednick. I remember Montreal papers fabricating bullshit stories about Zednick being comatose and/or having a broken vertebra after that hit.

And why is it that playoff games played on Canadian ice see about 800% more debris throwing? A bad call goes against the Blackhawks, and people boo. But against the Flames, and beer cups, hot dog wrappers, all sorts of rubbish gets tossed onto the ice.

But most Canadians are tolerable. It's just the French Canadians, specifically the ones that wear a CH on their chest.

So let's say tonight the Flyers are up 4-1 with 2 minutes remaining, I hope the Garden starts chanting "Beat the Habs!" As much as I hate the Flyers, Philadelphia, Philadelphians, really the entire Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; I don't wish them any particular physical harm, just emotional misery. Montreal and their Canadiens, on the other hand... Well, let's just say I would love to see Montreal destroyed by a blizzard, or see the St. Lawrence River flood, then freeze over, encasing all the Qebecois and Habitants in an icy mass grave, sort of like the Egyptians in The Ten Commandments, but colder.


Cleveland was never really in this game. They hung around in the neighborhood for awhile, but slowly slipped away. It's hard to blame LeBron, who scored 27 points, had 19 boards, and 10 assists. If you need a guy to score 40 points per game to win, you just don't have a good team.

And that's what this came down to. The Celtics have a better T-E-A-M, team. The Celtics are like the Beatles, and the Cavs are like the Wings. Sure, Paul McCartney's a genius, and the rest of the Wings were decent, but that's not going to sell 1.2 billion albums for ya. It takes a great team to win a title, and the Cavaliers simply aren't a great team. They have one insanely great player, with decent teammates, but that's insufficient.

I'll admit to being wrong. All season long, I doubted, even mocked those that suggested the Celtics would "turn it on in the playoffs." They've done exactly that, and it's gone very well for them so far.

Back to Game 6, Rondo led the way for the green with 21 points and 12 assists. All series, he's presented a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't proposition for the Cavs. Focus on him, and the Big Three make you pay. Ignore him, and he'll make you pay. Play him tight and he'll pass. Play him loose, and he'll drive to the hole.

KG had 22, Pierce had 13, Perkins had 6. Ray Allen only had 8, and was 0/5 from beyond the arc. But that's the whole point of being a TEAM. Ray Allen had a bad game, offensively, Pierce was so-so, but Rondo and KG made up for it. As did the bench. Sheed had 13 and Tony Allen summoned 10 points of offense. There was no let up for the Cavs.

And now it's Orlando, the team that eliminated the Celtics last year. I remain less than optimistic, but you have to concede that for the C's to advance this far is an achievement of note.

And you know when you drive by some homeless people, and you sort of thank some higher power for all that you have. Well as we pass by Cleveland, let's be thankful for all we have. Even the Bruins. Because to be a Cleveland fan just sucks.

I believe the Eastern Conference Finals start Sunday afternoon.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


One Game 7 was played, another was "created." One half of Pennsylvania rejoiced, another half mourned.

MONTREAL 5, PITTSBURGH 2 (Canadiens win series 4-3)

The 8th seeded Canadiens have proven that the NHL regular season is essentially meaningless. The Habs only won 39 games, and made the playoffs by 1 point over the Rangers. Now they're in the Eastern Conference Finals. They got big games from Jaroslav Halak, Brian Gionta and Mike Cammalleri. Meanwhile, the Penguins got air from Crosby and Malkin. In this series, the Penguins' two All-Stars combined for 2 goals (1 each) and 6 assists.

PHILADELPHIA 2, BOSTON 1 (Series tied 3-3)

The Bruins offense continued to struggle. They scored with 1 minute left, ending a 134 minute goalless drought. But it was too little, too late. In order to win, the Bruins need to have long possessions, grinding out offense, getting rebounds, putting the puck in the crease, hoping good things happen. They've allowed the Flyers to dominate the opening 5-10 minutes of the last 3 games, and that has to stop. Unfortunately for the B's, Claude Julien has never won a Game 7 behind the Bruins bench.


Under Claude Julien, the Bruins are 2-6 in games in which their opponent is facing elimination. Think about that. Against teams that the B's have already beaten 3 times, the B's have only managed to finish them off twice in eight attempts. That's just pathetic.

Once again, the Flyers came out strong and pro-active, while the Bruins were passive and reactive. Philly scored about 7 minutes in when Chara gaveaway the puck on the offensive blue-line. The Flyers rushed, then repeatedly harassed Rask. They got off 4 shots in 13 seconds, with Richards' finally going in.

The Bruins played a better 2nd period, but were still being frustrated on offense. That frustration turned into inexcusable penalties, which turned into a power play goal.

But the problem wasn't allowing goals, it was failing to score them. Michael Leighton will be praised as a hero for his 30 save performance, but the Bruins made it easier on him than that figure suggests. Whitfield had a breakaway and seemingly aimed right at the P on Leighton's sweater. Bergeron had nearly a foot of open, ice-level goal to shoot at, but he hit the post. The B's didn't have enough presence in the crease.

But there were some positives in this game. As technically meaningless as Lucic's goal with 1 minute turned out to be, it did end a few streaks. Until that score, the Flyers had scored 7 straight unanswered goals. Until that score, Leighton had yet to be beat. Until that score, the Bruins had been held goalless for 134 minutes and 12 seconds.

And the manner of the score was just important. Leighton gave up rebounds, and his 5-hole was noticeably vulnerable all game. His legs were as wide open as Nicole Ritchie's in the LA Lakers' locker room. Lucic knocked in his own rebound, between Leighton's legs. Hopefully his teammates were watching.

So now it comes down to Game 7. The fact that there is even going to be a Game 7 is a Bruins failure. But what's important is that they can forget that failure with a win. Lose Game 7, and the stench of that failure will fester in the nostrils of Bruins fans for decades.

Game 7 Friday night.

Photo Credit:
Getty Images

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


The West is all set, and simply waiting for the East's series to conclude.


The Sedins were stifled, Luongo exposed, and the Blackhawks repeated history, defeating the Canucks in 6 games again. Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist, as did Dustin Byfuglien. Sami Salo returned for Vancouver, playing the game with swollen testes after taking one for the team by blocking a shot with his groin. Salo proved that it takes big balls to play Stanley Cup hockey. Unfortunately, it takes goals to win in Stanley Cup hockey. The Sedins failed to come up with many in this series. So Chicago advances to the Conference Finals again, this time against San Jose.

Tonight's games:
7pm: Montreal @ Pittsburgh - Versus (Series tied 3-3)
8pm: Boston @ Philadelphia - Versus/NESN (Bruins lead series 3-2)


The Red Sox improved to 5-0 against the Blue Jays with a nice and tidy 6-1 win last night. Daisuke dazzled with one of his best starts in memory, spinning a 7 inning, 3 hit, 0 walk, 9 strikeout gem. He only threw 106 pitches in those 7 innings, much lower than his usual rate.

As much as I criticize him, Jason Varitek has been carrying the Sox' offense this season. He was 2 for 3 with a homer, his 6th of the season.

The really inspiring news is that JD Drew was somehow able to tough it out and play through his vertigo and play a game of baseball. How many pain-killers did he need? Nobody really knows. He was 2 for 4 and knocked in his 20th run of the season.

Wakefield faces Shaun Marcum this afternoon as the Sox look for the sweep. If they win, they'll surpass the Blue Jays for 3rd. That's hardly a parade worthy achievement, but I'm a firm believer in the Baby Steps philosophy conceived by Dr. Leo Marvin.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo


The Celtics destroyed the Cavaliers last night, 120-88, and the third blowout of this increasingly perplexing series. The Big Three all showed up, and trounced Cleveland's Big One. Bad elbow or not, the Celtics committed regicide on King James, holding him to a mere 15 points. Glen Davis also had 15 points.

Paul Pierce had one of his better games of this postseason, scoring 21 and hauling in 11 rebounds. Ray Allen exploded, shooting 6/9 from beyond the arc, and finishing with 25 points. KG had 18, Rajon had 16, and Perkins (who scored 0 in Game 4), scored 10. The bench contributed 30 points, including Baby's 15.

The game was a demonstration of two relatively incontrovertible axioms:

#1: The Cavs can hardly win without a big game from LeBron James.

#2: The Celtics can hardly lose with big games from their Big Three (really Four).

Both of these truisms were in effect last night. LeBron was quieted, while the multitude of future Hall-of-Famers in green and white had excellent games.

And now the Celtics are on the verge of something amazing. I didn't even think they could keep up with Cleveland in this series, let alone be poised to prevail in 6 games. You have to be proud of this old, sometimes disappointing, occasionally frustrating, melting pot of a team. And you also must admit that when it clicks, it clicks loud and hard.

Memo to LeBron: choking typically occurs around the neck/throat area, not the elbow.

Game 6 Thursday night in Boston.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


The two Eastern Conference finalists could have been determined last night. But they weren't. Neither of them. Although one was close. The other was not.

PHILADELPHIA 4, BOSTON 0 (Bruins lead series 3-2)

The loss of David Krejci, coinciding with the addition of Simon Gagne has flipped the switch and given Philly some momentum. Only twice in NHL history has a team come from 3-0 down to win a series 4-3. But all the Flyers need to do is win 2 more games. The Bruins, on the other hand, look tired, and played without any heart. If they continue to do so, it will be one of their biggest chokes in team history, which is saying something.

MONTREAL 4, PITTSBURGH 3 (Series tied 3-3)
Crosby finally scored in this series. Unfortunately for him and the Penguins, Mike Cammalleri has scored 6 times in this series, including twice last night. Jaroslav Halak stopped 34 shots (M.A. Fleury stopped 21) and pre-rookie (only 2 career NHL games) defenseman P.K. Subban logged 29+ minutes of ice-time. He was +2.

Tonight's game:
9:30pm: Chicago @ Vancouver - Versus (Blackhawks lead series 3-2)


The Sox found a new formula for winning, even better than their "run prevention" mumbo jumbo. Just draw 7 walks, get 6 innings from your starter, some decent bullpen work, and you win.

Jays' starter Brandon Morrow issued 6 free passes in his 1.2 innings of work. He also allowed 6 earned runs. Meanwhile, John Lackey only allowed 3 walks. And while he also surrendered 6 runs, at least it was over 6 innings.

victor Martinez had a 3 RBI night. He's racked up 12 RBI in May so far. While his power and average numbers are still unimpressive, at least he's getting hits with runners on.

JD Drew has officially hit rock bottom. He asked out of the lineup claiming "vertigo."

I usually defend Drew, at least relative to most other fans. But this is too much. Your team is in 4th and needs every hand on deck. He's been hitting well in May (batting .469, OBP of .514, slugging .688). But he's sidelined by vertigo. Vertigo to hell, JD.

Daisuke against Dana Eveland tonight.


You can explain the Bruins' 5-4 OT loss on Friday as a close game won by a desperate Flyers team. I characterized it as a wakeup call. But the Bruins apparently hit the snooze button. They didn't hit much else after that.

Trent Whitfield can teach his teammates something. That's an odd statement, but he was the ONLY Bruin who consistently fought hard, won battles, skated strongly, and didn't fuck up. Dennis Wideman relapsed into regular season mode. Michael Ryder was useless. Blake Wheeler also returned to his regular season form. Shawn Thornton didn't play physical (all he's good for in the playoffs). Boychuk and Chara failed to get a shot on goal. Lucic bungled and bobbled the puck.

I'll give credit to the Flyers for playing relatively mistake free, being physical yet disciplined, and for Ville Laino having the game of his life. But they beat a Bruins team that wasn't motivated, wasn't disciplined, and should be ashamed of themselves, except for Trent Whitfield.

The Bruins allowed 9 power plays. They only managed 23 shots on net. And when Brian Boucher got hurt and career backup Michael Leighton replaced him, the Bruins seemingly avoided shooting the puck. They managed 1 shot on him in his first 6 minutes on the ice. Meanwhile, the Flyers got 31 shots on Rask, but had 21 blocked by the Bruins.

Blocked shots are great, but when you're blocking so many, it's indicative of an opponent being allowed to spend far too much time in your zone.

The Bruins lost battles everywhere. Races for pucks, physical battles for loose pucks, battles for position in the crease. They had occasional stretches of intense play, but these were the exceptions, not the rule.

If the Bruins lose this series, I want Claude Julien fired. And Michael Ryder banished.

Game 6 Wednesday night in Philly.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Monday, May 10, 2010


The 2010 Stanley Cup Finals will not have the Detroit Red Wings in them. But they may still have the Penguins.

PHILADELPHIA 5, BOSTON 4 - OT (Boston leads series 3-1)

The Bruins never did enough to win this game, sort of like how the Flyers played in Games 1 and 2. Philly got Simon Gagne back. He got 7 shots on net, including the last shot of the game. As a Bruins fan, you have to worry. Philly has momentum, and have the ferocious motivation of a team pushed to the brink. Mark Stuart returned for the B's, registering about 10 minutes of ice time and a -2. He simply wasn't up to speed.

PITTSBURGH 2, MONTREAL 1 (Pittsburgh leads series 3-2)

M.A. Fleury stood on his head in this one, stopping 32 shots. Mike Cammileri broke up the shutout with 0:31 left in the 3rd. Kris Letang and Sergei Gonchar scored for Pittsburgh. The good news for Montreal is that Crosby and Malkin haven't really gotten going in this series. The bad news for Montreal is that Crosby and Malkin haven't really gotten going in this series.

SAN JOSE 2, DETROIT 1 (Sharks WIN series 4-1)

Joe Thornton must have been hypnotized to think it was the regular season. He had a goal and an assist in this clinching win. A key to San Jose's success was shutting down Zetterberg, who had 6 goals and 5 assists against Phoenix, but only 1 goal and 3 assists in this series. This matches the farthest San Jose has ever advanced in the playoffs. They lost to the Flames in the '04 Conference Finals. This is the earlies Detroit has been eliminated since 2006.

VANCOUVER 4, CHICAGO 1 (Blackhawks lead series 3-2)

Unlikely hero Kevin Bieksa scored twice and had an assist. He had 3 goals all season for the Canucks, Roberto Luongo stopped 29 of 30 shots. But Vancouver still needs more production out of their forwards, particularly the Sedins. Daniel has 1 goal and 2 assists in this series, Henrik has done better with 2 goals, and 4 assists.

Tonight's games:
7pm: Philadelphia @ Boston - NESN (Bruins lead series 3-1)
7pm: Pittsburgh @ Montreal - Versus (Penguins lead series 3-2)


After a 4 game sweep over the lowly Angels, reality returned to Boston in the form of the New York Yankees. And while some of the few remaining uber-optimists out there might gleam a slice of hope from Sunday's 9-3 win, the fact remains that the Red Sox simply aren't in the Yankees league this season.

The Sox are now 1-8 against the Yankees and Rays. And it's not as if many of these games have been close. And it's not as if the Sox are just one or two adjustments away from being on par with the clubs in New York and St. Petersburg.

Josh Beckett has lousy Aprils. I gave him a pass, but it was only good for one month. It's now well into May, and his 7.46 ERA sounds more like a type of Boeing jet than that of a $17 million/year pitcher.

Then there's all that run prevention. Adrian Beltre is hitting (2/4 with 2 doubles and 2 RBI Sunday night), but he's not fielding. Only the Pirates and Diamondbacks have allowed more runs this season than the Red Sox.

And for every flash of brilliance David Ortiz shows, there's a long pause of darkness and disappointment. He's like Haley's Comet, putting on a great show once and awhile, but for the most part, he doesn't show up. While had had a ground-rule RBI double last night, he's still below the Mendoza Line.

The good news is that Jon Lester has settled down from a struggling start. He's only allowed 3 earned runs in his last 4 starts (27.2 innings, 0.98 ERA), and his last 3 outings have been Quality Starts.

The Sox have a rough stretch ahead of them: 16 straight against teams with winning records, 11 of those on the road, 8 against division leaders, 2 against the Yanks, 3 with the Rays, 2 with the Twins, and 3 in Philly.

Sox host the Jays tonight at 7 on NESN+. Lackey vs. Brandon Morrow, who scored 20 goals for the Dallas Stars this season.

Photo Credit:
Getty Images