Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Surreal (adjective): Having the disorienting, hallucinatory quality of a dream; unreal; fantastic.

When the puck grazed against the blade of Nathan Horton's stick, and softly slid into the net, all the theories, all the "what-ifs" came into focus as reality. What I mean is, after years of wondering what it would be like to watch the Bruins in the Stanley Cup Finals, it's all become real. And the reality of it is so surreal.

Up until that goal, my nerves were frayed and tattered. There seemed to be some invisible force working against the Bruins. Brad Marchand came within millimeters here and there of a hat-trick in the 3rd period. The Bruins were playing the better game, but pucks weren't going in. They weren't even getting to the net.

Then the puck went in. It wasn't a magnificent play. It was just smart. Smart entry by the Bruins against Tampa's 1-3-1. Ference waited until he was close to center-ice and challenged by Tampa's frontman in the 1-3-1. Both Krejci and Horton were on the far-side boards. This was a 2-on-1 for the Bruins caused by the shape Tampa's formation. Two men attacking the area guarded by one. Krejci entered the zone with the puck, and was engaged by the final man or "strong safety" of the 1-3-1. As Krejci carried straight toward the corner, Horton cut inward to the net. Through the slimmest of lanes, Krejci passed to Horton.

It wasn't ingenious. It wasn't that tricky. It was smart. It was executed well. And it took advantage of minor mistakes made by Tampa's defenders. Horton was allowed to get position, Krejci was allowed entry without any harassment. In short, the Bruins couldn't have done better on the play, the Lightning could have done slightly better. And that's hockey. The difference between two teams in a 7 game series can be the fraction of a second that Krejci's pass window was open.

And for the next 7 and a half minutes, I was supremely confident. The game was over. If I were Red Auerbach, I would've lit a cigar. I was more confident in that 1-0 lead than I've ever been with any 3 goal lead the Bruins have ever had. After going up, they played even better. They kept attacking, kept fore-checking. They valued possession of the puck, made Tampa Bay fight to win it back, made the Lightning carry it 200 feet each time. It was a thing of beauty.

None of the Bruins had amazing individual nights. And that's why I enjoyed their effort so much. Thomas didn't have to stand on his head. Chara didn't have to throw people around all night. Seguin didn't need to break anyone's ankles. Everyone did their job. Everyone played well. Horton wound up with the goal, Krejci and Ference with the assists, and Thomas with a shutout, but no superhuman individual feats were necessary to win. The whole team showed up, guys like Peverley, Ference, and McQuaid were just as important as Krejci, Chara, and Seidenberg.

And it was also nice that the refs didn't call any penalties. Keeping the game 5-on-5 was a huge edge for the Bruins.

And now, for the 18th time, the Bruins are in the Stanley Cup finals. It's surreal how real this dream feels.

Game 1 Wednesday night in Vancouver.

Photo Credits:
AP Photo

Thursday, May 26, 2011


So many playoff games seem "stolen." Games are so closely fought, every inch contested. The smallest edge can be the difference in a shift, a period, a game, and ultimately a series. Tim Thomas' goaltending stole Game 5 for the Bruins. Tampa Bay's special teams "stole" Game 6.

The Bruins' struggles on the Power Play had been tolerable before last night. Because they don't need their Power Play to win. And while the B's weren't scoring with a man advantage, neither were the Lightning. Tampa Bay entered Game 6 with a Power Play that was 2 for 18. That changed last night. The Lightning were 3/4 with their Power Play.

Give credit to the Lightning for having excellent special teams. Give credit to the ref for that interference call on Peverley, which was a play I've seen go uncalled several hundred times this postseason. Give credit to some poor Penalty Killing before Teddy Purcell's goal, as all 4 Bruins committed to a battle below the goal-line.

I do like how the Bruins played in the 3rd period. They were frenzied. If not for that late breakaway goal (which was partially Boychuk's fault as he made an unwise pinch), the game goes to OT. Krejci wound up with a hat-trick, the first playoff hat-trick for a Bruin since Neely did it in '91. And the 3rd period reminded Dwayne Roloson that the Bruins have his number.

One silver-lining to this game is that the Bruins were nowhere near at their best, yet they were only a few plays away from winning. They didn't value the puck, they didn't make plays, they committed some silly penalties, like Ference's cross-check on Stamkos. But they were still close to victory.

Why is it that Michael Ryder's quality of play deteriorates, and Tyler Seguin pays for it by seeing his ice-time curtailed (fancy word for reduced)? Why is it that Kaberle continues to get so much ice-time, especially on the Power Play? Maybe he's the problem with that unit. The Power Play has been awful since he was acquired. Yet we see him out there every time.

Kaberle truly is a Toronto Maple Leaf. He's a moderately talented guy that disappoints when it matters. He's a regular season player whose reputation far outweighs his actual worth. I'm tempted to kidnap him for Game 7, Celtic Price style, just to ensure that Julien can't play him for 19:46 like he did last night.

Game 7 is Friday night. The Bruins need every player to bring their absolute best game. Ryder needs to stop trying to handle the puck through 4 guys. Recchi needs to contribute. Kaberle needs to get kidnapped. To be honest, this is the Bruins' game to lose. Would you rather have Tim Thomas or Dwayne Roloson start between the pipes in Game 7? Would you rather have Chara-Seidenberg or Hedman-Brewer? Would you rather be the best 5-on-5 or on special teams?

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Where would the Bruins be without Tim Thomas? He's not a nominee for the Hart Trophy (MVP). There's that whole "goalies have their own trophy" stigma. Yet without him, the Bruins aren't up 3-2 over Tampa Bay. They don't sweep Philly. And they don't even get past Montreal. They might sneak into the playoffs somehow, but only if they're lucky. He's carried the Bruins on his 37 year old back.

His save on Downie was...

No words to describe it... poetry. They should have sent a poet.

Actually, I'll describe it a bit. His balance is unreal. Wherever he throws his body, his center of balance remains constant. This allows him to flail his stick out, and not only stop the puck, but to have enough leverage to slap it away. If you want to design a 4x4 vehicle, design a chassis based on Tim Thomas.

The Bruins didn't win a beauty pageant last night. They won a playoff hockey game. It was ugly. The B's didn't make many plays. But they didn't screw up. Krejci once again got caught messing around near the blue-line, but it was a forced turnover that resulted in Tampa's goal-scoring breakaway, not an unforced giveaway.

Much later, two perfect passes from Milan Lucic and Patrice Bergeron found Nathan Horton and Brad Marchand. The goals looked so pretty. Which was ironic considering how much the Bruins had been struggling to make even the simplest of plays.

Seeing Marchand score reminded me of how important Patrice Bergeron has been this postseason. When he went down, we all knew that the Penalty Kill would suffer, that the best defensive forward was out, but I was also worried about Marchand. They just click together. Bergeron's play allows Marchand to play like himself. Marchand never has to help out Bergeron or Recchi. He can just focus on playing his game.

The Power Play is still like watching a pee-wee game. Though, I'm glad they're trying new stuff, like playing Chara down low. I remember the Flyers putting Chris Pronger in the crease in a 5-on-3 situation last series, and if the B's didn't have Chara to defend against him, the Flyers probably would have produced. The Lightning, however, don't have anyone who can withstand Zdeno Chara. So keep him down low, or maybe even roaming from half-wall to half-wall as the 3rd forward.

But so long as the Penalty Kill continues to excel (now 16 of 18 in the series), the special teams battle remains in the Bruins' favor. The B's don't need PP goals. The Lightning thrive on them. The Bruins killed 4 penalties, and although that wasn't what won the game for the Bruins, it's what DIDN'T win the game for the Lightning.

The Bruins Power Play might be frustrating, but the B's can win without it. The Lightning are incapable of winning without theirs.

Game 6, Wednesday night in Florida. I have goosebumps.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Monday, May 23, 2011


It's a game of mistakes. Tomas Kaberle is a 6' 1" 198 pound mistake. I don't know much about the Czech language, but I'm pretty sure that their word for mistake is "Kaberle." And at this point, it might be a mistake to even dress him for Game 5.

But Kaberle wasn't alone in the mistake department. Tim Thomas, Milan Lucic, David Krejci, and Michael Ryder joined him.

Every goal, except maybe Tampa Bay's empty-netter, in this game was the result of a mistake. Victor Hedman forgets that Patrice Bergeron is on the ice, and it's 1-0 Bruins. Chris Kelly forces a Neutral Zone turnover, Michael Ryder knocks a puck toward goal, it deflects off a Tampa stick and it's 2-0. Then shorthanded, Stamkos gives up the puck to Bergeron, and he scores a soft shortie that forces Roloson out of the game.

Just a sidenote on Victor Hedman: He's looked awful in this series and the Bruins should attack him like his name were Wideman. The NBC announcers were talking him up, saying that he'd gained a "reputation" for "playing well in big games." The kid's 20 years old, and this is his first tour in the playoffs. Reputations have to be earned with a little more than that. Moreover, he doesn't deserve those digits. #77 belongs to defensemen who don't make game-changing mistakes and aren't liabilities, son.

So the Bruins were up 3-0 despite not looking that good on offense. If they just played the same quality of defense, and took care of the puck like they did in Game 3, then it was in the bag.

But the 2nd period was a thorough demonstration of the Bruins' shortcomings in the 2010-11 season. The Power Play failed utterly. The Bruins look better 5-on-5 than they do 5-on-4. And I think it's because even when it's 5-on-4, the Lightning are the superior open ice team. On the Power Play, the Bruins got away from the boards, and consequently didn't even put pressure on the Lightning.

Just one Bruins Power Play goal makes it a 4-0 game and drains all of Tampa's energy.

Then the mistakes came. Tim Thomas started the festivities when he hesitated with the puck behind the net. A bit of miscommunication with Chara, then suddenly two Lightning were upon him, and Teddy Purcell scored. Blame Thomas for that one.

Then Michael Ryder got a little bit zealous in the Neutral Zone. He dove for a puck that was well beyond his reach. The result was a Tampa Bay 3-on-2. My complaint with Ryder's play is that he risked too much for such a minuscule reward. He risked a 3-on-2 breakaway (against a team built for 3-on-2 breakaways), in order to gain maybe a few seconds of Offensive Zone time, maybe a token shot, and a 1 in 100 chance of a goal.

The Bruins defended the 3-on-2 well, but had to collapse to their net to do so. Even Seguin blocked a shot next to the post. This opened up space and allowed Purcell enough room to adjust his shooting angle ever so slightly, and beat Thomas to the high side.

The third Tampa Bay goal was truly a Bruins team effort from a pair of countrymen. It started with David Krejci, who carried the puck into the Offensive Zone. He was surrounded against the boards by a pair of Lightning. Then he decided that since he was in danger, the best thing to do was to take the puck to an even more dangerous location. He moved back to the blue-line, then tried a pass. The pass was intercepted, with tragic results.

The impact of a giveaway depends on where it happens on the ice. Give the puck away behind the opponent's net, and not much bad can directly occur from that turnover. But give it away on your offensive blue-line, and much pain will follow. Because not only is it a dangerous location, not only are your defensemen thinking offense (or changing out), but you're giving the puck to the opponents' forwards.

So Krejci's little expedition back to the blue-line was absolutely moronic. And for someone renowned for his puckhandling, his "Hockey IQ," his and awareness, it was inexcusable.

Tomas Kaberle made sure that Krejci paid for his mistake. Sean Bergenheim completely bitched Kaberle behind the net. Bergenheim is about the same size as Kaberle, but Kaberle was in far better position to at least move the puck away. Still, Kaberle was manhandled by a man his own size. David Krejci offered little support. Then Bergenheim beat Thomas.

Tampa's winning goal came when Lucic inexplicably passed the puck to center ice in the Neutral Zone when he had an open lane of ice in front of him. It was intercepted by Ryan Malone, who passed it to Gagne, who scored.

The whole game was mistakes, miscues, errors, and brain farts. The Bruins were given a gift of 3 goals, then decided to re-gift the same to the Lightning. But that wasn't enough, so they gave Tampa one more.

The whole idea of zonal play for which I applauded the Bruins in Game 3, really melted down on Saturday. In the Neutral Zone, Ryder made a play suited for the Offensive Zone. The Bruins didn't make plays out of their Defensive Zone. They were careless in the Neutral Zone. And they didn't get the puck deep into the Offensive Zone.

Oh, and thank goodness Julien didn't waste his timeout in the 2nd, when Tampa scored twice in two minutes. It's a good thing Julien got to use it when... Well he didn't use it, but at least he can save it for Game 4... Well, he can't.

The series is 2-2 coming back to Boston. But I feel as though the Bruins gave Tampa a win in Game 4. This could/should be a 3-1 series if not for unforced errors.

Game 5 tonight in Boston.

Photo Credits:
AP Photo

Friday, May 20, 2011


In Game 2, the Bruins beat the Lightning at their own game. It was wide open, up and down, fast-paced hockey played in the middle areas of the ice. Game 3 was played against the boards. It was played from zone to zone, a little slower, a lot tougher. This is the type of game the Bruins are built to win. Game 2 was a toss-up, even a loss, if not for Seguin. But last night's game had a black and gold stamp all over it.

The B's played their game well in all three zones. They cycled the puck in the offensive zone, didn't take shots unless they had a shooting lane (the Lightning only blocked 9 shots). They were patient. They kept the puck near the boards where they'd have the advantage. So even when Tampa won the puck back, they had to expend all their energy just to get it. Most importantly, the B's extended their posessions.

A defensive miscue resulted in Krejci's goal in the 1st. Victor Hedman got a bit too eager to help his teammate against Lucic. Krejci wisely stayed in the slot and collected the easy goal. It was also a hyper-aware pass from Lucic.

The second goal was thanks to guys like Kelly and Seguin keeping the puck from squirting out of the zone. Ference got the goal, but it was a team effort by all 5 skaters on the ice.

In the neutral zone, they slowed Tampa down just enough to prevent breakaways from turning deadly. What really helped was not turning the puck over in dangerous spots. The Bruins got the puck in deep to the offensive zone, and even when Tampa collected it, the B's were able to fill the neutral zone with bodies to slow down the Lightning just enough.

And the Bruins controlled the defensive zone. Thomas didn't have to face many second chance shots because defensemen pounced on loose pucks. There were some heart-pounding moments, but considering how good Tampa is, the Bruins did one hell of a good job in their own zone.

The return of Bergeron was huge. He won over 64% of his faceoffs, which mostly came against faceoff expert Lecavalier. And he was his excellent defensive self. He didn't look or play any differently.

Ference and Boychuk continue to play well, supporting Chara and Seidenberg very nicely. The first line is clicking. Krejci's goal was his 4th game-winner of the playoffs, tying Cam Neely's Bruins' playoff record. Seguin didn't have breakaway chances, but he did the little things. His assist on Ference's goal was simple fundamental hockey: keeping a play alive in the offensive zone, continuing the cycle.

The Power Play struggled with entry. And the Bruins were offsides too often. That's about all there is to gripe about from this game. All and all, it played out exactly as you'd draw it up.

Game 3 Saturday afternoon on NBC.

PS: What is up with Guy Boucher's scar? I did some legitimate research and couldn't find an answer. Boucher says it's not hockey related, but also said he hasn't even told his family where it's from. I don't like to make fun of people for scars and/or deformities, but when they keep the mystery alive by being all shifty about it, it peaks my curiosity. My guess is that it was a second mouth that's been sewn shut.

Photo Credits:
AP Photo

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Have you caught your breath yet? The Bruins' 6-5 victory over Tampa had enough action to fill two games, with enough left over to start a third. So many big goals, big saves, big hits. And a little bit of luck for the Lightning. They got some favorable bounces, maybe even a few favorable calls and non-calls that helped keep them in this game. But also give credit to them for taking advantage of such opportunities.

Tyler Seguin is an assassin; an errand boy sent by grocery clerks. To collect a bill. He finally got a chance to play, and play with some skilled players. And it worked out. His speed, his skills, his shot. He's only 19, but he's the fastest skater and best shooter on the Bruins. He is simply a stud. Thank you, Mr. Kessel, wherever you are.

He was assisted by Michael Ryder, and he also assisted Ryder. Ryder was excellent in all three zones. His defensive play was actually better than his offensive play, even though he scored twice with an assist. I've never doubted Ryder's skill or his potential. It's just the inconsistent application of that skill. When he's motivated and focused, he's a top-flight player in this League. He just needs to maintain that effort and focus for an extended period of time.

David Krejci had one of his best games in a Bruins uniform last night. The stat-line shows that he scored and was -1. But he played over 24 minutes. And he played 24 tough minutes. He was called on to replace Bergeron on the Penalty Kill, and he did a good job of it. No other Bruins forward came close to him in ice-time (Lucic had just under 21 minutes, Horton was under 19, then Kelly had 16:28).

Lucic and Horton were keys to turning the Power Play around. Their net-front presence disrupted Roloson enough to allow that first PP goal. And of course Horton had a 3 point night.

Even though he allowed 5 goals, Tim Thomas had a good game. He allowed one or two softies, most notably a big 5 hole goal in the 2nd period. But he also stoned many Tampa Bay breakaways.

Tampa's first two goals came thanks to funny bounces. One off the boards, one off Boychuk. Tampa also scored a goal that rebounded off Timmy's face, which is why his sweater and face had blood stains on them for the remainder of the game.

I don't know the NHL's review rules by heart. But I do know that there are several things that can be reviewed "in theory." For instance, in review, a play can be deemed dead before a whistle was blown, if the reviewer deems that the referee "intended" to blow the whistle before it was blown. Also, goals can be allowed even if the goal slips off its pegs, if it's deemed that the puck would have gone in anyway, and the goal was dislodged by a defending player.

Typically, refs blow the whistle when a goalie's helmet comes off. And while the ref may have missed Thomas' helmet being removed, the replays showed that he was without a mask when the puck went in (after ricocheting off his face). Then again, I can't find any rule stipulating that a whistle should be blown if a goalie's mask comes off. Maybe there should be one as the unwritten rule has been enforced for some time.

The Bruins still struggled with neutral zone giveaways, although nothing on the level of Kaberle's in Game 1. Mark Recchi, of all people, seemed to be unable to get the puck deep into the Tampa Bay zone.

But the Bruins showed discipline in the post-whistle scrums. And I actually think they were unfairly penalized more than once when they held their temper. Ference, for instance, sprayed Roloson with some snow (which I've seen countless forwards do countless times in the playoffs), then he gets decked to the ice, but somehow winds up with a matching minor. Steve Downie blatantly antagonized Chara. Chara kept his hands down, until Downie face-washed him and Chara returned the favor. And to be frank, the fact that Downie survived the confrontation is evidence that Chara didn't intend any significant harm. But again, there were matching minors.

The Bruins did take some stupid penalties. Horton took an interference, and an elbowing call, that were both unnecessary. The B's are up against the best Power Play left in the playoffs. They don't need to be doing Tampa any favors.

One thing that helps is the penalty killing of guys like Daniel Paille. Paille only played 8 minutes, and 2:37 shorthanded. But what a 2:37 they were. His PK forecheck in the 1st was highlight reel material for true fans of the game. One man tying up a stellar Power Play for about 25 seconds. Contributions like that can be the difference between winning and losing.

Game 3 is Thursday night, and I can't wait. We saw the Lightning get a little flustered at times last night. We saw the Bruins pin them and the puck to the boards for extended stretches. The best way to stop open ice breakouts is to keep the puck and the opponent up against the boards. We also saw the emergence of Tyler Seguin as a weapon.

Photo Credits:
AP Photo

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


The Celtics are out. But you still want a reason to go out drinking on a Tuesday night and celebrate with your fellow Bostonians. And in a surreal twist of fate, you're watching Boston Bruins games. Because the Bruins are, at the moment, the best sports team in New England.

I'm not going to judge you for being a bandwagoner. Bandwagoners are byproducts of success. I remember once in 2005 I was mocking a friend of mine because she had a turquoise Sox hat and didn't know who Mark Bellhorn was. Then she made the very poignant argument, that why should I care what "grade" of fan other people were. She argued that the team winning should be more important to me. Since then, I don't really care who's a bandwagoner, who's a frontrunner, who's a fair-weathered fan, who's a die-hard, et cetera.

But here's a basic guide to hockey for you newer fans. It's a complex game, and I won't bother to explain the intricate nuances. This is strictly a 100 level course so you don't get too lost.

1. Zones
The ice is divided by blue lines into three zones (ignore that red line at the middle, it's meaningless). The offensive zone, the neutral zone, the defensive zone. The offensive zone is where your team shoots. The defensive zone is where the opponent shoots. The neutral zone is between the blue-lines.

2. Offsides:
The puck has to be the first thing into the offensive zone. Offensive players can't beat the puck over that big blue line. If they do, there's a whistle, then a faceoff outside the zone.

3. Icing:
You can't just slap the puck out of your defensive zone and all the way up the ice. Doing so results in a faceoff back in the defensive zone, and you can't change your players. Sometimes, icing is waved off. It's too complicated to explain why and when that happens.

4. Penalties:
When someone commits a penalty, they have to go into the penalty box, and their team can't replace them on the ice. So one team will have 5 skaters against another team's 4. It's called a Power Play, and it's an excellent opportunity to score. The more common penalties you'll see:

High-sticking: One player's stick accidentally or intentionally hits an opponent high in the head/shoulder area.

Interference: Hitting someone who doesn't have the puck.

Hooking: Using the stick to hook an opponent, usually in the mid-section.

Tripping: Using the stick to trip an opponent.

Slashing: Using the stick to... you know.

Holding: Using hand(s) to impede the progress of an opponent.

Roughing: Difficult to define. Any physical play that's beyond the normal pushing and shoving.

Fighting: Usually doesn't result in a Power Play because it does indeed take two to tango and each team's player will receive a penalty. Fights are rare in playoff hockey, but they do happen, and they're tolerated, but still penalized.

5. Following the Puck:
New fans often find it difficult to follow the puck. Especially if they've been drinking and/or take their eyes off the screen for a moment. Don't worry. Most of the action occurs away from the puck, and the best plays happen so fast that you need slow motion replays to see what really happens anyway. So don't get too overly focused on the puck, and don't worry about losing it.

6. Who is on the Ice?
Changing players on the fly is integral to hockey's constant speed. But it also means that casual fans drinking beers and munching on a basket of wings have no idea who is on the ice or when. So listen to the play-by-play guys to figure that out. Remember that the defensemen hang out by the blue-line on offense, the forwards move around the net. On defense, the defensemen hover around the net, the forwards skate around near the blue-line. That's all you need to know. And that very large man with a #33 on his back is Zdeno Chara. You'll always be able to recognize him.

7. What's the "C" and "A" mean?
"C" stands for Captain. You should know that from your pinkhat love of Jason Varitek. "A" stands for Alternate Captain. There is one C and two A's on each team. They're the only players allowed to discuss things with the refs.

8. Why the Beards?
It's sort of a playoff tradition/superstition for players to let their beards grow out. I don't know what female hockey players stop shaving during big tournaments. Nor do I care to find out.

9. Goals, Assists, Points
Obviously you know what a goal is. Assists are given to the last two teammates to touch the puck before the goal-scorer (unless one of them is the goal-scorer himself). Points are just a player's goals, plus their assists. Always call a goal a goal. It's not a point.

10. Plus/Minus
The +/- stat keeps track of how well a team does while a certain player is on the ice. If a player is on the ice when his team scores, his plus/minus goes up 1. If he's on the ice when the opponent scores, it goes down 1. The scoring or allowing of Power Play goals do not affect this stat. All you need to know is that a positive "plus/minus" is indicative of good overall play. Example: Dennis Seidenberg finished the Philadelphia series +10.

Just a few quick notes on some Bruins players that you can drop at the bar and sound like a knowledgeable fan.

Tim Thomas: Spent a significant amount of his early career playing in Finland, winning awards for best goalie in 1998, and best player in 2005. He'll likely win the Vezina this year, which is given to the best goalie. He won the Vezina two years ago.

Zdeno Chara: Tallest player in NHL history at 6' 9"

Daniel Paille: Failed to make the starting lineup for most of the season. Now part of the 4th line, and an important penalty killer (he's on the ice when the opponent has a Power Play).

Dennis Seidenberg: Born in Schwenningen, Germany. One of 8 German born players in the NHL.

Shawn Thornton: Scored a career high 10 goals this year. Thornton, along with teammate Gregory Campbell, is one of only 6 NHL players to score 10+ times and fight 10+ times this season.

Mark Recchi: 43 years old, 1,652 NHL games, plus 175 playoff games. Won the Cup in '91 and 2006. 19th all-time with 577 goals, 13th all-time with 956 assists. You just need to remember that he's old, he's played a lot of hockey, he's scored a lot of goals. The Bruins acquired him via trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Nathan Horton and Brad Marchand: This is their first time playing playoff hockey. They've done well for themselves, each scoring 5 times in the playoffs.

You don't want to sound like a jackass by mispronouncing the names of the players. So here's some phonetic assistance with the tougher ones.

Patrice Bergeron: Pat-reese Burj-ur-awn

David Krejci: David Kray-chee

Rich Peverley: Rich Pev-er-lee (it's not a French name)

Tyler Seguin: Tyler Sayg-in (hard G)

Milan Lucic: Mee-lawn Looch-eech

Brad Marchand: Brad March-and (like the month)

Daniel Paille: Dan-yell Pie-yay

Mark Recchi: Marck Reck-ee

Johnny Boychuk: Johnny Boy-chuck

Zdeno Chara: Zuh-day-no Char-ah

Andrew Ference: Andrew Fair-ence (rhymes with fence)

Shane Hnidy: Shane Nie-dee (ignore the H)

Tomas Kaberle: Toe-mah-ss Cab-er-lay

Steve Kampfer: Steve Camp-fur

Dennis Seidenberg: Dennis Side-in-berg

Tuuka Rask: Too-kah Rask (sounds like rash)

Claude Julien: Klo-d (rhymes with road) Jewl-ee-en

Monday, May 16, 2011


It's May 16th. And even though the weather's a bit raw, the baseball season is well under way. Summer is approaching. And for the first time all year, the Red Sox are .500.

Remember a few weeks ago, when we were all talking about 100 regular season wins? And now we're skipping in the streets about having as many wins as losses.

It seems kind of silly. Then again, sweeping the Yankees in the Bronx in order to reach this plateau makes it extra special. And the Yankees are only 2 games above .500. As much as the Sox have struggled, they're only 3 games behind the Rays. With 122 games left to play.

Pitching has propelled the Sox to .500. But hitting provided the final ounce of propulsion. They've finally started to hit with runners in scoring position, kind of, and finally started hitting homeruns. Youkilis' 3 run homer in the 3rd was vital to the Sox' effort last night. Ortiz's and Salty's provided the necessary insurance to win.

To be blunt, the Yankees simply aren't that impressive. They've got plenty of names that were intimidating in the late 1990s, but now are just prima donna headcases that seem to distract more than contribute. And how much money is Jeter going to get to hit .260? It's not as if he was underpaid before this season, either. What an overrated, greedy bucket of garbage.

The Sox have finally cracked .500. They'll start a homestand that might be impeded by this unseasonable rain, though. Matsuzaka faces Chris Tillman of the O's tonight, weather permitting.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo


The 5-2 score is a bit misleading. The game was closer than that. Although, if not for Tim Thomas, the Lightning would have scored 7 or 8 times. What I'm saying is that the Lightning outplayed the Bruins, Thomas kept them in the game, but foolish blunders took the B's right out of it.

This was a lot like the mistake-ridden start of the Montreal series. Tampa scored their first goal when Seidenberg lost his stick. Neither of the two Bruin forwards in the area (Ryder and Peverley) lent him theirs. And though Seidenberg is a lefty, and both forwards are righties, a defensemen without a stick is pretty useless. Then again, Seidenberg didn't seem to yell or gesture to Ryder or Peverley. None of the Bruins on the ice pointed out that the guy covering the crease had nothing to cover the crease with. The puck found Seidenberg, he tried to kick it out of danger, it went straight to Sean Bergenheim, who had a stick, and it was 1-0 Lightning.

The second Tampa Bay goal saw Michael Ryder utterly fail in neutral zone coverage. There was no effort on his part to play the man or the puck, and Brett Clark leisurely skated past him. The goal itself was a soft one for Thomas to allow, but Clark should have never penetrated the zone with such ease.

The third was the ugliest. An unforgivable giveaway by Kaberle just behind the net. The guy was acquired for his puck-handling skills, and he messes up a dribble right next to the goal. The play surprised Thomas, but not Teddy Purcell, who tapped in the gift goal. 3-0 in an 85 second span.

Seguin gave the Bruins hope with a magnificent breakaway goal toward the end of the period. Despite this, we didn't see much more of Seguin. He only got 9:38 on the ice. Shawn Thornton, for comparison, got 8:29. Seguin scores, yet Michael Ryder, whose lack of effort helped Tampa score, gets 11:55 on the ice. Not only that, Ryder got 4:55 of Power Play ice time. Tyler Seguin got 0:00.

But I guess when you're PP unit is 2 for 41, you don't mess with a good thing.

I understand the philosophy that's kept Seguin on the bench and scratched this season. You have to earn your time on the ice. And that's sensible. But what has Michael Ryder done to earn his ice time? His effort has been intermittent for the last 2 years. But Julien loves him. Why is it okay for Ryder to fail for weeks even months on end, and yet Seguin doesn't get a chance to play one shift on the Power Play?

And look at what Ryder's done this postseason. He had one great night in Montreal with 2 goals and an assist. But in 12 playoff games, he's totalled 2 goals and 4 assists. He gets nearly 5 minutes of Power Play time, Seguin gets 0 seconds.

The Power Play unit continues to fail. They struggle to get the puck into the zone. Once in, they struggle to keep it in. Once they keep it in, they struggle to generate good scoring opportunities. It's a complete and comprehensive set of problems.

The Bruins had three Power Plays in the 2nd period, when it was a 3-1 game. Scoring in one of them would have completely redirected the course of the game. By the third PP chance, they were doing well, and finally someone had an excellent scoring opportunity. Unfortunately, it was Kaberle, who has never been known as a shooter. He's a passer, a "puck mover," which is a euphemism (nice way of saying) for someone who plays bad defense and can't shoot.

The Lightning's fourth and fatal goal came in the 3rd, after Boychuk took a stupid penalty. He'd just leveled Simon Gagne with a clean hit. Lecavalier came over to give Boychuk the business, and Boychuk punched him. In the playoffs, you don't bring a fist to a shoving match unless you want to end up in the box. Lecavalier's been around for awhile and was smart enough not to punch back.

I have no problem with Boychuk shoving Lecavalier around. But don't punch him. It's going to get penalized. Then you have to hope the other guy is dumb enough to punch back. Lecavalier is an 11 year veteran with over 50 career playoff games under his belt and his name on the Stanley Cup. He's not going to do Boychuk any favors.

On the resultant Power Play, the Lightning scored, and the game was over. It's a shame because the Bruins had been surging nicely up until the penalty. Boychuk killed all their momentum, and handed Tampa Bay the dagger with which they finally killed the Bruins.

The Bruins didn't do much well in this game. Thomas was their best player, despite the 4 goals he allowed. He kept them in it, though.

The Bruins attempted over 60 shots, but only 33 got to the goal. 17 were blocked, the rest missed the target. Roloson was never tested, and probably never broke a sweat. No traffic in front of him, nobody made him move side-to-side, no rebound opportunities.

Give credit to the Lightning. They're good. They're fast. They can score. It's a simple, yet effective formula. In my preview of this series, I said that the Bruins had to limit turnovers, and not take stupid penalties. Saturday night, they turned the puck over (in extremely dangerous places), and took stupid penalties. They dug themselves a big hole then had to fight uphill all night.

Against Montreal, the Bruins were able to screw around for 2 games, recover, and win the series. Tampa Bay isn't going to give them the same opportunity. The Bruins need to get their act together NOW.

Game 2 Tuesday night in the Garden.

Photo Credits:
AP Photo

Friday, May 13, 2011


These teams both swept their Conference Semifinal series. They both needed 7 games to win their Conference Quarterfinal series. They're an interesting matchup. The best goalie, some of the best defensemen, against a collection of highly skilled forwards.

The Lightning are like the Canadiens, only better. Whereas the Habs were fast, the Lightning are fast AND highly skilled. Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos were each in the top 5 in points this year, with 99 and 91, respectively. They get additional production from the likes of Lecavalier, Ryan Malone, Simon Gagne, and 3rd line winger Sean Bergenheim, who's scored 7 goals this postseason.

Tampa Bay's Power Play is 11 for 45 (24.4%) in the postseason. And their Penalty Kill is 51 for 54 (94.4%). That's the biggest reason they've gotten this far. And in order to stop the Lightning, you have to reckon with their Power Play.

The Canadiens were troublesome to the Bruins. It was a close, 7 game series, with 3 overtimes. Just one unfortunate bounce of the puck, and the B's would have been eliminated. And now the Bruins are facing a team that's similar to Montreal's style, but much more talented.

Fortunately, the Lightning struggled with the Penguins. Who are like a slightly less talented version of the Bruins. The Penguins are physical, but don't have the potential to score like the Bruins do. They also don't have Tim Thomas. Don't get me wrong, Marc Andre-Fleury is one of the best playoff goalies in the business, but he has a tendency to utterly suck at least one game in a series. In a pivotal Game 5, Fleury allowed 4 goals in 25 minutes. The Lightning won 8-2 and never looked back.

With Thomas, that's not much of a likelihood. And he's capable of winning a game all by himself, as we saw in the Flyers series.

For the Bruins to win, they need to play physical and value possession of the puck. I'd rather see a 30 second possession in the offensive zone that results in 0 shots as opposed to a 5 second possession that results in 1 token shot from the blue-line.

The Lightning can roll two very talented lines, so Chara and Seidenberg will be worked hard. Guys like Boychuk and Ference have to step up on the defensive front. And they can't make mistakes. Turnovers will result in goals.

No stupid penalties. And the Power Play has to at least make the Lightning work hard for 2 minutes.

Without Bergeron, the Bruins need everyone else to step up. Krejci looked great against Philadelphia. Lucic finally scored. Marchand and Horton need to continue their good work. Ryder has to be more consistent. We'll see what Seguin can do. It would have been nice if he had more ice time this year, even in the AHL. But we've seen playoff newbies like Marchand thrive, why not Seguin?

I think Thomas steals a game, the Bruins are able to slow down the Lightning Power Play, push around small Lightning forwards like Stamkos and St. Louis, and win this series in 7 games. Sorry, Phil.

Hockey doesn't belong in Florida anyhow, especially in May.

Series Schedule:
Saturday 5/14 8:00pm - Lightning @ Bruins - Versus
Tuesday 5/17 8:00pm - Lightning @ Bruins - Versus
Thursday 5/19 8:00pm - Bruins @ Lightning - Versus
Saturday 5/21 1:30pm - Bruins @ Lightning - NBC
Monday 5/21 8:00pm - Lightning @ Bruins - Versus
Wednesday 5/25 8:00pm - Bruins @ Lightning - Versus
Friday 5/27 8:00pm - Lightning @ Bruins - Versus

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


Around this time 4 years ago, Celtics fans were talking about lotteries. And now we're disappointed that we've only seen the C's win 1 title in 3 years. So let's not get too depressed about the possibilities of the Big Three breaking up. Let's not dwell on lost opportunities, or focus on the negative. In the last three years, this team went from a joke to a model franchise. They won 3 divisional titles, 2 Conference Championships, and 1 NBA Championship. They've become a face-franchise of the Association. They've rekindled old rivalries (Los Angeles) and established new ones (Miami, New York). This might be the end of an era for the Celtics. But it was one hell of an era.

Now to the game. You have to give credit to Miami. LeBron's been long criticized as a poor finisher. And before this series, I felt like if the Celtics could keep games close, their experience and clutchness would propel them to victory, just as it did in the Knicks series. However, the Heat were better in those late stages. Last night, while Ray Allen missed a three, and the C's turned the ball over with ease, LeBron, Wade, and James Jones were knocking down huge 3 point shots.

The Celtics turned the ball over 17 times. Garnett was 3 of 8 with his free throws. Glen Davis still can't find himself. Rondo played 30 minutes and most of those were ineffective. There was no singular reason for the Celtics losing. They lost for a number of reasons.

And without stellar 4th quarter performances from guys like Delonte West, it might have been over much sooner. West was the Celtics' best player in the 4th quarter. That's not a winning formula.

And at least LeBron's post-game interview was classy, and laced with praise for the Celtics. At the same time, he's still an annoying bitch, and I hope either the Bulls or Hawks destroy him in the next round.

Beat LeBron

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Monday, May 09, 2011


WEEI's Glenn Ordway believes that an NBA series doesn't really become a series until the home team loses. I tend to agree with him. Home court advantage can mean so much in terms of officiating, adrenaline, familiarity, et cetera.

KG stepped up on Saturday. Rondo's getting the deserved publicity, but Garnett had a monstrous game. 28 points, 18 rebounds. Pierce also did his job with 27. And Ray Allen has yet to get hot with his 3 point shooting, but he still contributed 15.

The bench also played well. The C's are going to need that if they want to win this series. Delonte had 11, Shaq only played 8 minutes, but his presence was felt in the crowd and on the floor.

The pivotal Game 4 is tonight at the Garden. If the C's win, it'll be 2-2, but it will somehow feel like they're leading. And obviously a loss would put them in a precarious position.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo


No need for anxiety. No need for panic. The Bruins took care of business Friday night and let all their fans relax a little bit.

A few weeks ago, I stressed the importance of improvement in the playoffs. From game to game, from series to series. And the reason the Bruins are in the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 1992 is because they've improved.

Remember those painful turnovers in Games 1 and 2 of the Canadiens series? Remember Marchand and Horton playing with the jitters?

The turnovers stopped. Marchand and Horton were the Bruins' best forwards in the Philly series. The Power Play actually scored a 5-on-4 goal (eventually). Chara's fully hydrated. And Lucic scored twice in Game 4, ending a long drought.

It was a sweep, but it wasn't utter domination. Thomas stole Game 2. Game 4 was a nail-biter until the late stages. And in those tight games, the Bruins showed some character. They fought the tough battles, won most of them, and that's why they are where they are.

And it's nice sweeping, not just because it's easy on the nerves. Thomas gets a few extra days to rest. Chara and Seidenberg will be worked like mules, and they could use some time to recuperate. Unfortunately, there's not enough time for Bergeron to recover from a concussion. That's a huge loss.

Bergeron is the best defensive forward, best penalty killing forward, best faceoff taker, and he's become an offensive playmaker with Marchand and Recchi.

And against the Lightning, a defensive forward would have been nice to put on the ice against Stamkos. That will be an interesting series. Tampa Bay has some of the most talented forwards in the NHL. The Bruins have some of the best defensemen and the best goalie.

The series will start when the two Western series are decided.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Friday, May 06, 2011


At least last year, Lackey ate innings. He was a disappointment, and had some bad starts, but he had some semi-decent ones, as well. In 2010, we expected him to be a #3 guy, maybe even #2 calibre. In 2011, we figured he'd at least be a serviceable #5, and hopefully a #4. Right now, however, he doesn't even look like a Major League starter.

He had some good starts against AL West teams, but even they got to him yesterday afternoon. 10 hits and 3 walks in 4 innings. He wasn't fooling anyone. He never fools anyone (except Theo Epstein). 2007 was his best year, and he's declined ever since then. And I'm starting to think that he's washed up.

Anyway, the Sox just can't breach that .500 barrier. It's about to get scary. In order to reach the 100 wins Sox fans thought they were predestined to attain, they'd have to play .656 baseball. Which isn't ludicrous. So it's not time to abandon ship. The Sox have 131 games left to eat into that 4 game lead the Yankees hold.

At least Crawford is looking like a Major League hitter. Gonzalez got that elusive 2nd homerun. Ortiz is hitting. They just need more people to show up and work. And they need to start looking at replacements for Lackey.

Sox host the Twins tonight. Wakefield's listed as the starter, opposing Scott Baker. The Twinkies are 11-18, have scored the fewest runs in baseball, and allowed the 3rd most. This should be a good weekend to collect some wins.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Thursday, May 05, 2011


Well I won't sleep for the next 48 hours. Last year, the Bruins beat the Flyers 4-1 to take a 3-0 lead in the series. It was May 5th. And we know what followed.

However, last night we saw some of what makes the 2010-11 Bruins different from the 2009-10 team that choked so badly. Here are those differences:

#1 Tim Thomas:
Timmy has stopped 80 of the last 81 shots he's faced. He extended Game 2 for the Bruins, allowing them to win, even though they weren't the best team on the ice. Rask allowed 14 goals in the last 4 games of the series last year. He wasn't awful, though he wasn't that good. And he was nowhere near Tim Thomas' level.

#2 Health:
Last year, Seidenberg was out. So was Krejci. And Lucic was nursing an injury. This year, the Flyers are hurt much more. Without Pronger, they're a different team. I'd be shocked if Pronger doesn't play in Game 4, but how effective can he be? The Bruins have the good fortune of health at the moment.

#3 Marchand and Horton:
Horton has 2 goals and 3 assists in this series. Marchand has 2 goals and 2 assists. Last year, Marchand was a healthy scratch on the extended Bruins' playoff roster. Horton was golfing in Florida. This is the first postseason for both of them, and it doesn't show.

#4 Chara is Playing Like Chara
He's healthy. Whatever dehydrated him against Montreal has left his system. And so far, he looks much better than he did against the Flyers last year. His goal last night was classic Chara. Versteeg doesn't position himself right, Chara slips into the gap vacated, and fires a bullet over Boucher's shoulder.

But, we haven't seen the Flyers at their best yet. The 3-0 series lead is much closer than it suggests. One fortunate bounce for the Flyers on Monday and it's a 2-1 series lead. And at times on Saturday and last night, the Flyers looked listless and out of focus. Their 1st period last night was a joke.

History suggests that facing elimination, they'll bring their best effort. And we've yet to see how the Bruins will face serious adversity in this series. Rebounding from bad luck and bad games was what the B's failed to do last year.

And how will the Bruins deal with the inevitable pressure Philly will put on them. Last year, they relaxed. Will guys like Chara bungle a few plays? He did last year. It's up to the Bruins to execute, and truly put last year's collapse behind them.

Game 4 Friday night in Boston, on NESN.

Photo Credits:
AP Photo

Wednesday, May 04, 2011


Athletes occasionally say some pretty stupid things. But Rashard Mendenhall has surpassed them all. Here are some of his tweets after US Special Forces killed Osama Bin Laden:

"What kind of person celebrates death? It's amazing how people can HATE a man they have never even heard speak. We've only heard one side..."

I've heard him speak. He puts out videos all the time, talking about how he wants to kill me. He'll probably keep putting videos out even though he's dead, Tupac style.

"We'll never know what really happened. I just have a hard time believing a plane could take a skyscraper down demolition style"

I think anyone of reasonable intelligence knows what happened. A pair of 176,000 pound 767 planes flying at 520 miles per hour can do some serious damage. Even to a big building. I know Mendenhall majored in sports management at Illinois, but I for some reason question his credentials when it comes to physics. Call me crazy.

This isn't about the Steelers, this is about an idiot being an idiot. And it just pissed me off. I used to like Mendenhall, even though he was on the Steelers. Now, I hate him almost as much as Big Ben.


The Red Sox own the Angels. The Sox are now 14-15 overall, and more than a third (5) of those wins have come against Anaheim. And I'll take that. Because wins are at a premium right now.

Another Quality Start from Lester, his 6th straight. He's just so solid that it's unreal. Pretty much every start, he'll give the a team a good chance to win.

Crawford is finally hitting. That average of his is up to .194, close to the Mendoza line, close to his weight (215). The Sox finally hit some homeruns. Gonzales got his long-awaited 2nd homer, and that's a big relief. Ortiz got his second in 2 days, and Scutaro hit his first of the season.

Unfortunately, the Sox only have 2 more games against Anaheim this season, both this week. And until they consistently win games against teams that aren't the Angels or Blue Jays, I'm not going to fully believe that they've turned any corners. They're 8-1 against the Angels and Jays. 6-14 against everyone else.

Beckett faces 1-3 Ervin Santana tonight.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo


It was probably unfair that here in Boston LeBron once had a reputation as a poor playoff performer. Last year he ran into the Celtics' defense, who held him to 26.8 points per game in the series, which is hardly shameful. He had no supporting cast. Until now. And as detestable as he is, you have to give him and the Heat credit.

I just think Miami is more talented than the Celtics. Which doesn't mean they'll walk away with this series. But it does mean that the C's have to play their absolute best every night. They need to put the youthful, inexperienced Heat into tough situations. The C's swept the Knicks despite never dominating them, because they were much better in the last 60 seconds of close games. During the regular season, the Celtics beat the Heat by being better at the end of close games.

Ray Allen was 2 for 7, which is a bad percentage, and not nearly enough shots. He's been the driving force of the Celtics offense. If he's not getting shots, let alone hitting them, the Celtics have an uphill struggle. And likely won't win.

Last night was Rajon Rondo (20 points, 12 assists) vs. the Heat. And the Heat were better. Pierce was absent, KG was just OK, and while Jeff Green scored 11 off the bench, the Celtics are missing Perk's defense.

The C's need to step up at home. Allen needs to get open. Pierce and Garnett need to wake up. They need to keep things close at the end. Put some heat on the Heat. Miami struggled to close out tight games this year. They don't know where to send the ball, which one of their stars should get the key shot. The Celtics, on the other hand, distribute it with ease in those clutch moments.

I think the C's will win Game 3 and make this an interesting series. Game 3 is a long ways away, Saturday night at the Garden.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Tuesday, May 03, 2011


You have to love the security guy getting cheered as he returns to his post. Perfect form on that tackle.


#46 may have scored the game-winner, but it was the 46 straight saves made by Tim Thomas that truly won this game for the Bruins. The Flyers dominated the 3rd period and the Overtime, outshooting the Bruins 32-12 in that span. But Thomas was impenetrable. Finally, a miscue by Kimmo Timonen, plus plenty of open ice because half of each team was changing, gives Krejci the chance to win the game. And it was a perfectly placed shot.

Krejci and Thomas were obviously the stars of the game, but let's not forget Dennis Seidenberg. He was a well deserved +3, on the ice for all three of the Bruins' goals. In Game 1, he made an impact on offense. Last night, he made an impact on defense. So many big clears, poke checks, hits, battles won. He's +7 in this series, and there's a reason for that.

Krejci has been producing. As are the 2nd and 3rd lines, which each provided a goal last night. Horton's been an OT hero. Now, if only we could find Milan Lucic. Where is he? It's been 9 playoff games without a goal. And he ended the regular season riding a 10 game scoreless streak. 6 assists in his last 18 games. And it's not as if he's focusing on his physical game, either. He's just a ghost on the ice. He was out there for 24 minutes. I noticed him for maybe 24 seconds.

And the Power Play is just sad to watch. Marchand scored his goal because he moved around, opening a passing lane for Bergeron to find. The Bruins' forwards need to move around, not just shift within their little zones of operation. Especially since the Flyers are focused on taking away the points. Sending Recchi or Bergeron up to the high slot might not be a bad idea, either. It'd either create room for the forwards down low or the defensemen on the blue-line.

I know, I know, I'm being negative. The B's just took 2 games from Philly in Philly. They've won 6 of 7. But I've seen this team go 2-0 up on the Flyers before.

Then again, we didn't have Tim Thomas before. Goaltending, by itself, cannot win an entire series. But it can steal a game. Thomas stole one last night. Thankfully it wasn't played in Quebec, or the Montreal PD would be after him.

Playoff series are frequently won by the slimmest of margins. Think about where Boston would be if they didn't score 3 OT goals against Montreal. Think about one OT shot by P.K. Subban bouncing off a skate and past Thomas. The Bruins would be golfing.

This series will be determined by something like goaltending (which favors Boston) or special teams (which favors Philadelphia). At the moment, however, Tim Thomas is the difference between these two teams.

Game 3 Wednesday night in Boston.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Monday, May 02, 2011


You have to be happy, as a Bruins fan. This team does have some differences from last year's. Tim Thomas, for instance. He made a huge stop early in the 3rd to keep it 1-1. If Philly takes a lead there, who knows how momentum swings. Krejci missed the last 4 games of the series last year, he had 2 goals and 2 assists. Seidenberg was also hurt, and he had a monstrous game, pinching in on offense.

Then there's newcomers like Horton, Campbell, and Marchand. Marchand looks better and better with each playoff game he plays.

But we went up 1-0 last year. The Flyers are not pushovers. They stay even-keeled, and they're already over this loss. These are not the Canadiens. The Canadiens could be affected by a 3 goal deficit, or an unfortunate sequence of events. The Flyers don't care.

The Bruins' Power Play is still painful to watch. Is there a rule that allows teams to decline a Power Play, I think the Bruins should do that. They struggle with entry, and when they do take the zone, they stand still.

I'm happy with this result. But it has to already be put in the past for the Bruins.

Game 2 tonight.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo