Thursday, May 30, 2013

Is Rob Gronkowski the Patriots' Mickey Mantle?

When I heard that Rob Gronkowski needed yet another surgery, this time for his back, I asked myself "Is Gronkowski going to be the Mickey Mantle of the Patriots? A guy who partied a lot then got injured a lot?" The Gronkowski narrative is starting to sound very similar. I can already hear the amateur M.D.s out there offering their unsolicited prognoses and medical advice. "If Grawnk pahtied less, if he was more sobah, we'd have two more Supahbowl rings."

The Patriots were able to draft Gronkowski because of his injuries. He fell to the 2nd round because he missed the 2009 season with a back injury. So maybe he is just injury prone. As amazingly as he's played, he's continued to get injured. And more alarmingly, get re-injured very easily. It seems to be a mixed bag with Gronkowski. Outstanding production when healthy, and long periods of absence due to injury.

Meanwhile, the internet feeds us pictures of Gronk partying with college coeds, holding a cocktail, with that big dumb grin on his face. We see videos of him dancing on broken bones. We see him hanging out with "adult actresses." We see these things as we read stories about him needing multiple surgeries, and people out there put 2 and 2 together and get 7. Even those of us who don't jump to such conclusions can't help but wonder that maybe if Gronk's social life weren't so amazingly awesome, his football life would be less riddled with injury.

Maybe there's something to that. I don't know. I'm no doctor. I also know that pictures and videos from social media can create a false impression. If all we see of Gronk is partying, then we think he parties all the time. We see him with two college girls, holding a drink, and we think he must be getting hammered and then hammering the girls. But it's just a picture.

And you know what, folks, most of these athletes live life like Gronk does. They're young, in shape, rich, and famous. Almost every girl is available to them. At all times. Most athletes Gronk's age have a very similar lifestyle.

One difference between Gronk and other athletes is he doesn't insulate himself. It seems like he'll party with anyone, take a picture with anyone. He doesn't just surround himself with a posse and sit in the VIP all night. He does that sometimes, but most of the pictures we see of him partying are out with the public. And he's the center of attention. And he loves it. I don't think he's capable of saying "no" if someone wants to take a picture with him.

Athletes partying is nothing new. Read stories about the Bruins running around town in the 70s. Imagine if there had been Instagram or Twitter when Bobby Orr and his teammates, dressed as doctors, broke into a hospital and carried an injured Phil Esposito (and his bed) to a nearby bar and drank all night. I have not seen any pictures or videos of Gronkowski that are as insane as that story.

And do you think Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr, and Johnny Pesky ("The Teammates") spent all their free time fishing and discussing the science of hitting?

If there had been TwitPic when Babe Ruth was downing hot dogs by the dozen, drinking gallons of beer, and neglecting his wife and children, we might not adore him so much 90 years later. I can't even imagine what Ty Cobb would tweet about. #Racist. Athletes haven't changed much. Social media has simply exposed more people to what some athletes do off the field.

Then there's Mickey Mantle, who was plagued with injury his entire career. Mickey might have been healthier if he hadn't drank so much. That same narrative is starting to be applied to Gronkowski.

And maybe the same is true for Gronk. Maybe if he lived the Tebow life he wouldn't get hurt so easily.

I think that's an overly simplistic theory, though, that is based on speculation and not fact. It's not a complete argument.

Gronk parties
Gronk gets hurt
Therefore, if Gronk didn't party, he wouldn't get hurt

I think he's just prone to injuries and always has been. Some athletes are. He has a big awkward frame and he takes some serious hits all season long. There are athletes that live harder than he does and remain healthy. There are athletes that live calmer than he does and get injured. Does Danny Amendola have a drinking problem because he's regularly hurt? Was Wes Welker a choir boy because he rarely missed games and recovered quickly?

Gronk's injuries are a problem, both for him and for the Patriots. I kind of want him to be benched until Week 10. Save him for the postseason, with a few weeks beforehand to get into the groove of the game. That's kind of silly, though. And he might get injured anyway. And he would have a longer off-season to drink more and have more sex. Which, according to the amateur M.D.s of New England, would probably give him leprosy.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Why I Hate the Pittsburgh Penguins

I can't wait for this series to get started. I'm happy the Bruins have a chance to rest, but I'm getting sick of trying to watch Red Sox games on NESN and turning them off because Don and Jerry are blabbering on and on about hotel lobbies and the struggle to hail taxis after a game. I just want this series to start. I feel like Cartman waiting for the Nintendo Wii to come out.

I can't wait because I hate the Penguins. Sometimes I forget how much I hate them, because the Bruins don't play them as often as Montreal. But my hatred for the Penguins is almost at the same level as my hatred for the Habs. And here's why:

#1 Matt Fucking Cooke
Every time I see this guy on the ice, I think of Marc Savard suffering post concussion syndrome and not being able to get back on the ice because of Cooke. Cooke gets to play, Savard gets to deal with depression. Cooke is just a dirty player. And not the good kind of dirty. He's a scumbag. He's pus. He lives on making dangerous hits when players are at their most vulnerable and least able to defend themselves. He preys on his fellow players. I hope he gets raped by lions. Lions have barbed penises. All cats do.

#2 Mario Lemiuex's Hypocrisy
Lemiuex employs Matt Cooke and was teammates with Ulf Samuelsson. Yet the Penguins owner often complains about dirty players that shortened his career. And when one of the Penguins star players is on the receiving end of a headshot, Lemieux gets very vocal. Then he signs Matt Cooke's paycheck. He employs what he claims to hate about the game.

#3 The Aura of Crosby
Sidney Crosby is certainly the best player in the game. Bar none. But he's also a whiner. And a bit of a flopper. If I were Canadian or in Canada, I would be arrested for speaking unfavorably of him. Because in Canada it's against the law to not love and praise him. And in some western provinces Crosby has the noble right of prima nocta. As a result, TV commentators will drool on their microphones as they drone about how spectacular he is, and referees will call penalties for just thinking about touching him.

#4 Pittsburgh, PA
The Penguins play in Pittsburgh. Where the Steelers play. Do we really want Steelers fans to be happy? And the entire Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is kind of my nemesis. Very little good has come out of that state, except Yuengling. I love Yuengling. Even just typing it tastes delicious.

#5 It's Personal
My freshman year in college, I was really starting to like this one girl. She was pretty, smart, always had a great smile on her face, nice, you always felt like you could be yourself around her, and she had a fantastic body. As I was falling for her she fell for a Penguins fan and they went out for the next 3+ years. She even became a Penguins fan with him. And although they're no longer together, she's still a Penguins fan. I can't help but feel that had I been better, and had this Penguins fan not come along, maybe today she'd be a Bruins fan.

#6 Iginla
Marian Hossa once kind of did to the Penguins what Iginla did this season, trying to choose a winner instead of trying to win where he was (or for Iginla, where he was going to be sent). Hossa left Pittsburgh for Detroit to win a Cup. The next year Pittsburgh won a Cup. I don't like what Iginla did to the Bruins. It's like we asked him out, he said yes, and then he was asked by the class douchebag who drives his father's Mercedes and Iginla said yes and ditched us. I want Iginla to feel like Hossa did in 2009, watching the team he could have played for skate around with the Cup. I do not want Iginla to feel like Hossa in 2010, when he won the Cup with Chicago.

#7 The LeBron Factor
The Penguins are like the Miami Heat of the NHL. They're too stacked. Players go there because they know it's their best chance to win. I guess Detroit was like that for a few years. And if the Bruins win another Cup maybe they'll be like that too. It's just an uncompelling story when the best players decide to go to one team and win it all. It's impossible to root for them.

Unless you have a mouthful of Crosby.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Bruins KO Rangers

It was very important for the Bruins to win this series as quickly as possible. When they won the Cup in '11, they probably wouldn't have had enough gas to play 7 game series against the Lightning and Canucks if they didn't sweep the Flyers and get a few extra days off (about a week off). Now the Bruins and Penguins will wait until the Western Conference semifinals wrap up.

The Bruins were close to losing many of the games in this series, the Rangers were rarely close to winning them. I'm not taking credit away from the B's, just pointing out that the Rangers are not a team that knows how to win tough playoff games or series. John Tortorella overcoaches, the forwards don't have any creativity, the defensemen don't get involved in the play, and as a whole the team lacks spirit. They have effort, just no soul. They're like the frozen meatballs you get at the store, while the Bruins played like made-from-scratch meatballs made with Grandma's old recipe. The Bruins played with heart and soul. The Rangers just played.

Tortorella's decision to change and focus on his 4th line was a fatal mistake. I might write a blog post devoted entirely to how bad of a coach he is. Anyway, he decided to send his 4th line to antagonize the Bruins 4th line. In other words, he decided to force Shawn Thornton and Gregory Campbell act like Shawn Thornton and Gregory Campbell. Good call, Torts. Tortorella made the Bruins 4th line extremely comfortable by choosing to play their brand of hockey. And as if Derek Dorsett had a chance to win a fight against Thornton. "I'll beat your ass all day," Thornton yelled to Dorsett after their fight in Game 5.

Dorsett also committed some stupid penalties. Every Tortorella tactic in this series made the Bruins play better. Thanks, coach.

Tuukka Rask redeemed himself for his Game 4 debacles. He made a game-saving stop on a Callahan breakaway with 8:37 left in the 3rd. It was a 2-1 game at the time, and if Callahan scores that changes everything. That's what a timely save is. In a 2-1 game in the 1st period, that save isn't as important. Hockey is like any other sport. What you do in the 4th quarter or the 9th inning means so much more than at the start of the game.

Torey Krug was the other hero of the game for the B's. I was thinking about why the Bruins haven't called him up before. The problem was that the B's were all set with defensemen. Chara, Seidenberg, Hamilton, Ference, McQuaid, Boychuk. Those are 6 quality guys. And Hamilton couldn't go to the AHL it was either stay in Boston or go back to his Juniors team. There was no room for Krug to earn a spot, with 5 good veteran defenseman and a rookie who couldn't be sent to Providence.

I think the Penguins will play tighter on Krug. The Rangers chose to collapse more, which was dumb against Krug, and clog the middle of the ice. This gave Krug acres of space to wind up and fire shots. Pittsburgh should cover him tighter. Which could open up other areas of the ice that the forwards will have to exploit.

Milan Lucic was skating like a psychopath in the 3rd. That freight-train needs to keep rolling against Pittsburgh.

Almost everyone is contributing, or has contributed. And that's what needs to continue against the Penguins. Compared to Toronto and New York, Pittsburgh is on a completely different planet. The Penguins scored 35 more goals than the Rangers in the regular season (0.72 more per game), and 34 more than the Bruins. They allowed only 10 more goals than the Bruins allowed. Only the Blackhawks had a better goal differential.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo/Charles Krupa

Friday, May 24, 2013

Tuukka "CPR" Rask Breathes New Life into Rangers

I am not a Tuukka Rask fan. I do give him credit for a very good season, and in Game 3 he made some huge saves late in the game, and I even called him the Bruins' "Ace." But I'm not a Tuukka fan. I hated the Tuukka Time crap in 2010, I hated how poorly he played in that year's collapse to the Flyers. I want him to succeed and I'll give him the appropriate credit he deserves, but I don't like him, and I don't like his face. And last night he cost the Bruins a game.

The first goal he allowed was simply tragic. And it gave the Rangers so much momentum. Thankfully that momentum was sapped when the Rangers went on a Power Play. If Rask allows another softy, let's say against Pittsburgh, the Penguins will smell blood in the water and attack. And it will hurt.

The second goal Rask allowed was a combination of poor puck play and passivity. Maybe some fear, as well. He couldn't stop a puck behind the net, which is fine. He's never been a very good puck handler, and that's not a big deal. Then he takes his sweet ass time getting back into position. He showed no hustle to get back into the net, even though the puck would be on the opposite side. Maybe he was afraid to fall down on his bottom again. Zdeno Chara was also a little too casual on the play. Derek Stepan was playing at full speed, and he capitalized.

Rask was crap last night. Plain and simple.

He wasn't the only one that deserves to be raked over the coals.

Although Tyler Seguin finally scored, his linemates continue to be negative players. Seguin scored a second after a power play expired, so Kelly and Peverley were not on the ice with him. Kelly and Peverley were on the ice, prematurely, 49 seconds later, which gave the Rangers a power play during which Brian Boyle tied the game.

Brad Marchand was also a disappointment. He turned the puck over a few times, he lost a few battles on the boards that he would normally win, and when racing to touch an icing he held up, apparently concerned about an impending hit. That's not his game. He didn't play with any balls last night. He played safe. That's not him.

I'm not worried about this series. Not yet. If for no other reason than I don't take Tortorella's Rangers seriously. I'll be worried if the Bruins lose Game 5. I am concerned about Rask. You can't have games like that against the Penguins, or the Red Wings, or the Blackhawks, or the Kings, or the Sharks. Those teams will either take advantage of the momentum and score, or they're so tight defensively that 1 bad goal could be the difference between winning and losing.

The most important question the Bruins had coming into this postseason was what kind of playoff goalie Rask would be. We've seen great saves. We've seen bad goals. We've seen him cost his team a game. So far, I'm not impressed.

Let's not forget that even though this is a 3-1 series, it is one overtime (in Game 1) away from being 2-2. The Bruins can't relax, they must play like it is a 2-2 series.

Game 5 Saturday in Boston. The Rangers have a pulse, let's not give them anymore CPR. Kill them now.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo/Seth Wenig

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Stanley Cup Roundup

Penguins 7, Senators 3 - Penguins lead series 3-1
I really thought Ottawa was going to win this series, or at least give the Penguins a tough fight. But Vokoun has played adequately. And the Penguins continue to score an insane amount of goals. They're averaging 4.1 goals per game in the playoffs. It will be interesting to see if they can win low-scoring games. They're 0-2 when they fail to score 4 goals.

Tonight's games:
7:00pm - Bruins @ Rangers - CNBC - Bruins lead series 3-0
The Bruins haven't completely outplayed the Rangers. They have outplayed them at the most important moments, and that's why these close games have all been won by the B's.

8:00pm - Blackhawks @ Red Wings - NBC Sports - Red Wings lead series 2-1
Jimmy Howard stopped 39 of 40 shots in Game 3. The Blackhawks started the season looking unbeatable because every night someone different had a big game and drove the team to victory. Jonathan Toews scored 23 goals in the regular season. He's scored 0 in the playoffs, with 3 assists. He and the other quality players on Chicago must step up or the seasoned vets on Detroit will bury them.

10:30pm - Sharks @ Kings - NBC Sports - Series tied 2-2
The home team has won each of these games. There's only been 15 goals scored in 4 games, or less than 2 per team per game. So if you like high scoring games, go to bed. If you like goaltending and tight-checking, stay up or DVR it.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

More Horror, More Heroes

This has been a rough couple of weeks in America. Bombings in Boston, a massive explosion in West, Texas, and now a devastating tornado in Moore, Oklahoma. And as horrific and horrible as each of these tragedies have been, the heroism and compassion of people has shone through, like a beam of sunlight shooting through the darkest of clouds and making things bright again.

In Boston we saw Police, Fire, EMS, BAA volunteers, Soldiers, and runners clearing debris, and caring for victims, and running to hospitals to give blood.

In West we saw First Responders willingly go into a blazing inferno to try to save the lives of strangers.

And now in Moore we see teachers using their bodies to shield children. We see cops and firefighters from across Oklahoma carefully sifting through rubble. We see busloads of police from Texas pouring into Moore to help out. We see donations of food, clothing, money, shelter. Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder pledged to donate $1 million to the Red Cross. The Thunder also pledged $1 million. The University of Oklahoma in nearby Norman opened its dorms to displaced survivors.

Each of these disasters have had traumatic and striking effects on the human psyche. A terrorist attack, a chemical explosion in a factory, a natural disaster. Each has people asking "why," without any satisfactory answer apparent.

One thing that is apparent is how strong and indomitable human beings are. Humans are capable of unbelievable courage in the face of danger and death. Humans are capable of immeasurable compassion even when it's complete strangers who are suffering. Humans are capable of sacrificing themselves to save other humans.

"Good job, teach."

When I was in film school I wrote a screenplay about the end of the world. The theme of my script was that greedy and selfish people took advantage of disaster and disease, and they were the ones who brought about the end of the world. And while the rare good people were taken away to a safe paradise, the bad people conquered a cruel world that wasn't worth living in. I wrote this before I had much faith in humanity.

I was wrong. Extremely wrong. In my script, people behaved like animals when faced with adversity. And I've seen so much in these last few weeks that disproves that concept. People are at their absolute best when things are at their absolute worst. People care.

There's a reason we were able to evolve into the dominant species on this planet. Our brains were a big help. But I think what gave us the decisive edge was our ability to lift each other up off the ground when something knocked us down. Our perseverance, coupled with the compulsion to help others, is what makes this species great.

I'm proud to be a part of it.

Fourth Line to the Rescue

I really thought the Rangers were going to steal this game. Fans up here in Boston had been feeling cocky about the Bruins "beating" Lundqvist for 8 goals, when he actually hadn't played that bad. I thought maybe the players would feel a little too overconfident as well. Lundqvist came out and made some Vezinian saves, and this game looked like it would end as a 1-0 Tortorella special. It would have if not for the play of the Bruins' 4th line.

Some people, such as 98.5's Michael Felger, like to complain about the 4th line. And even I sometimes get annoyed when they're on the ice in a potential scoring situation. The fact is, they play their roles and occasionally add a little more. Thornton is the enforcer. Paille is a speedy penalty-killer. Campbell also kills penalties and is sort of a jack of all trades, master of none. Sometimes they go above and beyond their roles. Like last night when they generated 2 goals. Shawn Thornton's numbers speak volumes to their contribution...

6:42 time on ice, 11 shifts, 2 assists, +2, 2 shots on goal, 3 hits, 1 blocked shot

He only played in 11% of the game, and he did all that.

You never fail to notice that the 4th line is on the ice. Sometimes you don't notice Lucic or Horton or Peverley. But you never fail to notice the 4th line. And they won the game last night. So from me, and from the 4th line, suck it, Felger...

Tuukka Rask's play made it so the 4th line was in position to win the game. The goal Rask allowed in the 2nd possibly could have been saved, but apart from that he was flawless. His 3rd period right-pad stop on Rick Nash during a 4-on-2 breakaway when the game was 1-1 was the biggest save of the game. Bigger than any saves Lundqvist made. It was also a timely save. And it could prove to be the biggest save of the series. That save is probably the difference between a 3-0 series and a 2-1 series. And just like the ball-strike count in baseball, that's a huge difference. The Bruins now have a 3-0 count in their favor, and a green light to swing away.

Continuing the baseball comparison, Rask was like a pitcher who gave up a solo homerun in the 2nd inning, but retired the last 9 batters he faced, starting with striking out the side with the bases loaded in the 7th.

Rask was an Ace last night.

And let's not forget Johnny Boychuk, who scored his 4th postseason goal. That's second most on the Bruins (behind Krejci's 5 and tied with Horton), and the most of any defenseman in the playoffs. He has 10 career playoff goals in 55 games. That's not bad at all for a defenseman.

I do have a question to pose: if the Bruins get all their defensemen healthy, should they put Torey Krug on the 3rd line as a winger? Obviously this is not a serious question. Or is it? It isn't.

Or is it?

Game 4 Thursday night. Expect a desperate Rangers team to fight tooth and nail. It could be the hardest game of the series for the Bruins. Or maybe the Rangers will quit on their coach and get blown out 5-1.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo/Seth Wenig

Monday, May 20, 2013

Sunday Funday for Bruins

I don't think the Rangers know how to play this series. They were dominated in the OT of Game 1. And in Game 2, they started the game by not forechecking the Bruins at all. They made it so easy for the Bruins to move the puck up the ice. I know John Tortorella is perceived as a good coach, but his team looks flat and his tactics don't make much sense.

The Bruins, on the other hand, were terrific yesterday. There were some mistakes, especially along the blue-lines. And turnover goals resulted. Apart from that the team played outstanding hockey. Krejci was strong on the boards and on the puck. Lucic and Horton were skating hard. Bergeron and Marchand continue to attack with ferocity. Chara dominates half the ice surface when he's out there, which is half the game. Rask made huge saves on Ranger breakaways.

Then there's the defensemen, who now have 10 goals in the playoffs. Boychuk scored his second of the series and third of the playoffs. And Torey Krug, who went to Michigan State in case NBC didn't mention that, scored his second in two games. In the first two playoff games of his life.

On most deep Stanley Cup runs, unexpected heroes like Krug show up randomly and contribute. Like Chris Kreider did for the Rangers last year. We were all worried about losing Seidenberg, Ference, and Redden. Now one of their replacements has 2 goals, an assist, and is +2.

Seguin has yet to get going. But he's so close. It's like an engine struggling to start on a cold morning. It revs and revs but doesn't turn over. Although once it gets going I think the floodgates will open and he'll score several goals in a stretch.

The third line is still struggling. And you can see the frustration in Peverley and Kelly. Kelly went after Dorsett and that's almost stupid aggressive. They're no longer dominating faceoffs like they did against Toronto. They're still not generating much offense. And they're making little mistakes like that offside when Seguin would have been open on the seem. It hasn't hurt the Bruins. They're not making negative plays, apart from Peverley's serial high-sticking. Hopefully they can contribute in a grinding, fourth line kind of way.

Up 2-0, the Bruins can't afford to get too comfortable. This is the time they seem to slip back into bad habits. They need to remember that New York lost their first two games to Washington on the road. And during the regular season they were a much better home team (16-6-2) than road team (10-12-2). New York is down, far from out, and there's no need to make it easy for them to get back into this series. Make them earn it.

Game 3 is Tuesday night at MSG.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo/Elise Amendola

Friday, May 17, 2013

Bruins Grind Down Rangers

The first period of this game almost put me to sleep. I have never seen such boring hockey in the playoffs. I suppose both teams were tired coming off of bitter 7 game series. They grew accustomed to hating the Caps and Leafs. Familiarity breeds contempt. In the 1st period of this game, the Rangers and Bruins were essentially strangers, indifferent to each other.

It didn't take long for things to percolate. The Bruins' first goal seemed to ignite both teams.

The end result is great. The Bruins played better than the Rangers. The young defensemen filling in were solid. Not only did they not make mistakes, Torey Krug (who went to Michigan State, in case you didn't hear that mentioned a half-dozen times) scored a goal.

The Rangers didn't play their best. An unwise pinch resulted in a giveaway in overtime, Bergeron and Marchand took advantage, and that decided the game. It's great to see Marchand contributing to the offense again. He helped carry this team in the regular season, and it's critical that he step up in this series.

As I said in my pre-series thoughts, the Rangers lack that extra something that drives a team to win. They just don't have that edge, that special something, that pushes a team forward in the playoffs.

It's good the Bruins took advantage and won, but there were still some very aggravating aspects of this game.

Rask has to stop that second goal. He just has to. It wasn't a horrendous goal to allow, but that has to be stopped. Period.

The way Jagr plays is like if you're playing video game hockey with a friend, and the pass button on his controller is broken. The only things he can do are skate and shoot. He's got to remember how to pass the puck.

And just a reminder as to how old Jagr is, it's been 40 years since the Bruins and Rangers met in the playoffs. Jaromir was already 1 year old during that series. He gets tired after only 25 seconds on the ice. I think you have to consider giving some of his shifts on the 2nd line to Seguin. Then again, the 2nd line has performed very well since Seguin was moved down to the 3rd. Then again Seguin was on the ice for the Game 7 OT winner. So give Seguin a few extra 2nd line shifts, give Jagr a bit of a break, and I think everyone wins.

Zdeno Chara: 38 minutes and 2 seconds of ice time. A goal, an assist, +2, 6 hits. This guy's a freak. I love him.

This series is going to be long, tough, and it's going to be decided by a margin the width of a dime. This game could have turned on a post, or if Rask didn't make a huge save in the 3rd, or if McDonagh doesn't make that pinch maybe the game goes on and into another OT period. A handful of plays will decide these games and this series.

So buckle up, Bruins fans. This will be a bumpy ride.

Game 3 Sunday afternoon, which is an advantage to the depleted Bruins. It gives Chara (38 minutes of ice time), Beregeron (27 minutes), Boychuk (27 minutes), and others a chance to rest and recover.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo/Charles Krupa

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Bruins vs. Rangers Thoughts

A few nights ago I thought that we'd spend this week discussing how to fix the Bruins after an epic collapse. Now we're looking forward to another series. A winnable series. Despite the issues this team still has, along with some injuries.

The Rangers are not the Maple Leafs. They're actually very similar the Bruins. They play a conservative defensive system. They rely on goaltending. Their forwards play a big part in their defending. Their Power Play isn't that good (23rd in the NHL). They have talented forwards, but it always seems like a handful of players are in a slump at any given time.

Rick Nash, for instance, had 0 goals and 2 assists in the Washington series. Brad Richards had 1 goal and 0 assists. As a team, the Rangers only managed 16 goals in their 7 game series against the Caps.

What's scary is that the only allowed 12. And they haven't been scored on for 6 straight periods.

The Bruins, who already struggle to score, will continue to struggle against the Rangers. That's why the B's will need every frontline forward to step-up and contribute what they can. No more series long slumps from Marchand or Seguin. And the 3rd line has to find a way to at least threaten to score.

I'm not sure about much with this series. On paper, the Rangers should do well. They're perennial Cup favorites because of their Vezina winning goalie, their defensive system, and their talented forwards. They just seem to lack that intangible quality that propels a team through the Stanley Cup Playoffs. That thing that makes a no-name 4th-liner a one game hero, that urgency that causes a team to score with the goalie pulled to force overtime, that ability to win the series changing overtime game. The Rangers have never shown much of that.

Then again, they made the Conference Finals last year. So maybe they do have that X-factor and I just have been oblivious to it.

Something that troubles me as a Bruins fan is how banged up the B's defensemen are. We don't know how much time Seidenberg and Ference might miss. And these guys are vital to the way the Bruins do things in the playoffs. Seidenberg is Chara's wingman, and Ference always plays at top gear in the playoffs.

This is a tough series to pick. I have to lean toward the Bruins, just because they have that intangible, indescribable something that can win a tough game in a tough series. So long as Rask does his job, and stops a few big breakaway shots after the Rangers block shots on the other end of the ice. It's up to you, Tuukka. He doesn't have to outplay Lundqvist, but he's got to make the big stops in the big moments.

So Bruins in 7. With multiple overtimes throughout the series.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

I Don't Mind All the Crazy Girls Who Have a Crush on Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has developed a cult following of teenage girls infatuated with the alleged terrorist. They're like Beleibers, only instead of loving a musician they're in love with a murderer. Although they claim he's "too pretty" to be guilty.

This pissed me off until I realized something. And now I am somewhat happy that these misguided young girls have a thing for this creep and are broadcasting their puppy love over the internet. Why?

Because he'll spend the rest of his life unable to touch any of them. He'll be like a hungry dog forced to smell a steak that it will never be able to eat. It will be exquisite torture.

He'll have to sit in a cold grey supermax cell, longingly gazing at pictures of these crazy young girls making duckfaces at him, maybe licking their lips, perhaps bending over in a micro mini shirt and a thong. And he won't be able to get his little hands on any of them. Instead, he'll be bunking with inmates nicknamed Jackhammer and Black Python. And taking showers with a prisoner named Big Slick. And being required to sit when he pees. He'll be rented by the hour for a carton of Winston 100s.

So I hope these stupid young girls continue their #FreeJahar movement. Because it will only tease this douchebag with what he can never ever have.

What he will have, for the rest of his life (which could drag on for 70 or 80 years), is a chance to "enjoy" the wrestling techniques and holds he learned in high school. And not in a wholesome way.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Stanley Cup Playoffs Might Suck Next Year

We're certainly enjoying the Stanley Cup Playoffs here in Boston. And there have been great series across the NHL. Three opening round series went the full 7. There were 17 overtime games. Two #7 seeds upset two #2 seeds. Two #6 seeds upset two #3 seeds. There are 4 Original Six teams left. The top 3 American media markets still have teams left. This is great.

Enjoy it while it lasts because next year will be completely different. There will be no Pittsburgh/Ottawa or Boston/New York meetings in the 2nd round. Everything will be divisional as the NHL realigns and revamps its playoff system.

The Stanley Cup Playoffs aren't broken, yet the NHL will try to fix them. The League will realign into 4 divisions, and the first two rounds of the playoffs will be within the division.

I don't mind divisional meetings in the playoffs. I love them! Boston/Toronto was a great series. So was Ottawa/Montreal. And Washington/New York will be a divisional meeting next year. But don't force the drama, NHL. Don't try to artificially create excitement and rivalry by keeping the playoffs inside divisions until the Conference Finals.

This won't create new rivalries, or enhance old ones. It will, however, reduce the potential for interdivisional rivalries as well as eliminate some that already exist. Philadelphia/Boston. Chicago/LA. New York/Boston. Chicago/Vancouver. Boston/Pittsburgh.

You'll face the same teams throughout the regular season, then the same in the playoffs. The Bruins won't meet the Flyers, Rangers, Penguins, or Capitals until the 3rd round.

The NHL's shortsightedness in this issue is demonstrated by the fact that the Capitals will be in a division with the Rangers and Penguins. The Caps have built a rivalry with these teams. And they built those rivalries by meeting in the playoffs. Even though they were in different divisions. Rivalries like these will no longer be born in the postseason.

There's nothing wrong and everything right with the current playoff format. The drama comes naturally. The 7 and 8 seeds are tough because they fight their way into the playoffs while the 1 and 2 seeds cruise in. The series are great because the different matchups and styles can all mix together. The stars of Pittsburgh can meet the grinders of Ottawa while the Boston and New York metro areas can play out their rivalry in another sport.

Hopefully next year the playoffs are just as exciting and captivating. And if not, hopefully the NHL has the sense to go back to a 1-8 two Conference format.

Bruins Roller Coaster Ride to Continue

Wow. In my mind I'd already written an indictment of the Bruins, their coach, their GM, their system, their players. All of this was in my head and ready to disseminate into a tirading blog post. Horton scored to make it 4-2, and my pre-written blog post remained undisturbed. Lucic scored to make it 4-3, and I became partially optimistic. Then with 51 seconds until death, Patrice Bergeron scored and extended the season. An intermission and 6 minutes later, he catapulted the Bruins into the next round. And may have also exonerated Claude Julien and Peter Chiarelli. Or at the very least, made them more difficult to fire.

As joy and optimism flows through my veins and courses through my mind, I must also temper myself with the knowledge that the Bruins put themselves in a position to be eliminated. The Bruins blew Game 2, sucked in the 1st period of Game 5, sucked in Game 6, and allowed the series to extend as long as it did. And if the Bruins play at the same level against the New York Rangers, then they will be quickly disposed of. Henrik Lundqvist is not James Reimer.

Give due credit to the Krejci line. Bartkowski scored the first goal, but it was Lucic's physical play that allowed it to happen. Horton and Lucic both scored in the 3rd to make it a 1 goal game.

Marchand and Seguin assisted on the game-winning goal. It was Seguin's first point of the series.

I love how the jubilant Bergeron first hugged Zdeno Chara. These are two of the hungriest players on the team. These are two guys who give 100% on each shift. They drain their reserves in order to win. I hope their teammates pay attention and follow suit.

It's good news and bad news time. The overwhelmingly good news is that the Bruins won and will advance to the Conference Semifinals. The bad news is they will play the New York Rangers.

The Rangers played the Bruins well in the regular season. They have as many offensive weapons as Toronto but also have a defensive capability and a goalie that can be quite difficult to score on. This will be a tougher series. And the Bruins needed 7+ games to get by a weaker opponent. In other words, the Bruins need to shift into a higher gear. All the time. They can't afford to play 2 periods a night anymore.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo/Charles Krupa

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Bruins Are Ruining My Spring

That 4-1 pounding in Game 1 seems like ages ago.

This Bruins team really pisses me off. They no longer hold leads. Not in games, not in series. It was once a trademark of this team under Julien, that when they were up 2, they'd win. And once again, they've blown a 3-1 lead.

James Reimer has gained all the confidence in the world. And why not? He has all of southern Ontario behind him, and the Bruins have allowed his success. The B's forwards have not been able to consistently get body position in front of the net in order to take advantage of the rebounds Reimer allows. Is Marck Recchi available tonight?

Some Bruins have improved in this series over their regular season form. Milan Lucic, for instance. Nathan Horton as well, although in Game 6 in the box score claims he played 17:38 and I didn't notice him on the ice at all.

Other Bruins, such as Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin, have played worse than their regular season form. Neither have scored. Marchand has 2 assists and is -1. Seguin has no assists and is even. In the regular season these two combined for 34 goals and were the top 2 goal-scorers on the team. No THREE Bruins could combine for that many goals. Marchand and Seguin scored 27% of the Bruins goals in the regular season. So that's one fourth of the offense not producing in this series.

I also think the Bruins aren't as talented as we thought they were. I think this team essentially has two fourth lines. The third line has been meaningless in these games. Kelly and Peverley are both -3. So not only are they not scoring, they're getting scored on. Which goes against the Claude Julien system.

This team has scored 17 goals in the series. The Krejci line has 9 of those. Defensemen have 5. So only 3 goals have been scored by lines 2 through 4. Three goals from 9 forwards.

Horton and Lucic are each +8 in this series. Krejci is +7. The Bergeron line is -1. The Peverley line is -3. The Campbell line is even. Only one line is scoring. The second line can't score. The third line isn't scoring, and is allowing goals. The fourth line is doing what it does with its minimal ice-time. Only two lines are doing their jobs. The Bergeron line is capable of doing better. I don't think the Peverley line is.

This Game 7 tonight is an important game for the direction of this team. With a win, then things are fine. With a loss, then there needs to be a serious reevaluation of the coach, the staff, and the roster.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Four Reasons Why the Bruins Scored 4 and Won Game 4

There were four main reasons the Bruins won Game 4 (by scoring 4 goals and winning in the 4th period).

#1: Tuukka Rask
He was unreal. He was clutch. He stopped 45 of 48 shots. He was the Bruins' best penalty-killer. And his toughest saves came when the game could have dramatically changed. This was quite possibly the best playoff performance of his career. He was aggressive, but his play was less chaotic than it's been in previous games in this series.

#2: David Krejci
I'm not the biggest Krejci fan. But he knows how to bring it in big games. He's like the Rajon Rondo of the Bruins. When the spotlight is on him, he digs deep and finds another level of play. His hat-trick last night gives him 5 goals, which leads all players in the playoffs. So do his 10 points.

One thing that I think helps him is when Horton and Lucic show up and do work every night. Then he can do his thing, they do theirs, and the whole line functions the way it's supposed to.

#3: Special Teams
The Bruins scored 2 power play goals. They killed all 4 Toronto power plays. Their +2 margin in special teams play was literally the difference between winning and losing. In hard fought, closely contested playoff games like this one, special teams often decides the victor. Having a solid PK and a power play unit that can score timely goals is such a tremendous asset in a playoff series.

And I loved Krejci's PP goal in the 2nd. He moved without the puck into a scoring area. A good pass, a good shot, a great goal. The easiest way to get the puck to scoring areas is for a player without the puck to get there first, then wait for the puck to find him.

#4 Zdeno Chara
Perhaps overshadowed Rask's 45 saves and Krejci's hat-trick is Chara's 4 point night. He assisted on each goal. Not bad for a guy who also played 47 shifts for over 33 minutes.

During the regular season Chara didn't have the offensive output we've seen from him in years past. Especially on the power play (only 4 PP points). Last night he reminded us that not only is he a dominant defensive force, he has the offensive skills too.

This was obviously a huge win for the Bruins. It's so much different to come home up 3-1 compared to tied at 2-2. Being at 2-2 would have felt like being behind in this series. Reimer must be swimming in doubt. And his teammates can't feel too confident in him. That could lead to players like Kessel pushing too hard to score goals, and making big mistakes.

It's time to finish this team. They're demoralized. They're facing elimination. They're on the edge of the proverbial cliff. Time to give them a push.

Finish them.

Here's a GIF of a Mortal Kombat character dressed in black and gold killing a character dressed in Maple Leaf Blue.

Game 5 Friday night.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Stanley Cup Roundup*

As always, there are some seriously good series being played in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. All Original Six teams made the playoffs, the top two markets in the country (New York, LA) each have two teams in the mix, Canada was well-represented, and there are no teams from truly poor hockey markets like Phoenix or Nashville. And we're already rid of the Vancouver Canucks.

Sharks 4, Canucks 3 (OT) - Sharks win series 4-0
Vancouver went with Cory Schneider and it didn't really work out. This was a matchup between teams that perennially choke in the playoffs, so one of them had to advance and one had to be embarrassed. I had to post a pic of a hot girl in Vancouver colors, since I won't have a chance to post anymore in the upcoming weeks.

Blackhawks 3, Wild 0 - Blackhawks lead series 3-1
Chicago only lost 7 games in regulation this season, and Minnesota doesn't appear to be much of a match for them. The Wild aren't healthy and the Blackhawks have Patrick Sharp, who had 2 goals in the game and has 4 in the series.

Senators 3, Canadiens 2 (OT) - Senators lead series 3-1
Only 8 penalty minutes in this game. There were about 30 times as many penalty minutes in the previous game. Montreal got conservative in the 3rd period and it screwed them. Ottawa grinded out a pair of goals. Carey Price appeared to hurt his groin at the end of the 3rd and backup Peter Budaj allowed the Kyle Turris game-winner. Ottawa scares me more than any other team in the East. They're getting 110% from their talent and they've been working their asses off all season. Every game they played against the Bruins was close and they got better and better against the B's as the season progressed.

Islanders 6, Penguins 4 - Series tied 2-2
The Penguins have the best skaters in the NHL. No doubt about it. They're stacked. Unfortunately, their goalie is Marc-Andre Fleury. He allowed 6 goals on 24 shots. One fourth of the shots on goal went by him. And some of them were hideous. He's allowed 14 goals in the last 3 games, and Vokoun might get the start in Game 5.

Tonight's games...

7:00pm - Bruins @ Maple Leafs - Bruins lead series 2-1 - NESN/NHL Network
The Bruins need to remain consistent. Tonight they have an opportunity to start burying Toronto's grave. They also have an opportunity to give Toronto a second life.

7:30pm - Capitals @ Rangers - Capitals lead series 2-1 - NBC Sports
The Rangers were up against it and Game 3 and came through. Washington looks good, they have Ovechkin, they have depth, and the Rangers don't seem to know how to win playoff series. However, the Caps will have to find another gear to knock them out.

9:00pm - Kings @ Blues - Series tied 2-2 - CNBC
The defending Champions don't look as sharp as they did last year. I haven't seen much of this series but St. Louis has looked good from what I have seen. And Jonathan Quick has looked human.

10:00pm - Red Wings @ Ducks - Series tied 2-2 - NBC Sports
This series is a big reason why Detroit will be moving to the Eastern Conference. A fanbase in the Eastern Time zone is forced to watch playoff games at 10:00pm. On weeknights. Not good for business. One good thing is if Detroit wins they could face Midwest rival Chicago in the next round. And if Anaheim wins they could face California rival LA.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Maple Leafs Pay Tribute to Past Toronto Teams By Losing a Home Playoff Game

As a Bruins fan there was a lot to love about this game. With a side dish of stuff to hate. Let's start with the love and work our way to the hate.

The Krejci line looked like a #1 line. Lucic was skating hard, which led to physical play, which led to rhythm, which led to goals. Horton's goal in the 2nd was exactly the kind of play that line is capable of putting together. Krejci made a good play on a loose puck in the defensive zone, Lucic used his strength to drive the puck up the ice, and Horton used his hands to beat Reimer. The timing of the goal was perfect, just 50 seconds after Toronto made it a 2-1 game.

Patrice Bergeron had a very Bergeronian game, not standing out on the box score, but he stood out on the ice. He won 60% of his faceoffs. At desperate times in the defensive zone he moved back in front of the net and played as a 3rd defenseman.

Despite being the road team, the Bruins won 45 of 75 faceoffs (60%). Peverley won 10 of 11 and Kelly won 12 of 15.

Each line contributed something. The Krejci line generated 3 goals. The Bergeron line played great defense. The third line contributed with a goal created by Jagr and Peverley forechecking. And the fourth line played smart yet physical hockey in the 3rd, especially Thornton. Not to mention the shorthanded goal scored by Paille.

I could go down the whole Bruins roster and find something positive to say about every player. Except one. Tyler Seguin.

Seguin had a golden opportunity to score in the 1st. Actually, it was a platinum opportunity, encrusted in jewels and diamonds. And he didn't finish.

Seguin isn't a smasher. He's not a penalty killer. He's not a grinder. He's supposed to be a scorer. And he's not scoring. Only 16 goals and 32 points in the regular season (pace for 27 goals and 55 points in an 82 game season). Zero goals and zero assists in this series. Meanwhile Phil Kessel has 2 goals already. In the regular season Seguin usually does well against Toronto, and Kessel struggles against the Bruins. Three games into this series and their roles have been reversed.

In this series the Bruins have allowed 4 shorthanded goals already. That's inexcusable for what is supposed to be a strength of this team. The PK unit looks chaotic, disorganized, frantic. They're being too aggressive playing the puck-carrier. It's okay to give some space and allow shots when shorthanded. Let the goalie do his job and stop them. It's better to allow a predictable shot then over-commit to coverage and allow room for someone away from the puck to take a surprising shot.

Speaking of goaltending, Rask has, overall, been very good. He does have an annoying tendency, though, in those frantic and chaotic moments to over-commit himself. He gets a few yards away from the net then things get crazy in front. This type of melee was how Kessel scored in the 3rd. Tim Thomas was equally aggressive, venturing far from his net. But at his peak Thomas was much faster in recovering and getting back home. Rask goes out, leans away from the net, and takes an eternity to return. I'd prefer it if he stayed at home more, since it takes him so long to get back.

And the B's need to stop passing to empty space, unless it's a corner. That's a regular season thing to do. It's dangerous in the post-season because that space doesn't exist. Passing to space is essentially passing to the opposition.

The Bruins need to maintain the good habits we saw last night and limit the bad in Game 4, which is Wednesday night in Toronto.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette

Monday, May 06, 2013

Why the Celtics Lost

I'm not the most astute observer of basketball, but I do think I know why the Celtics were eliminated by the Knicks.

#1: No Rondo
Everyone who once suggested that the Celtics were better without Rondo should be forced, for one year, to wear hats and shirts that quote that absurd theory. Rondo has been especially good in the playoffs, and his ability to run the offense was a stabilizing factor that would have prevented some of the runs that the Knicks went on in this series. Losing Rondo lost this series.

#2: Age
This is an old team. Small bumps and bruises become nagging injuries. Pierce and Garnett didn't have enough gas in their tanks to play 40 minutes of great basketball every night. And it won't be any better next season. If they come back next season.

#3: No Depth
When the Celtics won in 2008 they had a good supporting cast for The Big Three. When they made other deep playoff runs, they had guys who could score, guys who could play defense. This year they had no random 25+ point nights from Ray Allen. They had Avery Bradley in a role he's not suited for (again, the Rondo injury). In Game 6, only Jason Terry scored points off the bench. When Pierce and KG needed the most support, they received the least.

It might be difficult for the most optimistic Celtics fans to realize, but this team just wasn't that good. It was old, it wasn't deep, and even with a healthy Rondo I don't think the Celtics would be a match for the Heat. Not in a 7 game series. The C's were 41-40. They nearly pulled off an historic comeback in Game 6, but they lost this series in Game 1 when they scored 8 points in the 4th quarter. They lost this series in Game 2 when they scored 23 in the second half.

And now we enter a period of uncertainty for the C's. Rondo will be back. But what kind of team will be back with him? Pierce and Garnett can still play, however they can't be the centerpieces of this team anymore. And in the NBA, unless Rondo can become pals with other great players who decide to come here, or the Celtics get a #1 overall pick, it is very difficult to rebuild.

This might be the end of a mini-era for the Celtics.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo/Charles Krupa

Bruins Revert to Regular Season Habits

The Bruins dominated Toronto in Game 1. And that doesn't mean a thing. Whether you win 8-0 or 4-1 or 1-0 in quintuple OT, it only counts as 1 playoff win. In Game 2 the Bruins eased up their intensity, while the Maple Leafs not only brought their own intensity, they were poised as well. The Leafs made fewer mistakes, and they won. It's not a complex formula.

James Reimer was a rusty colander in Game 1. In Game 2 he tightened up. Meanwhile Tuukka Rask had some rebound issues and allowed at least one goal that he should not have. Give the goaltending edge to Toronto there.

The Bruins, who had one of the best Penalty Kill units in the NHL during the regular season, allowed a power play goal. And the B's also managed to commit a few silly penalties such as Rich Peverley's delay of game. The Bruins only had 9 seconds of Power Play time. Power plays are typically the product of strong play in the offensive zone (desperate defending teams are more likely to commit hooking and slashing penalties). I think the refs called a good game, and the lack of Bruins PP time was because the Bruins didn't play a good game.

They had spurts. They had moments. They had sporadic instances of good play. But it's a 60 minute game. And once again this team's inconsistencies cost them.

Now they've given a young goalie confidence, instead of adding to his doubts. They've also now given a streaky scorer like Phil Kessel confidence. If he gets on a hot streak, that could decide the series. And now the Bruins have given a rabid and starving fanbase in Toronto a 1-1 series, and the Leafs now have home ice advantage.

Thankfully, Ference will return for Game 3. That helps Chara and Seidenberg more than anything. Seidenberg is a fantastic #2 defenseman. He's only a decent #1 defenseman. Putting Seidenberg on the ice with Chara is like putting Pippen with Jordan. It helps both of them, Seidenberg more than Chara, and significantly helps the team.

Nevertheless, the Bruins need to pick up their game. I haven't been impressed with Milan Lucic. He disappears for several shifts at a time. I haven't been impressed with Rask. I haven't been impressed with the Bruins' PK.

This is the First Round, they're playing the 5th seed, it's time to step up and play 60 full minutes. Or more. It's the friggin' Playoffs.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo/Elise Amendola

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Bruins Rake Leafs

In all our worry about how the Bruins would play in this series, I think we all forgot an important fact: James Reimer is a 25-year old with no playoff experience. And he was solid, at best, in the regular season. He was an absolute sieve last night. More holes than a mini-golf course.

On the other end of the ice, Tuukka Rask was a key to this big win. He only had to make 19 saves, but in the 1st period he made timely saves. Shortly after he made a big save, the Bruins took the lead. If Toronto scores that shorthanded goal, who knows what happens to the momentum and flow of the game.

The B's pressured a mediocre goalie. And when they took a lead they didn't make the kind of defensive miscues and turnovers that would allow Toronto to easily make a comeback.

There was some nastiness toward the end of this game. I think Toronto will be very motivated in Game 2. It's important for the Bruins to start strong in that game. Consistency has been an issue with this team all season long, from shift to shift, period to period, game to game. The Leafs will be hungry, the Bruins can't give them any easy snacks.

And who would have thought that Wade Redden would be the Second Star in a playoff game? That's the type of unexpected playoff performance that can make the difference between winning and losing a series.

Phil Kessel's stats from last night:
1 shot on goal in 21 shifts and 13:51 of ice-time.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo/Elise Amendola