Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Let's All Calm Down For A Second

Before the Bruins game on Monday, against the Buffalo Sabres, Claude Julien made the statement that Johnny Boychuk would not be receiving any supplemental discipline for the hit he delivered to Rene Bourque in the Calgary Flames game on Saturday.

I whole heatedly agreed with this decision and from the first moment I saw the hit until now, after watching it over and over so I would know exactly what I’m talking about, I never thought Boychuk was deserving of a suspension.  It definitely was a penalty, but not a suspension worthy hit.

Some might be calling me a hypocrite for this, because of the way I chastised Colin Campbell and Matt Cooke for the Marc Savard incident, but I’m going to try and explain the differences.

The new “Hits-To-The-Head / Blind Side” rule that took effect last week has done a few things, some good and some bad.  The good is obviously that it will protect players from suffering a similar fate that Savard has and punish those that play the game in a very dangerous manner, such as Matt Cooke did.  However the bad that it’s done is how it has impacted the fans of the game, especially ones that don’t completely understand the wording of it.  The moment Boychuk connected with Bourque sites like Twitter exploded with cries for a suspension.  I’m not trying to say everyone isn’t entitled to their opinion but that was not a suspension worthy hit.  Thanks to the fact that I can rewatch the hit on YouTube over and over I can tell you without a shadow of doubt that it wasn’t an elbow on head hit.  Johnny mostly connected with the forearm.  As I said it was a penalty and a careless play, he was high and did make contact with Bourque’s head.  But he came at him straight at him and hit him from the front.  My next statement my get under some skins but I’ll say it anyway…  I think Rene Bourque embellished the hell out of his fall.  I think he felt some contact to his head and decided to draw a penalty by falling like a sack of brick.  Of course this is all my opinion and you can feel free to disagree, that’s what the comment section is for.  But to me that hit didn’t look hard enough to send him down the way it did, unless he had some pre-existing head condition I don’t know about.

To wrap up I just want to express to the fans out there to think for at least a second or two before making statements.  This is hockey, it’s a hard hitting, at times very violent sport and just because the new rule is in place doesn’t mean every little bit of head contact is a cheap shot worthy of a suspension.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Bruins Are Back on the Right Track

The Bruins efforts Tuesday night, in their second 4-0 win against the Atlanta Thrashers this season, is exactly what they need to be bringing to the table every night for the remaining ten games of this season.  They took the positives aspects from their win against the New York Rangers and applied them in this one.

Granted the Thrashers, much like their crowds, barely showed up to “The Biggest Game of Year” as it was being sold in the Atlanta press.  The official attendance claims that there were 14,042 at the Philips Arena last night; however it looked like about half that on TV.  But I’ll save my thoughts on what markets are right for hockey and what ones are in desperate need of relocation for another time.

The Bruins were moving faster, hitting harder, and fighting for every inch of ice during the full sixty minutes of the game.  That last part is probably the most important part of their game that needs to stay consistent.  When they put in a full sixty minute effort good things seem to happen.  David Krejci and Milan Lucic both had a 2 point game with a goal and assist each, Miroslav Satan got his second goal in as many games coming off a redirection of a Zdeno Chara slap shot from the point with 3.5 seconds left in the 2nd period, and Steve Begin broke a 28 game scoreless drought after hammering home a huge rebound off a long wrist shot from Lucic.  But the star of the game would once again have to be Tuukka Rask, turning away 27 shots for his 4th shutout of the season and putting him atop the league for goaltenders in Save Percentage (.930) and Goals Against Average (2.02).

So as of right now the Bruins remain in the 8th spot in the Eastern Conference, one point behind the Montreal Canadiens and Philadelphia Flyers.  Both teams, along with the Bruins, are in action over the next two nights.  The Habs are in Buffalo tonight taking on US Olympian Ryan Miller and the Northeast Division leading Sabres and they’ll be back in the Bell Centre tomorrow night hosting the Florida Panthers that are coming off last night’s 4-1 thrashing of the Toronto Maple Leafs.  The Flyers will be heading back to Philly, after falling 2-0 to the Ottawa Senators, to face off with the Minnesota Wild.  In other notable games around the Eastern Conference, the Rangers will be staying local this week as they have the Islanders later tonight (get your little plastic glasses out because it’s being broadcast in IN 3D!) and then they have the New Jersey Devils at The Rock in Jersey tomorrow night. 

The Bruins next game will see the Tampa Bay Lightning coming into Boston tomorrow evening with only 3 wins in their last 15 games, putting them in 12th in the East, and 8 points behind the Bruins in the standings.  Now even though Tampa Bay isn’t an immediate threat to the B’s playoff spot, the two points that are up for grabs are.  The mindset has to be that every single game is as important as a Game 7 type of situation.  Winning is a must!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Bruins Are Doing Good Enough

The Bruins play as of late hasn’t been great in most people’s opinion.  But, in my opinion, if they continue to play like they did Sunday against the New York Rangers it will be good enough to possibly finish fifth or sixth in the Eastern Conference.  This would be an ideal position for them to be in heading into the post season.

In the next couple days there will be five teams fighting for extremely important points in the East.

Monday – 3/22/10
Ottawa Senators (79) vs. Montreal Canadiens (79)
Tuesday – 3/23/10
Boston Bruins (76) vs. Atlanta Thrashers (75)
Philadelphia Flyers (79) vs. Ottawa Senators (79 or 81 if they beat the Habs)

The Bruins are in a serious “must win” type of situation and, as I mentioned, if they bring the type of play they did on Sunday they’ll stand a much better chance of getting those necessary two points each night.  In the game against the Rangers they were hitting harder, passing sharper, and doing a good job of clogging up the slot on both ends of the ice.  They are still having the same ongoing issues finding the back of the net and I don’t see any of the final 11 regular season games being high scoring affairs.  But if they can stay tight defensively, protect whatever leads they get, and keep a man in front of the opposing teams’ goalies the dirty goals are going to be what wins them the games.

It doesn’t sound like an ideal game plan and part of it definitely includes the next eleven teams making a number of mistakes in their given sixty minutes.  There is no question in my mind that the next few weeks are desperation time.  The Bruins are in the playoffs at the moment but if you think just making the post season in the eighth spot is going to cut it you’re sadly mistaken.  Because the 8th will play the 1st in the first round, meaning Alexander Ovechkin and the league leading Washington Capitals will be coming at the Bruins with everything they have.

An ideal situation for the next couple days would go as follows… Ottawa beating the Habs on Monday and the Flyers on Tuesday, leaving those two teams at 79 points and the Bruins taking two points from the Thrashers will put them one point behind Montreal and Philly heading into Thursday’s game with the struggling Tampa Bay Lightning.

Two other games on Tuesday I’ll be keeping an eye on are the Florida Panthers hopefully beating Toronto Maple Leafs and keeping the Bruins first round draft pick in a Top 2 spot and I also wouldn’t mind seeing the Lightning drop their sixth in a row to the Carolina Hurricanes before they make their way up Boston on Thursday.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

I Shook Bobby Orr's Hand and Headed For The Bar

This past Thursday was an interesting day for me here in Boston for a number of reasons.  I spent, literally, the entire day in the TD Garden.  I showed up at 10:00am and didn’t leave until around 1:30am.  Not only were the Bruins going up against the Pittsburgh Penguins for the first time since the Matt Cooke / Marc Savard incident, but the organization was also honoring the 40th Anniversary of the 1970 Bruins Stanley Cup victory that night.

I’ll skip over all the morning and afternoon details, except for the fact that I happened to be walking past the Penguins as they were getting off their team bus and I made sure to stop and give an unflinching stare directly into Matt Cooke’s eyes as he walked by.  Did it affect him one bit?  I highly doubt it, but I sure as hell felt good about myself.

The opening ceremony for the 1970 team was great, especially how they kept it fairly short and to the point.  Unfortunately a lot of other teams in the league haven’t mastered that and will drag things like this out for upwards of 2 hours while the players are fully suited up, ready to go, and the fans become a mix of bored and angry.

Well this particular Garden crowd, and the city of Boston in general, was already pretty angry coming into the game and it only took Shawn Thornton 1:58 into the first period to turn the volume up to 11.  Cooke hit the ice for the first time, the capacity 17,565 let out a roaring “BOOO!” and Shawn’s head snapped in the direction of the Pittsburgh bench.  Thornton made a bee-line at Cooke and started barking at him to drop his gloves.  When he finally obliged, Shawn then instructed him to remove his helmet (which has a visor on it), to which he declined… as Don Cherry said on tonight’s (3/20/10) Coach’s Corner, “That’s the sign of a coward.”

The fight was by far the high point of the game.  From there on the Penguins offense simply out played the Bruins, putting 31 shots on Tuukka Rask as opposed to the Bruins extremely struggling offense only put 17 on Marc-Andre Fleury (none of them getting by him giving the Penguins their 1st shutout this season).

There really isn’t much more I can say regarding the game except that I was standing next to Bobby Orr in the Legends Club for the final ten minutes of it and there wasn’t much either one of us seemed to want to say when it ended.  I let out a sigh, shook the hand of the greatest player to ever lace up a pair of skates, and made my way to the nearest bar.

The rest of the night was definitely much more upbeat as we celebrated the 40th Anniversary of the 1970 Bruins Stanley Cup and the team of men that brought that Cup to Boston.  I’m not going to get into all the details of what went down during the party, mostly because the night was a series of brief but interesting and memorable conversations had between me and some of the players.  All I will say is as long as I’ve been following this team I’ve never been in the same room as the Stanley Cup, until Thursday night, and the goose bumps are still not fully gone.  Any real hockey fans out there will know exactly what I mean.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Revenge For Savard

A lot of the Bruins fans I’ve talked to over the past 11 days are going into tonight’s match up with the Pittsburgh Penguins with the mindset that retribution for the Matt Cooke hit on Marc Savard should be priority #1 for the Boston Bruins.  Personally I feel the same exact way.  I’m also someone that has felt for years that this is a Bruins team that plays much better hockey when they have a chip on their shoulder, and tonight they should be playing flat out angry as hell.  I don’t think some revenge and a win would be too tall of an order to pull off tonight.

They need to get things going right from the opening face-off in order to the crowd into it.  Because the 17,565 on hand at the Garden tonight are going to be seething from the moment they walk in and will not be satisfied until their bloodlust has been fulfilled.  The big question has been who they are going to target for the payback…  Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Cooke himself?  I’m thinking Crosby gets spared in the retaliation department, but nobody should be immune to the plethora of heavy hits that should be a constant all night.  Malkin, if he plays tonight, should keep his head on a serious swivel seeing as though hits like the one Cooke delivered to Savard are technically still legal in the NHL.  Which brings me to Matt Cooke… He is going to have to drop his gloves at some point in the game and answer for his actions, and if Dan Bylsma (Head Coach of Pittsburgh) had half a pair on him he would start Cooke.  Get it out of the way on the opening face-off and then let them play some hockey.  If that were to happen and this was a perfect world I would have the Bruins starting Shawn Thornton, Milan Lucic, and Steve Begin up front with Zdeno Chara and Mark Stuart on defense.  Whoever grabs the meat first gets the first bite.

Some other news that may impact the game tonight is that Colin Campbell and other league officials will be gracing the TD Garden with their presence.  I’m sure he’s going to be analyzing every single move the Bruins make, looking for the slightest bit of “reckless play” so he can play another round of Dartboard Justice (as NESN’s Jack Edwards calls it).  I don’t think his presence, or whatever line of garbage he tries to feed to the players and coaches about zero tolerance, should or will effect what happens on the ice.  Because when it comes to the “consistent” Mr. Campbell, there is no telling what’s legal or not anymore so they need to play their game hard and heavy and let the chips fall where they may.

There’s also the matter of the two points, which would be nice to get at the end of the game.  This is one of those times that the players need to reach down deep and pull out everything they have.  The win and two points are extremely important, especially heading into Sunday’s game with the New York Rangers who are one point behind the Bruins in the East, but what is equally important for them to achieve tonight is the respect of their fans.  I’ve been following this team the entire 30-years of my life and I know the fans here in Boston.  We can take losses and we can put up with bad seasons but the reactions from the fans over the past week-and-change are different then just normal disappointment.  When the team didn’t immediately respond to the hit on Savard and then when the NHL failed to suspend Cooke, everyone marked Thursday March, 18th down on their calendars.  Well the day is here, we’ll just have to see what comes of it.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Colin Campbell: Consistently Inconsistent

The league has made it clear that Matt Cooke will not receive a suspension for the vicious cheap shot he gave to Marc Savard.  Colin Campbell explained their decision was due in part to them staying “consistent.”  Well I for one can say congratulations guys because you did maintain your consistency for being completely inconsistent and absolutely horrible at your job.

I’ve put together a short (very short) list of what Colin Campbell likes to call being consistent when it comes to handing down suspensions.

2-Games – Randy Jones for almost killing Patrice Bergeron and ending his season.
6-Games – Sean Avery for saying "sloppy seconds" (possibly the most laughable of the list)
2-Games – Scott Hartnell for a cheap shot on Andrew Alberts which resulted in a concussion.
NOTHING – Mike Komisarek for crosschecking Milan Lucic in the face.
1-Game – Milan Lucic for high-sticking Maxim Lapierre.  (this will be revisited)
NOTHING – Scott Walker’s sucker punch on Aaron Ward.
2-Games – Matt Cooke hit to the head on Scott Walker.
2-Games – Matt Cooke hit to the head on Artem Anisimov.
NOTHING – Mike Richards hit to the head on David Booth. (another reason there was no suspension on Savard’s hit)
NOTHING – Matt Cooke hit to the head on Marc Savard resulting in a concussion and probably ending his season.

So what have we learned?  Well apparently being a smart ass is a far worse offense in the eyes of the NHL then almost ending a player’s career.  As far as the Booth hit, I’m guessing they feel deep down that they should have given Mike Richards a suspension, but because they didn’t and their egos are way too big to admit being wrong they are pulling this “staying consistent” garbage. 

I have two statements made by Colin Campbell that I’d like to bring to light.  The first is his explanation yesterday afternoon regarding his decision to not suspend Matt Cooke.

"No one likes when a player like Marc Savard goes down the way he did.  No one likes when a player like David Booth goes down the way he did.  But we have to be consistent.  I know Matt Cooke is a repeat offender.  He's been suspended twice in the last year.  [But] I can't suspend Matt Cooke for being a repeat offender. I have to find a reason.  Right now our rules say that shoulders to head are legal.  Matt Cooke did not jump, and did not do anything that we found illegal in his actions, even though, again, you don't like what happened.”

The next one is Colin’s official statement last April after suspending Milan Lucic for 1-game in the Playoffs, during the Montreal series.

 “While it is unclear whether Lucic’s glove or stick makes contact with Lapierre, what is clear is that he delivered a reckless and forceful blow to the head of his opponent.”

Now can anyone tell me how Matt Cooke’s hit on Savard wasn’t a reckless and forceful blow to the head?  ANYONE???

Where is your consistency now Mr. Campbell?  This paired with the 6-games Sean Avery got for running his mouth about an ex-girlfriend sends a horrible message with regards to the leagues stance on their players safety.  Or maybe they all just have huge crushes on Elisha Cuthbert.

Now of course we have the question of the Bruins seeking retribution for their fallen brother on March 18th, when the Penguins and Matt Cooke come to the Garden…  I have two thoughts on this, what I WANT to happen and what I THINK will happen.  What I want (especially since I’ll be in attendance that night) is a SLAP SHOT inspired blood bath! If you’re wearing a Spoked-B and breathing I want you barreling full steam into the closest Penguin near you!  But what I think will realistically happen is a bit different.  We’ll see a very intense, emotion filled game with some decent hitting and maybe even a fight or two occurring before the end of the night.  But I highly doubt Matt Cooke will be the one to drop the gloves, especially if his sweater’s being yanked on by Shawn Thornton.  Kind of like in the Nov. 1, 2008 game against the Dallas Stars where all anyone wanted was for Steve Ott to drop them and take his medicine for being an unbelievable pest all night.  But it never happened.

I guess all we can do is wait and see at this point, and of course send Savvy our best and hope for a quick & healthy recovery.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Marc Savard Hit

I’ve spent the past two days trying to write this blog, with every attempt turning into an obscenity laced rant about how furious I am over the Matt Cooke hit on Marc Savard.  So strap in, because this could get lengthy.

Let me get the game out of the way first…  In my opinion the Bruins, lead by the efforts of Tim Thomas, were keeping it a very close game against the defending Stanley Cup Champion – Penguins.  Timmy played great, the defense was playing good, and the forwards couldn’t get the puck in the net. Same old story lately…  Then with 5:37 left in a very tight game, the Bruins attempting to tie it up and get at least one of two very important points and a bit more ground on the extremely competitive Eastern Conference standings… the game changed.

Marc Savard takes a pass from Milan Lucic and fires a wrist shot, high and wide of the goal, as he’s gliding backwards through the slot.  With everybody’s attention (including all four on ice officials) on the play down in the corner Matt Cooke came up from behind Savard’s blind spot (the only way a left handed shooter would’ve seen him coming is if they had an eye just behind their right ear) and delivered a gut wrenching hit to Savard’s head.

What came next was something that no hockey fan (regardless of you affiliation) ever wants to see.

Marc was lying motionless on the ice and according to GM Peter Chiarelli he was unconscious for “around twenty seconds.”

After further review of the hit the only way I could describe it is, absolutely disgusting.  Don’t get me wrong…  I love big, crushing, open ice hits that send players flying to the ground like a sack of potatoes. (see Ovechkin’s hit on Jagr in the Olympics)  And as someone that played hockey for over fifteen years, I loved seeing a player stick handling in my zone with his head down.  Rule #1 that you learned as young as the Mite level was to skate with your head up or you’ll end up on your back.  But what we all saw on Sunday has nothing to do with any of those factors.  Marc had his head up, was following the play, and was delivered a blatant cheap shot.

Another reason for the outrage on this specific incident is that this wasn’t the first time Matt Cooke has delivered a hit like this.  He received 2-game suspensions for putting extremely similar hits to the heads of Carolina’s Scott Walker (on Jan. 20, 2009) and New York Rangers center Artem Anisimov (on Nov. 28, 2009).  I dare you to YouTube either of those and tell me how those hits differ from the one he put on Savard, besides the fact that Walker and Anisimov got up and returned to the game.  If I really wanted to stir the pot with regard to Cooke’s history of dirty play I’d sight his 2-game suspension from 2004 (then with the Canucks) for spearing Minnesota Wild’s Matt Johnson or his knee-to-knee hit in the Playoffs last May that injured Carolina’s Erik Cole (that one ended up going unpunished).

The GMs and other league officials are all down in Florida putting their heads together on a variety of issues this week.  The biggest issue being hits to the head and they’re using the Savard hit as “Exhibit A.”  All the while those of us here in Boston are impatiently waiting to hear what type of disciplinary action (or lack there of) is going to be handed down on Cooke.  This of course poses another huge problem I have, and it’s that the league (more specifically Colin Campbell) seems to be talking out both sides of his mouth... Yesterday afternoon on NHL Live (on NHL Network) he made the bold statement, "We've taken hits to the head out of the game."  Then later in the evening (on a Toronto radio show) he's called Cooke’s hit on Savard a "legal hit with the shoulder." Well my question is which one is it... because by saying that they’ve taken that type of hit out of the game (which they haven’t yet, but are meeting this week to decide whether to or not) that would lead me to believe that it would be illegal to hit someone in the head and I don’t think anyone can argue that what Cooke did on Sunday was 100% a hit to Savard's head.  Confused yet?  Yeah me too…  If that's legal and the league isn't going to make it illegal or punish these types of players more severely then they need to look into removing two things from the current rule book... the instigator penalty and the auto-suspension for fights past the 5-min. mark in regulation.  That way at least the players can go back to policing themselves.  But as it stands, and what most people complaining about the Bruins lack of immediate retaliation don't realize is, they were basically handcuffed at that point in the game.  Regardless of the fact that it was a one goal game and the Bruins need every win they can get right now.  If one of our guys grabbed Cooke and started wailing on him he'd get 5(fighting)+2(instigator)+game misconduct & 1 game suspension then have go in front of Campbell and the board for further review.  But the hit on Savvy was some how legal?  Come on…

As of right now Savard is back in Boston with a Grade 2 concussion and may be out for the remainder of the season.  Matt Cooke has yet to be disciplined by the NHL, but they’re expected to give their decision before the Penguins play the Hurricanes on Thursday.  I’m not expecting to be happy with it, just saying.

As far as tonight’s game against the Maple Leafs, word from Toronto is that Zdeno Chara is not playing (day-to-day) due to an undisclosed lower body injury that might be carried over from the Olympics.  But some good news to wrap this up is that Tim Thomas will be getting the start tonight and Tuukka Rask is back, ready to go, and will be backing Tim up.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

If You’re Not Going To Score... Hit Someone!

Whether it was the reaction from the fans on Tuesday night after watching the Bruins simply fall apart in the 3rd period, giving up four unanswered goals to the Canadiens and handing them two very important points at this place in the season.  Or perhaps they were watching NESN’s version of Coach’s Corner with Don Cherry as he, not only called out Milan Lucic for “quitting” in his fight with Toronto’s Colton Orr, but also called out the team’s lack of physical presence on the ice as of late.  Whatever it was, it certainly seems that the much needed fire has been lit under the Bruins this week. 

Tim Thomas clearly seems to have found that much needed confidence that he’s been missing for a month or so.  It was great to see that Vezina caliber goaltending Thursday night against the Maple Leafs.  Among other things robbing Toronto on five wide open breakaways, including one by former Bruin Phil Kessel that got the “Tough on Timmy” Garden crowd on their feet and back in his corner real fast.  In the shootout he was no different; starting off with a big save on Kessel and not letting up one bit, stonewalling all the Leafs shooters to get the B’s their first win in the Garden since December 30th.  Earlier this afternoon Thomas looked like he was on a mission to prove that his performance in the Toronto game wasn’t a fluke.  He turned away 37 shots (33 in the last two periods) and looked very much in control of his game in the 3-2 win over the Islanders.

An unfortunate note to come out of today’s game is the Michael Ryder hit from behind on Blake Comeau.  Ryder received a 5 minute major and a game misconduct for the hit and in my opinion will probably be getting a 2-3 game suspension.  After watching the hit probably a dozen or so times in the last few hours I don’t feel it was a “dirty” hit.  But it was definitely a very careless hit.  It looks like Comeau put himself in a vulnerable position when he really didn’t have to.  However it also seemed like Ryder could have pulled up a bit on the hit.  We’ll see what Colin Campbell and the NHL have to say about it tomorrow.

Thursday night I was at the Garden for the Maple Leafs game so I didn’t get to see Don Cherry’s comments on NESN, but based on the reactions I was reading on Twitter during the first intermission I knew I had to check the DVR as soon as I got home.  Those of you that don’t watch Hockey Night in Canada (Sat. nights on NHL Network in the US & CBC in Canada) on a regular basis are probably not use to Don Cherry’s style of commentary.  But if you are use to Grapes and can read through his blunt use of words, like I can, you’ll know that he’s a Bruin through and through.  But as much as his blood runs black-and-gold, it also has an equal amount of red-and-white in it.  He’s a Canadian that loves his big, tough Canadian boys...  What am I getting at?  Don calling out Milan Lucic and the Bruins lack of hitting is his way of showing that he’s frustrated, like most of us have been, in their play as of late.  Like he said, “If you’re not going to score, at least hit someone!”  It’s a very valid point…  As good has the Bruins have been in the last couple games and in the four wins prior to the Olympic break, they’re physical game is still extremely lacking and has been for the better part of the season.  Lucic’s role on the team has been to bring a lot of the physicality and due to the couple bouts with injuries this season Milan’s had quite a bit of trouble finding his game.  I’ve said it before and I’ll continue to say it, this is a team that needs to play angry.  The more physical the games the better the Bruins seem to perform.  So while we don’t have a 30 goal scoring sniper on the team, we do have a good number of guys that can throw a body check or two.  They are going to have to be the ones stepping it up through the back half of the season, creating space and moving bodies so the shooters we do have can make that red lamp light up.

Friday, March 5, 2010

A Hockey Fan's Christmas (Trade Deadline Day)

On Wednesday I woke up at 7:45am and was surprisingly alert, which is very out of character for me… I’m more of a noon riser most days.  But for hockey fans this day is a mix of Christmas morning and a day-long endurance test.  I’m referring to Trade Deadline Day!  By 8:00am my room looked like my own personal “war room”… the coffee’s brewing, the TV gets turned to the NHL Network (feeding TSN’s TradeCentre), and the computer is logged into the live coverage on CBCsports.ca along with a few other sites.  My main focus was obviously tracking the moves Peter Chiarelli and the Bruins were going to be making through out the day.  Needless to say the day ended up being quieter then I had hoped for.

The first trade of the day was Derek Morris being sent back to the Phoenix Coyotes for a conditional 4th Round Draft Pick (it will become a 3rd Round if Phoenix resigns Derek at the end of the season).  This was clearly a move to free up some cap space.  I was hopeful this would lead to a bigger trade later on in the day.

The next move the Bruins made was sending Craig Weller, Byron Bitz and a 2nd Round Pick to the Florida Panthers for defensemen Dennis Seidenberg and Matthew Bartkowski.  Not exactly what I had hoped for, but Siedenberg’s a decent D-man and it was still early enough in the day that anything could happen.

But nothing did…

To say I’m disappointed would be an understatement.  I think everyone was expecting, or at least hoping for, a top 6 winger.  But the Bruins didn’t make another deal for the rest of the day.

I know it would be very easy to point the finger and say Chiarelli didn’t do his job.  But I just can’t do that.  At the end of the day there wasn't a lot that could really be done. One single player (especially the ones available) isn't going to turn this team into Cup contenders this year. All the "big names" would've been nothing more then rentals... and all the teams with those players were eyeballing the Bruins 1st Round picks, which would definitely not be worth giving up.  I'm obviously not happy with what the day brought the Bruins, but I'm not going to pretend that there was a player that was in Chiarelli's reach that would bring us a Cup this spring. So now it's up to the players we have to step their game WAY UP to get the B's into the Playoffs, which I still believe is completely in their reach.

This is the Bruins team we are going to have for the remainder of the season… So it’s time we stop all the complaining, get behind them, and show them that we all support the guys we have.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Gretzky-face, Fireside Chat & Other Olympic Nonsense

So we’re almost a week removed from the Olympics and I’m going to try to give you a breakdown of what I felt was the good, the bad, and the completely infuriating…

Let’s start at the beginning…  As we were all settling in and getting ready to watch a glorified six hour light show our old buddies Al “Do You Believe In Miricles? YES!” Michaels & Bob Costas come on to report on the unfortunate death of Georgian luge athlete, Nodar Kumaritashvili, and go on to explain that the Opening Ceremonies will be held in his honor… and then it starts…  The next few minutes are spent replaying his crash / death video over and over and over.  Those of you that were also playing at home on Twitter, like I was (@mikewendt), know that the over all feeling was less-then-pleased that NBC decided to show the actual crash footage.  Of course I was looking for my own soap box to stand on.  Not because they were actually showing this boy die over & over again.  But more because of the fact that they felt this was acceptable to air, yet we as a society acted like our world was coming to an end when Janet Jackson’s nipple was exposed six years ago… or how apologies are being forced onto everyone left and right for “offensive” acts, words, gestures, etc.  But showing a 21-year-old crash to his death is perfectly acceptable to air a half-dozen times in front of one of the largest national television audiences of the year.

Anyway, I’ll continue on more of this apology nonsense a bit further down…

The Ceremonies themselves had their flaws as well… and I’m not referring to the Torch Lighting malfunction that gave us the great pop culture term “Gretzky-face” but rather the need to have Bob Costas doing a running commentary that amounted to a few hours of audio Wikipedia searches.  It completely took me out of any moment they were try to create.  But it’s not the first time Bob’s taken me out of a great moment by over-selling how special, magical, spectacular, etc. the whole thing is.  Did you know that for generations when ponds around the world freeze people have been going out on to these ponds and playing hockey on them? And that by holding a hockey game inside the majestic, hallowed halls of Fenway Park is like the players are going back to their roots and blah blah blah.  Thanks for letting me know that, like the Winter Classic, this is a special event……… I think you see where I’m going here, so I’ll move on.

Once the hoopla was taken care of and the games started I was in full blown TV junkie mode.  My sleep pattern is still messed up from trying to get my fix of everything that I could each night.

I can be honest here so I will… I watched the Figure Skating, Skiing, Speed Skating, and stuff like that just waiting for them to wipeout.  Oh and they did not disappoint. 

But to prove I’m not completely heartless, there were a number of genuinely nice moments to be seen.  When Alexandre Bilodeau, with his brother and country looking on, gave Canada their first Gold medal won on Canadian soil.  Xue Shen & Hongbo Zhao winning the Gold for China in Figure Skating was another one of those stories you like to see get the happy ending treatment.

Women’s Curling…  Do I need to say anymore?  Well, if the media coverage is any indication, maybe I do.  I’m not going to smash them too bad, because I understand it’s not really covered here in the States.  But I did find it amusing how the reporters would try to explain the sport to the viewers… It seemed like a cross between someone teaching a child something new & finding out there’s civilization on other planets.  Anyway, my introduction to this fine sport was actually by accident.  I was in Montreal with a couple friends for a weekend and on a rainy morning we decided to nurse a few mean hangovers with a couple cases of Molson Ex and about four hours of the Scotties Tournament of Hearts (Google it if you’d like).  Maybe it was the Canadian beer or maybe it was watching eight women sliding on ice while screaming “HARD!” but from then on I was hooked on Women’s Curling.

While I’m on the women’s side of things… How about the USA & Canada women’s hockey teams! They beat the bag out of everyone.  I haven’t seen scores get run up like that since little league, and yes this is where I’m going to revisit the apology topic from the first part of this blog.  The Team Canada women had nothing to apologize for and the false outrage over their celebration was what embarrassed me.  Here are the facts…  The women from Team Canada had been in the locker room celebrating their Gold medal win and doing the necessary press for over 70 minutes after the game was over, the arena had been cleared of all the spectators for a long while when a few of the team members decided to head back out on to the ice and soak in all they could of this great moment in their lives.  They had some champagne, beer, and cigars that they were celebrating with.  The only people left in the arena at this time were the team’s personnel, a few Olympic officials, and some press.  Someone snapped a few candid shots of the teammates celebrating on the ice and posted them online.  I still can’t figure out what was suppose to be so embarrassing and/or offensive, but enjoying a couple drinks and a cigar is usually par for the course when it comes to celebrating a sports victory.  However the next day the team had to issue an apology.  I ask you, FOR WHAT?  There was actually a reporter on one of the networks the next day babbling about how they should be “tossed out of the closing ceremonies for their actions.”  That got to me on so many levels it’s not even funny.

Then it was the men’s turn…  USA vs. Canada for the Gold in Hockey!  The game everybody wanted, but didn’t think we’d get.  I’m not too proud to admit that I thought Canada would be facing Russia for the Gold.  But when Canada sent Ovechkin and his boys home in a huff all eyes were on the Americans to make it happen.  Six goals in 12 minutes was all it took for the US to do away with Finland and set the stage for the rematch hockey fans (and NHL PR people) had been dreaming about.  It was an absolutely amazing contest.  Back and forth, tight score, heavy hitting, strong intensity, and above all else… incredible goaltending by Ryan Miller and Roberto Luongo.  Would it have been better had USA won? Sure…  But did it really take away from the great competition on display in front of me? Not even a bit.

All in all, I’d give the 2010 Olympic Winter Games from Vancouver a B+ overall.  For the most part, when I wasn’t ranting and raving about the non-athletic aspects of the Olympics, I was enjoying the variety of content these Games brought to us.  The best part (besides my Women’s Curling fetish that I’m seeking help for) was obviously the Men’s Hockey Gold Medal Game – USA vs. Canada.  The worst part, and I’ve given this some serious thought, would have to be the awkwardly boring Fireside Chats with Bob Costas.