Thursday, June 30, 2011

Ryder and Kaberle Will Test Free Agency, Hnidy Not Re-Signed

If you really want to be technical about the whole situation, the Boston Bruins organization will allow unrestricted free agents Michael Ryder and Tomas Kaberle to test the open market come tomorrow. The first of July will mark the beginning of free agency in the NHL. Now just because these two key role players from the Stanley Cup winning Bruins team will be unrestricted free agents, does not mean that they will end up landing in another organization.

With that being said, I would have to say that Ryder has the better chance of wearing the black and gold next season. Earlier this week, the Bruins were listening to offers to trade the rights of Tomas Kaberle for a low draft pick. What that means is if a team wants to talk to a player before they hit the open market of free agency, then they will trade for the rights to talk to that player prior to anyone else. Boston also drafted defenseman Dougie Hamilton in this year's entry draft, who just so happened to be the steal of the draft and having a reputation of being an all-around player. Kaberle did finish this postseason with 11 assists and a +8 rating. However, the Bruins seem to be targeting a defenseman in free agency and Kaberle will be out.

Utility defenseman Shane Hnidy was informed by General Manager Peter Chiarelli that he will not be re-signed by Boston. Chiarelli told Hnidy that he will be valuable to another team. The veteran only played three games this season and did not tally a point. He was not signed until January and he was battling a significant shoulder injury since then. Even if another team will sign him, he will only be a utility defender once again. Yet another man will be gone from this championship roster and that is all the more reason why the Bruins will target a defenseman in the offseason.

Whether they bring back Ryder or not, the Bruins may need to fill a spot or two on the lines. They are so deep in the AHL (Jordan Caron, Zach Hamill, and Jamie Arniel) that they do not need to go out shopping for a forward. Plus, we are still uncertain of the status of Marc Savard. Either way, the coming weeks will be very interesting around Boston and around the entire NHL.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Montreal Police Launch Investigation Against The Bruins Captain....No Joke

We all thought that this issue was closed when the Boston Bruins eliminated their original six rival in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Montreal Canadiens apparently are still sore about the incident that took place up in the Bell Centre back in March. Bruins captain Zdeno Chara drilled Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty into the turnbuckle that supports the bench.

Pacioretty was stretchered off the ice and was later diagnosed with a crack vertebrae. He would go on to miss the rest of the regular season and the playoffs. This took place during the last meeting on Montreal ice during the regular season. Chara was not suspended and received no fine for the hit. Chara was not even penalized on the original play. It was not until the officials got together and enforced a five minute interference penalty and a game misconduct.

Almost four months later, the Montreal Police Department is currently launching an investigation to pursue criminal charges against Chara. Allegedly, Chara will be the last person the police will speak to and the Bruins organization is fully cooperating. The investigation will continue to go on for at least the next week.

When this news first broke, I laughed while reading the story. After collecting myself and thinking about the circumstances behind the incident, I still refuse to comprehend what is going on in the minds of the Canadiens. The issue was settled when Chara received no suspension, no fine, and no initial penalty on the play. If Montreal knocked off Boston in the first round, I guarantee you that the issue would have been dropped. Chara is removed from one of the best seasons in his career and it is going to end with possible criminal charges. Not only will nothing come of this, but the rest of the league will now witness how unsportsmanlike the Canadian teams in the NHL really are.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Bruins Take "All-Around Defenseman" Hamilton in 2011 NHL Entry Draft

Many expected the Bruins to go after a defenseman in the first round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. What was surprising about the Bruins pick is that they got a great opportunity to select a star in the making. Boston had the ninth overall pick this year as a result of the left-over offer from the Phil Kessel trade a couple of years ago. With that pick, Boston selected defenseman Dougie Hamilton.

The 18 year old prospect played his junior hockey in the Ontario Hockey League for the Niagara Ice Dogs. In the 2010-2011 season, he led Niagara and finished fourth in the OHL in scoring among defensemen with 58 points. He is said to have all of the skills to be an all-around defenseman. He can skate well, he can hit, he can pass, and he can contribute offensively. Many draft experts expected him to go in the top five, so the Boston Bruins were lucky to have this kid fall in their laps.

The intention of drafting younger and developing players in the minor leagues will benefit Boston tremendously. Teams around the NHL are scrambling around and shaking up their lineups with the hope of something happening immediately. The core of the Bruins is solid and they have the talent in the waiting. If they want to go out this offseason and trade for another forward or a defenseman, then they could do that. However, they do not need to as they have several players at each position who are ready to play at the next level. I have already mentioned specific names of these players in previous blog entries.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Thomas wins second Vezina, Chara takes Messier Award at the NHL Awards Show

As expected, Boston Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas won his second career Vezina Trophy, the pinnacle of goaltender awards. This award is presented to the player who has been the most outstanding goaltender throughout the season. It was hard to argue against the 37 year old gentleman from Flint, Michigan when you look at the stats. He posted a 2.00 goals against average, a .938 save percentage, and nine shutouts in 57 games this season.

He beat out Roberto Luongo of the Vancouver Canucks and Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators. Although Luongo, along side teammate and fellow goaltender Cory Schneider, walked away with the William M. Jennings Award (goaltender(s) who have conceded the fewest goals for their team in a season), the way that Thomas played during the season and into the postseason goes beyond the stat sheet.

Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara did not win the James Norris Trophy for most outstanding defenseman (Nicklas Lidstrom of the Detroit Red Wings took the award). However, he did win the Mark Messier Leadership Award for his outstanding leadership and attitude on and off the ice.

Vancouver Canucks alternate captain Ryan Kesler, one of like six alternate captains for the team, took home the Frank J. Selke Trophy for being the league's best two-way forward. Seriously, has anyone realized that the Canucks have like six alternate captains? Did anyone notice that as the Stanley Cup Finals was taking place? I am glad to see that the leadership position on that team is decided.........Anyway, I was making a point by bringing up Kesler. Bruins center Patrice Bergeron should have at least been nominated for this award. His play goes heavily unnoticed by the league and he is one of the best two-way forwards in the NHL. He got snubbed from the All-Star game and now this. At the end of the day, he has the Stanley Cup. A very entertaining awards show tonight hosted by Jay Mohr, an event that seemed more like a comedy show at times, was a great way to end the season.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Stanley Cup Hangover - The Parade

The players have returned to Boston with freshly shaved faces and hockey's greatest price. A 39 year wait for avid Bruins fans for this team to win a title and complete the "Quad" of championships for this city in the past 10 years. The bus arrived back at the TD Garden Thursday morning carrying the champions of the NHL. From there, the players took the Stanley Cup around to several hot spots in the Boston area. Fans who were in the right place at the right team were able to grab a picture with Lord Stanley's Cup and a handful of Bruins players. They treated the cup as if they were taking care of a child going as far as strapping the thing to a baby carriage.

Boston was not enough to contain Stanley Cup fever. Tim Thomas, Zdeno Chara, and Patrice Bergeron visited the set of Good Morning, America yesterday in New York. They finally were able to hold the official celebration today as the parade around Boston took place. The players, staff, and coaches boarded the Duck Tour buses at the TD Garden at 11:00am and arrived in Copley Square a couple of hours later.

Injured center Marc Savard was in attendance to celebrate the victory with his teammates. As of now, he is not eligible to have his name on the Stanley Cup because he did not play enough games with the team this season. Defenseman Shane Hnidy is another name that the players are pulling for. With the festivities winding down, the Bruins can enjoy this moment for only a little while longer. The mindset needs to be changing focus to the start of next season.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Early Stages Of The Offseason

I am going to keep this one short and sweet. It is tough being a prisoner of the moment after what happened last night. The Bruins are Stanley Cup champions of the 2010-2011 season. Before we know it, the 2011-2012 season will be approaching. The management for the Bruins must act quick about who to bring back for the next season.

We already know that with last night's win, Mark Recchi announced his retirement. Michael Ryder is an unrestricted free agent and he will most likely not be back. The biggest question of the offseason is simple: will Marc Savard return? He just recently signed a seven year extension worth $28 million. His health is a big concern. I believe that he will return, but one bad hit and his career will be over for his sake.

If he does not return, certain trades will be made. We know that Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton, Patrice Bergeron, and David Krejci will be the core forwards next season. Most importantly, we need to re-sign Brad Marchand because he is a restricted free agent. He can name his price and the Bruins better give it to him. All of our defensemen, with the exception of Tomas Kaberle, are signed through at least until next season. I think Kaberle will be out. Steve Kampfer is our puck moving defenseman of the future and he should be in the top six. It was unfortunate that he missed time this season with a concussion. Colby Cohen and Mart Bartkowski are also in the AHL and they are solid defensemen.

As far as forwards, we have Jordan Caron. I have always said that he will be Recchi's replacement. He played the first 20 games or so this season due to injuries to Krejci and Savard. Jamie Arniel and Zach Hamill are also solid forwards that have seen action this season. The Bruins have a great group down in the minors. Even though they will be under the salary cap next season, they do not need to go out and spend a great deal since they have the talent in the minors. The Bruins even have their goaltender of the future in Tuukka Rask. With Recchi gone, the second alternate captain spot will be open. Look for Krejci to take that honor.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Stanley Cup Finals - Game Seven

The term "soft" is overused sometimes in sports when describing players. It does not refer to a player's physical attributes but more so the mental toughness. The Vancouver Canucks have been exposed in this series by the Boston Bruins as a soft team. When it comes to Daniel and Henrik Sedin, they are two of the biggest softies that play in this league. Daniel, one of the "Sweedish Fish," said that the Canucks will win game seven. Earlier today, he retracted those statements saying that the Canucks will "win as a team or lose as a team." He backed out of those statements because he knows the Bruins will be coming out playing physical and he will be on the receiving end of some hits. He is too soft so he does not want to get hit. It does not matter who you are. If you were wearing those ugly blue sweaters tonight, you were going to get hit.

One other minor story to touch on deals with the injured Canuck forward Mason Raymond. He suffered a vertebrae compression on a hit from Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk. He missed the game tonight and he will be out three to four months. Canucks General Manager Mike Gillis believes that Boychuk should have been suspended because he thought that it was a dirty hit. This is getting real old. A pathetic statement like that is not worth commenting on. The reality is that tonight was the final game of the NHL season. It just so happens to be game seven. It just so happens to be the Stanley Cup Finals. It just so happens to feature the Boston Bruins.

The Bruins needed to come out strong tonight and turn around their luck on the road in this series, especially with a banged up lineup the Canucks sent out onto the ice. The Bruins came out in the first period putting pressure on the Canucks. In a penalty-less first period, both teams were giving out their hits and taking the hits. A combined 42 hits through the first 20 minutes. It seemed as if the Bruins were in control of the neutral zone and that was something that they had not done in the three previous games in Vancouver. Patrice Bergeron put the Bruins on top 1-0 when he scored his fifth goal of the playoffs after a face-off win. Brad Marchand skated the puck around and found Bergeron in front of the net for the tip-in goal. The team that has scored first in all of the previous six games in this series have gone on to win the game. Did that hold true for this game? Either way, Boston had a 1-0 lead after the first period.

For the first half of the second period, the Canucks were generating more shots on net than the Bruins. There was a point where Boston did not have a shot on goal since they put in their goal in the first period. They eventually got their rhythm back when Brad Marchand scored his tenth goal of the playoffs. As the puck was brought into the zone, Tyler Seguin made a great play to get back onside for play to continue. From there, Dennis Seidenberg and Mark Recchi got the puck to Marchand behind the net and worked it past the crease for the goal. Later on in the period, Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara got called for an interference penalty. The Bruins ended up scoring short-handed during the penalty kill. Patrice Bergeron recorded his second goal of the game when he chased down a puck and put the shot behind Roberto Luongo (VAN). Dennis Seidenberg and Gregory Campbell had the assists. After two periods, the Bruins had a 3-0 lead. Boston is undefeated this postseason when Marchand scores a goal. Did that also hold true for this game?

In the third period, the Bruins seemed to once again take their lead for granted as Vancouver put some early pressure on Tim Thomas. Jannik Hansen (VAN) started to get frustrated after he got sticks to the face on two separate occasions. As a result, he took a really stupid interference penalty on Andrew Ference. The Bruins penalty kill shut down the Vancouver attack even after Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault switched up the lines. With four minutes left, Roberto Luongo vacated the goal for the extra attacker. Brad Marchand capitalized with an empty net goal to seal the game. The Bruins win game seven by a score of 4-0. The Boston Bruins are the 2010-2011 Stanley Cup champions. This was their first cup since 1972. Goaltender Tim Thomas wins the Conn Smythe Award for being the playoff most valuable player.

Gold Star: Brad Marchand (2 goals, 1 assist, +3 rating).

Black Star: Zdeno Chara...he was not that dominant defender that we are used to seeing. A couple of turnovers and no big hits. At this point, who cares. He is a champion.

When I first started this blog, I wanted to keep it going for as long as possible. Sometimes I feel that it was fate that the year I started this blog was the year that the Bruins won the Stanley Cup. As a Boston sports fan, I truly have been spoiled. My generation has had the pleasure of seeing all four major sports teams win a championship for this city. The Boston Bruins embraced this city and they are exactly what we look for in a team. Thank you to Claude Julien, Peter Chiarelli, and Cam Neely for putting together this team. Thank you to all of the past players that contributed to this season like Matt Hunwick, Mark Stuart, and Blake Wheeler. Thank you to Marc Savard and Nathan Horton who missed time due to injury. The youth of this team is amazing. This Stanley Cup run will be something Boston fans will be getting used to because this could only be the beginning.

To all of the people who read my blog this season, I appreciate it and I thank you. Even though there are some bandwagon fans out there, that exists everywhere to be honest and the fan support of any kind is appreciated by the team of choice. I will keep updating this blog throughout the summer for the latest news on the black and gold. See you all next season.


Monday, June 13, 2011

Stanley Cup Finals - Game Six

When you have two off days in between playoff games, things tend to get dull. The media obviously will become overwhelmed with boredom and they will search everywhere for something to write. In order to do that, they will ask players ridiculous questions hoping to generate some answers worthy of publishing. This past weekend was one of those cases.

Vancouver Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo told the media that he would have saved the goal that Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas allowed in game five. "When you play on the edge like he does that's going to happen," said Luongo. Also, Alexandre Burrows and Kevin Bieksa believe that they are not hated at all. The team feels that they did not do anything wrong with the way they have played throughout the playoffs, particularly in this series. "We have all of Canada behind us. How can we be hated," said Bieksa. That is not exactly a scary thought for Bruins fans when a player says that they have all of Canada behind a team. You can have Canada to be quite honest. The fact is no one else is on your side. A lot of people, myself included, had so much respect for the Canucks before this series. With all of the antics that they pulled on the game's biggest stage, players, coaches, and fans will look at the Vancouver organization in a very different way.

Regardless of what hockey enthusiasts think, the Canucks were only one win away from a Stanley Cup championship. The Boston Bruins have outplayed their new rival throughout most of this series. Tim Thomas is the catalyst behind the Bruins flashes of brilliance. He has a .965 save percentage and only allowed six goals in five games. The Bruins offense outscored the Canucks offense 14-6. They have done everything that they could possibly do to get to this point. Will the Bruins force a game seven back in Vancouver?

The Bruins opened up the first period by sending a quick message to the Canucks. Within the first minute, Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk delivered a hit on Canucks forward Mason Raymond that led to him being injured. The hit seemed to be minor, but Raymond was clearly in pain with an obvious injury. He left the game and he left the building on a stretcher. They began to beat them on the scoreboard as the Bruins scored four goals in the opening period. Brad Marchand had the first goal when he shot the puck on Roberto Luongo's glove side. Milan Lucic had the second goal after he received a great pass from Rich Peverley and slid the puck underneath Luongo. After Andrew Ference scored on a power play, Luongo was pulled in favor of Cory Schneider. Michael Ryder deflected a Tomas Kaberle shot into the goal and that was the scoreline for the first 20 minutes. Tim Thomas stopped all 11 shots Vancouver sent his way. The Bruins had great puck possession by winning at the face-off dot (18-10). A good start for Boston on their home ice.

In the second period, the Bruins began to slow down their energy. It was as if they became content with their four goal lead. Bruins center Patrice Bergeron got called for three minor penalties in the period (goalkeeper interference, interference, elbowing) and all of them were questionable calls. So for those three occasions, the Bruins had to kill penalties without the services of one of their best short-handed men on the ice. After the second penalty was killed, the Bruins made it 20 straight penalty kills in this series. The third penalty carried over into the third period. After two periods, the score remained 4-0 in favor of Boston.

The penalty that carried over into the third period produced the first goal of the game for the Canucks. Henrik Sedin picked up the goal and that was his first point of the Stanley Cup Finals. Daniel Sedin and Christian Ehrhoff had the assists. Moments later, the Canucks thought they had another goal, but they celebrated prematurely because the referees determined that the puck hit the post after review. David Krejci gave Boston its fifth goal of the game when he scored on a 5-on-3 power play with assists from Mark Recchi and Tomas Kaberle. Krejci leads all players with 12 playoff goals. The conclusion of the game did not come without some antics between the two teams. Brad Marchand, Shawn Thornton, Maxim Lapierre, and Daniel Sedin all got 10 minute misconducts for nonsense that occurred after the whistle. The misconduct is the penalty that has occurred the most in this series.

The Canucks added another goal later on in the game to make the game 5-2 and that is how the game would end. The Bruins forced a game seven which will take place Wednesday night in Vancouver. Boston improves to 8-0 when Marchand scores a goal in the playoffs. He could have a huge impact in game seven if he can come out playing with confidence the way he did tonight. The Canucks have a banged up lineup and a goalie situation that is a mess. That Vancouver crowd is just waiting to turn on their team. For the first time this series, the road team has the advantage. Fifteen playoff wins down, one more to go.

Gold Star: Dennis Seidenberg (1 assist, +1 rating, 2 shots on goal, 2 hits)...he has arguably been the Bruins best defender this entire postseason. Being matched up with Zdeno Chara has been the best thing that ever happened to his game. He has been playing tight and physical. He knows how to protect his goaltender and he has seen some great looks on the power play.

Black Star: Patrice Bergeron...he had eight penalty minutes tonight and the final minor he received was uncalled for. After Krejci's goal, he slashed Alexandre Burrows. Why? Was that even necessary? He would never normally do that. His mind was taken out of the game early on and he never was focused. With only one game left, we should expect to see the real Patrice Bergeron on Wednesday.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Stanley Cup Finals - Game Five

Up until tonight, I did not really believe in the "home ice advantage" that exists in hockey. However, playing at home will allow you to make the last change in order to get the right match-ups to help your team win. In the playoffs that is a huge thing to have on your side. The Vancouver Canucks are now just one win away from winning the Stanley Cup Finals as they defeated the Boston Bruins tonight by a score of 1-0. What played to the Canucks advantage was the home ice.

As expected, Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo got the start after being pulled in game four. The first 10 minutes of the game consisted of fast-paced play and a plethora of hits. The Canucks were using the crowd as motivation to unleash the physical play on the Bruins. Even though Vancouver seemed to control the physical play early on, Boston had more shots and better scoring chances. The Bruins went on the power play on three separate occasions in the first period but they did not capitalize. They were not able to settle the puck down long enough to get some chances.

For most of the first two periods, Bruins head coach Claude Julien seemed to mix up the lines a little bit, on the power play in particular. These two teams are the two best 5-on-5 teams in the league as far as goals scored, so any change was smart just to throw off the opposing coach. The Canucks had four power play opportunities in this game. The Bruins held their zone and goaltender Tim Thomas made some great saves once again to keep the score close.

The only goal of the game came just under the five minute mark in the third period. The first line for the Bruins (David Krejci, Milan Lucic, Rich Peverley) turned the puck over and forced a two-on-one going back the other way for Vancouver. Kevin Bieksa (VAN) shot the puck intentionally wide and that allowed Maxim Lapierre to bounce the puck off of Thomas into the goal. Lapierre is one of those arrogant players who loves to get under your skin. In fact, he tried to sell a call to the referees when Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara jabbed him in the stomach with a stick. Players like Lapierre and Alexandre Burrows, who was also up to his usual diving antics tonight, do not need to play that way because they are great players when they play the right way.

Tim Thomas only had 24 saves tonight on 25 shots. The defense played well even when the top pair of Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg were not on the ice to match up with the Canucks top line of Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin, and Alexandre Burrows. The offense got 31 shots on Luongo. Once again, they were just missing that key goal scorer to come up big in a game at Vancouver. Honestly, the best pure goal scorer in the lineup was Tyler Seguin and he was only seen for four minutes in the first two periods. He finished with nine minutes of ice time, one shot on goal, and three hits. Julien should look to play Seguin more in game six even if it is only on the power play. His goal scoring ability will shine if he is giving the opportunity. Game six will be Monday night back in Boston.

Gold Star: Gregory Campbell (2 shots on goal, 2 hits, 13 minutes of ice time)...he is one of those players who plays a hard game and it never gets acknowledged. This is because he does the dirty work and it never shows up on the stat sheet. He was solid on the penalty kill tonight. He was also moved from the fourth line to the third line to create offense and he had minutes on the power play.

Black Star: David Krejci...he was averaging a little more than a point per game in this Stanley Cup Finals. As a top line center, you are expected to produce at least a point per game. Tonight he finished with only one shot on goal and 2 giveaways. He was a -1 rating and won 60 percent of the face-offs he took. He needs to return to his old form for game six and show why he is the top goal scorer remaining in the playoffs.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Stanley Cup Finals - Game Four

Although this will not come as a shock, Bruins forward Nathan Horton will miss the rest of the Stanley Cup Finals after being diagnosed with a severe concussion from a hit by Canucks defenseman Aaron Rome. There is a chance that he could miss the start of next season. Pittsburgh Penguins forward Sidney Crosby was also diagnosed with a severe concussion back in January. He was just recently cleared for light on-ice activities almost six months later. Next season begins in four months. It does not look good for Horton but we will see how he progresses.

With Horton being a key piece to the success of the Bruins, Rome was so far down the list of defenders for the Canucks that they were more than happy with the trade off. I say that because Rome will be suspended for four games. If the series ends before seven games, it will carry over to next season.

I was one of the few who felt that the hit was not that dirty. I have seen worse. We all have seen worse. Everyone is just upset at the result and rightfully so. The hit sparked a game that was a rarity in the playoffs with over 100 penalty minutes. Bruins head coach Claude Julien scolded at his players, specifically Mark Recchi and Milan Lucic, for the biting taunts that they displayed at Vancouver's expense. The Bruins had to put that aspect of the game behind them and focus on playing hockey.

Rich Peverley took the place of Nathan Horton on the first line and he immediately made an impact. The first period favored Vancouver as far as getting more shots on Tim Thomas, but Boston had more quality chances. In fact their hits outnumbered their shots on goal (13 to 6 respectively). The Bruins continued to send the message that the pressure was on the Canucks by establishing a solid forecheck on their home ice. As I mentioned earlier, Peverley made an impact as he scored the only goal of the first period on a shot he put right underneath the legs of Roberto Luongo (VAN). David Krejci had the assist on the goal. The Bruins led 1-0 at the end of the first period.

Prior to the game, the Vancouver Canucks were complaining about the ice surface for the game tonight. In the second period, the affects of the temperature outside today begun to show on the ice. The surface became hard and sloppy. The puck slowed down and bounced around significantly. It became more of a dump and chase game as opposed to a skill, play-making game and that favored the Bruins. I guarantee that the Canucks will use the ice condition as an excuse for not getting the goals they needed to tonight. Just watch the news or read the newspapers in the next couple of days. It will happen.

The Bruins established a great penalty killing unit against the Canucks, something that Chicago, Nashville, and San Jose could not do. Their solid defense led to explosive offensive rushes by the Bruins in the second period. Michael Ryder scored his seventh goal of the playoffs with one of his great slap shots. Later on in the period, Brad Marchand slid the puck past Roberto Luongo for his eighth goal of the playoffs. Luongo is very weak on his glove side and the Bruins have exposed that. The majority of the goals that Boston have put past the veteran have been on his glove side. The Bruins had a 3-0 lead heading into the third period.

Boston began the third period on the penalty kill after a delay of game penalty on Johnny Boychuk towards the end of the second period. It was killed off yet again by the Bruins and they even forced Canucks captain Henrik Sedin to take a slashing penalty. Vancouver killed off that penalty, but they were vulnerable even after the time was up on the penalty. David Krejci made a pass over to Milan Lucic and he made a move around the defender to shoot the puck on net. Rich Peverley charged the net and deflected the shot into the net for his second goal of the game. Luongo was pulled after allowing that goal. He allowed 12 goals in less than two full games. Boston College graduate Cory Schneider replaced him in net and stopped all nine shots that he faced.

Towards the end of the period, Brad Marchand took a low shot at Daniel Sedin and from that resulted a small scrum with himself and Kieth Ballard (VAN). Adam McQuaid (BOS) got a game misconduct for stepping in. Less than a minute later, Alexandre Burrows knocked Tim Thomas' stick out of his hands. Naturally, Thomas reacted by giving him a hard slash across the leg and that resulted in a small scrum. Ryan Kesler (VAN) and Zdeno Chara (BOS) got game misconducts. It was a good thing that nothing more occurred in this game and cooler heads prevailed....until game five. The Bruins won game four by a score of 4-0 and game five will be Friday night in Vancouver.

It was huge that the Bruins maintained a shutout. Not only does Boston have all of the momentum, but now Vancouver will have to second guess their goaltending situation with no momentum and no answer for Tim Thomas in the past two games. With that being said, Claude Julien was a very smart coach tonight. After every goal that was scored, he sent out the fourth line of Gregory Campbell, Shawn Thornton, and Daniel Paille to keep the energy on Boston's side. The Stanley Cup Finals is now a best-of-three series as the series is now tied at two games a piece.

Gold Star: Tim Thomas (37 saves on 37 shots, no goals allowed, 1.000 save percentage)...this is starting to be a routine thing for every game. However, one cannot argue that if Thomas was not in net for the Bruins, they would not be here. He stood up for himself tonight by slashing Burrows. All of the defenders in front of him played a solid game as well.

Black Star: Mark Recchi...he did not have an impact in tonight's game. Coming off of those two great games, he set the bar high for himself for the rest of the postseason and he did not live up to it tonight.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Stanley Cup Finals - Game Three

Alexandre Burrows has killed the Bruins in the past two games. In game two, he tallied three points including the game winning goal 11 seconds into overtime. This is a guy who many say should have been suspended for that game as a result of the "biting incident" with Patrice Bergeron. We all knew that he would have a bullseye on his chest when the Canucks came to Boston tonight for game three. The Bruins responded by activating Shawn Thornton and sitting Tyler Seguin. This was Thornton's first action since game two of the Eastern Conference finals that took place on May 17th.

Tonight's game got off to a scary start when Aaron Rome (VAN) delivered a high hit on Bruins forward Nathan Horton. He laid motionless on the ice for several minutes until he was carried off by a stretcher. Rome got a 10 minute game misconduct, which means that the hit will be reviewed by the league. The hit itself was not dirty. If you watch the feet of Rome before the hit, there was no way he could have avoided it because he made up his mind to hit him before he passed the puck. If Horton held the puck instead of passing it, the result would have been different. Was it dirty? No. Was it a blind side hit? I will give you that. Horton's head just hit the ice. Yes the hit was a bit high and a bit late, but it looked worse only because of the result. It is playoff hockey and stuff like that happens.

The hits came heavy and often from both teams after Rome's hit on Horton. The teams were clearly still caught up in that moment. There was only 19 total shots in the first period and no goals were scored. The second period was a continuation of the first period as far as the physicality was concerned. There was a total of 55 hits in the first two periods of tonight's game. The second period also produced four goals by the Bruins. Andrew Ference took a slap shot at the top of the zone and buried the puck into the goal. The special teams of the Bruins contributed to the goal scoring as well. Mark Recchi scored on the power play to put Boston up 2-0. Recchi is the oldest player to score a goal in the Stanley Cup Finals. Brad Marchand scored an unassisted goal on the penalty kill and David Krejci added another goal before the end of the period. Boston had a 4-0 lead heading into the final period.

Before I comment about the third period, I want to say that I respect the game of hockey very much and the athletes that partake in this sport. The third period of tonight's game made me regret being a fan of the game. This was one of the most childish, unnecessary, disgusting, out of control periods I have ever seen. What was most disappointing about it is that it took place on the game's biggest stage. 98 penalty minutes that included seven 10 minute misconducts (Milan Lucic, Shawn Thornton, Dennis Seidenberg, Andrew Ference for the Bruins and Ryan Kesler, Daniel Sedin, and Alexandre Burrows for the Canucks).

The Canucks wanted the Bruins to play their game and they succeeded. Recchi and Lucic stuck their fingers in the faces of Vancouver players as a reference to the "biting incident." That is not retaliation to the Rome hit. That was the Bruins response to the NHL for not dealing with the problem. Why do you think Thornton was activated tonight? He hit Burrows just seconds into his first shift. As far as the stuff that takes place after the whistle, that is being childish and unprofessional. After all of the antics that took place tonight, the slate should be wiped clean and play with the mentality of winning. There comes a time where sportsmanship has to come into play.

Obviously in between all of these penalties were some power plays for both teams. Daniel Paille scored another short-handed goal to put Boston on top 5-0. Mark Recchi added another goal to his streak of points that he has going in this series. Chris Kelly and Michael Ryder each had goals as well. Two power play goals and two short-handed goals for the Bruins in the game. That is how you respond; you have to beat them on the scoreboard. The Bruins won game three by a score of 8-1. Game four will be Wednesday night at the TD Garden.

Gold Star: Zdeno Chara (2 assists, +3 rating, 4 hits)...he was productive on the power play and solid on the defensive end. He brought the physicality and responded to the antics Vancouver was pulling but he did it the smart way.

Black Star: Tomas Kaberle...his passes were there but he seemed to disappear as the game went along. The type of game that the third period turned into was not his style of play.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Stanley Cup Finals - Game Two

The Bruins had to deal with a few new faces in the Canucks lineup tonight. As expected, Manny Malhotra was cleared to play for the game tonight. As previously mentioned, Malhotra had been out since mid-March with an eye injury and this was his first game back. On the other hand, Canucks defenseman Dan Hamhuis missed tonight's game after he delivered a low hit on Bruins forward Milan Lucic and suffered a lower body injury as a result. There were no lineup changes for Boston but certain players needed to step up in game two, particularly players who have seemed to disappear from the stat sheet.

One aspect of game two that vastly differed from game one was the lack of penalties. I am all for that especially in the playoffs where a crucial call could turn a season for the worse. Boston only committed two penalties throughout the game. The first penalty was a costly one as Alexandre Burrows (VAN) capitalized on a Zdeno Chara interference penalty and scored on a power play. It was a rather soft goal allowed by Tim Thomas, but to be fair he expected the defense to clear the zone and they failed to do so. The Canucks had a 1-0 lead after the first period.

The second period was the best period played by the Bruins so far in this Stanley Cup Final. They were creating great shots and they were delivering solid hits to separate Vancouver players from the puck. Milan Lucic tied the game on a shot that was set up by Johnny Boychuk and David Krejci. It was now time for Boston to go on the power play. After a Zdeno Chara shot that was set up by Patrice Bergeron, Mark Recchi deflected the puck into the net. He ended a 5-for-68 power play drought by scoring his 58th career playoff goal. Boston led Vancouver 2-1 heading into the third period.

The third period seemed to belong to Vancouver as they created several odd man rushes up the ice that created problems for the Bruins defense. Tim Thomas stayed on his head by making great saves. Thomas finished with 30 saves for the night. The Canucks' potent offense was too much for Boston to handle. Daniel Sedin (VAN) tied the game by scoring his ninth goal of the playoffs. Alexandre Burrows and Alexander Edler had the assists. The game was sent into overtime and just 11 seconds into the extra period, Burrows beat Chara to the puck and forced Thomas to vacate the net. Burrows wrapped the puck around and into the net for the 3-2 overtime victory. Vancouver now leads the series 2-0. Game three will be Monday night back in Boston.

Gold Star: Mark Recchi (1 goal, 2 shots on goal, 5 hits)...his shifts were productive because the amount of ice time he had per shift was quite short. That allowed him to be an impact player and be solid on the offensive end.

Black Star: Andrew is unfortunate when a defenseman hands the game to another team when your teammates on the offensive end of the ice play a great game. Ference had to chase down quite a few mistakes he made tonight. Most importantly, after Boston wins the overtime face-off, he failed to clear the zone again and it led to the winning goal. Burrows made Chara and Thomas look bad on that play, but Ference left both of them out to dry.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Burrows Not Suspended/Recchi's Retirement/Thrashers To Winnipeg

I admit that even though I covered a few pre-game stories last night, there were a few others that are worthy of mentioning. Before I get to those, there was an incident last night that occurred at the end of the first period between Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron and Canucks winger Alexandre Burrows. The two got into a scrum behind the net in which Burrows bit Bergeron's finger and drew blood. The league reviewed it today and determined that Burrows will not be suspended for game two. Although that was a bit of a surprise, I was more surprised that Burrows even attempted to go after Bergeron. Come on, he knew Bergeron was recently removed from another concussion. No need to be a tough guy in that situation. According to the Vancouver Sun, "Bergeron should get a tetanus shot and move on." According to myself, Burrows should man up and play the game.

It was announced earlier this week that Bruins veteran forward and alternate captain Mark Recchi will retire if the Bruins win the Stanley Cup this year. Recchi has played 1,652 games so far with 577 goals and 956 assists for a career total of 1,533 points. In his 22 year career, he is also a two-time Stanley Cup champion (1991 with Pittsburgh and 2006 with Carolina). I do not know if Recchi has realized that he has nothing left in the tank or if appearing in three Stanley Cup Finals is the perfect ending to a career. Either way, his locker room presence and his leadership on the ice has him bound for the Hall of Fame.

I have been wanting to get to this topic sooner, but it has to do with the Atlanta Thrashers being sold to True North Sports and Entertainment. Under this transaction, the team will relocate to Winnipeg, Canada. They will continue to play in the Southeast Division and in the Eastern Conference for next season. Once the 2012-2013 season roles around, they will move over to the Western Conference. One of the primary candidates to switch from the West to the East is the Detroit Red Wings. This could help and hurt the Bruins in two ways. First, playing against a team like Detroit more often in the regular season will better prepare the Bruins for what they should expect in the Stanley Cup Finals for years to come. Second, the Bruins were winless in their only two meetings with Detroit this season. If the Red Wings move to the Eastern Conference, that will set up more games between the teams and that will affect Boston's record if they are competing for a divisional title.

It has not been confirmed yet, but here is what I think what the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference will look like if Detroit switches conferences with the Thrashers who will now play their hockey in Winnipeg:

Eastern Conference

Northeast Division
Boston Bruins
Ottawa Senators
Toronto Maple Leafs
Buffalo Sabres
Montreal Canadiens

Atlantic Division:
Philadelphia Flyers
Pittsburgh Penguins
Detroit Red Wings
New York Rangers
New York Islanders

Southeast Division:
Washington Capitals
New Jersey Devils
Carolina Hurricanes
Florida Panthers
Tampa Bay Lightning

Western Conference

Central Division:
Chicago Blackhawks
Minnesota Wild
St.Louis Blues
Nashville Predators
Columbus Blue Jackets

Northwest Division:
Vancouver Canucks
Colorado Avalanche
Calgary Flames
Edmonton Oilers
Winnipeg (Jets) - name is not finalized

Pacific Division:
San Jose Sharks
Los Angeles Kings
Phoenix Coyotes
Dallas Stars
Anaheim Ducks

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Stanley Cup Finals - Game One

The city of Boston has been draped with black and gold over the last five days in preparation for the Stanley Cup Finals. The Bruins have not been to the Stanley Cup finals since 1990. In that time span, Boston has experienced three Super Bowl titles, two World Series titles, and an NBA title. The resurgence of hockey in the city has been extraordinary and quite honestly disappointing that it took so long because Boston was originally a hockey town. The Bruins appearance in the Finals this year against the Vancouver Canucks have brought its fair share of supplemental stories.

First of all, the distance between the two Stanley Cup hosting cities is 2,537 miles, the longest distance between Finals match-up opponents in history. Also, the Canucks are heavily favored to defeat the Bruins in less than seven games. However, there are some stats that might help ease the minds of Bruins fans. The last four teams to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals in seven games (Bruins defeated the Lightning in seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals) have won it all. Another interesting fact is that only one of the last seven President's Trophy winning teams (Canucks led the league with 117 points) have won the Stanley Cup. Now there are some things to think about.

Before we get to the game, I need to say something about a comment that was made today by British Columbia newspaper writer Tony Gallagher. He writes for The Province as a sports writer and he made some comments about the Bruins getting possible favorable treatment from the referees. The reason for this is that Gregory Campbell, Boston's fourth-line center, is the son of Colin Campbell, now ex-disciplinarian for the NHL. Gallagher also made a comment that referred to Colin Campbell's resignation
today: "Oh, now that his son (Gregory) made it to the Finals he can retire." Seriously? Colin Campbell had nothing to do with the referees or the way the game is officiated. Also, the Bruins have been one of the most penalized teams in the playoffs with 211 penalty minutes. Just another arrogant Canadian who writes fluff with nothing to back it up.

With all of that pre-game information taken care of, the Stanley Cup Finals were under way. The first period saw both teams getting off several shots. Even though Boston had more shots at the end of the first period (17-12), a majority of them came from a four minute power play that the Bruins failed to capitalize on. Vancouver had quality opportunities from Daniel Sedin and Alexandre Burrows. However, penalties hurt the Canucks as well. 10 total penalty minutes for the first period. The game was scoreless at the end of the first 20 minutes.

The second period contained moments of sloppy play from both teams, in which they were making poor passes to players who were out of position. The second period was also loaded with penalties. The Bruins even had an opportunity with a 5-on-3 man advantage. Vancouver goaltender Roberto Luongo made great stops and with a six foot nine inch Zdeno Chara standing in your way, that is not an easy task. The Bruins forwards were contributing on the defensive end of the ice as well. David Krejci and Tyler Seguin deflected shots away that could have had the chance to get into the cage. The game remained scoreless heading into the third period.

The story of the third period, and the story of the game, was the goaltending. Tim Thomas and Roberto Luongo had a total of 70 pucks shot their way. Unfortunately, the only goal conceded in the game belonged to Boston. With less than 20 seconds left in the game, Raffi Torres (VAN) put the Canucks on top 1-0 after catching Thomas committing too early to a shot and slid the puck into the goal. Jannik Hansen and Ryan Kesler had the assists. Vancouver held on to win the game 1-0 and they take a 1-0 series lead. In all honesty, the Bruins did not have a real great scoring chance tonight and the Canucks deserved to win this game. Game two will be Saturday night in Vancouver.

Gold Star: Tim Thomas (33 saves on 34 shots, 1 goal allowed, .971 save percentage).

Black Star: Johnny Boychuk...sometimes when he plays along the boards it is his greatest asset but tonight it was his downfall. He committed to the puck and missed it right at the blue and that led to the only goal of the game that was scored by Vancouver. It is tough to just give Boychuk the blame since it was towards the end of a fast-paced game where stamina comes into play and there were other players who could have played better. At the professional level, however, you cannot use stamina as an excuse.