These Bruins are Playing for the Stanley Cup

Back on April 6, I wrote a post titled “These Bruins Won’t Go Far.”  In case you need further proof of that previous statement here it is:

Now it is May 31 and the Bruins will playing the Vancouver Canucks tomorrow night in Vancouver in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals.  Clearly , I was wrong about the these Bruins right?  The fact is I wasn’t wrong.  The Bruins that are flying high right now are not the same Bruins that entered the 2011 playoffs. Through the first two games of the playoffs I was right as Montreal embarrassed the Bruins on their home ice.  My neighbor down the street was maybe the only one that was confident in the Bruins at that point.  He even told me that he was trademarking the phrase, “The Miracle in Montreal” for when the Bruins won the Cup.

At that point in time maybe he saw something no one else did.  Or he had a DeLorean and wasn’t telling anybody about it.  Everything I said in my post back on April 6, the Bruins answered.  I said that the Bruins would not be able to just rely on Tim Thomas and his supernatural abilities in net to carry them in the playoffs.  Thomas has no doubt been magnificent but he has also benefitted from stellar play from his defense led by Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg.  Andrew Ferrence has been an unsung hero of sorts. And the Bruins have been able to win in spite of Johnny Boychuk’s overall lackluster play.

On April 6,  I argued that the Bruins didn’t have the star power that was necessary to contend for the Cup.  Since that time Nathan Horton has emerged as a go to guy for the Spoked B.  As a matter of fact the Bruins are undefeated in the playoffs in games in which he has scored.  He netted both Game 7 winner’s for the Bruins as well.  My colleague on this blog, Tazzi, was adamant that the Bruins had arguably the best line in all of the NHL in Krejci-Lucic-Horton.  I didn’t believe him at the time, but he has proven me wrong.  The Bruins also received a memorable spark from 18-year-old Tyler Seguin in a game against Tampa Bay where he skated circles around the Lightning giving Bruins fans a glimpse of things to come for the next 15 years. How’s that for superstar talent?

I also criticized Claude Julien on April 6 (amongst other days) that he was stubborn and felt the need to play all four lines at all times.  In Game 7 of the Tampa series, Julien finally doubled up his top line after playing his fourth line late in Game 6.  While I still prefer the top lines play the most minutes, Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly have given the Bruins outstanding minutes in time on the ice.  Peverley was the best Bruin on the ice in Game 7 as his energy and hustle created many opportunities for the B’s.

On April 6, I said that the only hardware coming back to Boston when the ice had melted would be the Vezina Trophy.  The Bruins have already proven me wrong by bringing home the Wales Trophy.  Now they are 4 wins away from bringing home Lord Stanley’s Cup.

I can be followed on Twitter @ ScottieNTCF

A Star is Born

The career was conceived on June 30, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.  Gary Bettman announced to the world that with the number 2 pick in the 2010 NHL draft the Boston Bruins selected Tyler Seguin.  Since the Phil Kessel trade on September 19 2009, Bruin World had been anxiously awaiting the 2010 draft.  With the Edmonton Oilers selecting fellow phenom Taylor Hall, Seguin fell to the Bruins.  Fans had visions of greatness. Orr, Espositio, Neely, Borque, and now Seguin.

While the NHL career of Tyler Seguin was conceived on June 30, it would be born (almost true to form) 9 and a half months later, May 17, 2011 in Boston.  On that night Tyler Seguin skated circles around everyone on the ice finding the back of the net twice and assisting on two other goals, leading the Bruins to a Game 2 win in the Eastern Conference Finals of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  The water broke a few days before, on May 14 when Tyler scored a goal and assisted on another, letting the world now he was about to arrive, in Game 1 of said series.

Continuing with the birth analogy, the nine months the Bruins were “pregnant” with Seguin there were good times and bad.  There were times when critics were already to call Seguin a bust.  There were times Seguin kicked back and showed brief flashes of what he was capable of.  The 74 games he played out of a possible 82 truly define the development of the 18-year-old.  He sat out the first 11 games of the playoffs and was likely to sit out more if Claude Giroux hadn’t laid out Patrice Bergeron.  Some fans wanted Seguin to play in the playoffs and were upset that he was forced to watch the game from high a top whatever arena the game was being played.  Other fans didn’t think Seguin was ready to contribute, the pressure of the playoffs could overcome and permanently scar the young man.

With the injury to Bergeron, Julien was forced to play Seguin.  In two games Seguin has provided a necessary spark to the Bruins offense and power play.  His speed, awareness, and fire are second to none and have Bruins fans beyond giddy for the first time in my lifetime.

With all that being said, people need to stop criticizing Claude Julien.  I am looking at you Michael Felger.  I am actually going to defend “Daddy” here. How does the emergence of Tyler Seguin correlate to firing Julien? The answer? It doesn’t.  If anything Julien has helped nurture and develop Seguin to where he is at today.  True, if Bergeron doesn’t go down Seguin wouldn’t play.  But why can’t we just enjoy the fact that right now the momentum in this series is wholly on the Bruins side right now because of the phenom? He has the fresh legs no one else has right now.  He has a skill set unlike any other player on the ice.  Let’s just celebrate that and not get on Julien for nonsense.

Lastly in defense of Julien, it takes time for players to develop.  Exhibit A: Dustin Pedroia.  In 31 games in 2006 and was hitting as low as .172 to start the 2007 season.  Fans were calling for Alex Cora to be the full-time second baseman.  How did that turn out?  Moral of the story: Good things take time! and Tyler Seguin? He’s a good thing. And he has arrived.

video acquired from colleague Gambo’s Facebook page

I can be followed on Twitter @ ScottieNTCF

Horton Snipes Canadiens: Bring on the Flyers

Going into overtime I wrote on my Facebook wall, “I remember this feeling.  It feels much like 2003 when Grady Little left Pedro Martinez on the mound.  It wasn’t a matter of if the Sox would lose, it’s a matter of when.” After Nathan Horton ripped the twine sending the Bruins to round two, beating the Montreal Canadiens 4-3, I dubbed myself the “King of the Reverse Jinx.”

The Bruins were flying high after Chris Kelly scored with 9 minutes left in the game putting the Bruins up 3-2.  What made his goal especially sweet, was that he scored because Roman Hamrilik flopped and laid on the ice for an extra 7 seconds instead of getting back in the play.  I was convinced the game was over at that point and karma had finally came back around and bit the Canadiens when it mattered most.  I thought it would have been poetic justice the Canadiens would be ousted after one of the patented flops.  As is usually the case, I was wrong.

Patrice Bergeron was called for high sticking James Wisnewski with just over 2 minutes left in the game.  The Canadiens took advantage.  Who else but PK Subban ripped a laser past Tim Thomas for the equalizer with 1:57 left to play in regulation.  At that point the demons of the past started filling my brain.  I started to think the Boston Bruins were now what the Boston Red Sox were from 1918 through 2003.  I was thinking of the Bruins losing last year after being up 3 games to nothing and 3-0 in Game 7 to the Flyers.  I was thinking of how they lost to the Hurricanes in Game 7 after being the best team in the NHL during the regular season.  I thought about how they lost to the Habs in Game 7 in 2008.  I thought about how Joe Thornton scored the game winner for San Jose two nights ago.

Then 5 minutes and 43 seconds into overtime Nathan Horton ripped a slap shot past Carey Price, that not only eliminated the Habs but exorcised the Boston Bruins Game 7 demons.  Past Bruins teams would have lost that game tonight.  Last year’s Bruins would have lost in regulation after Subban’s goal late in the third period.  Not these Bruins.  These Bruins have proven in this series that they are resilient.  They got down 2-0 in the series, went to a hostile environment in Montreal and promptly tied the series.  They have come back from 2 goal deficits.  Most importantly, they have won a Game 7.

Critics (including myself) have been looking for ways to bash the Bruins, whether it be the front office, the coaching, or the players themselves.  Well, the front office brought in the man who scored the game winner tonight while unloading arguably the worst player in hockey.  The front office brought in “The Man Behind the Cage” Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley who each played great in the opening round of the playoffs.  Like him or not, Claude Julien was able to light a fire under the players backsides when it mattered most leading the Bruins to the series win.  Lastly, the players themselves have shown up and played with unbridled passion.

Now it is on to Philadelphia where the Bruins will look to exorcise more demons.  Philadelphia is the team that won 4 straight against the B’s last season.  The Bruins haven’t gotten out of the second round since 1992.  Will this be the year?

Game One is Saturday at 3 in Philly.  Let’s go Bruins!

I can be followed on Twitter @ ScottieNTCF

These Bruins Won’t Go Far

There is a long-standing myth in hockey that a set of hot pads is all that is needed to win a Stanley Cup.  Because of that false sentiment Bruins fans believe that they have a shot at bringing the Cup back to Boston for the first time in 38 years.  Tim Thomas quite simply has been the best goalie in the NHL this season.  I freely admit, all of last season I was an unabashed Tuukka fan, calling for a Thomas trade.  I bashed the contract, I bashed his age, I did nothing to support him.  I was wrong.

With all that being said, through no fault of Tim Thomas the Boston Bruins have no shot of getting to the Stanley Cup Finals this season, let alone winning it.  It would not at all surprise me if they didn’t get out of the first round this season, although I think they are more likely for the usual Claude Julien 2nd round exit.  The Stanley Cup is Borat’s sister taunting Bruins fans saying “you can’t have this.” My reasons for these beliefs are not unfounded.

Since the lockout, the teams that won the Stanley Cup have had superstar talent, something the Bruins do not possess.  Let’s take a look, shall we?

2006 Carolina Hurricanes- Eric Staal/Erik Cole

2007  Anaheim Ducks-  Ryan Getzlaf/Teemu Selanne

2008 Detroit Red Wings- Henrik Zetterberg/Pavel Datsyuk

2009 Pittsburgh Penguins- Sidney Crosby/Evengi Malkin

2010 Chicago Blackhawks- Patrick Kane/Jonathan Towes

The 2011 Boston Bruins do not have that type of superstar talent.  They do have a group of solid role players in front of a stud goalie.  Lucic, Bergeron, and Horton are not superstars.  Zdeno Chara doesn’t do much for the offense.  Claude Julien’s style of hockey is a not a blueprint for success in the playoffs and is more suited for an 82 game season rather than a best of 7 series.

From what I have watched this season, the Bruins win when they attack the zone.  They lose when they do their D to D passing moving the puck back and forth rather than up the ice.  Cam Neely was quoted earlier this week saying “you can’t win a hockey game 0-0.”  That is something that Claude Julien fails to realize in my humble opinion.

Another reason the Bruins will have an early exit is another Julien trait.  He insists on playing four lines all the time.  When it comes playoff time, ride the top two lines as long as you can using your third line only to give them their necessary rest.  There is no reason for the 4th line to see the ice in the playoffs.  There times I honestly believe Julien would rather win with guys like Rich Peverly, Chris Kelly, and Gregory Campbell than win at all.  These guys are special line players only.  they should be used on penalty kills and if there is a hope for a quick energy spark.

If you are anticipating a deep run in the playoffs by these Bruins you will be sorely disappointed.  They don’t have the superstar talent needed to win a Cup.  The coach doesn’t have the blueprint to bring the most prestigious trophy in all of sports to Boston.  The only hardware coming home this season will be another Vezina Trophy for Tim Thomas.  Don’t expect anything more.

I can be followed on Twitter @ ScottieNTCF

Bruins Take On Crosby-less Penguins Tonight

The Boston Bruins head to Pittsburgh tonight to take on a Sidney Crosby-less Penguins.  Boston really lucks out here because over the last month or so he has been the best player in the league, uncontested.  The Bruins are coming off of a very disappointing loss in which they held a 2-0 lead late in the third period, blew it, and lost in overtime.  So what should we expect to see from the Black & Gold tonight?

1. Tuukka Rask.  Tuukka has another opportunity to shine while starter Tim Thomas gets so much deserved and much needed rest.  Rask has not had a lot of opportunities to show that he’s ready to be a full time NHL goaltender because of the stellar play of Thomas thus far.  Rask has seen mostly garbage time or cupcake teams during the year so any chance he gets to play means something.  Tim Thomas needs Tuukka Rask to be at the level he was last year so that Thomas can be healthy and rested when it comes time for that playoff run.  Keep an eye on Tuukka tonight as the Bruins take on one of the elite teams in the league.

2. Slumpers.  Zdeno Chara, Marc Savard, Blake Wheeler, Michael Ryder.  None of these guys have had stellar performances of late.  Savard still needs to find his game and Chara just needs to bring a high intensity game on a nightly basis.  However, Ryder and Wheeler need to play like they are fighting for a spot on this team like they were early on in the season.  The sense of urgency with a few players has certainly dissipated.

3. Matt Cooke.  This one goes for Savard too.  Keep an eye on how much he tries to get in Savard’s head and see how much Cooke tries to mess with the entire team to take them off of their game.  That’s what Cook brings to the table so the Bruins need to ignore his antics and not get rattled.

4. Claude Julien.  It’s no secret that certain fans are calling for the head coaches…well, head.  It will be interesting to see how he adapts to in-game scenarios.  Benching Savard was a good step to show that players need to be responsible for their actions.  More of this needs to happen so that everyone takes each shift seriously.

We’ll see how the team performs against one of the best teams in the NHL tonight on Versus at 7:30pm EST.  Expect a low scoring affair under 5 total goals…

Time to Bid Claude Adieu

With the Bruins coverage on this blog lacking as of late, I am going to do my best to step in for our Salisbury-Clayton-esque Bruins boys and do my best to provide some kind of coverage to those out there that follow this blog and are avid Bruins fans.

If Claude Julien is to be grateful for one thing this Holiday season, it would be that he is an NHL hockey coach and not on the television show, The Apprentice. Surely if the Bruins coaching job was like being a competitor on the show, Donald Trump would have certainly uttered his famous catchphrase, “You’re fired” by now.  I am not one to usually call for the coach’s head on a platter but after watching Julien behind the bench for the past 3 years.  Julien came to Boston in June of 2007 and has been mediocre at best during that time.

In a region where the Celtics have the best record in their conference, the Patriots are the best team in the NFL, and the Red Sox just broke the bank to stack their roster, the Bruins are the proverbial red headed step child in Boston.  It is not that the Bruins lack talent, because they have an abundance of it in guys named Chara, Savard, Krejci, Thomas, Rask, Lucic, Horton, and Seguin.  But for the past three and a half seasons it seems the team plays with no fire.

Last year the Bruins were up 3 games to none against the Philadelphia Flyers and lost the best of seven series.  They were up 3-0 in Game 7 at home and couldn’t close it out.  A side note, the Bruins were playing against the Flyers third string goalie if memory serves correctly.  After that historic meltdown, I  started to sip the Julien haterade.  This is a coach who hasn’t been able to get out of the 2nd round of the playoffs in his entire coaching career.  This is a coach who led a team to a monumental losing streak where the team didn’t win a single game in January of 2010 but were able to sneak into the playoffs. But let’s forget about the past because Boston is a “what have you done for me lately?” kind of sports town.

At the time of this writing, the Bruins are 8th in the Eastern Conference with 38 points.  It boggles my mind that the team with the best goalie (statistically, and yes Tazzi I am saying this) in the NHL is 8th in the Eastern Conference and 16th in the NHL in points. Tim Thomas has a ridiculous save percentage of .948 and a goals against average of 1.70.  To put this in perspective the next closest goalie in save percentage is Ondrej Pavelec with a .943 save percentage and .1.82  goals against average.  Pavelec is on the Thrashers and they have the 5 seed in the East at this time.  The back up goalie Tuukka Rask’s record is 2-7-1 and he has a save percentage of .927.  Does Julien actually have a strategy going forward or is his motto “let’s get hall of fame goaltending and pray for the best.”

As team president Cam Neely has made personnel moves ensuring he puts a quality product on the ice.  He and Peter Chiarelli proved to be savvy during the summer when they traded the train wreck known as Dennis Wideman for Nathan Horton and Gregory Campbell.  This was an absolute steal.  Horton is a proven goal scorer, just what the Bruins needed.  But Julien’s style of play has limited what Horton is capable of doing.  The offense has no aggression.  Yes, last night they had 45 shots on Jonas Hiller of the Ducks and were shut out.  But not many of those shots are actual scoring chances.  I could sit out there and shoot the puck 45 times too and I don’t know how to skate.

The bottom line in all of this is Julien needs to go.  Everyone in the NHL seemingly knows how to beat his teams. His style of play focuses on goal prevention with no effort put into getting a formidable attack going to score goals.  The D to D passing is frustrating as all hell to watch and usually causes turnovers that lead to easy goals for the opposition.  Lou Lamoriello pulled the trigger on Julien when he was in New Jersey citing the team’s “lack of readiness to contend for the Cup.”  Isn’t that what is going on right now in Boston and has been for the past three and a half seasons?

The Bruins are boring and continue to lose.  The fan base is restless and with the recent successes and
splashes other area teams have made the Bruins are bordering on anonymity.  Firing Julien wouldn’t only be a shake-up, it would be the right thing to do.  The saddest thing in sports is wasted talent, and Claude Julien is doing a hell of a job wasting the talent he has on this Bruins roster.

Savard’s Return Energizes the Garden and Redefines Series

Marc Savard capped off, with a story book ending, the greatest 14 minutes of offense, I have ever seen a Bruin’s team lay on an opponent, in my 15 years as a fan. I attended Saturday afternoon’s playoff matchup, with a lack of positivity, that Savard would be returning, however on the screen hovering over the ice, as people poured in, and the sea of gold and black rose, within only minutes to spare before the puck drop, they show our returning star, jersey on his back, stick in hand, and the place erupts. This electricity grew, and grew, and peaked after the 4th goal, and what looked like a route with ten minutes to go in the 3rd, felt like an epic return and a solid victory and a series dominance established. The deflation of having to go into overtime, left the Garden silent, and was difficult to bare. Until, of course, the pucked dropped, and the level of intensity jumped again, and 15 shots in 14 minutes, capped by what can only be described as the most fantastic cliche ending, I have ever seen live, or have ever seen at all. I will never forget the experience, and if this season has to defined now by the “Matt Cooke Incident”, so be it. The icing on the cake, however, to a love hate fan reaction, to a team said to be defeated, yet rising from the ashes on the shoulders of their returning ace, number 91 redefined it not as Matt Cooke’s, but as his own.

Bruins beware and take note:

Play better defense!!!

All season I have been asking for a defensive restructuring, and though Wideman stepped it up, listening to my previous warning, he is still weak, and with McQuaid only blocking shots, Ferrence only skating fast, but to the wrong spots, and Hunwick playing sub-par, they will not survive on Big Z and Boychuk alone. Step it up.

Do not allow the Flyers to get near Rask and do not allow them to shoot while people ARE near Rask. It is very simple to see that the Flyers leave their offense to chance, aside from Briere, sometimes, as do the Bruins, all of the time, so push Hartnell, or Carcillo, or whoever is trying to get in there, on there ass, and block more shots. I do not want to see Rask get rattled again.

Tuukka…control your rebounds. The game was almost over with 20 seconds to go in regulation, because you are feeling the pressure a little bit. Get over it, play physical yourself, push guys out of your crease, and deflect pucks to the corners.

Ryder needs to play better, faster, stonger… He sucks right now. Period.

Sturm is gone. I am not sad, just dissapointed. I wish he had had a chance to redeem himself. Too bad.

Thornton’s coming back, I guess. I am pleased. I like Sobotka on the fourth line, however. Maybe we will see some restructuring. Maybe not though.

Probably not.

Game 2, Monday, May 3rd.

Stay psyched.