NHL Rant vs. Reality #1 – “It’s Tuukka Time!”

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Rant: Bruins fans! Let’s face facts. We drove Tim Thomas out of Boston. We the Northeast Liberal elite, the Bruins fans of young and old and the NHL and its presidential appeasement disguised as some custom to remain relevant. Relevant where? Within a society and economy which Tim himself believes is leading itself into a canned food depression, where the only thing we will have left to depend on is hunting bear for warmth and meat, and learning the ways of the crossbow? We will have to face ourselves when Chicken Little is proven right, and the sky falls down upon us, and he is made president, and in a strange twist of fate, the survived, bunker ridden Tim Thomas goes to visit him at the White House with S. Truett Cathy from Chic-fil-a, and just as he’s about to shake his hand, he chops his head off, Cathy cooks him up and he eats him. Every night within our dreams we will watch Tim Thomas catching pieces of the Copernicus-like foul in his thick playoff beard, and that blood will be on our hands…or…

Tuukka_Rask_by_CaptainMazda

Reality: We can thank the man for our Stanley Cup and declare as a black and gold collective, “It’s Tuukka Time!”. There remains no risk with Rask. The Bruins will win the Eastern Conference uncontested with Tuukka in goal. Also, with a solid defense and multiple generations of young talent, there is no reason he can’t take home his first Vezina…

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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 Eat Some Crow Courtesy Of Chef Thomas

Tonight the Boston Bruins improved to 7-2-0 with a 5-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres.  The Bruins seem to be almost identical to the Randy Moss-less New England Patriots with a lunch pail mentality.  It’s all about defense, timely scoring and no one on the squad really blowing up the league with offensive numbers.

The purpose for this post is not to boast about how well the Bruins are playing but more for my public apology toward Tim Thomas.  Over the past year I have made it blatantly obvious that I am a much bigger Tuukka Rask supporter than I am of Thomas.  I was never to the point of rooting against Thomas because that’s just ludicrous hell, I have 12X16 signed picture of him hanging on my bedroom wall.  However, I was a part of that large contingent of Bruins fans/hockey community who claimed that Timmy was done and that the Black & Gold clocks were going to be operating on Tuukka Time for the foreseeable future.  Boy was I wrong…

Going into tonight’s game Thomas had 6-0-0 record with a .984 save percentage, a goals against average of .50, and 3 shutouts.  I’ll let that soak in for a second…Thomas leads the league in the 3 statistical categories and is second in the league with those six wins (with tonight’s win he’ll jump into a tie for first if Pittsburgh goalie Brent Johnson loses to Dallas).

Thomas is controlling his rebounds better than I’ve seen him in the past, even better than he did in his Vezina year 2 seasons ago.  When Thomas gives up less juicy rebounds it reduces his need to flop so, kudos to him.  That, and not battling an ailing hip injury have been the major sources for success for Thomas.

With all that being said, I am still a major Tuukka Rask advocate.  Rask is not only the future but, he’s the better goaltender.  However, Thomas needs to be the starter for as long as he can maintain this hot streak and continue to win games.  This Bruins squad is far better off with the Thomas-Tuukka tandem tending the twine (see what I did there?).  Putting either of these two on the trading block would be pure insanity so keeping the two of them together and keeping them healthy is a must for a strong playoff run.

In conclusion, I will be eating crow on this one.  Timmy, you are clearly not done yet and you can send a nice plate of black bird up to New Hampshire.  I still can’t stand your floppy Hasek style but, if it works for now and the Bruins keep winning, I’ll love you for it.

The Bruins Choose Thomas as Number One

Tim Thomas

Admittedly, the title of this post was meant to be alluring, controversial, and completely satirical. I am, at this juncture in the season, choosing to satirize myself, due to the hole the Bruins have dug in the world of Tim Thomas fandom. A Thomas campaign advocate from last year may theorize the following. Every game and every moment this season, will appear to me as the cusp of change, and in the wake of a more than stellar, outmatched performance by Tim Thomas in the second game of this season, as opposed to Rask’s efforts in the first, Tiimmy should be the B’s go to, number one, goaltender. A neutral, know-nothing fan, would ask for a platoon-ing of goaltenders, which in all honesty and for viable comparison, is like saying that in week 5, week 11 and week 15, let’s start Hoyer over Brady. Not to say Thomas won’t get his backup starts in, however platoon-ing is non-sensical in te NHL, when you are nursing a sophomore, Vezina potential candidate, net minder. A real Bruins fan would say, “No satire, no call for Rask to sit just because his GA is 5.00 and Thomas’ is 0.00, after two games. There are no grounds, yet, for such an argument to begin. Rask MUST remain at number one.” This real Bruins fan quote brought to you by a Tim Thomas fan, and the president of the “Rask must win me a Cup, before I will look at him as anything other than a 12-year-old Slovakian volleyball player” club. Rask performed well, however wins translate from goalie-to-defense chemistry, and with the way the defense is skating, Rask will continue to live and die by their performance, until he can settle in and finish out victories.

Let’s Make a Deal, Finally

Signing the captain to a seven-year deal and the should-be captain to a three-year deal, Chara and Bergeron respectively, was a phenomenal move, however was only enough to result in a split in Prague. The Bruins are finally realizing who to build the team around, and I can only hope Bergeron gets the offensive zone possession time he needs to make things happen, and Chara stays healthy.

Age Before Beauty, Unless He Can Score

Tyler Seguin getting his first goal, on the break away, in the third, a game sealer at that, is nothing to “Crosby stamp” him over, however it was very pretty, refreshing to watch as a Bruins fan, and an extremely hopeful and exciting foreshadowing of what could be a great career. Mr. Chiarelli, it would be nice to hold on to Seguin, instead of trading him to the Sharks. Thank you. P.S. I love his dynamic with Bergeron. They make a great couple.

Sidenote: Recchi looks older. Get him off the first line, and give him to Seguin. Seguin is young, and quick, and needs as much veteran guidance as he can fit into his small head. Recchi’s very slow this year, and as a matter of fact, everyone that has been playing the offensive blue line must have dull skates. Four breakaways in game one? Condition better, or get me some smarter defensemen. Maybe then I won’t have to bash Rask every week, because contrary to popular belief I don’t want too.

Also,

Brad Marchand is the best thing to come out of the P-Bruins organization this year, and with the farm equivalent filled with defensive talent, it will be easy for him to remain, shine, and become what so many before him have failed to succeed in becoming; an NHL hockey player. I say keep him, and when Ryder slumps, and Wheeler flops, as they look like they will continue to do, look for Marchand to see a third line reward in his future.

In Horton We Trust

The Lucic-Krejci-Horton line is going to remain great throughout a line shifting may-lay that will be the B’s offense. Top line in the NHL anyone? Answer: YES.

I Miss Marc Savard

A struggling powerplay only symbolizes the internal struggles I feel in my heart. Get Well Soon Savvy. Their powerplay will not get any better. I predict middle of the pack rankings, no difference making abilities, and Krejci and Bergeron side possession highlighted only by a Recchi and/or Horton net rush, to be the only offensive threats. 

Seidenberg – Week One Bust Out (Negative Connotation)

Seidenberg reminds me too much of Dennis Wideman. Comparison translation – I don’t think I like him. He plays too much like an offensive minded defenseman, which does not, has not and will not fit into the B’s scheme. Get physical, sir, and make an effort to protect Rask; he is sensitive.

Next Game

Game Three is Saturday, 10/16. Rask WILL start versus the Devils, or should. I predict the B’s to win, only because the Devils can’t find it yet. The B’s, with that second line, and a boosted Seguin ego, may have found offense for the first time in 6 years. We’ll see…

The Bruins Begin 2010 in Prague; Disassociation Before Anticipation

The Boston Bruins open their 2010/11 season in Prague on Saturday afternoon, versus the Phoenix Coyotes. If all of Czechoslovakia had been covered blindly by Icelandic ash during what in my humble opinion is the greatest professional sports collapse of my generation, Prague would have still heard the cries, saw the tears and felt the heart-break. I do not feel as if a second pick overall, a proven right-wing, an all in chips bet on a prime year for their goaltender, an emancipation from the worst player in the NHL and a trip to Prague can wash away the tainted toothbrush taste in my subconscious, but it tapes the puzzle box closed, and slaps a price tag on it. They have yet, however, and will not do so for some time, to show me the pieces. Building something out of nothing using mere strategy was a philosophy even I felt would shake up the Bruins enough, to make Boston a hockey town yet again. I was naive to think heart could be brought to players by way of a coach, or a midseason highlight overtime victory on a stage paved over with Boston championship and pride. I was a fool to think that heart could be taught. Heart has to be earned, and if you were to ask me if I was disappointed in last year’s outcome, looking forward to this year, happy with the off-season moves, or any other variation of anticipation I would look at you and rudely quote Gene Hackman from The Replacements because he is much smarter than anyone who thinks that until the Cup is raised in Boston, it is still alright to address the Bruins with any such hope. “Heart. Miles and miles of heart.” I urge the Bruins to win back my respect. With that said, and for the sake of no longer ranting and for the sake of thinking outside of this hard, scorned exterior, I will address some of the aspects of what the Bruins are putting together, that I look forward to writing about, and watching succeed, this season.

Tyler Seguin was not my first choice, nor was it the Bruins’ nor was it the NHL’s, but his slip behind Taylor Hall in the draft did not prevent this former OHL phenom from making an impact in Boston. I expect a 2008/09 David Krejci “esque” season out of this rookie, who is already being compared to the great Joe Sakic for his effortless skating ability, smart puck handling, finishing and two-way play. With two healthy, emphasis on healthy, David Krejci’s, and Patrice Bergeron at the helm, Savard, dizzy Savard or no Savard, the Bruins will have, yet again, a strong central core.

Nathan Horton is what the Bruins have been missing for some time. He is a taller Vladimir Sobotka whose talents the Bruins up and down game between Providence didn’t dilute. He is strong, smart, and will get you 25 to 30 goals consistently for a team who said goodbye to Phil Kessel, (the leading goal scorer in the pre-season, which for all intents and purposes means nothing), and who were forced to call Sturm and Ryder their main goal scorers. Horton has been lining up opposite to Lucic which pushes an extremely strong, shot oriented, and young line to the crease, and with Krejci dishing it out, will score some serious early and late game deciding goals.

Wideman is gone. I do not believe that in the NHL there is a player worse than Dennis Wideman. Leading the Bruins in points last post season means nothing because that playoff ride was a Twilight Zone horror show, a topsy-turvy trapeze act, or an all but a moment ago hangover and Wideman was the fat chick I slept with. She looked like Kim Kardashian, screwed like Jenna Jameson, however in the morning she was a fat Dennis Wideman whose pink sheets very well gave my scabies. She, I mean he, was a disgrace to any defensive system, and he may not be the reason for the collapse, but he encompassed the “why”. Needless to say, expect a smarter, more physical defense, filled with a lot more offensive step ups. I expect Boychuck to absolutely shine this season. A Dion Phaneuf type player, he will become.

Tuuka Rask will have a great season. He is no Andrew Raycroft, however he is also no Tim Thomas. I would like to see Tim Thomas play, and I want Rask to improve and contend for the Vezina. He was great in Providence, and he is a now an NHL goaltender a Stanley Cup can be won around. He will not be a gating factor in any team collapse, and by Midseason, he will be the talk of the town that is the NHL. A Niklas Backstrom type, under the radar starting goaltender, 2010/11 second pick Eastern All-Star. Thomas’ glory days, though very short are numbered, and instead his years here will be praised, looked back upon, this season, giving him his underdog status we all know he thrives so well under. Thomas, if healthy, will be the second fist to a one two punch that I still believe to be the strongest core in the NHL.

I guess Claude Julien will have to remain the Bruins head coach for one more year. I really have to hand it to Chiarelli for avoiding my pleas to clean house. I expect no difference in tone or locker room words to the press. They will remain sharp, poised, extremely vague, and optimistic, which is in fact warranted. There are no sophomore slumps in the NHL, so surprisingly this season can be called a comeback season for the B’s, and should encompass the ups and downs of last year, with perhaps more gaols and wins, like the year before.

Call this post a slow exploration in the potential realization that there is a lot behind us as Bruins fans, and a lot to look ahead too, even if the road ahead looks surprisingly like last years road, only after a weekend Habit for Humanity romp through the forest with cartoon blue birds and giant trash forks. Do not be blinded Bruins fans, stay pessimistic, but watch every game. Cheer for the Bruins as they try to disassociate themselves from their own past, and as I, like so many other, try to disassociate myself from my own let down in B’s fandom…this weekend, in Prague.

Post Script: Patrice Bergeron should be wearing the “C”, not the “A”, and this is no knock to Chara, it is a testament to Bergeron’s leadership. Chara is not a leader, he is a tool, a hammer, a machine to be wielded by the captains, the centers and the coaches. Bergeron is a better carpenter. I expect him to continue to step it up.

An Early Look at the 2010-2011 Bruins

In an effort to broaden my horizons, I intend on paying attention to the Boston Bruins this season.  I have been a casual fan of the B’s for the last 3 three years. This season I hope to follow them a little more closely than I have in years past.  Now I must preface my new found motivation to “cover” the Bruins with this:  My experience in hockey is limited to going to support my high school and college teams, going to Providence Bruins games, working as the Chuck-a-Puck guy for the Manchester Monarchs, and watching playoff hockey.  Yes, I will provide no actual insight to the game because I do not understand hockey strategy.  I just know that the team that “lights the lamp” the most will win the game.  So here we go.

After the Bruins made history for all the wrong reasons in last year’s playoffs, GM Peter Chiarelli and Cam Neely were silent.  What happened in the quarterfinals against the Philadelphia Flyers is unspeakable and the Bruins will forever be associated with failure after losing 4 games in a row to a team that was using its backup goalies.  Now that the past is off my chest and I feel better after that rant, we can look forward to the future of this team.

The Bruins landed the number 2 pick in the draft after trading Phil Kessel to the Toronto Maple Leafs for their 2010 pick.  With that pick the Bruins selected Tyler Seguin, an 18 year old prodigy out of Canada.  With that pick Bruins fans will have a short memory of the 2010 playoff debacle.  Seguin will be relied upon to contribute to the Bruins feeble offense.  Last year in the OHL Seguin tallied 106 points (48 goals, 58 assists).  Seguin has been labeled as a can’t miss prospect and he will be in select company being a number 2 pick.  Bobby Ryan, Drew Doughty, and Jordan Staal have been among the last few years number two picks.  In the preseason head coach Claude Julien has put Seguin on the same line with Mark Recchi and Patrice Bergeron.  Some have coined it the PPF line. Past, present, and future.  All indications out of Boston are that they have been very impressive.

Another big acquisition for the Bruins this off season was trading for Nathan Horton, the number 3 pick of the Florida Panthers in 2003.  Horton had 57 points last year (20 goals and 37 assists) on a weak line in Florida.  In 3 seasons in the NHL Horton has scored 27, 22, and 20 goals.  With him on the same line as a David Krejci, Marc Savard (if healthy), or Tyler Seguin it is entirely possible Horton can hit the back of the net 35 times or more.  The aforementioned players are very good at creating for others and Horton has never had the benefit of playing with someone of that caliber or possessing those abilities.  The offense was atrocious last year and that pressured goalies Tuukka Rask and Tim Thomas to stand on their heads night in and night out.  Horton will alleviate that pressure.

Speaking of goalies, this season Tuukka Rask will be expected to shoulder the load with Thomas spelling him.  Many will fear a sophomore slump from Rask.  He did seem to tire in the playoffs last season.  Keeping Thomas will be important to the Bruins chances of staying competitive all season. Some people will be calling for Thomas to be traded.  Because of his hefty contract, Thomas is virtually untradeable therefore the Bruins should embrace him.  I look for them to start a new trend, much like what is going on in the NFL with running backs right now.  Let the Bruins goalie situation be a “2 headed monster.”  Let Rask and Thomas play in 40 games each.  If one gets outrageously hot, ride them for that streak.  Other than that balance the work load and stay healthy.  When it comes playoff time go with who has given you the most confidence during the season.

Other things to watch for during the upcoming season:

Marc Savard’s health.  A few outlets have reported he may be out for the season with post concussion syndrome.  I find this to be a rather bold report.  I personally would have like to see the Bruins deal him during the off season and keep Vlady Sobotka.  But that wasn’t the case.  If he is healthy, then the Bruins will have depth at center.  If he isn’t then the Bruins will have an uphill battle this season.

Zdeno Chara’s contract situation. Chara enters the last season of his contract.  Talks have started on an extension but they are yet to get serious.  Chara is a game changer.  He isn’t flashy.  He just gets the job done and he is the best at what he does.  The Bruins need to bring him back especially with a weak defense around him.  If he leaves town, it spells trouble for the future of the organization.

How will Dennis Seidenberg, Milan Lucic, and David Krejci look after coming back from injuries that hampered (Lucic) or even took them out completely (Seidenberg, Krejci) of the playoffs last season?

With this being my first foray into the hockey world any comments or feedback would be appreciated!

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.