1-32 Never Felt So Good

I have harped on the Bruins throughout the playoffs for their awful power play.  But after tonight, the Bruins are one win away from the Eastern Conference Finals.  Somewhere they haven’t been in nearly 20 years.  When push comes to shove, I obviously care more about the final score than I do about the power play.  Because of the Bruins inspired play on 5-5 situations, they have a chance of securing a date with the Tampa Bay Lightning with the winner punching a ticket to compete or Lord Stanley’s Cup. In celebration of the power play goal here is a safe for work picture of Nathan Horton’s wife…and Nathan Horton.

Quick recap of Game 3: Boston 5 Philadelphia 1

The Bruins scored 2 goals in the first minute and three seconds of the game and never looked back.

Brian Boucher got the hook midway through the second period as the Bruins put their fourth tally on the board.

Zdeno Chara was excellent tonight.  2 goals, 1 assist, and a plus 4 rating.

Tim Thomas is in the zone.  Two nights after saving 52 shots he saved 37 tonight.

I have learned that this is team is not even close to last year’s team.  Tazzi was right about that 100%.  Last year the Bruins had Steve Begin and Daniel Paille on their first lines at this time.  This year they have a healthy David Krejci and Nathan Horton.  I’d say that’s an upgrade.

Expect to see Sergei Bobrovsky in net for the Flyers Friday night.  Not that I think he will make a difference.

The Bruins have a chance to sweep the Flyers on home ice Friday night.  Being down 2-0 to the Canadiens is ancient history.  This team is fired up, flying high, and have a killer instinct.  All qualities I had serious doubts about going into the playoffs.  As usual, I was wrong.

I can be followed on Twitter @ ScottieNTCF

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Five Questions for the Bruins

Different game.  Same story. The Bruins lost Game Two 3-1 against their arch rival, the Montreal Canadiens and are now down 2-0 in the series. Instead of launching into my usual diatribe about why the Bruins aren’t a good playoff team, I am just going to offer up questions that I have had in hopes that someone can provide me with some answers.

How does a professional hockey player and team captain get scratched because of dehydration?

Why does Tim Thomas, a will be two-time Vezina Trophy winner, offer up the juiciest of rebounds and Carey Price seemingly doesn’t give up an rebounds?

How is Hal Gill owning the Bruins forwards?

Why can’t the Bruins win the initial face off when they get on the power play?

Why should I think the Bruins will win in Montreal when they can’t win in Boston?

After two games those are my questions for the Boston Bruins.  Any answers that anyone can provide so I can make some sense of the debauchery will be greatly appreciated.  If you feel the effort behind this post is weak, my apologies, I am just taking after my favorite hockey team.

Bruins Shutout in Game One

Wait, you aren’t surprised are you? This isn’t news.  This is as redundant as it gets.  The Bruins failed to score in Game One of their 2011 NHL Playoff debut.  For the
past two years I have been adamant.  You need to score goals to win hockey games.  The Bruins are a great regular season team but in the playoffs, under Claude Julien, they fail to impress.  It is deja vu all over again to coin a famous phrase.

Sure the Bruins peppered Carey Price with 31 shots including a near 6 minute onslaught in the 2nd period. But how many of those shots did Price actually have to do anything to stop?  To me, this was one of the easier shutouts to get.  Price was peppered with shots from the blue-line.  Not hard to stop.  Two scoring chances jump out at me and they both belong to Brad Marchand who seemed to be the only Bruin to show up tonight.  He had two breakaways but couldn’t put on the finishing touch.

Tim Thomas allowed two goals doing his job.  In my opinion you should be able to give up two goals and still win a hockey game. But when you play the Bruins, you only need one. Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton, David Krejci, and Patrice Bergeron failed to appear for Game One.  If this trend continues, forget getting out of the second round, the Bruins will not get out of the first.

Zdeno Chara may have one of the hardest slap shots in hockey.  He may be one of, if not the best, defenseman in the game.  However, his howitzers that he rips from the blue line seem to only succeed in making an opposing player limp off the ice.  Too many times his shot is blocked or misses wide, rendering what should be a nice weapon, useless.

The Bruins failed to impress me tonight.   I have followed them all season long seeing how bi-polar they are.  Some nights they come out flying high, other nights they come out with zero pulse.  I was told this year would be different in the playoffs.  I was told this year they had a great first line that would answer my incessant questions about lack of scoring.  Well the playoffs are here.  And after one game, I can say I was lied to.

Game two is Saturday.  If the Bruins come out like they did tonight, the series will end in Montreal.  Before you start to get upset, remember I told you they wouldn’t go far.  Here is proof: https://ntcf.wordpress.com/2011/04/06/these-bruins-wont-go-far/

See you Saturday.

A Rant on a Variety of Issues

In honor of The Rock’s return to the WWE…(Wrestlemania April 3,2011)

Finally, The Scott has come back…to NTCF!!!  So I haven’t written anything in 13 days and the five people who come and read this blog on a regular basis have had withdrawals that rival that of a drug addict.  In my defense, I haven’t really had much to write about over the past two weeks as Gambo informed you in his last post.  To be honest I have no excuse for not chipping in a few thoughts here and there on any number of topics over the past 13 days.  I sincerely apologize for not posting as
regularly as I once did and hope that this drought was only a one time thing.  With that being said I have plenty to rant about.  Be warned this post has no real main idea behind it other than to just flat-out rant.  Where it takes me, I have no clue.

Friars Hire Cooley

Today the Providence College Friars held a press conference introducing Ed Cooley as its next head men’s basketball coach.  In his presser, Cooley vowed to have Providence atop the Big East Conference one day. Lofty words for a team that has reached an all time low.  He also looked his players dead in the eye and told them the treadmill is his best friend in practice.  “If you have trouble focusing in practice, you can focus on the treadmill.”  He also showed good faith in saying that he will by 10 tickets to each game and give them out to students in the Providence Public School system that “do things the right way.”

I think Providence made a good hire here.  I am a bit concerned that there coaching search only had one candidate but Cooley appears to be what the Friars need.  He preaches defense and discipline.  Something Keno Davis knew nothing about.  I expect the fans to return to the Dunk in small doses to see the hometown kid lead the Friars. (Cooley played high school ball at Central High School).  In my eyes, as long as Cooley keeps his players out of jail, he will be a roaring success.

Pants on the ground…Pants on the ground

Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant has been banned from the North Park Center Mall for sagging his pants a bit too much.  Bryant has been banned from the mall for 90 days along with a criminal no trespass order in effect.  Bryant has apparently had a few dustups at this mall, most notably the time he cut a rather large line in the Apple store, offering to buy a customers items if he let him cut the line.

Gone are the days of the Cowboys being America’s Team.  Do you think Michael Irving would have ever been hassled in the mall at all? Let alone someone telling him that his pants were showing too much crack?  This is an embarrassing story for Dez, but highly entertaining for the rest of the nation.  Speaking of crack…

Taylor Doesn’t Card

Lawrence Taylor has been sentenced to 6 years probation for his involvement with an underage prostitute stemming from an incident May of 2010. When asked about his involvement with said prostitute Taylor did his best Forest Gump impression saying, “It’s the world of prostitution.  You never know what you are going to get. I don’t card them, I don’t ask for a birth certificate. She is a working girl.” If I was to set an over/under on when Taylor will violate his probation, I’d set it at 3.5 years and take the under.

Uncle Thomas Grant Hill?

Ok so Thomas Hill was Grant Hill’s teammate at Duke but I figured I’d try to integrate  (no pun intended) it all together for this story.  A few weeks ago ESPN aired a documentary on The Fab Five from Michigan.  Jalen Rose made headlines by saying he felt like Duke only recruited black players that were Uncle Tom’s.  Uncle Tom is a phrase used to describe someone who is subservient to white people.  Grant Hill took issue with this statement and wrote an eloquent, well thought out response published in the New York Times.

I understand Jalen said these were his thoughts as an 18-year-old kid, not necessarily now.  He felt Duke would only recruit players from good hard-working families.  My question to Jalen is so what? When did it become bad to recruit good upstanding members of society to play for a basketball team offering a scholarship to someone who would actually make good use of it?  I don’t understand and refuse to understand why it is fashionable to not work hard and study. Why is it the cool thing to act hood and rep the streets?  Can’t the streets be “repped” by being an outstanding member of society?   Just remember Jalen, Grant Hill didn’t cause Duke to have any violations or break any rules while he was there.

Maybe I am jaded because of the recent occurences at Providence College where kids, ahem thugs, are being offered full scholarships to get an education and lay the ground work for having a successful life only to see them throw it all away.  Maybe I am jaded because time and time again kids like you, Jalen, coming from a single parent home, have been given an opportunity to have better lifestyle and set your children up for a better life then you had, and then throw it away.  Don’t blame Duke for recruiting people who are deserving of such an honor.  Believe it or not no one is entitled to anything in this world. So don’t blame Grant Hill for being awarded a scholarship to a prestigious university.

Montreal Police Investigate Chara

By now everyone in both the Boston and Montreal markets know about the hit Zdeno Chara laid on Max Pacioretty resulting in a concussion.  Sure, it was an ugly hit.  The argument can be made that Chara intended to ram Pacioretty into the turnbuckle.  But the bottom line is it was a hit, something allowed in hockey, but can also be penalized.  Montreal police looking into Zdeno Chara because of this incident is beyond ridiculous.  Every sport has its own governing body.  Police have no business inserting its will upon a sport.  If they were to do so, every hockey fight should result in an arrest because it is an assault.  Someone being hit by a pitch in baseball could be considered assault with a dangerous weapon.  Don’t get me started on football.

Montreal police getting involved in this instance is totally absurd.  My disdain for the Canadiens has reached its boiling point with this last saga.  I have tolerated their European soccer style of hockey for the past 3 years, I have bit my lip when the booed the American National Anthem, and I even look the other way when their own players deliver dirty hits.  But this incident has gone beyond, as Felger calls it, “Yahooism.”  It may have actually vaulted the Canadiens ahead of the Lakers in my most hated opposing sports team category.

I will not write about the NFL lockout situation because quite frankly there are 3 other sports going on right now and they do a great job of entertaining me.  I am not going to waste my time worrying about billionaires arguing with millionaires over revenue sharing.  “And that’s all I got to say about that.”

I once again apologize for my recent hiatus.  I vow to the five followers of this blog that I will not let it happen again.  Please feel free to comment below and let me know if these issues are burning you up as much as they are with me.

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…

The Ten Year Collapse of the Boston Bruins, and Its Recent Endgame

On Sunday, March 21st, the Boston Bruins defeated the New York Rangers 2-1, and for the first time in ten years, I could care less. Recently, in a manner of dissapointing precedence, the Bruins managed to draw negative attention to themselves throughout the world of hockey for their lack of physical play and for their lack of heart. I have been a sympathetic advocate towards their “inabilities” and short comings throughout the years,  however I need to take a step back, after the Matt Cooke incident on March 7th, where a notoriously dirty player on a notoriously clean team elbowed Bruins’ star Marc Savard, a notorious “embelisher”, a diver of sorts, in the head inflicting upon him a second grade concussion, and putting him out for the season. Tom Cruise himself can’t fake a medically certified second grade concussion, and Marc Savard is no Oscar winner. That being said, what we witnessed on the 7th, was a legitimate breaking of the rules, an unjust and unwarranted display of physicality, with an obvious intent to injure. We witnessed a penalty gone un-penalized; a suspendable offense gone without suspension; an act of violence on a teammate, gone without retaliation or justification. We witnessed the collapse of a franchise, the death of a history, and to add even another level of completely justifiable drama, an inexcusable embarrassment, in which a team cannot possibly come back from, within this season, or in my tarnished opinion, ever, with this current lineup. That being said, player by player, who do we keep, and who can we dispose of. The argument is no longer, “is this a team that can win”. That argument became meaningless when they proved not to be a team at all.

There is something to the argument, which I agree whole heartedly with, that Ovechkin beats out Crosby as the best in the game. I believe it is 50% of the game’s objective to play physical, issue a level of physicality, and not have to play protected. I do believe Crosby would fight if his team gave him the opportunity, but somewhere along the lines, lost within the annuls of hockey history, the art of intimidation and violence lost its cool. Teams learned newer, trendier ways of proving themselves to each other, and asserting their camaraderie. Winning was one way, and the Bruins had that last year, quickly losing it in the wake of injuries, spoiled youth, and a blatant disbelief in their Vezina winning goaltender. Winning is not an option.  The other is bringing in a coach that could preach the ways of camaraderie to the team, spoon feed them chemistry. They had this last year as well, and lost it due to the exact same reasons as previously stated. Claude Julien also completely lost control, and apparently lost focus on what team history he is upholding, and what his objectives are game by game. On March 8th it was not Captain Zdeno Chara who had the responsibility of picking his team up, and it was not Shawn “I only have one fight in me a game” Thornton. It was their Coach, their glue, their voice, Claude Julien, and he failed, not just himself, but his players, the franchise, the progress made last season, the 1970 squad sitting in their luxury boxes disappointed and betrayed, and the history of the Boston Bruins. Claude, if I wanted Dave Lewis to come back, I would have shoved a cactus up my ass to prepare for this season.

(Side Note: In 1979, current Bruins analyst, than player, Mike Milbury climbed into the stands at the Madison Square Garden and beat a fan with his own shoe. The times are no longer changing; they have officially changed.)

The Bruins did not spend this season without a goal scorer. They did not play this season without a strong defensive core. They did not play this season without a number one goaltender. They played this season without heart. I have avoided calling it for the past ten years, and though I despise when Ray Bourque brought his Colorado Avalanche Cup to Boston and paraded it around the Hub and will never forgive him for this, the heart left with him and with Neely and has not been able to ever again reemmerge. I have watched teams nearly succeed in this time, and always fail. I have watched hits go unfinished, this season more so than any other, and the March 18th game more than any game this season. To avoid finishing a check in a game that meant nothing more than vengeance and justice, is avoidance to come to terms with a complete lack of chemistry, and this is not built by one or two players, this is built over time. The Bruins built their team to last season, and it did not add up. The equation must start over again, and this means a revamping of the lineup and its personnel.

Side Note: I can’t deny the heart of some of my favorites to ever play for the Bruins, but Donato, Heinz, Dafoe, Murray, Guerin, Lapointe, Sweeney and P.J. Axellson are long gone, and there are only a few shimmers of light left to spark even the remote amount of interest I have left, in this team; and this remote amount will never fade away, and that it is said to confirm that this post is not the death of my fandom, only the suggestions necessary to keep its fire lit.

The post now moves to this so-called endgame. The endgame of the downfall everyone around me saw coming, except me. “They do not play physical…”, I heard and denied. “They do not have a goal scorer…” I heard and witnessed, and still denied. I denied not the fact, but the necessity. This was a mistake. If a team does not and can not possess physicality and goal scoring in hockey, or match any level of play delivered by the elite teams throughout the league, the consistent teams, the guarantees, than a team can not win. That being said, who do we keep, who can we build a TEAM around, who still possesses this drive and the heart necessary to win in the NHL. Out of the woodwork, and the “tactful” decisions made over this past decade, there are a few that can remain, and a few that can still lead; call them the “last hopes” the Bruins have towards their future as a team, and their future in holding any relevance in regards to New England sports. At this time, I do not blame anyone for turning their heads away, once again, from the Boston Bruins. One March 21st, I did the same.

Players to save; the only ones remaining with the ability to save, what the B’s managed to lose in 60 minutes:

Patrice Bergeron: There is no question who the hidden talent is, and his gold medal as a Canadian Olympian is no charity case, but a testament to this talent. Bergeron, however, has been asked, since his call up in ’03, to play over this talent, play a forechecking, defensive minded role. In an equally as brutal fashion to the recent Matt Cooke incident, Randy Jones from the league assholes, the Philadelphia Flyers, served Patrice up a concussion of his own. Bergeron responded by coming back last year, and putting on an absolute clinic in the first round of the playoffs, as the B’s stepped it up and beat their Canadian rivals. He also stepped it up again this season, amidst the injuries and lack of compete level surrounding him. Patrice Bergeron IS and has been for some time now, the most reliable workhorse the B’s have, and any team in the NHL could build a team around this kid. Steady numbers, a great power-play point man and penalty killer, and finesse and finishing skills which can match any player in the NHL, skate for skate and pound for pound. He will not go anywhere.

David Kreijci: Patience, and European finesse launch this Bruin ahead of any other future candidate the B’s had over the past two years. There is an eerie feel of experience possessed by this sophomore, and a veteran quality, even before during and after his all-star caliber Olympic performance. The center core the B’s have to build on is impressive.

Marc Savard: The third Center position installment, a tenacious and crafty playmaker, he was an offensive steel, and once he fully recovers, he is an important stand out and reliable asset.

Zdeno Chara: The epitome of a captain. When he is healthy, he is a monster.

Tuukka Rask: Young, inexperienced, and an incredible talent. He has some big skates to fill, but a team around Rask can win games.

Tim Thomas: Let him have his contract, let him have his ‘B’, and while wearing his silver medal, holding up his Vezina, and at the age of 39, let him skate off into the sunset. His compete level has yet to be matched by any Bruin, and if there was enough of his heart to go around, this team would be viewed in an entirely different light.

I can’t in my right mind go without mentioning “The Next Cam Neely”, Milan Lucic, or the fiery goal scorer Marco Sturm, right? Well let’s just say I stop at Thomas on my list of player’s to keep, and hold Lucic and Sturm directly over the fence of loyalty and devotion. Lucic needs to either play physical or score goals. When he does neither, he is a liability. When he does both he is a necessity. If he chooses incorrectly, he will become a one “hit” wonder, and fade into the annuls of Bruins fandom along side P.J. Stock. P.J. would win. Marco Sturm on the other hand, can’t seem to match himself, and at any given time, becomes, just another player. If he can turn it up for game 6 of the first round of the 07’/08′ playoffs, and for the Winter Classic in 2010, then he should be able to turn it up every minute of every game. This however, is a Bruins virus, spreading throughout talent, and once it hits, it produces the exact results we are now criticizing, we are now turning our heads away from and the exact results we need to change.

Everyone else can go, and if Wideman isn’t one of them, then the whole world is a joke, and I am the epic punchline.

Looking back on this post, it reads more like the diary of a Bruins Fan scorned. I have heard the recent mantra around me, cries of “heart failure” and “I’m done with them…”, but I am not done. I am, however, inclined to set my standards higher, declare who I believe should be kept, and who I could see disposed of. I feel it my responsibility to finally face reality. I also, however, find the responsibility as a fan, not just to criticize, but ride this criticism directly alongside my hope and my love for this team. I will begin watching them again, avidly and without a wavering outlook on their abilities to be successful. I will watch however, with a relentless “toothbrush in the toilet” tainted taste in my mouth, until the moves I want happen, and until the restructuring of this season’s failures occur.

To end this year, I believe the Bruins will sneak into the playoffs, and get destroyed by an absolutely unconscious Washington Capitals team. I believe Rask will be the number one, and Thomas will be shopped around in the offseason. If he stays, he will humbly accept the back up role. When Savard returns, the three star centers named above will need a goal scorer a piece to match the lines. I believe Sturm, Wheeler and Lucic can stay if they want, and fit, but they are not these necessary goal scorers. Recchi, Ryder and Satan will be gone, and Paille and Begin have already overstayed their welcomes. (Side Note: I do not and will never trust division rivals. They are spies.) Their defense, aside from Mark Stuart, possibly this Seidenberg character, who has yet to do anything more than Derek Morris delivered, Johnny Boychuk, who given the right amount of time and training has greatness potential, and of course Chara, can be completely unloaded. Claude Julien? I think he will stay. I think the philosophies will remain. I think they will again be successful. But to forget history, to forget the “black and blue” ways of the black and gold, is to forget what team you are coaching. Julien, you are no longer coaching for Lou in New Jersey, you are coaching for a player, Neely, and the teams’ biggest fan, Chiarelli. You are coaching for that 1970’s team. You are coaching for Boston. You are coaching to keep hockey relevant in the Hub.

Somewhere along the line, this Bruins team lost it. Whatever “it” is, I believe they have the tools to build yet again, to achieve it. I can only hope it will happen next year, but in the wake of such embarrassment, and my current indifference, all I have left is hope, and that is the true endgame of fandom, towards any sports team’s collapse.