Friday, April 15, 2011

Playoff Recap: Conference Quarterfinals, Game 1 - Lots of Shots, No Juice

And thus the tournament begins.  The quest for Lord Stanley's chalice begins anew.  Age old rivals face off once more for the chance to complete for hockey's ultimate prize.

Eff that.  Screw the flowery prose. 

B's-Habs, first round of the playoffs.

For the 33rd time, the Bruins meet the Candiens in the postseason.

I remember 1988, when the Bruins ended the 46 year winless streak in the playoffs against Montreal, Reggie Lemelin pumping his fist, clutching his mask, as he lead the Bruins to a 4-1 series victory en route to their first Stanley Cup Finals appearance since 1974.

I remember 2004, when the Bruins lost game 7 to Claude Julien's Canadien squad at home on Patriot's Day, a day where Heather and I rushed out of Fenway Park and a blowout loss to the Toronto Blue Jays and raced across the city to the Fours to get our usual pregame fix.

I remember 2008, when the Bruins, now coached by Claude, fell behind 2-0 and won 3 of the next four, only to lose in 7 games to their rivals from the north.

And I most certainly remember 2009, when the Bruins swept the Habs in 4 games, including a Patriot's Day game 3 victory in Montreal as so eloquently described by Jack Edwards:

Which brings us to the latest installment of the rivalry.

Let's see how it played out:

Just the facts, Jack (Edwards)

  • Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, Game 1
  • (3) Boston Bruins vs. (6) Montreal Canadiens
John Blue Plate Special

Playoffs are the one time you do not screw around with tradition or superstition.  If what you have been doing works, you keep doing it.

Playoff beards.  Not touching the Conference championship trophy.  Ray Bourque hitting his goalie with his stick before the game.

Or in our case, ordering the same pregame meal.
So we went with the Naked Orr, teriyaki style with well done onion rings.

And for the record, I trimmed my goatee in the morning.  I will not be touching the trimmer so as long as the Bruins are playing in the playoffs.

Couture Corner

This is the big dance.  As such, it should be treated as a black tie affair.  Leave the jeans and home and throw on a jacket and tie (or the hockey sweater equivalent).

So, did people get the memo?

Let's take a look:

1994 Joe Sakic Nordiques Away

Hey, Nordiques fans hate the Habs as much as we do.  So they're ok in my book (or at least until they get their team back).  And really, that's just a such a great looking sweater.  And I liked Joe Sakic as a player.  After all, he helped Ray Bourque win a cup.  But then again, so did former Montreal great Patrick Roy.  But Roy ended up gretting traded by the Habs to the Avalanche, who used to be the Nordiques. How very convoluted.

Anywho, onto the next one:

Montreal Canadiens/Edmonton Oilers Frankenstein sweater


Seriously, I don't get it. 
The only reason I could see this sweater existing is that it was something that was sold as part of the marketing for the 2003 Heritage Classic. This was the outdoor game played between these two teams in Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium.  Or it could be some sort of fan homage to a player who played for both teams, like, say Sheldon Souray, much like the Bruins/Avalanche ones some fans wore in support of Ray Bourque after he was traded.

Except this sweater was berift of any patches or lettering.  And the two designs were not of the same ones worn in that outdoor game.

This just plain sucks.

Game Misconduct.  And a 20 game suspension, too.

The Row 11 Rundown

You'd think for the playoffs that 307 would be playing at full strength, right?  Sadly, this was not the case.

Charla, Kathi and the kids didn't dress for this one and the Kasper Kontingent missed out on the playoffs for the first time in years.

The playoffs is the one part of the year when you want to surround yourselves with the people you know, if for nothing other than insulating you from the myriad of idiots and social scenesters who make thier annual pilgrimage to the Garden.

Needless to say, their presences were definitely missed.

Doosh of the Day

I hate PK Subban.

The Montreal rookie defenseman is immensely talented.  He's fast, he's big.

But he's a p*ssy.

He flops.  He dives.  His theatrics are an embarassment to the game.  And he'll keep on doing it until the NHL and its game officials decide to do something about it such as enforce the unsportsmanlike conduct rule.

A prime example of this last night was when David Krejci was trailing him around the Montreal net, to Carey Price's right, and Krejci got his stick up near Subban's body.  Subban fell over Krejci's stick despite the fact that the stick was not impeding his movement.  Two minutes for hooking for Krecji and the Habs go in the power play.

After reading all that, you'd assume that Subban would be my Doosh of the Day. But he's not.

Nope.  I'm reserving that title for the ignoramus behind be who used a familiar derogatory term for people of African descent when yelling at Subban.  I seriously debated whether or not to confront this lowlife and it pains me to say that I did not.  As much as I hate people making racist comments, had I confronted this drunk individual, the result would probably have lead to a physical confrontation and I really did not want to go that route for a myriad of reasons.

Bruins fans have booed Subban all season long.  A good number of fans are like me and boo him solely for the fact that he is a cheating agitator.  Sadly, though, I get the feeling that a lot of people harbor a dislike of him simply because of his skin color.  And that's just plain sad, especially for people who purport to be fans of the first NHL franchise to employ a black player (Willie O'Ree) and have had other black players play for them (Graeme Townshend, Anson Carter and Sean Brown amongst others).

The Clothes Line

1991 Chris Nilan Home Replica

I tried to figure out what the appropraite NBA, NFL or MLB analogy would be, but truthfully, I couldn't come up with one.

So I'll explain it this way:  Chris "Knuckles" Nilan was born in Boston, went to Catholic Memorial High School in West Roxbury and played hockey at Northeastern University where he was star hockey player.  He grew up a fan of the Big Bad Bruins of the early 70's.

And then he got drafted into the NHL.  By the Montreal Canadiens.

Not only did he play for the Bruins' hated rivals, he was the Habs' goon.  He was dirty.  He injured many players, including Rick Middleton with a heinous butt of his stick end into Nifty's mouth.

He won the Stanley Cup with the Habs in 1986, but was traded to the New York Rangers in 1988.  Montreal and New York, a Bruins fan's most hated teams.

And then in the summer of 1990, Nilan was traded.  To his hometown Bruins.

For a Bruins fan such as myself, this was hard to fathom.  Here was Nilan, a guy we absolutely hated for his play and for the fact that he played for our main rivals, but at the same time a native Bostonian.  It was a dictotomy and quandary.  But somehow, we warmed up to it.

In 1991, he was named by Bruins coach Mike Milbury to the Wales Conference All Star team.  Even Bruins fans scratched their heads about this selection.  And it eventually lead to changes in how the ASll Stars squads were selected in the future.  But he also set an NHL single game record for penalties with 10, totaling 42 minutes in the box.

But his play went downhill and he was released midway through the 1992 season. And then he was picked up off the waiver wire - by the Canadiens.

During his retirement, he was arrested at the South Bay Shopping Center in Dorchester for stealing a bathing suit.  He was also implicated in a ethics violation for his involvement with the CM hockey program.

But despite his stint with the Bruins, he will always be associated with the Habs.

And for that sole reason, this sweater should have been left at home for this series.
Normally against Montreal I wear my 1991-2 throwback Neely. The reason being Cam was on that 1988 team that beat the Habs.  But for some reason I wasn't feeling it and went with the 1970 Bobby Orr, as this was from when the Bruins won their fourth Stanley Cup.

It backfired.

I'll be breaking out the Neely for game 2.

The Lobel Prize

Montreal dressed only one former Bruin for game 1: Hal Gill.

Gill went 0-0-0  with no shots on goal in 22:34of ice time.

The Bruins lost, but Gill didn't factor greatly in the result.

The Home End

This was beyond frustrating.  Ex-BC Eagle Brian Gionta scored only 2:44 into the game and took the wind out of the sails for the Bruins and their fans.  The Bruins fired 31 shots at Carey Price, including 18 in the second period.  But the Canadien backstop was up to the task, stopping everything coming his way, even though the majority of shots were aimed directly at his chest.  The Bruins were a step behind all night and downright sluggish in the third.  The forwards did little to create traffic in front of the net and the defensemen were slow to move the puck and hesitated on their shots allowing Montreal to block the shooting lanes.

Gionta would pot his second goal of the game at 16:42 of the third and any chance of a Bruins comebackwas effectively stopped when Zdeno Chara took a dumb roughing penalty 46 seconds later.  Tim Thomas faced only 20 shots, but let in two and was not at his best.

It wasn't a blowout and it's only the first game of the series.  But game 2 will tell us a lot about this Bruins team and how this series could go.  We'll find out on Saturday night.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Postgame Recap: March 24 - Blow Habs, Blow

This was the big one.

Quite possibly the most anticipated game of the season and possibly the last few years, this was the first game against Montreal since Zdeno Chara took out Max Pacioretty by checking him into a stanchion at the Bell Center on March 8th.  Since that fateful night, the respective fanbases have been whipped into a frenzy over the hit.  The media in both markets have only fanned the flames. Reports of 9-1-1 calls in Montreal to bitch about the hit.  Possible police investigations.  Rampant bitching by the Habs fans despite their blatant hypocrisy. 

For the record, my take on the hit was that it was clean, but unfortunate nonetheless.  Had Chara hit him two feet further up the ice, it's nothing more than a check into the boards.  Chara was assessed a 5 minute major for interference and was given a game misconduct.  Those calls were fair and all that were needed to officiate the situation.  No suspension was deserved nor was one meted out by the NHL.

And so all eyes were on the TD Bank Garden on this Thursday night.

Let's see how it played out:

Just the facts, Jack (Edwards)

  • Regular Season game #72, home game #35
  • Boston Bruins (40-22-10, 1st in Northeast Div.) vs. Montreal Canadiens (40-27-7, 2nd in Northeast Div.)
  • Sixth and final meeting of the season between these two teams with the Habs taking 4 out of 5 thus far.
John Blue Plate Special

After a really bad road trip and having missed out on the Devils game two days prior, I told Heather that it might be time to change things up as far as our pregame meal went.

She agreed.

So we went with the Naked Orr, teriyaki style with well done onion rings.
Heather's not a fan of cheese or veggies on her steak tip sub (though I am), but I'm willing to take one for the team in the name of good mojo.  And the teriyaki marinade makes up for it.  The one the Fours uses has Chinese five spice powder in it and it really adds a whole other dimension to the dish.

Couture Corner

As always, there's fairly decent representation from the Habs fans and some of them break out the formalwear for the evening.

Let's take a look:

Late 60's Jean Beliveau Away

One of the all-time greats and by many accounts a true gentleman.  Except he was a Hab, so he sucks (in a Derek Jeter/Yankees way).

Mid-80's Larry Robinson Away

Another Hall of Famer.  But he was a Hab and later coached the Devils.  Screw him.

Early-80's Guy LaFleur Away

"The Flower" sucks.

The Row 11 Rundown

Being the biggest game of the year, you'd better believe the entire 307 crew was in the house for this one.

Doosh of the Day

Normally, with the Habs in town, I have a real sense of dread leading up to the game because more often that not some fans will act like idiots and ruin the atmosphere, whether it's misguided jingoism, acting like jerks to other fans or not paying attention to the game.

But you know what? It didn't happen at this game.  At all.

With so much at stake, people that were at this game were there for one reason - to see the game and nothing else.  This was a battle that was only going to be settled on the ice and not the stands.  Tickets were in high demand - seats in my section were getting five times the face value on StubHub.  This was not a social event to be at, it was a rivalry game at it's best.  People in the seats were fans and fans only.

And because of that it was the best crowd all season long.  No one standing up during play.  No drunks falling all over the place.  No skanky 20 year olds taking pictures of their friends all game long.

And for this I am more than happy to announce there was no Doosh of the Day at this game.

It's a miracle!

The Clothes Line

I gotta be honest.  I found nothing out of the ordinary nor anything worth taking a picture of that would merit discussion at this game.  Then again, I really didn't leave much seat much, even at intermission.

As for what I wore, I broke out the 1991-2 throwback Neely for the occasion.

The Lobel Prize

Montreal has three former Bruins on its roster after the trade deadline with the addition of Paul Mara , joining Hal Gill and Alex Auld.

Let's see how they did:

Mara finished a -1 with 3 shots on goal in 11:26 of ice time.

Gill finished a -2 with no shots on goal in 19:57 of ice time.

Auld stopped 6 of 8 shots in 15:28 of mop-up time after Carey Price was pulled in the third period after giving up 5 goals.  One of the Goals Auld gave up was a 3 on 5 shorthanded tally by Gregory Campbell.

All in all, a very good night for the Bruins.

The Home End

The single most anticipated game in recent memory, this one lived up to all its billing, as far as a Bruins fan was concerned.

A 7-0 shutout where the Bruins had a 3 goal lead after one period, an absolutely fantastic second period where they broke the Habs' spirit and a thrid period where they chased Carey Price and tacked on another 4 goals including the aforemention 3 on 5 shortie, which may have been the greatest demoralizing goal I've seen in the regular season.  Zdeno Chara was an absolute beast, finishing a +3 with 3 assists and 3 shots in 20:49 of ice time.  Tim Thomas notched his 8th shutout of the season and the 25th of his career.

But the best part, other than the fact that this was the game of the year, was that the Bruins demonstrated how good they could be when they use their will and strength to physically beat a weaker opponent.