Thursday, January 19, 2012

Hoser Homestand

It's a good thing I don't write for a living, at least as far as a media member is concerned.  Between the writer's block and my proclivity for procrastination, I could never, ever meet a deadline, even a self-imposed one.

And because I've been somewhat lazy lately, in conjunction with a full slate of Bruins home games, I am now facing a huge backlog of recaps.  Rather than create separate entries for each game, it's probably best that I do one mega post, as I actually have a decent amount of photos I've collected along the way. Even better, I actually have a common thread amongst the games which only helps to give some flow to my writing.

You see, it is a rarity in today's NHL to have back to back home games featuring opponents from the Great White North.  But with the relocation of the Thrashers to Winnipeg and their subsequent retention in the southeast division, the schedule was to include an additional two games against a Canadian franchise, thus increasing the chances of consecutive games against teams from America's Hat.

And thus, through the miraculous dealings of the NHL schedule makers, the Bruins were set to play not one, not two, not three, but four! games against Canadian franchises: 

First up, the Calgary Flames on January 5th

The Bruins kicked off the new year with a 6-1 dismantling of the Devils and Hall of Fame goalie to be Martin Brodeur in New Jersey.  They then returned to the Garden the following night for their first home game of 2012. Against an depleted lineup missing many regulars, the Bruins showed no signs of fatigue and gave the visitors from Alberta a beat down with Tuukka Rask pitching a shutout as the B's exploded for nine goals (two each from Patrice Bergeron and Nathan Horton), chasing Flames starting Goalie Miikka Kiprusoff midway through the second period.

Being one of the few Canadian representatives from the Western conference, Calgary appearances in Boston are somewhat rare, occurring every other year at best. And this was the first time I've seen them since I started this blog, thus providing me for a chance to scrutinize their uniforms.

Frankly, I'm not a big fan of their current look.  They use one of the worst templates to come out of Reebok's evil design minds in the 2007 league-wide edge system redesign.  The piping along the sides is extraneous and the striping up the sides is incongruous with the rest of the horizontal striping featured on the sleeves, hemline and socks. And don't get me started on the inclusion of the shoulder flag patches for Canada and the province of Alberta - completely nonsensical. The only thing these really have going for them is the color combination. I like the use of red as the base color for the home uniforms as opposed to the black they used to use for their black alternate/home sweater.

Personally, I liked their 1995-2000 set best.  I like the italicized font as well as the addition of black accents which made the red and yellow pop. The hemline that was bisected by a diagonal stripe of the same design was a unique element that no other team used and it worked. Of course, I loved their original look with the white, red and yellow design they carried over from their time in Atlanta.  Speaking of which, the Flames also have one of the best features in all of hockey - the assistant captains 'A's are actually miniature versions of the Atlanta Flames logos, perhaps the best homage to a teams' roots in all of the major sports leagues.

To be honest, I had very low expectations for seeing Flames sweaters at this game.  It was a Thursday night and Calgary really has no ties to Boston, not a major college student component and no minor league affiliate located in New England.  Yet I was quite surprised to see decent representation in the Garden.  Here's a quick rundown of my highlights:

Current Miikka Kiprusoff home replica

Jay Bouwmeester current away replica

2011 Jarome Iginla Heritage Classic replica

Sure, go ahead and make the usual McDonald's remarks.  Fact is, I like these because they were so different.  Plus they were paired with white pants when the Flames took on the Habs in the 2011 Heritage Classic.

Current Jarome Iginla alternate (throwback) replica

When I see this design, it's hard not to think of Lanny McDonald and the 89 Cup winning team.  I  love this design and I'm so glad Calgary brought it back, if only as an alternate to their current monstrosities.

2007 Wayne Primeau away replica

My photographic skills aside (love the sepia tone, it was an accident), this was as obscure a Flames sweater as I found all night.  I actually liked this design, save for the flaming horse logos on the shoulders.

2010 Jarome Iginla Team Canada away replica

After the Bruins dispatched the Flames, it was onto the most anticipated game of the season - the rematch of the Stanley Cup Finals against the hated Vancouver Canucks on January 7th.

For whatever reason, the NHL powers that be scheduled this for a 1:00 afternoon start on a Saturday.  In a way, this was a good thing as I can't even imagine what time Heather and I would have to get into the Fours to make sure we got seats if it started later.  Well, that and the fact that a night start would have meant that people were going to be overly lubed in the Tom Brady sense.

As it was, Heather, Pete and I met up at the Dunks next door around 9:30 am for some iced coffees as we awaited the Fours' opening at 10. 

We made our way upstairs and being the first ones on the scene, we had our choice of seating.  So we went with the same seats we had for game 7 of the finals.  Why the hell not? This was our chance as fans to gloat over winning the Cup.  Cornelius joined us shortly thereafter and brought his mini Stanley Cup.  And frankly, what better way to savor some fine Jameson's than to sample it from a small replica of Lord Stanley's silver chalice? Well, other than the real thing, I mean.  The rest of our crew made their way into the bar, including Tim, Maureen and the seat 11 guest of the day, Robyn, for some pregame shenanigans.

Having done some significant damage to our collective livers, we headed in for the game.  To be honest, going in to this game, it felt like we were dealing with house money.  Sure, two points were on the line, but if the Bruins lost, it wasn't going to be the end of the world.  We were playing a Western conference opponent after all.  However, the Vancouver media fanned the flames (yeah, I mentioned Vancouver and flames, something they have experience with) all week long leading into the game, bitching and moaning about the Bruins.  And there was the small fact that Vancouver head coach Alain Vigneault chose to start backup netminder Cory Schneider in goal over our favorite whipping boy Roberto Luongo. This move was made under the lame guise that it was a chance for the Marblehead native to play before his friends and family, despite the fact that he was afforded that opportunity in the finals not once, but twice when Bobby Lu was yanked for being a complete sieve.

In reality, we really, really wanted the Bruins to win.

Alas, the game sucked.  Vancouver resorted to their typical punch and hide tactics, failing to stand up for themselves and slinking behind the refs after instigating the Bruins.  The B's were suckered into the Canucks' tactics, getting caught up emotionally and getting thrown off their game.  They took retaliatory penalties, exacerbated by a refereeing crew that blew it big time by tossing Milan Lucic from the game four minutes in for supposedly jumping off the bench on an illegal line shift to help out Shawn Thornton who was being attacked by no fewer than six Canucks.  In actuality, Looch was on the ice legally and the penalty should never have been called, a fact that was confirmed after the game when the league announced that Looch's match penalty had been rescinded. However, the ineptitude of the refs lead to Vancouver having a 5 on 3 power play in which they scored the first goal of the game.

Brad Marchand's clipping penalty on Sami Salo led to another early exit for a Bruins left winger and the combination of Vancouver man advantages and the Bruins' undermanned roster lead to a total of four Canuck power play goals which were enough to hold off the B's three tallies.

I was pissed after this game.  Not because we lost, but more because of how we lost.  The Bruins were suckered in by Vancouvers' weaselly ways, taking dumb penalties when they should have been focusing on playing hard. I could never root for a team like the Canucks.  Their players aren't tough and  don't stand up for their actions. I'd say they have more bark than bite, but we all know Alexandre Burrows by now.  If the Bruins played like Vancouver, I'd have no problem calling them out on their style of play.

Because this was the most demanded ticket in town, I figured that there wouldn't be many Vancouver fans in the house.  I mean, why ever would they want to come here when we were the ones that beat them for hockey's ultimate prize? They'd be ripped on and ridiculed.

Surprisingly, there were a decent number of away fans there. And there were a couple of sweaters that stood out:

Current Roberto Luongo home replica

Current Alexandre Burrows home replica

Of all the players to wear, these two schmucks went with the two most hated players on the Vancouver roster. This was the equivalent of wearing "kick me" signs. Seriously, there couldn't be two less respected players by the Bruins' fanbase than these two asshats.

Next on the docket was a matchup on January 10th with the second team to abandon Atlanta for colder Canadian climates, the new incarnation of the Winnipeg Jets.

This was second of two home games against the Men form Manitoba, with the Bruins having won the first matchup 4-2 on November 26.  I touched briefly on the Jets sweaters in my recap from that game. However, with this being another midweek matchup against a relatively obscure opponent, my expectations for sweater sightings were relatively low.  Sure enough, I barely saw any Jets sweaters, never mind ones with players names and numbers on them.

There was one glaring exception to this.  And I didn't even happen upon it until we were on our way out of the Garden after the game:

Early 90s Teemu Selanne Winnipeg Jets (1st iteration) home replica

When I think of the old Winnipeg Jets, the first three players that come to mind are Dale Hawerchuk, Keith Tkachuk and Teemu Selanne. You could add in Bobby Hull as well, but I didn't have a recollection of seeing him play live.  But Selanne, a certain hall of famer, burst onto the scene in the 1992-3 season, putting up insane numbers as a rookie.  The Finnish Flash finished with 76-56-132 totals on the season.  It was so memorable to me because here in Boston Joey Juneau had a hell of a rookie season, posting 32-70-102 totals.  But those stats, as great as they were, couldn't hold a candle to the numbers put up by the new kid in Winnipeg.

As far as the old Jets sweaters are concerned, this is my favorite of their three looks, with simple matching hem and sleeve striping and a unique take on the red, white and blue color combination. 

You can also see the current Jets away sweater in this picture. At first, I wasn't sure that I liked them.  The combination of the long vertical sleeve stripes with the horizontal stripes looked weird.  I also wished they had used red as an accent, not just on the crest.  But after seeing them in person, I think I like them.  The font used for the name and numbers is clean and simple, yet modern.  And the use of the two shades of blue is enough to clearly differentiate them from the Leafs, unlike the virtual knockoffs Tampa Bay broke out this season.  They aren't my favorite, not by a longshot, but they aren't the worst, either.

Two days later, it was time for a matchup with our real rivals, the Montreal Canadiens. As much as we collectively hate the Canucks, let us not forget that we have years and years of epic battles with our fellow original six team from La Belle Province. Too many men on the ice, anyone?

This was a big rebound game for the Bruins.  The loss to Vancouver was an emotional letdown.  And the Bruins played a very sloppy game against the Habs.  Sure, they had a two goal lead before giving up a late score at the hands of Yannick Weber.  They held on for the win and the crucial two points.

But the real story of the game was about a player who began the night as a Canadien, but would finish it in a Boston cab en route to Calgary.

Mike Cammalleri (one of the few Members of the Tribe in the NHL, btw) skated 9:02 of ice time before he was told to go to the locker room and change into his street clothes by Montreal management.  Seems that his recent comments about the Habs playing like a bunch of losers hastened his departure from Montreal and in an effort to protect his trade value, he was pulled from the game midway in. This isn't the first time a player has been taken out of a game in order to facilitate  trade, but this usually happens at or around the trade deadline.  Something like this at this time of year is virtually unheard of.

So it was kind of funny when we ran into this guy at the Fours after the game:

2011 Mike Cammalleri home replica

Can we call this a throwback?

In actuality, this guy was fun to chat with and he took our jesting in stride.  We need more fans, both home and away, with a sense of humor and self-deprication.

Now for some housecleaning:

There really haven't been any standout Bruins sweaters in the crowds this year.  Entirely understandable as most fans seem to have taken a shine to the recent cast of characters donning the spoked B.  But in these last few home games, there have been a few that came out of the woodwork that deserve special recognition:

1970 Johnny "Pie" McKenzie away replica

Special points to this guy because I just haven't seen many 1970s throwbacks other than the usual smattering of Orrs, Espositos, Cheevers and Bucyks. Plus, I've had the pleasure of meeting Pie a couple of times.  He's a really nice guy.

Late 80's/Early 90's Reggie Lemelin home replica

I've seen a bunch of Andy Moog replicas at the Garden over the years, but there aren't a lot of the player who made up the other half of the best goaltending tandem I've seen play for the Bruins until this year's combo of Timmay and Tuukka.

Late 980's/Early 90's Bobby Carpenter away replica

This is one of my favorite sweaters ever.

To understand why, you need to know that both Bobby and I grew up in Peabody and went to high school at St. John's Prep in Danvers. Sure, he finished up in 1981 and I graduated 13 years later. At the time, he was the highest American ever picked in the NHL entry draft (#3 overall to Washington).  I remember looking at old yearbooks in the Prep's campus ministry office once and happened across the 1981 edition.  In the back of the book was a full page feature of the day the media came to campus to interview Bobby ahead of the draft. He was big news back then, even making the cover of Sports Illustrated wearing his Prep uniform and labeled "The Can't Miss Kid". As an impressionable youth, this was fascinating and awesome.  When the Bruins traded Steve Kasper to the Kings to acquire Carpenter in 1989, I was elated. Harry Sinden had a propensity to stockpile local players, but for the most part they were never start players.  Bobby had a couple of 25 goal seasons while wearing the black and gold, but he also missed most of the 90-91 season when he shattered his kneecap when he fell into the endboards in a game against the Habs. His Boston tenure ended when he signed back with the Caps prior to the 1993-4 season.

2010 Zdeno Chara Slovakia men's national team home replica

Sure, I see plenty of USA Tim Thomas sweaters at the Garden as well as the occasional Patrice Bergeron Canada one and there's a guy that has a Marco Sturm Germany sweater, but this was the first Chara or Slovakia one I've seen. Cool.

And finally, the piece de resistance:

1985-6 Claude Julien Quebec Nordiques away replica

This, dear friends, is the early leader for sweater of the year.

I ran into this guy on my way to the Fours before the Montreal game. It blew me away.

Our Claude (is an awesome Claude, btw), played but two seasons for the Nordiques, wearing number 34 for his one game appearance in 1984 before switching to number 12 when he played 13 games the following year.

But it is the combination of a relatively obscure NHL career with a beautiful defunct (ok, relocated) franchise sweater and the fact that the B's were playing Montreal (a team that the Francophile Julien used to coach) that made this so very epic.

That's it for now.  Hopefully, I can get back on course with the upcoming tilt against the hated New York Rangers in a battle for Conference supremacy.