The team that time forgot

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The team that time forgot

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

Last night, while the Bruins and Canadiens did battle in Montreal, Dumb & Dumber was playing on Encore.

At the same time, Celtic Pride was playing on Starz.

I know this because I got sucked into both of them.

Even though the Sox were on the other NESN, and the NBA Playoffs were on TNT, whenever there was a break in Bruins action (time outs, intermissions, that time the refs ran off to accept an unmarked briefcase from the mayor of Montreal), I was back and forth between those two movies.

I couldnt help it.

My obsession with the first movie needs no explanation. The second? Whatever. I know Celtic Pride isnt great, but it came out when I was 16, and it was about the Celtics. Of course I was going to watch it over and over and over. Now, it has a special place in my heart. What can I say?

I. LIKE. IT. A. LOT.

I . . . I . . . I desperately want to make love to a school boy!

Wait, what I meant was . . .

Oh right, the Bruins were on, but I kept on getting lost in those two movies. Reciting the same lines, laughing at the same jokes. For one night, it was like the '90s all over again.

I didnt realize the symbolism in this until the game was over and the Bruins were once again on the verge of playoff heartbreak.

You see, the '90s were a difficult time for Boston sports fans. Its the only decade (since the city picked up four teams) that didnt produce a title. At the time, local teams were almost always the underdogs. Or worse, they were just never the favorites. They were average, middle-of-the-road teams. They were streaky and inconsistent squads that sporadically gave you a reason to celebrate, but far more often left you heartbroken. They really tested your faith.

Obviously, that changed with the Patriots first Super Bowl, and since then, the Celtics, Sox and Pats have taken off to a level of performance and expectations that were once unfathomable.

But the Bruins are still stuck in that '90s mentality. Through all the changes this city has undergone, the Bs are still right where they were. Still experiencing the same growing pains, and leaving Boston with the same stomach pains.

The Bruins are the team that time forgot. A living history of everything Boston sports fans endured throughout that decade, right up until the ionic moment when Jason Varitek split the uprights.

This can be both good and bad.

For instance, unlike the Celtics, the Bruins are a team thats still building towards greatness, instead of holding on to whats left of it. When we look ahead, its excitement. With the Celtics, its indecision and fear.

Unlike the Red Sox, the Bruins dont have the unfair financial advantage. When they win, theres nothing to say except: Theyre the better team. Other teams cant cry poor, only weak or stupid. And that's fine. That's sports.

Unlike the Patriots, the Bruins dont have that unhealthy expectation of winning every single time they take the field (or ice). They dont have the nationwide legions of haters, and bad blood stirred up by Spygate and whatever else people are complaining about. Outside of Montreal, the Bs are never really the bad guys.

The Bruins are almost the only team in this city that you can still root for without somehow feeling like youre the bad guy. Not that anyone's losing sleep over the fact that other cities hate them, but theres a certain enjoyment that comes with the Bruins experience, and not enduring that constant loathing from the rest of the country. You can root for the Bruins the way you used to root for all Boston teams, before becoming at least somewhat jaded by success and lofty expectations. (Can the Cs win 70? Can the Sox win 100? Will the Pats go undefeated?) Honestly, it's refreshing.

But with that '90s-style, guilt-free experience comes other nostalgic feelings.

Disappointment. Emptiness. Helplessness.

Will they ever figure this out? Is this ever going to happen? How can they finally get over the hump and break free from a time and place that the rest of Boston left in its dust so long ago? Why does it always have to be something? Never smooth; never according to plan. Just an emotional roller coaster followed by a head-on collision and ultimately tragedy.

What will it take?

For starters, a win tonight at the Garden against Montreal. Without that the Bruins remain stuck in neutral for yet another year. Can they do it? Sure. They can always do it.

But I'd still keep an eye on those movie channels. Just in case we need a diversion from disaster.

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on CSNNE.com. Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

Spooner on trade rumors: 'I definitely want to play here'

Spooner on trade rumors: 'I definitely want to play here'

BOSTON -- Ryan Spooner has definitely heard the reports out there that he’s being shopped in trade by the Boston Bruins, and he played like a guy that didn’t want to be moved in Monday’s win over the Florida Panthers at TD Garden.

Spooner had his good skating legs, created chances for his teammates and set up the third period goal that got the B’s into overtime when he flipped a shot at the net that was tipped in by David Backes while camped out around the crease. Spooner finished with an assist and a plus-1 rating along with five shot attempts in his 14:24 of ice time, and looked much more like the energized, creative player that was at the heart of some pretty good offensive things last season.

In other words, Spooner looked much more like the talented young player that finished with 13 goals and 49 points last season while centering the third line.

“I think there were five or six games there where I felt I wasn’t playing a bad game. Then six or seven games there where it was hard to get, I guess, the ice time that I wanted,” said Spooner. “At the end of the day, I’ve been a little bit inconsistent.

“I just have to go out there and use my speed and my skill and I found that in the game here. I thought that I did that and I just need to play with that, and I should be fine.”

Multiple sources have indicated to CSN New England that the Bruins are talking about a possible Ryan Spooner deal with multiple teams including the Carolina Hurricanes, San Jose Sharks and New York Islanders. Part of it is certainly the need for the Bruins to collect a bit more goal-scoring as Monday night’s win was just the eighth time in 26 games this season that Boston’s offense has scored more than two goals.

Part of it is also, however, a challenging season for Spooner where he’s been in and out of Claude Julien’s dog house while getting dropped to the fourth line at times, and even being left off the power play a handful of times as well. He’s played out of position at left wing rather than center and has underachieved to three goals and nine points in 25 games largely played with David Krejci and David Backes.

Whatever the history and the number of potential trade scenarios, Spooner said was “fed up” with all of it in his own words as he headed into Monday night’s game, and one thing remained true above all else: He wants to stick around as a member of the Bruins.

“I try to just put it in the back of my mind. When I was 17, I went through the same thing [in junior hockey]. I definitely want to play here,” said Spooner. “I want to help out and that’s kind of where I’m at now. If I play like I did [against the Panthers], I think I’ll be fine. I just want to go out, I want to help out, and that’s kind of where I’m at right now.”

The Black and Gold are looking for a top-6 forward capable of putting the puck in the net on the trade market in any possible deal involving Spooner, but it would seem that the 23-year can control his own destiny in Boston if he starts generating offense and putting the puck in the net. Spooner did just that on Monday night while setting up a third period goal, and lo and behold the Bruins offense posted four goals after struggling to get more than two for most of the season.

That could turn into the kind of trend that keeps Spooner in Boston if he knocks out the inconsistency in his game, and instead steps on the gas pedal and brings the speed and skill that got him to the NHL in the first place. 

Chara 'felt pretty good' in first game back

Chara 'felt pretty good' in first game back

BOSTON -- Zdeno Chara knew which question was coming, so he didn’t even wait for it to be asked in the postgame B’s dressing room.

“I felt pretty good for the first game. It was a good game to come back,” said Chara, who finished with a minus-1 rating in 23:31 of ice time. “Obviously, Florida is a very good skating team and it is always kind of challenging to play them. But I had no issues. It felt good to be back and, obviously, big win.”

Surprisingly the Bruins didn’t have many issues from a defensive standpoint in the six games that their captain missed with a lower body injury, and finished with a 3-2-1 record and 10 goals allowed in the aforementioned six games.

That was something Chara, off to the best start to a season in at least a couple of years, remarked on both right before and after returning to the B’s lineup on Monday.

“I was very proud. It was exciting to see how they battled and it’s never easy. Every game is a challenge and every game is a big game,” said Chara, who has one goal and six points along with a plus-11 rating in 20 games this season. “There’s never an easy game. But guys were battling. They were playing some hard opponents and they won some really big games by gutsy efforts.”

Still it was good to get Chara back into the mix as a top shutdown pairing with 20-year-old Brandon Carlo, and that allowed the rest of the defensive pieces to fall into place for the Black and Gold.

Clearly there was a little bit of rust on Chara after just practicing for a couple of days and he’ll really be pushed with so many games coming up in a short period of time, but it is nearly impossible to push the 39-year-old out of the lineup after he’s worked his way back in. The timing, the reads and the positioning will all get back to top form quickly for the 19-year veteran, but his coach thought it was a good first step with him while showing no issues moving around on his skates throughout the game.

“He played okay. It was his first game back and, you know, a lot of responsibility,” said Julien. “You expect guys to work themselves back in, and I think he did a good job.”

Now Chara will focus on working himself back into the rhythm he was in prior to the injury, and preparing his nearly 40-year-old body for the grinding schedule that awaits them for the rest of this month.