Bruins-Canucks classic deserves a rematch

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Bruins-Canucks classic deserves a rematch

BOSTON -- So what to take from a Stanley Cup rematch between the Bruins and Canucks that more than lived up to the hype?

Above and beyond the penalties, the entire Canucks team attacking Shawn Thornton and the eventual 4-3 Bruins loss to Vancouver at the TD Garden, there was the simple, gloriously entertaining product on the ice. Whether in a one-game regular season meeting or a seven game bloodbath of a playoff series, the two teams hate each other and come from opposite ends of the hockey spectrum.

Its only the most vitriolic hockey enemies that spear their opponents in the neck with the blade of their stick as Alex Burrows did in going after Shawn Thornton. Only in true rivalry games where hatred and past history intersect do you see players like Nathan Horton and Dale Weise throwing honest to goodness punching bombs designed to bring the pain.

Lets be honest: only in such a fever pitch hockey environment would Maxim Lapierre drop the gloves under any circumstances, even if it was a glorified hugging contest with Gregory Campbell.

All that along with 30 penalty calls for 107 penalty minutes along with two game misconducts and a rarely-seen clipping penalty screamed two hockey clubs searching for any hidden edge that could lead them to victory. That they go about this victory journey with polar opposite methodology only makes it all the more interesting.

We knew it would be that kind of game, its just the way it is between these two teams, said Zdeno Chara matter-of-factly. Nothing surprising.

The Bruins play a gritty, physical game relying on depth, strength on the puck, discipline and elite goaltending to get their desired result while the Canucks parlay their speed, skill and craftiness into power play chances and offensive production. The Bruins want things to play out 5-on-5 and the Canucks will do anything flop, dive, goad or take rabbit punches to get the calls that make special teams a factor. Essentially everything is the same for both teams dating back to last years Finals, and that goes all the way out to Roberto Luongo essentially skipping out on a chance to vanquish the hockey demons haunting him in Boston.

It makes for the perfect match of hockey opposites.

I thought we were ready to play, and when we played five-on-five we were a good team. We had some power plays, but we didnt score. So we gave them four power play goals and our power play didnt score, said Claude Julien. It doesnt matter what you ask me; I dont think were going to point the finger at the other team because they didnt do anything wrong.

They played the game they way they feel they have to play it, and they scored some power play goals. They did the right things. We didnt do enough to win the hockey game. Lets be man enough to admit it and move on.

Never was that more apparent than the turning point in the game: Brad Marchand was called for a five minute major and game misconduct in the second period for upending Sami Salo as the Vancouver defenseman took a run at the Bs agitator. Salo flipped over and suffered an upper body injury on the violent play thats likely to close Marchand a few game checks, and the Canucks scored two of their four power play goals on the day during the next five minutes.

One team scored three five-on-five goals and played the physical brand of hockey while the other waited for power plays to get their game-winning goal on a Cody Hodgson strike in the final period. The ultimate irony on Hodgson: he was also the player on the Vancouver bench holding Shawn Thornton down while six of his Canucks teammates attempted to work over the Bs enforcer.

It was a profile in Canucks courage to have six players attacking one single man in a Bs uniform undoubtedly, and also a clear message that the Gingerbread Twins and their band of merry Vancouver men need the referees in order to triumph.

We were really coming back there in the second period. I thought we were going to take the game over because five on five we dominated the play, said Tim Thomas, But then they got the penalty and -- whether you agree with the calls or not -- they were a huge factor in the way the game turned out.

You could call the Canucks soft and the Bruins hardened pieces of coal, and not many would bat an eyelash. Perhaps thats even true when you slap together a goaltending matchup between Luongo the Lame otherwise known as the goalie that didnt wan to play and the ultimate competitor in Thomas.

But its not that black and white when it comes down to being on the right or wrong side of the rivalry. Cody Hodgson had himself a whale of a game for the Canucks with the game-winning goal, and managed to keep out of the almost entirely aside from his bear hug on Thornton from the Vancouver bench. Campbell stepped up to play 15 minutes with Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand out of the game, and stepped in to fight Lapierre after his gutless cannon-ball into the Thornton scrum to start the game.

There were players like Cory Schneider operating their highest levels of efficiency as he did in front of his Marblehead friends and family while stopping 36 Bruins shots in the win.

Those players draped themselves in glory in a regular season preview that could make way for another Finals showdown between the two clubs if everybody is lucky. Then there was Dale Weise nodding and waggling his gloves to fight at puck drop before back-pedaling with the hip fluidity of an NFL defensive back.

Each of the 60-minute games incidents might have made for an interesting sidelight in a humdrum regular season game on the NHL schedule, but put together they conjure up the kind of passionate enmity that makes for the best kind of playoff hockey games.

One can only hope the Bruins and Canucks find themselves in their familiar dance of contempt once the Stanley Cup Finals begin during the month of June. Hockey lovers everywhere will be the big winners in a budding rivalry that has everything it takes to become great over the next few seasons.

Haggerty: Trouba deal is one Bruins need to get done

Haggerty: Trouba deal is one Bruins need to get done

Bruins management has been in a holding pattern waiting for something to “shake free” in the top-four defensemen department and that might have finally happened this weekend.

With the news on Saturday that Jacob Trouba won’t be reporting to training camp with the Winnipeg Jets and has asked for a trade, a player is becoming available that the Black and Gold have had their eyes on for months and months.

CSN was the first to report that the Bruins were putting together a plan for an offer sheet for the 22-year-old American-born defenseman back in June, but that never materialized. GM Don Sweeney eventually backed off that aggressive plan to nab a player they have tapped as a top-four, right-shot defenseman, but clearly there is still interest from a Boston team that literally did nothing to upgrade their back end over the summer.

Cam Neely admitted to CSN a couple of weeks ago that the Bruins were still positioned to make a move for a D-man if something opened up on the market.

“Basically from April to now everybody is talking about our back end, and not being able to land a top-four defenseman. We still have an opportunity as far as cap space goes if something shakes free, and I know Don [Sweeney] has been working hard trying to do something,” said Neely. “But I feel like as a group we can do better than we did last year.

“I think Tuukka [Rask] can play better than he did last year. If that happens we should be a better club. It’s going to be a challenge and it’s going to be competitive. But I feel like the changes we’ve made through the organization, and not just in player personnel, that there’s opportunity for our group to improve.”

Well, here’s a memo for the B’s brass on Causeway Street: things just opened up as high and wide as a vintage Rich Peverley shot off the high glass. The ninth overall pick in the 2012 draft is going to be made available and will undoubtedly be the best defenseman to move in trade between now and the start of the regular season.

He’d also go a long way toward providing the B’s with the kind of bridge D-man that could improve markedly in the present, and allow the back end to be much closer to good until young defenesmen Charlie McAvoy, Jakub Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon and Brandon Carlo are ready for prime time.

This Saturday night statement from agent Kurt Overhardt explains the situation succinctly, but basically Trouba doesn’t want wind his career away stuck behind Dustin Byfuglien and Tyler Myers on the right side of Winnipeg’s defense.

“Our client, Jacob Trouba, will not be attending the Winnipeg Jets NHL training camp. Since May, we have been working with the Jets management in an effort to facilitate a trade of Jacob’s rights. Both parties continue to work on this matter,” said Overhardt in the statement. “There has been no negotiation regarding the terms of a contract between our client and the Jets over the course of the last several months. The situation is not about money; it is solely about our client having the opportunity to realize his potential as a right shot NHL defenseman.

“To the Jets credit, the club has two outstanding right shot veteran defensemen and our client simply wants the opportunity to have a greater role. As a consequence of the Jets depth on the right side, we believe it is in both parties’ best interest to facilitate a mutually advantageous trade.

Our client has nothing but respect for the people and City of Winnipeg, the Winnipeg Jets, its fans, management and ownership - our desire to get him moved has everything to do with opportunity. We will continue to work with the Jets in good faith to achieve this end.”

Clearly, Trouba will draw big interest around the league: he’s a 6-foot-1, 200-pound, right-shot defenseman who posted 10 goals and 29 points in his rookie season as a teenager and has averaged more than 22 minutes of ice time per game since entering the league. 

This is yet another chance for Sweeney and Co. to close a deal on a defenseman and finally start to address some of the damage done while shipping away Johnny Boychuk and Dougie Hamilton in successive years. It will undoubtedly cost a pretty penny in terms of assets, but there has to be a reason why Sweeney has been stockpiling centers headed into training camp.

A package of Ryan Spooner, Joe Morrow and a first-round pick would be considerable, but it also might not be enough to get a deal done for a high-demand talent in Trouba. Undoubtedly the Jets would also for a blue chip D-man prospect such as Carlo, or perhaps they’d be more interested in  veteran right-shot option Adam McQuaid, who could immediately replace Trouba in the Winnipeg lineup.

The worst-case scenario is Kevin Cheveldayoff taking a page from the Kevin Shattenkirk trade talks, and both starting and ending any conversations with David Pastrnak as the main trade chip. The Bruins have made it clear they’re done “sprinkling their talent around the rest of the league” as one B’s front office exec made clear to CSN.   

The bottom line: it’s not going to be easy, but this is exactly the kind of situation where Sweeney needs to become a closer rather than a lamenter who starts an explanation with “price are high” or “it takes two to tango.”

It takes a good manager to close a deal his team desperately needs. This Trouba situation is shaping up to provide the B’s with that opportunity. 
 

Rask: Last season 'something to rebound from' personally

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Rask: Last season 'something to rebound from' personally

BRIGHTON, Mass. – While David Pastrnak, Tuukka Rask and David Backes are back from competing in the World Cup of Hockey in Toronto, that doesn’t mean you’ll see those players on the ice over the next couple of days. Perhaps the trio will practice on Monday in the fourth on-ice session at main training camp, but Bruins GM Don Sweeney confirmed that none of those returning players will suit up against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the B’s preseason debut at TD Garden on Monday night.

“Yeah…absolutely,” said Sweeney when asked if those three players have been ruled out for Monday night. “They’re going to get through the weekend here. Next week, we’ll evaluate [them] when they get on the ice. But, all those guys will not be on the ice until next week.

“It might be case-by-case for each guy. Those guys have been playing for a while at a high level. It’s unique for David Backes coming into the organization, so he’d like to integrate himself. I talked yesterday with all three of them just to get a read of where they’re at. But, sometime first of next week, they’ll be on [the ice].”

Both Pastrnak and Rask have checked in with the Bruins media over the last couple of days after returning from Toronto, and the Bruins goaltender, in particular, has plenty of motivation coming off a down statistical season. The 2.56 goals against average and .915 save percentage were well below his career numbers, and people like B’s President Cam Neely have pointed to Rask as somebody that needs to have a better season for Boston to rebound back into the playoffs this year.

“There were a couple of years where the standards pretty high, so obviously when they go down there’s something to rebound from. You kind of know where you can be. That’s where I try to be every year and I’m working on being there this year, and taking us to the playoffs and moving forward,” said Rask. “But every year is a new year where you’ve got to work hard, and set your goals to be at your best. More often than not you hope [being at your best] is going to happen, and I hope this year is going to be a great year for us.”

Clearly Rask wasn’t alone in his struggles last season behind a mistake-prone defense that allowed plenty of Grade chances, and that could be a repeating phenomenon again this season for the Bruins unless the defense is substantially upgraded along the way.

As far as the other three B’s players still taking part in the World Cup, it could be a while for Patrice and Brad Marchand as Team Canada has advanced to the final best-of-three series that could also feature Zdeno Chara if Team Europe is victorious.