Bruins-Canucks classic deserves a rematch

635828.jpg

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.

Thursday, Aug. 25: Nearly two decades later, the Whalers live on

cp-morning-skate.jpg

Thursday, Aug. 25: Nearly two decades later, the Whalers live on

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while in disbelief mode that the summer is almost over.

*Good piece on the remainders of the Hartford Whalers organization in Connecticut trying to keep the dream alive for the Whale.

*Tyler Seguin sits down for a podcast this week that I freely admit I did not have the time to listen to. I wonder if Boston even rated a mention in the conversation?

*Rating the top NHL contracts, according to the fancy stats hockey analysts, sounds like an interesting exercise.

*Tracey Myers has Duncan Keith bowing out of the World Cup of Hockey while recovering from an injury, and getting replaced by Jay Boumeester.

*The “Da Beauty” Hockey League has kept players like Dustin Byfuglien, Ryan McDonagh and David Backes in hockey shape this summer while slowly getting ready for the season.

*The Arizona Coyotes make a historic hire by naming Dawn Braid as skating coach, making her the first female coach in the NHL.

*For something completely different: FOH (Friend of Haggs) Rich Shirtenlieb guested on the #DORK podcast this week, and it sounds like he didn’t love “Stranger Things.” At the very least he liked “Preacher” better. I thought Preacher was entertaining, but I didn’t even think it was in the same stratosphere as Stranger Things. Rich also has me wanting to watch “It Follows” now, however, after his endorsement.

 

Bruins don't poll well in latest New England Sports survey

Bruins don't poll well in latest New England Sports survey

It’s no secret Bruins fans are getting fed up with a hockey team in decline, one that’s missed the playoffs each of the last two years. Now there are numbers to prove it.

Channel Media and Market Research, Inc. came out with its annual New England Sports survey,  tabulating responses from over 14,600 polled, and, according to the numbers, the Bruins are dropping in popularity, fan support and faith in the current management group.

The B’s are holding somewhat steady with 16 percent of voters listing them as their “favorite sports team” behind the Patriots (46 percent) and Red Sox (29 percent) while ahead of the Celtics and Revolution. Claude Julien also ranked ahead of John Farrell among the big four teams in the “coaches/manages most admired” category.

But after sitting at a relative high of ranking at 27 percent for “ownership performance” in 2014 -- they year after their trip to the Cup Finals against the Blackhawks -- the Bruins now rank dead last in that category at 2 percent, behind the Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics and even the Revolution. Ouch, babe.

Also sitting at a lowly 2 percent is Bruins president Cam Neely in the “leadership performance” category. In "management performance," Neely has dropped from a solid 49 percent in 2014 to just 16 percent in this summer’s survey.

So B’s fans are clearly upset with a team that traded away Tyler Seguin, Johnny Boychuk, Milan Lucic and Dougie Hamilton, and has featured a decimated defense corps for each of the last two seasons. But do the B’s fans think that things are getting any better with prospects coming down the pipeline?

Not really.

In the “which team has done the best job making its product better.” category, the Patriots (35 percent) and Red Sox (31 percent) were resting at the top, with the Celtics (27 percent) a respectable third. The Bruins limped in at just 4 percent with a fan base that very clearly sees that, on paper, this upcoming season’s club doesn’t appear to be much better than last year's.

On top of that, only 13 percent of those surveyed believe the Bruins have gotten better over the last year, and 52 percent believe they’ve just gotten worse. A lowly 3 percent of those surveyed think the Bruins have the best chance of the five teams to bring a world championship back to Boston; the Patriots (79 percent), Red Sox (11 percent) and Celtics (5 percent) all ranked higher.

Finally, Zdeno Chara, Tuukka Rask and Jimmy Hayes were at the top of the list of the Boston athletes “who did not meet expectations” last season. None of that is a surprise, given the state of Boston’s defense along with Hayes’ subpar season.

The good news for the Bruins: They still have a passionate fan base. But they need to start reversing course immediately before they do lasting damage to the B’s brand.

Wednesday, August 24: B's dealing with post-Vesey aftermath

cp-morning-skate.jpg

Wednesday, August 24: B's dealing with post-Vesey aftermath

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading with the Olympics coming to a close . . .
 
-- FOH (Friend of Haggs) Kirk Luedeke sorts through the aftermath for the Bruins after losing out on Jimmy Vesey

-- Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland gave an interview where he said the Red Wings aren’t Stanley Cup contenders this season. 

-- Related to Holland’s comments, some of the media in Detroit aren’t taking the dose of reality all that well

-- It’s a big season for New Jersey Devils forward Kyle Palmieri, who will be starring for Team USA on the World Cup team. 

 -- PHT writer Cam Tucker says the Buffalo Sabres still have a strong group of forwards even without Jimmy Vesey.

-- Jamie Benn is giving everything to his Dallas Stars team, and that means that the World Cup of Hockey is taking a backseat
 
-- The Colorado Avalanche are nearing the end of their head coaching search as they look for their replacement for Patrick Roy.
 
-- For something completely different: NBC is making the argument that millenials watched the Olympics, but just not on the traditional formats