Sabres reveal themselves to be 'gutless'

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Sabres reveal themselves to be 'gutless'

I am sure the parade in Buffalo to celebrate the Sabres 7-4 win over the Bruins will be quite an event. I know all those January 31st 2013 Regular Season Champions shirts and hats will sell out faster than NoGoal.com bumper stickers. And while the banner raising ceremony will bring more than a tear to perpetually weepy Sabres owner Terry Pegulas eyes, it doesnt change a thing. Last night actually confirmed beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the Sabres are still a flawed, gutless team and that all their moves to respond to last years incident are Band-Aids that will hurt them in the long run.

Yes the Sabres did win last nights game by a very convincing margin. Thomas Vanek might as well be ethereal as far as the Bruins defense is concerned. Offensively, he seems to do whatever he wants against the Bruins, and that was the case yet again last night, as he turned in a 3-goal, 5-point performance that was the driving force behind the Sabres win. In the other major storyline, John Scott lived up to his billing as the toughest man on two (unsteady) skates, as he pounded the brave, but overmatched, Shawn Thornton to the ice in short order.

I had said going into this game that anyone who agrees to fight Scott is foolish, because by doing so, you're making someone who gets three minutes of ice time a night because he is a marginal hockey player (marginal is being very generous) relevant. Bluntly, Scott is Goons Doug Glatt, minus the skating ability. If I was Thornton I would have told Scott to go push his milk crate and skate a shift. But I am not Shawn Thornton nor do I think I ever could be. Because Thornton did the same selfless work hes done countless times during his Bruins career. He did it in spite of the probable outcome and personal risk, and by doing so he demonstrated the fundamental difference between the two teams.

Thornton knew he was probably going to get pounded, probably knew it weeks in advance, but he still hopped over the boards, accepted Scotts challenge and took a beating for his team. Why? Because even though there is no 'C' or 'A' on his jersey, Thornton knows hes a leader in that locker room, knows what his role is and, most importantly knows what that situation demanded of him. Claude Julian probably never had to utter a word to Thornton. He just assumed that his team's fistic deterrent would do his job and be same team player hes always been.

Contrast that with how the Milan Lucic - Ryan Miller incident went down. Lucic freight trains Miller and turns to face what should have been wave after wave of furious Sabres. Unfortunately for Miller, the closest Sabres to Lucic were team captain, Jason Pominville, and assistant captain Vanek. Pominville took one look at Lucic and immediately curled, found Bruins center David Krejci and clinged for life to him like he was Queequegs coffin. Vanek, to his limited credit, actually tried to engage Lucic, but after one swipe from the hulking Bruin, Vaneks colon buckled and he turned to join Pominville, the two nestling into the safety of Krejcis bosom. This left Andres Sekera alone to get mauled by Lucic. Tyler Myers and the furthest player away from the incident, Paul Gaustad were both intercepted by linesman and other Bruins before they could get involved.

So here again we have team leaders faced with an altercation they arent going to win. Lucic would handle any of the Sabres on the ice at that time and maybe even two of them at once. But it wasnt an actual fight. Given the way the linesmen jumped in, it would never have a chance to become one, and it certainly wasnt the potential death match Thornton willingly stepped into. Yet Pominville and Vanek couldnt even be bothered to give a half assed face wash to Lucic over a linesmans shoulder. If I was the coach of those two, there would have been some embroidery work done between periods as we reassigned team leadership.

But I wasnt the coach of the team. Lindy Ruff was. And since the Lucic incident happened in the first period, he had two chances to tell his team and its leaders exactly what he thought of their lack of response and demand they rectify it. But he didnt. Instead he chose to send his teams out for two more retribution-free periods, then bitch and moan to the press afterwards like an impudent soccer dad about how it was open season on goalies.

Ruff's gutless leadership didnt end there. In the fallout after the incident, Ruff chose to cuss out the press, but not before singling out, effectively scapegoating, one of his own players. Gaustad, again the Sabre furthest away from the incident when it happened, expressed to the local media his remorse and embarrassment following that game. "I hoped I could have done more there," He said. What was Ruffs response to Gaustads remorse? Paul was on the ice. Yup, Paul was on the ice, Lindy. And so were your captain and assistant, Lindy, but you chose to feed Gaustad to the wolves. Because alienating a 3rd line center man is easier to do than it is to call out Pominville or Vanek. Lord forbid, if you actually have to be a head coach and hold your team leaders accountable. No, lets pillory Gaustad and shame him into fighting Lucic. That will fix everything right Lindy? Its no wonder the Sabres season collapsed around them shortly thereafter. But it shouldnt surprise anyone that Lindy Ruff the coach turtles exactly the same way Lindy Ruff the player did against Cam Neely.

And last night, with 13.6 seconds remaining in a 7-4 game, the real Sabres were exposed again. Vanek and Pominville were taking a faceoff across from recently called up Providence Bruins tough guy Lane McDermid. Ruff responded by calling a timeout that was originally perceived as the insulting cherry on top of a grudge match beat down sundae. When asked to explain the questionable stoppage, Ruff said the following:

Well when Lane MacDermid was lined up on the faceoff with one of our skill players, I didnt want anything to happen, Ruff said. Thats really all it was about.

I dont know whether Ruff legitimately feared a late game mugging or if he caught a whiff of his captain and assistant having a brown out in their hockey pants from the Buffalo bench. But either way, feeling the need to spare his dainty team leaders 13.6 seconds of mortal peril tells you all you need to know about the Sabres. They are still a gutless operation from the top down. So forget about the timeout being some sort of shot at the Bruins. If Ruff was really doing it to insult Boston, he would have made Scott call the time out.

Buffalo may think last nights win fixed all its toughness problems and avenged the embarrassment of last season. But the truth is that by bringing in John Scott and trading Derek Roy for Steve Ott (who managed to record a -1 in a seven goal rout) they made themselves a shallow, one line team. Great in NHL 95 on Sega where you can turn line changes off, but bad if you want to win in the NHL playoffs, where your new found security blanket wont sniff the ice.

Come this summer, there wont be any hats, t-shirts or parades in Buffalo. If the Sabres want rings, theyll have to ask Shawn Thornton to borrow one of his. Thats because in the NHL playoffs, you have to play every shift like you have something in your cup in order to hoist one on the last day of the season.

Countdown to camp: Austin Czarnik

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Countdown to camp: Austin Czarnik

From now until the beginning of training camp, Bruins Insider Joe Haggerty is profiling players who will be on, or have a chance to be on, the 2016-17 Bruins. Today: Austin Czarnik.

View the gallery here

Krejci, Krug aim to be ready for Bruins opening night

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Krejci, Krug aim to be ready for Bruins opening night

BRIGHTON – Only two Bruins players spoke to the media following the team’s first informal captain’s practice at the new Warrior Ice Arena facility, and it happened to be the two key players coming back from offseason surgery.

Torey Krug had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder shortly after last season was over, and David Krejci had hip surgery to take care of a lower body issue that had bothered him for each of the last two seasons. Both were on the ice on Monday morning along with John-Michael Liles, Adam McQuaid, Frank Vatrano and Noel Acciari, though Krejci hopped off the ice 15 minutes into the session once the skating drills started to ramp up.

Similarly, Krug wasn’t taking any one-timers or winding up for slap shots while working with the puck during drills amidst a six month recovery window that’s expected to carry over into October. Both said that playing on opening night was their goal at this point still weeks ahead of NHL training camp, but a decision should be forthcoming for Krejci when it comes to the World Cup of Hockey. It didn’t sound like the playmaking pivot was going to end up competing for Team Czech Republic in the tournament, but Krejci isn't shutting the door just yet.

“It’s another day closer. I did a little bit more stuff today and I’m obviously already on the ice, so I’m kind of getting there. This injury takes time, but I like where I’m at right now,” said Krejci, who originally hurt the left hip in the final preseason game prior to the 2014-15 seasons. “Every day is a step closer. I’m excited for tomorrow. If you asked me a long time ago [about the World Cup] then I would have said ‘yes’, but right now I just want to get to 100 percent.

“If I’m ready then that would be awesome, but if not then I have to do what I have to do to be 100 percent. I’m in contact with the national team coach, and we talk pretty every week. They’re asking about my updates, so they know what’s going on. I’m sure they have some backup plan if it’s not going to work out. We’ll see what happens.”

It’s not quite as cut-and-dry with Krug, who will start slowly going into training camp while ramping up to being ready as quickly as possible. Similar to Krejci, the shoulder injury was something Krug played with pretty much all of last season while scoring a career-low four goals in 81 games. The 25-year-old D-man wasn’t using the bum right shoulder as an excuse, but said he’s looking forward to feeling good as new again as soon as possible.

“When you miss the playoffs it’s a long summer, but I was very fortunate going through the shoulder surgery that I had a lot of time to recover,” said Krug, who averaged a career-high 21:37 of ice time last season. “Hopefully I’ll be good to go for the first game. I didn’t know what to expect, but from a medical standpoint they tell me that [I’m ahead of schedule]. I’d never been through a surgery or anything like this, but I feel good.

“It’s probably a harder road, but I’m in good hands and they tell me I’m where I’m supposed to be. I’m not even using my shoulder shooting the puck. I’m taking it slow and day-by-day with plenty of time still leading up to camp. It’s probably going to be a play it by ear situation [to start camp]. They said six month, so camp would be about five months. So I doubt I’ll be taking part in the physical aspect of it [to start camp]. We’ll see how it goes.”

The bad news is that Krejci and Krug had to go through surgery at all last spring, but it sounds like both aren’t going to miss much, if any, time at all for the B’s once the regular season winds up. 

Krejci more disappointed in losing Eriksson than missing out on Vesey

Krejci more disappointed in losing Eriksson than missing out on Vesey

BRIGHTON – The Bruins held their first informal skate at the new Warrior Ice Arena on Monday morning and there were a number of players present that also took part in the Jimmy Vesey recruiting session a few weeks ago.

Both Torey Krug and David Krejci skated on Monday along with John-Michael Liles, Frank Vatrano, Adam McQuaid and Noel Acciari, and those two aforementioned Black and Gold veterans were also part of the recruiting group that met with the former Harvard captain at their new practice facility.

A few days later, Vesey spurned the Bruins to sign with the New York Rangers, and the reactions weren’t all that overheated from the B’s players. Krug played with Vesey on Team USA during the World Championships a little more than a year ago, and didn’t really begrudge the highly sought Hobey Baker Award winner choosing the Blueshirts.

“I’m not going to go into details. He had the right to do what he did, and obviously it was a smart decision to interview with all those teams and figure out the best fit for him,” said Krug. “We wanted to him here, but unfortunately it didn’t happen. Now we move on, and there’s an opportunity for other guys to step in and take that spot. This group moving forward, we’re highly motivated this year.”

Krejci would have been Vesey’s center, as pitched by the Bruins management in the meeting with Vesey, but that wasn’t enough to woo him to play pro hockey in his hometown. Krejci said he was more disappointed losing linemate Loui Eriksson than falling short in the Vesey sweepstakes. The carousel of changing wingers will be moving once again for the B’s pivot.

“I wasn’t really disappointed with that guy. Obviously I’d heard he was a good player, but he has to prove himself on the NHL level. I was more disappointed that we weren’t able to keep Loui. I felt like we had some good chemistry going,” said Krejci, referencing 30-goal scorer Eriksson departing for the Vancouver Canucks and a six-year, $36 million contract. “It was tough to see him go, but I’m getting kind of used to seeing my guys, my favorite guys, going away [like] Milan [Lucic], Nathan [Horton] and [Jarome] Iginla.

“So I’m going to have to play my game, and find chemistry with whoever is going to play on my line. I did meet him, and talked to him a bit. In the summer there aren’t many [hockey] things for people to talk about, so this [Vesey watch] was something for people to talk about. Obviously there was pressure on him, but he brought it on himself, I guess. I feel like he would have been a good fit on our team, but he made the decision he did. I don’t know exactly why he made the decision that he didn’t want to stay [in Boston], but it’s his career and he has all the right to decide where it is he wants to play.”

So Vesey becomes just another Harvard grad headed to New York City to start his career, and the Bruins will likely turn to Vatrano or perhaps rookie playmaker Danton Heinen as left wing candidates alongside Krejci and David Pastrnak after Boston missed out on both Eriksson and Vesey this summer.