A Classic matchup at Gillette between Bruins, Canadiens

bruins-winter-classic-072915.jpg

A Classic matchup at Gillette between Bruins, Canadiens

FOXBORO --The Boston Bruins didn’t grab all the sports headlines of the day hearabouts, thanks to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.

But the B’s did produce the most positive sports story of the day . . . thanks also, in large part, to the Patriots.

Robert Kraft made it two press conferences in the same day, representing the Pats organization Wednesday afternoon when the NHL formally announced the Jan. 1 Winter Classic match between the Bruins and Montreal Canadiens at the Pats' Gillette Stadium home.

The Bruins will be the first team in NHL history to host the Winter Classic twice. They played the Flyers at Fenway Park in 2010.

All the excited chatter Wednesday was about the historic rivalry between Boston and Montreal, two franchises that have played each other in more Game 7’s in the playoffs than any other two organizations in any of the four major professional sports leagues.

The Bruins and Canadiens have faced off 729 times during the regular season, tied for the most head-to-head meetings in NHL history with Chicago vs. Detroit. The B's-Habs 177 head-to-head playoff games and 34 postseason series are the most in league history, while their nine head-to-head Game 7s lead all teams in North American major professional sports (includes MLB, NBA and NHL).

Sounds like a compelling match for folks planning to tune into the NBC Network on New Year’s Day for a hockey game.

“I want to thank the Bruins fans for their enthusiasm and support because that’s truly what brought this wonderful event back to New England,” said Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs. “I’m fully confident that our team will repay that loyalty with a big win over our friends from Montreal. I look forward to Gillette Stadium being a sea of Black and Gold on Jan. 1.”

Above and beyond the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman also announced that a Bruins/Canadiens Legends game will be played on Dec. 31 between many of the B’s and Habs alumni that have made the rivalry what it is. There will also be plenty of events surrounding the Winter Classic in Foxboro, just as there were nearly six years ago at Fenway, and all those announcements will be made in the days and weeks ahead.

“When you think about sports franchises with traditions of excellence and success, the Boston Bruins, the Montreal Canadiens and the New England Patriots would have to rank at the top of any list,” said Bettman. “When you think about rivalries that perfectly summarize the excitement and passion of NHL hockey, the enduring legacy of the Bruins and Canadiens would merit lofty status as well. The 2016 NHL Bridgestone Winter Classic will be the 910th regular-season or playoff meeting between these two clubs, but it will be the first one, however, played outdoors.”

Information on a pre-sale for Bruins season-ticket holders, Canadiens season-ticket holders and Patriots season-ticket holders will be sent to those groups by each club in the coming days. Information regarding ticket availability for the general public will be released at a later date.

Morning Skate: Do Caps have mental block come playoff time?

Morning Skate: Do Caps have mental block come playoff time?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while thinking about and praying for the people of Manchester, England. It’s obviously an evil, cowardly act to bomb any public place, but to do it at a concert filled with women and children is the lowest of the low.

*The Capitals players are acknowledging that there’s some kind of mental block with the Stanley Cup playoffs. CSN Mid-Atlantic has all the details.

*It’s been a very odd postseason for the NHL where there are so many non-traditional teams still alive with the Nashville Predators in the Stanley Cup Fina, and the Ottawa Senators fighting for their lives in the Eastern Conference Final. On that note, there is a ton of disappointment at the empty seats at the Canadian Tire Centre for Ottawa’s home games in the playoffs. It sounds like there are going to be empty seats tonight for a do-or-die Game 6 in Ottawa. That is an embarrassment for a Canadian city that’s supposed to pride itself on their love of hockey. Let’s hope the Senators fans have a last-minute surge to buy tickets and show some appreciation for a Senators team that’s given the Ottawa fans a totally unexpected ride through the postseason this spring. I mean, Erik Karlsson at the top of his game is worth the price of admission all by himself.  

*The Pittsburgh Penguins have the Senators on the ropes, and it’s been an impressive showing given that they’re doing it without Kris Letang.

*Pro Hockey Talk has the ownership for the St. Louis Blues giving their GM Doug Armstrong a vote of confidence.

*Another early exit from the playoffs is going to start making some players expendable on the New York Rangers roster.

*Here’s a good piece on how David Poile built the Nashville Predators, who have reached the Stanley Cup Final for the first time. Give credit where it’s due: He manned up and made a big move dealing away Shea Weber straight up for PK Subban. It’s really worked for Music City as they’ve stepped to the next level.

*Speaking of Nashville’s rise this spring in a wide open Western Conference, Pekka Rinne has silenced the critics he might have had by carrying his team to the Cup Final.

*For something completely different: Boston law enforcement is on high alert after the bombing of the Ariana Grande concert in the UK.

 

Haggerty: Reports of Seidenberg's demise were greatly exaggerated

Haggerty: Reports of Seidenberg's demise were greatly exaggerated

Hindsight is always 20/20, of course, but it appears the Bruins made a mistake buying out veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg from the final couple of years of his contract. 

Seidenberg just finished up a wildly successful stint with host Team Germany at the IIHF World Championships, where he was named Directorate Best Defenseman (the tournament’s best defenseman) after leading all D-men with a goal and eight points. This came after Seidenberg, at age 35, posted 5 goals and 22 points in 73 games for the Islanders, with whom he signed after being cut loose by the B's, while averaging a shade under 20 minutes per game.  Seidenberg also had an excellent World Cup of Hockey tournament for Team Europe last summer (where he was teamed once again with Zdeno Chara), thus managing to play at a high level from September all the way through May.

A faction of Bruins fans thought he was on the serious decline after the 2015-16 season and, clearly, the Bruins agreed, opting to buy him out with two more years still left on a sizable contract extension. (They owe him $2.16 million next season and then will be charged $1.16 million on their salary cap over the next two seasons.) But the B's could have used a durable, defensive warrior like Seidenberg in the playoffs, when they lost three of their top four defensemen against the Ottawa Senators. A rejuvenated Seidenberg, able to play both the left and right side, would have been a better option than Colin Miller.

The Bruins made a conscious decision to hand things over to younger defensemen like Miller, Torey Krug, Brandon Carlo and Joe Morrow in cutting ties with Seidenberg. But they also perhaps miscalculated how much Seidenberg still had left in the tank after his best season in at least three years. 

“Well, at the time we felt like [Seidenberg's] game had really dropped off to where we thought he couldn’t contribute, and we wanted to see if some younger players could come in and help us out,” Bruins president Cam Neely said at the end-of-the-season press conference earlier this month. “I’ve got to say he played well this year for Long Island. But at the time we thought it was the right move. You can’t envision us having three of our top four D’s get hurt [in the playoffs]. We went through a lot of D’s in the postseason. You can’t predict that.”

Neely is referring to the decision made after Seidenberg’s second straight minus season in Boston, when back injuries and a major knee injury had seemed to slow him down a bit. It seemed the only way to properly evaluate some of their other, younger defenseman was to cut Seidenberg loose, but one has to wonder if the Bruins would have possibly done it had they known he was still capable of playing like he did this season for the Islanders. 

Either way, the buyout of Seidenberg is an extremely legitimate second guess of Bruins management in a year where they did a lot of things right.