Fear, loathing consumes Garden after the hit


Fear, loathing consumes Garden after the hit

By MaryPaoletti

BOSTON -- If you're watching the puck, you miss the hit.

You hear the crowd change tones. Then you see them up on their feet, arms waving wildly, and not because Milan Lucic took a shot in a scoreless Stanley Cup Final game. They are gesturing at Nathan Horton.

He is laid out on the ice.

Horton isn't writhing in pain. He isn't covering his face with his glove or squeezing his eyes shut and grinding his teeth. He's laying on his back, eyes open, staring straight at the ceiling as though frozen in time. The irregular, convulsing rise and fall of his chest is the most of Horton's movement and it's odd. You'd rather he be kicking his legs and swearing instead of just laying there with doll's eyes unseeing.

Horton's head was down when Aaron Rome's shoulder knocked him out of the air. The Bruin had completed a pass to Milan Lucic and he watched the puck as everyone else in the building did, except Rome. He targeted Horton and followed through on the hit, even though it connected late, and high.

As Horton falls backwards, his arms fly up. The right one stays up once he's motionless on the ice, suspended sickeningly in the air. Why? Why is it like that? Does Horton even know his arm is still up?

The crowd's anger turns to murmurs.

They're simmering up in the media halo, too.

"I rode up in the elevator with the EMT's," a reporter says, pointing to the stretcher being wheeled onto the ice. "One said, 'I hope no one needs this tonight.' "

A police officer stands idly, watching a replay of the Horton hit on TV.

"Everyone wearing a Vancouver jersey is getting their ass kicked tonight," he says.

But the Canucks feel no better than anyone.

They stand in a line, watching Horton not move, and tap their sticks on the ice in good faith. They've seen something like it before. Even, or especially, Aaron Rome, who fell victim to a questionable hit during the Western Conference Finals.

The players hurt for Horton. They're also glad it wasn't them.

Everyone in TD Garden is standing as Horton is backboarded and strapped to the stretcher. It's been at least five minutes; TV's have gone to commercial. And why not? The alternative is a brief documentary on why hockey is a dangerous sport. We all know what happened, or think we know. We're thinking of Marc Savard, Patrice Bergeron, Sidney Crosby . . . maybe even Eric Lindros and Pat LaFontaine.

"Well, he won't play hockey for the rest of the year," someone says.

What about ever? The honest possibility of the idea is disturbing.

The cheers are strange.

As Horton is taken away from the game -- away from the Garden -- fans of both teams sound encouraged. It's a time-honored tradition in sportsmanship: applauding the guy who goes down and gets back up. Cheering the athlete who is wheeled, motionless, off the ice seems odd. There isn't that relief you feel when someone limps off the ice or field of his own power.

The hope is that wherever Horton goes, he will get better.

Boston's anger resurfaces when the jumbotron replays The Hit. Rome receives a five-minute major and a game misconduct; the same penalty Jamie McGinn got for boarding Rome less than three weeks ago. The fans moan and boo. They've been wronged.

The police officer on the ninth floor, again, says he fears a Bruins loss.

What if Horton is paralyzed?

Michael Ryder replaces Horton on the man advantage. The whistle blows and the players keep playing.

The faceless press level PA system eventually bears news.


It's something.

When you hear the news you want to tell everyone. You Tweet it, text it, whatever, but you really want to scream it down to the crowd and to the teams. Do they know? You hope they know.

The Bruins relay the message on the jumbotron during a break in play.

Some seventeen-thousand or so hockey fans rise and cheer for relief that is less abstract than a stretcher ride.

Then they move on.

Boston is winning. The Bruins score four goals in the second period, and with each one, the crowd gets rowdier, more excited. They are less angry at Rome and Vancouver.

They're soothed by the scoring. By the time Daniel Paille nets goal No. 5, the fans are drunk with joy.

"We want to win for him. We want him back as soon as possible," Paille says later.

"Somehow you have to find a way to put it behind you and stay focused and play the game. The best way to get revenge is win the game and that's what we did," Zdeno Chara says.

It's good enough for now. It has to be.

Mary Paoletti can be reached at mpaoletti@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Mary on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti

Liles remains in lineup for Bruins, Colin Miller stays a healthy scratch

Liles remains in lineup for Bruins, Colin Miller stays a healthy scratch

BRIGHTON, Mass – It had been more than a month since John-Michael Liles had jumped into a game for the Bruins, so the 36-year-old kept it simple on Tuesday night against the Nashville Predators.

Liles finished with a plus-1 rating and a couple of shots on net in 13-plus minutes of ice time and was part of a Bruins defense that blocked a whopping 25 shots in the tight, defensively sound victory. He was also just understandably excited to be back to playing with so much on the line this late in the regular season.

“I’ve been in situations like this before, so I was just trying to stick to my game and play to my strengths,” said Liles, who has five assists in 32 games this season. “It did feel like a playoff game a bit and you get to this time of year where every point is crucial for us as well as [the other teams]. It can be challenging when you haven’t played together with somebody for a while [as a pairing], but when you keep it simple that makes it easier. As long as you talk on the ice it will work, and I think [Kevan Miller] and I have done okay with that in different situations.”

On the flip side, the 24-year-old Colin Miller will sit for the second consecutive game tonight against the Dallas Stars in favor of Liles after playing a low 11:50 of ice time in the win over the Islanders last weekend. The skilled, puck-moving Miller has two points and a plus-2 rating in 12 games in March, but clearly something isn’t good enough with Bruce Cassidy opting for Liles over Miller as of late.

“I think [Liles] has worked hard to stay in good condition and stay sharp if he got in the lineup, so we’re going to give him another chance. It’s one of those gut instincts this time of year, and [Dallas] is a good matchup for him,” said Cassidy. Miller has five goals and 12 points in 58 games for the B’s in his second NHL season. “[Miller] is young, but he’s not Brandon Carlo-young. He’s been a pro for three or four years. It’s him understanding the consistency, every-night factor or playing to his strengths and what we want out of him, and balancing that with what [Liles] did for us the other night.

“This time of year you always want young players to face these moments and play through them, but you also have to balance your lineup if you feel a veteran guy gives you a better shot to win. We’re looking at both of those things. Either way you hope that when Colin Miller gets back in that he’s better off for it, and not worse off. That’s the plan. In the meantime [Liles] gives us good, solid minutes.”

One final thing that could also be going on a bit in the background: The Bruins possibly paving the way for Charlie McAvoy to get an look at the NHL level next week and giving themselves some options of where to play him if he thoroughly dominates in Providence this weekend.

A third pairing of Liles-McAvoy would give the Bruins a much different, much more mobile look if that transpired and knocking some of the rust off Liles makes that a possibility if/when McAvoy gets an NHL cup of coffee.  

Thursday, March 30: Maybe they should rename it the Bergeron Trophy?

Thursday, March 30: Maybe they should rename it the Bergeron Trophy?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while really enjoying Matthew Tkachuk’s first go-round in the NHL. He may not have grown up here, but he’s definitely got some Masshole in his game.

*The five major contenders for the Selke Trophy include this one guy that wears Black and Gold and might have won the thing a couple of times. I’ll give you three guesses who that is.

*The 25-year run of the Detroit Red Wings in the playoffs has come to a close, and it’s probably the right time for them to reevaluate things.

*A Flames/Kings game turned into an on-ice rumble of sorts with Matthew Tkachuk involved in all kinds of action after his previous elbow of Drew Doughty.

*Speaking of the Flames/Kings, here’s Brian Burke with an After Hours-looking segment talking about the rough stuff during Flames/Kings.

*David Clarkson is finding his hockey life after the NHL with a high school coaching gig in Ohio not far from the Blue Jackets’ home rink.

*If it’s truly his last hockey game in Calgary, Jarome Iginla made it one to remember squaring off against his old Flames team.

*For something completely different: There’s been some smoke about the Expos returning to Montreal, but no fire as yet on the reports.