Haggerty: Ference's fire is a good thing


Haggerty: Ference's fire is a good thing

By Joe Haggerty

BOSTON -- Andrew Ference has always had to get by in the land of size, speed and strength with a little bit less than the average Bear. His speed is good and his pound-for-pound strength excellent, but his generous listing of 5-foot-11 inch height and 189-pounds have always made him vulnerable to injuries and a wear down factor in a league full of big, strong, mean individuals looking to do damage.

Ference has excelled in the NHL when hes healthy, and become a seasoned top-four defenseman with playoff experience, defensive acumen and enough passing and shooting skills to win a permanent job in Boston. The 11-year veteran has played in 640 regular season games and 78 playoff matches through his NHL career, but hes also never lost that feistiness hes flashed since he was a 20-year-old rookie with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

That showed up in the second period of Game Four at Montreals Bell Centre when things got away from Ference a little after scoring a momentum-altering goal that pulled the Bs to within 3-2 in their eventual 5-4 overtime victory.

Ference circled after scoring the rocket of a one-time goal with a look of pure disdain on his face, and clearly lost his cool within the wretched hive of the dreaded Canadiens while flipping his middle finger at the Montreal fans. Television cameras caught Ference flipping the bird to Montreal while the Bruins were still trailing in the game, and it perfectly captured the unflagging spirit and prickly mood that Boston was in while looking to take care of some playoff business.

On Friday afternoon Ference was fined 2500 for the obscene gesture cast toward the Bell Centre crowd, but also somewhat defiantly contented that it was an unintentional bird caused by a glove malfunction.

Ference twice said flashing the middle finger to any kind of crowd was not in his repertoire, but given the head of the battle and Ferences feisty nature a colorful show of defiance actually doesnt seem all that out of character. Its the kind of competitive spirit and will to win that Ference always displays once the playoffs start, and it also shows just how much the players have emotionally invested into the series against the Canadiens.

I was pumping my fist," added Ference. "Im not giving anyone the bird or anything like that. Like I told them, it was an unintentional bird. I obviously apologize for it, it wasnt meant to insult anybody, especially a whole row of cameras in the Bell Centre and the fans sitting there. Thats definitely not the intention.

Its nice that Ference tried to explain away his actions on a hockey wardrobe malfunction, but the look of total disdain in his eyes as he flashed his middle finger betrayed exactly what was going through his mind. Ference hates the Canadiens, he hates their fans, he hates their building and he hates anything that could possibly stand in between his team and advancing through the playoffs.

So the hate for Montreal and the Canadiens actually comes from an intense love for his teammates.

The chemistry in this room has been great for years, said Ference. But its like a marriage in that it takes work. You have to make sure its a certain attitude, and I think the thing weve always had to work on is the inclusion of everybody from the veterans to the rookies or the Europeans and Canadiens.

Everybody goes out together, and the real bench mark is that you could see any of us together out on the road going out for dinner.

None of strong feelings against the Habs makes Ference a bad guy even in a remote way.

It would have been completely understandable had Ference said that rather than invoking the now infamous unintentional bird. It might have been much more refreshing had Ference admitted that a framed still shot of the defenseman flipping off the Montreal crowd could hang prominently in his rec room for a long time to come.

While Mark Recchi brings the unending wealth of knowledge, Patrice Bergeron brings a regal wisdom beyond his years, Zdeno Chara brings an unquenchable work ethic and Shawn Thornton brings street toughness, Andrew Ference brings unmatched courage and the practiced art of simply doing whats right on the ice. Ference is always the first to respond when one of his teammates is targeted by opponents or taken down with a cheap shot, and hes had memorably fleeting moments of anger on the ice such as fights with Sidney Crosby and Sean Avery a few years back.

Its always been that way for him.

Ferences fearless call to action can lead to situations and words that are sometimes misunderstood or twisted as his refreshingly candid and accurate statements about Daniel Pailles head shot from earlier this season can attest but its much a part of the Bs identity as Charas one time blast or Tim Thomas lucky coin on a neck chain.

Ference was also the player that purchased the 1980s Bruins wind-breaker on E-Bay by way of Vancouver a jacket thats now being passed from player to player each time Boston wins and bringing much needed levity to the Bs postseason run.

Youll drive yourself crazy if youre not having some fun, said Ference. This part of the season is intense and stuff so you need a release every once in a while, but its a long year. You talk about camaraderie and a good dressing room a lot, and the value of both comes out at this time of year.

If you dont have a good dressing room, good camaraderie and a good vibe in the room then by this time of the year youre sick of each other. Ive been on teams where weve been sick of each other, and that affects when you do out on the ice. Chemistry is a very important thing when you spend so much time together.

Its little things like the Bs awful-looking Starter-style jacket and an unintentional bird between hockey teams that bring a little something different to the Bruins, and perhaps even helped spark a Boston team thats appeared much too passive at times during this series.

Ference may have to find a different way to inspire his teammates now that the bird police will be watching his hockey gloves closely, but its safe to assume the Bs defenseman will conjure up other ways to impact the important final three games of the playoff series.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Morning Skate: Brian Boyle embroiled in trade rumors

Morning Skate: Brian Boyle embroiled in trade rumors

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while enjoying Hockey Day in America. 

*Brian Boyle is the subject of trade rumors with the Tampa Bay Lightning, but he wants to stay a member of the Bolts. 

*Watch out for the Florida Panthers, who swept the road trip through California and are now back in playoff position for the first time in a long time. 

*It’s great to see play-by-play man Dave Strader back in the broadcast booth doing what he does best after his cancer diagnosis. 

*Hats off to the Bruins ECHL affiliate, the Atlanta Gladiators, for the sweet-looking Boba Fett sweaters worn during this weekend’s Star Wars night. 

*It’s pretty amazing when you’re an NHL player and a former first round pick, and you’re the one most known for being somebody else’s brother. That’s life for Dallas Stars D-man Jamie Oleksiak. 

*Interesting piece about sportswriting, politics and a couple of worlds that were destined to collide at some point. 

*For something completely different: For the 40h anniversary of Star Wars, the toys are being used to recreate classic movie scenes. 

Haggerty: Bruins get chance to show good results weren't just short term

Haggerty: Bruins get chance to show good results weren't just short term

The mission for the Bruins on their four-game road swing through the West Coast is certainly to keep the momentum going, but it’s also to quell any talk that the positive results will be short-lived following the coaching change.

The Bruins won there first three games interim head coach Bruce Cassidy headed into the five-day “bye week”, and they’ll come out on the other side with a potentially dangerous road swing through California that will finish up in Dallas next weekend. 

The Black and Gold have gone into death spirals before on the Cali trip, so that’s always a danger when going coast-to-coast to face tough teams in the Sharks, Ducks and Kings.

There’s also the fact that NHL teams are 3-10-2 as of Saturday afternoon in the first game coming back from the five-day midseason vacation. That means the B’s are going to face a stiff uphill battle on Sunday night against the Pacific Division-leading Sharks. 

The challenge is going to be there for the Bruins to answer all of those challenges when they’ve shrunk away from such adversity most of the season. It gives the Bruins yet another chance to show that the three games aren’t merely a sugar-high after cages had been rattled and is instead something that Boston sustains over the season’s final two-plus months.

“Our thinking is to try to win every game. We know the standings. We know it’s pretty tight. We put ourselves in some of the games in tough situations. Now, we’ve got to climb up and fight for every point,” said Zdeno Chara. “It’s going to be very important that we do that and play that way until the end.

“We can look at the standings as much as we want. I think that we really have to focus on how we play, how we want to go into every game, and what we can do to get as many points as possible.”

The good news for the Bruins is that the teams chasing them in the standings really haven’t gained ground on them, and they enter Saturday still in a playoff spot. So, the mathematics don’t look as dire for Boston as they did going into their rest period, and now they should be energized, recharged and highly motivated headed into the final 24 games of the season.

There’s also the fact that the Bruins were playing exciting, aggressive and winning hockey due to some of the tweaks made by Cassidy after taking control of the team. He finally got some production from the third line after putting forwards Frank Vatrano, Ryan Spooner and Jimmy Hayes together, a combo he never truly gave a look because he didn’t trust them to do the job defensively. Cassidy immediately placed 21-year-old Peter Cehlarik into a top-six role with power-play time straight from the AHL. That’s something one almost never saw happen with rookies and inexperienced guys during Julien’s run.

The B’s defensemen corps scored four goals in the three wins and showed aggressive, timely risk-taking to produce offense when playing it safe was normally the call of the day under Julien. The forwards were avoiding the low-to-high passing to the point that so often resulted in perimeter shots from the Bruins in the offensive zone, and instead attacked the net down low with the forwards looking to put some anxiety into the opponent’s D-zone coverage.

It all worked and it all looked remarkably different from the way the Bruins played in the opening 55 games.

“It’s something we need to bottle up and not change our approach, not change what we’re doing, make sure we’re moving [during the bye] and not just sitting idle and getting rusty,” said David Backes last weekend headed into the bye. “Make sure that mentally, we can have those same sort of mindsets for every guy to be contributing. It’s something that doesn’t show up on the score sheet, but guys are recognized in here for doing those things and that’s winning culture. That’s what we’re building.”

The Bruins now get their chance to prove this is a permanent change to a winning culture rather than a short term, three-game adrenaline rush after watching their longtime coach get fired. It won’t be easy, but it shouldn’t be for the Black and Gold if they’re finally going to earn their way into the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time in three seasons.