By Joe Haggerty
PHILADELPHIA Sometimes even in the insulated, self-obsessed world of professional sports there are appropriate times to take a break for a dose of reality.One of those rare nights took place on Sunday night into Monday morning as news practically shot out of a cannonball that a team of CIA and Navy SEAL operatives took out Osama bin Laden in his hideaway compound in Pakistan. The media was talking about it, players were talking about, it and the coaches were talking about it as bits of information mounted. People began to wonder what it will be like when Lauren Hart sings God Bless America along with the late Kate Smith prior to tonights Game 2 at the Wells Fargo Center, and spontaneous USA chants erupted at Sunday night sporting events.Obviously most of the Bruins players are Canadian-born and prefaced any statements with that little bit of info, but many guys like Andrew Ference have planted roots in the Boston area and have become friends with many Bs fans actively serving their country and joining in the hunt for bin Laden over the last 10 years.Ference said his mind was on those people Monday morning, and on others who wouldnt be at rest until justice was served with the terrorist leader that set the 911 tragedy in motion.I texted my friend Lucas right away and said did you guys get him because theyve all been watching Bruins games over there, said Ference, referencing a US Army Ranger hes befriended from Massachusetts. Weve been keeping tabs with them, and I know hed been out for a couple of days because he told me they were going to go out hunting for bad guys.
I texted him right away. He was excited because he said there were a lot of sleepless nights searching for Bin Laden. Im really proud of those guys, you know? I didnt feel it myself, but knowing them and how they put their butts on the line for us. To get a victory like that is pretty cool.With that in mind in these historic last couple of days, on to the links: ESPN.coms Scott Burnside with an excellent column depicting the mixed emotions of Ace Baileys family members after hearing that Osama bin Laden had been killed and Baileys death on one of the doomed flights to Los Angeles had finally been met with some level of justice. Did you know that goaltenders are superstitious? Yeah, not a surprise but these stories are always a lot of fun. Interesting story about Zdeno Chara getting a memo from the NHL after he was spotted sipping a Coca Cola to get a little sugar and caffeine rush during Game 7 against the Montreal Canadiens. A Wayne Gretzky rookie card gets almost 100,000 at an auction held for collectors with a whole lotta dough. Youve heard of the Colin Campbell Wheel of Justice? Well, heres the game of Peter Laviolette goalie roulette in Philadelphia from the Stanley Cup of Chowder. Where it stops nobody knows. The NHL is cracking down the antics of the Green Men. For shame, Gary Bettman. One of the best things about the NHL is that they very rarely get into the Fun Police zone normally inhabited by the NFL. Retired Bruins great Bob Sweeney speaks with WEEI about his familys feelings after hearing bin Laden was killed a relevant subject given that Sweeneys sister-in-law was a flight attendant on one of the doomed flights. Retired FDNY member Steve Boehm also goes onto WEEI and gives a moving account of his feelings on a historically significant day around the United States and specifically for the New York City area that was impacted so brutally by the World Trade Center disaster.TSN reporter Darren Dreger has the account of the San Jose Sharks trying to get into Jimmy Howards head by continuing to spray him with ice chips during their playoff series. A nice piece by RLD Hockeys Ryan Porth on Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne dominating in the Preds series against the Vancouver Canucks.
Joe Haggerty can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs
Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while wishing everybody a safe and relaxing Memorial Day weekend.
*Apparently Nashville Predators head coach Peter Laviolette has yet to try Nashville’s hot chicken despite his time behind the Preds bench. It’s okay, I have yet to try it either in my handful of visits to Music City.
*Good stuff from PHT writer and FOH (Friend of Haggs) Jason Brough. Apparently it wasn’t so easy to make Wayne Gretzky’s head bleed when it came time for director Doug Liman to cut Swingers together.
*Sidney Crosby cares about the history and the issues of the game, and has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation despite the hate that always comes with such responsibility.
*Puck Daddy examines Crosby’s performance in the playoffs, and the odds of him winning another Conn Smythe Trophy.
*The Penguins have made it to the Stanley Cup Final without Kris Letang for their playoff run, and that’s an amazing accomplishment.
*Erik Karlsson said that he will be tending to his injured foot next week, and expects a full recovery for next season after a brilliant run with his Ottawa Senators.
*Larry Brooks again rails against the Stanley Cup playoff structure and it’s relation to an “absurd regular season.” Say what you will, but the fact the Penguins are there for a second straight season shoots down some of the absurdity stuff in my mind. The best team from the East is where they should be and they did it without Kris Letang to boot.
*Chicago Blackhawks prospect Alex Debrincat is confident his abilities will translate to the NHL despite his size after taking home honors as the best player in junior hockey this season.
*For something completely different: Apparently there’s a hard core comic book geek gripe that “The Flash” is burning through bad guys too quickly. This would make sense if they couldn’t revisit these bad guys at any point, but they absolutely can go back to a big bad like Grodd anytime they want.
It was the longest run that the P-Bruins have had in a few years and another unmistakable sign that the future is brightening for the Black and Gold, but the Bruins AHL affiliate has ended their playoff push in the Calder Cup semi-finals.
The Providence Bruins fell by a 3-1 score to the Syracuse Crunch on Saturday night to lose to the Crunch in five games when the best-of-seven series was set to return to Providence this coming week. The P-Bruins had vanquished the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins and Hershey Bears in the first two rounds of the Calder Cup playoffs before finally exiting against Syracuse.
Though it’s over, it’s clear some of the Bruins prospects made a nice step forward over the second half of the AHL season and then into the Calder Cup playoffs. With the Calder Cup Finals yet to start, B’s forward prospect Danton Heinen stands as the second-leading playoff scorer in the entire AHL with nine goals and 18 points in 17 playoff games after really struggling in the first half of his first pro season while bouncing back and forth between the NHL and the AHL.
This could bode well for the skilled Heinen and his hopes to make the leap to the NHL in the near future after a stellar collegiate career at the University of Denver. AHL journeymen-types Wayne Simpson and Jordan Szwarz were the next two top scorers for the P-Bruins in the playoff run, but Jake DeBrusk had a strong playoff season as well while popping in six goals in 17 games. DeBrusk led all Providence players with his 54 shots on net in the 17-game playoff run for Providence, and he headlined a group that included B’s prospects Ryan Fitzgerald, Zach Senyshyn, Matt Grzelcyk, Peter Cehlarik (who succumbed to shoulder surgery during the playoffs), Emil Johansson and Robbie O’Gara all getting some vital playoff experience.
Both Heinen and DeBrusk will be strong candidates for jobs on the wing with the Boston big club when training camp opens in the fall after strong showings in the postseason.
On the goaltending side, Zane McIntyre was solid for the P-Bruins at times while in 16 of their 17 playoff games with a .906 save percentage. But it was Malcolm Subban that was playing at the very end of the playoff run for Providence and featured a sterling .937 save percentage in the four AHL playoff games that he appeared in this spring after an up-and-down regular season. McIntyre had an .857 save percentage and 4.37 goals against average in the final series against Syracuse, and looked a little spent like many of the other P-Bruins players once they’d unexpectedly made it to the third round of the AHL postseason.
The only unfortunate part of Providence’s run is that newly signed youngsters Charlie McAvoy and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson couldn’t be a part of it after signing and then appearing in NHL games following a cut-off date for AHL playoff rosters. Both missed on an experience that could have been very conducive for their professional development, and uncovered a wrinkle in the NHL/AHL transaction process that really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for a developmental league.