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

Haggerty: Bruins motto is don't just do something, stand there!

Haggerty: Bruins motto is don't just do something, stand there!

After back-to-back, soul-crushing losses earlier this week, the Bruins responded by doing pretty much what they've done over the last couple of seasons:


Claude Julien was not relieved of his duties -- as many expected after the Bruins blew a couple of three-goal leads in a shootout loss in Detroit on Wednesday night -- and there was no big shakeup for a reeling hockey club that certainly feels like it needs it.

Instead the Bruins will host the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday night after going through a “nothing-to-see-here, everything-is-fine” morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena, then go to Pittsburgh for a Sunday afternoon matinee against a Penguins team that’s playing some pretty good hockey.

Maybe the Bruins will play better than they did in taking one out of a possible four points against two of the worst teams in the East -- the Islanders and Red Wings -- and perhaps that will tamp down some of the unrest among those that closely follow this organization.

But the fact is, the Bruins front office doing nothing in the face of stunning underperformance from its hockey club is the furthest thing from courage, bravery or doing the right thing.

This is the third straight year we've seen no-shows and a startling lack of emotional engagement from a team that collapsed down the stretch and missed the postseason in each of the last two seasons, and is now in a position where it may not even be in the playoff hunt at the end of this one. To sit still as it happens again feels, to this humble hockey writer, like willful indifference in the face of the obvious: Something is broken with the Bruins.

There's no single big trade that can fix it, not with the Coyotes and Avalanche as the only true sellers. And a Bruins management group with the true best interests of the hockey club in mind would look at the 'seller' option, dealing away some of the core pieces and starting a true rebuild around Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and the young players under team control that are beginning to filter into the NHL level.

But it doesn’t feel like this current B’s front office, or the ownership group, has the appetite for that, and instead wants to retool on the fly while also attempting to compete for the playoffs. That’s a delicate balance and it’s one that has caused the Red Wings to go sideways this season, putting them in danger of missing the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time since 1990-91.

That’s the same Red Wings team, incidentally, that somehow came back from deficits of 3-0 and 4-1 against the Bruins on Wednesday.

With a trade unlikely, the easiest way to a short-term spark continues to be a change with the head coach. Everybody knows Claude Julien has been the best coach in the modern Bruins era, and he’ll forever be loved and cherished in the Boston area for helping win the Stanley Cup in 2011. But the jarring comments from Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand about the team not being ready to play, and collectively taking the Isles too lightly, can’t be ignored.

It feels like things are altogether too comfortable in the Bruins dressing room, and that can be a byproduct of the same coach with the same core group of players for the last 10 years. The sense here is that the Bruins need a short term butt-kicker who'd come in and challenge some Bruins veterans who haven’t been challenged enough in recent years, and will bring an edge to a group that’s look satisfied and happy lately while insulated with big-money contracts and no-movement clauses.

That kind of move could give the Bruins enough of a nudge to get them into the playoffs this season, and help ease the rebuilding pain until Charlie McAvoy, Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, Zach Senyshyn and the next wave of Bruins prospects are ready to blossom.  

Instead the fancy-stats brigade will tell you that the Bruins are automatically going to turn things around because of the incredibly slim premise that it’s all based on shooting percentage, and Bruin apologists will tell you that the roster simply isn’t good enough right now. So riding it out with Julien is the right move because he's the MacGyver-like chewing gum that’s holding it all together right now.

Sorry, but many are not buying this Bruins-approved message.

They have two-thirds of the best forward line from the World Cup of Hockey in Bergeron and Marchand. They have a legitimate No. 1 goalie in Tuukka Rask. They have experienced, proven winners in David Krejci, David Backes and Zdeno Chara. They have bright, young talents in David Pastrnak and Brandon Carlo. And they're about to get passed by the Senators and Maple Leafs in the playoff race once those other teams catch up to Boston in games played. Nobody can make the straight-faced claim that Toronto or Ottawa is superior to the Bruins in the overall talent department.

The Bruins are underachieving this season, and some players have been truly disappointing in big spots.

The simple truth is that Julien isn’t getting the most out of them. They settle for perimeter shots far too much in the offensive zone, which plays into the poor team shooting percentage, and they take opponents lightly far too often for a hockey club in the NHL’s middle class.

Those kinds of traits fall back on the coach, and, unfortunately, replacing Julien is the most readily available card for Bruins management to play when they finally begin feeling the desperation and urgency that’s been missing too much this season.

Perhaps some of it is a fear of removing a popular, accomplished figure like Julien, and then watching him have success somewhere else. Perhaps some of it is a hesitancy to turn things over to assistants Joe Sacco and Bruce Cassidy at such a delicate point in time this season. Perhaps some of it is that one of the few real alternatives the Bruins are facing would be general manager Don Sweeney or team president Cam Neely actually manning the bench as Julien’s replacement if they fired the head coach, a maneuver that hasn’t been seen with the Bruins since the Harry Sinden days when Mike O’Connell went to the bench in 2002-03 after firing Robbie Ftorek.

Whatever the reason, the Bruins still haven’t seen enough to decide that something needs to change with this group sputtering along to another playoff DNQ. The fans are decrying it while holding their hefty season-ticket package bills in their hands, the clear-eyed observer sees it without question, and there’s no doubt some hard-working Bruins players are hoping for it behind the scenes on a ship that’s taking on water.

But nothing of significance is going to change with this Bruins team until they make a change, and that’s something they continue to avoid.

Thursday, Jan. 19: Torts doesn't think LeBron could play hockey

Thursday, Jan. 19: Torts doesn't think LeBron could play hockey

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while wondering if the Bruins are ever going to poop, or get off the pot.
*John Tortorella wants everybody to know that he thinks there isn’t a chance that Lebron James could play hockey.
*In the interest of self-promotion, here’s my radio hit with Toucher and Rich this morning about whether or not Claude Julien should be fired after back-to-back bad losses against the Islanders and Red Wings.
*How did Shane Doan arrive at an unhappy place with the Arizona Coyotes where he now is open to moving elsewhere ahead of the trade deadline?
*Henrik Lundqvist’s season is entering a crisis level based on what he’s done, and the diminished performance level he’s showing as a more mature goaltender.
*A nice piece with a Canadian hockey hero, Hayley Wickenheiser, who recounts some of the legendary moments of her career through a series of pictures.
*I totally respect the work that Travis Yost does, but stating the Bruins should stick with Claude Julien because their shooting percentage is bound to turn around isn’t good enough grounds to keep a floundering situation intact, in my opinion. You need to check where the shots are coming from and how many of those shot attempts are completely missing the net to get a better grasp on some of the reasons behind Boston’s dreadful 10-year low shooting percentage. That would also explain some of the reason why Julien needs to be replaced coaching a team that’s largely content on perimeter shots to do it for them while also only sporadically showing the effort required from a middle class talent type of team.

*The Lightning are struggling at Joe Namath levels right now without Steve Stamkos in their lineup, and they need that to change.
*For something completely different: congrats to the Boston boys in New Edition for a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.