Haggerty: Lucic, Bruins should embrace villains role


Haggerty: Lucic, Bruins should embrace villains role

It doesnt seem to matter what the NHL says any more.

In the court of public opinion, the Boston Bruins are Black and Golden bullies. Intimidating figures like Milan Lucic are the hulking villains, twirling their Movember moustaches and hatching plans of destruction.

Its like the Zdeno Chara phenomenon in Montreal: Habs fans flooding their emergency police lines after Chara's hit on Max Pacioretty like a frenzied mob armed with torches and pitchforks . . . and no clear sense of what theyre doing.

It doesnt matter if both Lucic (who hit Sabres goalie Ryan Miller Saturday night) and Chara served deserved penalties for hockey plays on the ice, and did the proper time for their on-ice crimes. It doesnt matter that the league determined that no further punishment was merited for either offense, and backed up its decisions with sustainable arguments filled with reason and logic.

Because the Bruins have shown a flair for hockey violence when teams are foolish enough to dance with them, the Black and Gold perpetrators are now viewed as guilty at every turn.

The Bruins are tops in the NHL with a gaudy 17.2 penalty minutes per game, and theyve gotten the attention of referees looking for retaliation, intimidation and any other member of the ation family they can whistle for a penalty.

But the best part of the Bruins backlash comes with drummed-up media hysteria and Colin Campbell-based conspiracy theories in Montreal, Vancouver and now Buffalo, whenever the Bruins arent pounded into submission with supplementary discipline.

It doesnt even seem to matter that Campbell (the father of Bruins center Gregory Campbell, which is allegedly the reason for his supposed pro-Boston bias) no longer calls the shots on suspensions and fines, or that Brendan Shanahan has taken hockey discipline into a cleaner, crisper direction with explanations, video and every piece of informational evidence a hockey follower could possibly digest.

The 21st-century Shanahan approach to supplemental discipline isnt enough for some zealots in a burgeoning number of NHL outposts that view the Bruins in terms only Ryan Millers salty mouth could love. The rest of the NHL takes on the patterns of human nature, after all, and theres an envy factor when it came to the Bruins shooting, saving and punching their way to a Stanley Cup.

Others around the league want to see examples made of Lucic, Chara, Brad Marchand or any other Bruins skater playing with anything resembling an edge, and it reeks of singling out one team among the others.

Witness the collision in Saturday nights SabresBruins game as the smoking gun.

Granted, the flames were fanned by the concussion Buffalo claims Miller is suffering from, and the letter of the law states goalies outside the crease arent fair game for checking. But there are also incidents and accidents that must still be addressed by the players on the ice rather than league administrators, and that was one of them.

Is there any doubt that if Dustin Byfuglien rammed into Dwayne Roloson on Sunday night, that nobody would be taking it in the same LucicMiller proportions? Or Erik Cole crashing into Jhonas Enroth as he did Sunday night, right Habs' fans and media?

Many this writer included would interpret Millers expletive-laced tirade following Saturdays game as an indictment of the Sabres teammates who never came to their franchise goaltenders defense. Paul Gaustad didnt seem to think the LucicMiller play was all that dirty when he breezed into the scrum immediately after the hit, and allowed No. 17 to simply skate off to the penalty box for the proper charging call.

The Bruins were lambasted by media, fans and everyone around the team for failing to initially stick up for Marc Savard when he was blasted by Matt Cooke two years ago, and the most egregious development from last weekends game was Buffalos unwillingness to stand up for their pouty goaltender.

The Sabres training staff didnt seem to think all that much of the MillerLucic collision when they allowed Miller to continue for the entire second period rather than sending their concussed goalie to the Quiet Room.

But somehow the chatter in the days following the goalie hit and Millers fiery postgame comments turned into a populist call for Lucic to finally pay the price for all Bostons perceived misdeeds. The LucicMiller decision seemed to turn into a referendum on running goaltenders, and misguided logic dictated that a suspension for Lucic was a vote for protecting goaltenders.

In truth, it would be a vote for protecting goaltenders who think theyre defensemen able to play the puck out to the blue line, and thats a box of problems the league didnt want to open.

Full credit to Shanahan for ignoring the sound and the fury and making a proper call based on his belief that there was no intent to injure. It was two players going after a loose puck. Lucic didnt posses the skating dexterity to fully avoid a collision Miller seemed to be braced for with an elbow raised at the power forward.

The best explanation on the impact: Lucic hit Miller with a body check, but he didnt finish through the vulnerable goaltender or finish up with a raised, sharpened elbow.

The head shot has never been Lucics style, and is one of the big reasons why you dont see the Bs power forward authoring many injurious hits despite his massive strength and size.

There was an outcry among the incredulous hockey public hungering to see Lucic punished, but it wasnt more than a shoulder-to-shoulder impact from any possible angle following the play.

While rule 42.1 states the goaltender isnt fair game in the strictest sense of the law, one can be sure Tim Thomas is braced for contact when he ventures far beyond the crease and trapezoid to head off an offensive rush. Somehow Miller acted like he was playing a powder-puff version of hockey while everybody else was skating to a different set of rules. The rules dont begin and end with Miller, despite his stature around the league, and that was reinforced by Shanahan.

The leagues VP of Player Safety answered it all in his explanation, and Lucics general manager gave his player the proper credit for staying above Millers bratty potty mouth tactics. The piece of expletive quote certainly didnt do the Sabres goaltender any favors when it came to playing the victim card.

"We are satisfied with the NHL's announcement that there will be no suspension or fine for Milan, and we respect the process that the League took to reach this decision, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said in a statement. "I am also proud that Milan took the high road, and chose not to engage in an exchange of words after the unfortunate comments that were made about him following the game."

They are the same unfortunate comments that are sprouting up all around the league as the Bruins continue to play the role that best suits them: biggest, baddest hockey team on the block that nobody else wants to face once things get a little rough. The Sabres will get their chance to answer the call on Nov. 23 in their own backyard, and the Bruins wont be backing down from the challenge.

Its not going to win Lucic and Co. any popularity contests outside New England, but its a damned good formula for hockey success.

Thats all that should matter to a Bruins team unconcerned with the growing angry mobs in Montreal, Vancouver and any other NHL city that Boston decides to kick off the playground.

Thursday, Oct. 27: Chara top D-man on All-Graybeard team


Thursday, Oct. 27: Chara top D-man on All-Graybeard team

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while saying RIP Vine but not really feeling it since it’s a rabbit hole I never really delved down into. 

*Down Goes Brown celebrates the “NHL’s old guys”, and yes, that means a gratuitous shout out to Zdeno Chara as the top defenseman on the All-Graybeard squad. 

*Hampus Lindholm has signed a long term deal with the Anaheim Ducks, so now that deal leaves everybody to wonder who is leaving the Anaheim roster in the eventual salary cap crunch. It will be interesting to see if this hastens any Cam Fowler trade talk as far as the Bruins are concerned because it looks like they need the help.  

*Pro Hockey Talk has the Oilers off to their best start since the Wayne Gretzky Era and people in Edmonton finally getting to see the hockey they’ve been waiting for over the past few years. 

*In honor of the Halloween season that we’re in, here are a few cool and scary goalie masks with a bit of spooky flair. 

*Arizona Coyotes GM John Chayka is confident that his young team is going to rebound after a rough start to the season. 

*Speaking of creative uniforms, it’s a most wonderful time of the year for hockey when they bust out their Oktoberfest sweaters. 

*For something completely different: this matchup of Peanuts and Stranger Things hits all the right notes for fans of both. 


Goalie update: Tuukka Rask dealing with hamstring AND groin injury?


Goalie update: Tuukka Rask dealing with hamstring AND groin injury?

While the good news is that it doesn’t appear that Tuukka Rask is dealing with a knee injury, there are still some significant muscular issues to work with concerning his left leg. 

According to former Bruins defenseman and NHL analyst Aaron Ward on CSN’s Great American Hockey Show podcast, the Bruins franchise goaltender has been dealing with a hamstring issue that’s also become a hamstring and groin issue as he tried to play through in the first week of the season. Rask clearly tweaked something in his left leg opening night against the Columbus Blue Jackets, missed the Saturday night loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs and then appeared to aggravate the injury in last week’s win over the New Jersey Devils. 

According to Ward, it’s hamstring and groin issues for Rask as the Bruins attempt to survive without him while potentially working toward a possible return for the Finnish netminder this weekend vs. the Red Wings. Rask hasn’t skated with the Bruins since finishing out the 2-1 win over the Devils last Thursday night, and tweaking the problematic left leg in the process. 

“What I was told is that it was left leg, and that at first it was hamstring and now it’s possibly hamstring and groin,” said Ward to CSN Bruins Insider Joe Haggerty on the Great American Hockey Show podcast. “You’re always concerned when you’re a goalie and it’s your legs, right? It’s the push-off. The crazy part was watching it on video where the shoot came from the left side and went wide, and the next time he injures it shot comes from the same spot, misses it wide and [Rask] is in the exact same position wincing.

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“I think [the Bruins] are smart rather than trying to play a guy that’s 90, 80 or 70 percent, whatever it is, to just get it over with. Endure the short term pain to get the greater gain, and that’s having Rask in there. There’s no greater endorsement to keep him out than seeing the [bad losses without him] because you need a healthy Tuukka to let the rest of the team settle.”

It’s been disastrous without Rask, of course, as the Bruins have allowed 11 goals in back-to-back losses to the Wild and Rangers with rookies Malcolm Subban and Zane McIntyre between the pipes, and Anton Khudobin out for three weeks while sporting a cast on his right hand in the last B’s game at TD Garden. 

Meanwhile, Rask (3-0-0, 1.67 goals-against average and a .947 save percentage) is trying to heal and time it perfectly so he returns once he’s past the danger of potentially blowing out the muscles in his left leg and making the situation even worse than it already might be. 

Ward also discusses his relationship with "Toucher & Rich" and the "Cuts for a Cause" charitable event that he helped start.