Haggerty: Lucic, Bruins should embrace villains role

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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.

Heinen looking to be dark-horse candidate for Bruins' roster

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Heinen looking to be dark-horse candidate for Bruins' roster

While much of the focus is going to be on the young D-men headed into Bruins training camp, it would be foolhardy to overlook a forward prospect Danton Heinen, who is in position for a real dark horse run at an NHL roster spot. 

The strong odds are that the former University of Denver star is going to be begin the season in the AHL for the Providence Bruins after putting up a couple of points in four games there at the end of last season.

Still, that certainly hasn’t stopped Heinen from setting his sights on an NHL spot out of this fall’s camp, most likely in a third- or fourth-line capacity to start things off, or perhaps at the top-six right wing spots that have given the Bruins some problems filling permanently over the past couple of seasons.

Either way, the 2014 fourth-round pick knows that his clock to fulfilling his dreams as an NHL player has started and that it’s up to him when he can start making that a reality.

“It’s something I’ve wanted to work toward my whole life, so I’m just going to try to keep getting better, have a good rest of the summer and then put my best foot forward to see what happens,” said Heinen, who had an assist and a sweet goal in the Friday scrimmage at development camp when he twisted D-man Cam Clarke around like a pretzel on a nifty rush to the net. “I just need to continue to get stronger this summer, and working on my skating to get a bit quicker.

“[The AHL] was a lot of fun to get in there and see what it was all about. It was a lot different than college hockey, and it was definitely good to get a taste of it. [Bruins officials] told me to have a really big summer getting faster and getting stronger, so that’s what I’ve been doing.”

The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Heinen, 21, continued to show in development camp last week, however, that he has the playmaking skills and hockey IQ to flourish while surrounded by more accomplished players and in tighter situations. It’s exactly what he showed while posting 36 goals and 93 points in his freshman and sophomore seasons for the Pioneers and it was what he showed while finishing last week as one of the best forwards in camp.

“He’s looked really good at [development] camp. He’s a smart player, he’s committed and I think you’ll notice him in training camp. It will be up to him, but I think he’ll definitely be pushing some guys [for an NHL job],” said Bruins assistant coach Jay Pandolfo, who was running the Bruins development camp. “He looked good [in Providence]. He fit in well. He’s the type of player that can play with good players because he’s got high hockey IQ, and he’s got really good skill.

“Anywhere you put him he’s smart enough to figure it out. You could tell in his first game there was a little bit of an adjustment for him, but the second time game it really looked like he’d been playing [at that level] for a long time. He’s a quick study, and he looked really good last year.”

The Black and Gold management hope he continues to look good at main NHL training camp in a couple of months, where he’ll undoubtedly be featured, and could be a lot closer than many people think as a polished skill forward coming out of a big-time college hockey program. 

Saturday, July 23: Hammer Time for VP pick Kaine with Caps

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Saturday, July 23: Hammer Time for VP pick Kaine with Caps

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while everybody is working for the weekend...or during the weekend.

*The vice-presidential candidate for Hillary Clinton, Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, made quite an impression while hanging out a Capitals game with MC Hammer. They call this guy boring, but that doesn’t sound very boring to me.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Bob Stauffer has the news that the Edmonton Oilers are parting ways with fancy stats lad Tyler Dellow. Boy, it seems like some teams are reversing course pretty quickly on some of these smarter-than-thou advanced statistics types, aren’t they? I certainly wish Dellow well and hope he finds another gig. But Instead of baselessly wondering whether the Oilers are going to continue down the fancy stats road (which they most certainly will), perhaps this is more a referendum on nonsensical stats-driven decisions like handing out that long term contract to a perpetually underachieving Benoit Pouliot.

*The New York Rangers have locked up Chris Kreider to a four-year contract at a reasonable number, and now he has the time with the Blueshirts to see how good he can be.

*Brian Leetch opens up to the Players Tribune about his NHL experiences playing with the New York Rangers, and all of his favorite experiences from a Hall of Fame career.

*PHT writer Cam Tucker says that Carey Price’s injury from last season is no longer a concern, according to Habs coach Michel Therrien.

*The Chicago Blackhawks will appear a whopping 21 times on national television across the NBC Networks next season.

*Incoming BU goaltender Jake Oettinger is among the names to look out for at the 2017 draft, according to the NHL Central Scouting bureau.

*Travis Yost says that the Carolina Hurricanes are on the rise thanks to winning the shot differential battle. I think it’s because they have an outstanding cast of young defensemen, who are helping them control the puck and win that shot differential battle. But they still need to score more if they’re going to really be a team on the rise, so we’ll see what happens there.

*For something completely different: for those that think I’m a Democrat because I am anti-Trump, here’s a story on the DNC machinery attempting to torpedo Bernie Sanders during the presidential campaigning over the last year.
 

 

Friday, July 22: Versteeg headed for Europe

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Friday, July 22: Versteeg headed for Europe

Here are all the hockey links from around the world, and what I’m reading, while vowing to never try to marry the NHL and Pokemon into the same lame story.

*PHT writer James O’Brien has Kris Versteeg one of a number of NHL veteran free agents going to Europe for next season.

*The New York Islanders have reportedly been discussing moving to Queens and building a rink right next to the Mets’ Citi Field. Interesting. I know the Isles fan base was not happy with the setup in Brooklyn last season.

*The Black Knights get the top odds as a moniker for the Las Vegas franchise with a number of funny long shot names.

*Ian Mendes said that it’s pretty clear by the moves of the Ottawa Senators that they believe their time is now.

*Jason Botchford wonders if the Vancouver Canucks have a shot at being a playoff team next season. I hope so for Jim Benning’s sake.

*Ken Campbell wants to know if Brad Richards and Vincent Lecavalier, now that they’re both retired, are Hall of Fame-worthy players. I say no to both of them, but I can be stingy with my Hall of Fame qualifications as the Jarome Iginla fanboys know so well.

*For something completely different: Jon Stewart brought the funk and the noise while breaking his TV silence on Thursday night and tearing into a GOP that’s coming apart at the seams right now.