Morning Skate 214: Lemieux in tough spot to talk

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Morning Skate 214: Lemieux in tough spot to talk

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

PHILADELPHIA Life in the NHL certainly isnt boring.Within the last week, a pair of games filled with fights, hate and blood boiling on the ice grabbed everybodys attention with the second one garnering nearly double the penalty minutes of the BruinsCanadiens tilt and crossing the line from tough hockey over into thuggery. The New York Islanders embarrassed themselves, plain and simple, and guys like Trevor Gillies, Matt Martin and Michael Haley werent looking to make plays or win a hockey game. That trio of meatheads was looking to intimate, hurt and get even with the Pittsburgh Penguins after Brent Johnson had broken Ricky DiPietros face in the game leading up to that rematch.Their actions were as filled with ill intent as you can get on the ice, and they deserved to have the book thrown at them with the lack of mercy that Cobra Kai was famous for. So they deserved to get the book thrown at them, as did Eric Godard for leaving the bench in an understandable move that the Pittsburgh enforcer knew was going to cost him in the wallet.Somewhat predictably there was unrest in Pittsburgh that the punishment wasnt severe enough to fit the crime, and it prompted Pens owner Mario Lemieux to fire out the infrequent-but-weighty missives hes become known for now that his Hall of Fame playing career is over.Lemieux said in a release: "Hockey is a tough, physical game, and it always should be," the Penguins owner and Hall of Famer said in a statement released by the team. "But what happened Friday night on Long Island wasn't hockey. It was a travesty. It was painful to watch the game I love turn into a sideshow like that."The NHL had a chance to send a clear and strong message that those kinds of actions are unacceptable and embarrassing to the sport. It failed."There are even those within the Bruins dressing room that wholeheartedly agreed with Lemieux, including former teammate and future Hall of Famer Mark Recchi, who has seen plenty in his 20-plus years in the NHL and recognizes the kind of gong show incidents that need to be dealt with swiftly and decisively."Good for Lemieux," veteran Bruins player Mark Recchi told CSNNE.com. " I'm glad he said it because the NHL sanctions weren't strong enough. Not even close.That was completely premeditated by the Islanders and theres no place for that.So on many levels Lemieux is correct to intervene on behalf of all players, but more specifically his Penguins players that hes clearly looking out for. But theres no denying the hypocrisy that Andrew Ference wisely avoided in this entire debate when he simply spoke the truth about Daniel Pailles hit against the Dallas Stars.Its a charge that the great Super Mario cant avoid because he forked over a wheel barrel of cash to re-sign Matt Cooke this summer after the Pittsburgh hatchet man became a free agent. Cooke was fresh off the Marc Savard cheap shot elbow that has him reviled around the NHL, and especially in Boston, and Lemieux could have made a statement against that type of cheap hockey.But he decided to keep his deal with Pittsburghs own little hockey devil going, and put the safety of every other player in the NHL at risk by encouraging Cooke to continue attempting to end the careers of players as hes potentially done with Savard after last March.That decision was as wrong as they come, and is in complete contrast to every word Lemieux uttered in the wake of fight night at Nassau Coliseum. Nobody is going to care one whit if a hockey great like Lemieux pipes up simply when something is happening in his own backyard as opposed to across the league.Do us a favor, Mario, and sit out the next shift on the ice when your team is treated unfairly because everything that took place with your own team hatchet man last season was the pure definition of the term unfair.On to the links: An interesting look at NHLplayer Mike Rupp, and the simple philosophical differences between one hockey player and a monstrous entity like the NFL. A good even-handed take on the Lemieux statement by USA Todays Kevin Allen as opposed to the two-hander I just tossed at Super Marios ankles. Friend of Haggs (FOH) Rob Simpson has a lot of thoughts over at MSG.com and Im always glad when he shares them with me. Michael Russo takes issue with Lemieuxs statement on VERSUS.comand comes up with a similar verdict as I did: guilt by hypocrisy. Ryan Miller once again shows that he is both very thin and very thin-skinned when the going gets tough for him. Apparently the big, though Sabres media was too hard on him after his 31st straight start for Buffalo. Rick Nash and Steve Mason are slowly dragging the Blue Jackets back into the playoff picture. The question is whether its too late. A good look by Andy Strickland at potential NHL lottery pick Ryan Murphy at truesports.com.Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Julien wonders whether Bruins shutout loss was fatigue-related

Julien wonders whether Bruins shutout loss was fatigue-related

BOSTON – The Bruins didn’t show anything on the ice in Monday afternoon’s 4-0 matinee loss, and that’s not really any kind of an overstatement.

The scoring chances were almost nonexistent despite 32 shots on net, the second period was dreadful as the Bruins gave up three goals over the course of a six minute span and there was zero added urgency in the third period once the B’s fell behind. The emotion was missing from the drop of the puck to open the game and it never showed up once the Islanders began taking control of the game.

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It was a bitterly disappointing result after the Black and Gold had played so well in their previous five games, and put in strong, winning efforts against the Panthers, Blues and Flyers.

On Monday afternoon, the passes were sloppy and errant all over the ice, there was zero physicality and the Bruins buckled once the Isles turned the intensity up just a little bit in the second period. The game was basically over once Nikolay Kulemin snapped one home wide open from the slot area with Torey Krug, Adam McQuaid and David Krejci all blowing their defensive assignments, and then Tuukka Rask followed it up by allowing a softie to Josh Bailey from a bad angle close to net.  

So Bruins head coach Claude Julien termed it a “flat” performance once it was all over with, and openly wondered whether it was fatigue-related result linked to the compacted schedule Boston has played through this season. Monday marked the seventh straight day that the Bruins held some kind of formal skate, though most of the veteran B's players stayed off the ice during last week's Wednesday off-day practice in Nashville.   

“We were flat tonight, obviously, flat from the get-go. I think that first half of the game, we didn’t give much until they scored that first goal. We were able to stay in, but we certainly weren’t generating much ourselves, from that point of view,” said Claude Julien. “His is really the first year, for me as well, going through a condensed schedule, and I’m certainly not using that as an excuse, is it fatigue?. . . But we were flat tonight. How do you explain it? I don’t know. I know that it’s frustrating. I know that it’s disappointing. That’s all I can say.

“Whether it’s mental fatigue, whatever it is. We made some mistakes tonight like, from the goals you look at, we weren’t even in the position that we’re normally in. So we were totally out of whack, as far as even defending. When you give that first goal that much room in the middle of the ice, your D’s go on the wrong side, your weak-side forward is way on the other side, and you open up the slot area, that’s something I haven’t seen much of this year. I think it said a lot from our game tonight.”

The compacted schedule certainly could be a factor for a Bruins team that’s played more games than anybody else in the Eastern Conference to this point, but the B’s also had 48 hours to recharge after winning a Saturday matinee over the Flyers. So the fatigue excuse seems a little far-fetched for a hockey club that’s no-showed a few too many times this season, and did it again on Monday afternoon against one of the worst teams in the NHL.