BOSTON Theres an assumption out there thats taking root as fact when it comes to the escalation of nastiness in the Stanley Cup Final, and its totally misdirected.
Many pundits and fans have tried to take the Alexandre Burrows biting episode in Game 1 and the dangling Maxim Lapierre fingers in Game 2 into episodes that led directly to the Aaron Rome cheap shot on Nathan Horton in Game 3.
Of course there were Bruins front office folks and players that wanted a suspension for Burrows after he nibbled on Patrice Bergerons right index finger, and the Bs have wanted to completely pummel Lapierre since he was a flopping, irritating turtle with the Canadiens. Vancouver's dirt-bag duo was in the wrong for targeting the picture of hockey dignity in Bergeron after the whistle in each of the first two games, but Bergeron and the Bruins are more than capable of fighting back in that battle.
They did just that in Game 3, with Milan Lucic and Mark Recchi enjoying their get-even moments against the Vancouver rascals before a tongue-lashing from Claude Julien put them in their place.
But there's no correlation between the post-whistle shenanigans practiced by the Bruins and Canucks in the first three games of the series, and the predatory, reckless hit by Rome thats ended Hortons season. Its a major leap to say the Horton hit was caused by anything else other than a random act of violence in the playoffs that has left another Bs player dazed, confused and unsure of where he is.
Julien won't take that leap. He's watched years and years of playoff hockey where borderline hits, broken bones and even biting all have their place within the game.
I don't think one links to the other," said Julien. "What you see with the extra pushes and shoves after whistles are things you see in the playoff finals with the intensity. The referees have done a pretty good job of controlling that. I don't see an issue there. The physicality of the game has to stay there.
"I think what they ruled on is hits. Both teams, which I respect for doing that, said it was a late hit and Horton ended up with a severe concussion. Whether they agree with the suspension or not, I think we're both on the same page as far as we're trying to take those kinds of things out of the game. I've been one of those guys that has been very supportive of that throughout the whole year, even when it was our player Daniel Paille that got suspended. As I said, we're trying to get this out of the game. You can't be hypocritical about those kinds of things and that's what I'm trying to do here.
Unfortunately the Bruins have once again lost in the extracurricular battle with Vancouver, as the trade ends up being one of their most clutch goal scorers for a depth defenseman who was never a big factor for the Canucks.
Despite that, there wont be any violent retribution from the Bruins after the NHL dropped in and handed out the suspension that nobody thought it would.
The referees have been instructed to hand out two-minute minors and 10-minute misconducts for the next player that starts engaging in finger play. Coupled with a stricter line of discipline, the series should get back on track, stopping the conspiracy theorists from trying to piece everything together as they would a ham-handed X-Files episode.
One day after Shawn Thorntons big five-minute splash into the Stanley Cup Final, Julien was still raving about the impact that the Bs enforcer had on the lineup. Clearly Thornton brought some attitude and bad man swagger that had been missing, but he also created good situations for Boston with his opportunistic offense and energetic shifts. Thornton drew a hooking penalty on Jeff Tambellini that led to Bostons second goal in the exact kind of unsung contribution he provided all season.
"I thought it was important to get Shawn into our lineup, said Julien. I really commend him for the job he did yesterday. He certainly changed things a lot as far as our identity, what he brought to the table. People can look at him for his aggressiveness, but he also created that penalty that led to a goal on our power-play. He did his job and he did it well.
The ice surface at TD Garden is notoriously choppy, and its been even worse than usual as the Bs are playing at the latest point in franchise history. Boston has never played into June's steamy temperatures before, and as a result, both teams will be dealing with a bouncing, wild puck Wednesday night.
It gets hot in the arena, said Michael Ryder. I think Game 4 is supposed to be really hot, too. So both teams have to play with it. You just got to make sure you make smart decisions with the puck and keep things simple. Like I said, both teams have to play with it, so you're going to get weird bounces sometimes, pucks hopping over sticks. You have to make sure you stay strong and make smart plays.
Claude Julien said that the decision to leave the Bruins 1980s Starter-style jacket in Hortons locker after Game 3 came from his players, and he agreed wholeheartedly with their choice.
He's the one that had the jacket before and he wasn't there to give it out. We just let him keep it there, you know, said Ryder. It wasn't right for someone else to give it out when he had it the last time. We all talked about it, so it was everybody.