Category Archives: Playoffs

Nathan Horton Montage and Reaction to Ovation: Game 6 in Boston

 

The Boston Bruins: A Code of Integrity

For many of us, it is clear that our Boston Bruins embody integrity. Throughout the regular season, instead of hearing rumors about extracurricular drunken player excursions or domestic abuse charges, we are bombarded with charity events. Our Boston Bruins have a captain who has climbed Mount Kilimanjero; Andrew Ference and Zdeno Chara are also involved in Right to Play, whose mission is to improve the lives of children in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the world “by using the power of sport and play for development, health and peace.” (Source)

The Boston Bruins certainly make mistakes, like any group of mortals, and nothing is more indicative of this fact than the now infamous green finger event involving Andrew Ference. When he shows us his middle finger, however, we’re shocked exactly because such behavior is uncharacteristic our Boston Bruins. The last time we drafted a rat like Brad Marchand, for instance, it was two and a half decades ago. But even Marchy is loved because although he’s a regular disturber, he doesn’t stoop to Averian antics or resort to feminine antics involving his teeth.

Marc Savard was also involved in a biting incident, as we know, and although there was speculation as to whether Carcillo was tugging on Savard’s front teeth, no one thought this was acceptable behavior, if it did indeed take place. But let’s not shame the memory of one of the best centers ever to wear a Bruins jersey. Marc Savard, who stands 5’9″, was always the first to jump to the defense of his teammates and wasn’t afraid to stir it up. He was also not the kind of player to stoop to the level of cheap-shotting highly respected players with the moral character of someone like Patrice Bergeron. The same cannot be said of players like Alex Burrows, who had, admittedly, toned it down this past regular season.

Had the cowardly Burrows even transpired with some other player, like Brad Marchand or Milan Lucic, there would likely not have been much commotion regarding the incident. But the outrage wasn’t primarily about his non-suspension, even though Jarkko Ruutu was suspended 2 games for the exact same act. The outrage wasn’t over the scrum, either. It was over the fact that the well-respected Bergeron entered the scrum merely to push aside the instigating 3rd man in. There was no observable hostility of cheap-shotting on his part.

Scrums are part of the game, and sometimes, so are cheap shots. Yet you won’t find Lucic sucker-punching a player like Kevin Bieksa or conveniently falling over rival Carey Price with intent to injure–you can take that promise to the bank. With the aggression of the Boston Bruins comes a code of conduct centered on honor and respect.

Emotions can get the better of you in intense contexts. The Boston Bruins, despite their undeserved reputation, are rumored in some circles to be ‘dirty’. Nothing could be further from the truth. As a Boston Bruins fan, we are often taken aback by teams like the Philadephia Flyers and the Montreal Canadiens for this very reason–we forget that not everyone follows the same code.

The code of integrity in question was highlighted by Kevin Bieksa himself last month, when he argued that his team had crossed a line that put into jeopardy the integrity of the game of hockey itself:

“I know guys will do whatever it takes for a power play to win a game,” Bieksa said. “But sometimes they’re crossing that line of integrity. I think for the better of the game, for the good of the game we need people to stay on that line and not cross it, and not dive and exaggerate for calls.” (Source)

Our Boston Bruins are not merely playing for the Stanley Cup in this final round; they are playing for each other. This is what they do. Their last game with the Tampa Bay Lightning was one of the most intense and hard-hitting hockey games many of us had ever witnessed, and not one penalty call was made. To the admission of both coaches, this was not due to officiating leniency but to the fact that both teams respected the boundaries of physical play.

There is a place for hard-hitting hockey, and many of us want to keep it that way. There is also a place for fighting, and many of us very much want it to stay that way. There is no place, however, in a Stanley Cup final for hits aimed at the termination of budding careers or feminine antics of the kind that will be permanently recorded in the history books. If the Boston Bruins lose this series, they will do so with integrity. If they get their name on the Stanley Cup, it will be for their ability to play hockey.

Win or lose, as the world watches these two teams battle it out for the greatest prize of all, one great result that will come out of this Stanley Cup final is that the world will be able to judge for themselves the character of this Boston Bruins team. This is a we can be proud of. This is a team we’re already proud of.

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Bruins You Be Killin’ Em – 2011 Boston Bruins – Moises ft. Oliveira

Watch your Back: Here are the Biggest and Baddest Bruins of all

Watch out for… (From this post)

No, not Lucic (primarily). Yet this is what the Vancouver media has been advertising. The Canucks might be surprised to learn that Milan Lucic is no longer the greatest threat when it comes to physical play. Who to watch out for, then? Here’s my subjective list, in order of perceived toughness, taking into account recent play but not discounting a sudden resurgence of malice.

It’s not about the number of hits. It’s about momentum. And maybe some killer instinct.

6 Facts Not Advertised in the Media About the Canucks / Bruins Match-up: NHL Playoffs 2011

1. Playing Lesser Teams <=> Larger Number of Points

Let’s begin with a few lesser-known facts about the Vancouver Canucks and their supposedly legendary season.

The Vancouver Canucks racked up a lot of points in the regular season, finishing with a whopping 117. Impressive? At first glance, yes. Yet 24 of those games were against teams within their own division. That’s just how the cookie crumbles in the NHL.  Very notably, however, these 24 teams, for the Canucks, included Edmonton–the worst team in the league, Colorado–the second worst team in the league, Minnesota–21st overall, and Calgary–a team that ended with one more point overall than the New York Rangers.

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2. Roberto Luongo

Roberto Luongo’s  playoff save  percentage: .922

Tim Thomas’ playoff save  percentage: .929

To put this into perspective, it’s best to judge on the basis of longevity and a large enough pool for judging performance. Thomas made 560 saves, while Luongo has only had to make 487. Contrast this with the Lightning’s Dwayne Roloson, who made a total of 500 saves, many of which were against Boston. Roloson’s final save percentage in the playoffs was .924, which puts him a cut above Luongo. Let’s not forget that Luongo has also logged fewer minutes (1,075:46) than Thomas (1,124:41), whose team has trusted enough to start him in all 18 games played.

Most interestingly of all, however is the fact that Roberto Luongo’s save percentage behind the twins has fallen to a shocking .880 (Source). This could be a statistical anomaly, and Luongo might be much better now, but there is no concrete set of data to demonstrate that fact.

On the other end of the ice, the Bruins have Tim Thomas, who is capable of quite literally stealing games. Bruins fans are hoping this won’t be needed, but it’s comforting, to be sure.

In the end, we are left with the reality that Luongo is known to allow at least one softie per game. He can clearly be very good, but reliability is everything when clutch time comes around. How will he handle it?

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3. Place Your Bets! (But not on Scoring Chances?)

Canuck optimism lies in the following line of reasoning: “If the Bruins had trouble scoring on the Tampa defence, what chance do they have to generate offence against the Canucks back end, which makes the Lightning group look woeful by comparison?” (Source)

Good argument. On the face of it. Gallagher offers an analytical response, which would have us think back to the game played between these two teams in the regular season:

That one was won by the Bruins right here in Vancouver for several reasons. First, the … Bruins were extremely successful in keeping Vancouver to the outside the entire game. Their big, physical team had the Canucks shooting from the outside and settling for shots from the point through a maze of players in front whenever Vancouver had the man advantage. The prevailing wisdom after the game was that eventually one of those Christian Ehrhoff, Alex Edler, or Mikael Samuelsson rockets would make it through if the same game was repeated again and again but that sort of reasoning is pretty sketchy. Nothing got through for Tampa at even strength Friday night in a game when they were largely kept to the perimeter.

A final relevant factoid on this Matter: Boston is in first place this post-season 5-on-5 at plus-20. “The Bruins have outscored opponents, 48-29. The Canucks’ goal record at even strength is 31-31.” (Good summary in NYT)

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4. Groin Injury: Kesler’s Back! 

Today’s Update: Ryan Kesler is back and is expected to play but he’s thought to be dealing with a groin injury, according to NBC Sports. But is he at 100%? If not, should we care? Indeed we should.

Kesler missed part of Game 5 of the Western Conference finals due to the injury. He said he feels good, but we’d be surprised if he said anything else this deep into the playoffs. Kesler has been a huge part of the Canucks playoff run and he should be a major factor in the Stanley Cup finals, even if he isn’t 100%.

Kesler is perceived to be so important, in fact, that his presence or absence has predictions hanging:

“If Ryan Kesler plays, I can see the Canucks winning this series in six games,” said Weekes, a commentator for Hockey Night in Canada, Versus and NHL Network. “But if Kesler is seriously affected by injury or has to sit out, my pick would change to the Bruins in six games. Kesler is so important to his team.” (Source)

Kesler has seven goals and 18 points in 18 games. Interestingly, however, the Boston Bruins have a way of neutralizing offensive leaders. Take Steven Stamkos, for instance, who managed only 2 goals in 7 games against Boston.

Kesler may or may not be healthy, but the likelihood that he is at 100%, while unknown, might seem questionable in light of the fact that he played significantly fewer minutes in Game 4 (see chart below). Was this due to his condition? Why else would he be playing fewer minutes? Maybe it was due to the fact that he had not registered a point in the previous 2 games, and had only one assist in the prior game.

CBS Sports Opponent G A P +/- TOI
05/15 SJ 0 1 1 0 22:19
05/18 SJ 0 0 0 1 20:55
05/20 SJ 0 0 0 0 22:57
05/22 SJ 1 0 1 -2 18:59
05/24 SJ 1 0 1 1 29:17

Playing over 29 minutes in the 5th game against San Jose probably didn’t help Kesler’s injury–whether or not it was making itself heard at the time (read: whether or not he reported any pain).

But he did come back to score! Is this good reason for praise? Not on its own. The goal was scored 5-on-3 and he was a minus 2 in that game.

In light of these facts, as well as the final one to appear tonight, savvy Bruins fans are not in a state of panic.

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5. Catch me if you Can

The Sedin twins don’t like to get hit, and they’re relatively slow. Conversely, a fact that has become hard to swallow (for lack of recent precedent) even for Bruins fans is the speed of this new Boston Bruins team. The Bruins boast a tremendous amount of speed in Daniel Paille, Rich Peverley, David “The Matrix” Krejci, the highly underrated Gregory Campbell, Brad “The (new) Rat” Marchand, and of course, Tyler Seguin on the second and sometimes even the third line.

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6. Watch out for…

Casual fans might be surprised to learn that Milan Lucic is no longer the greatest threat when it comes to physical play. Who to watch out for, then? Here’s my subjective list, in order of perceived toughness, taking into account recent play but not discounting a sudden resurgence of malice.

It’s not about the number of hits.  It’s about momentum.  And maybe a dash of killer instinct.

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