Category: Hockey

Iginla to Boston… For Real This Time

Jarome Iginla has signed a one year, six million dollar contract to play for the Boston Bruins. This is the second time since March that Bruins fans went to bed believing Iggy would be joining their team, but this time it was still true when they woke up.

Iginla has been one of my favorite players in the NHL for a long time. The guy plays the right way, and is as good at dropping the gloves as he is at finding the back of the net. I was thrilled when it was first reported he was being traded to the Bruins, and then livid the following morning when he called off the deal and went to Pittsburgh because he thought they had a better chance at winning the Stanley Cup.

While fans were initially demoralized after yet another player Peter Chiarelli wanted ended up being traded to a rival (former Bruin Michael Ryder was dealt to the Canadiens, and Dallas Stars captain Brenden Morrow also chose Pittsburgh over Boston before Iginla), but it was used as motivation for the team. Whether they ever publicly admit it or not, it had to get the guys in the Bruins’ dressing room angry that these guys didn’t want to play with them. When the B’s played Pittsburgh in their final regular season meeting, Nathan Horton fought Jarome Iginla and separated his shoulder. These details made it that much sweeter when the Bruins swept the Penguins out of the playoffs in their way to the Stanley Cup Finals. Talk about karma.

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

That’s in the past now. Nathan Horton decided last week that he’d rather not play in a hockey obsessed market like Boston despite being a stellar playoff performer during his time here. Horty signed with the Columbus Blue Jackets, perhaps so that he and Marian Gaborik could go to Ohio State football games together (or he just likes money, who knows?). In addition, Tyler Seguin was dealt to Dallas and Jaromir Jagr is really old, so the Bruins have some serious holes to fill at right wing if they want to remain competitive for championships. This is something the Bruins are more than willing to forgive because it’s a new season and all parties involved want to win.

Perhaps the saddest salary cap casualty this summer for the B’s was veteran defenseman and alternate captain Andrew Ference. Ference embodied the heart and soul of the Bruins and was proud to call Boston his adopted home. According to Joe Haggerty, Ference’s last act for the Bruins was help convince his former teammate and captain in Calgary to sign with Boston. Besides Ference, the only other Bruins players who have played with Iggy are Zdeno Chara in the All Star Game and Patrice Bergeron for Team Canada in the Olympics. While Ference is returning home to play in Edmonton, Bruins fans will never forget what a great guy he was and how he helped us win the Stanley Cup in 2011.

There are still plenty of moves the Bruins might make, but the roster is starting to look pretty good. Hockey season can’t come soon enough!


Seguin Out, Eriksson In

Just like that, the Tyler Seguin Era in Boston Bruins history is over. Seguin, along with Rich “High Glass” Peverley, was traded to the Dallas Stars for 27 year old Swedish forward Loui Eriksson and a handful of prospects including defenseman Joe Morrow.

Seguin was supposed to be the next great thing in Boston after being drafted 2nd overall in 2010, but he hadn’t been able to make the leap and play up to his potential. He’s only 21 and has a lot of hockey left in him, but his lack of discipline frustrated the Bruins coaching staff, front office, and fans during the playoff run this spring. Seguin was a non-factor for most of the playoffs and the team was frustrated with the amount of partying he was doing. After Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli publicly criticized Seguin at the NHL Draft last weekend, I’m not surprised that they shipped him out of town. If I were the one running the Bruins, I might have given him another year to prove himself, but Chiarelli liked the offer he got from Dallas and decided to make the move. That’s why he’s an NHL GM and I’m just a guy to types his thoughts about sports and pop culture to his ten readers on a semi-regular basis.

In Eriksson, the Bruins get a good two-way player. He handles the puck well and plays good defense. He should be able to help fellow Swede Carl Soderberg adjust to life in the NHL next season. It’s not a bad haul for a guy who didn’t produce in the playoffs and is getting a pay raise this upcoming season.

After a couple years of mostly standing pat and keeping the roster together, Chiarelli and the Bruins are wheeling and dealing this summer and I love it. They weren’t good enough to beat Chicago as they were currently constructed and they’re doing what they can to improve while staying under the salary cap. I also love that the Bruins are being linked to the biggest names available on the free agent market this summer. They weren’t able to land Vincent Lecavelier who signed with the Philadelphia Flyers, but there is talk of them trying to sign Danny Briere, Jarome “Pick ‘Em” Iginla, and Daniel Alfredsson. I would be happy to see any of those guys come to Boston to try and win a Cup or two, even if Iginla had his chance in March and chose Pittsburgh. The offseason isn’t even two weeks old and there’s all kinds of buzz around this team. It’s great to know the season will be starting on time, and when it does, the Bruins roster will be retooled and ready to go.


Worst Week in Boston Sports Part IV – Nathan Horton and the Holy Grail

Zdeno Chara and Marian Hossa: friends, champions, countrymen.

Lord Stanley’s Cup is the greatest trophy in all of sports. End of discussion. It’s the trophy that you don’t get to keep, but you can put your name on it if you win. Every year the captain of the winning team raises the same silver chalice, hockey’s Holy Grail, over their heads as Bobby Orr, Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, and Steve Yzerman. It is won after there is only one team left standing following two months of brutality, endurance, and grit outlasting everyone else who wants it just as much as they do. As great as the Stanley Cup is to win, getting that close and coming up short hurts even more.

This is how the Boston Bruins feel this summer. They gave it their all this spring, but were outlasted by a more than worthy opponent. The Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks really were the two bets hockey teams of 2013. The Hawks were a team that Bruins fans found hard to hate, with the right balance of skill, grit, and defensive prowess. Neither team was the type of team to shy away from a hard hit, or sell calls to the refs. Neither coach was one to cry foul to the media. There was a lot to respect going both ways, and in the end, the better team won.

As satisfying as it was to see a worthy team win it all, it still stung to see the Bruins fall apart in the deciding Game 6. They were a team you couldn’t count out after their improbable comeback against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the opening round of the playoffs. That game now ranks with Carlton Fisk’s game winner in ’75 and Larry Bird’s steal in ’87 as one of the great moments in Boston sports history despite not winning a title that year. After that, the Bruins made short work of the New York Rangers, eliminating them in five games. At times they appeared to be able to score at will on Henrik Lundqvist, arguably the best goaltender. In the Eastern Conference Finals, the Penguins were heavily favored, but that didn’t intimidate the Bruins. They got in the heads of Pittsburgh’s stars early, and managed to pull off a sweep thanks to the unrelenting commitment to teamwork best exemplified by Gregory “Soupy” Campbell’s final penalty kill.

By the time the Bruins made it to the Finals, they were banged up. Campbell’s absence from the lineup was felt in a big way. Nathan Horton was playing with a separated shoulder, and Patrice Bergeron was playing through a laundry list of injuries that seemed to grow by the day. They didn’t win, but there was so much to love about their effort. They gave it everything they had.

The 2013-14 Bruins will look different than the team we have seen in recent years. Jaromir Jagr and Jay Pandolfo are not returning to the team. Neither are 2001 Cup heroes Nathan Horton and Andrew Ference. The Bruins will move on and rebuild, but in some ways it’s an end of an era. In a year when there was no guarantee of an NHL season, the Bruins stepped up and raised the spirits of a city that needed them. Thank you, Bruins.

This Week in Analogies

Warning: this post contains spoilers from the Game of Thrones Season 3, episode 9, The Rains of Castamere, as well as details from the novel A Storm of Swords that it is based on.

There’s so much on my mind this week that I could probably divide into three or four mediocre posts, but there are enough parallels to combine them into one. As the NBA and NHL playoffs continue, Game of Thrones had a moment book readers have been waiting for years to see.

Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are the LeBron James and Dwayne Wade of hockey. Two whining stars as John Tortorella aptly put it. While incredibly talented, Crosby and Malkin really make it difficult for us to like them. They’re arrogant, they get hung up on the things they can’t control, and through two games, as soon as they meet a team that isn’t afraid of them, they melt like the winter snows in Dorne. ESPN is ready to put these guys in a discussion that have no business being in yet, which leads me to my next analogy…

Sidney Crosby will never be Wayne Gretzky for the same reason LeBron will never be Michael Jordan. Seriously! Enough with these stupid discussions. Does the NBA need every superstar to be the next Jordan? I don’t feel comfortable comparing Kobe to Jordan, let alone LeBron. The same goes for Crosby. Since the day the Penguins won the 2005 draft lottery, Crosby has been hyped as the next big thing. Gretzky captained the Oilers to four Stanley Cups before being traded to Los Angeles and making the game exponentially more popular in the NHL’s biggest non-traditional market. Gretzky’s wedding was nationally televised in Canada, getting as much hype as a British Royal wedding. Gretzky had so many assists, that he wouldn’t even need his goals to be counted to still be the NHL’s all time points leader. Even if Crosby wasn’t the arrogant whiner he is, his legacy would never be as important to hockey as The Great One’s.


The Bruins are the Walder Frey’s daughters of the NHL. At least according to Jarome Iginla. Look, I’m just as mad at what Lord Frey did to The Young Wolf as the rest of you, but I can see where he’s coming from.The Bruins had been on Iggy’s original list of teams he’d like to be traded to, but then Sidney Crosby gave him a call. Robb Stark swore to marry one of Lord Frey’s daughters to be able to cross the river without Lord Frey blabbing to Tywin Lannister (a steep price I’ll admit, especially considering Robb’s sister Arya would have to marry one of the hundreds of Frey offspring as well), but in the heat of battle, he developed  feelings for Charlie Chaplin’s granddaughter. He chose the prettier girl over the one who would really help him win the war. The Bruins are saying all the right things and being nothing but classy in the media, but they might as well start playing The Rains of Castamere in the Garden when the series goes back to Boston. Iginla, like the rest of his Pittsburgh teammates have done nothing through two games against the bitter but disciplined Bruins. Before all this Iginla, like the King in the North, was all about honor, class, and playing the game the right way. This is why he has to pay for it when he goes back on his word. We sympathize with Robb Stark because he’s fifteen and doesn’t know any better. Iginla is in his mid-30s and decided to go where he thought it would be easier to win the illusive Stanley Cup, the only accolade missing from his Hall of Fame resume, rather than the place where he could help more and where he could have a bigger impact. Peter Chiarelli sends his regards!

Claude Julien is the Bruce Bochy of the NHL. It’s not just because they both have large heads, I swear. Neither one is particularly excitable or charismatic. They approach ever game with the same level head, and they know when to push all the right buttons in big games. Before the fall of 2010, neither one had won a championship, but after Bochy’s Giants rolled over the Detroit Tigers in the World Series, their second in three years, Claude Julien’s Bruins are knocking at the door with another deep run, but you’d never know how successful they’ve become in recent years. They’re still the same guys they were before.

Roose Bolton is the Evil Abed of Westeros. I love the way they’ve protrayed the Lord of the Dreadfort on the show. He’s been played as one of those friends that everyone thinks is a little weird, but nobody really suspects the cruelty that lurks behind his cold eyes. Cold. Cold cold cold. That’s Roose Bolton. I loved the way they had him as Catelyn Stark’s date for her brother’s wedding and how he wanted to be the one who gave the scheme away to her. The look in his eves when she discovered the armor he wore to the wedding was priceless. Lord Bolton was Ned’s bannerman before he was Robb’s and Roose and Cat may very well have met at Cat’s wedding before the Northmen marched south to defeat The Mad King. Roose is detached from it all. He has his morbid quirks, leeches and his love for human flaying, to amuse him as he plays the game of thrones just to see what will happen. While Evil Abed wanted to return to the Lame Timeline to saw off Jeff’s arm, Roose has more than just chain mail up his sleeve going forward.

Flightless Bird, American Bear

The NHL’s Eastern and Western Conference Finals series are set to begin this weekend, and the league could not have asked for better match ups with their four remaining teams. In the West we have the 2012 Champion Los Angeles Kings against the 2010 Champion Chicago Blackhawks, and in the East the 2011 Champion Boston Bruins square off against the 2009 Champion Pittsburgh Penguins. This has the potential for some great hockey with four great teams aiming to become repeat champions after a decade of one-and-done Stanley Cup winners (I’m just glad “Season Not Played” wasn’t the one to break through again).

With the Bruins playing the Penguins, you have two deep rosters who are not afraid of each other, who can roll out four lines. The Penguins are the more skilled team, with a roster that boasts Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jarome Iginla, and Kris Letang, while the Bruins are known for their physically imposing, turning-defense-into-offense style headlined by Zdeno Chara, Milan Lucic, Dennis Seidenberg, and Patrice Bergeron. This is a playoff series I have wanted to see since 2009, as these two teams have consistently ranked among the superpowers of the Eastern Conference, but this is the first time they have met in the playoffs since the Conference Finals in 1992 (the same year Tyler Seguin was born). That hasn’t stopped the bad blood, bitterness, and resentment from festering, though.

Jarome Iginla. This wound is the freshest in the minds of Bruins fans. Iggy gave the Calgary Flames a list of four teams he would be willing to be traded to, the four remaining teams in the tournament, but when a deal was made with the Bruins, he backed out and asked Flames GM Jay Feaster to make a deal with Pittsburgh instead. The Bruins front office was operating with the understanding that they had a deal, and Bruins fans went to bed thinking Iginla would be wearing black and gold in his next game…turns out they were right, but it was the lame knockoff black and gold that the Penguins adopted some sixty years after the Bruins had established themselves with. He chose to play with Crosby and Malkin instead of Chara and Bergeron. He thought he had a better chance to win the Stanley Cup, the only accolade missing from his Hall of Fame career, with them instead of with Boston. At the end of the series, the two teams will shake hands, but I hope it is with the Bruins moving on and with Iginla having to look into the eyes and shake the hands of every potential teammate he turned his back on while they pursue a second Stanley Cup in three years. The North remembers.

Matt Cooke. The Bruins’ power play is only picking up in this playoff tournament after two and a half years of futility after Matt Cooke effectively ended Marc Savard’s playing career. Savvy was the key to the Bruins’ power play and the key to their offense. Although Shawn Thornton got him back that season, Bruins fans are still not over that. Cooke is one of the dirtiest players of his generation, and deserves no benefit of the doubt even if he claims to be a reformed man. He’s not flying around elbowing heads anymore, but he’s still a sneaky weasel of a cheap shot artist at heart. Just ask Erik Karlsson.

Bruins forward Jaromir Jagr and Penguins owner Mario Lemieux as teammates.

The bad blood between these two teams dates back to the early 90s, and the names from back then are still part of the narrative. Cam Neely is now the Bruins President of Hockey Operations. Mario Lemieux is now the owner of the Penguins. Mark Recchi raised the Cup for the third time with Boston in 2011, and Jaromir Jagr now suits up for the Bruins. This is a series that should have happened a few years ago, and now we finally get to see it.

The Bruins were swept by the Penguins in the regular season this year. That means very little about how the Eastern Conference Finals will play out, though. Two of those games were the second nights of back-to-back games for the B’s so they played Anton Khudobin in net instead of Tuukka Rask. The game Rask did start was a strange one as well. Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand were both out with concussions, Nathan Horton left mid-game with an injury after fighting (you guessed it) Jarome Iginla, and Milan Lucic was a healthy scratch after playing like garbage for well over a month. Now, Bergy and Marchand are healthy, so is Horton, and The Incredible Looch is awake, angry, and back to being the mean green smashing machine Bruins fans know and love. The Penguins still have better high end talent, but the Bruins are a more disciplined, more unrelenting team than anyone Pittsburgh has faced in the playoffs, when they want to be.

There is nothing better than having your hometown hockey team still playing in June. Hopefully the Bruins can prove that they are worthy of being there, and can go toe to toe with the other recent champions. We finally get a chance to see how the last four Stanley Cup champs stack up against each other, and it should be a great few weeks for hockey fans in America.

The Bruins haven’t played in a week, so let’s get this thing started already! Go Bruins!!!

Who has more fun than us?

The Bruins absolutely laid an egg in their own building. As a fan, I am sad and angry. I hope this means the end of the Claude Julien era in Boston. Lucic is probably done, too. I expected this game to be close. They can’t even get out of their own way. Hockey fans in Boston deserve a lot better. Something needs to change.

That’s how I started to write in the middle of the third period. Then it happened. The B’s were down 4-1, and I thought about getting caught up on Game of Thrones (granted I already know what’s happening at the end of the season, but that’s another story for another day), but I couldn’t get past the opening credits before turning the radio back on to hear Dave Goucher give the play-by-play of the Bruins’ demise. I was so mad at the coach and the players for blowing it again. I braced myself for the criticism Tuukka Rask was likely to get from fans for not being Tim Thomas (but who is, really?). I wanted to give him a hug and tell him it wasn’t his fault like Robin Williams and Matt Damon. Horton had made it 4-2 by then. It made the potential final score seem less bad, but the game was still far out of reach for the offensively challenged Bruins.

The game was winding down, but as a fan, I wanted to hear it until the end. I love hockey, and I love the Bruins, and the prospect of no hometown hockey again until October was enough to sit through it. With two minutes left, Julien pulled Rask, and the familiar story of the Bruins losing to teams they shouldn’t and choking away yet another playoff series took a turn for the surreal.

The six on five skater advantage is a risky one even for teams with highly functioning power play units. It seems, without Googling the stats, that an empty net goal is more likely than a team with the extra skater. Then they Bruins got traffic in front of the net and Milan Lucic, the quintessential overpaid inconsistent Bruin, crashed the net and made the game 4-3. There was still plenty of time left, but I still thought it was over. Great! They got a goal, but they still need another just to get to overtime. The Bruins controlled the faceoff and Rask skated to the bench to allow on the extra attacker. There was less than a minute left when Patrice Bergeron, my favorite Bruin since he was an 18 year old rookie, buried a deadly snipe past Toronto goaltender James Reimer and that’s when it hit me. I screamed. The game was tied with 50 seconds in regulation. The virtually impossible was happening. The Bruins were alive and kicking heading into overtime of a Game 7 for the third straight year.

The Bruins hometown radio broadcasters, Dave Goucher and Bob Beers, interviewed Milan Lucic during the intermission leading up to overtime. They asked about the way last season ended, with the Washington Capitals defeating the Bruins in the TD Garden in sudden death overtime. Lucic reminded them that this year was different; that Nathan Horton was in the lineup for this overtime, so things would be different. All throughout the intermission, you could hear Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” blasting in the Garden. The crowd was into it again. There was no way they were going to let the Leafs win this game.

Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and Tyler Seguin react to Bergeron’s game winning goal.

It only took six minutes for Patrice Bergeron to find the back of the net once more. It was fitting that he was the one to do it, to. Bergy is the perfect Boston Bruin. He’s not the biggest, strongest, fastest, or most skilled player on the ice, but he has worked to improve himself and the team ever since he arrived in Boston as a teenager. He battled back from concussion after concussion, lockout after lockout, and defeat after defeat to remain in the Bruins’ team photo longer than anyone else on the roster. Last night, he added two more highlights to the tribute video when they inevitably raise the name “Patrice Bergeron-Cleary” along with the number 37 to the rafters of the TD Garden. Even before Zdeno Chara and Marc Savard landed in Boston, Bergy was the guy they were building around. The next great Bruin arrived a while ago, and it looks like he’s not satisfied with his name on the Stanley Cup just once.

In the gand scheme of things, this was an amazing night. Not just for the Bruins. Not just for hockey… the Bruins’ comeback ranks among the great comebacks in all of sports, but it will take until the end of the season to really see where it stands. Carlton Fisk’s home run off Fenway’s left field foul pole, is one of the classic moments in baseball history, but it would have been bigger had the Red Sox finished the job in Game 7. Nobody would remember the Patriots’ Snow Bowl (or Tuck Rule Game) if they had been beaten by the Steelers the following week, and the lore of that game would have been far less illustrious if Tom Brady and Adam Vinatieri had not made the plays they made in the Super Bowl against the Rams.

Time will tell how we remember this night, but the Bruins still have a lot of work to do. With the second round we get another Original Six opponent. This time it’s the New York Rangers. I think it will be a great series, and the Bruins have a good chance against this worthy opponent, but more than anything else, I’m just glad they’re still in it, and I can write about the local hockey club for at least a couple more weeks. Playoff hockey is as good as it gets, and it’s a lot of fun when it lasts more than one round. To quote Jack Edwards, “who has more fun than us?” You did a good thing, Bruins. Now it’s time to take advantage of the break you just caught!

Bruins on the Brink

Fans of the Boston Bruins find themselves in a familiar position tonight: in a deciding seventh game of a playoff series. It’s not a comfortable position, but it’s one they end up in at least once a year, it seems. Since Claude Julien took over as head coach of the B’s, Boston was bounced by the Montreal Canadiens in the first round in seven games in 2008, by the Carolina Hurricanes in the second round in 2009, by the Philadelphia Flyers after being up 3-0 in the second round series in 2010, and by the Washington Capitals in 2012. Only in 2011, when Julien’s team won game sevens against the Canadiens, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Vancouver Canucks on the road to Boston’s first post-Watergate Stanley Cup Championship, did they ever win any of these winner-take-all games. While the 2011 season was great and will always be one of my fondest memories as a sports fan, I am in no way comfortable about the prospect of a deciding seventh game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

If you look at the Bruins 2013 roster, there are very few changes from the Stanley Cup winning roster of two years ago. Tyler Seguin has replaced Michael Ryder as the streaky frustrating goal scorer whose talent should yield better stats, Jaromir Jagr has replaced Mark Recchi as the ridiculously old relic from the early-90s Pittsburgh Penguins who can somehow still hold his own against younger NHL talent, and Wade Redden has replaced Tomas Kaberle as the veteran defenseman brought in at the trade deadline in a move that excited the Bruins players and front office way more than it did the fans. The biggest change from 2011 to 2013 has been in net.

Tim Thomas is not walking through that door…in fact, I’m not sure he’s leaving his bunker, but Tuukka Rask, who hails from Finland but looks like he may have grown up in Whoville, shares Thomas’ knack for stopping the puck. Significantly younger, bigger, and more fundamentally sound than Timmy, Rask was expected to be the starting goalie in 2011 before Thomas ended up having a record setting bounce-back season. When Thomas got hurt in the 2009-10 season, Rask assumed the starting duties as a rookie. Tuukka’s performance in the first playoff round against the Buffalo Sabres that year impressed a lot of people. He absolutely stood on his head and outlasted USA Olympic hero Ryan Miller (who also won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s best goalie that season) and carried the offensively challenged Bruins to a six game series win. That was great, but was largely forgotten because of the second round collapse of historical proportions against the Flyers.

The Bruins have much bigger problems than Tuukka Rask.

A lot of factors went into the Bruins choking away that series: David Krejci’s broken wrist stifled the Bruins offensive momentum, Marc Savard had no business being out on the ice that soon after his concussion, and career grinder Daniel Paille was playing on the 1st line by the end of the series, but almost all was forgiven when the Bruins won the Cup the following spring. Well, all  but Tuukka Rask, apparently, who did not play a single minute of that playoff tournament as Tim Thomas carried the team to the promised land. Now, a lot of fans are more worried about Tuukka blowing another playoff series than they are about the team’s inability to score. If the Bruins fail, Rask will certainly take some heat from fans, but that is not fair to him, nor is it fair to let those who have failed around him off the hook because they played during the Cup Run.

Tuukka Rask is the reason the Bruins are playing tonight. With a lesser goalie in net, the Bruins would be playing golf instead of making every hockey fan in New England nervous tonight. Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand have disappeared since the start of the playoffs. Chris Kelly and Rich Peverly disappeared in the regular season. Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton have not given a consistent effort night in and night out all years. Claude Julien has been too slow at times to make the necessary adjustments. Peter Chiarelli has re-signed the majority of the roster before they’ve even hit free agency, transforming a once young and hungry team into a comfortable and complacent team that makes it seem like winning the Stanley Cup two years ago absolves them from any lapses in play going forward. No one can blame Tuukka for any of those things. He’s just the guy that stops the puck.

Tonight will probably go down to the 3rd period or overtime like the Bruins usually do in these games. If they win, they live to fight another series, against either the Capitals or New York Rangers. If they lose, it is more of the same, and further proof that the Stanley Cup season was a fluke and not the start of a trend. Bruins president Cam Neely may want to consider some serious personnel changes. Maybe the coach should go, maybe the GM, maybe half the roster. The Bruins had their best season when everyone was on the hot seat after an embarrassing elimination the year before. We won’t know until it happens, and that’s why they play the game. I’d rather see this team win and stay together, but winning is more important than staying together.