Monday, February 9, 2009

Upon further review....

......I may have been a little harsh immediately following the B's OT loss to Philly. My first reaction was to blast the boys for an obvious lack of "emotion". Not only in that game, but for the last week or so. While I'm still mildly concerned that they seem to be, shall we say, less than fully "engaged" lately, I guess I can understand it. In the immediate aftermath of the home & home (sort of) series with the hated Flyers, I was fuming. How is it possible, for these two teams....long time blood rivals, with what happened last year (Bergeron, Alberts..), to play SIX periods without a single fighting major? Philly, at the time at least, was leading the NHL with a staggering 54 fighting majors. I'm less concerned about the actual fights not happening than I am that there was never any real animosity between these two. They looked like two boxers just feeling each other out.....but for two games? I don't get it. It was almost as if each team assumed the other would get an emotional lift from a fight, so neither stirred the pot too much. I get that. I do. But what I don't get, is how can a little jerk like Scott Hartnell run around and take cheap shots all day and not have anyone really respond in any meaningful way? Yeah yeah, I know. Chara had "words" with him. Thornton gave him a shove. Lucic gave him a dirty look. But there he was, running around, taking shots on defenseless Bruins all over the ice, all afternoon. Look, I'm not saying I'm a fan of "goon hockey" (although, it can be fun at times). But the Hartnell act was a perfect excuse for someone, ANYONE, to step up and ignite a spark in the B's and the building. There are very few times when I want to see Chara off the ice for five minutes or more. But Hartnell running Krecji from behind (I know, that's redundant...that's the ONLY way Hartnell hits), should have been a green light for Chara to drag him to the side and pound him. He did it against Volabik when he hacked Kessel. It was the right thing to do then, and it would have been the right thing to do Saturday as well. Now, I said after taking some time to think about it, I can understand why the B's haven't been as sharp or as "emotionally involved" lately (admittedly a very hard thing to quantify). The Flyers game was the last of 7 games in 12 days, all (except for Ottawa) against the iron of the Eastern Conference...or at least what was supposed to be the iron. They're 6-1-3 in their last 10 games, with the only regulation loss coming to the Caps, 2-1. So it isn't like they're playing terribly. Wins and points are all that matters, and I get that. Maybe it's just a sign of how far they've come, that I'm now reduced to dissecting how they win, not if they win. But that's how far they've raised the bar I guess. My concern is, are they just plain old tired? If so, that's perfectly understandable, given their recent schedule. Or is it something more corrosive? Could it be, that they're starting to read their own press clippings a little? Is it possible, that when they open the paper in the morning and see themselves sitting in first place in the Conference by a comfortable 7 points....and the Northeast division by a STAGGERING 21 (TWENTY ONE!) points over Montreal, that they've allowed themselves to relax? I hope not. No team, talented or not, can simply flip a switch and elevate their game. At first, that was the scenario I thought was more likely. But the more I look at it, I'm leaning towards fatigue and injuries as the main issue. A lot of the younger guys, Wheeler in particular, have already played more games than they usually do in a full season. With the injuries, some guys have had to play more minutes than normal and in different situations. Besides, this is Claude Julien's team we're talking about. If he thought for a minute that it was simply complacency causing the "problem", he'd address it in a big way immediately. That being said, Wheeler and Krecji seemed to have found their way into the doghouse Saturday. While it was a one goal or tie game, Wheeler found himself stapled to the bench. Clearly, coach saw some things he didn't approve of. I think we all have. Again, it's understandable. Rookie's hit the wall around this time of year all the time. Let's hope that the message was received and Blake comes out much more determined to compete against San Jose. They'll need him, especially with Ryder on the shelf after facial surgery. Which leads me to..... "THE" GAME: It's a classic battle in the making. Best of the West Vs. Beast of the East. Hard working Bruins take on the surfer dudes from Cali. The Sharks have played the fewest games in the NHL, 50, yet still have the second most points (79) behind the Bruins (85), who have played 54 games. Not surprisingly, Joe may have heard of him, leads San Jose in points and assists. Also not surprisingly, his two line mates, Marleau and Setoguchi (this years Cheechoo apparently) lead in goals. That's a lot of concentrated firepower on one line. That may just help Boston. The Bruins, when they're on their game, are a very balanced team. Obviously not having Ryder will be a big blow. But all in all, the B's should still be able to roll 4 lines, while getting the defensive match ups they want. Joe better get used to the sight of Zdeno Chara. He'll be seeing him every time he's on the ice for sure. On San Jose's back end, they have some real talent. Rob Blake (not the same as he was, but still very very effective and physical) and Dan Boyle being the top two. Boyle is that ever elusive "puck moving defenseman" everyone wants. Pretty good all around player as well. In net, Boston has a clear advantage in my opinion. Nabokov is good, not great. His .910 save % is respectable, but nothing to get too excited about. He's also always struck me as a bit of a head case. Score on him early, get in in his face, and the flood gates can open. ROUGH STUFF: As far as tough guys go, the Sharks have one true heavyweight in the person of Jody Shelly (I guess with a name like that, you better be able to fight). He's a legit guy, not sure if he'll be in the lineup or not. Shelly leads the team with 10 fighting majors, twice as many as the next in line, Ryan Clowe. And nobody is overly concerned about Ryan Clowe. Now, if you want to include pests in the "tough guy" conversation, well, they have the master of all pests. Yep, 43 year old Claude The Fraud Lemiuex is back in the NHL. He's played 6 games since his call up from Worcester and posted an invisible line of 0G, 0a, 0P, 0PIMS, 5 Shots. Why on earth San Jose is wasting a roster spot on a 43 year old is beyond me. I understand "veteran leadership" and all that. But come on, at some point you have to at least appear on the box score, SOMEWHERE! Predictions: This is a very tough one, for a lot of reasons. The return of Joe. Two #1 teams going at it for league wide bragging rights. Boston hasn't played a full game in over a week......all these things conspire to make this a tough one. But, I'll take a stab at it anyway and say Boston wins....5-3. I look for a LOT of emotion in the building and on both benches right from the start. Look for Lucic, Savard, Wheeler, Chara and Kessel to be the B's scorers. As far as the rough stuff goes, this has all the makings of one of those games where the unexpected fight happens. So while we everyone looks for Thornton and Shelly to square off (they very well may by the way), don't be surprised if a couple other guys drop the gloves in a spontaneous bout. A somewhat obvious possibility would be Lucic-Clowe. They're both about the same size and both are looked at as top line players (Clowe has 20 goals). This is one fight for Looch that would be a "fair" trade. But I still say a random Chuck Kobasew could get involved. If he does, it more than likely will be because he's crashing into Nabokov. Which probably means it will be against a I'm saying Christian Erhoff. Why not? OK, I know what you're thinking...."But Kynch, remember...Joe only played 2 shifts last time he came to Boston before getting ejected (rough call BTW), don't you think HE could be the "wild card" bout?" Well, sure. He could be. I don't "expect it", but I wouldn't be stunned if he did go either. But I have NO idea who that would possibly be against. No way he fights Chara (he almost assuredly will hack Z a few times, his temper hasn't gotten much better over the years). And he isn't going to go seeking out a Lucic or Thornton type either. Beyond them, he's pretty much bigger and stronger than anyone else on the B's. Which means he'll have to find a marginally insane guy to go with. For my money, that would be Andrew Ference. So what the hell, my second, EXTREME WILD CARD BOUT OF THE NIGHT will be Joe Thornton vs. Andrew Ference! (hey, no way it happens, but tell me you won't be impressed if it does!). Go B's- Kynch (btw KingKrej-thanks for filling in. The general soreness is feeling much better. Hopefully I didn't bobble this blog as bad as Fernandez bobbled pucks all day Saturday)


  1. The Philly game was lost in the 2nd period. The Bruins were finally at the end of a brutal stretch of games, completely exhausted and really starting to feel the injuries to Sturm, Ryder and Lucic, and were in the middle of steamrolling one of the East's better teams 3-1. Along comes a couple of jaw-droppingly cheap penalty calls, and next thing you know they're spending half the game killing penalties -- after two periods the power plays were 6 to 1 in favor of the Flyers!

    So it's not terribly surprising that they finally dragged their asses for a period or two. They were exhausted, had nothing to prove against the Flyers who they had just beaten 4 periods in a row, and had almost no pressure to pick up more than a point in the standings. And still, if not for a bizarre fluke goal they might have won the game.

    I'm not terribly worried about it. They played a better game than the Flyers, all things considered, even without having an extra jump in their step.

  2. Hey Kynch,

    Love the blog. Analysis is always great.

    Ever though of breaking up the text a little better when you post? It is tough to read quickly (especially in an RSS feed) and I find that I rarely get through an entire post with out having to come back a few times.


  3. Hey, just letting you know I added this to a list of game previews. Hopefully this will help build up the hype for this game and get some cross-traffic between Sharks and Bs fans.
    Here’s the link: