Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Game #6 - Bruins vs. Cowards

The above photo sequence sums up perfectly Scott Walkers Modus Operandi. Throw a punch at an unsuspecting opponent, then hide behind the nearest official when some willing combatant approaches to make you answer for your cheap shot. Walker, little punk that he is, was awfully "tough" when he threw a bomb at Ward, who CLEARLY was not looking to fight. Yet, when an enraged Milan Lucic came calling, suddenly Walker turned all pacifist on us. Well, I guess we can call Walker all sorts of things (and I have), but apparently "dumb" isn't one of them. Classic spot picker, cheap shot artist. The fact that the NHL didn't suspend him SHOULD be stunning news. But let's remember, we're talking about the NHL in general, and Colin Campbell in particular. Nothing that clown does should surprise anyone anymore. I'm convinced he either uses a Lucky 8 Ball or a dartboard to make his decisions. Because there is no way a rational, clear thinking "disciplinarian" could come to the conclusion the RESCINDING the suspension was in the best interest of the league. Campbell is on record as saying the NHL has to "clean up the game", and eliminate "head shots". Well, forgive me for being naive, but wasn't Walker's punch a two birds with one stone act? It was a "DIRTY" play directly at Ward's head (unless somehow Colin doesn't consider the face to be a part of the head....which may make sense, since his head is clearly up his arse). So once again, instead of the NHL taking a stand and showing that they're serious about eliminating cheap shots, they simply slap Walker on the wrist, fining him $2,500. Basically meal money for a guy on the books for $2.5M this season. Worse, it isn't like Walker is known as a choir boy who just made an error in judgement. He is well known as a borderline dirty player. In fact, he has been suspended in the past for HEAD BUTTING (after getting his butt handed to him by Mike Fisher of the Senators). In fact, in that head butt incident, he then threw a sucker punch at Fisher after the refs had them separated. I thought having a "history" was supposed to enter into the equation? Then again, this is Colin Campbell, the same guy that referred to Lucic as "that type of player" who shouldn't be on the ice late in a game when he suspended him for his cross-check to Lapierre. Really? Lucic plays on the first line. Walker is a fourth liner, on the ice with under three minutes left in a 4-0 loss. NONE of this entered the decision making process?

But you know what? I don't really care. Other than the principle of it, I could care less if Walker sits or not. He's a fourth liner, and if a player of his dubious skill set playing or not makes a difference between victory and defeat for the B's, they've got problems. Fact is, Walker playing tonight could just be the best medicine for the Bruins. I'm not expecting any overt retaliation to take place. As Shawn Thornton said, it won't be forgotten, but there are more important things to worry about than Scott Walker being paid back (or Jussi Jokinen for that matter). Walker will get his, you can bank on that. But for tonight, the retaliation will come in the form of legal, brutal body checks. And most of them won't be against Walker. But his teammates will have him, Jokinen and Conboy to thank for pissing off the Bruins. And for good measure, you can add the classless comments made by coach Maurice and GM Rutherford to the motivation stew as well. Maurice said the ramification of the Walker punch would be that Walker would have sore knuckles. Not sure what he was trying to accomplish with that comment, but I was STUNNED when I heard it. Absolutely incredible to me that he could make light of such a cheap shot. Then, his GM pretty much backed it up by fabricating some story about "most of the punches in the series have come from the Bruins, so it was a matter of time before one was thrown back". HUH? Whatever, I'd like to thank them all personally for giving the B's and their fans a reason to hate them. As we know, the Black & Gold always play better when they dislike their opponent (just ask Montreal, Dallas......). Oh, and the funniest, most ironic comment was reserved for Jokinen when he said Chara "dove" after he slashed him from behind. Really? The missing Kostitsyn sister actually just called out CHARA for DIVING? Now THAT is some funny stuff!

As far as the actual game on the ice is concerned, not the circus surrounding it, the game plan for the Bruins is pretty simple. Play exactly the way you did Sunday, but hopefully pot one earlier. We all know that the Hurricanes will come out flying to try to regain their speed game. Boston has to withstand that initial burst of energy, which generally lasts no more than ten minutes. If they get to the half way point of the first scoreless, they're probably in good shape. Scoring the first goal, while not a "must" would go a long way towards a B's win. Taking the Canes crowd out of it sooner rather than later would be great. They may be "raucous" and all that, but they get awfully quiet when things aren't going well. If Boston can get up by a couple goals, they can force Carolina to press even more than usual (they already play a high tempo, high risk style). If they do that, they could open themselves up counter-attack offense. I know the Canes are in the drivers seat, needing only to win one of two. But you can't tell me they don't want to avoid, at all costs, coming back to Boston. They beat the Devils in Newark in game 7, but I don't think they want to push their luck in that regard. Get a lead, and suddenly the pressure of the series falls squarely back in the Canes lap.

Early on Thomas will probably have to keep the B's in the game. With that early onslaught, Timmy will be called upon to make some big stops while his boys settle down in front of him. I have no doubt that he will answer the call and be brilliant. Even he seems to play better when some hate builds between the teams.

Offensively, after the night the Savard line had, I'd expect Maurice to do everything he can to get his best defenders out there every time Savvy-Looch-Kess hop the boards. Which should open things up for the Krecji line. Krech has looked brilliant lately, and Ryder has been SO close on a few chances lately....he is due. Bitz adds some size to the line, creating space for the slick Krecji. Bitz is also a terrific net-front presence for a sniper like Ryder to take advantage of.

Speaking of net-front presence, the B's need to remember how all of their goals were scored. They all were the result of driving the net, screening Ward and making him move side to side. It's a simple strategy that every team talks about employing. As long as the B's do it, they'll be able to score plenty. I'd love to see Lucic play a little closer to the net. He has a habit of drifting a little high in the slot, and towards the circle. If he stays at the top of the crease, he can't be moved. Of course if Chara plays the way he did Sunday and jumps into the play, Canes will have no chance. Then it's just a matter of making your shots.

Like I said earlier, I don't think you'll see an actual fight tonight. At least not one directed at Walker as a retaliation. It's possible something crops up, and maybe even Conboy tries his luck again (hey, third time is the charm!). But don't go looking for an old-school brawl filled game. Oh, it will be chippy. No doubt about that. Face-washing, cross-checks and little slashes will be the order of the day. But there is just too much at stake to go looking for justice at this point. As Thornton said, they have long memories. Walker's payback can wait until next year.
But make no mistake, this game will be plenty rough and physical. Boston has it's confidence back, and when they feel good about their game, they hit. They hit hard, and they hit often. Look for Lucic, Chara,Ward and Stuart to be the catalysts in that department, followed closely by Kobasew and Bergeron. For their part, the Canes will try to match the Bruins physicality. They didn't feel good about any part of their game, so expect them to try sparking themselves with some big hits (again, I think this is counter-productive for them, but hey...). Staal, Larose, Gleason, Cole and probably Walker will be their main hitters. Walker will hit for no other reason that to try and goad the B's into retaliating. They have to remain poised, just like they did against Montreal. The Boston Power Play has shown great signs of life. So they need to stay out of the box, and make Carolina spend as much time there as possible.

I think Boston is feeling good and has found their game. Does that always mean they'll win? No, it doesn't. But it sure does tonight. I'm looking for a 4-1 win for the good guys. Thomas makes some spectacular saves early, then enjoys a fairly quiet night the rest of the way. The B's get goals from Ryder, Recchi, Lucic and......WARD! (yes, that's my reach of the week lol).

Go B's-Kynch

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