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Happy Landings, Bruins!

Don’t poke the bear? Why the hell not?

The Emperor is no more! Sauron has been defeated! Drago has been knocked out! Biff Tannen is wearing a truckload of manure!

For what feels like forever, the Bruins have been bullying and beating down the Habs with not just their size, but with goonery and cheap shots. Despite a bunch of regular season success against Boston, the 2009 sweep and 2011 seven-game heartbreak series still feels fresh. For a lot of guys, the physical beatings might feel fresher still. A little pay back was needed, not only for those playoff losses, but also for this type of dirty crap that has come to personify the Bruins more than the quality of their on-ice play:

On top of the joy of advancing to the conference finals, we got to do it at the expense of Boston. Their poor-sport fans, mopey, excuse-making media and sore loser skaters deserve to feel this loss, hard. It’s so sweet to know that the Bruins are being eaten up inside that they lost to the team that they’ve relentlessly tried to paint as weak, cowardly and dirty.

Eat it, Bruins. Eat it, and like it.

Lucic’s post-game petulance…fantastic. Iginla’s depression…love it. Marchand’s lack of words…fitting for a guy with a lack of goals.

As for our boys, it has been amazing to watch this team consistently up their game. THIS is what a championship team looks like. This is what a winner plays like. This is the what the best are willing and able to do to.

Michel Therrien has done a wonderful job in preparing his team for these playoffs. More than that, though, we’re seeing guys like Carey Price and P.K. Subban elevate to superstars right before our very eyes. We knew they had it in them, and many among us probably considered them as superstars. But now they’re doing it on National stage. The rest of the hockey world is taking note of these guys and they’re envious. On top of those two pillars, Pacioretty, Desharnais and Vanek woke up in the knick of time. Emelin has found his hard-hitting game. Beaulieu has plugged a major leak. Gallagher, Gorges, Weaver, Weise and Prust are providing the blood and guts. Brière is doing what he always does in the playoffs, same goes for Plekanec. Bourque is reborn. Eller has been a revelation. Anyone who thought the Habs were robbed in the Halak trade can crawl back under their rock.

There are no passengers. They’re all in.

Who knows what else this team has left to give. You’d think that given the recent history between the Rangers and Habs, that a trip to the Cup Finals is a lock. But these are the playoffs, and the Rangers are looking good. Better than good. But for today, we get to revel in a great victory against a hated rival that is going to have a long off-season of regret.

How I Hate the Bruins

Once a week I participate in The Forum, along with the rest of the good folks at The Montreal Bias. This time, we share our feelings on the evil Bruins. My thoughts are below, here are the rest. If you hate the Bruins, this is for you!

It is literally impossible to stop at one thing that is bad about the Bruins, so I present this list, which is by no means exhaustive:

  • The Neanderthal fans
  • Jack Edwards
  • Nut-spearing, low-bridging, face-punching goons and rats from a culture that values violence as much as it values goals
  • Impossibly thick, biased, pant-licking media
  • The nauseating sound of their goal horn
  • Jack Edwards
  • Rene Rancourt’s WWE-esque fist pump
  • Jack Edwards

It all blends together as a wretched melange that stinks of hot garbage and tastes like month-old acid rain that’s been festering in an over-stuffed ashtray.

Everything Happened

Regular season game #33

I’m not going to lie to you: I don’t know where to start. When you look up the definition of a roller coaster game, whatever is currently in the hockey dictionary is going to be supplanted by this game. The Habs blew a 2-0 lead, then came back from a pair of third period two goal deficits, finally tying the game with just seconds to go in regulation.

To paraphrase Stefon: “This game had everything”.

Fans of both the Habs and Bruins experienced the full gamut of emotions that hockey has to deliver; everything from despair to exhilaration.

With the Habs having played just one night earlier in Pittsburgh, many wondered how much gas the Habs would have in the tank. The answer is plenty, though Therrien may want to check that  Markov and Emelin aren’t having their gas cut with water. Markov is still a key cog for this team,and did score the game-tying goal, but it’s clear that his mobility has been affected by knee surgeries galore.

It isn’t often that we see Carey Price get pulled, but when Budaj came out to start the third period it was less an indictment of his play as it was a message to the team to get the lead out and to try and change the momentum. Message received, and Budaj was spectacular in Price’s stead, shootout included, as he did not surrender a single goal.

Other laurels go out to P.K. Subban, who played over a half hour of hockey, had a goal and an assist and was a +3 . Brendan Gallagher was also a difference maker, as he scored the goal that gave the Habs renewed life, was in Rask’s kitchen on the game-tying goal, and scored the shootout winner. He continues to make a name for himself, and his buzz saw style has inserted him in to the conversation for rookie of the year. Plekanec quietly had three assists and continues to be the glue that holds the team’s top six together. Captain Brian Gionta also had a pair of assists to go with his three shots on goal. Michael Ryder, who hit nothing but post in Pittsburgh last night had fortune in his favour last night, scoring two more goals. He now has 13 points in 13 games since rejoining the Habs (Erik Cole is stuck on two goals, and is a minus 9 in 13 games with Dallas, and he continues to make Marc Bergevin look like a genius.

You’ve got to wonder what Therrien told his team during the second intermission, but once again it worked. He also had the good sense to not put the struggling David Desharnais out for the last minute powerplay. Desharnais, plucky chap that he is, is useless on the powerplay on the road.

All in all, it was a badly needed win, and goes to show that winning ugly trumps losing while playing well.

And yes, the Habs can run with the big dogs.

Follow me on twitter: @kyleroussel

The Wayback Machine

Regular season game #9

Once in a while, old demons come back to haunt. Tonight’s game very much resembled the Habs team from years past, where they’d grab a paper-thin lead while playing some decent hockey, only to wilt in the face of opposition for the rest of the way. It only took the Bruins a couple of minutes at the start of the third period to take a 2-1 lead that looked as close to impenetrable as it gets.

Tonight would be a good reminder that the Canadiens, despite their 6-3 start, are less than a year removed from the worst season in memory. They’re moving in the right direction, but they just aren’t there yet. That said, the outcome could have been different. The first line had a rough night. Plekanec can generously be described as being absent minded on both Boston goals, Erik Cole looks like he has lost half a step, and Pacioretty alone can’t carry them.

As for the old bugaboos of turnovers and faceoffs, the Canadiens actually did pretty well, considering they normally suck in both categories. The tale of the faceoff tape, though was a very two-sided story. While Plekanec and Eller combined to go 18 for 31, Desharnais and Galchenyuk combined to go just 8 for 29.

There’s no sense in dwelling on this game, as there is another engagement in less than 24 hours from now in Buffalo. The story is simple: the Habs charged hard at the start, wasted their chances, or were stoned by Rask and often that comes back to bite. The good news is that they did generate quality chances…they just need to bury them, starting tomorrow against the Sabres. And for further silver lining, the Bruins actually stuck to hockey and left the thug antics back in Boston for once. Hockey is a lot more enjoyable when teams stick to hockey. Who’d have thought?

Follow me on twitter: @kyleroussel

Afternoon Delight

Regular season game #8

When it rains, it pours. Once the Senators scored what should have been the tying goal, you couldn’t help but feel like you had seen this movie before: the Canadiens cling to a fragile lead only to lose it in the third period or overtime as they were unable to re-emerge from their defensive shell. It came as a welcome surprise that the officials called off the goal and assigned a goaltender interference penalty to Jakob Silfverberg. No contact was made with Carey Price, yet the zebras saw it differently. Indeed, things are going mostly in the Habs favour these days, and it shows in their 6-2 record.

Yesterday’s game showed a version of the Habs that took full advantage of a team ready to be trounced. Today’s team showed a willingness to take the extra lumps in blocking 25 Ottawa shots en route to a tight 2-1 win. Full marks for character.

We’ve still got to show some restraint in both our assessment and praise of the Habs. The 6-2 record is certainly something to write home about, but it has been a soft schedule full of home dates. We need to see this team on the road for an extended stretch before we can get a clear picture of what they’re all about. But the body language, attitude, and desire seems fully entrenched in the right spots.

This Superbowl weekend was successful on many fronts for the Habs: David Desharnais finally came to play, Subban made his second start and added his second assist to the ledger. Lars Eller woke up on Saturday, Tomas Kaberle is finally where he ought to be – in the press box, Max Pacioretty made a successful return (adding an assist on his first shift), and Erik Cole scored the winning goal while throwing 6 hits on Sunday. With the first line rounding in to shape, there can be no better news as the schedule verges on getting tougher.

With the Bruins coming to town on Wednesday, the opportunity is there for the Habs to send the message that fun time is over on Bell Center ice for visitors.

All in all, Habs fans have very little to complain about, but a few things to be concerned with. Staked to an early 6-2 record, Michel Therrien has his team on the right track and has a healthy squad to iron out the kinks with and prove the doubters wrong.

It’s been a while since the Canadiens were in such a favourable position where whatever happens to them will depend entirely on how they continue to execute on the ice.

Follow me on twitter: @kyleroussel

So Tim Thomas Did Something Dumb…

Stop me if you’ve heard that before.

Except this time, it feels more like character assassination because of the “B” on his chest rather than the act itself.

As the only American on the Bruins 2011 Cup winning roster, many feel like Thomas should have gone to the White House in solidarity with his teammates, to show respect to the President (even though he doesn’t agree with his politics) and generally to not rock the boat. Many say that if he wanted to make a political statement, he could have done it in another way (yeah right, if it were to come to that, the same people would laugh and say “who the hell is Tim Thomas? Shut up and play hockey, fatty”). Let’s recall that both Nick Boynton and Kris Versteeg (yes, both Canadians) decided not to visit the White House as members of the Cup winning 2010 Blackhawks. Granted, they had both moved on to other teams, but so did Tomas Kaberle, and he was there. I don’t recall the outrage when they skipped the ceremony, do you? You can tell me that as an American, Thomas had the duty to go and represent. But most people say it was about team unity. So which is it? Team unity, or Patriotic duty? Where does free will come in to play?

We’re all entitled to our opinion, and we can go back and forth all day over whether what he did was right or wrong, selfish, or bold. Personally, I could care less either way, so there’s my stance for the record. It doesn’t affect me in any way. What does bother me is this: Canada could barely muster a 60% voter turnout for its most recent Federal Election. That means nearly 10 million Canadians who were eligible to vote chose not to. South of the border, the situation is even worse. When President Obama became “The Man”, only 56.8% of voters showed up to have their say, meaning that nearly 100 million eligible Americans opted to not vote. In the 2010 mid-term elections, nearly 145 million eligible Americans stayed home (37.8% showed up).

I don’t know who did and who didn’t vote in their country’s elections. Based on the massive twitter outrage yesterday, the sheer volume of angry voices says that there were plenty of lazy donkeys among them who gleefully took up arms in the “bash Tim Thomas party”. They chided Thomas’ lack of respect for the President while they themselves didn’t have enough respect to get off their rear end to have their say.

To you people, kindly STFU.

To anyone who thinks that Thomas disrespected his teammates, if they are truly upset with him, they’ll stop defending him as well as they have in the past couple seasons. They won’t play as hard or with as much heart for a guy they’re that angry with.

Crocodile Tears

Last night was the most amazing night of baseball I’ve ever seen – regular season or playoffs. I suppose I should therefore be upset this morning. Livid, even. The Red Sox, afterall, completed one of the most historic and spectacular flame-outs in all of baseball’s long history. But I’m not the least bit pissed off. Maybe it’s because my priorities have shifted this year or maybe it’s because I’m not a “true” enough Sox fan – I am satisfied with their 2 World Series wins since 2004.

Yes, a collapse like this is unbelievably embarrassing, and borders on unforgivable. Lord knows that if this were the Habs…oh hell, even he doesn’t know what I’d be doing this morning.

Perhaps the pain was eased slightly by knowing that so many people who love the Sox also love the Bruins and Patriots – two teams that make my skin crawl. After winning the Cup and being pretty much the best football team ever, it serves those uppity jerks right that the team that overshadows EVERYTHING in Boston suffers this kind of meltdown. Because the Yankees couldn’t hold a 7-run lead late in game 162. Does it get any better than that? If the collapse takes the shine away – even just a bit – from the Bruins winning the Cup, then good! If there are sports fans in Boston missing the Cup Banner raising ceremony because they’re tapping out their latest “fire Francona, trade everybody” rants then yay for collapses! But I don’t know I’m really that vindictive…afterall, if I never saw any images of the Bruins with the cup, then it never happened, right?

Maybe in another case of misery loving company, I find comfort in the fact that the Atlanta Braves also had their worst nightmare come true – blowing an 8.5 game lead in the Wild Card chase in the final month of the season. As an Expos fan, I’m glad to see the team that always stood in the way of the playoffs get slapped down like this. Too bad all anyone is going to talk about is how the Red Sox blew it. Too bad there were empty seats at Turner Field; it would have been nice to send a sellout crowd home in tears indifference.

Maybe I’m not upset because this summer I just learned to embrace baseball again. Really embrace it. Team allegiances fell by the wayside, as did many grudges (but I still haven’t forgiven the Jays). The biggest grudge being with MLB itself for knifing the Expos to death. I’m still bitter, but they can have my money again. I don’t hate the Yankees anymore now that George Steinbrenner is gone. It probably didn’t help that the Twins were out of the playoff race before the end of April, so I could have simply turned the switch to “passive”. A lot has changed for me in relation to baseball, but I did watch a decent amount of ball this year, and I listened to even more over the “radio”. Usually with an adult beverage in hand. It was terrific. After the Expos left at the end of 2004, I felt like I had to pay attention. This year I payed attention because it felt good to. That doesn’t mean that I still don’t miss the Expos – quite the opposite – I miss them more than ever. But it was nice to be, for lack of a better term, a free agent this summer and just watch baseball for what it is.

Last night capped off what I would describe as a rather unremarkable season as far as baseball goes, but it had as much drama in one night than the previous six months combined. There’s no doubt that many Red Sox fans cried themselves drank themselves to sleep last night, but let’s face it: If you blow a NINE game lead in 30 days, you don’t deserve to be in the post season. Now we move on to one of the best times of the year if you’re a sports fan – October baseball, the start of the hockey season, and the NFL season is well under way. Sorry NBA, nobody cares about you.

The Sun Comes Up Instead

The headline is a snippet from Vancouver based rocker Matthew Good’s song “Alert Status Red“. Perhaps it’s a song that should have been blaring through the streets last night as angry hockey fans and cement-headed opportunists trashed Vancouver’s downtown.

The Boston Bruins have finally won a Stanley Cup. I never thought I’d have to come to grips with this reality, but alas here it is. It’s pretty bad…but I gotta say, it’s not as bad as I thought it would be. I’m back at work today, and I assume you are doing whatever it is you do on a daily basis. It’s going to be a sunny, beautiful 28°C here in Montreal today. I don’t know what the forecast is where you are, but it has to be somewhere in that neighborhood.

As a Habs fan, the thought of guys like Chara, Marchand, Ference, Lucic and Campbell hoisiting the cup is repulsive, and revolting. It’s hard to reconcile douchebaggery, outright barbarism, and classless behavior with “Stanley Cup Champs”, but that’s the reality today. Whatever we think of the Bruins, and what they were allowed to get away with this season, there’s no doubt that they were the better team in the Cup finals. We Habs fans can take a small measure of comfort knowing that the Canadiens pushed the Bruins harder than any other team, even though they also went to seven games against the Lightning and Canucks. We also can be fairly certain that if Max Pacioretty had been around, the outcome of that opening series would have been different…and no…that’s not to say that the Canadiens would have went on to win the Cup because that’s nothing but a BIG fat reach based in nothing but homerism. Arpon Basu had a great piece on this flawed line of thought.

Still, we have to give the Bruins credit no matter how much we believe they were aided by Campbell, Bettman, the refs or Hockey Gods Gone Mad. It’s clear that karma is a dead concept, but nevertheless, the Bruins accomplished some amazing things since the playoffs began. They were the first team to win a playoff series without scoring a single power play goal (vs Montreal). They’re the first team to ever win a Cup by winning three seven-game series (Montreal, Tampa and Vancouver). They were (I think) the first team to win the Cup when falling behind 0-2 in two separate series (they also had to come from behind against Tampa). Their even strength supremacy should be an indication to all teams relying on “special teams and goaltending” (coughHabscough) where their priorities should be.

The Bruins netminder also deserves credit. Let’s put aside his comment “Subban is a travesty to the game” comment for just a moment. Yes, it was dumb, especially when you consider that the Bruins had just knocked off the Habs. It’s called being a gracious winner, and the Bruins are woefully unfamiliar with the concept. It’s hardwired in to Bruin DNA (one needs to look at what happened to guys like Nathan Horton and Mark Recchi when they became Bruins). Still, we have to face facts. Thomas fought back from a mediocre 09-10 season where he pretty much lost his job to Tuukka Rask. He ripped the starting job back, and then faced down Carey Price (3 times in overtime, to boot), whatever the Flyers could muster in goal, Dwayne Roloson and Roberto Luongo to win the Conn Smythe and the Stanley Cup. Oh, and he’s also going to win the Vezina trophy, too. His numbers are astounding; .938 save percentage in the regular season, and a 35-11 record. Sure he only started 57 games, but if he had started 67, would his number have been any worse? There’s nothing to suggest that. Why? Because in the playoffs, he got even better at stopping the puck against superior teams. He posted a .940 save percentage over 25 playoff games, and was at his best in the Finals. When the pressure was at its highest, he gave up 8 goals in 7 games in the final series including a shutout in enemy territory. Against the league’s top team. Ladies and gents, that’s called dominance. We can sit back and hurl whatever names we want to in his direction, but they’re born of bitterness. Tim Thomas has just completed a season for the ages and there’s nothing anybody can say to refute that. He may be a tad overweight, but he’s not overrated. At least not in 2010-2011. We can twist stats to suit our agendas, but hockey is a result-oriented business, and who delivered better results than Thomas this year? The answer is nobody. For that, he has my admiration and respect.

Credit also has to go to Claude Julien for keeping the ship on course when it could have easily sunk after the first two home games vs Montreal. Some Bruins fans don’t like the conservative coach, but I wonder what they have to say today? Again, results matter. It’s all that matters in hockey, which at least partially explains why the Bruins choose to be the barbarians that they are.

Continuing along the getting results path, big kudos this morning for Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli. The work he has done to build up the Bruins has to be met with nothing but laurels. Confession: when he acquired Rich Peverley from Atlanta, I had a sinking feeling. Not because Peverley is a world-beater, but because when a guy of that quality is brought in to center the fourth line, you’re sitting pretty. His prime acquisition of Kaberle nearly cost him dearly…but there’s that word again: results. Chiarelli is getting a Cup ring for his troubles while every other GM is figuring out what to do next. Delivering the goods with Cam Neely breathing down his neck couldn’t have been much fun, but he pulled the right strings and put the puzzle together. Props.

So as the sun finally sets on what was an ugly NHL season, marred by horrific officiating, horrific injuries, and a nightmare ending for Habs fans (and I guess you, too Canucks fans), I offer my congrats to the Bruin players and management that I don’t want to skewer with a sharpened telephone pole: Patrice Bergeron, Tim Thomas, Chris Kelly, Claude Julien, Doug Jarvis and Peter Chiarelli. Oh, and I can’t forget the few Bruins fans that I truly am happy for today: Doug, CJ, and a handful of others who deserve to know what being a champ feels like. Enjoy it! May you never feel like this again! ; )

It Just Keeps Getting Better

Well wasn’t that nice of Mike Murphy, wasn’t it?

Now that Colin Campbell has stepped aside, Bettman’s cousin gets to take the reigns as far as discipline goes from now, until Brendan Shanahan takes over at the start of next season. I wonder how warm and fuzzy Shanny feels this morning that Murphy went ahead and doled out a four game punishment to Vancouver’s Aaron Rome for knocking Boston’s Nathan Horton out of the playoffs?

While it would be nice if this 4 game ban was actually the start of some new standard, there’s no indication that Shanahan sees things the same way as Murphy does, or that he plans to pick up where Murphy leaves off. The general assumption (or hope?) is that Shanahan will rip up the book and start anew; beginning a slow and painstaking journey in restoring confidence in the NHL’s disciplinary process by bringing a fresh perspective and approach to how supplementary discipline is handed out. If that’s indeed the case, then Murphy just put Shanahan in a really unenviable spot; fans are perplexed with the Rome suspension – unless of course it’s a new benchmark for blows to the head, in which case I believe most fans will embrace this new standard. But in essence, he has forced Shanahan to follow suit next year by punishing players with at least four game suspensions (though many would argue that four games in the Cup Finals is worth at least twice as many in the regular season) for similar offenses. Anything less, and the usual “same old, same old” refrain will erupt once again. Whatever path Shanahan takes, he would be well served to behave in the opposite of the current guard. That is to say that he must be transparent and open with how he plans to deal with supplemental justice. And for goodness sake, he has to avoid consulting everyone under the sun before reaching a decision.

And what of the hit that has cost Rome the rest of the Cup finals? Opinion on the hit ranges from blaming the victim to villifying the offender. Personally I believe the hit was a tad late, but it was not blindside. The only way it could ever be defined as blindside is because Horton was admiring his pass and wasn’t looking at what was coming in front of him. It’s his responsibility to keep his head up. If Rome doesn’t hit Horton in that situation, he’s out of a job, plain and simple.

As I remarked a couple weeks back, the NHL’s department of hockey ops set the table for themselves as far as criteria goes a couple years ago when they suspended Alex Ovechkin for hitting Brian Campbell from behind. In his statement, Colin Campbell ended his statement with the following:

“If you cause a player to be injured, then you have to be responsible for the play that you’re involved in, if there’s any carelessness or recklessness in it.”

Still, I do agree with the league’s “stance” that if you hurt somebody by being reckless, you should be suspended. We can argue whether or not Rome was reckless in wiping out an opponent who had no idea what was about to happen. The fact is the league saw it that way, and so it’s a closed case. The trouble is that many, many other hits have adhered to these same criteria yet the offending player was not punished. Yeah, the Pacioretty hit is the poster child for the league’s hypocrisy in this instance, and that’s what has many fans, Habs fans in particular so angry and confused. Again.

Using Campbell’s statement above, Chara should have been suspended. He was certainly being reckless, and he obviously caused injury. Yet he skated away scot-free and even received a standing ovation upon his return home to Boston. The issue becomes even more confounding when you take Murphy’s comments on the Rome suspension. Murphy said that the result of the hit, and the lateness of the hit are what compelled Murphy to give Rome four games. How then, did that logic not apply to when Chara hit Pacioretty? Hypocrisy? Stupidity? Favoritism? Double standards? Different rules for stars? Whatever the reason was for not suspending Chara, it was wrong then, and that wrong has been amplified now.

By the same token, again, I have no problem with a suspension for a hit causing injury. It apparently is too much, however, to ask the league to be honest and consistent with their punishments. With vagaries like “we have our own formula at NHL hockey operations for determining late hits”, it’s no wonder that we fans have totally lost faith in the supplemental discipline process. Like any good chef, everyone knows that a formula can be tweaked on a whim, and the league has clearly been a mad scientist in the kitchen. They jerk around with the formula on a case to case basis so that the end result suits their taste. How else can we rationalize the haphazard, inconsistent and bizarre decisions the league has made over the years. Players are confused, and a decline in the quality of officiating indicates that the officials are also unsure of themselves.

The day after the hit that sidelined the Canadiens winger, the organization announced that Pacioretty had suffered a severe concussion and a fractured C4 vertebra in his neck. Bruins fans and media alike thought it was a conspiracy to get Chara suspended through embellishment of the extent of the injury. Yet in the same fashion, the Bruins organization was quick to divulge the severity of Horton’s concussion and that his season was over. They didn’t even wait until the next day; they let Horton’s status be known in the minutes following game 3. I wonder if Bruins fans figured it was another conspiracy to get Rome suspended? Naw, their team wouldn’t be that classless and devious…or whiny and weasly…would it? Of course not…just don’t listen to the trifecta of liars in Ference, Lucic and Coach Julien who want you to believe their words, but ignore their repeated actions.

A short time after being stanchioned, Pacioretty was released from hospital and resumed his recovery; opening a twitter account, and having the audacity of going to a movie theater were just two of the the things he did to fill his suddenly open schedule. Similarly, Horton was released from hospital the very next day after being crushed by Rome. Teammate Milan Lucic soon after admitted that Horton had been texting him. Tweeting. Texting. Tomayto, tomahto. I wonder if Bruins fans have embraced their own “embellished injury” theory yet? Let’s see what happens if Horton is feeling well enough to be in attendance for game 4 in Boston. If he is, I’m guessing he’ll get on the jumbotron, and I’m guessing he’ll get an ovation. Movie theaters. Arenas filled with light and noise. Potayto, potahto. In short, these incidents are so strikingly similar, yet the hypocrisy spouting from Boston now that their guy has been felled is so thick you need a chainsaw to cut through it. If you’re a Bruins fan reading this, and your retort is “well at least we didn’t call 911″, then you have no leg to stand on.

I’m not here to say that the Bruins have embellished. Clearly Horton is hurt. The sight of his crumpled body on the ice is as sickening as seeing Pacioretty laying motionless. What I am drawing attention to is the manner in which the people in Boston reacted in the aftermath of the Pacioretty/Chara incident. Now that they find themselves in a similar situation, hopefully they now see things differently.

As Murphy addressed the media yesterday, he credited his buddy Colin Campbell on numerous occasions for teaching him everything he learned. The same Colin Campbell who was embroiled in an email scandal that revealed extreme bias and in which should have resulted in his immediate termination. The same Colin Campbell who went on TSN Radio earlier this year and confessed to not knowing the rules anymore. The same Colin Campbell with a conflict of interest. The same Colin Campbell that made a mockery of the league for over a decade. If that doesn’t say enough about Mike Murphy’s education, then I don’t know what does. Remember Mel Brooks’ role from Spaceballs? The supreme schmuck President Skroob? Towards the end of the movie as all hell is breaking loose, Skroob turns to one of his minions and says “Sandurz! Help me! I don’t know what to do! I can’t make decisions! I’m a President!” Somehow Spaceballs and the NHL seem to fit hand-in-hand these days. Surrounded by assholes. Major assholes.

Swan Song

At the end of the day, the Habs just didn’t have enough left to “fight the good fight”. If we’re looking for reasons as to why the Habs fell after owning a 2-0 series lead, certainly the injuries will rise to the top of the list. And not just the injuries to Markov, Gorges and Pacioretty. Desharnais left the series, Kostitsyn was skating on a bad paw, Halpern wasn’t ready to return from injury, Gill and Hamrlik were reportedly playing with injuries…incredibly the list goes on, yet the Habs pushed this to 7 games and gave the heavily favoured Bruins more than they could handle. We can only wonder how things would have been different if the Habs would have been closer to their real identity.

This series was an epic battle to be sure, and each team had to dig deep for results; Boston salvaged their playoff lives just in time after falling behind two games (a shame that now is the time they get their first series win after dropping the first two games), while the Habs fought back to force a deciding seventh game; and fought back even harder to push that game in to sudden death. When a series goes to overtime in a seventh game, it’s obviously anybody’s to win, and sadly for Habs fans, there was only so much blood to be squeezed from the stone.

Prior to the start of the series, if I had told you that David Krejci, Milan Lucic, Zdeno Chara and Tomas Kaberle would combine for a total of 2 goals and 4 assists in 27 games played, and that the Bruins would score exactly zero power play goals in the series, you would have thought that the Habs were certainly going to take it. Strangely and cruelly enough, you’d be wrong.

Today isn’t the day to point fingers, but here’s a stat that reveals a fatal flaw in “The System”.

The Canadiens and Bruins both scored 17 goals in the series, for an average of 2.43 goals per game. It doesn’t get tighter than that. The issue is this: While the aforementioned invisible Bruins combined for a paltry 6 points, they were also a combined +1. How does that happen? Looking at the teams a little more closely, we see that only 5 Bruins players were on the wrong side of the +/- stat: Krejci (-1), Thornton, Seidenberg, Paille, and Campbell were all -2. Needless to say, three of those guys are not what I’d call crucial to the Bruins success and as such don’t receive a heck of a lot of ice time. Contrast that with the Habs, who had 13 players on the wrong side of the ledger: Gionta and Gomez at -6. Cammalleri at -5. Wizniewski at -3, Spacek at -3, Subban at -2, Sopel at -2, and half a dozen others at -1. Only Weber and Eller were +1. Again, I’m not pointing fingers at individual players, but rather at a system that forces the Habs to win the special teams battle by such a wide margin that it essentially negates what happens at even strength, where the vast majority of a hockey game is played. The power play was terrific, and the penalty kill was better than perfect when you factor in Plekanec’s short handed goal. But without even strength production, you can’t win in the long run.

There are other factors contributing to the series loss, and I’m sure you’ll read about them. While losing to the head-hunting, bird-flipping, lie-telling Bruins stings in the worst way imagineable, there’s never been more reason to be optimistic. The Habs core is in place, and youngsters like Price, Subban, Eller, Desharnais, Pacioretty all revealed themselves to be superb NHL players over the course of the season – and they’re all going to make huge strides in development in the coming years (Dear Salary Cap: Please keep rising!). Gauthier has a lot of work in filling out and improving the roster, but this is clearly the best team we’ve seen in a very long time, and I’m already looking forward to October.

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