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Good will in store

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff October 21, 2008 09:12 AM

Spent the weekend in Montreal recently, with the sad realization that a dollar in Canada is now really just a dollar, and the revelation that a vegetarian Panini is apparently considered a sub roll covered with three pounds of processed cheese. I also had the pleasure of catching a Canadian college football game on TV. That is, if youíve ever watched a Canadian college football game, you understand that my description of demeanor is simply striving to be cordial.

Of course, hockey takes precedence over everything else in town. I spent one night in a nondescript sports pub with a few dozen Canadian hockey fans (which is a little like saying liberal democrat) gasping at every move of the Montreal-Ottawa game being played on the corner big-screen, a scene replayed countless times in my many trips north of the border. Except this time, it was preseason, and a game that mattered for nothing as soon as the clock ran down.

I suppose the equivalent would be walking into the Cask some time around mid-March and witnessing a full house hanging on every pitch of a Red Sox spring training game. As big a baseball town as this is (was?), thatís never going to happen, if only for the sane approach that we understand the nature of the contest. Practice. See ya in a month.

For the sake of a useless comparison, did anyone even realize the Bruins played preseason games? Eight of them, you betcha.

Last night, the Bruins opened the home slate of 2008-09 action before a packed house at the Garden, and empty Nielsen ratings past the second period of a 2-1 shootout loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Weíre past the point of attempting to drum up hockey interest, which is either there or not for the casual sporting observer in town. But could the Bruins have gotten more of a kick in the teeth than opening up their Causeway St. schedule against the Patriots-Broncos game down on Route 1?

Look, the Bruins, in all likelihood, will never be kings in this town again. It is just an uphill climb that the team, its fans, and the current state of the NHL canít realistically expect. But after last yearís electric playoff series against the Canadiens, it might appear that good will has been sustained. For a bit, at least. Check out the results of a Boston.com survey from yesterday that asked, ďOkay, with the Red Sox officially in off-season mode, what are you most looking forward to?Ē

The Celtics: 32.4 percent

Nothing. I miss the Red Sox already!: 26.8 percent

The Bruins: 24.7percent

The Patriots: 10.8 percent

College sports: 3.8 percent

The Revolution: 1.1 percent

High school sports: 0.4 percent

Total votes: 3663

Whether that speaks to the fickle Patriots fan (who wants to bet that number spikes today after last nightís 41-7 rout?) or to the passion of the Bruinsí dedicated fan base, itís a somewhat significant feather for the Black and Gold to take with them as they plow through their early-season schedule.

The results: So far, so OK. The fact that the team already has two shootout losses to its credit through five games has to have fans shaking their heads in woeful anticipation of more of the same lame one-on-one results. And, maybe itís me, but as reasonably solid as one would expect the Manny Fernandez-Tim Thomas tandem to be in net, itís still tough to shake the way the latter looked in last postseasonís 5-0 clincher for the Habs.

Speaking of that series, imagine where the Bruins might have gone had they had Patrice Bergeron, or an ever more driven Phil Kessel, both of which the team has, a duo that added to Marc Savard, gives the team arguably its brightest trio of stars since the days of Thornton, Samsonov, and Allison. After a year of seeming confusion, Zdeno Chara started to show last season why heís worth the big bucks, and all apologies for the way head coach Claude Julien was greeted upon getting the job, for he may be the best Bruins coach weíve seen since Robbie Ftorek.

Boston still hasnít won a playoff series since 1999, a stretch that will reach a decade come next spring. But you have to start to wonder now not only if this team is good enough to make the playoffs (it is), but whether or not they have enough to win the whole thing (eh), which is how we ultimately judge teams in this town going forward until further notice. Is Thomas-Fernandez the answer at the end of the ice, or is Tuukka Rask (whoís had an OK start at Providence, thus far, allowing 10 goals in four games) going to be the Carey Price of this town before the snow starts to melt its way into playoff season?

Perhaps most imperative to keep an eye on, will a team most concerned with the bottom line take the drastic measures it may need to come trade deadline time to ensure itís not just a team that will make the playoffs, but the team to beat? With the likes of San Jose, Detroit, and Pittsburgh in the mix, that may be a stretch. But after witnessing the way these same Bruins matured seemingly overnight last April, whoís to say that adding a healthy Bergeron for the season wonít make a similar, yet more drastic leap over the course of an entire 82-game schedule?

They play again tonight, in Buffalo, with no other viewing impediment (unless youíve yet to give up on the dreadful 90210 reincarnation) in their way for the first time all season. Thatís not pleading for you to watch, for there may certainly be more compelling things to do than to catch a mid-October hockey game. But do pay a visit from time to time, wonít you? That way, you wonít have to scramble come spring when the bandwagon fills up. I'll be at the end of the bar, trying to explain the finer skills of pressed sandwiches to our Canadian friends.

9 comments so far...
  1. Bruins will be a playoff team again this year. They have become a more balanced and disciplined team. They will finish anywhere between the 5-8 spot I think. Tim Thomas has been solid but will always be a backup in my mind. Is Fernandez not a # 1 goalie? I always thought he was. What is the deal ?? Unless he is still hurt, I want him starting. Hope this was not a Chiarelli mistake. If so, time for a new goaltender next year. I can see Kessel scoring 30 goals this year. Same for Bergeron. Savard is still their best player. Things are looking up in Bruin land.

    Posted by Bob Griese October 21, 08 10:51 AM
  1. The author's comment about "The Bottom Line" is indicative of the ignorance that columnists in this town have about the Bruins. Yes, Jeremy Jacobs has a legacy of being parsimonious with his payrolls in the the past. However since the lockout, the point is beyond moot.
    The problem, ironically is that the Bruins may not be able to make a deadline move or "drastic measure" because they've spent TOO MUCH money. The Bruins have less than $1million under the cap. This includes the dead money being payed to bought out and equally hockey-dead Glen Murray. Also the Bruins are paying Peter Schaefer $2.1 million to NOT play for the Bruins.
    As a Bruins fans I'd rather wallow incognito in the Boston sports scene, than be subjected to ignorant coverage by the non-hockey members of the Globe staff.

    Posted by JG October 21, 08 11:15 AM
  1. JG, seriously? Bruins will give every team they play this year fits, even the upper echelon teams. They are a LOCK to make the playoffs. When is the last time that was true? They have two very good scoring lines now and are back to playing physical hockey. That has not been true for a long time either. Bergeron coming back is their "deadline move". The drought ends this year. I can see this team winning at least one playoff series, maybe more if the goaltending holds up.

    Posted by Bob Griese October 21, 08 12:11 PM
  1. I'd have to agree with JG's general premise, which is - the typical 'sports' writer, blogger, etc. pretty much operates on hearsay and old cliches when the subject of hockey is involved.

    It's always the same, tired lines. "did anyone even realize the Bruins played preseason games?" Maybe. Maybe not. But any sports fan worth his or her salt KNOWS that there is always a pre-season at some point, y'know... before the regular season. The same can be said for the Celtics. In case anyone's wondering, yes - the Celticss pre-season has begun. Surprised? You shouldn't be. It's pre-season; no one cares.

    This is the same as the ridiculous "joke" of, "Hockey? what's that?" in it's many, tiresome forms.

    And while J. Jacobs is still one of the worst owners in sports - not just the NHL - the 'Bottom Line" line (as far as roster money, anyway) is a non-issue. You want a team NOT paying up to the cap - check out Nashville. They're about 15-20 million under.

    And this line here : "The fact that the team already has two shootout losses to its credit through five games has to have fans shaking their heads in woeful anticipation of more of the same lame one-on-one results." Tells me that it was drummed up after looking at the current standings in the paper - not from watching any of the games.

    I won't go so far as to say I don't want people writing or talking about the Bruins, as JG suggests, but I would like a little fresher outlook. This isn't the Bruins team of the first half of this decade; they deserve an honest look. Not just the same old re-treaded jokes and cliches.

    Who says they can't be kings of this town? Pats fans have proved that it's all about winning. If the Bruins make it to the Stanley cup - we'll see how many 'life-long fans' there are out there...

    Posted by Ed S. October 21, 08 12:56 PM
  1. Bob Griese. Seriously what? My comments were directed at the coverage of the team, and not the state of the team. I'm a season ticket holder and am very bullish about this team. Watching them grow and develop, and all the hope and potential that entails is a very, very uplifting and inspiring story line.

    However, I'd rather the Bruins be covered, not through the lens and misconceptions of the past, but through the reasoned analysis of the present. The author's allusion to Jacobs concern with "The Bottom Line" is old news. That motis operandi on Causeway has changed dramatically since the end of the lockout and hiring of Chiarelli. Yet, all the non-hockey writers in the Globe, keep referencing the Big Bad Bruins, and how business was conducted pre-lockout. It's simply lazy journalism. Focus on the hope of the future, rather than the missteps of past Bruins administrations.

    Posted by JG October 21, 08 01:02 PM
  1. Ed S., it's a blog, relax. He asked if they had enough to win it all. Answer- an obvious no but give them a few more years. He is right about Thomas. No matter how much Bruin Nation fans deny it, and there are many who do, Thomas is a backup. Fernandez must step up and win the job.

    Posted by Bob Griese October 21, 08 01:24 PM
  1. I am looking forward to the rest of this season, the b's made the playoffs last year with not a lot of depth, this team has two legit scoring lines now. Heres to hoping for the playoffs again as last years Canadians series was the best hockey I've ever been to.

    Posted by Mike October 21, 08 02:26 PM
  1. I hope Timlin does retire. He has blown too many saves, past his prime. No comment to the press - not a class act at all.

    Posted by john October 22, 08 09:12 AM
  1. As great as Ryan Miller played, last night's game seems to be a precursor of what's in store for B's fans this season: an up and down effort that is ultimately undone by lack of a true scorer. There is no one on this team that, if given the opportunities, is going to score more than he isn't. Kessel is developing nicely, but is still a year away (or more). Bergeron is always going to be a good, not great player. I think we saw Savard's best last year and, well, that's it. Lucic and some of the other kids hold promise for the future but today's B's lack the scoring punch to carry them past the early rounds of the playoffs.
    As far as goaltending goes, Timmy is not the answer and it kills me to say it because Iíve loved the guy since he was at UVM in the 90ís. He has carried this team to the best of his abilities for the last two years, but heís not 25 anymore and this team needs someone who can take the team to the next level and make up for the shortcomings in the scoring department.
    Letís not fool ourselves and think that that stiff Fernandez is the answer, however. At some point he is going to expose himself as the ďsystemĒ goalie he is. He put up decent numbers in Minnesota because 1.) he was never really a starter; he always split time with Roloson. (i.e. never had the pressure to be ďthe manĒ) And 2.) Minnesota was a good defensive team that kept quality scoring chances to a minimum. Iím confident one of them will get hurt given their age and prior history and Rask will be the starter at or before the All-Star breakÖ

    Posted by phunk October 22, 08 02:47 PM
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