Hockey Notes

Black-and-Gold fold began on blue Monday

By Kevin Paul Dupont
May 16, 2010

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As a footnote to the Bruins 2009-10 season, we offer: When they needed to give more, they gave less. In fact, in Game 5 of the series against Philadelphia, they gave nothing.

That’s trouble, folks. Downright disturbing.

General manager Peter Chiarelli and coach Claude Julien will offer up their closing thoughts Tuesday, in the club’s annual breakup day on Causeway Street, and they no doubt will still be shellshocked over Friday night’s rude dismissal.

While everyone will want answers, or at least cogent explanations, GM and coach most likely will say they need time to deal with their grief, step back, and eventually make an emotionally detached assessment of one of the epic meltdowns in Stanley Cup history.

That’s the nature of these state-of-disaster addresses across the entire sports industry. The whole thing traditionally is one giant, “Good question, we’ll have to get back to you on that.’’

As bizarre and excruciating as it all was Friday night — when the Bruins transformed a 3-0 runaway into a 4-3 self-inflicted two-hander over the head, topped off by Marc Savard’s horrendous too-many-men boo-boo — the focal point for Chiarelli and Julien should be the 4-0 loss on home ice Monday night in Game 5.

With it all there to win, leading in the series, 3-1, the Bruins pulled a total no-show in their own building, in front of a sellout 17,565, with the words “carpe diem’’ all but etched into that big black spoked-B at center ice.

They seized nothing. No emotion. No execution. No intelligence. On a night when they had an express ticket waiting for the conference finals, they played a listless, shapeless 60 minutes that proved to be their postseason undoing. They skated around with “KICK ME’’ signs tacked on their behinds, and the Flyers obliged them for Games 5, 6, and 7.

Sure, the Bruins began to recover their game in a 2-1 loss two nights later, then finally played with some passion for almost a full period in Game 7, only to revert to retreat-and-stumble mode for most of the second and third periods.

The misguided Savard was left to take it all one step further and blow up a house that, truth be told, had been set afire four nights earlier when everyone in a Black-and-Gold uniform double-, triple-, and quadruple-faulted on the game that should have been their point, set, match.

The reason(s) for that? Clearly, that’s far above your faithful puck chronicler’s pay grade. Three seasons, three straight Game 7 punchouts. Right now, it looks as though it’s above everyone’s pay grade on Causeway Street, from Owner’s Son to Stick Boy. Every year they get the ball rolling, and every year they turn into Sisyphus on double runners.

Not enough good players (that’s on Chiarelli and his hockey ops staff). Not much in the way of creative, effective in-game change of strategy, or rearranging of lines or defense pairings (see: Julien and his forbidden-to-comment coaching staff), or simply getting the most out of the troops. And certainly not enough big-game awareness or strut-and-pluck from the 18 skaters and one goalie (playoff-netminder-in-training Tuukka Rask) who touched the ice each night.

In other words, once again, ample blame and failure to go around, in fact more than ever given how utterly amateurish, soft, and futile everyone ended up looking Friday night. Which, in retrospect, was only the runner-up to their worst night in the series. Until someone figures that out, they’re just Sisyphus, reaching for a rock engraved “2010-11.’’

Some rose to the occasion
Talk radio will make certain that Mayor Thomas Menino and his “Meninglish’’ will be the lasting memory of Monday’s Bobby Orr statue ceremony on Causeway Street. A guaranteed show-stopper, Hizzoner, who had Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek famously “splitting the uprights’’ as one of our city’s “ionic’’ sports moments. Priceless. When does Suffolk offer him a chair in revisionist history?

A few other things from the ceremony that should not be forgotten:

■ Orr’s gracious line of acceptance: “Thank you for honoring our team in this manner.’’ The names of all members of the 1970 Cup team are listed on the back of the bronze statue’s foundation.

■No. 4’s Gehrig-like line, in reference to the importance of family and friends: “To that point, it makes me the richest man in the world.’’ Unlike Yankee Stadium on July 4, 1939, those heartfelt words did not echo around the old West End.

■Orr’s self-effacing humor, noting to sculptor Harry Weber: “Harry, what a wonderful job. Did we not talk about the Orr nose?’’ Indeed, Weber was right . . . on . . . the . . . nose, in every detail.

Harry Sinden, coach of the ’70 team, recalling that Johnny “Pie’’ McKenzie poured a beer over Mayor Kevin White’s head during the ’70 Cup parade festivities. “I forgot the beer,’’ Sinden told the crowd, with Menino nearly within arm’s reach, “or you might have had the same enjoyment this afternoon.’’

■Sinden also recalled his postgame remarks to his players, noting that, it being Mother’s Day on May 10, 1970, they should all thank their mothers for buying them their first pairs of skates. “What I should have said,’’ noted Sinden, “is that, ‘We should be thankful to Bobby’s mother for buying him his first pair of skates!’ ’’

It seems Dogs won’t stray
For the moment — and this is subject to change between bites of your morning bagel — it looks as though the Coyotes will remain in Glendale, Ariz., and that Bulls/White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf (above) will own the Desert Dogs. His White Sox, by the way, spend each spring in their Glendale training facility. The most recent bit of arm twisting had the NHL convincing city fathers to cover up to $25 million in potential losses next season. Without that promise in place, Winnipeg would have been the most likely landing spot, even though The Peg’s new(er) downtown arena is a couple of thousand seats short, by current league standards. Quebec City’s mayor is on record as wanting a new rink to replace the lovable Colisee, but that’s still not a done deal, and probably would take upward of 36 months or more to get funded and constructed.

Adjustable winger
Mark Recchi likely will re-up with the Bruins for one more season, his play inspirational throughout 2009-10. The undersized winger was at his feistiest in Game 1 vs. the Flyers, when he came up scrappin’ and nailed towering blue liner Chris Pronger across the chest with a cross-check. The skills of big NHL defensemen have changed during his tenure, noted Recchi. “Used to be, you only needed speed to get by them,’’ he said. “You know, you could get ’em spinning and just blow past ’em. But then we saw guys like [Scott] Stevens and [Al] Iafrate come into the league and the game started to change a little. All of a sudden, the big guys could hit and skate.’’ To adjust, said Recchi, it took a blend of skating, hitting, and anticipation, all of which the 42-year-old continues to mix in effective doses.

New jersey for Kovalchuk?
Zach Parise or Ilya Kovalchuk? It appears the Devils will have to choose one or the other. Easy choice, given Parise’s far more engaged play and jam. Kovalchuk, obtained as a deadline rental, was a quirky fit from the start in Newark, and even worse, Parise’s production dropped when the Russian star arrived on the Prudential campus. Los Angeles, Vancouver, and perhaps San Jose (pending the next playoff round or two) remain the top potential landing spots for Kovalchuk, provided he doesn’t return to Mother Russia for huge KHL cash. “That’s serious money over there now,’’ noted one Western Conference GM. “It’s not unlike when we saw Bobby Hull taking huge money in the WHA. People wondered, ‘Why’s the guy leaving the NHL?’ ’’ When people saw the money, they understood. If it’s double or triple to play in Russia, and it’s tax-free . . . then that’s a different story.’’

Poti sees the light
Painful lesson learned by Worcester’s Tom Poti, who exited the Washington-Montreal series in Game 6 when a Mike Cammalleri blast ricocheted off Capitals teammate Shaone Morrisonn and nailed Poti, causing multiple fractures to bones around his right eye. He temporarily went blind in the eye, but his vision has returned to 20/20. The former Cushing/Boston University standout is now committed to wearing a visor, something he hasn’t done since the 2002 Olympic Games. “I was an idiot for not wearing one before,’’ Poti told the Washington Post. The Players Association remains reluctant to force eye protection on its rank-and-file, while commissioner Gary Bettman has long said he wishes they would cover up.

The Mitchell report
The Canucks, again disappointed by a truncated playoff run (Round 2 losers to Chicago), desperately could have used 6-foot-3-inch defenseman Willie Mitchell to snuff out the Blackhawks’ explosive offense. But Mitchell remains plagued by post-concussion symptoms, after being nailed from behind by Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin Jan. 16. Mitchell, in comments to the Vancouver media last week, echoed the feelings here that there should be a fundamental change in the way the NHL handles supplemental discipline. Rather than just one man’s opinion (league vice president Colin Campbell, head of discipline), the process should be the charge of a two- or three-man committee. Mitchell went so far as to say that Campbell fears offending some GMs, including some who are his pals, with his decisions. He also believes Campbell too often rules when the hit has inflicted damage, instead of simply disciplining a hit on its own merit/fault. Mitchell: “You rob a bank and there’s $50 million in there, and you rob a bank and there’s $5 in there, you’re going to jail for the same amount of time.’’

Island hopping?
New York Mets COO Jeff Wilpon and Islanders owner Charles Wang chatted last week about the Long Island franchise possibly relocating next to state-of-the-art Citi Field in Queens. Wilpon also has talked to Major League Soccer about putting up a futbol field. Intriguing thought, the Islanders and Rangers staging a weekend subway series. Wang, of course, has long tried to get his huge Lighthouse project up and running in Uniondale but has not been able to cut through the city/county bureaucracy. Remember, Robert Kraft played the get-out-of-town card on Hartford as a means to get his Lighthouse in the Forest built in Foxborough.

Sell, sell, sell
The Stars were clear that they weren’t going to bring back goalie Marty Turco, but it was made official with the three-year, $10.65 million deal agreed to last week by ex-Thrasher Kari Lehtonen (acquired late in the season). With owner Tom Hicks still trying to sell off his sports empire, including the Stars, GM Joe Nieuwendyk likely will work with a payroll some 20 percent below the cap (expected to be around $57 million next season). Hicks is also trying to sell the Texas Rangers and his share of Liverpool FC. “I can still be a fan,’’ Hicks told Times Online last week, “but I have paid a terrible price.’’ Hicks noted that he is not wired like Cowboys owner Jerry Jones or Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. “I am 64 years old, I don’t want that anymore,’’ he said. “This isn’t my life.’’

Loose pucks
The Penguins looked tired and frustrated in their Game 7 loss to the Canadiens. Superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin combined for a mere 2-6—8 in the seven games. Oh, and note to those who lamented that the Bruins didn’t deal for Toronto’s Alexei Ponikarovsky at the trade deadline: The big lug went a feeble 3-11—14 in his 27 games with Pittsburgh. Coach Dan Bylsma eventually dropped him to the fourth line and made him a healthy scratch in Games 5 and 6 of the Habs series . . . Keep an eye on Chicago defenseman/puck-pusher Brian Campbell in the Sharks-Hawks series. He has six years left on a deal that carries a $7.14 million cap hit. By no means an easy deal to shake. But with Bruins goalie Tim Thomas carrying a $5 million cap hit for three more years, and Tuukka Rask now distinctly the No. 1, a Campbell-Thomas exchange is something the sides might explore around the June draft. Campbell, by the way, turns 31 Sunday . . . Convinced he doesn’t have an NHL skill set, the Coyotes dished Jared Staal (brother No. 4) to the Hurricanes for a fifth-round pick in next month’s draft. The 6-3 winger, now reunited with brother Eric Staal, was the 49th pick overall in the ’08 draft . . . No movement on coaching hires in Atlanta, Tampa, Columbus, or New Jersey . . . With five weeks to go before the draft, the Lightning still don’t have a CEO or GM, which could mean Jim Hammett (player personnel director) and Darryl Plandowski (head amateur scout) would make the call on Tampa’s picks, including No. 6 overall . . . Derek Sanderson, who fed Orr the pass that led to the goal that clinched the ’70 Cup, introduced Orr at Monday’s statue festivities. After the ceremony, Turk mused about what he felt was Boston’s precarious 3-1 lead over the Flyers. “I don’t want to see Philadelphia wake up,’’ he said. “That hit on [David] Krejci, that hurt, and that’s the stuff that can happen to you in the playoffs. And for the other team, that’s the moment that they say, ‘OK, boys, here’s our chance.’ ’’

Material from personal interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.

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