On hockey

Especially after bite, it’s tough to swallow

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By Kevin Paul Dupont
June 5, 2011

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — If you own one of the 2 million to 3 million busted TVs in New England this morning — one of those HD wide-screen numbers with your work boot stuck smack dab in the middle of the screen — chances are the last two words you screamed at the end of last night’s Stanley Cup Final broadcast on NBC were, “Alex Burrows!’’

It’s a good bet, too, that you added an adjective or two just before you bellowed, “Alex Burrows!’’ Then the sparks started flying, the screen went dead, and now you’re scouring Sunday’s Globe ad inserts for the best buy on a new TV.

Claude Julien? The Bruins coach opted not to holler or give Burrows a second thought last night after the Canucks winger with the severe overbite knocked home the overtime winner only 11 ticks into extra time. It was Burrows, of course, who slipped through the NHL’s disciplinary process unscathed on Thursday, the day after he blatantly bit the hand that Patrice Bergeron fed him during an end-of-period scrum in Game 1 (also a Bruins loss, if you lost count).

The league, which operates with a unique-and-funky justice system, figured it was OK for Burrows to go full Hannibal Lecter on Bergeron. It therefore opted not to suspend him for his heinous act of hygiene, his bite to Bergeron’s right index finger, and then it was Burrows last night who put his own fingerprints all over Vancouver’s three goals in the 3-2 win.

Yes, Alex Burrows, 2-1—3. Doesn’t that bite?

“No comment,’’ said Julien, when asked how the Burrows factor fit into the mosaic of his postgame disappointment. “I never thought of it that way. I mean, if we start to use that as an excuse, then we’re a lame team.’’

True enough, pointless to reach for the Burrows crutch, but that doesn’t mitigate the anger and outrage of Bruins Nation. The 30-year-old Quebec bad boy turned out to be the poster boy for their pain.

Burrows scored Vancouver’s first goal for a 1-0 lead in the first period. He made the key assist, a nifty dish, on the Daniel Sedin goal that knotted it, 2-2, at 9:37 of the third period, truncating Boston’s total lead time through two games to a humble 18:02. Then it was Burrows, lead recipient of Andrew Ference’s failure to get the puck deep, who faked Tim Thomas out his net, slipped beyond the long reach of Zdeno Chara’s arms and stick, and made the tuck into an open net to finish off a clever wraparound at the right post.

How did Burrows factor into Big Z’s psyche at game’s end?

“Nothing to say,’’ said the somber Trencin Tower of Power. “The league made its decision.’’

Truth is, Burrows should have been suspended for a game, because he clearly and blatantly bit Bergeron, as any number of replays made quite clear — even if the NHL office didn’t quite see it that way. Maybe they have too many boots stuck in their TV screens? It’s just bad business, not acting when millions upon millions of viewers in Canada and the United States saw the bite for what it was — oh, let’s just call it petty, cheap, and ridiculous — and allowing the miscreant to skate.

Message: In the NHL, biting is okeydoke. Had Burrows actually torn the tip of Bergeron’s finger off, then it’s a good bet the league would have acted. At least we’d like to believe that to be the case. But bites should not be measured by pounds per square inch. If guys are biting, or gouging eyes or kneeing groins or sticking butt ends of their sticks under chins, then they should take a seat.

“I really respect those people,’’ Burrows was quoted in the Vancouver Sun in the wake of Thursday’s decision, referring to NHL disciplinarians, which in his case was Mike Murphy. “They have tough decisions to make . . . he was great. That’s all I can say about it.’’

Oh, and Burrows also said, “I’ve moved on.’’

That’s comforting. He’s moved on. Bigger battles to fight, maybe appendages to chomp.

But here’s the thing, my TV-damaged readers, and this might be even harder to tolerate — the Bruins deserved what they got. Maybe they didn’t deserve to get bitten so badly in overtime by Burrows, but the better team won. The Bruins played well for about a five-minute window in the second period, highlighted by Milan Lucic and Mark Recchi goals that came 2:35 apart, but it takes more than a few good minutes here and there to put the boot to a team of Vancouver’s talents.

Consider, once the Bruins took the lead on Recchi’s goal, their first lead in 91:35, they were outshot, 16-6, over the remaining 28:25 of regulation. Instead of building off their lead, moving their legs, and playing with tenacity, they tried to find the quiet, nonconfrontational path to victory. They backed off, got sloppy, and made themselves the perfect prey for Burrows to go Full Hannibal on them again. Only this time, he used his stick and not his teeth.

“Poor decision-making,’’ said the ever-honest Julien. “Poor puck management.’’

Julien, like a lot of his now TV-less supporters back home, added that he feels he has a better team than the one that showed up for Games 1 and 2. Bravely (because what else can he be?), he said he is confident that the better version of his bumbling, mistake-prone Bruins will be on Garden ice tomorrow and Wednesday.

It may look over, but Julien isn’t willing to go there.

“We didn’t come here just to roll over,’’ he said, and later added, “that last goal was certainly a hard one to swallow.’’

All the harder, of course, because it came with the Burrows bite.

Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at

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