Monday, April 21, 2008

Salute to the Boston Bruins

Alas, their valiant effort ended tonight in Montréal.

There are many things to take away from this amazing first round playoff series. In the end, it's not surprising the Canadiens won the series. What is extremely surprising, and promising, is that the Bruins were able to force the series to a game 7.

After the disappointing showing the Bruins had in the 2006-07 season, no one expected much from this team. They didn't really do much in the offseason to improve their chances going forward. They didn't have much salary cap room to do much. There were no big free agent signings, as with the previous off-season (Marc Savard - C, Zdeno Chara - D).

They did get rid of head coach Dave Lewis and hired Claude Julien. Personally, I liked Dave Lewis - as a person. He was an entertaining personality; he just never gained the respect? trust? something of the team last season. Apparently, coaching matters because Julien was able to do so much more with just about the same roster.

With that said, I think the young players that were here this season - which were not here last season - had a huge impact.

The new fan favorite, myself included, is 19 year old left wing Milan Lucic (#17). The kid is a beast. People are (prematurely, in my mind) referring to him as Neely-like. I think that's alot to expect. However, he is tough as nails with a nose for the puck. General Manager Peter Chiarelli was wise to hold on to him through the trade deadline. He's the type of player that Bruins fans love to watch and I hope he sticks around for many seasons to come.

Another player who had a huge impact this season was center David Krejci (#46). He turns 22 in a week. When Marc Savard went down late in the season with a back injury (courtesy of Les Habitants de Montréal), Krejci stepped up huge and went on a nice scoring run to keep the playoff hopes of the Bruins alive. I like this kid and, once again, I'm glad Chiarelli had the patience not to move him at the deadline just to make a move.

I'll round out the top three young impact players with center Vladimir Sobotka (#60). He'll be 21 in July. He's not afraid to get dirty, go deep into the corners, and - even at only 5' 10", 183 lbs - loves to hit. Keep it up Vladi.

Noting the last two players mentioned, they were here out of necessity after an unbelievably cheap hit by the Philadelphia Flyers's Randy Jones on center Patrice Bergeron (#37) early in the season. The October 27 boarding (which Jones only received a 3-game suspension for) nearly broke Bergeron's neck and left him with a severe concussion that left him sidelined for the remainder of the season. I'm looking forward to Bergeron's return next season. And the first Bruins-Flyers game.

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Another thing I've taken to heart from this series is the renewed rivalry with the Canadiens. Since the mid-90s it hasn't been much of a rivalry with the Bruins not really having the team to compete with them. The Bruins lost all 8 games with the Habs this season (and the first 2 in this playoff series). To bring this series to a game 7 was an enormous accomplishment. The Bruins barely made the playoffs as the eigth, and final, seed. The Canadiens were the best team in the Eastern Conference. Believe me when I say - the Canadiens's fans weren't looking forward to a game 7.

Outside of that, watching this series has renewed my personal (sports) hatred of the Bleu, Blance, et Rouge... Their fans are smug and fair-weather, in my opinion. Watching them stream out of the Bell Centre during game 5 as the Bruins were handing it to them was a delight. I'm looking forward to the next round just to see who will take them out of Cup Contention. My second favorite team is the team that does just that.

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Finally, I was glad to see that the Bruins managed to garner some interest from the local sports fan community in these parts.

I'm so tired of the over-saturation of everything Red Sox. I'm a Sox fan but things are getting a bit ridiculous. It's almost the same with the Patriots. And with the Celtics beginning their run to their next NBA championship, the Bruins have been a forgotten team - and hockey a forgotten sport.

It's too bad. Hockey is a phenomenal game to watch. Playoff hockey is that, ten-fold. The Bruins need to keep the pace of improvement and build on what they've accomplished this season.

It may be a generational thing, with this not being a generation of hockey fans, but I believe if the Bruins can get through a few rounds of the playoffs in the next season or two that may change. I'm hopeful, anyway. Yes, I know I'm biased - but I'll take an NHL playoff game over anything in terms of edge-of-your-seat excitement.

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There are probably hundreds, thousands, more words I could devote to this but this will suffice for now. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the Sox defense of their World Series title, the Celts' run for the NBA title, and the (ahem) NFL draft? No, sorry, I can't condone being excited for that... In addition, I also hope that you save a small bit of hope, excitement, of your heart - for the toughest guys on the Boston sports scene.

Let's Go Bruins!

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Oh! One more comment. One other thing that separates the NHL Playoffs from the other major sports. The handshake. The post-series handshake, when the teams line up on the ice, skate past, and shake the hand of each, individual player on the opposing team.

There were a number of big one-on-one battles within this series. I was particularly surprised by the effectiveness defenseman Aaron Ward (#44) showed in taking Alexei Kovalev out of the mix.

The battle of the series, however, was Milan Lucic with Mike Komisarek. These guys beat on each other for seven, long, tough games. It's one of the great sub-plots of an NHL Playoff series. In any case, through the magical brilliance of the DVR and the electronic wizardry of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX01 Digital Camera, I was able to capture the precise moment these two players met up in the queue.


2 comments:

March to the Sea said...

I agree with you on so many levels. I commented that the boston globe sunday had 3-4 stories on the bruins not just one. Co-workers actually would ask me about hockey, and would ask how I was doing after a win, or a loss. It will be a long time before the sox and pats are a lower rung team (if ever) but some of the bandwagon jumping for the B's was nice to see..even if it was only for a few games. Hopefully they will get that one piece they need in the off season and continue to let the young guys blossom. Thrilled for Phil K after being benched..comes out and gives the team/management something to chew on..that if called on he can step up. Many good stories, and for a change not so many bad ones. It was a fun season.

as a side note..the baby b's swept 4-0..winning in OT last night.

Viszlát Sjáumst said...

march> thanks - yeah, it was a short-lived limelight but it was bright while it lasted. there are a few guys heading into free agency this summer... I'm hoping that part of the reason the B's didn't make a trade at the deadline is to avoid that big contract coming in. Save the dough and make a serious attempt to sign someone to a 4- or 5-year deal this summer. Hossa and Gaborik come to mind right away.

excellent news on the P-Bs! Hope your getting in to see some of the games.

Also, great point about the Julien/Kessel sub-plot. As I mentioned, there were many positive things to take from the past few weeks.

Go Bs!