Excitement's Bruin


Excitement's Bruin

By Michael Felger

Thanks for sticking around an extra day, folks. I thought it'd be good to get some of your thoughts on Bruins-Canadiens Game 7.

Plus I wanted your reaction to the pass rusher and running back the Patriots were getting in the first round Thursday night.

Oh, wait . . .

Felger,This is unbelievable, They actually won a Game 7. Unfortunately, I don't think Chara played very well at all, but give him credit. He finally, FINALLY, won a Game 7.But how can we be negative today? I'll save that for next week. I didn't think they could win this game. I don't know if they can even win another Game 7 or get past Philly, because Philly is a really good and tough team.I definitely did not think Kelly could play, and I am still shocked how well he's doing. He wasn't this good in the regular season, but for some reason he raised his game and was one of the few players who did, working for the tough junk goals in front. We need more of that, partitcularly from Lucic. Also, how good did Marchand look this series? He may not have the finishing skill, but you have got to love his game.It's been a great week for Claude and the B's. Now let's see where they go from here.DaveWoburn

Players who I think elevated their games in the series:

1. Tim Thomas
2. Dennis Seidenberg
3. Chris Kelley
4. Michael Ryder
5. Andrew Ference

Players who I think maintained their same, strong level of play:

1. Patrice Bergeron
2. Brad Marchand
3. Rich Peverly
4. Marc Recchi
5. The fourth line

I think pretty much everyone else disappointed or underachieved. The worst were Lucic, Kaberle and Krejci.

I'll also give credit to Peter Chiarelli and Claude Julien, respectively, for bringing in Kelly and sticking with him. I certainly didn't get the fascination in the player, but he was huge against Montreal. Score one for the brain trust. At the same time, let's remember it was just one round. If Kelly flames out and the B's get bounced quickly by the Flyers, then what did that signing really accomplish?

And that's the deal across the board. Unfortunately for the B's, as big as the Montreal win was, they are now just reaching the "prove it" stage.

Hey, FelgerDid the Bruins miss on their evaluation of Tomas Kaberle when they acquired him? I see a guy with a lack of intensity and a lack of production on the power play. Has he always played this casual brand of hockey and should the Bruins even attempt to re-sign him? They need more skilled players but this guy doesn't seem to be the right fit!KenWhitman

I have been stunned by Kaberle's game. Horrified. I knew he was a bit overrated when he came over, but I never expected this. He's soft as puppy poo. A liability in his own end. Useless in the corners and along the boards. Only occasionally a factor passing the puck. And, of course, a non-factor on the power play. Did the Bruins miss on this player? Duh. Is that a trick question.

But we can't be hypocrites. I can't think of a single person other than Bob Neumeier (seriously) who didn't like the trade at the time it happened. We all wanted the B's to make the move. We all applauded. It's sort of hard for me to rip it now when I was among those clamoring for it two months ago. We were all wrong.

At least give Julien some credit for recognizing it early in the series and getting his ice time down.

Hey, FelgerYou were spot on the other day when talking about Chara and what he really is. He is an above-average defensemen, nothing more, and yet people in Boston and around the league see him as an elite defensemen like Chris Pronger. He is not really as skilled as people may think. He has terrible puck-handling skills and sometimes I feel like he could be more physical and have more of a presence and a fear for opponents. Not many people in the league fear Chara anymore.I am still very confused on the whole "dehydration" thing. How can a guy in as good of shape as Chara play in a playoff game one night, practice the next morning, and then spend that next day in the hospital for dehydration and miss a crucial playoff game the following day? He wasn't very physical in this series at all, with the exception of a few periods here and there, and some say that he is still feeling sick. Do you think there is more to this story than what people think?Ryan

I think he's still sick. One of the Canadian broadcasts apparently got a shot of him drinking a Coca Cola on the bench during the game. Weird.

But, beyond that, I think a lot of casual fans are just coming to the same realization that many of us who watch this team every day understood a long time ago: Chara just isn't an elite player.

Please note: He doesn't suck. And he's better than what you said. He's more than "above average." He's certainly a very good defensive player in the regular season. He prevents a lot of goals over the course of an 82-game season. His impact has just never translated into the postseason. He was definitely subpar against the Canadiens, including Game 7.

Hey, Felger!Congrats to you and the Bruins on beating Montreal. I want to thank you for rekindling my interest in the Bruins. I lost interest after the OrrPark years and never paid them any mind thereafter. Never saw Neely play, or Bourque for that matter, but I could name every name and number until 1974. But from faithfully listening to your show, my interest has piqued.Now, although my heart doesn't pound out of my chest like yours, I enjoy watching them and have become somewhat knowledgeable about them. I am not a huge fan of Julien and I agree that maybe he's not the coach to bring them to the Cup, but really Mike, this team is not that talented. No snipers, big plodding skaters, decent goalies but realistically this is it for them. If they do get past Philly in the next round, I believe Claude should be commended and probably kept on.I think a lot of fans should take a closer look at who these players are. There is not one top-ten player on this team, not one. Chara should be, but he is -- in my novice eyes -- the most overrated, overpayed player in the league. They have no legitimate first line. Maybe two 2's and a fourth line that sees way too much ice. That is probably the most annoying thing Claude does. So again, I will pick Philly in 6. Hope I am wrong and maybe their goalie situation will haunt them. But unlike Montreal, Philly has lots of talent. Lots.SteveChester NH

Welcome back to hockey, Steve. There's nothing better. And I can't really argue with anything you've said here. I agree the Bruins are not a top team in terms of talent, but I believe they've had enough talent to make the conference finals at least once in the last three years. They should have beaten Carolina two years ago and they obviously should have finished off Philadelphia last year (even though the Flyers were clearly the more talented team by the end of the series). If Julien doesn't do it this year, then I don't know how any one can make the claim that he's taken this team as far as it can possibly go.

If the B's do make the conference finals? Then we have a debate on our hands. I think we'd have to see how it ends.

Felger,You may call it inept; I call it genius. I hacked into Claude Julien's e-mail today and found this diagram he mandated on the team and assistant coaches. Believe it! He's got some tricks up his sleeve, as evidenced by Wednesday's nutty power-play performance. DO NOT, under any circumstances, SHOW THIS TO PHILADELPHIA. It may be the difference in the next series.Thanks,Dabs

I think I recognize Kaberle in there.

Felger You DB!How sweet is it to watch the B's send the Habs home in sufficiently soul-crushing fashion? Almost as sweet as being one of only three teams in the last three years to make it to the NHL conference semifinals. I smell a Dynasty! WOOOOOOO!In all seriousness, that was an awesome victory, and as a Bruins fan I couldn't be happier. Montreal had the full weasel actually backfire on them when Hamrlik pulled a Kovalev while Chris Kelly continued his role as Bruins playoff janitor and swept another clutch goal in from the crease. And just when Habs fans got their hopes up, Horton crapped in their crepes and crushed their hopes and dreams in OT. And forevermore, Andrew Ference's unintentional bird will not only stand as an iconic representation of black and gold defiance but has also supplanted the proctologist's finger as the most reviled digit in the province of Quebec. Make no mistake Mikey, this loss will not be erased from the Francophone subconscious like a Pacioretty tweet about Marchmont's nozzle (And holy crap did you see Ryan White up close? He looks like the genetic fallout of a Lyle Odelein tryst with Joba Chamberlain's Mom!) The not-so-delicious taste of this defeat will linger in Montreal for some time. Now we turn our eyes to the dirty unwashed hive of scum and villainy that is Philadelphia. The failings and pain of 2010 can be erased with a win in the next series. But it will take an even greater effort because unlike Les Habitants, Philly doesn't shy away from physical conflict. They embrace it, escalate it and use it to cross the line. All with a comparable skill level that let the Canadiens last seven games. Now Philly's penchant for soft goals and the resulting netminder roulette could be a series-losing flaw. But the Bruins will have to finish their chances. The first line will have to live up to their billing. Tomas Kaberle will have to become the player this team traded for and not someone his D partner will have to babysit every time the puck ends up in the Bruins defensive zone. And, obviously, the power play will have to do something. 0-for-21 is not a good look. Don't get me wrong, Mike. I am still not satisfied with a lot of aspects of this team, its management or its decisions. My head says they probably won't be able to compete skill wise going forward. But my heart says that this team just might have enough balls, grit and luck to do something special. And just think, we may look back and realize it all started with one not so errant finger. History will be made. MikeAttleboro

The thing is, Ference's gesture is actually a term of endearment to the folks of Philadelphia. He's going to have to dig a lot deeper if he wants to insult those people.

Mike,I know how you hate the NBA for the apparent bias the refs have for the home teams and the effect it obviously has on the outcome of games. But who were the two refs in Game 6 in Montreal? Dick Bavetta and Joey Crawford? Both Montreal goals 5-on-3!?!?Then all you hear is some people saying you can't complain about the officials. Horton's slash in Game 6 was the worst call maybe ever! Because he stick-checked the puck free for a breakaway, the ref blew the whistle. Yeah, no impact on the game! Net penalty time: Bruins 25, Montreal 6. So the B's had 35 minutes to win the game vs. 54 minutes for Flying F-Men!It's like being pulled over for rolling through a stop sign and the cop planting drugs in the car and getting a 10-year sentence. Then when the victim complains about getting 10 years for going through a stop sign, others say stop complaining that had nothing to do with it.DanChicopee, MA

I was among those who felt the officiating, as infuriating as it was in Game 6, did not impact the final score in that game. Remember, the refs gave you a huge gift in the first period by waving off that Tim Thomas muff. I thought that game was more about the B's lack of finishing touch than anything else.

But I feel differently about Game 7. I think referees Tim Peel and Kelly Sutherland were a disgrace. An utter embarrassment. Jobs are on the line. Reputations are at stake. It's a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Freaking playoffs, and they're going to call penalties like the Ryder "hook" and Thornton elbow in the first period? They're going to nail Boychuk for boarding in the second period because the hit made a loud noise? And they're going to buy Wisniewski's fake head snap on Bergeron's high stick? Pathetic. I was surprised. I thought the league would assign refs to the game who knew better, but I was wrong.

Hey guys, I'm not sure if you've heard about the Canadiens. They fake. They dive. Didn't you know you were getting a team in full weasel-mode? Has no one mentioned this to you?

The fact that the Peel and Sutherland would take the cheese in a game so important is simply atrocious.

Hey Felger,As your talk-show call-in lines burn up with people wanting to oust the ClaudeChiarelli two-seater bicycle trip to nowhere and have Neely bring in his "own" guys, how can we have faith that Neely is going to bring in the right people? If were assuming Cams going to hire Don Sweeney as GM and whatever ex-Bruin teammate as coach du jour (Ted Donato? Rosie Ruzicka? Glen Featherstone?) to man the bench, let me ask this: what does Cam or Don Sweeney know about building a winner? Those guys never won anything in their careers and essentially had an apprenticeship at the Harry Sinden school of management. If JJ in Buffalo was paying attention he would have brought in Steve Yzerman from Detroits management team last year and given him the reigns. Yzerman has seen the inner workings of what it takes to build a winner from both the ice and the executive box. Now that Yzerman is no longer out there Id have JJ order Cam to pick an architect from either Detroit or Pittsburghs stable and let them start building a winner. You have said yourself that it's in the Bruins DNA to not get over the humpchoke in big gamessuck, so isnt it time to go outside of their gene pool and pluck a stud from a winner to start building a new generation of a team that might actually win something?Keep on Truckin,Marc

Sounds like a plan, Marc. By the way, I agree with your assessment of NeelySweeney, etc. There's no guarantee they know "what it takes." But you can also say the same thing about Chiarelli and Julien -- and they've been at this for four years now. So at least we have an idea of their ceiling. I mean, what have they ever won? At least Neely played in a couple of Cup finals. I think there's a chance Neely could get it right. That's all it is. A chance. But let's see what happens the rest of the way here.

Felger,I'm an ardent supporter of yours, so after Saturday night's win by the B's (Game 5), I figured that you would be the one to NOT anoint Timmy as the GREAT SAVIOR. I'm sick and tired of the fan boys in the media consistently giving Timmy every benefit of the doubt, while completely ignoring his obvious shortcomings and failures.1. Ryder saves his ass: Michael Ryder comes out of nowhere to make a glove save in the first period when Thomas was flopping around on his belly for no reason whatsoever. Another example of Timmy being out of position . . . not an unusual occurrence.2. In the third period, just before the Canadiens goal, Timmy can't catch a soft liner right at his chest, causing a massive scramble in front of the net. Eventually the Bruins cover up and they get a faceoff in the zone. Ten seconds later, Halpern puts the puck in the net. If you watch the replay though, where was Timmy on that one? The puck was behind the net, and got centered to Halpern. Timmy is falling FORWARD as Halpern easily shoots it by him. Out of position, once again.3. First overtime: Plekanic takes the puck down the left wing, angling towards the net. As he gets near the goal line, Timmy flops on his back, and Plekanec slides the puck past him to Gionta who fires a shot that just so happens to hit Bergeron in the ass and then Chara's skate and goes wide.Why is everyone ignoring these instances??? If I'm Jacques Martin, I'm telling my players to shoot for Timmy's chest or for his pads, because either way you are getting a rebound. Timmy can't catch the puck to save his life, and he is giving up rebounds off of his pads left and right.Was his save in the second overtime a good one? Yes. Was it the save of the century? No. Tuukka's save against Buffalo in overtime in Game 5 last year was much more spectacular. Timmy got lucky . . . if it weren't for Ryder, and Bergeron's ass and Chara's skate, the Bruins lose that game.Now go out and tell it like it is . . . and don't be a Fluto fan boy.Mike

Okay, Mike. Here's the straight shot: Thomas did a good job in against Montreal. He didn't allow a bad goal after Game 4 -- and I'm including the Halpern goal in Game 5. Are you nuts? That was on Thomas?

You know me, Mike. I've never been a huge Thomas guy. But facts are facts. The only thing that matters is doing the job at this time of year -- and Thomas is doing the job.

Hey, FelgerWhat is the fascination by Claude and all the Black-and-Gold, Footie-Panjama-Wearing Media Guys (cough, Haggs, cough) in suiting up Thornton on a nightly basis over Seguin?If there is one Achilles heel to this team, its the power play. You mean to tell me Seguin couldn't help that?I understand the defensive liability argument, but Claude keeps rolling Kaberle, who is much more as a defensive liability, as a defenseman, out there.I rest my case.KQuincy

I like it, K. In Game 6 (a 2-1 loss in Montreal), Thornton played a grand total of 2:27 on four shifts. The Bruins went 0-for-4 on the man-advantage in the game. They scored a grand total of one goal. It's hard to make the argument that Thornton made more sense that Seguin in a game like that.

Maybe it will change in Round 2 but I'm not holding my breath.

But you know me. I'm easily confused. I was under the impression the Pats were trading up last night.

Felger's weekly column appears Mondays. E-mail him HERE and read the mailbag every Thursday (unless the Bruins play Montreal in a Game 7 the previous Wednesday). Listen to him on the radio weekdays, 2-6 p.m. on 98.5 the Sports Hub.

Morning Skate: Issues with gambling and Vegas Golden Knights?


Morning Skate: Issues with gambling and Vegas Golden Knights?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while still in disbelief at what happened to Gordon Hayward last night.

*Interesting piece on the connection between gambling and the NHL in Las Vegas where they’ve just kicked their new expansion franchise, the Vegas Golden Knights.

*Would you like a Providence Bruins game-worn jersey and give to a great cause at the same time? Here are the Pink the Rink Bruins jerseys up for auction on eBay with the money earmarked for cancer research and treatment.

*Some interesting stuff from FOH (Friend of Haggs) Elliotte Friedman in his 30 Thoughts about the start that Malcolm Subban is off to with the Vegas Golden Knights and whether that’s in any way a reflection on the way goalies are being developed with the Bruins.

*So, the Ottawa Senators clearly didn’t miss Erik Karlsson given the start that they got off to, but there’s no doubt hockey fans did as he makes his return from offseason surgery.

*Nikita Kucherov just keeps on improving for the Tampa Bay Lightning after a Hart Trophy-level season last year.

*For something completely different: I don’t understand why there’s anything controversial about somebody saying In ‘N Out Burger is overrated. While it’s a perfectly fine West Coast fast food chain, it is absolutely overrated at this point. The fries are average at best, and the burgers are merely okay compared to all of the other burger joints out there.  



Inconsistent Bruins hope to settle in at home


Inconsistent Bruins hope to settle in at home

BRIGHTON -- The Bruins' actual 2-3-0 won-loss record isn’t particularly terrible, especially when you consider they were without Patrice Bergeron and David Backes.

But they've been wildly inconsistent within those first five games, playing a couple of very good games against the Predators and Coyotes while suffering three ugly, non-competitive losses to Colorado and Vegas. The Bruins are 20th in goals scored (2.8 goals per game) and 22nd in goals allowed (3.6), and their special teams have been average at best in a soft part of the schedule that should have allowed them to get off to a good start.

The Bruins have looked sloppy much of the time with chaotic breakouts, far too many breakdowns in defensive coverage, and goaltending has been average at best.

As a result they're scuffling in the Atlantic Division as the Lightning and Maple Leafs have sprinted out to strong starts. Clearly it’s still early -- nearly the entire season is in front of them -- but there’s also no illusion about the need for a quick turnaround in what’s going to be a competitive division.

That's why the next four games, all at TD Garden, are so important.

“We’ve been inconsistent in our game. We’ve been good and we’ve been not good, so hopefully being home will allow us to get back into form,” said coach Bruce Cassidy. “We knew going in with a youth movement that we’d had some ups and downs. We’ve had both. We’ve had some really strong games and we’ve had some other games where there’s a learning curve.

“As good as [our] prospects are, it falls on the core group to be solid and consistent every night. Then you lose a bit of your core group [to injuries] and you need your support players that aren’t your core group -- but aren’t kids, either -- to contribute. So we’re battling through all of that, and it’s up to us to put in a game plan that gets us through it. We haven’t achieved the level we’d like. We aren’t hiding behind that. We’d like to be better than we are right now, and we’re facing it head on every day.”

Clearly there are plenty of players in the “support player” category referenced by Cassidy who haven’t performed to date, and that also explains some of the Bruins consistency issues. Matt Beleskey, Ryan Spooner, Frank Vatrano and Riley Nash have a combined two assists and a combined minus-5 rating through those first five games, and are among the players that need to step up and perform if the Bruins are going to start achieving the consistency that Cassidy is actively seeking right now.