Haggerty: Canucks cement villainous reputation


Haggerty: Canucks cement villainous reputation

By Joe Haggerty Bruins InsiderFollow @hackswithhaggs
BOSTON In the words of John McEnroe, the hockey gods cannot be serious!

Can they?

The Vancouver Canucks have become the prat-falling stars of their own sitcom entitled Hockey Players Behaving Badly during the first five games of the Stanley Cup Finals this summer.

In doing so, Alain Vigneaults squad has claimed the mantle as the most reviled team in the NHL.

That said, they also stand just 60 minutes away from the hunched-over Maxim Lapierre, the finger-chompingAlex Burrows, and the self-imagined godfather of modern goaltending technique, Roberto Luongo, celebrating a Stanley Cup win on the TD Garden ice Monday night.

With the demons and ghosts of the Canadiens and Flyers banished for the time being, Luongo jumping for joy at the final buzzer in Boston would be Bruins Nation's worst nightmare come true after his continued jabs at Tim Thomas.

It doesnt seem right and it doesnt seem fair the Canucks could possibly clinch it all in Boston after earning themselves the distinction as theNHL team everybody loves to hate.

But life in the NHL certainly isnt fair, is it?

Burrows has the skill to play on a line with twoof the best hockey players in the world, but he also chose to bite one of the most gentlemanly players in the game in Patrice Bergeron. He's continued his act by flipping and flopping throughout the series, and faking a fallduring a faceoff in Game 5 that led to an embellishment penalty. At least in Burrows' case, the referees have started to catch on to his pestering ways and ignore the head snaps and dives that come far too often.

Lapierre mocked the league and the refs by dangling his gloved fingers in front of Bergerons face in the game following Burrows' bitein Vancouver. That was nothing compared to acting as if his spleen was ruptured in Game 5 followinga love tap from Zdeno Chara behind the Boston net in the second period.

Lapierre was doubled over veering toward the bench while carefully skating right past the refs hoping to garner a call with his thespian histrionics. Once again the refs weren't buying what the Canucks were selling.

Its no coincidence Dallas Stars gritty forward Krys Barch tweeted a rhetorical question earlier in the series: Barch wanted to know ifLapierre had any man in him at all. This from a player with no dog in the fight during the Stanley Cup Finals. In fact, Barch had hisface rearranged by the Bruins during the Boston-Dallas fight night in the regular season.Lapierreis a player ushered out of Montreal because his Habs teammates were tired of his unwillingness to fight his own battles, and that has sullied his rep across the league. Needless to say the referees are on to both Lapierre and Burrows, and none of their odes to adying fish have led to Bruins penalties since early onin the series.

The attitude of the on-ice officials basically confirms much of the reputation the Canucks have earned from national media, fans and those catching their hockey vaudeville act for the first extended viewing this season. The Canucks are the best team in the NHL in terms of stats and talent, but they are possibly the worst when it comes to playing with honor.

But, then again, none of that seems to matter at this point.

The hockey gods have seen fit to make Raffi Torres who clobbered Brent Seabrook with a vicious flying elbow to the head in the first round of the playoffs the game-winning hero in the first Vancouver win.

The biting, diving, despicable Burrows took the honors with the game-winner in the second of the series and the faking, finger-dangling Lapierre, along with the clearly insecure Luongo, took hold as the latest Canucks heroes in the series with Vancouver up 3-2 in the series headed into Game 6 in Boston.

The latest episode in the Vancouver saga hasLuongo -- prone to going for serene walks along the seawall with his headphones on and hoodie tied tight around his head while gettinghis mind rightfor game night -- claiming he has pumped the tires of Tim Thomas throughout the series.Not sure what planet criticizing another goalie in victory counts as pumping people's tires.

"Ive been pumping his tires all series, said Luongo to a group of reporters on Saturday. I havent heard him say anything nice about me.

Apparently Luongo was looking for a pat on the back and an "attaboy" from his rival goaltender after claiming he would have stopped the third period game-winner in Game 5 Friday night. There seems to be a pattern developing: Luongo needs to hear complimentarythings about himself in order to feel comfortable and appreciated in the world of competitive sport.

The insecure need for acceptance and verbal bouquetsbelied Luongo's haughty attitude and his criticisms of Thomas' style and technique.
Luongo's apologists will say his feelings have been hurt because of criticism he's playing too deep in his net. Most would say there's no place for hurt feelings in the Stanley Cup Finals.

This isnt about Hansel and Gretel Sedin for all those looking for a gender-neutral fun pet name for the Vancouver wonder twins failing to man up in a series that's testing their toughness and ability to scrapethrough determined defenders ready to battle.

The Sedins play a clean game aside from a little too much time curled up in the fetal position lying in Thomas crease, and they may still factor into the series.

This isnt about Ryan Kesler, either. The Vancouver center has played courageously through an injury that appeared to be exacerbated by a punishing Johnny Boychuk hit at the beginning of Game 2. He hasnt been the ultimate X-Factorhe was against the Blackhawks and Sharks, but hes still playing hockey the right way.

Its not even about the reprehensible, predatory hit Aaron Rome slapped on Nathan Horton that knocked one of Bostons best players out of the series, and turned the cheap shot defenseman into a Vancouver martyr with Free Rome signs popping up in Vancouver after his four-game suspension.

This is about a small group ofVancouver players that dishonor the game of hockey and have transformed nearly everyone else in the NHL into Boston Bruins fans for another week of Cup Finals games. They are literally despised in many corners of the NHL in what should be a crowning moment for the franchise's first potential Stanley Cup.

The Canucks may win the Cup, and they may even celebrate on the Garden ice Monday. Or they might just crumble like a spineless hockey team visibly afraid to play in a hostile atmosphere on the road.

One thing is certain: Theyll never be able to wipe away the embarrassing stain their on-ice comportment has left across the NHL in the leagues showcase event. That will be the villainous, cowardly legacy of the Canucks, win or lose.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Bruins shuffling the deck looking for answers up front


Bruins shuffling the deck looking for answers up front

BRIGHTON, Mass – It would appear that Bruce Cassidy is ready to start shuffling the deck up front after a slow start to the season.

With the Bruins ranking among the league’s worst both offensively and defensively just a handful of games into the season, they are both introducing a few new forwards to the mix while hoping for full health to a couple of other ones. 

First off, the Bruins appear that they might get David Backes back for Thursday night’s game against the Vancouver Canucks after his bout with diverticulitis, supplying some badly needed size, strength and net-front tenacity on the wing. Patrice Bergeron (lower body) might not be too far behind after going through a full practice wearing a no-contact jersey. The return of No. 37 would help in any number of different areas once he’s good to go, and would have a cascade effect on the rest of the forwards.  


Getting both players back in short order would give the Bruins a toughness around the net that was certainly missing against Malcolm Subban and the Golden Knights, and hasn’t been there consistently this season with No. 37 and No. 42 out of commission.

“[Bergeron] is progressing. In the past we’ve ruled him out ahead of time, but we’re not ruling him out for [Thursday vs. the Canucks]. Backes looks closer to being ready to play,” said Bruce Cassidy. “Some of the games that have gotten away from us, those guys are glue guys that really add that element to us to keep us on the rails without the game getting away. Some nights you just need their offense or some hard defending, and you miss their leadership obviously. They’re all good players, but most of them you know they’re bringing that North/South game and a few good shifts here or there could have got us back on track.

“[Bergeron] is underrated in his ability to get to the front of the net especially with Marchand and Pastrnak on his wings. So we miss that part of it: Getting there on time, making plays and finishing off plays. Backes is just a big body there and you certainly miss that part of it. With Vegas the other night that was one of the biggest things we were missing was getting second chances, shooting for second chances, hitting the net and getting those rebound chances against a team that was harder to get inside on.

A few moves on Wednesday might also suggest some on-the-fly changes with some forwards that haven’t been working out with the Black and Gold. Ryan Spooner suffered a lower-body injury on Sunday night against Vegas, and it sounds like it might not be a short-term injury for the center with just one point in his first five games. Matt Beleskey and Frank Vatrano also haven’t produced much in the first couple of weeks of the season, and could be in danger of losing roster spots to Providence call-ups Kenny Agostino and Peter Cehlarik.  

Both players were late cuts from training camp and were showing the blend of size, strength, skill, experience and production that Boston needs more of as they search for answers among their forward group. Beleskey, Spooner and Vatrano have combined for one point, a minus-6 rating and just 12 shots on net in a combined 14 games this season, so clearly that is one of the first spots to look for upgrading the roster from within.

“[A tryout period] is a good way to put it. We talked about that in training camp when we had a long look at guys, but not Cehlarik because he didn’t get a chance to play [because of shoulder surgery]. He obviously piqued our interest last year and did a lot of good things for us,” said Cassidy, who has been in a state of constant flux putting forward lines together due to injury and ineffectiveness. “We just went in a different direction at the trade deadline, but we brought him up to give him a look. We have a decision tomorrow and I’m not going to say whether [Cehlarik] is in or out.

“He’s really played well in Providence, and we just thought he might be able to help us. Some of it may depend on the health of the other guys as far as who’s in and who’s out. If both Cehlarik and Agostino are both in the lineup there’s a chance [they might play together]. They were with [Riley] Nash today in the middle, and he has some of the same qualities as JFK down in Providence. But until we sort through who’s in for tomorrow, and that starts at the top with Bergeron and Backes, then stuff will fall into place for all of them.”

Depending on how Don Sweeney plays with his 23-roster spots, perhaps the time has come to put one of those players on waivers for a trip to the AHL. Simply based on merit it would be Vatrano and the total nothingness he’s shown in his first four games this season, but there would also be a legitimate concern they’d lose the 23-year-old Massachusetts native on waivers for nothing.

For their part, players like Agostino and Cehlarik ripped up the AHL while teamed with Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson in Providence, and were just looking for their chance to carve out a role in Boston. Now they may get their chance based on others not really grasping their opportunity, and they’re ready if that’s the case.

“It’s encouraging for me, but I’m just taking things day-by-day. I’m not looking past anything and I’m looking in the past. I just take things as they come here,” said Agostino, who leads the Bruins two goals and seven points in three games thus far. “This isn’t my first time [up at the NHL], so I’m just going to do whatever I can to make the best impression possible.”

What if Agostino and Cehlarik, a career AHL player and a former third-round pick, can’t make the impact that the Bruins are looking for?

Hopefully by then the Bruins will at least have their top two lines healthy and firing on all cylinders, and can continue to mix and match things in the bottom six until they find a combination of forwards that work. But it may come to a point where the Bruins need to look outside the organization for an impact forward or two, or at least find somebody that can make an impact on the ice rather than will themselves invisible.

Only Beleskey has been at all effective this season as he’s dropped the gloves and played physical at times, and certainly can still be an effective third or fourth liner with the right players skating alongside him. For those reasons along with the massive contract money still owed him, Beleskey should be given every opportunity to succeed in Boston. But one thing is clear at this point: There is too much dead weight on the Bruins roster right now at the forward position, and something needs to be done about it if they hope to pull themselves out of their early-season funk.   


Groin tear to sideline Bruins' Spooner for four to six weeks


Groin tear to sideline Bruins' Spooner for four to six weeks

The Bruins have absorbed another substantial injury to their forward group with the news that Ryan Spooner will be out 4-6 weeks with a torn groin. According to sources, it was something he was playing with for some time before the right adductor muscle in his groin finally tore in Sunday’s loss to the Vegas Golden Knights.

With Spooner out of the Bruins lineup, there will be challenges to both team speed and to a power play unit that the fast-skating center was a key contributor over the last couple of seasons. Sean Kuraly was centering Tim Schaller and David Backes in Spooner’s absence during Wednesday practice, but it remains to be seen how they’ll go about filling the void for the next couple of months.


“We’re no different than anybody else. We’d like to have our full complement [of players],” said Bruce Cassidy, when addressing the injury situation. “To be healthy and 100 percent in this league is tough, but we’d love to be there.”

Spooner was very clearly slowed by something at the start of the season with just one point and four shots on net in his first five games of the season along with a minus-2 rating, and that’s a tough development for a player like Spooner that relies on his speed and skating for much of his effectiveness at the NHL level. It will be interesting to see if Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson eventually gets a look given his fast start at the AHL Level, and the fact that Spooner is on a one-year deal that may see him playing somewhere other than Boston next season, or perhaps even following this spring’s trade deadline.