Notes: Debunking Horton hit conspiracy theories


Notes: Debunking Horton hit conspiracy theories

By JoeHaggerty

BOSTON Theres an assumption out there thats taking root as fact when it comes to the escalation of nastiness in the Stanley Cup Final, and its totally misdirected.

Many pundits and fans have tried to take the Alexandre Burrows biting episode in Game 1 and the dangling Maxim Lapierre fingers in Game 2 into episodes that led directly to the Aaron Rome cheap shot on Nathan Horton in Game 3.

Of course there were Bruins front office folks and players that wanted a suspension for Burrows after he nibbled on Patrice Bergerons right index finger, and the Bs have wanted to completely pummel Lapierre since he was a flopping, irritating turtle with the Canadiens. Vancouver's dirt-bag duo was in the wrong for targeting the picture of hockey dignity in Bergeron after the whistle in each of the first two games, but Bergeron and the Bruins are more than capable of fighting back in that battle.

They did just that in Game 3, with Milan Lucic and Mark Recchi enjoying their get-even moments against the Vancouver rascals before a tongue-lashing from Claude Julien put them in their place.

But there's no correlation between the post-whistle shenanigans practiced by the Bruins and Canucks in the first three games of the series, and the predatory, reckless hit by Rome thats ended Hortons season. Its a major leap to say the Horton hit was caused by anything else other than a random act of violence in the playoffs that has left another Bs player dazed, confused and unsure of where he is.

Julien won't take that leap. He's watched years and years of playoff hockey where borderline hits, broken bones and even biting all have their place within the game.

I don't think one links to the other," said Julien. "What you see with the extra pushes and shoves after whistles are things you see in the playoff finals with the intensity. The referees have done a pretty good job of controlling that. I don't see an issue there. The physicality of the game has to stay there.

"I think what they ruled on is hits. Both teams, which I respect for doing that, said it was a late hit and Horton ended up with a severe concussion. Whether they agree with the suspension or not, I think we're both on the same page as far as we're trying to take those kinds of things out of the game. I've been one of those guys that has been very supportive of that throughout the whole year, even when it was our player Daniel Paille that got suspended. As I said, we're trying to get this out of the game. You can't be hypocritical about those kinds of things and that's what I'm trying to do here.

Unfortunately the Bruins have once again lost in the extracurricular battle with Vancouver, as the trade ends up being one of their most clutch goal scorers for a depth defenseman who was never a big factor for the Canucks.

Despite that, there wont be any violent retribution from the Bruins after the NHL dropped in and handed out the suspension that nobody thought it would.

The referees have been instructed to hand out two-minute minors and 10-minute misconducts for the next player that starts engaging in finger play. Coupled with a stricter line of discipline, the series should get back on track, stopping the conspiracy theorists from trying to piece everything together as they would a ham-handed X-Files episode.

One day after Shawn Thorntons big five-minute splash into the Stanley Cup Final, Julien was still raving about the impact that the Bs enforcer had on the lineup. Clearly Thornton brought some attitude and bad man swagger that had been missing, but he also created good situations for Boston with his opportunistic offense and energetic shifts. Thornton drew a hooking penalty on Jeff Tambellini that led to Bostons second goal in the exact kind of unsung contribution he provided all season.

"I thought it was important to get Shawn into our lineup, said Julien. I really commend him for the job he did yesterday. He certainly changed things a lot as far as our identity, what he brought to the table. People can look at him for his aggressiveness, but he also created that penalty that led to a goal on our power-play. He did his job and he did it well.

The ice surface at TD Garden is notoriously choppy, and its been even worse than usual as the Bs are playing at the latest point in franchise history. Boston has never played into June's steamy temperatures before, and as a result, both teams will be dealing with a bouncing, wild puck Wednesday night.

It gets hot in the arena, said Michael Ryder. I think Game 4 is supposed to be really hot, too. So both teams have to play with it. You just got to make sure you make smart decisions with the puck and keep things simple. Like I said, both teams have to play with it, so you're going to get weird bounces sometimes, pucks hopping over sticks. You have to make sure you stay strong and make smart plays.

Claude Julien said that the decision to leave the Bruins 1980s Starter-style jacket in Hortons locker after Game 3 came from his players, and he agreed wholeheartedly with their choice.

He's the one that had the jacket before and he wasn't there to give it out. We just let him keep it there, you know, said Ryder. It wasn't right for someone else to give it out when he had it the last time. We all talked about it, so it was everybody.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at 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.   


Bruins lose Ryan Spooner for 4-6 weeks with a groin tear


Bruins lose Ryan Spooner for 4-6 weeks with a groin tear

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.