Morning Skate: The Force is with these Star Wars picks

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Morning Skate: The Force is with these Star Wars picks

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while giving my two cents on the Last Jedi. There were some things I really, really liked about it. The action was well-done, it looked beautiful and there were some very cool surprises along the way. That’s as good as Mark Hamill has ever been playing Luke Skywalker, and I bought everything involving him. Rey continues to be a very strong character at the heart of the new movies. I even liked the Porgs. It definitely felt like a Star Wars movie in a way that the prequels absolutely did not, and so that’s a very good thing to start.

But some of the explanations and non-answers to burning questions from Star Wars fans was midichlorian-level disappointing, and the character of Rose is bound to become one of the most disliked since Jar Jar Binks. I just didn’t see much of a reason for her being in the story. The parts with her and Finn felt pretty unnecessary in general. There were a lot of attempts at humor throughout with some hits and some misses, and it feels like they didn’t learn any lessons from the way they under-utilized Captain Phasma in the Force Awakens.

All in all, as I said I mostly liked it and I think it will age well as people get used to some of the really eccentric choices Rian Johnson made with his 2 1/2 hours of storytelling. But I also understand why so many people straight up didn’t like it, or feel like the people controlling Lucasfilm are taking Star Wars in a path that’s making the things they originally fell in love with much less recognizable. It doesn’t surprise me at all that Kathleen Kennedy really pushed for one scene with Princess Leia that people have very mixed feelings about. That doesn’t really speak to me about what’s best for the story or the fans as much as it does about self-indulgence. If they go too far away from what people love about these movies, the diehard fans will end up walking away.

Here are my new rankings of the Star Wars movies including the Last Jedi:

1) Empire Strikes Back (accept no imitations, the GOAT).

2) A New Hope (The original will always be where the magic started)

3) Return of the Jedi (I just wish the Ewoks would have been Wookiees)

4) The Force Awakens (This had to be letter-perfect and it was)

5) The Last Jedi (The great sections of this movie make it worthwhile)

6) Rogue One (Proof there is life outside the Skywalker saga)

7) Revenge of the Sith (They should have titled it ‘Best of the Prequels’)

8) Phantom Menace (Worth it for the Pod race scene & the duel with Darth Maul)

9) Attack of the Clones (Some of the worst acting/dialogue in Star Wars history)

 *Speaking of Star Wars and hockey, kudos to this fan-created Bruins and Star Wars: The Last Jedi poster, and an interview with the biggest Star Wars fan that I know of on the Bruins, Brad Marchand.

*Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk says that the Sens franchise “could look good somewhere else.” How is that not supposed to aggravate Senators fans that are already on the fence about this struggling team?

*A great speech from former BU standout Scott Young as he was inducted into the US Hockey Hall of Fame this past week.

*Vegas Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant reflects on his “disappointing” end with the Florida Panthers when he was unceremoniously fired.

*Jordan Eberle is adjusting to New York life both on and off the ice, and it’s fair to say it’s quite a departure from Edmonton living.

*For something completely different: What a bizarre, sordid story with the wife of Lorenzen Wright reportedly mixed up in the death of the former NBA player.


 

Cassidy takes issue with no 'third man in' call

Cassidy takes issue with no 'third man in' call

BOSTON – Brad Marchand understands the rabble-rousing game as much as anybody at the NHL level.

So, the Bruins left winger isn’t going to be the one to complain when somebody begins targeting him with the same kind of borderline hits and rough-edged play that he doles out on a regular basis. That was the case again in the 5-3 loss to the Washington Capitals on Thursday night at TD Garden.

MORE BRUINS:

“That’s his game. I mean, [Tom Wilson] plays that way, and he’s effective at it, so, you know, that’s what’s got him a job in the NHL and continues to allow him to play,” said Marchand. “Again, you know, he’s effective at what he does.”

Marchand finished with a point and a minus-2 and was once again bumped and knocked around by the bigger, stronger Capitals team that knocked him out of the lineup with a high hit from Wilson more than a month ago.

Once again the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Wilson was at the heart of the proceedings in this one as he jumped on the back of Marchand, and caused the B’s winger to slam the back of his head into the boards after he’d already squared off with Dmitry Orlov following a whistle. Both Marchand and Orlov were understandably whistled for matching cross-checking penalties at the end of the second period, but Wilson got away completely free despite clearly jumping in as the third guy into the fracas.

Compare that with the lame third man in/instigator call against Jake DeBrusk last week when he stepped up to defend a teammate the proper way and it’s no surprise Bruce Cassidy was a little miffed at the officiating after the game Thursday.

“I voiced my opinion at the end of the period. I think it’s wrong. And to me, to just put two guys in the box in that situation, when a third guy comes in there should have been an additional call,” said Cassidy. “That’s the way I felt about it. They didn’t see it that way. Cleary two guys, [Dimitry] Orlov and

Marchy [Brad Marchand] was battling and for him to come in is unnecessary to say the least in that situation. Their job is to police it on the ice. In that particular instance, that’s the way they saw it. That’s the way it went.”

Of greater concern to the Bruins should be Wilson continuing to target Marchand in plays that result in smacking his head into the boards and putting him in danger of another head injury after he’s already been in the concussion protocol twice this season. Nobody from the Bruins stepped up to Wilson in the third period after pulling that stunt with No. 63. The feeling at this address is that it’s going to continue happening with Marchand until somebody decides they’re going to protect Boston’s star player. 

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Haggerty: Crank up the Hart Trophy talk again for Marchand

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Haggerty: Crank up the Hart Trophy talk again for Marchand

Here’s what we learned in the Bruins' 3-2 overtime win over the Detroit Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena on Wednesday night:

1) Brad Marchand is putting together a Hart Trophy resume for the second consecutive season. 
Clearly, the numbers are impressive with 12 goals, 25 points and a plus-12 rating in just 20 games. He’s on pace for 44 goals and 93 points in an era when you just don’t see that kind of production much anymore. Still, it’s the time and the place where Marchand exerts his dominance that makes him an MVP-type force. That’s exactly what happened in the come-from-behind win. The Bruins hadn’t played well for the first 40 minutes and it looked like they were going to lose after Dylan Larkin struck for a shorthanded goal in the third period. That’s when Marchand got to work snapping a slick, cross-ice pass through three Detroit defenders to set up David Pastrnak’s tying goal with the goalie pulled. Then Marchand scored on a backhanded breakaway less than a minute into OT to steal two points for the B's. Of course, there were others to credit: Pastrnak was able to put a great finish on the one-timer, David Backes attracted attention in front of the net to create the passing seam and Torey Krug freed up Marchand for the breakaway winner. But it was No. 63 again at the center of everything who practically willed the Black and Gold to victory. That’s the kind of thing that MVP-type players do throughout the season when it’s badly needed.

2) Bruins found a way to get two points in a game where really they didn't deserve it. 
The Bruins didn’t play well at all, didn’t react very adeptly to Detroit's trapping them and had a difficult time generating anything consistently in the offensive zone until the third period. Tuukka Rask kept them in the game and the Bruins finally began paying the price to get closer to the net in the third and overtime. Good teams find a way to win, and that’s what the Bruins did against a Red Wings team that’s not going anywhere this season. So, with their ninth victory in the past 11 tries, the Bruins are now firmly in a playoff spot in the Atlantic Division and have a four-point lead over the Montreal Canadiens with a whopping four games in hand against the Habs right now. If the Bruins can avoid monumentally stubbing their toe here, they are in a very good position to keep it in cruise control after the holidays for a postseason spot.

3)  I didn’t think people from Detroit were afraid of anything.
Apparently, I’ve given them way too much credit. Apparently, they’re afraid of a little snow. The downtown Detroit area got six inches of snow on Wednesday and that was enough to keep Red Wings fans away from the new Little Caesars Arena. When you’re from New England, six inches of snow is considered a dusting and isn’t something that would keep any self-respecting hardcore hockey fan away. But anybody who watched the "Wednesday Night Rivalry Game" on NBCSN got an eyeful of empty red seats in the lower bowl at LCA that made Detroit look like anything but HockeyTown. Skipping the game would be understandable if the Motor City was truly in the thrall of a nasty blizzard, but instead Wings fans looked like a player turtling in a hockey fight with the sad attendance. Weak sauce, in my opinion. Next time just shut down the entire city and cancel everything when an inch or two is in the forecast. 

PLUS
*Marchand was the money player. He set up the tying goal in the third period with a slick cross-ice, threaded pass through three defenders, and then scoring the winner. In all, he had two points, a plus-1 and a couple of gigantic plays in his 22-plus minutes of ice time.

*Torey Krug finished with two assists and a plus-1 rating in a whopping 23:39 of ice time. It was No. 47 who threaded the needle on a pass that freed up Marchand for the winner. Krug and Marchand were the only two multi-point performers for the Black and Gold.

*Noel Acciari didn’t pile up the hits and he only played 10:50 of ice time, but he made a huge play in the third period when he disrupted the Detroit breakout on a Wings face-off win in the D-zone. He was rewarded with a loose puck goal in front of the net right after causing the turnover. That shift from the fourth line really started shifting the game in Boston’s direction.

MINUS
*The Bruins had two shots on net in the first period and had just one decent scoring chance in the first 40 minutes (a Pastrnak breakaway in the second period) while playing right into the hands of the trap-happy Wings. The Bruins deserved to lose this game based on the way they played early, but a few individuals ended up saving their bacon.

*One shot on net and a minus-3 rating for Henrik Zetterberg, who was mostly invisible aside from a PP assist to Tomas Tatar early in the game. Zetterberg was on the ice for every goal scored by the Bruins and was grossly negligent on at least one of them.

*The refs bungled a call on Patrice Bergeron that directly set up the Wings first goal. Bergeron was clearly tripped by Frans Nielsen in the second period and Nielsen then stumbled over Bergeron’s stick as No. 37 was trying to lift himself up off the ice after falling due to the original tripping infraction. Instead, the refs merely saw the end of the play, called Bergeron for a bogus tripping call and that turned into a PP score for Tomas Tatar that broke the game open. You’d really expect a player such as Bergeron to get the benefit of the doubt on plays like that, wouldn’t you?