Yet again, our intrepid scribes set aside their quills to chew on the week's top news from around the NHL.
MONTREAL -- In the coaching realm, when an organization hits the reset button, invariably it hires what it hasn't had: a players' coach is succeeded by a disciplinarian; a prison warden replaces a country club social director; Mr. Yin yields to Mr. Yang. But the storied Montreal Canadiens, who sashay down Ste. Catherine St. to a beat sometimes only they can hear, have extended one of sport's governing principles to the front office.
NEW YORK -- Thanks to a defense-turned-offense that was unexpected and timely goaltending that was presumed, the New York Rangers are alive to play another game, the remaining top-seeded team after a first round of playoffs that cleared out a number of favorites and left eight fortunate and resilient survivors.
It had been the closest series in NHL playoff history coming in, so did we already know that Wednesday's Game 7 between the Washington Capitals and Boston Bruins would go to overtime? Yup.
Whether it was Henrik Lundqvist shaking with anger at the final horn, Chris Neil barking through his 7-10 split teeth, John Tortorella clearly mouthing one of George Carlin's seven words you can't say on TV or Paul MacLean heatedly saying ... something ... through that Wilford Brimley mustache, everyone it seems got their two cents in to the referees during the Rangers' 3-2 stayin'-alive win over the Senators at Scotiabank Place.
NEW YORK -- They didn't look all that different Saturday night, those Senators and Rangers. Both teams, backed by solid goaltending, undermined by impotent power plays, looked for any edge in a 2-2 series, however thin it might be. And in the end, it was Ottawa that found it, defeating top-seeded New York, 2-0, in Game 5 at Madison Square Garden.
Zdeno Chara looked like the hapless extra in a Steven Seagal movie fight, Patrice Bergeron was playing with an "upper-body injury" that could have been a concussion, Brad Marchand had a bloodied mouth from a miscalculated Fosbury Flop and Tim Thomas looked just, well, pooped.
1 Craig Anderson, Senators -- The formula's pretty simple. For a No. 8 seed to even entertain the thought of rousting the top seed from the playoffs, it needs some clutch scoring, contributions from an unsung hero and some Ronnie Biggs-type thievery between the pipes. The Senators got all three tonight, including a pair of goals from Jason Spezza -- his first in the series -- and a stellar debut from Mark Stone, the Team Canada World Junior star who made the most of his chance with a physical presence and a slick pass to set up Spezza's game-winner.
It was a reverse-jinx theory that even some of the most superstitious types had finally abandoned, even as the playoffs began. The theory: Maybe it was the best thing for the Washington Capitals to enter the playoffs as a low seed this time around. No more "If this team doesn't win a Cup, the whole season will be a bust" beast of a burden expectations-wise.
A hockey coach by the name of Bowman once told me -- and I'm paraphrasing here: "The best games of a playoff series almost always come at the very beginning and very end. The middle games, both teams get a little tired, take a little bit of a breather, especially the team up in the series."
This wasn't exactly the way the Ottawa Senators had game-planned it.
Hey Boston and Washington, what took you so long? Welcome, finally, to the Postseason of Hate.
NEW YORK -- Before this first-round series began, the Rangers and Senators shared essentially nothing. No playoff history to speak of, no lingering animosity from years past, no bitter memories of defeat or grudges to be evened. But in 61 minutes and 17 seconds, all of that changed, and the eventful first chapter of the Rangers-Senators saga was written on the ice of Madison Square Garden Saturday night.
NEW YORK -- It would barely warrant an entry in the legendary log of exchanges New York head coach John Tortorella has shared with reporters. But Thursday morning, just hours before his Rangers would open the playoffs against the Ottawa Senators as Eastern Conference favorites for the first time since 1994, the oft-irascible coach discussed his team's mindset going in as the Conference's top seed.
Season series: Senators win, 3-1
Regular season series: Capitals win, 3-1
In the misspent days of my television-watching youth in the 1950s -- this is so long ago that the remote control consisted of getting off the couch, crossing the room and turning the dial to one of the five other channels -- my favorite show was the after-school classic, The Mickey Mouse Club. (This Disney reference is only tangential to hockey, unlike Wayne Gretzky's 1984 off-the-cuff assessment of the Devils as a Mickey Mouse organization, and, of course, the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, but please stick with me.) The show's best day was Wednesday, known as Anything Can Happen Day. It's a memory, like Proust's madeleine, that flooded over me like hot Zamboni water recently during a chat with Predators coach Barry Trotz.
Let's be frank. The playoff races lacked drama this year. I blame too many three-point games. They cause too much head-scratching by fans over whether a bubble team actually has a shot to make it. Nobody wants to feel like they're back in Algebra II class again, trying to figure out if Team X loses -- but gets a point in overtime or a shootout -- do you have to root for Team Y to lose in regulation?
The ballots came on Thursday. Well, not real ballots. Like almost everything else that used to be on paper, the NHL awards that the Professional Hockey Writers' Association votes on are now part of the digital realm.
MONTREAL -- The circus finally left town.
This is a short story about the world's longest Band-Aid.
The history of the coaching change can be summarized, roughly, like this: bad cop followed by good cop, players' coach followed by a disciplinarian, yin followed by yang. Running a franchise is a little like life in that way. General managers, like the rest of us, invariably seem to want precisely what they don't have.
MONTREAL (AP) -- Montreal Canadiens great Jean Beliveau had a stroke for the second time in two years and is being treated at a hospital.
How bad has it gotten for the Montreal Canadiens? Well, in Tuesday's must-have, bounce-back game -- after a dismal performance last Sunday in a 3-1 home loss to the New Jersey Devils -- the Habs came out flat, again on home ice.
VANCOUVER -- British Columbia is still beautiful, as one February walk through its largest city confirms. No burning cars, no broken store windows, no police officers with billy clubs held high, no foolish young men flexing phony muscles for pictures that probably will put some of them behind bars.
Opposed to what he called the "out of control" growth of the federal government, Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas declined an invitation to join his teammates at the White House on Monday.
You get plenty of correspondence in this business, and my natural guilt complex makes me always want to give at least a sentence or two in reply. You take the time to write, I'll take the time to respond, even to the haters. Of course, when I blow up and become world famous (any day now, any day) that might change.
(Montreal) -- Listening to Montreal Canadiens general manager Pierre Gauthier speak is like reading the front page of The New York Times aloud. Publicly, he refers to defenseman Josh Gorges, who he signed this week to a six-year extension worth an average of $3.9 million annually, as Mr. Gorges. He calls Randy Cunneyworth, his interim coach, Mr. Cunneyworth. Whenever he mentions Andrei Markov, his injured star defenseman, it is invariably Mr. Markov or M. Markov, depending on the language of the question.
1. Sidney Crosby and the concussion epidemic. There are many years when you could argue that Crosby has been the focal point of hockey. This is another of those years, unfortunately for less than sanguine reasons. The Penguins' captain bracketed 2011 from Day 1 until the December reoccurrence of his concussion symptoms that have made this something other than a Merry Christmas season.
Mike Milbury, a former National Hockey League player, coach and executive, is accused of assault and battery on a child stemming from an incident at a youth hockey game.
Like Matt Damon and Bill Gates, Louis Leblanc dropped out of Harvard.
The grand old man of the NHL's Southeast Division is now Guy Boucher, who is all of 40. The comparatively grizzled X-and-O maven of the Tampa Bay Lightning has been behind the bench for all of one season and a quarter, which makes him the longest-tenured coach in this wacky division. Gee, 100-plus games. Or as they say in the frenetic Southeast, from here to eternity.
It's been a long time since we've seen an open ice hit on a goalie like the one Boston's Milan Lucic delivered to level Buffalo's Ryan Miller on Saturday. That's a good thing. Goaltenders are too immobile, and thus vulnerable, when ambling out to play the puck. Rule 69.4 allows for contact -- but only as long as it is incidental while the goalie is in the act of playing the puck. Lucic turned it into a puck optional play and decided to take a direct line at Miller instead.
OTTAWA -- The first question asked of Paul MacLean at the press conference announcing him as the foundering Senators' fifth coach in the past four years was: How long have you had that mustache?
The Boston Bruins knew that they were in for a tough challenge turning their Stanley Cup championship into a strong start to the 2011-12 regular season. Proof of the unfortunately dubbed "Stanley Cup Hangover" was staring at them in form of the 2010 Cup-winning Chicago Blackhawks who struggled all of last season before making the playoffs on the final day when the Dallas Stars lost. So the awareness was there for the coaching staff and the Bruins organization as a whole.
OTTAWA (AP) -- Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson will miss Ottawa's game at Carolina because of an undisclosed injury.
MORE DIVISIONS: Atlantic | Southeast | Central | Northwest | Pacific
MORE DIVISION PREVIEWS: Northeast | Atlantic | Central | Northwest | Pacific
"What did you do on your summer vacation?"
SI.com asked several current and retired SI writers to offer reflections on the best team they ever covered as sports journalists. Here's Michael Farber on the 1988-89 Montreal Canadiens:
Growing up, Brian Burke and his nine siblings had to come to the dinner table not just with their appetites but a new word. It had to be defined and used in a sentence before everyone could break bread.
Boston Bruins stories in the SI Vault
The rest of the country must be sick of us in Boston. We have all the champions. We have all the trophies. Sorry. No brag, just fact.
The pictures from downtown of the aftermath of their Game 7 defeat showed only too well the kind of pressure, the kind of all-encompassing attention the Vancouver Canucks faced in these Stanley Cup playoffs.
Again. That feeling. You, the Canucks fan, should have been expecting it. There on the ice at Rogers Arena the Boston Bruins were passing the Stanley Cup: Zdeno Chara to Mark Recchi to Patrice Bergeron, each of them letting out a "YEAAAAH!"
The Boston Bruins won their first Stanley Cup in 39 years, defeating the Vancouver Canucks 4-0 Wednesday night in the seventh and deciding game of the National Hockey League's annual championship.
Police battle unruly fans after Stanley Cup loss in Vancouver. KIRO reports.
Shortly after the Bruins arrived at Rogers Arena Wednesday afternoon, injured Boston winger Nathan Horton walked out of the tunnel with a water bottle in hand. On the bench, he glanced to his left, to his right, and surreptitiously squeezed the contents of the bottle onto the Vancouver ice. Every last drop, because if there was something in the water in Boston, where the Bruins thumped the Canucks into submission and outscored them 17-3 in three games, then maybe they could use it on the road.
BOSTON -- And so the hockey world goes one more time to Vancouver, where the locals have seen their share of big, pressure-packed games in the last 16 months.
SOUTH YARMOUTH, Mass. -- As the last clinks of spoons digging for goodly bits of clam in empty chowder bowls sounded -- meaning closing time was nigh -- Gerry Manning summed the overall sentiment of the Chowd Crowd for Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final:
VANCOUVER -- All eyes were going to be on Roberto Luongo. Whether he liked it or not, the Vancouver goalie would be the fulcrum of the series. After two substantial losses in Boston, he returned home, needing to prove, yet again, that his psyche isn't made of porcelain. It's not the first time the goalie shouldered that pressure; it wasn't even the first time he felt it this spring.
An unexpected visitor ambled into the Boston Bruins' dressing room after their 4-0 win in Game 4 on Wednesday night. Nathan Horton, who some 50 hours earlier had been lying motionless on the ice after taking a crushing hit from Aaron Rome, came carrying the bomber jacket the team awards to the night's hero, and, of course, he was wearing a smile. It was a most welcome sight to the Bruins, whose last vision of their teammate was of him being taken off the ice immobilized on a stretcher.
BOSTON -- A pall had been cast over TD Garden just five minutes into Game 3. Near center ice laid Bruins winger Nathan Horton, stunned and motionless, after absorbing a late and devastating hit by Canucks defenseman Aaron Rome.
VANCOUVER, B.C. -- This beautiful city deserves a Stanley Cup and it certainly feels like the chalice will be delivered sometime soon.
VANCOUVER, B.C. -- Naturally, this is what it would take to get them talking about something else. Alexandre Burrows knew it; his father even reminded him this week. If everyone had to talk about his son, Rodney Burrows would prefer it have nothing to do with that now-infamous (though according to the NHL, still inconclusive) bite on Bruins center Patrice Bergeron.
VANCOUVER, B.C. -- Three weeks ago, after the Bruins had lost the opening game of the Eastern Conference finals to the Tampa Bay Lightning, Boston center David Krejci seemed exasperated by the unceasing questions regarding the team's impotent power play.
VANCOUVER, B.C. -- It was only Game 1, and yet it quickly developed as many storylines as a soap opera: a bitter duel between top goaltenders, crushing hip checks, shoves, shouts. Maybe even a chomp.
Season series: Boston wins, 1-0
They threw little mini tennis racket-looking thingies on the St. Pete Times Forum ice following the Lightning's 5-4 win in Game 6 Wednesday night. Now it's the Bruins' final chance to hold serve in the Eastern Conference finals.
This was a weird game. The Lightning scored 69 seconds into Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals on a nice two-on-one passing play from Steven Stamkos to Simon Gagne. But then Bruins' netminder Tim Thomas took over and played brilliantly, holding the Lightning in check in an eventual 3-1 Boston win that gave the B's a 3-2 series lead.
TAMPA -- On Saturday afternoon, the Lightning turned it around as the Bruins struggled with turning the puck over. After a solid Game 3, in which Boston's sound neutral zone game stifled the Lightning attack, their sharpness seemed to begin wearing down.
TAMPA -- The obvious thing the Bruins took away from Thursday night's game was the win. But no less important is the knowledge that victory could be achieved in the system they've laid out for themselves all season. It was the kind of game that the Bruins have learned to live by this season, a hard-fought victory on the road marked by a strong forecheck and responsibility in the neutral zone.
TAMPA, Fla. -- After Tuesday's pond hockey exhibition between the Bruins and Lightning -- a wild 6-5 affair that was as entertaining as it was uncharacteristic for both clubs -- it was just a matter of time before the children would be called in from the great outdoors and put back on the structured dimensions of the rink. As the Bruins skated off with a 2-0 win Thursday night, pulling ahead in the Eastern Conference final series 2-1, it was through adhering to adult hockey -- more responsible hockey.
After losing Game 1 on home ice with a rather tepid effort, everyone expected a much more determined outing by the Bruins on Tuesday. What they got was the Tyler Seguin show.
BOSTON -- As it turns out, the week hiatus before the start of the Eastern Conference finals really didn't seem to change very much at all.
BOSTON -- Neither the Bruins nor the Lightning have suited up for a game since last Friday, making today Day 7 of the impromptu Eastern Conference spring break. Thanks to (yet another) three-game comeback in the West by the Red Wings, who eventually succumbed to San Jose on Thursday night, Boston and Tampa Bay have been suspended in a holding pattern for the last week.
Regular season series: Bruins win 3-1
BOSTON -- Forget the questions about the choke, that double-dose of 3-0 collapse that left the Bruins with a horrendous reference point for their franchise until Friday night.
It's rare that an NHL game feels like a one-on-one confrontation. But, in this Game 2 in Philadelphia, with the hometown Flyers down 1-0 in the series, their signature standout was James Van Riemsdyk. He scored 29 seconds into the game, beating Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas before he could even get limber. Before the period was half over, Van Riemsdyk scored again and the Flyers were looking to roll, with JVR netting two on the Flyers' first eight shots on goal.
1. Tim Thomas, Bruins: The Boston goaltender registered a career-best 52 saves and now has an 8-0 lifetime mark in Philly. Those are some scary numbers. What a performance!
Get this: there's a goaltending controversy in Philadelphia. Go figure that this time of year, right?
The Montreal Canadiens have not been the Flying Frenchmen for decades, but they still have cornered the market in déjà vu.
1. Tim Thomas, Bruins: Thomas made 44 saves, while teammates Michael Ryder and Zdeno Chara made one each. If the Bruins ever need an emergency goalie, Ryder's sliding-glove save on Tomas Plekanec in the first period was Exhibit A-Z in the case for him.
1. Tyler Ennis, Sabres. Who else would have came through in the clutch for the Sabres? The rookie scored the game-winning goal in overtime Buffalo beat the Flyers 3-2 and was the most dangerous forward on the ice all night, playing with confidence with the puck on his stick from his very first shift of the night. Ennis skated with purpose every time he hit the ice and with linemate and offensive catalyst Jason Pominville lost after being cut by a skate blade, someone on the Sabres had to fill the void. Ennis did.
MONTREAL -- Maybe Boston Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference, acknowledged friend of the planet, simply was pointing to the depleted ozone layer on the eve of Earth Day.
1. Ryan Miller, Sabres -- Not only did he bring the Sabres back into the series with Philadelphia Wednesday night, he's doing a great job of bringing back early 1970s male facial fashions. Only Elvis of that era had bigger pork chop sideburns than Miller is rocking right now (as are many Sabres, in honor of "French Connection" member Rick Martin, who passed away recently). To sum up this game, one only needs to quote the great, longtime Sabres' TV play-by-play man, Rick Jeanneret -- who started calling Buffalo's games in 1971: "Millerrrrrrrrrrr." In a terrific game, much more exciting than the final score might indicate, Miller was perfect while Brian Boucher was almost perfect. Some might say Miller's glove stop of Daniel Briere with eight minutes left in the game was his best of the night, but I'll take the diving stop he made against Mike Richards on the doorstep with 5:03 left.
1. Patrice Bergeron, Bruins -- Tim Thomas made some huge saves in the end to preserve Boston's must-win, but the play of Bergeron went a long way toward giving him a lead from which to work. Bergeron assisted on two Bruins goals and finished a plus-3 for the night; he was also credited with four hits and won 10-of-17 faceoffs (59 percent). Bergeron showed leadership when, right after the Bruins killed off an early too-many-men penalty, he fed David Krejci in front of the net to give Boston its first lead of the series -- and the B's never lost it.
MONTREAL -- On some streets corners in parts of this glistening hockey city, the "Stop" in the red octagonal signs, apparently too anglicized for some tastes, has been spray-painted over with the word Arrêt, a more proper French word. This is mentioned not to stick a toe into the linguistic morass that haunts Montreal but as an example of the protean nature of its stop signs.
I live in a hockey town. Certainly the Red Sox, Patriots and Celtics are wildly popular and successful. The Sox have their own Nation and seem almost global at times. The Patriots won three Super Bowls in four seasons in this century, and the Celtics stand proud as the signature franchise in the NBA.
Montreal linemates Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez, who developed a sharp chemistry when they were teammates for the New Jersey Devils, showed off that chemistry Thursday night, combining for both goals and leading the Canadiens to a 2-0 victory over the Bruins in Boston.
Regular season series: tied 2-2
Regular season series: Canadiens won, 4-2-0
DENVER -- The Toronto Maple Leafs were guests of the University of Denver on Wednesday, which meant a lot of blue on the ice instead of the usual crimson of the local Pioneers. But wherever an NHL team goes, there is always blue coming from the mouths of players. Through the glass at the Leafs' practice that day, those who had even the most basic lip-reading skills could discern some of George Carlin's famous seven words you can't say on TV. Indeed, propane shapes the curves of hockey sticks while profane shapes the conversational tilt in a hockey rink.
The quiet is more refreshing than eerie.
With the stretch drive rapidly evolving, here are the races to keep an eye on at the top and bottom of each conference's bracket, regardless of your rooting interest.
There was a time when dinosaurs roamed the Earth. You have your Brontosaurus, your Triceratops, your Tyrannosaurus rex. In our blessed year of 2011, another dinosaur roams NHL arenas: M-Rex.
MONTREAL -- A push in January came to a shove in March. And for a few minutes on Tuesday night, there were some in the stunned crowd of 21,273 that thought Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty might be dead.
To borrow from Mark Twain, who once wrote that you couldn't throw a brick in Montreal without breaking a church window, these days you can't have a bun fight in the media lounge at Montreal's Bell Centre without striking a former NHL coach.
You work for Apple. On Monday, you could get traded to Microsoft for a programming techie and a conditional sixth-round draft choice from RPI.
So much for saving moves and fueling Trade Deadline fever by waiting until Monday. Instead, this year has already seen teams get out in front of the deadline and make significant trades. February has been busy indeed, with prominent players moving. Thanks for all of your mail and suggestions the past couple of weeks, but here is what has transpired thus far and what we might expect moving forward.
This is connect-the-dots time for the NHL, and the picture is not exactly pretty.
The people have spoken. Here is a sampling of deals, scenarios and questions I've received from readers after last week's column. Thanks for your passion.
RALEIGH, N.C. -- When it comes to big booming shots, Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara proves that Big Z stands for ztrong. Very ztrong.
Sorry, but the expiration date on the Winter Classic has come and gone.
(AP) -- Sports teams were scrambling a day after a blizzard dumped more than a foot of snow along portions of the East Coast, stranding two NHL franchises near New York City and forcing Philadelphia to dig out before Tuesday night's NFL game.
After Washington Capitals general manager George McPhee made a coaching change in November of the 2007-08 season, the team's assistant GM, Don Fishman, did some research into the timing of firing a coach. More than performing a detailed statistical analysis, Fishman mostly rummaged around in precedent, notably the 2006-07 St. Louis Blues.
Gee, the NHL's Steven Stamkos Era ended sort of suddenly, didn't it?
So what did you learn about your team on opening weekend?
They're not a sexy pick, not like in the old days when they were young and running through the Western Conference regular season with swagger, skill and the boyish enthusiasm that comes from knowing you're good, but not quite understanding the formidable challenges ahead.
He's the gift that just keeps on taking. What appeared to be a simple rental transaction with Atlanta last spring that cost the Devils defenseman Johnny Oduya, forward Niclas Bergfors, prospect Patrice Cormier and a first-round draft choice has turned into The Thing That Ate Newark.
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