Friday, May 28, 2010

Bears (or Bearers) of Bad News

“Wow. Hell of a game tonight, huh, dude?”

“Yeah, it was.”

Unbelievable ending.”

“Yeah, unfortunately.”

Weren’t they up three games to nothing, or something like that?”

Ummmmmm, yeah.”

“That hasn’t been done in a while, right?”

“Not in hockey, no. Sox did it to the Yankees, but yeah, 35 years in hockey.”

This post is horribly overdue.

Part of it is that I didn’t want to write it.

From the time the final horn sounded at TD Garden in Boston, capping the improbable comeback Bruins fans didn’t want to see and prayed to avoid, I have watched maybe one period of hockey.

The above conversation happened about an hour after that final horn. Two weeks ago today, if I recall correctly. I was washing my hands in the bathroom at the time, as the guy was walking in. I was wearing my Bruins jersey and hat. From the line of conversation, I had a feeling the only reason he recognized the logos was because the Game 7 disaster in Boston had overshadowed the highlights of UFC, NASCAR, or whatever non-sport he was watching on SportsCenter.

I don’t like to stereotype, but I think it was the Jeff Hamlin or Denny Gordon hat he was wearing. Maybe it was a Pizza Slice hat.

Yes, I’m kidding. However, any UFC and NASCAR fans with no sense of humor may direct their hate mail accordingly.

Besides, what the hell happened to that unwritten rule that guys don't talk in the bathroom? Talk about awkward.

However, all analysis aside (mostly because I’ve successfully blocked out all the memories but the really obvious one that will forever be embedded in hockey history), the Bruins committed the worst sin in hockey: They sat on a 3-0 lead. Injuries are no excuse. Sloppy play is sloppy play. Great teams persevere, right? Yes, Krejci is an important guy. So was Savard, and the Bruins made it through the first round against a pretty good Buffalo Sabre team, which included America’s best goaltender. Look at Philadelphia… Brian Boucher got knocked out, and did the team fold under Michael Leighton? Well, guess who’s playing Saturday in the Stanley Cup Final? A team that has been plagued with sub-par (or at least ill-timed) Playoff goaltending for the past two decades or more will play for the Stanley Cup.

As if squandering the 3-0 lead in the series wasn’t bad enough, Game 7 ran precisely parallel to the series. The Bruins went up 3-0, and lost 4-3. Hollywood couldn’t write a better script for the Flyers.

It’s true… it’s only one series. Better days are surely ahead. But this one hurts, and is going to hurt for a good, long time.

However, I am ready to watch hockey again, perhaps even stake a claim for the remote from Mrs. Martini every other night for the next couple weeks. There’s too much going on in hockey to try and ignore it. Let’s look at the fact that an Original Six team other than Detroit is gunning for the Cup for once. Come on, how long has that been? Will Chicago defy all questions about its goaltending and bring Hockey’s Holy Grail home to Chicago? Or will Marian “Hired Gun” Hossa be a bridesmaid in the Stanley Cup Finals for the third straight year?

I’m siding with Chicago here. One, because as long as it’s not Detroit, the Cup belongs out West, because it’s just better hockey. Two, I’ve hated the Flyers ever since that little diva Eric Lindros played for them.

So, that said… go ‘Hawks.

Now, I’m just going to share a few of my personal favorite highlights of the Playoffs’ first two rounds, in no particular order:

Savard’s Return Man, that OT goal he scored in his first game back was a thing of beauty. I thought for sure the Bruins were on a collision course with Pittsburgh in the Eastern Final. Obviously, Philly and Montreal had other plans.

Savard Pulls A Tootoo? Speaking of Savard, he was accused of biting Danny Carcillo on the ice. I don’t buy it. A) There were a couple extra guys in that scrum, so honestly, it could have been anyone, and B) Even if Carcillo’s blubbering was justified, he failed to mention the stick he put to Savard’s head (just a couple games back from a concussion that had him out since March) just 10 seconds before to start the whole thing. I guess the only thing that bugs me about it is that whiny little witch (there are many other words) could actually get his name on the Cup. It’s hockey, Danny Boy. Don’t dish it out if you can’t take it.

Phoenix Rising Okay, did anyone catch those “Throw The Snake” t-shirts they were selling in Phoenix, kind of spoofing the whole Red Wings’ skanky octopus thing? (Here’s a link) I couldn’t help myself. I thought it was cool. Plus, profits went to charity, so I got one.

The Joke’s On Ovie The second-best moment of these Playoffs so far: The end of Washington’s first-round series against Montreal. After Alexander Ovechkin joked that he saw Jaroslav Halak’s hand “shaking” while he was in goal, Montreal came back from a 3-games-to-1 deficit to beat the Caps in 7. Halak’s hand wasn’t shaking, Ovie. He was waving. Buh-bye.

“History Will Be Made” Although the last team in the Playoffs that I really cared about went out in just about the most unceremonious way possible, I can move on. Yes, it sucks. However, the whole ad campaign behind this year’s Playoffs has provided a lot of great moments of the past, and included some great moments this year.

However, my favorite great moment is one that won’t get its own commercial. I honestly feared that in the process of “History Being Made,” that the integrity of the Cup and the sport would be tarnished forever.

However, the seemingly indestructible machine that was the Detroit Red Wings ran out of gas, which keeps Todd Bertuzzi off the Cup for another year. Hopefully forever, depending on whether or not Detroit decides to re-sign him (and he told the Free Press if he keeps playing, he’d want to be in Detroit).

So, my fingers are crossed… frankly, I’d kind of like to leave the S.O.B. alone. It’s just hard to do when he’s playing.

But anyway… I just want to say, “Thank you, San Jose,” because now that the Cup’s integrity has been preserved, history can be made.

Follow @MartiniHockey on Twitter

Thursday, May 13, 2010

One Freakin’ Goal - An Open Letter To My Fellow Bruins Fans...

That’s it. One freakin’ goal, with exactly one minute to go in a game the Philadelphia Flyers once again dominated. One freakin’ goal in the last two games. One freakin’ goal to the Flyers’ six.

Okay, so the Bruins have lost three straight, and let the Philadelphia Flyers climb back into the series, to the point where the Flyers could be the first team in 35 years to come back from an 0-3 deficit to win a seven-game series. The Bruins are up against the wall. They’ve come within 60 minutes of blowing this series altogether.

So there’s only one more thing to do, as we get ready for Friday’s game seven….

Let’s talk a little trash… with some help from some hockey fans on Twitter…

ready for an EPIC #bruins meltdown i think.....what a shame it would be

#bruins suck, dont even want to win game 7...couldn't stand losing to the frenchmen to let them go to the finals

Nice. These were from people in Boston, too, by the way. The second guy had a Boston logo as his avatar, too. Lovely.

Here’s an interesting one: “#Bruins have one more chance to redeem themselves and stave off banishment to #Boston sports oblivion. #NHLPlayoffs

Ummmmm, yeah, that's a little better. Boston hasn’t had it that bad. Let’s see… the Patriots have what, two or three Super Bowl wins in the last decade? the Sox have a couple World Series wins in the last decade? (Not that the whole sport of baseball hasn’t been tainted by steroids anyway….)

Sure, there’s some futility before that, but come on. Really?

Here are a couple of my personal favorites: “obviously Bruins, they just making it so the economy is better for the bars in Boston on Friday night :) #Bruins

#bruins just want to help Boston economy and have another home game, no worries, bring on the Habs!

These two guys are Bruins fans, baby (or maybe they’re just stocking up on the Samuel Adams). Either way, I personally hope they’re right, and that the local watering holes cash in on one hell of a celebration.

(With everybody drinking responsibly, of course…)

Want to talk about pessimism? Believe me on this one thing: I know pessimism. I live in Columbus, where Ohio State football is the primary sport, yet the NHL felt it right to bless the city with a hockey team. I am still eternally grateful for that fact. Beyond that, Ohio’s only professional sports title in nearly 20 years was by the Columbus Crew in Major League Soccer, which in many sports circles – not to impugn MLS – carries… well, not a whole lot of weight among most professional sports fans.

The other reason I know pessimism is that Mrs. Martini is from Cleveland. If there is ever a city that needs a freakin’ championship, it is Cleveland. Growing up in “Believeland” (as some of us like to call it) is what Mrs. Martini usually refers to by one of two words: “Birthright” and “Penance.”

(Yes, I know I’m kinda preaching to the deaf here, with the Cavs down 3-2 to the Boston Celtics, but hear me out.)

Long story short, Mrs. Martini believes in her heart of hearts that Ohio’s professional sports teams are cursed to be championship-free for our respective lifetimes. I like to think not – then again our best shot for the next few years is, once again, down 3-2 to the Celtics right now.

I, for one, am positive the Columbus Blue Jackets will hoist the Cup sometime during Rick Nash’s upcoming contract tenure.

But, I digress. We’re talking about Boston now.

My point is, for the negative, “we’re screwed,” “another failure” and other pessimistic BS displayed by so-called Bruins fans in these moments following Game 6… to hell with you guys.

Then again, maybe I’m being too harsh. We’re talking about stuff that is being said in the heat of the moment, right? There is some reason to feel a little pessimistic in the heat of the moment. After all… the Bruins managed just one freakin’ goal.

But… what if that one freakin’ goal is the catalyst to a Game 7 win on Friday? Sure, it seems like a stab-in-the-dark thrust of futility now. I’ll be the first to admit the pop-culture reference going through my head right now is the old man in Monty Python and the Holy Grail who exclaims, “I’m not dead! I don’t want to go on the cart… I think I’ll go for a walk.”

The Bruins aren’t dead yet.

That one freakin’ goal… is now winning Game 7.

It all comes down to Friday night. Give them hell, Bruins.

That goes for you Bruins fans, too.

Then perhaps after Game 7 on Friday night, we – the Bruins faithful – can all quote the old man from Holy Grail:

“I’m happyyyyyy… I feeeeel happyyyyyyyyy.”

Follow @MartiniHockey on Twitter

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Bruins Must Not Become History

A 3-0 lead in a Stanley Cup Playoff series is supposed to mean something.

It’s supposed to mean the 0-3 team is “in a stranglehold.” “At the point of no return.” “On the brink of elimination.” Choose your cliché.

The NHL ads for this year’s Playoffs say “History Will Be Made.”

History has shown no team has come back from down 0-3 to win a best-of-7 series in 35 years – and only two (the ’75 Isles and the ’42 Leafs) ever did it. Hell, Detroit could have been doing it this week. Thank God they didn’t – but that’s another post for another time.

When it comes down to it… I’m all for somebody doing it. Eventually. Just not tonight and Friday.

The Boston Bruins powered their way to the proverbial 3-0 stranglehold in the series, only to fall just shy in overtime in Game 4, after rallying in the last minute of regulation. Then on Monday, the Bruins turned in one of the most godawful, undisciplined hockey games I have ever seen (and I’ve watched a lot of hockey in Columbus, so trust me… I know sloppy).

So now the series has shifted back to Philadelphia, where the Flyers know the Bruins are walking into a potential (cliché alert) bear trap. This post is very short on analysis, because the hard truth is that the Flyers have all the momentum. They went into TD Garden two nights ago and handed the Bruins their asses, plain and simple.

There were too many Boston players in the box, and that cannot happen tonight. The Bruins need to throw some weight around without being stupid – and for God’s sake, don’t get sidetracked by Mike Richards or that little insect Danny Carcillo. Let them be stupid again, and reap the benefits on the power play.

Let’s end this series tonight, and get ready for the trip to Pittsburgh… or get ready to roll out the red carpet for the Canadiens.

Personally, I’m rooting for a matchup with Montreal. Not only is it a great rivalry that would provide a memorable series, I also look forward to the clowns at The Sidney Channel (a.k.a, Versus and NBC) having to learn some other hockey players’ names for once.

Go Bruins!