I had my suspicions, but I thought Tuukka Rask’s “lower body” injury might be in his hip.
During the series with the Islanders, he didn’t quite look like himself. Where he was so deceptively smooth sliding from post to post, he seemed to be laboring, pushing off of one skate and needing two jerky motions to get from points A to B. He’d go into his butterfly prematurely, knowing he’d need to cheat that extra second to get down into position properly. This didn’t seem like a hamstring or his back, this seemed serious.
This is all armchair diagnosis, of course. He missed 18 games in the regular season with a mystery ailment, and as good as he looked at times in the playoffs, especially in the first series against Washington, he wasn’t himself. It finally came undone in the last two games against the Islanders. Now the Bruins are out, Rask is scheduled to have hip surgery, and won’t return to the ice until at least 2022.
It’s a bitter finale to what had been a swirling, surprising season for the Bruins, one shortened by the pandemic, their first year with Patrice Bergeron as captain, shoehorned into a makeshift Metropolitan division where they occasionally looked like world-beaters. In the end, the world beat back.
And with that inglorious ending may have gone one of the greater netminders to ever wear the spoked B. Continue reading
In early 1995, I took my relatively new black Boston Bruins sweater to a sports store in New Bedford to get some gold numbers placed on it. In anticipation of this, I remember weighing whether to get Cam Neely’s no. 8 or Ray Bourque’s 77 on the back, or perhaps Adam Oates’ 12. I think even Don Sweeney’s 32 came into consideration.
That I walked in and — without hesitation — requested Blaine Lacher’s name and no. 31 be heat-sealed to this thing should attest to how ridiculously hot Lacher was at the start of his career.
Fresh off a national championship at Lake Superior State, Lacher entered a vacuum in the Bruins’ goalie depth, with just veteran Vincent Riendeau, who had served as Jon Casey’s backup, as a viable option. Casey had been allowed to walk as a free agent, while John Blue had been decamped to Providence in the AHL.
The NHL returned to play from the lockout in late January, and by the end of the month, Lacher was 3-1 with an absurd .958 save percentage and 0.98 goals against average. Lacher wound up appearing in 35 of the Bruins’ 48 games that season, plus all five starts in the playoffs. He finished fifth in the Calder Trophy voting (losing out to some guy who no one ever heard from again), and the Bruins had their goaltender for at least the next decade. Continue reading
Thinking about the idea of the NHL’s dueling “bubbles,” the image I couldn’t get out of my head was that, best case scenario, this ends with a team getting the Stanley Cup from Gary Bettman and celebrating to the echo of a nearly empty arena. No boos for the commissioner, not even the resigned gaze of those unfortunate fans who have to watch the visiting team hold the trophy aloft.
And because I’m not a player, my real issue with this was from the self-centered perspective of a fan — how is it going to feel watching a team win the championship in a vacant rink?
I don’t have an answer for that, and I won’t until this tournament winds down to a close some time in late September. But I do know, after watching the Bruins set the Carolina Hurricanes aside in five games, that I’m just about as invested as I ever am. I can’t go to a bar with friends to watch a game and I can’t even partake in the futile exercise of seeing how expensive playoff tickets are getting. Even the start times of these games — 11 a.m., 4 p.m., etc. — is messing with my equilibrium, nevermind the incongruous act of watching hockey in the middle of oppressive August heatwaves.
But I’m here, and I’m in, pretty much as deeply as I’m ever in. And while the Bruins are alive in the bubble, I’m in on Jaroslav Halak. Continue reading
If I’m being honest, part of the enduring appeal of hockey lies in its aesthetics.
The sweaters are a revered part of the game in a way that the game jerseys in other sports are just not. The ice gets a new, shiny coat via Zamboni before each period, giving the game a sheen of newness before each center puck drop. The logo crests are bold, the numbers large and prominent, the helmets colored to match the shirts and the blur of the socks below. As a visual artifact, it just looks great.
Cut to me in late 1994, probably on a Saturday afternoon, after coming home with a pack of Upper Deck hockey cards. I carefully split open the top so that the seam comes undone out the back, and out they they fall. All types of solid 1990s hockey dudes like Sylvian Turgeon, Mark Janssens and Dominic Roussel, and maybe even a star or two like Ed Belfour or Paul Coffey.
And there was Andy Moog, and damn it if he didn’t still have the best mask in the game. Continue reading
There is hardly the space to shower the correct praise upon all the Bruins who deserve it.
For example: Tuukka Rask is playing at a god-level, to a point that the “what took so long” crowd has conveniently overlooked that he’s been an excellent goaltender in this league for a decade now. Patrice Bergeron is as solid and skilled a player as one could hope to be. Brad Marchand is a professional jerk in all the best ways. David Pastrnak is a kid at heart who also happens to be a total sniper. David Backes is chasing a dream. Zdeno Chara is defying time and age and remains absolutely terrifying.
And those are the primary storylines as the Bruins line up against the St. Louis Blues in an effort to get their name on the Stanley Cup for the seventh time. Missing in there is David Krejci, quietly leading his line, playing in every scenario and generally being the silent stalwart he’s been since earning his place in 2007.
For a group that cherishes its history and loves to fete its longtime players, Krejci doesn’t get the attention he likely deserves. But through this most recent playoff run, he’s done nothing to damage his place in history. Continue reading