Kukla's Korner Hockey
by pcoffey on 06/16/11 at 10:38 AM ET
It’s amazing how fast change happens. The Boston Bruins hadn’t left the on-ice celebration in Vancouver before their roster changed with the word that Mark Recchi was taking the Lanny McDonald route and skating off into the sunset with the Stanley Cup held triumphantly aloft.
So Recchi is the first to go and there will be other changes coming pretty quickly for the Bruins and Vancouver Canucks, with the upcoming draft, free-agency and arbitration season rapidly approaching.
As for Recchi, you can’t debate his decision to skate away on top. The 43-year-old exits as one of the top players of his generation and a terrific mentor for the young Bruins this season. Over his regular-season career, Recchi scored 1,533 points in 1,652 games. That’s the 12th highest total in NHL history and his games played total is fourth behind Gordie Howe, Mark Messier and Ron Francis, all Hall of Famers, a spot where Recchi is sure to reside.
“It’s the end for me,” Recchi told reporters. “This is the last time I get the chance. I’m going out on top. I couldn’t be happier with this group of guys. Regardless of what happened tonight, this was going to be one of the best groups I ever played with. We’re very fortunate to win. We’re going to enjoy this.”
According to ESPN Boston’s James Murphy, one of the most important roles Recchi played with the Bruins this season was as a mentor to rookie Brad Marchand. Judging from the dynamic play of Marchand, Recchi did quite a job getting the message across.
“I just kept talking to him, kept him focused and keep him on the line,” Recchi told Murphy about working with Marchand, who finished the playoffs with 11 goals and who was so annoying to play against the crowd in Vancouver booed him when he lifted the Stanley Cup.
“There’s a fine line there and he did a great job and what a wonderful player he is,” Recchi said. “I enjoyed helping him and that was a gift. I’ve loved doing it through my whole career and even when I was 26 or 27, I loved grabbing the younger kids and you try and give back. I am a fan of the game as well and I want to watch Marchand and the young guys for a long time and say I had an impact on them.”
As for Marchand, he told Murphy he knew the veteran’s interest was a special gift.
“You know the amount he has pushed me and what he’s done for me is unbelievable,” Marchand said. “I wouldn’t be here right now if it wasn’t for him. Everything I learned from him on and off the ice is unbelievable. It’s such an honor to be part of this with him and to play with a guy I watched growing up, one of the greatest players to play the game, it’s truly an honor to win this with him and play on his team.”
Recchi will be missed off the ice too, where he always was a helpful, insightful voice on the game. He will be missed there for sure.
Frying pan to fire—The heat already is building on Roberto Luongo after a pedestrian performance in Game 7. He was remarkable in winning Games 1, 2 and 5 on home ice, but his mighty struggles in Boston, coupled with an ordinary performance in Game 7 isn’t going to make for a restful summer.
“I think playoffs is probably the hardest thing, the last couple of months, that I’ve ever had to do in my professional career,” Luongo told ESPN’s Scott Burnside. “I think mentally it’s just a grind the whole time. I said it, I don’t remember which game it was, that it’s much tougher mentally than physically more than anything else.”
That’s the hump Luongo and the Canucks need to get over. Becoming a Stanley Cup champion is a process. Bitter, bitter failure ofter has to be experienced before the triumph. And losing Game 7 at home is about as bitter as it gets.
“We’re devastated as a team,” Luongo said. “We worked all year to get to this point. To fall short like that is a tough one to take. ... but we’re a good team, and we’ll be back.”
Don’t be so sure. The competition in the Western Conference isn’t going to be any easier in 2011-12 and the Canucks are coming off 100-plus games with no reward at the end. Bouncing back is going to be a tough nut to crack.
“Anybody in our situation right now would feel real disappointed, whether you’re the favorite or not,” Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. “We battled real hard. We gave it our best shot. This one game, they were the better team. It’s that simple.”
And that bitter.
Morons on a mission—Any time I’m disappointed or upset with the hand life has dealt me, I go overturn a car. If it’s been a really bad day, I set it on fire.
Get the point?
Normal people do not start rioting over things like losing a hockey game. Sure, it’s disappointing as all get out. Fans wear their hearts on their sleeve for their teams, but that’s not an excuse for what we saw in Vancouver after Game 7. To see one of North America’s most beautiful cities looking like a war zone was profoundly disconcerting.
In no way, shape or form should hockey, the Canucks, or the NHL be blamed for this, but you know all three will be guilty by association because a bunch of drunken boobs displayed the maturity of a 2-year-old having a temper tantrum. If these nutjobs weren’t so stupid, they should be ashamed of themselves.
“We have a small number of hooligans on the streets of Vancouver causing problems,” Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson told the Associated Press. “It’s absolutely disgraceful and shameful and by no means represents the city of Vancouver. ... We have had an extraordinary run in the playoff, great celebration. What’s happened tonight is despicable.”
Damn right. Hopefully those arrested with be given a summer in the slammer to think about it.
No doubting Thomas—Was there anyone besides Tim Thomas even considered for the Conn Smythe Trophy? Not really. Think about it for a moment. If Thomas hadn’t played as well as he did during the entire playoff run, winning three Game 7s, then the Bruins don’t win the Cup and Boston is contemplating big changes. Thanks to Thomas, it’s going to be a sweet summer in Boston.
Consider his numbers. In seven Finals games, Thomas allowed eight goals. That’s tremendous. He also posted two shutouts in the Finals, matching Luongo. Plus, he defended home ice with wins in Games 3, 4, and 6. In all, Thomas slammed the door on 238 of the Canucks’ 246 shots. That’s a .967 save percentage and that’s unbeatable. For the entire playoff run against Montreal, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay and then Vancouver, Thomas posted a 1.98 goals-against average with a .940 save percentage.
“I’ve had some good ones, Marty Brodeur and others, but Tim Thomas, in these playoffs, just totally dominated,” Boston coach Claude Julien said. “That’s the sign of a great goaltender. He was in the zone, he was focused, never let anything rattle him. ... What’s happened to him now, so deserving.”
Keep in mind, there always have been doubts about the affable Thomas. A college star at Vermont, Thomas was no overnight NHL success. He played in the minors and in Europe before coming to Boston from Finland in 2005. Few expected to see him play at this level. Heck, conventional wisdon heading into the 2010-11 season was he would be the backup to Tuukka Rask.
“I didn’t want to think about the NHL, because it seemed like it was so far away,” Thomas said of his career. “But having said that, I was happy playing where I was playing. I was playing in a very good league, and I had a lot of good friends over there. I’m very happy that I made the decision to come back. It was a tough decision at the time, but it paid off in the long run.
“I think I went even further than I thought,” Thomas told NBC’s Pierre Mcguire if he thought he would ever get this far.“I was scared, I won’t lie. I had nerves yesterday and today, and I faked it as best as I could, and I faked it all the way to the Stanley Cup.”
Sorry Tim, those numbers can’t be faked.
Garden ice in Vancouver—There was no Looney buried in the ice in Vancouver—that we know of—as was the case during the 2010 Olympics. But thanks to the injured Nathan Horton, there was some TD Bank Garden ice delivered in a liquidified form. He was shown prior to the game pouring a bottle of water on to the ice in front of the Bruins’ bench.
“I was just trying to get some Garden ice here and make it our ice,” Horton said. “I was trying to be sneaky about it.”
Well, the camera caught Horton, but the small gesture helped him feel like a part of the team after being KO’ed by a concussion in Game 3. Horton surely wanted to be around to take it all in.
“This is a chance of a lifetime,” Horton told reporters. “This might not ever happen again. For me to get the opportunity to be here with my teammates to celebrate, it’s very special.”
Stand-up guys—Daniel and Henrik Sedin were not standouts for the Canucks, but they were stand-up guys after the defeat, facing the music on a very disappointing night. Henrik had just one goal in the series and Daniel’s two goals and two assists came in just two of the seven games.
“Me and Dan are the ones that are going to score and we didn’t do it,” Henrik told ESPN. “We didn’t score enough and that’s the way it is.
“We had one thing on our mind tonight and that was to go in and have a great game,” Daniel said. “We want to be the guys to win games for this team and tonight, obviously, we did not do that. We needed to find a way to solve Thomas. I think that was the biggest problem for us in this series and we didn’t do it.
“There’s no excuses. It’s our job. Our only job is to score and we came up short. It’s really disappointing. Eight goals was enough to get to Game 7, but it wasn’t enough to win it.”
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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.
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