Bruins – Pens: Eastern Conference Final

So, based on some conversations I’ve had recently, along with some e-mails, Facebook messages, and FB comments shared with me, I thought I would share my perspective. This might answer to the commentary shared with me, and it may spur even more. Generally, I like to stay above the fray, or at least outside its range. This morning I’m just sharing my thoughts, my take, certainly with a slightly biased allegiance to the Bruins.

I will try to keep this short, but we will see how that goes. Let me start by saying, during one of the intermissions last night, in an effort to display my love of the Bruins and their accountable approach of taking matters in to their own hands, I showed my wife and my 12 yr old son the video of the Bruins-Rangers debacle that took place on my 12th birthday. The point being this, the Bruins, right, wrong, or slightly disillusioned, don’t ask anyone else to answer for them. Period. Speak with your game, on the ice, or slightly over the boards, but handle your own situations. When Brad Marchand took some cheap shots and cheap penalties a few years ago, the Bruins brass sat him down and reminded him that the Bruins don’t employ the Matt Cooke’s and Aaron Rome’s of the world. Message: shape up or play somewhere else.

Given the history of the Penguins and their cheap shots on Bruins players, it’s hard not to hold that against them. I actually watch the Penguins play more than any other team aside from the Bruins. I want to like them for the most part. I enjoy watching the offensive skill of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang. I like Dan Bylsma at the helm. I like Tony Granato behind their bench. I like the Penguins style of playing offensive based hockey in this current lock-down style of the NHL. I even like the TV announcers on their broadcasts. Then I think of the organization and a little bit of history. Ulf Samuelsson’s (aka Mr. Dirty) cheap shot forever changed Cam Neely’s (one of hockey’s all-time true power forwards) career. Neely scored 50 goals in just 44 games in the 1993-94 season, only Wayne Gretzky scored 50 goals in fewer games. Then there’s Mario Lemieux. I cheered for him when he came back from cancer and then retirement to play in the NHL, and I marveled at his skill. He was able to fly up and down the ice while counting on the Ulf Samuelsson’s of the world to take care of him. Now, as Co-Owner and Chairman of the Penguins, Lemieux, who has done plenty of good things for the city of Pittsburgh and the Penguins, employs one of hockey’s cheapest, dirtiest, disrespectful players in Matt Cooke. Lemieux makes comments about dirty play, head shots, rule changes, concussions and the like, while looking out for his elite players. That’s fine. Except that he employs maybe the dirtiest player in the league, if not the cheapest player. Cooke has already ended one Bruins’ career with a cheap shot on Marc Savard. The Penguins had the audacity to nominate Cooke for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy last season (Every year the Masterton Trophy is awarded to the player voters feel “best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.” It’s pretty much treated as the comeback player of the year even if it’s not the exact definition.) which is a complete and utter joke. I know he’s “cleaned up” his game. Yeah, right. He stopped taking so many idiotic penalties so he could continue playing in the NHL. Cooke talked about how “gut-wrenching” it was to sit and watch his teammates play while he was healthy, but suspended. He’s not a fighter, and he’s not a goal scorer, although he did find that being on the ice and not in the box (luxury or penalty) was a better way to score points and try to be useful to his team. That’s why he toned down the penalty minutes, so he could continue earning NHL paychecks and playing alongside some of the greatest players on the planet. There’s still no excuse for him. Cooke, as the Penguins painted him last year, out of sportsmanship and dedication to hockey, should sit out and watch NHL games until Marc Savard returns to the NHL as a player.

Okay, Sidney Crosby, the whining captain. Listen, I get the role of the captain on the ice, yes, you are going to talk up the officials, I get it. I look back to the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals when Detroit beat Pittsburgh and it reminded me a little bit of the 1983 Cup Finals when the Islanders won their 4th Cup in a row over the young Edmonton Oilers. In similar fashion, to Wayne Gretzky in 1983, Crosby learned what it took to win the Cup in 2008. Then in 2009, he and the Penguins won the whole shootin match with Crosby leading the way. In 2009 Crosby was the best player on the ice, shift-after-shift, game after game, he worked at both ends of the ice, and if he whined, I don’t remember it because I saw him trying to be the best player in the world regardless of what zone he was in. Now I see Crosby, still the closest thing we have had to Gretzky in many years, playing well at times, but almost looking for help in the wrong places. Understandable that when Matt Cooke displays his brilliance in all of its glory by cheap-shot-ing another player, he puts the Penguins at a disadvantage in many ways. Besides being short-handed, Cooke’s brilliance and respect for his fellow hockey players, forces the Pens to play a game that they are clearly uncomfortable playing. See last year’s first round against the Flyers. Crosby may be more ‘under-penalized’ than Cooke, believe it or not. At times, Crosby interferes, slashes, and hooks all while looking for penalties to be called on the opposing team. I understand that everyone in the league does some of these things, but when you are as talented as Sidney Crosby, isn’t the approach he took in the 2009 Stanley Cup run better than flopping and whining? I mean, he doesn’t even play for Montreal. I know Crosby did get into Chara’s face, well at least his chest, and tried to stand up for himself and his team, but that was the last we saw of the Penguins. They all but disappeared in the third period. As a Bruins fan, I will take it. I can root for Crosby some other time. For other examples of how a team’s captain should carry themselves, see Jonathan Toews in 2010, Zdeno Chara in 2011, and Dustin Brown in 2012. Crosby is a phenomenal player. Stick to playing hockey and that could be trouble for the Bruins, but it’d be better for the game.

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