The last few weeks have seen the Bruins playing some strange hockey. Gone was the overwhelming goal scoring, missing was the smooth transition game they had been playing, and flat out dead was the physical play that had marked the first dream-like half of the season.
Now anyone that took a look at the roster could see that the nicks and dings that compile over the first 40 games had reached a level that rendered the Bruins borderline toothless. Players were dropping like flies. There were so many midgets called up from Providence that I thought TLC was doing a crossover show with the NHL...call it Little People, Big Ice.
The Bruins didn't seem to gel into the unit they became until that night that Steve Ott and Sean "Sloppy Seconds" Avery came to the Garden and found that if you cheap shot one, you will get targeted by all. The Bruins responded accordingly, first with fists, and then with a mighty ascension that has put them twenty points over an imploding Montreal team (has anyone seen what Bob Gainey has done to that team??? Brave man, they might want to have some former SF soldiers from Blackwater cover his six for the next ten years or so). The Bruins are ten points ahead of anyone in the East, even though they've been limping through the last dozen contests.
The bite hasn't been there. The extra facewash in the scrum in front of the net hasn't been there. Shit, the scrums haven't been happening. As Gordie Kluzak would say, the Bruins are missing their "snarl."
In the game last night against Carolina, some of that snarl returned. No one dropped the gloves, but the tension was there and it hasn't been for awhile.
Now listen up. I looked ahead to the next three games looking for willing combatants, or even someone that is known to do something stupid (i.e. Avery) and get a team screaming for his blood.
They will play the Panthers twice in the next three games. Seeing a team this soon gives a chance to remember numbers, and every little slash or trip some bonehead bestowed upon you. The Panthers have Bryan McCabe and Keith Ballard, two players that are not shy when it comes to dropping the mitts. And you can always count on Nick Boynton to do something stupid, like get into a fight with a stud like Lucic. I don't think Looch is close to 100%, as shown by his lack of fights and his the dropoff of his thunderding hits. The shoulder is probably still bothering him.
They will face the Lightning between bouts with the Panthers. The Bolts have Ryan Malone and Evgeny "Artichoke" Artyukhin. Lecavalier is also known drop the gloves on occasion and handle himself well (see Lecavalier v. Iginla in the finals a few years ago). I don't see a Captain on Captain bout, as Lecavalier most likely wouldn't go with Chara (though it would be entertaining).
All I'm saying is this: a team that fights together wins together. Having played sports and covered people's backs at bar fights, domestics, and other situations, I know how comforting it is to know that if something happens, the hounds of hell will be racing up behind you to utterly destroy the individual that is causing issues. Knowing that these guys will come to your aide without hesitation breeds a love (yes, love) that makes you never want to leave the team or profession. I feel bad for people that have never known this feeling.
Translated: if everyone starts playing physical again (and I'm talking hits, not just fighting), everything else will snap back in line. And in my humble opinion, I think that it's time for Jeremy Reich to come back up. Move Bitz up and put Reich on a line with Yelle and Thornton.