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Blog: The big, bad (dirty) Bruins return to Vancouver
The Boston Bruins are a dirty hockey team.
I don't mean dirty in the way someone normally says that as a compliment, and yes they certainly do. But I also don't mean it as an indictment or a shot in the cyber dark. The Bruins are dirty and not in a good ol' hockey game dirty. It's just a fact. It's how they play the game and they seem more than proud of it. They're dangerous, they're ridiculous, and often hypocritical... a merry band of vikings who pillage and kill on their journey toward hardware and history. They're not tough as nails or built Ford tough. They're just plain cheap, chippy, and quite honestly criminal.
When Shawn Thornton pulled Brooks Orpik to the ground last weekend, thought about it, punched Orpik in the face (while his head was on the ice), thought about it again, and then punched Orpik again, that wasn't a fight. That was an assault. An act as disgusting as it was, sadly, typical and expected.
But Thornton won't be in the lineup tomorrow when Boston takes on Vancouver and the length of his pending suspension – I've got money on 20-plus games – will be announced as a matinee. (It seems a little cruel to pile on him now, just before his execution.)
And yes, the Bruins didn't leave last weekend's game against Pittsburgh without their scars, either. Loui Eriksson suffered another concussion and Brad Marchand took a James Neal knee to the head. It was pretty cheap, although it's not like Marchand hasn't had it coming. This is the same pest who flipped Sami Salo butt-over-bucket when Boston met Vancouver in 2012, with Salo just barely escaping an injury that could have ended his season and, knowing Sami's glass doll-like anatomy, his career.
Marchand and Thornton are typical Bruins... the kind of players who drive around at top speed, blowing through lights until they finally smash through a Prius in the intersection, but simply say sorry for their actions and hope everyone understands that, if you knew them – Oh, if you really knew them! – you'd know they're truly good people.
Yeah, we get it. And you know what? I believe it. Of course I do!
But I worry about games like tomorrow's, because there's nothing you can do to defend your team from a truly dirty team. You can't protect yourself in the corner. You can't keep your head on a swivel. You can't play your game, because the other guys have brought a gun to a knife fight and they're as unpredictable as Tuco Salamanca from the first season of Breaking Bad.
When Henrik Sedin was elbowed in the head by Chicago's Duncan Keith in 2012, Sedin wasn't irresponsible or not paying attention. He was actually just standing there... looking up and completely avoiding a danger zone. But Keith had a mission and a goal, and he accomplished it. He wanted to knock Daniel Sedin into 2015 and he nearly did. Maybe he didn't want him to get hurt hurt, but if he really didn't think it was a possibility, then he really wasn't thinking. And, for a guy as talented as Keith is – the kind of defenceman who can hit and score on anyone whenever he wants – it was even more annoying to watch him turn the Swedish chef into a meatball because you knew he could have just manned up and done it the right way, or at least while facing him. Or, just thought before shooting.
When Marchand low-bridged Salo, there was nothing the defenceman could have done to avoid it. Marchand targeted him, acquired him, and pulled the trigger.
Same goes for anything involving Blackhawk-turned-Shark-turned-Oiler Ben Eager, the same sort of violent offender who doesn't have as much skill as Keith or Marchand and therefore doesn't receive the same sort of mercy, but is still the kind of guy who would willingly injure another player if he felt like going vigilante for a night.
But the Bruins rig the game and they know the lunch monitor will turn his head in the other direction.
The Bruins are like Joaquin Phoenix before that final battle in Gladiator, stabbing Russell Crowe under his gear, giving the real champ a fatal wound just before Phoenix is ready to go out there and celebrate his sham conquest in front of all of Rome.
And it's not like the Canucks don't deserve a punch or two. Maybe even an ass-kicking. They were arrogant and slimy in that Stanley Cup Final, diving and buckling over whenever they felt even the scent of Chara's stick. They were mouthy and loud.
They were mosquitoes and the Bruins were a palm.
But the Bruins are prepared to burn down the forest if it gives them a better view of the mountains, and I worry about tomorrow's game because I am a Canucks fan, and I'm sick and tired of watching Boston sell their stolen goods.