Here’s an angle for you: This Bruins win was a snoozer
Halfway through the Bruins’ 1-0 win over the over the Devils at the Garden on Saturday night, it came to me: oh brother, this is going nowhere.
Rarely has your faithful puck chronicler been so right. In a sport typically so full of passion, emotion, struggle, pushback and tumult — the delicious, rich stock that makes the NHL soup so delicious — Game No. 65 for the Black and Gold was bereft of all the good ingredients.
From an entertainment standpoint, the night was 60 minutes of soup de bore.
A similar game, more than a quarter-century ago, had Fred Cusick, the club’s great TV play-by-play announcer, bemoaning, “This will never sell.” The game that night didn’t have a fight (standard fare today, but a true rarity then), the score likewise was low, and everyone on the ice, including the 36 skaters and two goalies, made nice and nicer.
In the NHL, congeniality is the smile that kills. For the most part, this was a group hug.
“I was thinking, I hope these guys are not rattled they paid for a ticket for that game,” said Tuukka Rask, when I asked if an emotional flatline of a night can play to a goalie’s favor. “Sometimes there’s like nothing going on — ice looked a little choppy and nobody was making plays.”
But goalies, noted Rask, who snuffed out all 20 Devils shots on goal, have to be ready for anything and everything. The Devils fired at him 41 times, and given the nature of hockey, sometimes the worst attempt ends up in the back of the net. The meaningless flip from center ice can become the nightmare that takes two crazy bounces and slips through the five hole. Not Saturday night.
“You’re ready for everything as a goalie,” added Rask.. “You are waiting for that next shot, that next power play . . . that’s the only thing you are worried about as a goalie. Game of hockey, you never know what’s going to happen. All of a sudden, like we saw the other night [against Tampa], it was a tight 1-0 game and the next thing you know, it’s 4-0. So you have to be ready for everything.”
The crowd of 17,565 was certainly ready, for something, for anything. But the the moments were few.
Brad Marchand scored the lone goal. He also was turned back on a penalty shot, and those are always exciting, even if the Li’l Ball o’Hate’s forehander was easily rubbed out by Devils tender Mackenzie Blackwood. And with 10 minutes to go in the third, a blitzing Jesper Bratt cut in off the left wing and failed to jam home his doorstep stuff attempt on Rask.
Otherwise, the night threw me back 50 years, to the year-long misery that was my sophomore high school geometry class — a constant array of lines (passes), angles (approaches to the net), and circles (pivots) by the Bruins and Devils that added up to absolutely nothing. In my version of Dante’s Inferno, the gates outside each circle of hell would be shaped like congruent triangles. Fry me, please, just make it quick.
Fellow scribe Mick Colageo, your faithful puck chronicler’s ex-radio partner, long ago summed up the new NHL aptly as “go-kart hockey.”
The show Saturday night at the Garden was Exhibit A: a speedy back-and-forth that took a mere 2:21 to play, thanks in large part to no fights, no disputed goals, no disputed offsides, the lone goal by Marchand, a mere eight minutes of minor penalties, and a fairly economical 45 faceoffs.
Somewhere, Wally Harris was smiling. A brilliant referee in his day, no one moved a game along like Harris, provided the two sides didn’t break out in a line brawl, or as long as a particularly ornery couple of characters didn’t spill over the boards and fight each other down the hallway toward the dressing room.
Games sometimes were delayed, too, when fighting in the stands turned vicious and bloody. It wasn’t common, but it happened. The best fights in the stands won big smiles and sometimes stick taps among players on the benches. If today is go-kart hockey, that was bulldozer stuff.
“Yeah, for us it’s like we’re here to get the two points, right?” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy, whose charges went a league-best 11-0-2 in February. “We’re trying to bring the game home.”
The coach, from his vantage point, agreed the temperature never really warmed up all night. Had it been a frozen winter night, this game was the car, its engine running for a half-hour, with the red needle on the thermostat never inching toward warm.
“We were content to play our game and play it well,” added Cassidy, who can’t be faulted for finding the beauty to be had in two points.
For reasons even the Devils find hard to fathom, including the loss of star winger Taylor Hall, they’ve had a dreadful season (now 25-33-8). They played a valid, structured defensive game that allowed the dignity of losing by a goal. It’s about all they have to offer these days.
The Bruins were tired after an emotional win here Thursday over Tampa Bay and, in part because of the hangover, played down to an opponent that was stocked by too many not-quite-ready-for-prime time players.
All in all, like the Pythagorean theorem, a night to forget. As quickly as possible.