Old time hockey, the game that was dotted with brawls and stick swinging and even the rare player foray into the stands to pound on the paying customers, ain’t never coming back.
The game, and the times in which we live, are all too smart, prim ‘n’ proper, and corporate mainstream for the clock to start running back toward Broad Street. It’s a kinder, gentler Original 31. Rarely is there a night that stretches the bounds of a PG rating.
Nonetheless , there were touches of that sweet ol’ thuggery that reappeared in the Bruins’ lopsided 7-3 win over the Caps Monday night at the Garden. Enough, in fact, to prompt Bruins management to think long and hard about adding some individual toughness to the lineup if they’re to make another legit run at Cup.
We give you Exhibit A: T.J. Oshie’s hit on Bruins blueline wunderkind Charlie McAvoy with 1:38 to go in the third. Nasty. Unnecessary. Cheaper than the last suit that sold off the rack at Filene’s Basement.
The game was over, the Bruins in the midst of nursing a 6-3 lead over the finish line. Oshie, with no interest in playing the puck, unloaded on the vulnerable prey that was McAvoy, the ex-BU blueliner who was already off-kilter as he sped toward the puck near the Caps bench. Nothing illegal about the smack, at least not by the standard set by the NHL Department of Player Safety, but it was a cheap and dangerous play that could have left McAvoy in a world of hurt.
We won’t know about McAvoy’s status until Friday, when the Bruins return from their holiday break. Post-game, Bruce Cassidy said he appeared to be OK, but we should take that as standard coach speak after a game. Post-game “OKs” have a way of turning into a string of “day-to-days.”
Most telling, though, and of deep concern for the Bruins, was that Oshie didn’t have to answer for the hit. The referees said nothing. McAvoy’s teammates did diddly. And the band played on, the only answer to it all coming 1:10 later when Patrice Bergeron potted one into an empty net, his second strike of the night, for the 7-3 curtain closer.
McAvoy was road kill as he struggled back to the Boston bench, then sat there looking like some pulverized Looney Tune character, that hapless sap who reached into the oven with a lit match, asking, “Gee, let’s see, do you think the gas is on?”
So, who in a Black-and-Gold sweater might respond to such a thing? Monday night, no one. Crickets on an inordinately warm December eve.
On a different night, team captain Zdeno Chara would have been the guy. But Big Z had the night off, following surgery earlier in the day at MGH to pull a bunch of medical hardware out of his jaw to help eliminate a nasty infection. Had he been sporting his No. 33, the 6-foot-9-inch Chara no doubt would have tapped Oshie on the shoulder as, you know, a corrective measure.
Keep in mind, however, when the 42-year-old Chara returns, perhaps as early as Friday night, he’ll have to think more than once about sticking his chin out on anyone’s behalf, perhaps even his own.
Kevan Miller? Sure. Miller has ample, effective toughness, and he was dearly missed last spring, particularly in the Cup Final, when the Blues took their opportunistic tee shots, especially on the Bruins backliners. Miller has yet to play this season, and based on recent updates, it doesn’t sound as if he’ll be back soon.
Earlier in the period, the menacing cyborg that is Capitals winger Tom Wilson decided he would beat on David Pastrnak, who leads the Bruins and the league in goal scoring. With 13:26 gone in the third, and Boston with the 4-2 lead, the 6-4, 220-pound Wilson pounded on a fallen Pasta, with linesman Ryan Daisy hunkered over the star Czech winger as a protective shield. No bother for Wilson. He hunkered over Daisy, and appeared to land a punch or two on the official as collateral damage as he kept throwing at Pastrnak.
The refs saw enough of Wilson’s act, particularly with one of their own guys in stripes chipped up, to tag him with a misconduct and send him to the showers.
The response from the all the guys wearing those Black and Gold uniforms: zippity-doo-dah. Nothing to see here, other than the game’s No. 1 goal scorer getting manhandled by the game’s premier bully. In an idle moment, Wilson also popped Connor Clifton in the kisser. Because what the heck, when it’s time to fill your boots beating on Bruins, fill ’em high, right?
Yep, the band played on. For his part, Pastrnak, charged with a roughing minor in the fracas, could be seen smiling in the penalty box as he exchanged words with Wilson. The tete a tete left Pastrnak with no physical damage, no small thanks to Daisy’s protective aid.
This was the same Wilson who put a lick on Torey Krug at 5:01 of the second, ending Krug’s night with an injured something or other (again, the next vague update will be Friday). The hit looked clean, even if the outcome dirtied Krug. For Wilson, Krug was just the hors d’oeuvre.
The idea on Causeway St. is that team toughness wins out. The Bruins are coached and managed to suffer fools such as Oshie and Wilson, reap the power plays, then get even on the scoreboard.
That’s OK some nights, and their advantage over the Capitals Monday was such that they were able to take a lickin’ and keep on ticking.
Last June, when it was vital, they weren’t as tough as the Blues. If they’re fortunate enough to see June again, then Monday, Dec. 23, should be the night they learned there are some insults that just can’t be ignored. Some parts of old time hockey endure.