We’ve been having a great time dealing with a website that refuses to stay online this week. Just a whale of a time. For whatever reason, the blog has begun to derive a sick pleasure from crashing, like a character in a Cronenberg movie, and it’s caused us to miss a few things. One such thing: another excellent video from “M A K A V E L I”, known among Canuck fans as the guy behind that Boston/Vancouver/Daily Show mashup that went viral last year.
Let’s set the stage: on Sunday night, the Boston Bruins fell 4-3 in a loss to the Montreal Canadiens despite leading the game at one point by a score of 3-2. What was the turning point? After Alexei Emelin crosschecked on Tyler Seguin undetected, even though he broke his stick in half in doing so, Zdeno Chara made a beeline for Emelin and made him pay in punches. Unfortunately, Chara’s revenge also took him off the ice for 17 minutes in penalties, and while he was in the box, the Canadiens hung two on the Bruins and won the game.
Bruins coach Claude Julien was understandably upset about the game afterwards, but not at Chara. Rather, he took the podium to complain about the Montreal Canadiens’ shameful embellishment throughout. It was “embarrassing for our game, the embellishing,” according to Julien. This led Makaveli (I refuse to spell his name the way he wants us to) to point out that Julien seemed to be struggling to see past his own nose, since, speaking of noses, he coaches Brad Marchand, among others:
The lip-read on Marchand appearing to say, “I was trying to draw five” is especially galling, and even moreso when it’s juxtaposed with Julien’s righteous anger. It seems pretty clear Julien is only appalled by embellishment that negatively affects his club.
In this, he’s no different from anybody with a rooting interest, really. Everyone likes to act holy when their team is the victim of a successful act of deceit. (Embellishment is wrong!) But when it draws a powerplay, or some other brief, competitive advantage in a game where that can often be the difference between two points and one or none, no one seems to mind. (Embellishment may be wrong, but how come it feels so right?) So you’ll forgive me if I’m not sufficiently scandalized by Julien’s inability to look at this objectively.
I’m much more scandalized by the Boston media, which, in their own inability to employ objectivity, acted as Julien had done exactly that. Here’s Boston Fan Joe Haggerty’s lede for the column on Julien’s rant, from CSNNE:
Claude Julien practically had steam coming out of his ears following the 4-3 loss to the Montreal Canadiens after watching the Habs pull their typical diving and embellishment routine over 60 minutes of hockey.
I think we know what side Haggerty is on.
In many corners of the Boston media, from the press box, where the announcers jump for joy after Boston goals, to the CSNNE, where you can get away with characterizing the Canadiens as chronic, undisputed embellishers in the lede, for criminy’s sake, Bruins coverage is basically religious programming. They speak not to everyone but to the faithful and the righteous, and they warn them of a world that would attempt to mar them, to corrupt them with their iniquities. Everything Boston does is for the greater good — every act of toughness, every physical response — and every call that goes against them is thus subject to moral outrage.
To hear guys like Haggerty tell it, Zdeno Chara’s attack on Alexei Emelin didn’t deserve seventeen minutes because, while it may have deserved seventeen minutes in penalties according to “the rules”, Chara was doing the right thing by the secret unwritten code of honour that overrides the NHL rulebook.
But thankfully, not everyone in Boston is under the spell. For an alternate take on this, we turn to the most reasonable Bruins blog, Stanley Cup of Chowder, generators of the excellent Trees For Goals campaign. Somehow, they’ve managed to deprogram, which gives them the uncanny ability to filter hockey situations through the lens of reality, rather than the Bruins cult. From Tom Servo:
Were this straight 5 and 5 to both players, I wouldn’t bristle too much about Chara’s misdeed. Emelin is the number one minute-eater for the Montreal D, so while the overall skill trade is still pretty egregious, the destabilizing impact on the rest of the D is of a similar nature. But by charging from the opposite end of the ice, Chara was aware these were not the consequences and went in with full knowledge of the repercussions. Under the misapprehension that he was being a good teammate by standing up for his boys, he instead acted poorly as a Captain, handing a significant manpower advantage to the opposition and opening the opportunity for them to take two points out of Boston. His selfish action is being lauded under the banner of team-toughness, but losing hockey games for the sake of some misguided sense of honor isn’t a terribly good policy for an individual whose job is to lead a team to win hockey games.
There was no physical retaliation, immediate or otherwise, when Nathan Horton lay prostrate on the ice with his arm hanging unnaturally in the air. There was a retaliation on the scoreboard and a righteous victory fueled by the emotions of that incident, which led to the team’s first Stanley Cup in nearly 40 years. Had Zdeno Chara brought his cowboy act to that game we might for a moment tip our caps to his support of his fellow Bruins, but we’d be kvetching to this day about the hit that cost us a championship, because that game would certainly have gone another way. Cooler heads prevailed, hardware was earned.
In other words, Chara’s righteous response was actually kind of dense. It would appear that he, like so many others in Boston, has bought into the notion of justified frontier justice. And on Sunday night, it hurt the team.
It’s especially silly since, as Servo points out, Boston didn’t take control of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final due to toughness. They took control by picking their spots and playing superior hockey. (They’ll do that. Boston is very, very good.)
Unlike Tyler Seguin — who probably has a small bruise due to that crosscheck now, the poor kid — Nathan Horton was in some real distress. But the Bruins kept their heads and exacted their revenge by winning the game. Imagine that.
We’ve talked before about how everyone seemed to have taken the wrong lessons from the Boston series, and that clearly includes Boston. It wasn’t their toughness that won them that series. It was their two-way play, as well as the presence of Bergeron, Chara and Thomas. By the end of Games 3, 4, 6 and 7, the Bruins were in a position to act barrel-chested and tough because they had taken substantial leads with incredible play; the fact that so many in Boston are misguided and out of touch enough to think it happened the other way around shows a fundamental misunderstanding of that series. Of course, being misguided and out of touch is symptomatic of a steady diet of religious programming.
In the end, however, that’s okay. As the religion in Boston grows — away from reason, especially — the team is bound to continue jeopardizing wins for their absurd, media-fuelled moral code.
Which is fine by me.