Last season, the Boston Bruins sparked off one of the finest regular seasons in recent memory with a scrap-filled contest against the Dallas Stars, Steve Ott and Sean Avery.
After that game, the Bruins gelled as a team, went on a winning streak that propelled them to the top of the Eastern Conference, and sent all Bruins fans hopes sky high for this season. Alas, injuries and a lack of scoring took it's toll, and the Bruins limped into the second half of season after stumbling hard in the month of January, despite a thrilling OT win in the Winter Classic. As of now, the Bruins are playing just about well enough to justify their 8 spot in the standings.
Well, with Matt Cooke and the Pittsburgh Penguins in town, there's an opportunity.
The Boston Globe wrote an actual editorial, urging the Bruins show a little restraint and remember that the win is more important than pounding any individual member of the Penguins, and bringing up the Bertuzzi/Steve Moore incident, as a cautionary tale.
While the Globe is not wrong to bring up Bertuzzi and Moore, and correct that a win is hugely important, a win without fighting will be two points, but not the galvanizing, team building event that this game has the potential to be. If they lose, fights or no fights, that's pretty much the Bruins' season. You can't get kicked around the way the Bruins got kicked around (by both the Penguins and the NHL), and go into the playoffs strong by losing that game. I just don't see it happening.
And if you lose, and beat them up? It's mid-march. You're in the 8 spot. If you're losers, there's no honor in being goons, too.
But if they step it up, and get some physical contributions from players other than Shawn Thornton, (who I think has had a great year of all around checking hockey) they have an opportunity to spark something that just may carry them into the playoffs. The Bruins still have the current Norris trophy winning defenseman, and their BACKUP goaltender won the Vezina. If this team can summon up a little heart, who knows what could happen?
But before I shift all the responsibility for physicality in this game to the Bruins, there's one player on the Penguins that has the power to assume a little responsibility, and show a little leadership by dropping the gloves.
And it's not Matt Cooke.
Matt Cooke needs to go out and get his whuppin' and c'mon- it's a hockey fight- it won't be that bad. But that's sort of understood.
The Penguin who could show some leadership and diffuse this situation by dropping the gloves LIKE A CAPTAIN- is Sidney Crosby. His first fight in the NHL was against the Bruins, against Andrew Ference, who seemed so surprised he was actually fighting the NHL's poster boy, that he got caught a little flat-footed. Well, that won't be happening tomorrow.
Crosby has a bit of a reputation for being a whiner, a diver, and frankly, a ball-puncher. The rest of the hockey world has been wringing it's hands over the hypothetical "what would have happened if Crosby had been hit like Savard was" and worried sick over the possibility that someone on the Bruins might actually do just that to him, hence the Globe editorial.
But no true hockey fan, who respects the athletes that they spend their time and money to watch wants to see a superstar get clocked by a goon. But they'd all like to see that superstar stand up for himself and his team. Sidney Crosby certainly has nothing to prove, and no one in the mainstream hockey media would blame him for letting someone else fight his team's battles. But still, he is the captain.
It makes you think, if Mark Messier were in this situation, what would he do? If Jarome Iginla were in this situation, what would he do? If Bobby Orr or Ray Bourque were in this situation, what would they do? Mario Lemieux, of course, would throw a bunch of cheap shots, refuse to drop the gloves, cry and whine to an official if anybody retaliated, and sit back and let Ulf Samuellson do the dirty work on other team's stars, so who knows, maybe Crosby will go that way too- I guess they respect that approach in Pittsburgh.
But the Penguins just lost a big game last night to the Devils, are slipping in their division, and it's a leadership moment. So, before we put everything on the Bruins here, let's remember who is wearing the "C" in Pittsburgh, and remember how he responds to this.
As for the Bruins, I know exactly how every Bruins fan in the nation wants them to respond, and it dovetails nicely with this brand new video by the Dropkick Murphys:
Now let's go watch some hockey!