Just 4:59 into the first period of the Bruins' big 2-1 win over the Rangers on Sunday, New York forward Vinny Prospal checked Boston defenseman Mark Stuart from behind. The hit brought an onrush of the other four Bruins on the ice, led by Patrice Bergeron, who went after Prospal and defended their teammate, showing the fans at TD Garden something they have been calling for all season.
It showed that the Bruins care about each other and that they will defend each other when necessary.
"It was good, the guys came right in and I think we played a good intense game all night," Stuart said of his teammates coming to his defense. "We were physical all day, so I think we can be happy with that today. But we've got to find some consistency in that. We've got to do that every day, every game, or else. You know, we're a lot better when we play like that."
Ever since the Bruins failed to defend teammate Marc Savard when he was blindsided by Penguins forward Matt Cooke on March 7 and knocked out with a concussion, the Bruins have been under heavy scrutiny for their lack of a response. Their loyalty to each other was — and has continued to be — called into question. Even after this past Thursday, when teammate Shawn Thornton stepped up and fought Cooke 1:58 into the rematch with the Penguins, the Bruins were still bashed for what they themselves admitted was a lack of emotion and toughness in the eventual 3-0 loss.
Even Hall of Famer and Bruins vice president Cam Neely expressed his disappointment with the lack of emotional follow-up after Thornton and Cooke squared off on Thursday.
"One of the things that we've identified is that some of the guys that we could replace on the ice, we couldn't replace in the locker room," Neely said on WEEI's The Big Show on Friday. "The talent level of the replacements could be the same or a little better on the ice, but in the locker room, we've lost some of that leadership and character that we really need."
On Saturday night, the Bruins' unity was called into question once again when Hockey Night in Canada analyst Glenn Healy lambasted the Bruins, referring to their dressing room as "poisonous."
"I think that Boston dressing room hasn't been good all year," Healy told the rest of a panel that included host Ron MacLean, NESN analyst Mike Milbury and Pierre LeBrun of ESPN. "It has been poisonous all year, and that game [against the Penguins] exactly typified what's been going on with the Boston Bruins all year. They used to stick together for one and for all, and they haven't stuck together at all for this year and a lot of the chunks for this season."
Healy was then asked to elaborate on his claims.
"You've got the wrong names on the back of some of those [Bruins] sweaters obviously," answered Healy.
Following the Bruins' win on Sunday, some Boston players reacted harshly to Healy's accusations.
"I know ‘Heals,' and that's surprising to me, but I can tell you there's nothing to that," said Thornton. "There's no problem here. We have our disagreements, but so does any team. I can tell you that I know every guy here has got each other's backs."
Healy was director of player affairs for the NHL Players' Association until Sept. 3, when he resigned in the aftermath of the Paul Kelly firing. Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference was one of the board committee members that pushed for Kelly's dismissal, and in the days following the incident, rumors abounded that the Bruins dressing room was divided between Ference and others defending the move and Mark Recchi leading others who were unhappy with the way Kelly was let go.
Could that be what brought on Healy's accusations about the B's locker room?
"I don't know," said Thornton, "but if that's the case, that was over long ago. And that's a bunch of crap to stir that up again now," he said. "We put that to bed like every other team."
But one player who wished to remain anonymous immediately pointed to the NHLPA strife as the origin of Healy's comments.
"He knows that there's guys in here who didn't want him in his position with the NHLPA and that some here were against him," the player said, "so that's where that's coming from."
Regardless of Healey's intentions, many Bruins were willing to acknowledge that there have been times when they have failed to be there for each other. They're hoping the reaction to the Stuart hit on Sunday is a sign of better things to come and that they are back to being a team that won't be pushed around.
"We need to stick up for each other as a team," head coach Claude Julien said. "We haven't been the best at it this year — that's a fact. I think everybody knows that including ourselves. And I think the players have made a commitment to be a team and to stick up for each other and that's what we did tonight."
Powered by WordPress.com VIP