Just a few quick hits before the full “Morning After” column tomorrow:
–Did Alzner poke the bear? It’s been this way for years now, pretty much since Milan Lucic and Shawn Thornton came aboard: the Bruins play better hockey when they’re physically and emotionally engaged in a game, or when the opponent has “poked to bear,” to steal a line from both Pierre McGuire and Jack Edwards. Karl Alzner may have not only poked the bear, but whacked it in the face with a stick with his “crying” gesture towards Milan Lucic after a third period scrum. Alzner, a noted tough guy (sarcasm heavy there), grabbed Lucic from behind during the scrum, and only gestured towards Lucic after the referees had stepped between. Wow. A few moments later, Zdeno Chara’s slapper was deflected home for the game-winning goal. After the game, Lucic was laughing and smiling about the altercation, referencing Alzner’s weak (a few roughing minors) resume. The Bruins needed a wake-up call, and Alzner might have given it to them.
-Traffic! FINALLY the Bruins got some bodies in front of Braden Holtby, and hey, what do you know? They scored four goals. Three of the four (Rich Peverley’s wrister being the exception) were the direct result of traffic in front of the net: Daniel Paille banged home a rebound, Brian Rolston banged home a rebound, and Chara’s goal deflected off of a Washington stick, the result of the Caps player covering a Bruin who was, you guessed it, in front of the net. Holtby had great looks at too many shots in the first two games. The B’s made life more difficult for him tonight, and his play suffered.
-Backstrom’s crosscheck Nicklas Backstrom was given a match penalty for crosschecking Rich Peverley in the face after time expired, a penalty that comes with an automatic one-game suspension pending a review by the league. Chances are the suspension will be overturned, much like it was for Scott Walker when he sucker punched Aaron Ward in 2009. However, this is now the third high crosschecking incident the Caps have had in this series. Milan Lucic was suspended for a very similar incident in 2009 against Montreal (video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QhdMTCjEjjA&feature=youtu.be). What will happen? In all likelihood, the league will dismiss the suspension. But who knows, maybe the league will try to send the Caps a message regarding their consistently high sticks.
-Spear Jason Chimera’s spear to the “Marchands” of Brad Marchand was a garbage play, one of the cheapest in hockey. He was penalized for it, and apparently stuck around after the game to apologize to Marchand. No word on whether or not Marchand accepted it, but I think that’s a pretty dumb move on Chimera’s part. The spear was dumb; apologizing to your opponent, no matter how inhumane the act, during a playoff series shows a degree of weakness.
-What to do with Alzner Here’s what I’d do with Lucic: let him go out and challenge Alzner early on Thursday. Even if he takes the extra two for instigating, let him do it. One of two things will happen: Lucic will beat Alzner badly, firing up the Bruins and demoralizing the Caps; or Alzner will punk out and turtle, demoralizing the Caps. You’ve gotta figure that, as a player, those are the penalties you love to kill for your teammate. Let Lucic tune Alzner up. Take the two minutes, and intimidate the Caps a bit.
-War of attrition The Chara-Ovechkin match-up was supposed to be the headline, but the ongoing battle between Dennis Seidenberg and Ovechkin has been a true joy to watch. They’ve been pounding each other with hit after hit all series, and neither is backing down.
-No treats for Beagle DOG PUNS! Overlooked in the third period chaos was Tim Thomas’ save on Jay Beagle in the dying moments of the second period. Beagle was alone in the slot and fired one on Thomas that I have absolutely no idea how he saved. Beagle’s shot looked destined to go five-hole, but Thomas somehow stopped it. Big save in a big moment by the guy who was supposed to be distracted/intimidated by the Obama signs and faces in the crowd. No such luck, Caps fans.