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Make no mistake: Sidney Crosby is no Wayne Gretzky 06.08.13 at 9:43 pm ET
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The next time someone shouts that Sidney Crosby is today’s Wayne Gretzky, give a quick reminder that such an argument is a waste of breath.

Sidney Crosby might be one of the all-time greats, but his disappointing performance in the conference finals against the Bruins didn't do anything to help his image. (AP)

The 25-year-old Crosby, who just finished his eighth year in the NHL, is an immensely talented hockey player. He forms one half of the “Mega Powers” with teammate Evgeni Malkin for good reason, but the alleged modern-day Gretzky falls short in one area: While Crosby may be great, he is far from The Great One.

Crosby did not register one point in the Bruins’ four game sweep of the Penguins.

“If you look back, the chances were there,” Crosby said. “You try to fight, you try to get through to the net and get rebounds, and sometimes they come to you, sometimes they don’t. But obviously, you score two goals as a team in four games and virtually we go without any points. That doesn’t sit very well.”

There are definitely similarities between the two superstars. Both players hail from Canada and entered the league soon after their 18th birthdays. Crosby became the first teenager to lead the NHL in scoring since Gretzky achieved the feat in 1980. Just like Wayne, Sid the Kid has captured the Hart Trophy. Both players have hoisted the Stanley Cup, and there is no denying that both are wonderful ambassadors for the game of hockey. The similarities, at least up to this point in Crosby’s career, do not extend much further.

“When you’re the best player in the league and you’re the face of the NHL, you are always judged by a tougher standard,” said ESPN hockey analyst Barry Melrose. “Sidney’s judged by a very tough standard. If he doesn’t go out and get a goal every night, or get two or three assists every night, people say he’s in a slump.”

Slump or no slump, Crosby was unable to create any offense against the Bruins. Unlike Gretzky, The Kid could not find a way to lead his team. The Great One spent a decade of pure dominance in Edmonton, putting such a fork in the Islanders dynasty that it is rarely ever discussed. He won the Stanley Cup on four occasions with the Oilers before resuscitating professional hockey in Los Angeles. As incredible as Gretzky’s numbers were in the regular season, his work in the playoffs was simply on another level. Gretzky holds the record for most points in one playoff year with 47 in 1985, which was accomplished in only 19 games (the Bruins, by comparison, have already played 16 games this postseason). He dished out 31 assists during the 1988 playoffs, with 10 of those coming at the expense of the Bruins in the Stanley Cup finals. Gretzky was always judged by an incredibly high standard: the one that he set for himself.

Crosby is also judged by a higher standard, but he came up short this postseason. Crosby’s performance likely spells the end for Pens coach Dan Bylsma. Earlier this season, Bylsma became the fastest coach ever to win 200 games. He likely will soon be known as the former coach of the Penguins, joining John Tortorella as the second coach to be dismissed after an embarrassing playoff loss to Claude Julien’s big, bad Bruins.

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Zdeno Chara proves why he’s the ‘toughest guy in the [NHL], bar none’ 03.28.12 at 9:55 am ET
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Bruins captain Zdeno Chara is notoriously humble and soft spoken about his own accomplishments.

That’s why it’s often a good idea to listen to his teammates and coach when trying to gauge what impact he’s had on the Bruins, even a teammate like Brian Rolston who hasn’t shared a dressing room with him for that long.

Asked what he’s learned about Chara since coming back to Boston in a deadline trade with the Islanders, Rolston was honest enough.

“Probably nothing,” Rolston said. “He’s so hard to play against; he’s a tremendous leader. Obviously he does that by example, but he’s the toughest guy to play against in the league – bar none. If you were to pull the forwards on every team they would say the same thing and coming in on a nightly basis knowing that you have to face him – it’s a tough task.”

Rolston set up the game-winner of Tuesday’s 5-2 triumph over Tampa Bay when he tried a wraparound midway through the third, only to have the puck flutter its way out to a wide open Benoit Pouliot. But the heroics of Rolston and Pouliot don’t happen without Chara, who has he did all night, brought the puck in deep into the offensive zone to apply more pressure on a team known for its stingy defense.

The secondary assist was Chara’s third of the night, a night on which Chara matched a career-high with three helpers and was honored before the game for becoming the latest and greatest member of the NHL’s 1000-game club.

“Yeah, those were big,” Rolston added. “Z had a great game, another great game for us. It’s huge, it’s huge – if you can get the defensemen helping out, and especially against on team like that that collapses down all the time. It’s difficult to get anything going down low so it’s great to have defensemen contributing offensively.”

That’s exactly what Chara did when he took the puck midway through the first at the Tampa Bay blue line and charged around the zone like Wayne Gretzky, eventually running at the net, creating a scoring chance for Shawn Thornton when Dwayne Roloson left a juicy rebound.

“Basically, I get a puck on the blueline, I was trying to ride the blueline and then just kind of opened up and I really decided to challenge that seam and once I got a little bit more room, I was kind of deciding between a shot and pass,” Chara explained. “But again, everything was happened and I decided to take it to the net and we’ve always been taught when you do those things, good things happen and they did. We scored on the rebound, and it ended up being a good play.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Sounds of the game… Coyotes 2, Bruins 1 03.06.09 at 12:03 am ET
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Well, a home ice loss to the 14th-best team in the Western conference was not exactly what Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli and coach Claude Julien had in mind when the Bruins dealt for Mark Recchi and Steve Montador on Wednesday at the NHL trade deadline.

The Bruins came out and laid a massive egg against the overhauled roster of the Phoenix Coyotes and fell 2-1 at TD Banknorth Garden.

There are a number of reasons this loss is troubling. First, it comes on the heels of a 4-2 loss to Philadelphia on Tuesday night. Second it comes just a day after the team made two big deals for the stretch run. Third, the return of Milan Lucic to the lineup was expected to give the Bruins a little extra jump. That never materialized.

And finally, the New Jersey Devils are coming fast and this is another loss that brings the No. 2 seed a bit closer to being able to overtake the No. 1 Bruins, who are stuck on 93 points, just six ahead of Jersey.

It’s looking more and more like when the Bruins host the Devils on March 22 at the Garden, first place in the East could be on the line.

But before looking ahead, the Bruins must look back on what was a painful Thursday night on Causeway. And you could sense the frustration, starting with head coach Claude Julien.

Julien said his team, all of sudden, can’t finish on scoring chances.

Julien said when it comes to playing a full 60 minutes, talk is cheap.

Marc Savard said the Bruins were a little too cute on the ice with the puck.

Milan Lucic said the Bruins have to find a way to play 60 minutes.

Even as a newcomer, Steve Montador knows to expect boos when the team isn’t playing well.

Montador said the team is trying to look ahead and gain momentum.

Aaron Ward summed up the Bruins problems.

Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky said his Coyotes put forth a good team effort.

Gretzky said his team had a good road effort in Boston.

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Straight through the checking glass 10.24.08 at 12:29 pm ET
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Next time we're up 2-0 in a game, do me a favor Z and sweep the leg...mercy is for the weak.

Next time we're up 2-0 in a game, do me a favor Z and sweep the leg...mercy is for the weak.

The B’s Friday morning practice was one predictably filled with skating, more skating and a big helping of sheepish regret after frittering one away against a divisional opponent the night before at the Garden. The B’s are still looking for their first win on home ice, and Claude Julien still clearly wasn’t happy with the effort against the Leafs.  Friday morning the B’s whistle blower called it “by far our worst game of the season.”

It wasn’t an out-and-out punitive bag skate for the Bruins at practice with the Atlanta Thrashers on the schedule for Saturday night, but it was clear that the team was being called on to reinforce the little things: more grit and tenacity around the net and the danger areas in the offensive zone and the mental strength to stick within Julien’s defensive system when play starts to break down on the ice. 

“We need to get a little hungrier,” said Julien. ”I think being hungrier can get us over the hump a little. It’s not what our fans deserve, and that’s why we have to show that we have some pride and bounce back tomorrow and show [the fans] the real Boston Bruin team.”

One moment of levity during the media session following practice involved the Looch – AKA Milan Lucic – recounting how he basically threw a Toronto Maple Leafs player through the glass boards and shattered a 1/2 inch thick pane of glass on the side wall. Lucic said that he thinks that the hit was aided by both his and Mike Van Ryn’s sticks hitting the top of the glass-like material, where the acrylic sheet is most vulnerable.

“It felt cool. I heard a couple of people went to the hospital and got stitches and stuff, and that kinda sucks that it happened like that. If you look at it, the way somebody explained it to me, it’s the top of the glass that’s very vulnerable. If you see the hit, when it happens our sticks hit the top of the glass and then I hit him. So just hitting the top of the glass put so much pressure and helped make it shatter. The sticks hitting the top of the glass triggered the whole thing and the glass breaking.”

Doesn’t that take away some of the sheer awesome power of the hit and growing mythology of the fire-breathing Looch lurking in Boston?

“Well, there still had to be a lot of power. Obviously now I know how to do it. It was a hard hit and it felt cool, that’s for sure,” said Lucic. “I received a lot of text messages and they were all like ‘holy smokes’ and one guy asked me if I worked out enough this summer. It was on TSN in Canada and all kinds of people told me they saw it.”

The hit reminded Marc Savard a bit of the plate of glass that landed on Janet Gretzky and knocked The Great One’s wife out cold after mustache-twirling Bruins villian Ulf Samuelsson crashed into the boards with similar force during a New York Rangers game. Savard was a member of the Rangers at the time and remembered the scary incident pretty vividly.

“Yeah, I had seen that when a guy got hit into the boards and the glass popped out and hit Janet right in the forehead,” said Saved. “She was bleeding out of the mouth. It was a scary sight, and just Thank God that nobody got seriously injured. It’s a part of the game. [Looch] is a big boy and anytime he hits you, you feel it. A lot of people felt that one.

“It really put a stall in the game. It was a good hit, but we didn’t really muster much after that. Saturday [against the Thrashers] gives a good chance to redeem that.” 

Here’s the Samuelsson hit that knocked out the glass boards and subsequently injured The Great One’s wife back in the late 1990′s, courtesy of the all-knowing and all-powerful youtube:

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