(Ed. Note: As the Stanley Cup Playoffs continue, we're bound to lose some friends along the journey. We've asked for these losers, gone but not forgotten, to be eulogized by the people who knew the teams best: The fans who hated them the most. Here is Thomas Drance of Canucks Army, who requested this assignment in order to get out some year-long frustration as he remembers the 2011-12 Boston Bruins. Again, this was not written by us. Also: This is a roast and you will be offended by it, so don't take it so seriously.)
Dearly beloved, we are gathered here to say our goodbyes to the defending Cup Champions. Here lies the rotting cadaver of the dirtiest, and most misunderstood team I've ever had the pleasure of watching. In honour of one of several gutless moves that Milan Lucic has perfected at the NHL level, let us solemnly give the carcass a gloved sucker punch to the head.
The 2011-12 Bruins were never as good as they appeared to be in the fall, and they were never as bad as they appeared to be in the early Spring. They were simply one of the league's best and most memorable teams.
And now? Now the Bruins Bear's back is broken, payback for the reckless crap various Boston players pulled while damaging the spines of Mason Raymond, and Max Pacioretty (both without suspension, of course, thanks Gregory's dad!).
It's now extremely safe to go ahead, unzip and poke the damn bear.
Ahh yes, "Don't poke the bear," a favorite, stupid as hell buzzword to describe the Bruins style this year. Early in the season, it appeared as if no other team could possibly match Boston's combination of dominant physical play, otherworldly goaltending and raw offensive power. On Jan. 7, Boston's trendsetting, goonish hockey club - the Baltimore Ravens of the NHL - carried a staggeringly impressive goal differential of +76. They were comfortably on pace for one of the most dominant regular seasons in NHL history and looked as unbeatable as Chara, son of Zangief, would be in an arm wrestling competition.
But just three and a half months later, they're out, eliminated, and embarrassed in defeat by the crass, predictable racism of their fans (though that crap could happen, sadly, with any fanbase). The Bruins are a distant memory now, in need of an elegy.
And why are the Bruins out so early this season?
Is it because Braden Holtby, overcame his new-age first name, looked Peverley's fake slash dead in the eye, and didn't blink? Did Washington pass some "punk test," prove themselves unafraid of the B's intimidation tactics, and cause the Bruins resolve to melt away? Nah, he was just on a run. Odd that a goalie got on a run to defeat the Bruins, since usually it's the Bruins viciously running goaltenders.
To hear some daft nellies tell it, the Bruins beat the Canucks in the Finals last year when noted diver and cheap shot artist Brad Marchand punched Daniel Sedin five times in the head, and no Canucks skater answered. It was Boston's "ruggedness" that carried the day in game seven, and they won that series by being celebrated playground toughs.
Forget the fact that Zdeno Chara, who along with Vancouver's twins is the only other true "freak" in the NHL, is the best defenseman walking the Earth at the moment. Who cares that Patrice Bergeron is as suffocating in his own end, as he is hunky off the ice?
And about Tim Thomas stopping 94% of shots faced last postseason? That was important, I guess, but secondary to the masculine goon ideal of hockey that the Bruins so gloriously embody... *vomits*
Often times this season, you'd see an opposing player pick a fight, or get into a scrum with some Bruins player; and, because Boston's hockey team spent most of the first half of the season scoring every shift or two anyways, the B's would quickly answer with a goal or two.
Then the always scrupulous and objective Boston sports media - who are never embarrassingly fact-resistant, always get the joke, and would never stoop to lift a translation from an independent blog without credit — would cry out, "Look at that! It just goes to show you - you don't poke the bear!"
And why shouldn't you poke the bear? Because if you do, "they'll make you pay like the real men they are. The type of men who invoke the neighbourhood they're from (Charlestown, bitch), and use their Irish heritage as a cudgel to excuse their habitual ill-temper, homophobia and misogyny - among other anti-social tendencies. That's the Boston way!"
Yes. Yes it is.
So Shawn Thornton would fight some bugger, later claiming he defeated an entire team with one punch, and head to the box. Then the best line in hockey this season, would light up the poor schmuck in net, and Thornton would get showered with praise for a goal scored while he sat, either in the box or on the bench; which is where he spent most of the season.
But... But... "He raised the emotional level!"
(It was also the line with the single most inexcusably douchey nickname — "Bru Tang Clan?" ODB is rolling in his grave.)
That is, except for Games 6 and 7 of the first round series against the Caps, where he was exiled to the press box for a player in Jordan Caron who can, you know, legitimately play hockey. And this happened, even after Game 5 where Thornton threw two consecutive bad hits on a shift that Boston immediately followed up on with two goals in twenty eight seconds. "Don't poke the bear!" Look, you know for sure that a common narrative is only bought by stone cold dummies, when the team itself clearly doesn't even believe in it.
Going into their first-round series against the Caps, I was sure that the Bruins Achilles heel would be their complete inability to turn the other cheek. The Bruins are a mediocre special teams club, but they're bonkers good five-on-five. It's scary, frankly, to think of how good they'd have been if not for the nativist Boston "always be the tougher man" sentiments the organization bought into during the regular season.
But I was wrong. The Bruins are, in the always eloquent words of Brad Marchand, "smart enough to win a cup." Neely, Chiarelli, Julien and others in the Bruins front office aren't dummies like most other organizations in the NHL.
Over-dramatic whiners, sure, but not idiots.
To the B's credit, they played a hard, clean series against the Caps, and were arguably the lesser goon team over seven games, as the B's dropped their crap and legitimately tried to win. Turns out the Bruins front office is not as stupid as the other teams around the league, who clearly bought the "B's won because of toughness" story, hook, line and sinker.
Just look around at the other first round postseason series this year and you'll see why the B's aren't just goons, they're trend-setters with Kardashian levels of influence. The postseason has been marked by cheap hits all over the ice, naked headhunting, more post-whistle bull crap then you can you shake a stick at. This postseason saw more suspensions in the first ten days of the playoffs than any other NHL postseason has ever seen in total.
In a copycat league like the NHL, do you think we'd be seeing this junk to the extent we saw in Round 1 if Boston hadn't hoisted Stanley's mug last season?
Not a chance.
So thanks to the Bruins for setting hockey back a decade.
Thanks to Zdeno Chara, for being a joy for all objective hockey fans to watch, for being classy as hell as one of the All-Star team captains back in January, and for his wicked performance in supporting roles in Donnie Darko and It's All Gone Pete Tong:
There's zero chance the baby in that photo didn't cry her eyes out.
Thanks to Brad Marchand for making us laugh with his basic illiteracy and his absurd defenses for any of several unconscionable cheap shots. Thanks to Marchand's uniquely detestable hit on Sami Salo, most all hip-checks are illegal now.
And also, thanks to Marchand for completing the second best dive of the postseason (average score from the judges: 8.5), and for letting us all know just how little we matter.
Thanks to Rich Peverley for being an all around bad-ass depth player, for his asexual stripper alter ego Pat Beverly, and for single handedly making the first round series interesting with his strange ability to actually score occasionally on a rookie goaltender. Wowee! And to Chris Kelly, the luckiest son of a bitch in the NHL this season, who is about to sign a Ville Leino-like contract with some dumbass team who thinks he's actually good.
Thanks to Tyler Seguin, for continuing to terrorize Leafs fans, and for exposing the low level of intelligence of the Boston media by playing extremely well all series, yet only getting credit for being Boston's best player (by far) when he began to get results late in Game 6.
Thanks to Nathan Horton — and we wish him a speedy, full recovery — for having the grumpiest on-ice demeanor of any NHLer. Nathan Horton is so grouchy, you'd think he lives in a garbage can. The way his expressive face conveys his all encompassing displeasure in a number of brilliant ways is a unique joy:
Never even texted that dude an apology.
Thanks to Shawn Thornton for being overrated, and for memorably slapping Tony-G around on NESN while telling folk tales, that was fun.
And thanks to Milan Lucic for no-showing in the postseason again.
Soft as a penalty call against Benoit Pouliot.
Thanks to Tuukka Rask, for leaning to the right, hurting himself, and forcing Tim Thomas to play too many games down the stretch. That untimely injury resulted in Thomas playing more games than he's used to at his advanced, gold bug age and — surprise, surprise — he went on to allow a few too many softies against the Caps.
Thanks to Cody "little Lindros" Hodgson, for that matter, for breaking Tim Thomas with one fell snipe. Canucks General Manager Mike Gillis preposterously said that beating the Bruins in January derailed the Canucks season, which was deservedly mocked in Boston. Though, arguably, losing to Vancouver derailed Thomas' season — his even-strength save percentage from then on was .904%.
Though that could just be the result of regression. Thomas loves things that are regressive, I hear, and certainly the Free Citizen was beyond due. Though wasn't Brouwer's game winner in Game 5 uncannily similar to Hodgson's January snipe - or is that just me?
Finally, thanks to Tim Thomas, snubber of Presidents' and heir to the dual thrones of goaltender floppiness (previously held by Hasek), and goaltender hackiness (previously sat upon by Hextall).
Thomas, who notably StruGgles to pRoperly use capital letters, appropriately defeated by a team called the Capitals? That's as rich as the top 0.5% of US citizens would be if tax rates reflected Thomas' political views.
Thomas by the way, is about to be run out of Boston like John Lackey, both for his political beliefs, which is stupid, and because it's time to ride the cheaper, younger and just as good Rask, which makes sense. Also he eats fried chicken when Rask, Khubodin or Turco get the start. It's true, I'll read it in the Globe in a week or two!
Thomas' zany political beliefs aside (comparing pro-choice legislation to Nazism is just the tip of the iceberg) he's a likable guy in front of the press, and when interacting with fans. He handled last night's loss with dignity. That won't stop the character assassination that's coming in the Boston press this summer though.
But forget all that, I can't wait for him to announce his third party candidacy for President in the coming months - at the very least we know he can count on the support of all the Bruins fans who used hashtags like "#go2theNBA" to mock Joel Ward after his series winner.
It's ironic, really, that the Bruins' title defense was waylaid by a mediocre, misfit squad of overachievers playing in front of a hot goaltender. After all, that's a pretty good facsimile of the Bruins team that achieved immortality last season — minus, you know, the endless torrent of injurious cheap-shots and garbage plays.
Last year, the Bruins were extremely lucky to get by Montreal, Tampa and Vancouver, all in Game 7s, on their way to hoisting the Cup. This season, they were actually really, really good and got unlucky against a Caps team just good enough to overcome their dumb-ass head coach. They also got unlucky with injuries, and I suspect this series has a different outcome if Adam McQuaid and Nathan Horton were in the lineup, and if Bergeron had been able to take draws in the final two games.
But thems the breaks in the Stanley Cup playoffs, and finally, Boston's luck ran out.
Oh well, at least the Patriots won the Super Bowl... Oops. Well, the Celtics are looking like contenders... Huh, that's not true either? Well there's always the Red Sox, they'll continue to be among the top teams in the AL East with that payroll... Oh. Oh good god.
Yes, friends, the Sox suck, the Celtics are too old, the Patriots can't get by a New York based football team, and the Bruins choked in Round 1 of the postseason.
Kind of feels like the mid-90s are slowly returning to Title Town, doesn't it?
And isn't it great?