A triumphant return on a Monday morning for me here. Although, I did not make it into the drunk tank in Salem over the weekend I did manage to get myself drunk enough to the point where a keyboard looked like a bottle of wine, so hence no posting from me. Cameron did a swell job of holding down the fort and we all learned a little something about some fashion designer I’ve never heard of or cared about. I did manage to catch the last two periods of the slugfest that was the Dallas Stars game on Saturday night, and being two days behind, I’m not going to give you all the press clippings about how Marty Turco knows his teams sucks, but he sure doesn’t. They are everywhere in the Bruins blogsphere and maybe I’ll toss some links your way later. Instead, I am going to try and understand why Steve Ott got iced for nearly 15:00 minutes on Saturday night.
To start, I think there is a big difference between guys like Sean Avery and Steve Ott. I’m not the biggest Avery fan in the world, but I come close to respecting the man. I wouldn’t be thrilled if he was playing in Boston (apparently according the the AP he already has: “Dallas winger Sean Avery, a former Bruin“. Correct me and Hockey-Reference if we’re wrong, but Avery has never been a Bruin). To me, Avery is a hockey player, not just a goon. He can take an opposing team off their game with his agitation skills, but also put up some points, 15 goals and 33 points last year for the NYR’s, and some of those were crucial game changing goals. The biggest thing to me is that most of the time Avery knows when to back off of being a pain in the ass if its not working for his team, or if its going to put them in a terrible position to win the game.
Jack Edwards described Steve Ott as a “knee-seeking missile” and wondered how many hits it would take before he ended someone’s career. While that may be a little bit of an overreaction from Edwards, (god bless his soul, did anyone catch the Calgary game where in a span of five minutes he talked about how Tim Thomas “fungled” the puck and then referenced getting hit by “500 lbs of beef”? Classic would be an understatement). If Ott is going to play the way he does, he has to be ready to answer the bell. The Bruins responded well to the shitty play of Ott by picking their spots and not losing their composure. Patience was rewarded, as Andrew Ference was given the gift of Ott being a mediocre player lallygagging in the neutral zone, and lit him up. Ference promptly backed up his hit by dropping the gloves with a much more experienced fighter in Avery, and held his own. Let’s recall the last time Ference got in a fight: a loss to Hockey Jesus. Now this isn’t a column about the code, although it easily could be, as Ott ducked fighting Milan Lucic and everyone else on the team and let Krys Barch fight Shawn Thornton to settle the score.
The interesting thing to me was how the coach of the Dallas Stars, Dave Tippet, continued to let Steve Ott run amok, when he is negatively impacting his own team. The Bruins responded well to the agitation and questionable hits from Ott, by continuing to play a tight defensive game and create offense in transition. Boston was outhit by Dallas 17-26, but if you watched the game, Boston was in physical control of the play and tempo, despite being outhit. Steve Ott contributed five of those hits in 14:38 of ice time and also contributed a whopping one shot on goal, one take away, and one give away. If Ott’s job is to take the other team out of their game, and by midway through the second he is clearly being ineffective in his role, why continue to ice him so heavily?
With Ott’s antics penalty minutes are normally involved, as his job is to draw penalties or take a player from the other team far superior to him out of the game for a period of time. Steve Ott and Milan Lucic both go to the box, clearly a victory for Dallas as they don’t have to put up with the likes of Lucic for the next two to five minutes. On Saturday night, Ott’s penalties came with matching Boston penalties, so the short handed situations for Dallas weren’t directly his fault. The Bruins wound up going one for five on the power play. I think this is telling as to how effective Ott was on Saturday night. You are clearly not taking a team out of their game when they burn you for four even strength goals. The only power play goal they net is the fifth and your are already in the locker room preserving your precious plus / minus.
I know the Stars are riddled with injury and agitation may be necessary for them to win a few games, but Steve Ott for almost 15:00 minutes a night is the way to accomplish that? To me, Ott was off-setting the Dallas Stars far more than helping. Talk about cockblocking a groove for your team, every shift you take your causing stoppages in play or taking penalty minutes? When even your team thinks the game was a joke, you need to reconsider your game plan.
Maybe the whole agitator thing doesn’t make much sense to me, because we don’t have one here in Boston. Milan Lucic and Shawn Thornton definitely can get under people’s skin, but both have plenty of hockey skills. Thornton has been quite impressive this year in fact, and we haven’t seen a questionable play from either of these guys in their Boston tenure. The Dallas Stars seemed like they knew they were over matched coming into the Garden Saturday night, as their game plan was to try and force the Bruins to loose the game. The Bruins proved how good they can be by beating the Stars playing their own game. If the Bruins continue their dedication to their teammates and system, they can beat anyone in the league, regardless of the style of play tossed at them.