The $2,500 sucker punch, we’ll call it: a solid right hook by Scott Walker to the face of Aaron Ward during game 5 in Boston. Ward may have some facial lacerations and a potential broken orbital bone after the scuffle while Walker will be skating in the next game, devoid of any type of suspension. Bruins’ fans are up in arms about the waived suspension, commenting on the incident on Boston.com, ESPN.com and other hockey media outlets. The feeling that the Bruins have been screwed yet again by the NHL front office is back on people’s minds. And as much as I disagree with that ruling, as much as I think that Colin Campbell secretly keeps a Milan Lucic voodoo doll underneath his desk, having Walker in the game tomorrow night will be the absolute best case scenario for the B’s. Simply put, the Bruins have found an enemy to hate.
Think about the Bruins sweep of Montreal. Remember how much passion and drive the Bruins played with? There, the B’s played against an opponent with whom they had an unsurpassed amount of history with from being unable to beat Montreal in the postseason in years past, to the players that made Bruins’ fans cringe every time they stepped on the ice. Specifically, the Bruins’ public enemy number one was defenseman, Mike Komisarek.
The gameplan was simple for Boston at the beginning of the series, wrapped around containing Komisarek and keeping the defenseman from riling up other players. Match that with solving Canadiens’ goaltender, Carey Price, and keeping Alex Kovalev off of the puck and you’ve got yourselves a series. Check, check and check. No coincidence that the Bruins clinched the series in four games. The Bruins hated the Canadiens and played their most physical, smart and relentless hockey because of it.
The Hurricanes seemed like just another team when the series began. Down three games to one, the Bruins finally realized that things had to change. All the more after Walker’s shot at Ward in the third period on Sunday night will the Bruins be out for revenge in the form of a win. Canes netminder (and team co-MVP thus far with Eric Staal) Cam Ward proved that he is mortal when letting in four unanswered goals by the black and gold. The Bruins have the momentum going into game six and a reason to play the same passionate, force-driven hockey that we all saw in the first round.
The sucker punch from Walker will not go unforgotten by Bruins’ players who have showed an extreme amount of comradery and chemistry throughout the entire season. Although most hockey fans view the Bruins as one of the dirtier teams in the NHL thanks to Lucic and Shawn Thornton being able to drop the gloves whenever necessary, Boston is actually one of the more classier, willing to stick up and throw down for fellow teammates. Fans saw this on Sunday when Ward actually pulled Lucic away from Walker after the punch, mouthing to him something along the lines of “it’s not worth it.”
Fans will remember, too, the one time the Bruins clashed against the Dallas Stars on November 1 when instigator and cancer to the game of hockey, Sean Avery was still on the team. How quickly Marc Savard jumped when Lucic went down against the likes of Avery and later, Steve Ott. The Bruins had multiple enemies that game, and went on to play one of the best games of the season, both physically and skillfully.
The incident, quoted by Thornton later as “[something] that will not be forgotten,” will stay fresh in the Bruins’ minds. General Manager Peter Chiarielli “respectfully disagree[d] with the league’s ruling,” and Head Coach Claude Julien even went as far as to assume Walker would be suspended indefinitely. The league dropped the puck on the matter, but little did they know that this would be the exact fuel the Bruins need to walker away with a victory.
Keeping Eric Staal in check is a key for Tuesday night as well. If the Bruins contain him as well as they did on Sunday, the Canes offense will suffer. Walker will be a skating target tonight for Boston and if they continue to play the disciplined hockey that fans have seen so much this year, the Bruins will come out of Raleigh forcing a Game 7 on Thursday night.
Mike Miccoli is the Boston Bruins correspondent for The Hockey Writers. For more updates and random observations, follow Mike on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bruinsmike.