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Bruins and Penguins of Years Past

Marc Savard after his run-in with Matt Cooke. (Matt Freed / Post-Gazette)

Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it, or so the saying goes. With tensions running high after the Savard hit, and with the Penguins and Bruins set to meet again this Thursday, several members of each staff would do well to remember possible past lives, or at least figures who mirror their attitudes. If they don’t, a brawl of epic proportions could erupt, and suspensions would be the least of their worries. Unless nothing gets punished anymore. It’s like an L.A. jury in the NHL nowadays. In any case, to better understand the volatile attitudes involved in Thursday’s Beantown Bash, it would help to understand similar minds of the past, and see how they did themselves in just as today’s hockey players might:

Penguins:

Matt Cooke – Reynald de Chatillon

Matt Cooke: Scott Levy / Getty Images. Reynald de Chatillon: "Kingdom of Heaven," 2005.
During the Second Crusade, several truces were made between Crusader leaders and the Saracen ruler, Saladin. Despite this, Reynald, a French vassal to kings of Crusader states, kept violating the truces and treaties by attacking valuable caravans under their protection. Reynald even sent pirates to pillage villages all along the Red Sea. The kings claimed to Saladin that they could not control Reynald, and war soon erupted again. Reynald’s actions forced Saladin to swear he would personally behead Reynald if he were ever taken prisoner. Saladin fulfilled his promise after the Battle of Hattin, but Saladin later let King Guy, also taken prisoner, free after some time, a move that greatly helped Saladin diplomatically.

Matt Cooke, despite having higher ups, seems to be rather unruly, and why wouldn’t he be with nobody seemingly willing to discipline him? He takes cheap shots at players who should be protected by regulations. Sound familiar anyone? It can’t be long until his actions provoke massive fights, and there are plenty of Bruins right now who I’m sure would love to behead him with a well-placed skate, especially since vigilante law seems like the only one that will apply to Cooke.

Sidney Crosby – Odysseus

Sidney Crosby: AP Photo / Keith Srakocic. Odysseus: "The Odyssey," 1997.
We all know the story of Odysseus. He departs from Troy without offering Poseidon and the gods due sacrifice. He reeked of hubris, just having to be the only one to listen to the Sirens’ song and live to tell about it. He just had to navigate the straits of Scylla and Charybdis. He just had to brag to Polyphemus after blinding and escaping from the Cyclops. His self righteous attitude led to the death of his men and destruction of his ship and supplies. Only when he admitted to his nemesis Poseidon (after losing everything) that he was a man and nothing more was he allowed to return home to Ithaca and kill the suitors ravaging his estate.

Such a face of his team and sport, Crosby leads the league in scoring, which should make him a little uptight. Winning the Olympics can’t help the situation. Surely he thinks he is immune to the wrath of any higher power and can’t be targeted by head hits. With all the Penguins riding with him and bolstered by last year’s Stanley Cup, will Crosby’s high and mightiness lead them to underestimate opponents and blow their title defense? If they want a decent shot, Crosby and the Penguins will need to admit that they’re fallible, and not take anything for granted.

Marc-Andre Fleury – Emperor Constantine XI

Marc-Andre Fleury: AP Photo / Bill Kostroun.
In 1453, Constantinople was under siege from the Ottoman Turks. By that time, the empire was severely weakened, practically consisting of only the city itself. The famous walls had saved the 1100-year-old empire for some time, having only failed once before in 1204 to violent, looting crusaders passing through. This time around, thanks to rifts with the West, Constantinople was outnumbered more than 11 to 1 by contemporary estimates. Advancements in gunpowder technology favored the Ottoman siege works, and it didn’t take them long to use their numbers to storm the city. Small holes in the wall helped the Ottomans sneak in and establish a base within the city. A gate left unlocked in the chaos, as some historians suggest, couldn’t have helped. With defeat imminent, Constantine himself lead the last stand against the Ottoman throngs pouring into the city, only to die alongside his troops in noble fashion.

The Penguin defense, led by Fleury, is actually amongst the worst in goals allowed of all playoff teams, and is only better than mostly the worst teams. Fleury gave up three goals in an important game against the Devils last Friday, even giving up a rare hot night post-trade for Ilya Kovalchuk. With their potential to win the division in question, is Fleury’s and Pittsburgh’s defense about to crumble? Their powerful offense is holding off invaders for now, but with Kovalchuk, Ovechkin, and a bevy of other attackers coming for Pittsburgh’s title, it might soon be time for Fleury to lead a last stand of his own. Boston will only be more than happy to pound at the walls. Who thought they were capable of putting up five in Philadelphia, after all?

Bruins:

Marc Savard – Joan of Arc

Marc Savard: AP Photo / Kathy Kmonicek.
By 1429, the French had lost most of their country in the North (including Paris) to the English during the Hundred Years War. Only the city of Orleans, with its strategic positioning along the Loire river making it the only city standing between England and complete victory. With the English laying siege to the city, Joan was given the chance, at the age of 17, to lead the French forces and lifted the siege in only nine days. Even a shot to the chest from an enemy archer, which another of her famous visions prophesied, could not stop her from returning to action. Joan’s leadership lead to the recapture of much French territory (despite several more archer wounds), including Reims, where Charles VII could finally be crowned king. It was during a retreat at Compiegne where Joan was surrounded and captured by Burgundians. Her trial and execution in 1431 were conducted without any legitimate evidence, but the English proceeded anyway. Joan was rightfully declared innocent in 1456 and made a saint in 1920. Her status as a martyr so inspired the French, that they completely reversed the tides of war and regained their country and won the war by 1453.

Savard is one of the leading Bruins and has suffered several injuries this year from which he has bounced back. His 10 goals and 23 assists in 41 games have made him a key contributor to the Bruins being in the race at all. Finally, when Savard was leading a charge, his season was killed off, with evidence supporting that move shaky at best. With one of their better players martyred for the cause, the only thing that remains to be seen is if the Bruins will completely turn their fortunes around, get back into the heart of the race, and ride their defense and hopefully better offense to a Stanley cup, and be the last of the four major Boston sports teams to win a title in many of our lifetimes.

Tim Thomas – King Priam

Tim Thomas: AP Photo / Charlie Krupa. King Priam: "Troy," 2004.
During the Trojan War, Priam hid behind his walls, which were able to hold off the multitude of Greek champions in their attempts at felling them. The mighty Trojan defenses, led by Priam, fought many battles, in the open fields and down to the Greek camps on the shore. After heated fighting, including deaths of champions on both sides, a truce was declared before the fighting would rage on again. It was during this time that the Greeks devised and built the Trojan Horse, hiding their warriors inside. The Trojans thought the horse was an offering to the gods for a safe voyage home after abandoning the war and brought the horse within their city walls to break up this fortune, despite warnings from a select few skeptics who guessed the Greeks’ true intentions. At night, the Greek fleet, which had sailed back to the island under dark’s cover, entered and sacked the city, the gate of which was opened by those inside the horse.

Thomas has been known as a stalwart defender, with a Vezina Trophy to show for it. But there have been plenty of times where Thomas has lost sight of a puck just as Priam lost his wits after the change of Greek strategy. Thomas’ defense has been sliding a little this season, and to reverse that, he’ll have to maintain his hand-eye coordination to track the puck at all times, and keep track of opponents’ rushes, movements, and strategies at all times, and be able to figure them out effectively. But remember, it was Odysseus (Crosby) that came up with the idea of the Trojan Horse, and he has more than enough scoring ability to break down Priam’s (Thomas’) defenses, as do other scoring threats in the league.

Tuukka Rask – Hector

Tuukka Rask: AP Photo / Matt Slocum. Hector: "Troy," 2004.
Hector was the son of King Priam, and the strongest champion of Troy. It was thanks to him that the Trojan army was able to hold off the Greeks for so long. He turned back any challenge, even holding off two personal fights with the mighty Ajax. Even though he is wounded by Ajax, Hector keeps fighting back until the first duel is declared a draw, and disarms Ajax, forcing a retreat during the second duel at the Greek lines. Hector gains much glory, outshining even the king. It takes a challenge from the legendary Achilles to finally do Hector in and permanently turn the tide of the war in the Greeks’ favor.

When Thomas started an embarrassing losing streak, his backup Rask was brought in and quickly stole his thunder. Rask brought the Bruins right back into the playoff race, raising morale after a ten-game winless streak. Even now, he leads the league in goals against average and still has much reverence amongst the Bruins despite Thomas resuming much of his starting duties. With Thomas doing pretty well again, and Rask ready to man the posts at any time, it will take a powerful figure to rip through Rask’s defense and take him out of the equation. With the acrobatic saves we’ve seen from him as of late, maybe a tricky Trojan Penguin would be needed to do the trick.

Claude Julien – Napoleon Bonaparte

Claude Julien: Stuart Cahill.
General Bonaparte led a coup against a very unpopular government, and became First Consul of France, and Emperor five years later. He instituted many economic, educational and social reforms, in addition to his military acumen. After a failed 1812 campaign in Russia, in which supplies could not be mustered and battle could not be decisively won, Napoleon was forced to retreat back to France to maintain control there, having lost 90% of his forces. Embolden, coalition forces captured Paris by 1814, and Napoleon’s generals mutinied, forcing him to abdicate, and the Emperor was exiled to Elba. Early in 1815, Bonaparte escaped and landed in France, where he gave the French troops sent to intercept him a chance to kill their emperor. Instead, they joined him and helped him return to power for 100 days, until his defeat at Waterloo. Bonaparte was exiled to St Helena in the South Atlantic, where he died of stomach cancer in 1821.

Julien rose to prominence with the Canadiens in 2002, but was unceremoniously fired in 2006, and became the coach of the Devils, and was unceremoniously fired again in 2007, despite helping lead the Devils to 107 points. In and out of power, Julien joined the Bruins in 2007, and enjoyed another resurgence of power, twice leading the Bruins to the playoffs. However, injuries have left the Bruins desperate for any type of meaningful offense, just like the French forces who were inevitably defeated. To avoid such embarrassment and make a deep playoff run, Julien will need to make shrewd decisions and manage his troops effectively, and return the team back to the ultimate power in the East.

NHL

Front Office – Switzerland


When heated conflict arises, neither does a thing about it. Ever. Enough said.

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Discussion

2 comments for “Bruins and Penguins of Years Past”

  1. That was different. I like the comparisons and got a history lesson too.

    Posted by Gator | March 18, 2010, 12:04 pm
  2. Gator: great point! Claude Julien is just like Napoleon hahaha

    Posted by KC Downey | March 19, 2010, 3:47 am

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