The first period of Saturday's Game 2 was inarguably the worst period of hockey the Boston Bruins have played in this postseason. Tuukka Rask was the team's saving grace, somehow limiting the Blackhawks to just one goal despite being bombarded with 19 shots, many of them glittering scoring chances.
As the siren sounded and the Bruins trudged off to the locker room, the NBC Sports Network fired up their cameras and studio lights for the intermission show, where surely the analysts would discuss the Bruins' team-wide (Rask excluded) dismal play in that first period, while simultaneously praising the Hawks' relentless attack, as is usually the case in 99% of intermission reports.
Instead, analyst and resident awful former general manager Mike Milbury went off, going on a 60-second rant in which he teed off on current Bruin and future Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr. The text of Milbury's inspired soliloquy is below.
"He can’t skate in this series. They gotta get him off of this line. If he can do something when he gets the puck standing still, fine. But he can’t forecheck, he can’t participate with this line. Two very good players with him. He turned the puck over repeatedly. He can’t get anything going here. Can’t sustain any momentum with him on the line. He's not quick enough to get in on the forecheck, and if his hands are gonna act like that on him, he's got a problem. I think the Boston Bruins gotta recognize this. Don't be looking at Jaromir Jagr the legend. This is Jaromir Jagr in real life, in this period. And it was not pretty to look at. There's no hustle there to get to the bench. Absolutely lazy in a Stanley Cup Final. And if you think that's aberrant behavior, watch this: can't get in on the forecheck...now he comes back to the bench, watch him. Top of your screen, making no effort to get back into the play. That to me is a guy that's too tired to play in this final. That's a guy that has to be replaced."
Whoa. Tell us how you really feel, Mike. Don't hold anything back.
The issue here is that an analyst could have looked at that period and taken literally any Bruin not named Tuukka Rask and made the same comments. Lazy line changes, awful turnovers, half-hearted forechecking, fatigue, and general disinterest were the hallmarks of that period for the Bruins, from Zdeno Chara right on down to the fourth line. Not a single Bruin skater had a good period.
So why Jagr, Mike? Does his age and high name recognition make him an easy target? (It's hard to see a similar Milbury rant on, say, Chris Kelly get uploaded to YouTube, isn't it?)
Or is it that Milbury himself is doing what he advised the Bruins not to do: looking at Jaromir Jagr the legend, and wondering why current Jagr isn't playing like that?
The Bruins didn't acquire Jagr at the trade deadline to re-grow his mullet and put up 1995-1996 numbers. They acquired Jagr because he's a veteran player who knows how to win, knows how to score, and can help on the power play.
Perhaps most importantly, Jagr also knows his limits. Sure, he's prone to taking long shifts. But he has also commented frequently on how he knows his age has caught up to him, how he knows he's not the mullet-sporting kid that took Pittsburgh by storm in the 90's, and how he can't rely on speed anymore.
Jagr works well on a line with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron because his game isn't the same anymore. Bergeron is the cerebral one who can both forecheck and make plays, Marchand is the speedy one who gets onto the puck first and uses his agility to make room, and Jagr is the puck possession player who can park himself along the boards and wait for his linemates to get into position.
Milbury insists that, based on one period of team-wide malaise, Jagr "can't participate with this line." Mike must be watching different games. While Jagr's goal-scoring drought is curious, he's still tied for seventh on the Bruins in playoff scoring. His linemates, Marchand and Bergeron, are tied for fourth in team scoring with 13 points apiece.
That trio's combined total of 33 points accounts for 21% of the total points recorded by the Bruins in the playoffs. And while it's certainly true that all 33 points weren't recorded as a trio (some may have come on the power play or in 4-on-4 situations), it's safe to assume the majority were recorded with that line intact. But yeah, he can't play with those two guys and is totally holding them back. Good call, Mike.
He was certainly holding them back when he lazily didn't play defense here:
And clearly he can't hack it anymore. He should just go sit on the bench instead of doing this:
Bruins fans should be glad Milbury opened their eyes to Jagr's awful play. How many fans missed his pathetic lack of defense and effort at the end of the Pittsburgh series?
As he has been for most of his hockey career, Milbury was wrong. Again. It's entirely possible he was just seizing a low-hanging fruit and picking on the old guy, but he couldn't have been more off-base.
Since his arrival, Jagr has been exactly what the Bruins wanted him to be: he knows his role, fits in with the team, chips in offensively and cares more about winning than about individual stats.
But he was slow in the first period after a triple-overtime game, so clearly he should be demoted. After all, last time Bergeron and Marchand rode with an aging veteran who was a step or two behind, nothing good came of it. No, nothing at all.