Sunday, October 25, 2009

Hat tip to Mark Recchi

Mark Recchi has been one of the more maligned (dare I say scapegoated) players for the Boston Bruins this year, and I think that people who focus their energies on the soon-to-be 42-year-old winger who just played his 1,500th NHL game against Ottawa last night should be focusing their angst elsewhere.

Recchi, who tipped home a Derek Morris point shot for just his second goal in 10 games, pulled the Bruins to within one with less than 1:30 remaining in the third, allowing for David Krejci to do the same to pull even before the game clock expired. What Recchi did for Boston went beyond the obvious impact on the scoresheet: he made a veteran play under pressure, something that we all tend to take for granted when we clamor for our favorite young rooks to be in the lineup ahead of the aging, but far more experienced and savvy players like Recchi.

Fans complain that Recchi is too slow and can't keep up with the play. I don't disagree with that assessment completely; even in his prime, the 'Recchin' Ball' was not a speedster. Now in his 40's, he's clearly lost a couple of steps. However, what he loses in pure speed, he makes up for in smarts and creativity. Too often, hockey fans look at the bottom line: production. Yet, I've seen several games this season where Recchi has made heady plays and excellent passes, only to see linemates muff them or opposing goalies make great saves. True- it's all about what you finish off- but at the same time, I find that Recchi critics don't deign to take any of this into consideration when they bash him.

I know this post will generate some controversy and possibly even some hurt feelings. I certainly understand why people criticize Recchi, but my point is more along the lines of this: if you are going to spend your time and energy railing on a guy who has been dependable and consistent over the entire course of his career, then you're a lot like the dead people in the great movie "The Sixth Sense" in that you only see what you want to see. If you think that Boston's fortunes are going to depend on Mark Recchi or, more to the point- the young, inexperienced player who would replace him in the lineup, then I just don't think you're on the mark. The Bruins' early mediocrity and struggles go well beyond Recchi and the fact that he isn't one of the team's more productive players. The bottom line is this: aside from Morris, the defense as a whole hasn't been anywhere near as good as it needs to. Players like Dennis Wideman, Mark Stuart and Matt Hunwick are far more critical to Boston's success this season than Recchi will be whether he scores or doesn't.

The fact is- Recchi plays because he knows what to do at crunch time. Unlike the youngsters, who are, whether you want to hear it or not, going to be wildcards with the game on the line and time running out. Recchi went to the net late in Ottawa and put the puck past Brian Elliott to pull the Bruins to within one. Then, on Krejci's tying tally, he was part of the play, moving the puck into the right space to where Morris could get it and make the right play. That kind of a thing isn't going to jump out at you, but it's indicative of a smart veteran who understands where the shooting lanes are and isn't going to panic under pressure.

I won't lie- I've always liked Recchi, so his haters can certainly chalk this post up to just another example of Kirk going out of his way to defend a player he's taken a shine to. Guilty as charged, but I'll tell you- Recchi has earned more respect than he gets from people in my humble opinion. He's a good guy off the ice and a true pro who gets it and is a good teammate. You also have to love the fact that the guy who is the active leader in scoring right now was a fourth-round pick who was passed over in his first two years of eligibility. Why? Because he was small and slow, yet somehow, depsite the warts, Recchi has gone on to become a lock for the Hall of Fame.

It's like the late Patrick Swayze said when he played Hamilton Mustangs captain Derek Sutton in "Youngblood": "To the game and getting out of this hick town! Thank God there is a sport for middle-sized white boys. "

Kamloops, B.C.'s own Recchi has done just that, and he's part of the solution in Boston, not the problem.

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