From rink side

The signs and omens lately have been discouraging, conjuring grisly images of other sags and swoons scattered over the past generation. But be not of faint heart, Bruins legions.

Despite all their stumbling about since Groundhog Day your kids remained -- incredibly or otherwise -- the NHL team with the best record with only 15 games left in the regular season. Whether that also means they are the best team is of course quite another matter. It could turn out to be merely fresh affirmation of the relative irrelevance of the NHL’s regular season.

But this much is probable. Barring something truly cataclysmic like a plague of locusts or an invasion of frogs, we are going to have a real, live, good old-fashioned, genuine, bona fide, barn burner of a Stanley Cup hockey festival on our hands this spring here in what is oft called -- with more than a little poetic license -- “the Hub of Hockey.’’

If it happens -- and that little modifier is so well advised -- it would be the first of any consequence since the dimly remembered winter of 1992, when they finally surrendered meekly to the mighty Pittsburgh Penguins under the legendary sway of Mario Lemieux in the semi-finals after out-brawling the Sabres and flogging the Canadiens (four straight) in the first two rounds.

The ’92 edition was a worthy and rather typical of the times Bruins team built around Ray Bourque with Andy Moog in goal and the likes of Adam Oates, Joe Juneau, and Dave Poulin up front. It was your basic Harry Sinden production; honest, rock-ribbed, crowd-pleasing, and still a team few trifled with or wanted to catch in the playoffs. But once gallant warrior Cam Neely went down, entering upon the skid that would bear his career to a sadly early end, they were de facto cooked. The Penguins whacked them four straight.

If it seems like yesterday, be reminded that it was 17 winter/springs ago. Milan Lucic was three years of age; Phil Kessel all of four. And ever since, the indignities have mounted relentlessly.

That failed ’92 run was their last reach as high as the semi’s. Since then they’ve advanced beyond the first round only twice (’94 and ’99) while failing to even qualify five times and if you add the scandalous year of the infamous strike that makes six seasons when the lights were out by Easter. They’ve only won one playoff series in the last 13 years, none at all in this millennium when three times they have been eliminated by the still much loathed arch foes from Montreal.

All of which extends the dry spell between “Cups” to 37 years and counting. How many ways need the point be made? It amounts to the second great stretch of wandering the wilderness in Bruins’ history. Only this time the aimless journey has been not only longer but greatly more drab and annoying.

Because in the first such dryspell -- extending from the eve of World War II to the coming of the messianic Bobby Orr -- it was all within the context of that remarkable phenomenon, “the Original Six.” Somehow there seemed little shame in annually battling the Rangers and Blackhawks for the last invitation to the Stanley Cup waltz in a lodge of intimate and intensely driven brothers alternately dominated by the illustrious Maple Leafs and Red Wings and the near omnipotent Canadiens.

Moreover, if the last seven years (1960-1967) of the odyssey were rough the Bruins were plenty competitive over the long preceding era missing the playoffs only three years out of 19 while reaching the finals six times. The oft-told tale of Bruins ineptitude in those times is mainly mere myth. It’s a point that -- at the age of 91 -- the beloved Milt Schmidt can still make forcefully.

This latest run of mediocrity, however, has lacked such redeeming charm. Runaway expansion diminished the NHL’s personality. Now thoroughly global, no one should dispute the sheer talent the NHL features. It is fabulous. But the end product is less so. We do not know these teams, let alone their players. We see these Ducks and Sharks, Coyotes, Hurricanes and Blue Jackets maybe once every other year and when one of them ends up winning the Stanley Cup, we yawn. That the likes of Tampa, Carolina and Anaheim have danced with the Cup in just the last few years has only sharpened the sense that the Bruins are hopelessly out to lunch. Losing out to Les Habitants is one thing. Bowing and scraping before the Lightning and the Ducks is quite another.

And so we arrive at the moment when maybe -- just “maybe” -- they can turn it around. It’s an awakening that’s the more interesting because it’s been so sudden and unexpected. The new regime grabs most of the credit but as many key moves were made by their wrongly discredited predecessors in the last gasps of the Sinden era. Those so very decent lads -- led by the estimable Harry -- were run off much too callously, for my tastes. The Jacobs gang did a clumsy and heartless job of it, which of course is so very much in their style.

But it remains a fact that under Harry’s watch Mike O’Connell, Scott Gorton and their henchmen assembled roughly half this team with strong drafts and personnel moves topped by their very smart recognition that goalie Tim Thomas is the real deal for nobody else in the game believed it back then. Harry Sinden and his boys have their fingerprints all over this team but if something really big comes of this year’s “awakening,” don’t expect them to be asked to take a bow. The Boys from Buffalo will be dispensing credit to no one but themselves. But then who gets the credit isn’t yet relevant, nothing having yet been won.

Even if they somehow manage to finish with the league’s best record the Bruins will certainly not enter the playoffs any kind of Cup favorite. Most hockey savants believe San Jose and Detroit are measurably better and with Maestro Martin Brodeur, their matchless goalie, fully restored they would near unanimously add New Jersey to that list. A growing consensus further holds that both Philadelphia and Washington (as long as the Great Ovechkin is healthy) also have an edge on the Bruins.

And as we all know, it matters not what happens in the regular season. If the Montreal Canadiens are around they too will have their usual rather spooky advantage, although at the moment Montreal -- locked in a fierce six-team tussle for the last four playoff spots in the East -- will be lucky to qualify. Would it not be the Bruins luck for the Habs not only to qualify but also to catch them in round one. How ruinous would another first-round exit in Montreal be for the Bruins? The very suggestion is chilling.

Faced with the need to shore up the cause, management’s response at the trade deadline seemed weak as they came away with only a marginal veteran defenseman plus the ancient journeyman, Mark Recchi. But there may be something clever about the Recchi acquisition even if the mere notion of obtaining a 41 year old hockey player for two allegedly decent prospects each of whom is roughly half his age is a bit astounding.

Recchi, however, defies such glib presumption. There’s nothing typical about him. He’s from the old school and, like Neely, a charter member of the warrior class, even if he’s no brawler. He could have played with “the Original Six.” It’s no coincidence that success follows him and his scoring marks this year with a lousy Tampa team -- 13 goals and 32 assists in 61 games -- are remarkable.

At 41, Mark Recchi can still play this game in this league and there aren’t that many wings in the business who are 10 or even 20 years younger who you’d rather have beside you either in a fox hole or a desperate scrum in front of the net with the Cup itself on the line.

But is he enough? Stay tuned!

Retired Green Bay auxiliary bishop failed to report abuse, withdraws from ministry

Green Bay, Wis., Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Bishop Robert Morneau, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Green Bay, has withdrawn from public ministry saying ...

Dolan 'impatient' waiting for apostolic visitation in response to McCarrick

New York City, N.Y., Sep 20, 2018 CNA.- The Archbishop of New York said Thursday that while he has confidence in the way Pope Francis is handling the ...

Two more Chilean bishops step down in wake of abuse crisis

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis accepted the resignations of two more Chilean bishops, bringing to seven the number of bishops who have stepped down ...

Celebration of the Priesthood dinner raises over $1.8 million

BOSTON -- A record 1,700 people attended the 10th annual Celebration of the Priesthood dinner to raise funds for the Clergy Health and Retirement Trust ...

Lawrence parish helps community cope with gas explosion aftermath

LAWRENCE -- Volunteers at St. Patrick Church's Cor Unum Meal Center were serving dinner when multiple natural gas explosions and fires broke out in homes ...

Ceremony, Mass kick off St. Augustine Chapel bicentennial

SOUTH BOSTON -- St. Augustine Chapel and Cemetery began its year-long bicentennial celebration on the weekend of Sept. 14-16 with tours, special Masses, ...

Mass. Knights install new officers

The Massachusetts State Council Knights of Columbus recently held its Installation of State Officers at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Canton with ...

Deal will keep Sancta Maria Nursing Facility open

CAMBRIDGE -- Sancta Maria Nursing Facility announced Sept. 17 that it has negotiated a comprehensive operational contract with Advocate Healthcare Management ...

From Cardinal Seán's blog

As I mentioned in my preface to last week's blog, this week and last, I have been in Rome for meetings related to the work of the Pontifical Commission ...

N.Y. Archdiocese names judge as independent reviewer on abuse protocols

NEW YORK (CNS) -- New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan has named a former federal judge to study archdiocesan policies and procedures with respect to sexual ...

U.S. reports poverty declines, but agencies finding needs remain great

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The good news from the U.S. Census Bureau Sept. 12 was that the poverty rate dropped for the third straight year in 2017 and median ...

Class-action lawsuit filed against eight Pennsylvania dioceses

PITTSBURGH (CNS) -- A class-action lawsuit was filed Sept. 17 against eight Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania demanding the dioceses provide proof that ...

Apostolic visitor outlines plans for expansion at Medjugorje shrine

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- The Polish archbishop tasked with overseeing Bosnia-Herzegovina's Medjugorje shrine has outlined plans for expansion, including ...

Pope names administrator as Indian bishop investigated for alleged rape

MUMBAI, India (CNS) -- Pope Francis has accepted the request of an Indian bishop accused of raping a nun to be relieved of his duties during the investigation. In ...

In letters to German cardinal, retired pope defends way he stepped down

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Retired Pope Benedict XVI expressed his displeasure with the way a German cardinal publicly criticized his stepping down as pontiff, ...

Thousands of Hispanics expected in Texas for Encuentro summit

Fort Worth, Texas, Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- As many as 3,000 Catholics of Hispanic background are expected in Texas this week for the National V Encuentro, ...

Church plans third-party abuse reporting system, code of conduct

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pledging to "heal and protect with every bit of the strength God provides us," the U.S. bishops' Administrative Committee Sept. 19 ...

Be grateful to parents, never insult them, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Honoring mothers and fathers means being grateful for the gift of life and Christians should never insult anyone's parents, Pope ...

Canadian cardinal: Women should help screen, train priest applicants

Poznan, Poland, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- Increasing the role of women in screening and training priests is among the steps that should be taken to prevent future ...

Vatican delegation will travel to China this month to finalize agreement, Chinese newspaper reports

Beijing, China, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- A newspaper tied to the Chinese Communist Party reported Tuesday that a delegation of Vatican officials will head to ...

Media reporting Vatican-China agreement could be signed in late September

HONG KONG (CNS) -- The long-awaited Sino-Vatican agreement on the nomination of bishops is expected to be signed in September, reported several media ...

Update: Irish singer Bono calls pope 'extraordinary man for extraordinary times'

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Bono, the lead singer of the Irish band U2, said he told Pope Francis that in Ireland "it looks as though the abusers are being ...

Cardinal Marx says mistakes were made, calls for change in German church

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, head of the German bishops' conference, admitted that mistakes were made in the German church's handling of sex abuse of minors ...

Church crisis response: Healing Masses, listening sessions, fasting

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In response to the sexual abuse crisis in the church, Catholics are praying for victims, talking about their frustration and anger, ...

Pope names Minnesota priest as auxiliary bishop of Hartford

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis has appointed Father Juan M. Betancourt, a priest in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, as auxiliary bishop ...

Listening church: Pope gives new vision for Synod of Bishops

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Synod of Bishops increasingly should be a structure for listening to the Catholic faithful, demonstrating a local bishop's concern ...

Director of Courage releases letter on Penn. abuse report

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Courage International, an apostolate to support people with same sex-attraction in leading chaste lives, has issued ...

Richmond bishop apologizes to victims; commits to opening, reviewing files

RICHMOND, Va. (CNS) -- In celebrating the Diocese of Richmond's first Mass of Atonement for victims of abuse Sept. 14, Bishop Barry C. Knestout apologized ...

Advocates decry historically low cap for refugee entry in 2019

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Advocates for refugee admissions into the United States decried what one statement called a historically low cap of 30,000 for fiscal ...

Stanford University to remove saint's name from some properties

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- California's Stanford University will strip the name of 18th-century Franciscan friar, St. Junipero Serra, from some of its properties ...

Catholic Charities distributes disaster relief to areas hit by Florence

RALEIGH, N.C. (CNS) -- The Carolinas were hard hit with record rainfall and flooding rivers from tropical storm Florence since it made landfall Sept. ...

Archbishop Lori assures diocese he's with them in journey toward healing

WHEELING, W.Va. (CNS) -- In his celebration of Mass at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling Sept. 15, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore said ...

Bishop takes a (sky) dive to get pilgrims to Lourdes

HOVE, England (CNS) -- "The Moth has landed," tweeted the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton. The tweet Sept. 14 and a similar post on the diocesan Facebook ...

Words, promises are not enough to prevent abuse, archbishop says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Inviting presidents of the world's bishops' conference to the Vatican to discuss abuse prevention reflects an understanding that ...

Pope praises Capuchin order's charism of authenticity, simplicity

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Capuchins are called to be men of peace, reconciliation and prayer and to be close to all people, Pope Francis told members of the ...

Path to healing starts with seeking forgiveness, Cardinal Wuerl says

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A "Season of Healing" for sexual abuse survivors began in the Archdiocese of Washington with a Sept. 14 Mass at the Cathedral of St. ...

Archbishop McCarrick's unofficial role in Vatican-China relations

Vatican City, Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Following reports that the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China could be about to sign an agreement ...

Archbishop Chaput: When we forget faith, we forget our humanity

Spokane, Wash., Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- When man tries to cling to reason and separate himself from faith, he forgets who he is and loses his source of hope, ...

Pope Francis warns priests against living a double life

Palermo, Italy, Sep 15, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- During a day trip to Sicily Saturday, Pope Francis told priests and religious to fight their vices and strive ...

What is the pontifical secret?

Vatican City, Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- Following the allegations made by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò about the case of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, ...

Catholic workers say U.S. aid cuts to Palestinians could be disastrous

JERUSALEM (CNS) -- The U.S. budgetary cuts to humanitarian aid institutions helping Palestinians could lead to long-term disastrous consequences, said ...