Zac Rinaldo is out to change his reputation as an undisciplined hockey player.
“[My game] is going to change in a better way for the team,” Rinaldo said, per the Bruins’ website. “I don’t plan on getting suspended; that’s the last thing I want to do. I don’t plan on taking stupid penalties; that’s the last thing I want to do, is hurt my team.
“Changing for the better will happen.”
Rinaldo was traded to Boston from Philadelphia in June. The 25-year-old forward has 572 PIM in 223 career NHL games. In January, he was suspended eight games for charging and boarding Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang from behind. At the time, he’d already been suspended twice and fined twice by the NHL.
Now with the B’s, he still intends to play a physical game, his acquisition not-so-coincidentally coming after GM Don Sweeney vowed to return “the aggressiveness that was lost in our group.”
He just plans to be a little smarter about it.
“I’m going to be the rough, tough Zac Rinaldo,” he said, “but I’m also going to add in more hockey sense.”
Is it too early to get excited about Crosby vs. Ovechkin again?
For all the star power that the NHL boasts outside of Pittsburgh and Washington, it’s difficult to resist the siren call of a spike in the Sidney Crosby – Alex Ovechkin rivalry. It’s perfectly plausible that we’ll never get a sequel to that memorable 2009 playoff series.
With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s be honest: it’s been a while since the Penguins and Capitals were in a better position collectively to pull this off.
It’s still strange to picture Phil Kessel in a Penguins uniform, firing home well-placed passes from Crosby and/or Evgeni Malkin … but would it be that outrageous to imagine Kessel chasing Ovechkin in the Maurice Richard race now? As excited as Crosby and Malkin seem to be about the acquisition, Kessel and hockey fans should be especially thrilled.
Here’s the wrinkle that makes things even more fun: while the Penguins added the biggest name, Washington’s moves likely provide the Capitals with a deeper array of weapons.
Beyond the obvious in Nicklas Backstrom, the Caps now combine seasoned newcomers (Justin Williams and T.J. Oshie) with promising youngsters (Marcus Johansson, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky) to form a frightening forward group.
Hockey’s a team sport, and Crosby – Ovechkin can only be so riveting on their own … so how about Crosby, Malkin, Kessel and Kris Letang vs. Ovechkin, Backstrom, Williams, Oshie and Washington’s bevvy of pricey blueliners? Yeah, that sounds like appointment viewing.
While they’re still young
As strange as it sounds, the window might be closing on this rivalry, at least as a true showcase of two players who are seriously considered two of the best alive.*
Ovechkin will turn 30 on Sept. 17, and his hair is already looking a little grayer these days. Crosby turns 28 in August and people are already wondering if he’s startingto slow down.
No, the Penguins and Capitals haven’t totally mortgaged their futures this summer, yet the complexion of each franchise changed in some resounding ways in the past few days. You never know what might happen – we’ve been fooled before – but it’s tough not to picture an epic 2016 playoff series between these two players (and teams).
If nothing else, it’s fun to think about.
* – One could quibble about where the two rank among the elite, but they’re at least up there, right?