Wednesday, December 11, 2013
The Bruins (21-8-2) were lifeless for the first two periods tonight at Scotiabank Saddledome, trailing the Flames (11-15-4) 1-0 and getting outshot 22-9. Much like the Patriots in recent second halves, the B's came alive in the third period and scored a pair of goals to escape with a 2-1 win over hapless Calgary. It was Boston's third win in a row to remain in first-place in the Atlantic Division after Montreal got steamrolled by Los Angeles, 6-0.
It had to be a very emotional night for one Jarome Iginla since the Flames honored him extensively in the pre-game and named him the third star of the game so he was able to skate a sort of victory lap in the place he called home for parts of 16 seasons. I'm cynical and critical about almost anything but I have to say that Calgary did an excellent job of putting together the whole ceremony. The storybook ending of course would have entailed Iginla scoring a goal (probably the game-winner) but the closest he came was a shot that went off the crossbar then an empty-netter attempt that was blocked.
Jiri Hudler gave the Flames (wearing their terrible alternate jerseys) a 1-0 lead at 5:17 of the second period. First, Reilly Smith turned the puck over in Calgary's end setting off a rush up ice. Then Tuukka Rask (26 saves) couldn't stop a seeing eye shot by Jiri Hudler which he normally makes no problem. With their litany of injuries reaching critical mass (six regulars out of the lineup tonight), it seemed like Boston's offense had dried up.
That was until former Bruins first-round draft pick Joe Colborne got called for delay of game after clearing the puck over the glass in his own end. David Krejci tied it at 13:49 of the third period by tipping Torey Krug's shot from the point (that was meant to be tipped). Zdeno Chara had the second assist on Krejci's sixth goal of the season.
Just 1:38 later, Reilly Smith tallied the game-winner with a brilliant move around a Calgary defenseman then up high on Reto Berra (22 saves). Ryan Spooner assisted on Smith's seventh goal of the season (nobody has exceeded expectations quite like him on the Bruins so far this season).
Boston continues its tour of Western Canada with a visit to Edmonton (11-18-3) on Thursday (9:30, NESN) to see former Bruin Andrew Ference-the captain of the Oilers. Edmonton is currently the worst team in the Western Conference, one point behind the Flames. Remember when everyone (myself included) thought the Oilers would sneak into the playoffs this season? Yeah not so much.
Everyone had the same thought: it was bizarre to see Paul Pierce (4 points, 7 rebounds) and Kevin Garnett (11 points, 9 rebounds) competing in Nets jerseys. The Celtics' legends got their first shot at their old team and they made it count as Brooklyn (7-14 overall, 3-6 home) held off Boston this evening 104-96 at Barclays Center.
For the early part of this season, the expectations for both of these teams were completely off the mark. Boston (10-13 overall, 5-8 away) was supposed to be a pushover while the Nets were built to challenge the Heat and Pacers in the Eastern Conference.
Pierce returned early from a broken hand so with most of their squad finally healthy, Brooklyn actually played well. Deron Williams had a game-high 25 points and seven assists while robot Brook Lopez added 24 points. Something called Alan Anderson scored 15 points and that bum Andray Blatche put up 11 points off the bench.
Avery Bradley paced the Celtics with 22 points. Jeff Green had 19 points and six rebounds, Jordan Crawford and Jared Sullinger each notched 15 points while Brandon Bass had the only double-double in the game (13 points, 11 rebounds).
It was close almost the entire game but the Nets were always in control: up 31-20 after the first quarter, 56-47 at halftime and 85-72 heading into the fourth quarter. Boston stayed in it by hitting eight more 3-pointers (11-3) and scoring 10 more points off turnovers (24-14). Brooklyn shot 11.9% better from the field, hit eight more free throws, grabbed seven more rebounds, had five more assists, 10 more bench points and scored 18 more points in the paint.
The reunion week continues with a back-to-back, Boston returns to TD Garden tomorrow night (7:30, CSN) to face Doc Rivers and the Clippers (14-8, 1st in Pacific Division). It will be his first game against the C's since he left this summer. These two games shouldn't have been this close together but what can you do? The Celtics aren't one of the marquee teams in the NBA anymore so their schedule isn't particularly attractive in many ways.
Monday, December 9, 2013
No single player better epitomizes Boston's (10-12) unexpectedly good (relatively speaking in the wasteland that is the Atlantic Division) start in 2013-14 than Jordan Crawford. When he was acquired last season from Washington, he seemed like a terrible fit: a me-first guy on a team of mostly unselfish players. That's why then head coach Doc Rivers buried him on the bench.
It's been a completely different story for Crawford this season, with Rajon Rondo still out recovering from knee surgery and Brad Stevens in charge, Crawford has been the de-facto point guard since Avery Bradley is an awful ball-handler and can't be trusted with the most important job on a basketball team. To everyone's surprise, Crawford is playing better than he ever has in his four years in the NBA. Today he was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week while Portland power forward LaMarcus Aldridge received the honors for the Western Conference.
In three games last week (all Celtics wins), Crawford had 25 points and five assists against the Bucks on Tuesday, 22 points and eight assists against the Nuggets on Friday and 23 points and seven assists in Boston's blowout win at New York yesterday afternoon. He's also shooting 3-pointers at a very high clip lately. He had four vs. Milwaukee, two vs. Denver and six vs. New York.
What remains to be seen is what the C's do with Crawford once Rondo returns, then again maybe that won't be for a while (a man can dream, right?). Regardless, Crawford has proven to be a solid NBA player and now he suddenly is valuable either to Boston's future or they can trade him for something decent in return.
Boston is at Brooklyn (6-14) tomorrow night (7:30, CSN) to face the ghost of Kevin Garnett with bozo rookie head coach Jason Kidd intentionally spilling drinks on the court.
As a sports fan, besides big losses, there are few things more depressing than a serious injury to a star player. Unfortunately, the Patriots will wake up tomorrow having to game-plan the rest of the season and playoffs without Rob Gronkowski who reportedly tore his ACL on a brutal hit by T.J. Ward (helmet to knee). Sure New England (10-3 overall, 7-0 home) rallied for another insane 27-26 comeback victory over Cleveland (4-9 overall, 1-5 away) at Gillette Stadium but forgive us if our minds were wandering a bit. Plus who ever believed the Browns would hand the Pats their first home loss of 2013 (7-0)?
You can't overstate Gronk's importance which is why the Pats had morphed into the top-scoring offense in the league again after he returned from arm/back surgeries. This will be the third straight postseason that he's been hurt which makes you wonder if the poor guy will ever have a fully healthy season (regular season and playoffs) in the NFL.
I said the same thing last week when the Texans gagged a game away to the Patriots but today was the epitome of a certain win that only a few miserable squads can successfully hand over to the opposition. The Browns were up 19-3 late in the third quarter on Josh Gordon's (7 catches, 151 yards; 34-yard run) 80-yard catch and run.
Shane Vereen (12 catches, 153 yards) took over on the next drive and earned his way to a six-yard touchdown run. Julian Edelman (6 catches, 64 yards) caught the two-point conversion as the momentum started to swing towards New England.
Stephen Gostkowski's 50-yard field goal cut it to 19-14 but Jordan Cameron (9 catches, 121 yards) appeared to put it away with a four-yard touchdown catch from Jason Campbell (29 of 44, 391 yards, 3 TDs) on a basic play action pass. Tom Brady (32 of 52, 418 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT) calmly drove down the field and threw a two-yard touchdown to Edelman who was drilled but hung on (and stayed in the game).
Gostkowski's onside kick was the play of the game though as Kyle Arrington recovered it at Cleveland's 39. Haha only the Browns. By that point, New England getting one last touchdown felt inevitable and so it went with Danny Amendola catching a one-yard touchdown pass with 31 seconds left.
New England actually left too much time on the clock for Cleveland's horrible offense and Campbell sort of got them in field goal range. I don't think fans of Cleveland teams can actually feel any lower but the Browns tried to toy with their emotions a little more as Billy Cundiff of all people was dragged out for a 58-yard field goal attempt in the last seconds. Do I even have to tell you that it was short?
Gronk is having an MRI tomorrow but countless NFL reporters said his season is over after this game so I'll go with that until I hear otherwise. The Patriots can clinch the AFC East title with a win on Sunday (1, CBS) at Sun Life Stadium in Miami vs. the Dolphins (7-6 overall, 2nd in AFC East). They beat Miami 27-17 in Week 8 at Gillette Stadium but New England always struggles in Miami for whatever reason (the clubs?).
UPDATE 12/9: The news about Gronk couldn't be much worse as he also tore his MCL in his right knee along with the ACL and also suffered a concussion so he was put on IR. Yikes. The Patriots re-signed tight end D.J. Williams to take his place on the 53-man roster; this is the third season in a row that Grnonkowi's missed important games at the end of the season.
UPDATE 12/10: I can't really explain why but the Patriots-Ravens game in Week 16 was flexed from Sunday night to a 4:25 p.m. start. Bears-Eagles will take its place, I guess we should be content with more time to sleep after so many late-night games this season for New England.
Not to sound like a complete honk but there are very few teams in the NHL that could do what the Bruins accomplished tonight. They were playing in their second game in two nights, this time on the road (start of a four-game road trip through Western Canada) against a playoff-caliber division foe with their backup goaltender in net and three players recently called up from Providence in the starting lineup. Naturally Boston (20-8-2) won 5-2 at Toronto's (16-12-3) Air Canada Centre to leapfrog back over Montreal for first-place in the suddenly competitive Atlantic Division.
Chad Johnson (30 saves) played well, Ryan Spooner and Matt Fraser skated on the third line and the B's scored two power-play goals. After the Maple Leafs grabbed a 1-0 lead at 12:20 of the first period on Peter Holland's goal, Boston made sure to put in four of the next five of the next tallies. Boston's power play had been 0 for its last 6 but Carl Soderberg tied it at 5:14 of the second period. His fourth goal of the season was assisted by Reilly Smith and Patrice Bergeron, some beautiful rapid fire passing.
1:33 after that, Torey Krug blasted in his eighth goal of the season (tying Ottawa's Erik Karlsson for most by a defenseman). David Krejci and Milan Lucic had the assists on his power play strike. Boston even experienced a neat personal milestone as rookie defenseman Kevan Millar nabbed his first goal and point of his NHL career. His shot from the point had eyes to get by Jonathan Bernier (34 saves), Soderberg had the lone assist as the B's had a comfortable 3-1 lead after two periods.
Toronto was also playing its second game in two nights but at home you knew they wouldn't give up so easily. Jay McClemment went to the net to track his own rebound and it paid off 37 seconds into the final frame. Jarome Iginla helped Boston regain the vital two-goal advantage with four minutes left in regulation. Lucic made it all happen by driving down the left side then centering it to Iginla who jammed it in.
Patrice Bergeron was rewarded for all his hard work with an empty-netter at 19:49 from Gregory Campbell and Krejci. The only bad news to come out of this energizing result is that Dougie Hamilton hurt his leg and afterwards Bruins head coach Claude Julien said he was being sent back to Boston for a further examination. That means another defenseman from Providence could meet them in Calgary (11-14-4, 6th in Pacific Division) on Tuesday (9:30, NESN). Then again Julien also mentioned that Johnny Boychuk (back) could possibly play vs. the Flames.
UPDATE 12/9: Penguins winger James Neal was suspended for five games stemming from his kneeing incident vs. Brad Marchand on Saturday.
UPDATE 12/10: Loui Eriksson was placed on IR (concussion) and forward Nick Johnson was recalled from Providence. If that's not enough, Dougie Hamilton is out 2-4 weeks with a lower body injury and Daniel Paille is out tonight with an undisclosed upper body injury.
Celtics Hand Knicks Worst Loss in the NBA This Season, 3rd Biggest in the history of Madison Square Garden
Please never change, Knicks. The Celtics only had less than a fleeting hour this afternoon on an NFL Sunday to catch our attention while we were setting our Fantasy Football lineups and getting ready for Patriots-Browns (more on that shortly). Boston (10-12 overall, 5-7 road) made us focus as they jumped out to leads of 12-0, 18-1 and 25-3 en route to a 34-13 first quarter and 114-73 ass kicking of New York (5-14 overall, 2-8 overall) at Madison Square Garden.
I stopped watching midway through the second quarter but that was more than enough time to know that the C's were going to run away with another victory. The Knicks are a complete dumpster fire and all they are missing is a laugh track from this joke of a season. For their troubles, the Celts handed their rivals the most lopsided defeat in the NBA so far in 2013-14 and third worst in MSG history. It was enough to make you think this was the last straw for embattled Knicks head coach Mike Woodson.
This was never in doubt as Boston led from start to finish and outscored New York by at least four points in each quarter. All five Celtics starters were in double-figures led by Jordan Crawford (23 points, 7 assists) and Jared Sullinger (21 points). Brandon Bass had 16 points, eight rebounds and three steals, Jeff Green put up 16 points and six rebounds while Avery Bradley had a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds. Courtney Lee had 10 hero points off the bench in the extended garbage time.
Nobody on the Knicks deserves a sliver of positive attention so I'm not going to mention any of those bums by name (as much as I want to make fun of them). Boston led New York 58-31 at halftime, giving all the fans a reason to leave early and get some Christmas shopping done.
The final stats are something you hardly ever see in the NBA: complete domination. The Celtics shot 20% better from the field (54.2-34.2), they hit eight more 3-pointers (14-6), they grabbed 20 more rebounds (46-26), dished out nine more assists (22-13), scored 16 more fast break points (19-322-6) and scored 20 more points in the paint (42-22).
Anything can happen in the (rigged) NBA but Tuesday (7:30, CSN) could be another blowout as the Celtics visit the Nets (6-14 overall, 4th in Atlantic Division). For what it's worth, New York embarrassed Brooklyn on Thursday. It is the first meeting with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce (out with broken hand) and Jason Terry (out with hamstring injury) since they were traded from Boston last summer.
Saturday, December 7, 2013
Can we just fast forward to another Eastern Conference Finals between the Bruins and Penguins? You know it's going to come down to that again, right? Oh well, I guess we'll have to let tonight's chock-filled game tide us over until then since it was the third and final installment of the regular season meetings (B's won 2 of 3). Boston (19-8-2) beat Pittsburgh (20-10-1) 3-2 thanks to two goals in the final 1:29 but all anyone could talk about was Shawn Thornton knocking out Brooks Orpik.
It all started in the first period when Orpik went high on Loui Eriksson, a hit that wasn't deemed penalty worthy yet resulted a second concussion this season for the Swede. Later in the frame, Brad Marchand was tripped by Sidney Crosby and scummy James Neal happened to skate by him and knee Marchand in the head. Don't worry though, Neal said after the game that it was an accident. The next part was especially ugly as Thornton went after Orpik and punched him when he was on the ice and thus couldn't really defend himself. Orpik was knocked out cold and had to be carted off on a stretcher. The good news there is that he's flying back to Pittsburgh with his teammates after a trip to the hospital.
Thornton will be suspended, possibly for six games or more since he has an in-person (never a good sign) meeting with NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan. Neal has a phone meeting which means he could get a game or two (keep in mind he's a repeat offender while Thornton has never actually been suspended).
Oh yes, there was a hockey game too. Chris Kunitz was credited with a power play goal (it is the giving season) which was actually an intended pass that bounced in the net off Zdeno Chara's skate at 6:33 of the first period. Reilly Smith answered at 10:13 with his sixth goal of the season as Patrice Bergeron stole the puck and fed him for a slap shot that Marc-Andre Fleury (18 saves) had no chance to stop.
Speaking of that dirtbag Neal, he can certainly score goals on top of all his bush league tactics. He got another fluky power play goal when he popped out of the penalty box and found a hole in Tuukka Rask's (28 saves) pads at 13:13.
Boston looked out of it but then that's when they usually respond, especially at the Garden. David Krejci tied it at two at 18:31 of the third period with his fifth goal of the season after Rask had been pulled for an extra skater. Zdeno Chara was screening Rask while Milan Lucic and Jarome Iginla had the assists. 1:16 later (with 13 seconds left in regulation) captain Zdeno Chara took a pretty pass from Smith and put a snap shot in the corner. Marchand had the second assist on Chara's seventh goal of the season.
With all this craziness, the B's had to hop on a flight for Toronto since they are playing the Maple Leafs (16-11-3) tomorrow night (7, NESN). I think Rask will sit although maybe with Eriksson, Thornton and Chris Kelly (lower body injury that nobody saw) all out, Bruins head coach Claude Julien elects to go with his stability. We shall see, everyone get some sleep.
12/8: The hits keep coming, Kelly has a broken right fibula from Pascal Dupuis' slash. He was placed on long-term IR and is expected to be out for 4-6 weeks (this happened last season too). Adam McQuaid also went on IR so forwards Matt Fraser and Ryan Spooner were called up from Providence and will be in the lineup tonight in Toronto. Keep in mind Boychuk is out indefinitely, the Bruins say a week but I'll believe it when I see it with his back injury that looked pretty serious.