Saturday, February 28, 2015
For once this season, the Bruins (31-22-9) made things easy on themselves by dispatching the lowly Coyotes (20-36-7) 4-1 tonight at TD Garden. Boston won its second game in as many nights (and 3 out of their last 4) while Arizona has lost nine in a row. Ironically, Boston is now off until Thursday (7, NESN) when they host the Flames (33-25-4) so that means that they can fully enjoy the NHL Trade Deadline on Monday (3 pm).
This one was never really in doubt as the B's scored twice in the first and twice in the second period. The only slight disappointment for them is that they couldn't get a shutout for Tuukka Rask (31 saves). Milan Lucic, Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand all had a goal and an assist while Reilly Smith added two assists. Rookies David Pastrnak and Ryan Spooner continued their strong play as well with both recording helpers in the one-sided win.
It has been a nightmare of a season for the Coyotes and Mike Smith (16 saves). In the Tank for McDavid/Eichel sweepstakes, they are only one point ahead of Edmonton and four points in front of Buffalo. Keep shooting for the stars, boys! Right off the bat, you knew what kind of contest it would be when Smith misplayed the puck behind his net then Milan Lucic banked it in off his skate at 2:40. Lucic's 12th goal of the season was assisted by his young linemates-Pastrnak and Spooner.
Marchand's goal was prettier as he sniped a shot into the top of the far corner at 14:13 of the first. Smith and Bergeron assisted on Marchand's team-leading 18th goal of the season. The Bruins had more good fortune (when have I said that this season?) early in the second frame as Bergeron's backhander went in off Keith Yandle's skate. Haha nice to see the local guy help the B's out. It was also Bergeron's 18th goal of the season so either him or Marchand look like a safe bet to lead the team in goals this campaign. Marchand and Chara assisted on the tally.
Smith's miserable performance was capped off by a Chara power-play missile at 11:50. Smith and Lucic assisted on Chara's fifth goal of the season. My man Louis Domingue, which sounds like Pitbull's real name (whatever that is, I'm too lazy to look) came on for the final 22 minutes and change of garbage time action.
Martin Erat spoiled Rask's shutout bid at 10:21 of the third period. He tipped in Shane Doan's pass with the second assist going to Yandle. PS Doan has been Arizona/Phoenix's captain for 11 years, two more than Chara who is the second-longest tenured captain in the NHL. Why would he want to be with that joke of a franchise for that long? He must love the desert or something, weird.
I'll keep you updated if the Bruins make any trades over the next few days, I wouldn't expect anything major since they are playing pretty well now but then again they do have that extra cap space to work with since Krejci and Miller are on long-term IR. We shall see.
At this point, I would sound like an idiot to ignore the truth that jumps off the screen anytime you tune in: Isaiah Thomas (28 points, 7 assists) has brought so much life to the Celtics that now it looks likely that they'll make the playoffs this season. Boston (23-33 overall, 14-15 home) beat Charlotte (23-33 overall, 10-17 away) 106-98 tonight at TD Garden. That leaves the two teams tied with Brooklyn, mere percentage points behind Indiana (24-34) who is barely hanging onto the eighth spot in the dogshit Eastern Conference.
All season long, I've bitched and complained when the Celtics have won so let me get one thing straight: I'm not changing my tune. It still helps them more to lose and miss out on the postseason this spring but then again, they are unlikely to get a top pick (in a weak draft) since they are so many teams dedicated to tanking so how could it hurt to give head coach Brad Stevens not to mention all these young, inexperienced players a little taste of the playoffs before they get swept by the Hawks, Raptors, Bulls or Cavaliers?
Boston's bench outscored its starters 60-46 led by Thomas and Jonas Jerebko (16 points, 10 rebounds) who has to be the best Swedish basketball player that I've ever seen. Their other recent acquisition Jae Crowder added 14 points and six rebounds while proving to be a versatile defender able to guard all different size guys. Avery Bradley had 19 points and five rebounds including two putback dunks that sealed it. Marcus Smart (10 points) was the only other Celtics starter to score in double-figures.
The Hornets still have some good players but they are lost right now without former UConn star point guard Kemba Walker. Mo Williams had a game-high 31 points and seven rebounds which sounds great but he took 23 shots and only contributed four assists (with three turnovers). Former Celtic Al Jefferson was held in check (14 points, 8 rebounds), Gerald Henderson added 14 points, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had a double-double (12 points, 11 rebounds) while Tyler's (7 points, 9 rebounds) little brother Cody Zeller notched 11 points, seven rebounds and three steals.
The Celtics were up 27-21 after the first quarter but the Hornets pulled ahead 49-45 by halftime. Charlotte increased its lead to six going into the fourth (75-69) but Boston scored a season-high 37 points in the final frame and held their opponents to 23.
For the game, Boston hit four more 3-pointers (14-10), dished out five more assists (24-19), scored nine more fast break points (19-10), 10 more points in the paint (38-28) and 13 more points off turnovers (21-8). Charlotte had twice as many turnovers (16-8) as Boston which ultimately killed them.
Sunday night (6, CSN) at the Garden should be fun as the Celtics welcome the best team in the NBA-the Warriors (45-11)-to town. I give Boston a better chance to win than you'd probably expect since that will be Golden State's fifth stop on a six-game road trip (granted they humiliated Toronto 113-89 this evening) and also the fact that the C's nearly shocked them in Golden State a month ago (114-111 loss on Jan. 25). I never thought I'd say this during the Celtics' 2014-15 season but I'm actually really looking forward to that matchup.
Facing a must-win game in late February, who didn't predict that Niklas Svedberg, David Pastrnak and Ryan Spooner would be three of Boston's (30-22-9) most important players? Spooner picked the perfect time to finally get his first career NHL goal as he brought home a 3-2 overtime win tonight at the Prudential Center vs. New Jersey (25-27-10). Tuukka Rask was sick so Svedberg stepped in for his first start in over two weeks (Feb. 10 vs. Dallas) and responded with 29 saves. All Pastrnak did was pick up a goal and an assist as the youngest player in the league gets more comfortable every time he steps on the ice.
The Bruins swept the three-game season series with the Devils and outscored them 10-4 in the process. More importantly, Boston is now four points ahead of Florida and six points on top of Philadelphia for eighth-place in the Eastern Conference. True to form with this entire season, the B's didn't make it easy on themselves as they squandered a 2-0 lead in the third period before eventually waking up in overtime (not before Svedberg made some big saves to keep it tied).
Anything can happen on a Friday night in Newark, NJ-believe me, I know-so obviously Daniel Paille scored a goal for the second straight game to open things up. New Jersey defenseman Andy Greene turned the puck over right to Loui Eriksson in a prime spot; he shuttled it over to a wide open Paille who slammed a one-timer past Marblehead, MA native Cory Schneider (31 saves) at 8:39. It was Paille's third goal of the season so look out Alex Ovechkin!
Chris Kelly and Reilly Smith were credited with assists on Pastrnak's goal at 1:40 of the third period but truthfully, it was all thanks to the rookie. His initial shot was stopped by Schneider but he drove to the net to collect the rebound and beat the former BC star the second time around with his seventh goal of the season. Considering that Svedberg had shut them out earlier this season (3-0 on Jan. 8 in Boston), 2-0 seemed like enough offense against the Devils who just traded 43-year-old Jaromir Jagr-their best offensive player-to the Panthers on Thursday.
To quote the great Lee Corso, "not so fast my friend." New Jersey cut it to 2-1 at 5:57 on Travis Zajac's power-play goal (his 9th tally of the season). The puck found him uncovered at the side of the net and he blasted it by Svedberg, with assists to Adam Henrique and Jacob Josefson. That goal really sparked the Devils as they completely took over and tied it a little over two minutes later. Dougie Hamilton's chip didn't get out of Boston's offensive zone so former Canadien Mike Cammalleri skated in and drew Svedberg out of the net before dropping the puck back for Jordin Tootoo to touch into the open cage. Adam Larsson had the second assist on Tootoo's sixth goal of the season.
The last thing that Boston needed was a shootout so they happily improved to 7-3 in the extra session. The winning sequence came on a 4-on-2 with Pastrnak and Torey Krug providing the assists to Spooner who roofed a pretty shot over Schneider. For a guy that has struggled mightily to find the net, that had to feel amazing not to mention the fact of its team and personal significance.
The B's have a nice opportunity to grab another two points tomorrow (5:30, NESN) back at the Garden vs. lowly Arizona (20-35-7). It sounds like Rask might be available but honestly, I would give Svedberg the start again. Why not, right? Boston only has 21 games left in the regular season so when they see an awful team like the Coyotes, they simply have to take advantage of that.
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
The B's have now dropped seven out of their last eight games, the only good news of the night was that they didn't lose much ground in the pathetic race for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference as the Flyers lost 4-1 to the Hurricanes and the Panthers fell 3-2 in a shootout to the Blackhawks. Philadelphia remains four points back of Boston while Florida inched two points away from them.
Tuukka Rask (26 saves) appeared in his mind-numbing 17th straight game (and 26th out of the last 27) but Boston's lack of finish (no pun intended) killed him. It seemed like they had their mojo back (relatively speaking of course) when Daniel Paille scored his first goal since Nov. 21 at Columbus-a span of only 36 games. His backhander on a rebound 1:05 into the contest was his second goal of the season, no joke. Lack's fellow Swedes Loui Eriksson and Carl Soderberg had the assists.
Unfortunately, that lead held up for exactly 2:23 of game action as the Canucks tied it on Ryan Stanton's one-timer from Jannik Hansen. It was Stanton's third goal of the season and he would be involved with another key play in the second period. There was a big scramble in front of Lack and Paille poked at a rebound that appeared headed over the line. You couldn't tell in real time but on replay, we noticed that Stanton actually gloved the puck and sent it away. The referees didn't see it and the NHL lacks a challenge system for coaches like the NFL so apparently it wasn't allowed to be viewed on replay. OK then.
The unlikely goal-scorers theme continued in the third period as Zack Kassian (rumored to be a Bruins trade target) blasted a one-timer that Rask never saw at 6:47. Daniel and Henrik Sedin assisted on Kassian's ninth goal of the season. Boston had plenty of zone time in the second (outshooting Vancouver 20-10) and in the third (13-8) plus they won 21 more faceoffs (48-27) led by Patrice Bergeron (31-7!) but none of that could help them muster another goal. The Bruins even pulled Rask with 2:02 left for the extra skater but it didn't matter.
If the B's bring that type of effort on Friday (7, NESN) in New Jersey (25-26-9) and Saturday (5:30, NESN) vs. Arizona (20-34-7), you have to believe that the final result will be different since both of those teams are garbage.
Monday, February 23, 2015
While most of the civilized world watched The Oscars tonight, I was deeply engrossed in a meaningless Celtics-Lakers matchup at the Staples Center. Haha just kidding, I was glued to The Academy Awards and only switched over during commercials or categories/speeches that I didn't care about. Talk about perfect timing, Boston (20-33 overall, 8-18 away) tied it at the buzzer with a three-pointer by Avery Bradley (20 points, 5 rebounds, 3 steals) just as The Oscars wrapped up. Los Angeles (14-41 overall, 8-19 home) outscored the Celts 12-5 in overtime for a 118-11 win.
Coupled with the news earlier in the day that Jared Sullinger would miss the rest of the season with a foot injury, this was an interesting day for the C's. Oh and Isaiah Thomas (21 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals) played well in his Celtics debut then got ejected rather quickly for a pretty low-key outburst (slamming the ball on the court after a bad foul call on him). It's enough to make you wonder if the NBA is corrupt, haha that's right my bad. While Sullinger's injury history in the NBA and college is worrisome to say the least (assuming he's a key piece of the future here), still I can't say it's a bad thing that one of their better players is done for the last 30 games. Now can we cut the crap about Boston going for a fraudulent playoff spot in the Eastern Conference? Please.
Another great aspect of this game was that former Harvard star Jeremy Lin (remember him?) torched the Celts for a game-high 25 points and six assists off the bench. LA's starters combined for 34 total points as Carlos Boozer (12 points, 8 rebounds) was the only guy in double-figures. In addition to Mr. Linsanity's heroics off the bench, Wesley Johnson had 22 points, five rebounds and two steals while Swaggy P aka Nick Young added 19 points and Jordan Hill notched 10 points and five rebounds.
Jae Crowder led Boston with 22 points and seven rebounds off the bench, Evan Turner had a double-double (12 points, 12 assists and 6 rebounds), Brandon Bass posted 15 points and five rebounds while Marcus Smart put up 11 points and five rebounds. Even if they are losing many games down the stretch (fingers crossed), the Celtics at least should be way more exciting with Thomas in the lineup. He's the shortest guy in the NBA at 5-foot-9 and we always love our undersized guards (Nate Robinson, Dana Barros, Dee Brown, etc.) in Boston.
The C's were up 32-26 after the first quarter but that advantage shrunk to 58-56 at halftime. Boston outscored LA 20-17 in a grimy third quarter then the Lakers took the fourth 33-28. Of course, this could have been over earlier since LA was up four points with 12 seconds left but like a bad porn star, they couldn't close the deal. See what I did there (logs off forever)?
LA shot nearly nine percent better than Boston from the field (51.2%-42.9%) and hit six more free throws (25-19). The Celtics grabbed two more rebounds (48-46) including seven more offensive boards (13-6), had five more assists (27-22), nine more fast break points (15-6) and 11 more points off turnovers (30-19).
Boston is right back at it tomorrow night (9, CSN) in Phoenix against the free-falling Suns (29-27 overall, 9th in the West). It'll be a mini-reunion for the C's with Marcus Thornton and Brandan Wright who were both traded away this season in separate deals and Gerald Green who played in Boston approximately 50 years ago (give or take a few decades).
There are a million reasons why we watch sports: the competition, escape, entertainment, etc. However, today's Bruins-Blackhawks game was another underrated point: the unexpected. Riding a season-long six-game losing streak (0-4-2) into Chicago (35-20-5), Boston (29-21-9) closed out its brutal five-game road trip with a thrilling 6-2 victory this afternoon at the United Center. To say that no one saw that result coming would be the understatement of the season. Also, I really don't think that it is hyperbole (something I despise) to say that this win could have saved (at least temporarily) Boston's season.
So how did the B's do it? They knocked off one of the top teams in the NHL by getting the type of team-wide production (six different goal-scorers, 12 guys with points) that they have been missing for most of this up and down campaign. Boston scored a season-high in goals and tied for their biggest win (4-0 at Buffalo on Oct. 18) while tying the most goals that Chicago has allowed and their largest margin of defeat. The amazing part is that they did all that without the services of David Krejci who is out with his "upper-body" (knee?) injury.
The Bruins jumped out to a 1-0 lead just three minutes into the game as Patrice Bergeron crashed the net to re-direct a beautiful spinning backhand pass from Reilly Smith. Brad Marchand had the second assist on Bergeron's team-leading (tied with Marchand) 17th goal of the season. It was 2-0 at 14:03 as Loui Eriksson tipped in Torey Krug's shot for a power-play goal. Dougie Hamilton had the second assist on Eriksson's 14th goal of the season.
Everything has been a chore lately for the B's so naturally we expected the worst when Tuukka Rask (26 saves) took a penalty with eight seconds left in the first for delay of game (going outside of the lines behind the net). Jonathan Toews scored with two seconds left, the power-play goal cutting it to 2-1. What felt even more frustrating (maybe) was that Rask was tagged with yet another penalty after slamming his stick against the post following Toews' 17th goal of the season (assisted by Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith). Kris Versteeg took a Canadiens-like flop after Rask's stick barely touched him. Honestly, he should be fined for that garbage.
Luckily Boston killed off that second penalty on Rask and they used that momentum to hit Chicago with four goals in the second period. That's right, the Bruins outscored the Blackhawks 4-0 in the second on their home ice. Shocking, I know. Milan Lucic snapped a seven-game goalless streak by batting the puck in from close range at 6:18. His 12th goal of the season was assisted by David Pastrnak and Ryan Spooner (who was called up today from Providence while Malcolm Subban was sent down). Adam McQuaid and Daniel Carcillo had a lengthy bout shortly after that but it didn't spark Chicago one bit. In fact, Gregory Campbell scored from the slot (his 6th goal of the season) at 12:19 from Brian Ferlin and Dennis Seidenberg which ended Corey Crawford's day (10 saves) a tad early.
Poor Antti Raanta (14 saves) wasn't much help either as he gave up a soft goal to Dougie Hamilton at 17:27 (his 10th of the season, 5th on the PP) from Bergeron. Then Smith answered Chicago's last-second goal from the first with his own with four seconds left in the frame. His 12th of the season, from Bergeron, gave Boston an incredible 6-1 lead after two periods. Haha still given the way that they had blown a three-goal lead earlier in the trip at Calgary, B's fans didn't feel safe until there was only a few minutes left in regulation.
Bryan Bickell had a garbage goal in the third period for the Blackhawks but nothing at that point could derail some long overdue happiness for the Black and Gold. The trade deadline is a week from tomorrow so who knows if this saved any Bruins' jobs or not? After two weeks away, they finally return to TD Garden on Tuesday (7, NESN) to play Vancouver (34-22-3) who blew them out 5-2 to start the trip on Feb. 13. However, their star goaltender Ryan Miller got hurt today vs. Islanders so it looks like he'll miss that one. After that, Boston goes to New Jersey (24-26-9) on Friday (7, NESN) then hosts Arizona (20-32-7) on Saturday (5:30, NESN). I'm not predicting a win-streak here for the Bruins but let's admit this looks like a favorable week for them-on paper at least.
Florida is three points behind Boston for eighth-place in the Eastern Conference and Philadelphia has closed to within four (although they've played one more game) so every point is vital from here on out. Today was proof that the B's still have something left, now the question is how to bring that type of effort more consistently.
UPDATE 2/24: Many injuries to report for the Bruins. Kevan Miller is done for the season after shoulder surgery, Krejci is out for 4-6 weeks with a partially torn MCL in his left knee and Gregory Campbell is out for a week (or more?) with an upper-body injury.
Friday, February 20, 2015
The 2015 NBA Trade Deadline came and went today with Boston making a sneaky big move and also a minor salary dump. The Celtics traded shooting guard Marcus Thornton (8.9 points per game) and Cleveland's 2016 first-round pick (sure to be at the end) to the Suns for point guard Isaiah Thomas (15.2 points, 3.7 assists per game). Small forward Tayshaun Prince (7.6 points per game) was sent back to Detroit (lucky him) for Swedish power forward Jonas Jerebko and Italian small forward Luigi Datome (he is sure to be a cult favorite in the North End).
The fact that Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge could flip the aging Thornton (who will be a free agent this summer) for Thomas is pretty remarkable. He's very undersized (5-foot-9, 185 pounds) but the former University of Washington star has made a name for himself after only three years in the NBA. Take it with a mountain of salt since it happened in Sacramento but last season in 34.7 minutes per game Thomas averaged 20.3 points, 6.3 assists and 1.3 steals per game in 72 contests (54 starts). Phoenix made the curious decision to try and play three point guards together this season (Thomas, Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic) with mixed results-9th place in the loaded Western Conference. With all the moves they made today, the Suns are left with Bledsoe and now Brandon Knight after Dragic was shipped to Miami.
I'm not going to worry too much about Jerebko and Datome since who knows if either guy will ever put on a Celtics uniform. For what it's worth, (my name is) Jonas averaged 5.2 points and 3.1 rebounds per game while Luigi averaged 3.7 points per game in very limited action. It got to the point recently where Detroit (21-33) had basically phased them both out of the rotation (well not like Datome was ever in that anyway) entirely so what else has to be said?
Boston's (20-31) first game after the All-Star break ironically enough is in Sacramento (18-34) tomorrow night (10, CSN). Through the magic of the god-awful Eastern Conference, the Celts are only 1.5 games behind Miami (22-30) for eighth-place. If you are like me and you see absolutely no point for them to make the playoffs this season, we got some good news late tonight as the team announced that Jared Sullinger is out indefinitely with a foot injury. It is not surprising that a fat guy like him seems to break down every year but he is one of their best players that they have to build around so yikes.