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Friday, February 27, 2009

Bruins back to drinking beer and kicking ass


The Boston Bruins' season hit a major roadblock in the last few weeks as they slogged through their most uninspired performances of the season.

In the last two games, however, the Bruins have returned to form and then some as they've thrown two major beatings at teams that are currently battling for playoff spots in their respective conferences.

Last night at the Garden, the B's (42-12-8) shutout the Anaheim Ducks (30-28-5), 6-0.

Between last night and Tuesday night's 6-1 dominance over the Panthers, Boston fans have been able to calm down with the trading deadline (next week) and playoffs looming on the horizon.

Was the absence of Michael Ryder during that tough stretch, the reason Boston struggled so bad? That sounds pretty far-fetched but it's hard to argue with his results: a goal and assist vs. Florida and two goals and a helper against the Ducks.

Anaheim tried to push Boston around, especially as the result of the contest seemed inevitable. A great sign for the B's is that they fought back. There were two fights (Shawn Thornton vs. George Parros and Milan Lucic pummelling Mike Brown) and a small skirmish with mild-mannered Marc Savard and Scott Niedermayer all in the second period.

Defenseman Matt Hunwick gave Boston a 1-0 lead in the first period, scoring his fourth of the season from Blake Wheeler and Ryder.

The Bruins erupted for four goals in the second period. Ryder (21st; David Krejci, Wheeler), Chuck Kobasew (13th; Zdeno Chara), Ryder (22nd on a power play, from Tim Thomas) and Kobasew (14th on a power play, from Dennis Wideman and Andrew Ference) had the tallies.

Ducks goalie Jean Sebastien-Giguere was yanked after allowing Kobasew's first goal. Backup goaltender Jonas Hiller wasn't much better as he also allowed three goals.

Rookie Byron Bitz rounded out the scoring with his fourth of the season from Ference and Hunwick in the third period.

Bruins goalie Tim Thomas made 35 saves while he recorded the shutout.

It's perfect that the B's have built a little momentum back up as Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Captials come to the Garden tomorrow afternoon. The top two teams in the Eastern Conference have already had some memorable games this season and it seems predestined that they'll meet deep in the playoffs this spring.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Friars for life


One of the main beauties of sports is the possibility (no matter how far-fetched) of the upset.

That's also what makes college basketball my favorite sport and without a doubt, the NCAA men's basketball tournament is by far the most exciting postseason in all of sports (year in and year out).

For those reasons and many more, last night was one of the best of my life. My great friend (Kevin O'Brien) and I took a night off from work (me) and studying for law school (him) to go see our alma mater, Providence College, probably get embarrassed by the Pittsburgh Panthers, the newly-crowned number one team in the country.

That never happened though as PC (17-11, 9-7) led from start to finish and wrapped up a 81-73 win that will look great on its tournament resume. It also marked the first truly signature win of the Keno Davis era at Providence.

The win moved the Friars to 2-10 all-time against No. 1 teams, the first win being in 1976 against Michigan.

After the fact, special moments often have an amazing serendipity in them and this particular game was no different. We had both been in Providence over the weekend for alumni weekend and saw the basketball team lose a must-win to Notre Dame, 101-83. It was a depressing loss to a team that's NCAA hopes were quickly circling the drain.

By falling on a Tuesday night, it would have been easy to blow the game off and cut our losses with a team that has too often disappointed us in the four years we were in college and the three years (in my case) and two years in Kev's case since we've moved on from the idyllic world of college.

The big plays were too many to count and I won't get into too much play-by-play. Pitt's (25-3, 12-3) trademark tough defense and dominance inside never really materialized as the Friars played inspired basketball on Senior Night.

Providence's five graduating seniors (Geoff McDermott, Weyinmi Efejuku, Jonathan Kale, Jeff Xavier and Randall Hanke) all fittingly stepped up in one of the biggest games of their lives.

It's a talented but madly inconsistent group that has yet to make the NCAA tournament (or win a postseason game for that matter) since they stepped foot on campus. The last time PC made the tourney was in 2004 and you'd be forgiven if you don't remember it: they were upset by No. 12 seeded Pacific in the first round.

Pitt's formidable duo of DeJuan Blair (17 points, 8 rebounds) and Sam Young (16 points, 8 rebounds) got their numbers but it was the lack of a supporting cast, outside of Ashton Gibbs' 15 points that sealed the Panthers' fate.

Cop puncher and oompa loompa body double Levance Fields managed just seven points and three assists as PC successfully shut him down, a key to defeating Pitt. It also helped immensely that Blair was in foul trouble throughout and fouled out late in the second half.

PC led by 18 at the half (44-26) but we never felt comfortable until the final horn sounded. This is a team that has been normally allergic to defense and Pitt beat UConn in Hartford last weekend so we knew they'd make a run.

The Panthers cut it to five with under a minute left but 3-point shooting (and playing without the widebody of Blair) are not their forte and they couldn't comeback all the way.

It's hard to single out one Friar since they all made plays. Efejuku led PC with 16 points, Curry added 15 points and Kale notched 13. McDermott had a nice all-around game with 11 points, six boards and three assists while Hanke was outstanding off the bench with 10 points.

Seeing the students rush the court after the game was a great way to end one of the most meaningful wins in program history.

Providence has two more games left in the regular season (at Rutgers on Sunday and at Villanova next Thursday). They'll need to win at least one of those and also a game or two in the Big East tournament to feel comfortable on Selection Sunday.

PC basketball is relevant again which is all that we ever wanted.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Denver will never win with Carmelo


NBA players are just like everyone else in one sense: they're prone to taking a day off from work here or there.

Far be it from me to criticize David Stern's league but do we really need 82-game regular seasons? If the answer is still yes, then you get what you wish for with steaming turds like last night's Boston Celtics-Denver Nuggets game.

They had both played the day before but you wouldn't know it by the way the Celts (46-12) completely worked over the host Nuggets (37-20), 114-76.

It's just one game and as professional sports show time and again, you can't base much off of one regular season contest. Still, that's the third best team in the West? Really?

For all his success in one year at Syracuse, the NBA version of Carmelo Anthony is basically a representation of everything that's wrong with today's NBA (shakes fist and spits while talking on soapbox): He's selfish, dirty, a me-first player. I'm just glad he's not on a team I care about.

Ray Allen led the C's with 26 points and six rebounds. Paul Pierce added 22 points and six boards. Rajon Rondo filled it up with 14 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. Finally, a recharged Leon Powe had 16 points and five boards off the bench.

Denver has never played defense for as long as George Karl has been there but they have been playing very well since they hoodwinked the Pistons into taking Allen Iverson for Chauncey Billups earlier this season.

J.R. Smith paced the Nuggets with 19 points, five rebounds and five assists. Carmelo managed 18 points and six boards while Linas Kleiza (10 points) was the only other Denver player in double-figures. Billups had maybe his worst game as a pro: 3 points on 1-of-8 shooting, five assists, four turnovers, four fouls in 34 minutes. His plus/minus was -38.

The only moment of intrigue in the second half was that Boston rookie J.R. Giddens scored his first NBA point. He had four to be exact. Fellow rookie Bill Walker also had four points, including a sick alley-oop on a fastbreak from Eddie House.

This was never competitive as Boston led 29-20 after one and 60-37 at the half.

One can only imagine how badly the Celts could beat the Clippers if they bring that same intensity to tomorrow night's game in LA. It's the last game of the six-game road trip so the C's might be looking ahead to getting home.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Did the Boston Bruins peak too early?


With last night's 4-3 loss to the god-awful Tampa Bay Lightning, the Boston Bruins wrapped up their shit the bed tour with a 1-3-1 record.

For anyone that has watched this team all season, it's clear that a change has to be made. The trade deadline is next week and the B's desperately an experienced veteran forward and a puck-moving defenseman, is that too much to ask?

It's hard to pinpoint exactly where this season started to turn but the Bruins of the last month have barely resembled the world-beaters of the season's first few months.

There's no energy and the goal-scoring that seemed to come at will has almost completely dried up.

Sure it's not all doom and gloom as Boston (40-12-8) still sits on top of the Eastern Conference, seven points ahead of the Capitals but we don't want to see this team choke in the first round of the playoffs. Right now, that looks like a real possibility.

After Saturday night's weak 2-0 loss to the Panthers, you had to figure the Bruins would take out some frustration on the overmatched Lightning (20-28-12).

The game started out fast as both teams scored twice in the first period. Phil Kessel broke his long scoring slump with his 25th goal of the year (Marc Savard, Milan Lucic). Jeff Halpern tied it up for Tampa (from Matt Pettinger and Steve Eminger). Then Adam Hall made it 2-1 Lightning with assists to Ryan Craig and Evgeny Artyukhin.

Andrew Ference potted his first goal of the year on the power play to compete the scoring in the first. Savard and Dennis Wideman had the assists.

Along with the power play (which has been one of the team's biggest weaknesses lately), the B's showed some backbone with not one but two fights in the first period.

The ageless Mark Recchi gave Tampa Bay the lead again at 3-2 (from Josef Melichar and David Koci) before Zdeno Chara (14th) tied it with helpers to Chuck Kobasew and Aaron Ward.

Boston dominated play, outshooting Tampa Bay 43-18 but that didn't matter as Lightning goaltender Karri Ramo was great, recording 40 saves.

On a power play, Vaclav Prospal (Halpern, Martin St. Louis) scored the game-winner for the Lightning with 1:33 left in the third.

The good news is that Boston comes home for a six-game homestand, starting tomorrow night against the Florida Panthers.

What did you do on your 23rd birthday?


If you're like me, your 23rd birthday wasn't too unique. From what I remember, I went out to a local chain restaurant with my parents and received a season of Rescue Me on DVD. Pretty thrilling.

If you're Rajon Rondo, your day was a little more special, as you scored a career-high 32 points (10 assists, 6 rebounds, 3 steals) in Boston's 128-108 win over Phoenix yesterday afternoon.

It was the Celtics' first game without KG since his latest injury (strained knee). The Suns (31-24) came in having won three straight games while setting an NBA record by scoring 140+ points in each of them. They were also missing a star as Amar'e Stoudemire is out for the rest of the regular season following retina surgery.

The C's (45-12) actually got off to a slow start, as the Suns led by eight early at home but after that Boston cruised. The Celts outscored Phoenix 38-33 in the first quarter and led 68-54 at the half.

It should come as no surprise that the Suns are still allergic to defense. They fired head coach Terry Porter and replaced him with Alvin Gentry, which means nothing except another eventual first round playoff exit (which would have happened regardless).

Rondo set his record early in the second half as the Suns tried to climb back (29-28). Even without KG and with their few big guys in foul trouble, the Celts closed with a 32-25 fourth quarter.

Ray Allen also had a great game, scoring 31 points while Paul Pierce added 26 points and six rebounds. Brian Scalabrine had one of his best games in a Celtics uniform (which is not saying much) as he dropped 14 points and Glen Davis notched 10 points.

Between court appearances and speeding tickets, Jason Richardson stopped by to score a meaningless 21 points. Steve Nash had 19 points and 11 assists while Shaquille O'Neal notched 17 points and six boards. Leandro Barbosa scored 18 points in the loss.

Boston takes on Denver in the Mile High City tonight. They'll be looking for revenge after the Nuggets knocked them off early in the season at the Garden. It will also be Chauncey Billups' first meeting against the C's as a member of the Nuggets.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Never Trust a Mormon


I'll give credit where credit's due: in front of a rabid crowd at EnergySolutions Arena, the Utah Jazz enjoy one of the biggest home court advantages in the NBA.

Using that, along with some terrible calls by the ghost of Dick Bavetta and a possibly huge injury, the Jazz beat the Celtics last night, 90-85 in a game that normally neutral C's announcer Mike Gorman quickly added at the completion, "the Celtics got hosed tonight."

Boston (44-12) lost the heart and soul of its team, Kevin Garnett, in the second quarter when he landed after an attempted alley-oop and starting hopping around, favoring his right leg. He went to the bench immediately and then hobbled to the locker room as Celtics fans around the country held their collective breaths.

The first word was that it's a right knee strain and he'll miss the next three games of the West Coast trip. I don't want to speculate about the severity of the injury but needless to say, if he is out for a significant period of time, it completely changes the complexion of the Eastern Conference and NBA as a whole. Yeah, he's that important.

The Jazz (32-23) got off to a very slow start, as they trailed 22-13 after the first quarter. They closed it to 39-38 C's at the break.

One of the easiest, most cliche, ignorant things to say about any sport is a critical comment of an official. They're human, they make mistakes, etc. However, last night was a complete joke.

With KG out, Boston still racked up 30 fouls to Utah's 18. The Jazz only took two more free throws (24-for-31) than the Celts (19-for-29) but the damage was clear as Boston defenders could never figure out what was a foul and what wasn't. I'm all for giving jobs to the elderly but I think it's time for Dick Bavetta to be put out to pasture. I mean really.

Boston valiantly played well without KG in the third (27-22) but predictably, it all came crashing down in the fourth (30-19) as the Jazz made all the big shots and their white bread crowd went about as crazy as a bunch of boring, white people can get.

This was all done without Carlos Boozer, so it was nonetheless an impressive win for Utah and perennially overlooked coach Jerry Sloan.

Mehmet Okur led the Jazz with 19 points and six rebounds. Deron Williams (18 points, 10 assists) made a clutch jumper to put the Jazz up four late. Ronnie Brewer added 16 points and four steals.

Everybody's favorite Russian baller Andrei Kirilenko had 13 points off the bench while Paul Millsap (or as I like to call him, Ryan Gomes on a good team) notched eight points and 10 boards.

Paul Pierce paced the C's with 20 points and nine rebounds but his shot wasn't falling like usual at the end. Rajon Rondo got in early foul trouble but still managed 15 points and seven assists. Kendrick Perkins had a nice game with 12 points, 11 boards and three blocks. Ray Allen added 12 points and Leon Powe was great off the bench (9 points, 9 rebounds).

With two days off between games, Boston has some time to refocus as they try to figure out how they'll do this without KG at least for the next week.

Not making a move at the trade deadline (other than dumping dead weight Patrick O'Bryant and Sam Cassell) is looking like a bad decision. The C's are running out of healthy bodies. Tony Allen might be out for the rest of the year after thumb surgery so rookies Bill Walker and J.R. Giddens will have to play some minutes.

They go to Phoenix on Sunday, which just found that Amare Stoudemire will be out for up to eight weeks after eye surgery.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Boston Bruins and the Amazing Technicolor Power Play


After going winless in its last four games (0-2-2), the Boston Bruins flipped a switch last night and decided to be the dominant team they'd established themselves as in the season's first half.

Boston (40-10-8) rolled over host Carolina (28-25-5), 5-1, scoring three third period goals on Glen Wesley night (which may or may not still be going on).

Using a variety of goal-scorers and solid goaltending-the two keys to the unbelievable season-the B's showed why the last week has been a slight hiccup.

The Hurricanes actually scored first as Matt Cullen (15th) found the back of the net in the first period, from Ray Whitney and Dennis Seidenberg.

Rookie Blake Wheeler started a run of five straight goals for the visitors as he notched a power-play goal (his 17th) later in the first period, assisted by Milan Lucic and Andrew Ference.

Shane Hnidy gave his team the lead for good in the second period as he potted his third of the season from David Krejci.

Special team's play was the key of the night and the theme of the third period for the B's as Krejci (20th, from Patrice Bergeron) scored a short-handed goal with 3:48 left in the game.

Boston would score two more before it was over: Chuck Kobasew added another power-play goal (his 12th) from Zdeno Chara and P.J. Axelsson. Finally, Bergeron put home an empty-net goal (his 5th), short-handed from Stephane Yelle.

The two goals on the power play were a great sign for the B's since the man advantage has been terrible over the last few weeks.

Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas made 31 saves and his record moved up to 25-7-5.

After a flight to Florida last night, the Bruins get a day off in the Sunshine State today. The team is playing golf or going deep sea fishing in its free time. They'll play the red-hot Panthers on Saturday night.

Friday, February 13, 2009

You almost feel bad for the Mavericks


The Dallas Mavericks are a reality TV show. You can't quite look away from whatever they're doing but you know that no matter what, they're frauds that won't ever amount to anything.

A little harsh? Yes but what else can you say after Dallas (31-21) built a 15-point lead last night against the Celtics (31-21) then predictably let it all slip away, 99-92.

It was the last game for both teams before the All-Star break, so what a way for the C's to go into it and conversely, the Mavs and their fans have to be cringing at what's looking like another first-round exit from the playoffs in the spring.

There is no disputing that Dirk Nowitzki is a great NBA player. What is debatable is if he can ever win a championship. For all of his crafty German offensive skills, he's a liability defensively and basically useless if his shot isn't falling.

Nowitzki had a game-high 37 points and eight rebounds but he couldn't do anything down the stretch as Paul Pierce and the Celts showed off their championship mettle.

Pierce scored 18 of his team-high 31 points in the fourth as he consistently isolated on Dallas defenders, who knew it was coming but still couldn't stop him.

Hurt thumb or not, Ray Allen added 20 points, Rajon Rondo posted a juicy triple-double (19 points, 15 rebounds, 14 assists) and Kevin Garnett dropped 16 points.

Boston head coach Doc Rivers received two technicals and got tossed from the game in the third quarter while Garnett also took a technical to fire his team up.

Without Jason Terry, the Mavs lack a consistent second scorer for Dirk. Josh Howard tossed in a quiet 17 points, Antoine Wright scored 10 and the ghost of Jason Kidd handed out 10 assists.

Dallas led 21-17 after one quarter and 51-40 at the half but who could be worried? The Mavs are about as opposite of clutch as you'll find for a team in the NBA.

Boston woke up with a 29-24 third and took it going away with a 30-17 dismantling in the fourth.

Mavs owner Mark Cuban sitting courtside could only weep in his limo on the way home as he wiped his ass with hundred dollar bills.

For the game, the C's shot 48.6% to the Mavs' 39.5%. Boston owned the glass (50-31) and had eight more assists (24-16) which made up for the ton of turnovers (19-8).

The big three will head to Phoenix for All-Star weekend while the rest of the team gets a few days off. With the win, Boston wrestled back the best record in the league. What more could you ask for at this point?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Celtics remember that games last four quarters (not three)


After shitting the bed in the last two fourth quarters against quality Western Conference opponents (the Lakers and Spurs, at the Garden no less), the Boston Celtics adjusted their internal clocks accordingly to 48 minutes, not 36 minutes.

As a result, they beat a good but beat up Hornets team, 89-77 in the Big Easy last night.

The win for the C's (43-11) was tempered with the loss of Ray Allen to a hyperextended thumb. Ray joins Tony Allen (thumb) and Brian Scalabrine (concussion) as Boston players who are out with injuries.

Apparently, Ray Allen is going to try to play tonight vs. Dallas, in the team's last game before the All-Star break, but honestly, what's the point? He's scheduled to play in the All-Star game too, which is another thing I will give him permission to skip.

The contest was actually tied at 64 heading into the fourth at the New Orleans arena. For non-math majors out there, that means Boston outscored New Orleans, 25-13 in final frame.

Paul Pierce had a game-high 30 points, Kevin Garnett notched a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds while Kendrick Perkins (9 points, 6 rebounds) and Rajon Rondo (6 points, 11 assists, 8 rebounds, 3 steals) also provided solid efforts.

Outside of Pierce's routine heroics, the most pleasant surprise was the play of Leon Powe (11 points, 6 rebounds) and Eddie House (12 points; how did he not make the 3-point shootout or game of H.O.R.S.E?).

Playing without Tyson Chandler and Mo Peterson (which I guess doesn't matter), the Hornets were led by David West's 15 points and eight rebounds. Hilton Armstrong added 14 points and eight boards. Boston was lucky to catch Chris Paul (13 points, 5 assists) at less than full speed as it was his first game back after missing four with a sprained foot.

It is ridiculous that the NBA All-Star game is situated so late in the regular season, the Celtics will have played 2/3 of its schedule when it breaks for the weekend.

Ah well, if the Celts can come away with a win in Dallas tonight (the Mavs are bi-polar but they're usually tough at home), they will have completed an excellent "first-half."

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Revisiting one of the worst trades in sports history


With all the success the Boston Bruins have experienced this season, its easy to forget (especially for recent bandwagon jumpers) how much former GM Mike O'Connell screwed the B's on November 30, 2005.

The former No. 1 overall pick and face of the franchise, center Joe Thornton, was traded to the San Jose Sharks for essentially some sticks and a bag of pucks: Marco Sturm, Wayne Primeau and Brad Stuart.

Boston wasn't going anywhere with Thornton but that wasn't his fault since his supporting cast was usually terrible to mediocre at best. Since he's switched coasts, he's won an MVP trophy but still hasn't found much success in the playoffs.

With all these storylines floating around and hopefully O'Connell getting a break from flipping burgers last night to watch, the Sharks-the top team in the Western Conference-came to Boston last night to skate at the TD Banknorth Garden.

San Jose (37-7-7) scored four unanswered goals in the third to take a convincing 5-2 win over Boston (39-9-7).

A pass-first offensive player, Thornton scored a goal in the third period barrage. it wasn't exactly a thing of beauty as it deflected off his skate (but he didn't kick it) into the net.

Things looked good for the B's in the first when Milan Lucic potted a pair of goals (from Marc Savard and Dennis Wideman and Petteri Nokelainen respectively), sandwiched around a power-play goal from Sharks defenseman Rob Blake (Marc Edouard-Vlasic and Ryane Clowe assisted).

Neither team could find the net in the second period as each has top-notch goaltenders. San Jose goalie Evgeni Nabokov improved to 28-6-6 with 28 saves while Bruins goalie Tim Thomas (24-6-5) made 26 saves in the loss.

Patrick Marleau started the Sharks' run in the third, tying it at two with helpers from Christian Ehrhoff and Clowe.

Milan Michalek put San Jose up 3-2 from Dan Boyle and Clowe. Thornton's strike put it in the win column at 4-2 and finally, former BU star Mike Grier scored an empty-netter for the 5-2 final.

It was a disappointing result and to make matters worse, the walking wounded continue to pile up for the Bruins. Michael Ryder had surgery to fix his orbital bone and he's expected to miss 3-4 weeks. During last night's contest, Nokelainen was poke in the eye with an errant stick and was forced to leave the game while Chuck Kobasew wrenched his knee.

Boston will hit the road to face New Jersey on Friday night; many people would probably be surprised to know that the Devils are currently No. 2 in the Eastern Conference, one point ahead of the more hyped Capitals.

Monday, February 9, 2009

You've Done It Again Red Bomber


For the second straight home game, the Boston Celtics failed to execute at the end against one of the Western Conference's elite teams and as a result they lost.

Yesterday afternoon it was the San Antonio Spurs (still as boring as you remember them), who claimed a 105-99 victory at the TD Banknorth Garden.

It all went to hell when Boston was down two (95-93) and had an inbounds pass on the sideline.
Ray Allen (18 points) tried to get the ball to Paul Pierce (19 points, 8 rebounds) but he lost the handle and it was intercepted by Manu Ginobli (19 points). Pierce fouled him, of the clear path variety, and after making four free throws, the outcome was sealed.

Tim Duncan led the Spurs (34-15) with 23 points, 15 rebounds and five assists but teammate Matt Bonner, a native of Portsmouth, NH was the star of the show as far as New England was concerned (it has to always be about us, damn it!). Bonner finished with 23 points, eight boards and two steals. He is only the second Granite State native to play in the NBA.

Roger Mason (11 points) was the other unlikely leading man as he hit a dagger 3-pointer out of nowhere to put the San Antonio up two.

For the Celtics (42-11), Kevin Garnett had his best game in a long time, checking in with 26 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and two steals. Tony Allen scored 11 points off the bench, Kendrick Perkins added 10 points and seven boards while Rajon Rondo did his best Jason Kidd impression: six points, 16 assists, five rebounds.

An unsettling trend in recent weeks for the Celts has been their defense allowing 100+ points almost every time out. They'll need to tighten things up on the defensive end to knock off the top teams.

That was their last home game for over two weeks as they hit the road for an extended road trip (made longer by the All-Star break). The C's start in New Orleans on Wednesday night against the injury-depleted but talented Hornets.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

I apologize for making the Bruins lose


When the Bruins entered the first intermission of yesterday's game up 3-1 on the Flyers, I fired out a mass text message to all my friends that care about hockey. It said, "the Bruins are unstoppable."

Predictably, this jinxed them as Philadelphia (27-15-9) obviously got wind of my cocky message and recovered to win 4-3 in overtime at the Garden.

It all started out so well for Boston (39-8-7). Marc Savard opened the scoring with his 21st of the season, from Milan Lucic and Mark Stuart. Savard took a shot, gathered the rebound and spun around the net, letting another shot fly that trickled under Flyers goalie Martin Biron's pads.

Simon Gagne tied it up for Philly on the power play, with his 21st of the season (assisted by Mike Knuble and Claude Giroux).

B's rookie Byron Bitz tallied his first NHL goal at 18:59 in the first. Stuart blasted a shot from the point that hit the post and lay on the open goal-mouth. Bitz just had to knock it in. Petteri Nokelainen also had an assist.

After the ensuing face-off, the Bruins scored eight seconds later as Chuck Kobasew (11th) took a pass from Shane Hnidy (and Patrice Bergeron), rushed towards the net and put a low slap shot under Biron.

Give credit to the Flyers though, as they are a good, tough team. They showed some pride in coming back on the road.

Philadelphia scored twice in the second. Former Bruin Glen Metropolit (2nd) made it 3-2 Bruins, with an assist from Arron Asham. Then Scott Hartnell (20th) tied it on a power play with helpers from Jeff Carter and Joffrey Lupul.

In his first game in 30 days, Boston goaltender Manny Fernandez (30 saves) looked a bit rusty but he certainly couldn't be blamed for the fluky game-winner in OT.

Flyers goon Randy Jones (best known for knocking out Bergeron last season) flipped a harmless wrist shot that deflected off B's defenseman Andrew Ference and into the net.

Boston will have a few days to think about the loss and their next game is one of the marquee games of the regular season. On Tuesday, the Western Conference leaders, the San Jose Sharks come to the Garden led by former Bruins star (and MVP) Joe Thornton. Should be a great one.

Friday, February 6, 2009

It's called Bruins


Your Boston Bruins have become the Celtics of the last two seasons. They also resemble the last two Patriots teams to win Super Bowls. Even when they don't play nearly their best, they still find ways to get it done.

Last night in Ottawa's Scotiabank Place, the B's (39-8-6) had a 2-0 lead wiped away as the Senators (17-25-8) scored three straight but it didn't matter as Boston tied it up late in the third and eventually won in a shootout.

Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas (22 saves) stopped the first five shooters in the shootout and Senators goaltender Brian Elliot (30 saves) stoned the first four Boston shooters. Up stepped P.J. Axelsson with his second chance of the season to clinch a shootout win and he didn't disappoint, tucking a backhander just past Elliot.

Blake Wheeler (15th) gave Boston a 1-0 lead in the first on a power-play strike from Andrew Ference and Phil Kessel.

Cyborg Zdeno Chara potted his 12th in the second period after assists from David Krejci and Michael Ryder. Most probably expected Ottawa, the second worst team in the NHL, to roll over after that but they didn't.

Nick Foligno jump-started the Ottawa resurgence with a goal later in the second from Brendan Bell.

The Senators top line clicked in the third as Daniel Alfredsson (Dany Heatley) and Jason Spezza (power-play goal from Foligno and Alfredsson) gave their team the improbable 3-2 lead.

With 4:02 left in the third, Chuck Kobasew (one of the only likable things to ever come out of BC) scored his 10th of the season, on a power play. Chara had the initial slap shot, Blake Wheeler's rebound was stopped but Kobasew was there to poke it in.

The Flyers come to Boston tomorrow afternoon for what should be a physical, chippy battle after the Bruins beat them Wednesday in Philly.

The rivalry that the NBA desperately needs, continues to get better


It pains me to say it but for the second time this season, the Lakers beat the Celtics when Boston came in with a double-digit win streak.

LA (40-9) came to the TD Banknorth Garden last night for its third game in four nights and escaped with a 110-109 overtime win. It snapped Boston's 12 game win streak, earlier in the year they had won 19 straight before choking at the Forum.

It was surely one of the best regular season games in the NBA and unfortunately, it enabled the Lakers to sweep the season series after they also beat the Celts on Christmas day in Los Angeles.

Boston (41-10) had to a chance to win it at the end of regulation but a sloppy possession ended with Eddie House (16 points) firing up a prayer of a 3-pointer.

At the conclusion of overtime, Ray Allen (22 points) attempted a three that was blocked by Pau Gasol (24 points, 14 rebounds). Allen and the Celtics' bench wanted a foul but there wasn't enough contact to make that call.

Two games after dropping 61 on the Knicks at Madison Square Garden, Kobe Bryant struggled to find his shot but still finished with 26 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. Lamar Odom (one of the NBA's most up and down players) added 20 points and six boards while Derek Fisher scored 13 points.

The Celts got plenty on the offensive side, they just couldn't get any stops when it mattered. Paul Pierce had 21 points, eight rebounds and five assists while Kevin Garnett (in his first game back after missing two with the flu) posted 16 points and 12 rebounds before fouling out on a shaky (at best) call in the fourth.

Rajon Rondo almost had a triple-double with 16 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds. A bright spot was Leon Powe, who had his best performance in a while with 10 points and eight rebounds.

The Lakers led 23-20 after a defensive first quarter. The Celtics started to run in the second quarter which worked well with Andrew Bynum out. Boston outscored LA, 32-28 in the second as the Green took the slim 52-51 halftime lead.

The Celtics continued the strong play with a 29-26 third quarter but the Lakers made enough plays in the fourth (24-20) to send it to overtime.

Odom's two free throws late in overtime sealed it as it put LA up one.

The best thing for the Celtics is that they can quickly forget about this loss since they go to NYC tonight to face the Knicks. In a perfect world, Boston will jump out to a big lead and get their starters some rest in the fourth ahead of Sunday's big showdown with the Spurs.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

What will it be like when both the Bruins and Celtics win titles in the same season?


The Boston Bruins won their third game in a row last night, 3-1 at the Wachovia Center against the Philadelphia Flyers.

It was the first meeting of the season between the top team in the Eastern Conference (and NHL) and the feisty Flyers (26-15-9), who are third in the competitive Atlantic division.

After a scoreless first period, Michael Ryder (19th, from Dennis Wideman and David Krejci) began the scoring at 3:07 of the second period.

Just over two minutes later, Philadelphia's Scott Hartnell tied it up with his 19th of the year from Joffrey Lupul and Ryan Parent.

As they have so often during this incredible season, the B's found a way to break a close game open in the third period and decisively take the win.

Krejci scored his 19th of the season after tipping a Shane Hnidy shot past Flyers goalie Martin Biron (33 saves).

35 seconds later, Wideman put the game out of reach for the Flyers as he scored his 12th of the season from Blake Wheeler and Andrew Ference.

There's little rest for Boston as they traveled to Ottawa after the game and tonight face-off against the Northeast basement dwelling Senators.

Games on back-to-back nights, especially on the road, are never easy but the Bruins should take care of the free-falling Senators, who just changed coaches.

Tim Thomas' record is now 23-5-5 after his 26 save effort. The highlight for the Tank was a reflex save on Flyers sniper Jeff Carter in the second period.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Don't Fuck with the Jesus


Ho hum, another game without KG and another win for the Boston Celtics. That made it 12 wins in a row for the Green.

Sure the C's are far from a great team without their inspirational leader but they tend to have exciting games nevertheless.

Ray Allen (23 points) hit two clutch 3-pointers last night, the second one with 0.5 seconds left as Boston left Philadelphia with a 100-99 win that they probably didn't deserve.

Andre Iguodala (22 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals) had given Philly (23-24) a one-point lead with a long jumper of his own but just like the Arizona Cardinals in the Super Bowl, the Sixers left the Celtics (like the Steelers, the better team) too much time on the clock.

Paul Pierce (29 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists) had the ball at the top of the key and worked the ball to Allen, who used a Glen Davis (12 points, 11 rebounds) screen to get open and fire from the corner. It was a money shot from the NBA's top marksman.

The C's were up 32-20 after the first quarter but the Sixers closed it to 50-49 at the break.

Philadelphia outscored Boston, 21-19 in the fourth before both offenses opened up in the fourth, to the tune of 31-29 Celts.

Rajon Rondo had 20 points, eight assists, five rebounds and seven turnovers. Kendrick Perkins pulled down eight rebounds.

For the 76ers, Andre Miller, who's been a fantasy stud (pats self on back), added 21 points, seven assists and four rebounds. Samuel Dalembert notched 14 points and seven rebounds, Louis Williams scored 11 and Thaddeus Young tossed in 10 points.

Boston shot 53.9% to Philadelphia's 44.6%. The Sixers made 10 more free throws (24-14) but the C's had eight more rebounds (41-33). The reason the Celts should have lost was that they had 20 turnovers, to nine for Philly.

With Jameer Nelson out indefinitely after tearing his labrum, Ray Allen or Rajon Rondo each have a very good chance at being the replacement for Nelson at the All-Star game next weekend.

Hopefully the flu gets out of Kevin Garnett's system as the Los Angeles Lakers come to the Garden tomorrow night for a huge showdown. The Celts will be looking to gain some measure of revenge after the Lakers win on Christmas day.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Sweet uniforms Montreal


The Bruins' poor play against the Canadiens last season seems like about 20 years ago as Boston won its fourth straight against Montreal, 3-1 yesterday at the Bell Centre.

Robert Lang gave the Canadiens (28-16-6) a 1-0 lead late in the first period with a power-play goal from Andrei Markov and Andrei Kostitsyn.

However, Dennis Wideman and the Bruins took back all the momentum and then some as he found the back of the net with a wrist shot with one second left in the period. It was the emerging defenseman's 11th goal of the season.

After tangling with a monster named Alex Henry in the first period, Bruins enforcer Shawn Thornton potted his career high (haha, really) fifth goal of the season in the second period. Linemates Byron Bitz and Stephane Yelle had the assists on what turned out to be the game-winner.

Tim Thomas shut the door on Montreal the rest of the way, finishing with 27 saves as the All-Star moved to 22-5-5.

Marc Savard officially clinched it with his empty-netter (20th of the season) when there were 57 seconds remaining.

The B's hit the road to face the Flyers Wednesday in the teams' first meeting of the season. Philadelphia will also travel to the Garden on Saturday to face the NHL's top team.

Remembering what life would be like without KG


It's easy to forget that the Celtics acquired KG a couple days after trading for Ray Allen two summers ago. There is a reason why people (myself included) weren't that excited about a team that only slightly upgraded by trading for Ray Allen. Garnett is a difference-maker as he proved last season in Boston's championship run.

The C's lose its defensive identity when Garnett (flu) is forced to miss a game like he did yesterday afternoon against his former team, the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Boston (40-9) did just enough for a 109-101 home win over the youthful Timberwolves (16-30) in a Super Bowl matinee. Oh by the way, it was the Green's 11th consecutive victory.

Still, it was a reality check of what life would have been like without KG; the Celts would be fighting for home court in the Eastern Conference and would not be title contenders.

Paul Pierce led Boston with a game-high 36 points, eight rebounds and six assists. Ray Allen added 22 points and Tony Allen scored 14 off the bench. In only his second career start, Glen Davis notched 12 points, six boards and three steals.

Kendrick Perkins scored eight points and grabbed 11 rebounds while Rajon Rondo had five points, eight assists and seven rebounds.

Minnesota was paced by its star, former Celtic Al Jefferson, who had 34 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks. It's a joke that he didn't make the All-Star team this season in the West.

Randy Foye added 21 points and nine assists while former Providence College star and Celtic Ryan Gomes notched 17 points and four steals. Sebastian Telfair, the other ex-Celtic, had 10 points and eight assists.

Boston jumped out a sizable lead after a 29-24 first quarter and 33-20 second quarter. The T-Wolves came back in the third (29-25) and fourth (28-22) but Pierce would not let his team choke away such a winnable game.

The Celts travel to Philly tomorrow night and Garnett's status is up in the air.