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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Bruins pull out improbable win in OT

What did I say about the Bruins yesterday? They always defy expectations.

It's not often that I'm a profit like that but I'll take full credit as the B's (35-29-12) won 1-0 in overtime last night against the New Jersey Devils (44-26-6) at the Prudential Center in beautiful Newark, NJ.

With just 19 seconds left in overtime before it would have gone to a shootout, which the Bruins are horrible at, Patrice Bergeron swooped in on a rebound and stuffed it home before Devils all-world goalie Martin Brodeur (33 saves) could react. Mark Recchi and Mark Stuart assisted on Bergeron's 18th goal of the season.

Tuukka Rask was rightfully back in goal for the Bruins and he made 21 saves for his fifth shutout of the season. The young star improved to 19-11-4 with a 2.02 goals against average and .929 save percentage.

Needless to say it was a meaningful win for many reasons. These teams could meet in the first round of the playoffs so it was good to see the Bruins prove they can beat New Jersey at their own low-scoring game. Also, the two points kept Boston two points ahead of Atlanta and four points ahead of the Rangers for the last spot in the Eastern Conference. And finally, it tied the Bruins with Philadelphia and Montreal, the two teams they're trying to jump over to avoid the buzzsaw that is the Capitals.

Boston is back home tomorrow night, hosting the playing-for-pride Florida Panthers.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Ryan Miller is still my hero

If you've learned anything from the Boston Bruins this season (that's assuming that you're still paying attention or ever bothered to waste your time on this hopeless franchise in the first place) it's that they'll do whatever is unexpected of them in any given game.

If they've been playing great, they're liable to be awful in the next game and lose. On the other hand, once you've left them for dead (which I've done so many times this season I've lost count) is when they step up and produce absurd results like Saturday's 5-0 win over Calgary.

Given that they were coming off one of their best performances of the season, it should have been no surprise that the B's faltered last night, losing 3-2 to the Buffalo Sabres at the TD Garden.

All the usual suspects: shoddy goaltending by Tim Thomas, bad bounces, Dennis Wideman being a waste of life and struggling to score showed up against a team they could very possibly meet in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs in a few weeks.

Things looked good when a red-hot David Krejci (his 17th, from Zdeno Chara) gave Boston (34-29-12) a 1-0 lead 7:43 into the game with a nifty move around Miller (40 saves) that he finished by poking the puck with his backhand.

Barely three minutes into the game Marco Sturm had drawn a penalty shot but he was predictably stuffed by Miller, the Team USA hero.

Less than four minutes after the Krejci goal, Buffalo (42-23-10) gained a 2-1 lead thanks to two goals that were deflected in off Wideman. Haha, really. Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers, the leading candidate for rookie of year, scored and then Paul Gausted (from Myers) added to Wideman and Thomas' season-long misery.

After a Dennis Seidenberg giveaway in the second period, Buffalo's Tim Kennedy made it 3-1 and Thomas' (11 saves) night was over as he got pulled for the sixth time this season. Tuukka Rask, who might as well play every remaining minute of the season, stepped in and stopped all 19 shots he faced.

Seidenberg got a little redemption late in the third as his long shot trickled in off Miller but the Bruins ran out of time before they could tie it up and sent it to overtime.

The good news is that Atlanta lost last night as well so the B's are still two points up on the Thrashers for the eighth spot in the East and the right to be embarrassed by Alexander Ovechkin and the Capitals in four quick games.

The B's are back at it tonight with a game in New Jersey, another likely first round opponent.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The San Antonio Spurs will put you to sleep and beat you


When you sit back and think about it objectively, the San Antonio Spurs are one of the greatest NBA teams in my lifetime and one of pro sports' truly dominant franchises.

So why do you never hear a word about them, even when they're winning championships? First of all, San Antonio is a tiny market and their biggest star-Tim Duncan-is a sort of anti-star.

He's not flashy, he doesn't have ridiculous dance routines with his teammates and therefore he's not suitable for a daily Sportscenter highlight.

Teamwork and unselfishness are not ways to make a name for yourself in the popularity contest that is the NBA but I'm here to salute the Spurs and their mind-numbing efficiency.

With the Celtics playing some of their best basketball of the season, the Spurs came into the TD Garden last night and dealt the C's their worst beating of the year, 94-73.

Tony Parker is out with a broken hand, which I'm sure his wife Eva Longoria is helping him nurse back to health (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) but the Spurs (44-28) haven't skipped a beat as they've found their game when it really matters.

Manu Ginobili is carrying them right now, as evidenced by his game-high 28 points and seven assists last night. George Hill, starting for Parker, added 15 points and Richard Jefferson, who's had an awful season with his new team, notched 16 points and 11 rebounds.

Boston (47-26) was held to its lowest scoring output of the season so not surprisingly the offensive numbers were pathetic. Paul Pierce led the Celts with 18 points but Kevin Garnett (12 points, 10 rebounds) and Shelden Williams (11 points off the bench) were the only Celtics with a pulse in that lifeless effort.

Believe it or not, it was a close game for the first half as Boston led 23-19 after the first quarter and trailed 44-43 at the half.

A 12-0 San Antonio run to start the third quarter shifted the momentum dramatically and the Spurs held the Celtics to 30 points in the second half. Duncan didn't even score in double figures in the rout, putting up eight points and nine rebounds.

Hopefully this was just a blip on the NBA calendar as the Oklahoma City Thunder come to the Garden on Wednesday night (before Houston and Cleveland wrap up this extended homestand).

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Good to have you back on the Celtics bandwagon

With a healthier Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, the Boston Celtics look like a new team. As long as they can get the third seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, thus skipping the Cavs until the Eastern Conference Finals, I'm drinking the green and white Kool-Aid straight with no chaser.

Last night's 113-99 domination over the Denver Nuggets (47-25) at the TD Garden was evidence that you need to start paying attention to the C's (46-25) again.

Pierce (27 points, 7 rebounds) was named Eastern Conference player of the week for last week and it appears like after a poor season, by his standards, the Truth is coming back to his old self at just the right time.

Garnett (20 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists) will never be the guy of two years ago, let alone five or ten years ago, since he's logged so many NBA minutes but I'll never count out KG in my life.

Ray Allen added 16 points and Rajon Rondo had his second triple double of the season with 11 points, 11 rebounds and 15 assists.

The C's bench continues to do some nice things with Nate Robinson (8 points) and Michael Finley (7 points) already proving their worth. Tony Allen hadn't done anything in months but he looked great last night with 13 points as Pierce and Marquis Daniels got into early foul trouble.

As it stands right now, Denver is the number two seed in the Western Conference. However, with head coach George Karl receiving cancer treatments and the underlying fact that this team is full of Grade A clowns, who knows what to expect.

Carmelo Anthony (32 points) has had another monster season but does he make his teammates better? J.R. Smith had 21 points off the bench while Arron Afflalo (13 points) and Chauncey Billups (12 points) were the only other Nuggets in double figures.

Boston owned the boards (45-36) and led by Rondo they passed it beautifully (30-21 assists). They also limited themselves to 11 turnovers to Denver's 17.

That was the first of a season-high six-game homestand and the Sacramento Kings come to the Garden tomorrow night for a game that should get pathetic ratings going up against the Sweet 16.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tuukka Time for once and for all

By all accounts Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas is a great guy. That's all well and good but professional sports are a cold business and Thomas is not getting the job done this season.

Boston is lucky though because in rookie goaltender Tuukka Rask, they have the present and future of the franchise.

Rask (18-10-4, NHL-best 2.02 GAA) was the centerpiece of the B's (33-27-12) 4-0 win last night at Philips Arena in Atlanta as he recorded his fourth shutout of the season.

Since Boston came in only one point ahead of the Thrashers (32-30-11) for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference (and the right to be pummeled by the Caps), you could say without hyperbole that last night was one of the most meaningful wins of the season.

It was downright refreshing to see the B's show up for once when it counted as David Krejci (from Michael Ryder and Dennis Seidenberg) put Boston ahead 1-0 in the first period with his 15th goal.

A couple minutes after the first goal, Shawn Thornton threw down with Thrashers goon Eric Boulton. It seems like the Bruins have been fighting more lately which is never a bad thing.

Milan Lucic (his 8th) gave the B's a 2-0 lead in the second period with a one-timer from Krejci. Then Miroslav Satan (his 6th) scored the dagger of the game with four seconds left in the second period when he tipped Zdeno Chara's blast from the point.

When Steve Begin (his 4th) scored off a juicy rebound from Atlanta goalie Johan Hedberg early in the third period the rout was on.

Boston will look to keep the momentum going as the Tampa Bay Lightning come to the TD Garden tomorrow night for another must-win by the Black and Gold.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Those Mormons are crafty, in life and on the basketball court

Utah has to be near the top of the list of places in the US that I have absolutely no interest in visiting. The squeaky clean Mormons frankly scare me and the fact that they're not big on the nightlife is similarly frightening.

The Celtics went to Salt Lake City last night riding a four-game win streak and the overriding sense that they've gotten their proverbial shit together. Impressive wins in Houston on Friday night and in Dallas on Saturday night was giving C's fans optimism that maybe the Big Three and Co. has one last title run in them.

Or maybe not. Boston (45-25) was in complete control in the first half, up by double digits before the Jazz (46-25) scored the last seven points of the second quarter to slide into the break only down 54-49.

Utah scored the first nine points of the second half and by then, dreams of a win at EnergySolutions Arena (one of the toughest home courts in the NBA, where the Jazz are 29-8) disappeared faster than a Mormon at a strip club. Utah won 110-97 as Boston completely crumbled in the second half, with a rare Doc Rivers ejection serving as the cherry on top for all the pasty-faced Jazz fans.

C.J. Miles scored a game-high 23 points for Utah while the incomparable Deron Williams added 22 points and 11 assists, using his big frame to push around the much smaller Rajon Rondo (6 points, 6 assists).

Nobody ever talks about them but the Jazz are very solid. Carlos Boozer had 19 points and nine rebounds and Mehmet Okur notched 14 points, 15 rebounds and three blocks. Wesley Matthews and Paul Millsap both scored 10.

Boston looked the part of an old team playing the last game of a road trip. Their legs were tired and nobody except for Glen Davis (13 points, 5 rebounds) had a good game. Davis was also hit in the face by Millsap's forearm, causing him to have one of those cotton swabs stuffed in his nose.

Ray Allen led the Celts with 15 points, Paul Pierce had 11 and Kevin Garnett scored 10. The Boston bench was one point away (49-48) from tying the output of the starters which is never good. If only Rasheed Wallace wasn't completely done, the second unit would be pretty formidable. Nate Robinson, Marquis Daniels and Michael Finley all had eight points.

Things don't get any easier tomorrow night as Boston opens up a six-game home stretch (its longest of the season) with a visit from the Denver Nuggets, the number two team in the Western Conference.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Give it up for Dennis Wideman

As I've said recently, Tim Thomas has had an awful season but it pales in comparison to Bruins defenseman Dennis Wideman.

After a career-year last season (50 points and an amazing +32), Wideman can't get out of his own way this season. He has just 22 points and a team-worst -16. His biggest skill is moving the puck up ice and being a mobile defenseman but countless times this season lazy passes and getting caught too far up in the offensive zone have invaded Wideman's game.

Therefore it was nice to see Wideman have a positive effect in yesterday's 2-1 Bruins (32-27-12) win over the New York Rangers (31-32-9) at the TD Garden.

The win kept the B's one point ahead of the Atlanta Thrashers for the eighth and final spot in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

It seemed like the millionth time that these boring-as-watching-pain-dry teams played this season so it was nice that they spiced it up with some fights and chippy play.

As per usual with both teams, goals were at a premium so it was only fitting that they came from some unlikely sources.

Miroslav Satan gave Boston a 1-0 lead in the second period off a one-timer from Andrew Ference. Johnny Boychuk also assisted.

Wideman scored the game-winner in the third period with a backhand shot from Vladimir Sobotka and Milan Lucic.

Michael Del Zotto scored for the Rangers with 3:04 left but Tuukka Rask (23 saves) held the fort down for the win.

Boston travels to Atlanta tomorrow night for an eighth-place showdown.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

New York Knicks, Arkansas Pine-Bluff, same difference


Scheduling the New York Knicks-a perennial NBA doormat-on St. Patrick's Day in Boston was pure genius on the part of the Celtics.

It might have been the Guinness and car bombs talking but the Celts (43-24) looked like contenders once again as they romped for the third straight time at home over the NBA equivalent of a No. 16 seed.

Paul Pierce had his best game in months, leading the Green and White with 29 points while Kevin Garnett added 22 points. Marquis Daniels was the only other Celtics in double figures with 10 points as no starter played more than 28 minutes, a great thing with a tough three-game road trip starting tomorrow night.

David Lee (29 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists) has taken over the crown of best American white player in the league, sorry Troy Murphy, but right now he doesn't have much help from his loser Knick (24-44) teammates.

Al Harrington was the next highest scorer for New York with 16 points off the bench. Tracy McGrady scored 12 points and Toney Douglas had 11.

This one was over after the first quarter as the C's sprinted to a 35-19 lead in the first quarter. Seeing the Knicks play defense is about as rare as seeing a black person in Southie on St. Patrick's Day. Zing!

Boston was up 68-49 and the crowd could only drink their shamrock shakes and count the time until they could wait in line outside the numerous Garden watering holes after the game.

The C's go to Houston tomorrow night for what should be a tight game against the overachieving Rockets, who are currently outside the playoff picture in the Western Conference.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

This one's for the playoffs last season (Haha, nobody?)!

Like an ex-girlfriend from hell that won't go away, the Boston Bruins just keep rising up from the dead when you have completely counted them out.

Make no mistake, their out-of-nowhere 5-2 win last night at Carolina's RBC Center will have no correlation to a hot streak.

The much-anticipated showdown with the Penguins tomorrow night (Kill Matt Cooke!) will undoubtedly end up a dud so last night's win was simply more fool's gold from a team that's been swimming in it all season.

What was more surprising against the Hurricanes (28-33-8): the fact that the Bruins (31-26-12), the league's lowest scoring team, jumped out to a 2-0 lead or that they sealed it Capitals/Sharks/Blackhawks style with three third period goals?

Five different B's scored and Tuukka Rask made 30 saves as he improved to 16-9-4. From now on, can Claude Julien please keep Tim Thomas chained to the bench?

Only 23 seconds into the game, Patrice Bergeron scored another tip-in goal (a carbon copy of his goal the night before) from Dennis Seidenberg and Mark Recchi.

Defenseman Johnny Boychuk joined the Bruins' rush (a completely foreign concept) was rewarded with a goal in the second period. Matt Hunwick and Michael Ryder assisted the young defenseman who has been a pleasant surprise.

Carolina's Erik Cole answered on a power-play roughly five minutes later and you had to think, here we go again.

That was as close as the Hurricanes would get however as Recchi scored another early goal (this one 45 seconds into the third period). It was his old patented move: a wrist shot from the slot. David Krejci assisted Recchi on that goal which tied Guy LeFleur for 22nd all-time in NHL goals.

The two most underachieving Bruins locked this one up as Ryder and Krejci scored 2:30 apart in the third. Goodnight everybody and drive home safely.

Tomorrow's game against Pittsburgh is anticipated for all the wrong reasons; what will the Bruins do for retaliation? My expectations are very low and in all honestly, I'll probably forget to watch the game as I'll be consumed by the first day of the men's NCAA basketball tournament.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Michael Finley and your grandpa had some crazy times back in the day

The Boston Celtics have become the definition of front-runners. They beat up on the scrubs in the NBA (most of whom reside in the Eastern Conference) and then they choke time and again against good teams and playoff contenders.

They rolled over the woeful Detroit Pistons last night 119-93 at the TD Garden and I think it's safe to say that Bill Laimbeer is rolling over in his grave.

This game was never close as Boston (42-24) was up 31-15 after the first quarter and 64-35 at halftime.

It was a nice reminder of why once March Madness comes around, any sane basketball fan forgets about the NBA for a few weeks.

Seven Celtics scored in double figures and two others had eight points. The newest Celtics Michael Finley had 15 points off the bench while Paul Pierce and Ray Allen also scored 15 in limited time. Kevin Garnett added 14 points and eight rebounds, Glen Davis had 13 points off the bench while Kendrick Perkins and Marquis Daniels notched 11. Rasheed Wallace and Glen Robinson both scored eight points.

Poor Richard Hamilton (14 points) and Tayshaun Prince. Detroit (23-44) is a complete mess and those two great veterans are stuck on a rebuilding team going nowhere fast. Prince left the game early after teammate Jason Maxiell (11 points, 10 rebounds) kneed him in the back.

Will Bynum had 16 points and 7 assists for the Pistons, Jonas Jerebko added 10 points while DaJuan Summers (12 points) and Ben Gordon (11 points) showed pulses off the bench.

The C's shot 62.2% as a team with nine more rebounds (36-27) and double the amount of assists as Detroit (34-17).

Tomorrow night will probably be another laugher as the Knicks come to the Garden for a St. Patrick's Day beatdown Southie style.

What's the point of watching the Bruins?

Honestly, why do I still watch the Bruins this season? After Marc Savard went down with a concussion, this team that wasn't getting out of the first round of the playoffs, now seems destined not to even make it.

It's a hard choice: do you want to see the Bruins qualify for the playoffs, only to be swept by the Capitals, Devils or Penguins or just not make it at all?

It seems obvious that any true fan would want them to make the playoffs simply because you never know what'll happen but this edition of the Bruins is one of the most predictable teams I can ever remember.

They're limping home from their season-high seven game road trip after a 3-2 loss in New Jersey last night.

The Devils (41-24-3) took any intrigue out of it by scoring all three goals in the first period. Rob Niedermayer, David Clarkson and Olympic hero Zach Parise all scored for New Jersey.

Boston (30-26-12) made a half-hearted comeback as Blake Wheeler cut it to 3-1 in the second period with his 17th goal (assists to Mark Stuart and David Krejci) and then Patrice Bergeron (his 15th of the season) made it 3-2 with an extra skater on and 1:03 left in the game. He tipped Dennis Seidenberg's shot from the point, Wheeler also assisted.

The poster boy for this lost season for the B's has to be goaltender Tim Thomas. He won the Vezina Trophy last season after a career year and was rewarded with a big deal. This season, he has been awful, never getting on a hot streak forcing Boston to constantly flip-flop him with Tuukka Rask.

Thomas (15-17-8) gave up all three goals and was yanked after the first period. Rask (15-9-4) stopped all 16 of the shots he faced in the last two periods.

The ageless Martin Brodeur (38-22-3) stopped 34 shots for the win.

This torturous road trip wraps up tonight in Carolina where the Bruins will no doubt struggle to score goals and lose to an equally terrible Hurricanes team (who have been playing well lately).

Monday, March 15, 2010

Enough already

Based on a busy past few weeks (going to a bachelor party in DC, heading to the Cape for a few days), I haven't been blogging lately about the Bruins and Celtics. The real underlying reason however for my lack of posts has been the fact that these teams are too depressing and flawed to mention.

I realize that's no excuse but there hasn't been anything in the last few weeks (months really) to get excited about from either of these painfully flawed squads. The Bruins can't score goals and didn't stand up for themselves when their best offensive player-Marc Savard-was knocked out with a cheap shot last weekend in Pittsburgh. The Celtics just can't beat good teams and sometimes they don't bother showing up against garbage like the Nets or Pistons.

The C's took on the Cavs in Cleveland yesterday and it played out exactly like you'd expect: Boston (41-24) hung around for a while before LeBron James (30 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 blocks, 2 steals) and Cleveland (52-15) decided to start playing. End result: a 104-93 Cavs win.

For once, the Celtics' starting five wasn't too blame. Ray Allen had 20 points, six rebounds and five assists while Kevin Garnett (7 rebounds) and Paul Pierce each scored 18 points. Rajon Rondo added 16 points, eight rebounds and six assists.

Boston's bench was weak sauce to the max with 15 total points. When you play the Cavs, particularly at home, you know LeBron will do his thing. The key is limiting the clowns surrounding him; yesterday Anderson Varejao had 17 points and 10 rebounds off the bench. Antawn Jamison added 15 points and 12 rebounds while Mo Williams (14 points, 6 assists) and J.J. Hickson (12 points) played their roles to perfection.

The Cavs jumped out to a 24-18 lead after the first quarter and held serve at 54-48 for the first half. Boston made a run in the third quarter to tie it up but a long drought buried them. They can hardly comeback against the Wizards so doing that in Cleveland is impossible.

The Cavs took the third (26-24) and the fourth (24-21) as LeBron and his cronies danced non-stop.

Detroit comes to the Garden tonight. If we've learned anything this season, it's that the Pistons will hang around for way too long before the Celts will barely squeak it out. Who knows, maybe they'll lose?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Nate Robinson trade pays off

These are desperate times for the Boston Celtics since no win as guaranteed (see: losing to New Jersey over the weekend at home).

Therefore last night's 105-100 win in Detroit isn't exactly parade worthy but still, the hopeless Pistons did beat the Celtics a few weeks ago on the same court.

Nate Robinson had his best game so far for the Celts as he scored 14 points (including 4 3-pointers) in 15 minutes. That's exactly the type of instant offense off the bench Boston needs. And if you think Eddie House, Bill Walker or J.R. Giddens would have provided it this season as consistently, well I feel bad for you son.

It was a grimy game and Boston (37-21) did everything they could to keep Detroit (21-39) in it but thankfully the C's made a couple plays in crunch time to seal it.

Ray Allen led the Celts with 18 points, Rajon Rondo had 15 points and 11 assists, Kevin Garnett scored 14 and grabbed nine rebounds while Rasheed Wallace (starting for a sick Kendrick Perkins) had 10 points. Glen Davis added 12 points off the bench.

The Pistons were a dominant team in the last decade but now they're in the tricky process of rebuilding while still giving some fading stars big minutes.

Jonas Jerebko led the Pistons with 16 points and 10 rebounds, Richard Hamilton (7 assists) and Tayshaun Prince both had 15 points and Rodney Stuckey, the franchise building block, was held to 13 points.

It was tied at 25 after the first quarter and Boston held a slim 55-52 halftime lead. Detroit went ahead 75-72 going into the fourth but the C's impressively closed it 33-25.

They'll try to build on that momentum as the Charlotte Bobcats come to the TD Garden this evening for what should be another closer than it should be contest.

The Olympics are over, back to the miserable Bruins


It only took one night (or one period really) but the Boston Bruins pretty much erased all the great memories and excitement from the incredible two weeks of hockey at the Vancouver Olympics.

That's a short-sighted exagerration but you have to admit that the B's are a hell of a buzzkill. They had a four-game winning streak going into the break but you wouldn't know it as they looked like the exact same team that lost 10 in a row earlier in the season with a listless 4-1 loss last night to the visiting Canadiens.

Boston (27-23-11) got a power-play goal by Marco Sturm in the first period (from Zdeno Chara and Marc Savard) but as usual they sat back and couldn't build on that. Montreal (30-28-6) is equally average but they still exploded with four goals in the third period.

With today being the NHL trade deadline, I could wonder if the Bruins will make any significant move but since I've been following the team for most of my life, I'm certain they'll sit on their hands and let other teams go for it. That's their style and that's why they're completely irrelevant both nationally and locally.

Former Bruin Glen Metropolit tied it up just 2:40 into the third. Maxim Lapierre and Mathieu Darche also scored before Benoit Pouliot's empty-netter sent Bruins fans home unhappy once again.

Tukkaa Rask had 28 saves but he wasn't the reason they lost. None of the goals he gave up were soft, they all came on odd-man rushes or rebounds.

The B's host the Maple Leafs tomorrow night back at the TD Garden.