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Friday, April 29, 2011

Red Sox end road trip 6-3 by salvaging a win in Baltimore

The Boston Red Sox saved some face by averting a sweep in Baltimore last night with a 6-2 win at Camden Yards.

Jon Lester (3-1) continued his certain 2011 Cy Young campaign with his usual eight innings of stellar work. He allowed four hits, two earned runs, three walks and five strikeouts.

Boston (11-13) ended its nine-game road trip 6-3 which is very respectable, especially after they lost the first two against the Orioles (10-13).

The Red Sox' lineup woke up with 13 hits led by leadoff man Jacoby Ellsbury (3 hits, 2 runs, 2 RBIs), Adrian Gonzalez (3 hits, 2 RBIs), Dustin Pedroia (2 hits, RBI) and David Ortiz (2 hits).

Gonzalez got over the .300 mark with his batting average, it'll be interesting to see if it can stay there for the rest of the season since he seems to have found his groove at the plate.

Orioles starter Brad Bergesen pitched well, going six innings and allowing six hits, two earned runs, two walks and five strikeouts. Relievers Jim Johnson and Mike Gonzalez each coughed up two earned runs to blow the game wide open.

Adrian Gonzalez drove in Ellsbury with an RBI double in the top of the first for a 1-0 Boston lead.

Derrek Lee tied it for Baltimore with an RBI single in the bottom of the first.

Gonzalez made it 2-1 in the top of the third with an RBI single which scored the equally hot Ellsbury.

Vladimir Guerrero knotted it at two with a solo home run in the bottom of the sixth.

Boston went ahead on Pedroia's infield single in the seventh (scoring Carl Crawford who had doubled). Jarrod Saltalamacchia added an RBI single in the top of the eighth (scoring Kevin Youkilis) and Ellsbury closed it out with a two-run single which brought home Ortiz and Mike Cameron.

After not being used in a while, Jonathan Papelbon threw a clean ninth inning in the non-save situation.

The Red Sox are home for an 11-game homestand (Mariners, Angels and Twins). It kicks off tonight against Seattle with Daisuke Matsuzaka taking on Jason Vargas.

In Bill we trust (I guess)

As I get older, thankfully I start to pick up on some patterns surrounding the draft style of my favorite NFL team-the New England Patriots. That keeps me from going insane when they never, ever select who I want.

Head coach Bill Belichick adores stockpiling picks and going for safe choices rather than trading up or reaching for someone that might be more of a question mark.

This has worked handsomely to the tune of say it with me, three Super Bowls in four years. Well guess what? This team hasn't won a playoff game in three seasons so maybe it's time to change things up a bit.

If you're asking Coach Hoodie, the answer is no. The first round of the 2011 NFL draft took place last night at Radio City Music Hall and naive Patriots fans were pumped for two picks (at No. 17 and 28). They blatantly disregarded the fact that New England ALWAYS trades back. Always.

So yes, a bunch of teams ahead of them reached for mediocre quarterbacks, leaving a bunch of defensive ends/outside linebackers (their biggest need) available. Obviously, the Pats ignored that and went with offensive tackle Nate Solder from the University of Colorado.

From all accounts, he's a solid guy and with Matt Light hitting free agency, it makes sense to get his replacement that they can slide to right tackle with Sebastian Vollmer going to left tackle.

That was predictable and so was the next move: trading the 28 pick to the Saints. New Orleans promptly took Mark Ingram-running back from the University of Alabama. The fact that the Saints snagged both Cameron Jordan (DE from Cal) and Ingram was a kick in the pants. Sure, New England got a second round pick and 2012 first round pick for No. 28 but it doesn't matter. Having multiple first round picks just means they'll keep trading forever and ever.

We can't jump off the ledge yet since there's two more days of the draft but for a team desperate for elite talent, gamebreakers, it would be nice to see Belichick and the Patriots take some more risks.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Nathan Horton saves numerous jobs, sends Canadiens back to Clown College

Given the stakes (Claude Julien, possibly Peter Chiarelli and the nucleus of the team's jobs all on the line), it's hard to remember a more important victory for the down-trodden Bruins franchise than last night.

It was only the first round so we'll hold off on the duck boats (no riots like in Montreal for first round wins) but this win can go a long way in eradicating some terrible history. The 4-3 overtime win by the Bruins in Game 7 over Montreal at TD Garden was Boston's first Game 7 triumph in 17 miserable years.

It's also the first time (0 for 26 previously) that the team had rallied from being down 0-2 in a playoff series. Oh and they also were the first team to advance despite no power-play goals in seven games (0 for 21).

There's still plenty of work to be done (gotta get past this round to save Julien's head) but until the Eastern Conference semifinals start on Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia, we have to savor this one. Nothing better than sending the Canadiens home for the summer and not having to see their pathetic brand of hockey anymore.

Just like in Game 5, Horton was the overtime hero as he ripped a slap shot past Montreal goaltender Carey Price (30 saves) 5:43 into OT. Milan Lucic had the primary assist with a nice pass back while Adam McQuaid had the other assist after pinching to keep the puck in the zone.

The Bruins won four of the last five games in the series, including all three overtime contests (Game 4, 5 and 7).

Game 7 couldn't have started any better for Boston as they went up 2-0 just 5:33 into it. Johnny Boychuk (from Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron) and Mark Recchi (from Andrew Ference) did the honors as Boychuk's shot in traffic found the net and Recchi was uncovered right in front of Price before he put a wrist shot over Price's glove hand. It was the first goal of the series for both guys.

As I always say though, nothing is ever easy for the Bruins. So of course they quickly coughed up the lead as Yannick Weber (2nd of the series) cut it to 2-1 with a power-play goal at 9:49 (from Roman Hamrlik and Mike Cammaleri).

Even more painful was the tying goal as Tomas Plekanec (2nd of the series) walked in on a breakaway and beat Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas (34 saves) with a shorthanded goal at 5:50 of the second period.

Chris Kelly scored his third of the series at 9:44 of the third period and it looked like maybe it would hold up. Yeah right, a high sticking penalty by Patrice Bergeron with 2:37 left in regulation led to P.K. Subban's second goal of the series. The power-play missile didn't so much go by Thomas as through him. Plekanec and Brian Gionta assisted on the goal that took all the energy out of the Garden.

Could the Bruins collapse again? In another Game 7? Against the Canadiens? Not on this night. Horton got it done and this team can collectively breath an enormous sigh of relief.

Bring on the Flyers, it's time to get some payback for the once-in-a-lifetime collapse the Bs experienced last spring to them in the Eastern Conference semifinals (losing a 3-0 series lead and a 3-0 lead and Game 7). Can't ask for much more than this matchup.

Red Sox lose another game that nobody watches or cares about

Didn't see more than a few minutes of the Red Sox-Orioles game last night and can't say I missed much.

Baltimore (10-12) beat Boston (10-13) 5-4 at Camden Yards as Red Sox reliever Daniel Bard (0-3) had another bad outing (3 hits) and a comeback went for naught.

Jeremy Guthrie (6 innings, 7 hits, 0 runs, 1 walk, 6 strikeouts) outpitched Josh Beckett (6 innings, 7 hits, 4 earned runs, 4 strikeouts).

Derrek Lee led the Os with three hits while Adam Jones had two hits.

Jacoby Ellsbury had three more hits for Boston from the leadoff spot while Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz had two hits.

The bad Beckett popped up as he gave up back-to-back homers to Luke Scott and Adam Jones in the fourth inning to give Baltimore a 3-0 inning. Beckett did his usual tough guy/Texas bad ass bullshit as he stared down Scott running around the bases (he was mad that Scott flipped his bat, lol). Hey Josh, give it a rest. This isn't Little League, that crap doesn't work.

Brian Roberts' sacrifice fly scored Matt Wieters in the fifth for a 4-0 Orioles lead.

Gonzalez started a rally in the eighth with an RBI single that drove in Ellsbury and then Kevin Youkilis delivered with a three-run bomb to tie it up.

Vlad Guerrero hit an RBI single off Bard in the eighth that scored Lee with the winning run. For the second straight night, Kevin Gregg recorded the save, his fourth of the season.

The Red Sox will try to avoid the series sweep and get some momentum back tonight as Jon Lester takes on Brad Bergesen. It's the last game of Boston's road trip so a win would be doubly nice.

Bruins Excorcise Their Demons; Advance Past Montreal in OT

It surely wasn't easy, but the Boston Bruins made history last night before a raucous crowd at the TD Garden, defeating the Canadiens 4-3 in another overtime thriller.

The Bruins were previously 0 for 26 in best-of-7 series alltime when losing the first two games. Undaunted by dropping the first two games at home, the B's outworked Montreal over the next five games, winning 4 of 5 in dramatic fashion.

Last night was the culmination of a series that featured dramatic moments, questionable hits, diving, and 4 total overtime periods. In previous years, this was exactly the type of series that would give Bruins fans fits, as the Bruins rarely rise to the occasion in high pressure situations.

This year might be different.

Nathan Horton's goal at 5:43 of the first overtime gave the Bruins a 4-3 victory and set up a semifinal matchup with last year's playoff foe, the Philadelphia Flyers.

After a nice pinch in the corner by Adam Mcquaid to gain control of the puck, Horton corralled a pass from Milan Lucic and blasted a slapshot past Carey Price to send the Bruins to the semifinals once again.

Early in the game, it didn't look like overtime would be in the cards, as the Bruins jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period. Johnny Boychuk scored the first goal of the contest at 3:31, rifling a "Johnny Rocket" that made its way through traffic to give the Bruins an early lead. Assisting on the goal was Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron, two thirds of the Bruins most consistent line not just in the playoffs, but also throughout the regular season.

Just two minutes later, Mark Recchi got in on the action. Not one to be outdone by his linemates, Recchi took a pass from Andrew Ference, found a shooting lane, and found the back of the net on a wicked wrister that put the Bruins up 2-0.

Just when we thought the lead was safe, we were reminded that nothing comes easy for the Bruins, especially against Montreal. Taking advantage of a hooking penalty on Michael Ryder, Yannick Weber blasted a shot by Tim Thomas to trim the Bruins lead to one and put Montreal squarely back in the game.

If the Bruins have been victimized by their penalty kill thus far in this series, their power play unit didn't take any notes on how to score, as they were absolutely brutal to watch, unable to successfully start a breakout and jumping offsides
seemingly every other possession.

Whether it was miscommunication or general laziness, the Bruins PP unit was once again their own worst enemy. Mark Recchi turned the puck over at center ice to the speedy Tomas Plekanic, who walked into the Bruins' zone and beat Thomas on a breakaway, tying the game and sucking the energy out of the Garden.

It was starting to feel like de ja vu all over again for the Bruins, until midway through the third period, when Chris Kelly scored his third goal of the playoffs at 9:44 (Ference, Peverley) to give the Bruins a 3-2 lead.

Protecting that lead would be the Bruins final test in regulation, but once again, it was their special teams that let them down. Patrice Bergeron was whistled for a questionable high sticking penalty with just over 2 minutes to play, putting Montreal on the Power play once again for the remainder of regulation.

Obviously it was PK Subban that tied the game on the Power play, who uncorked a top shelf laser past Thomas and tied the game at 3, forcing the extra period.

Horton was once again the hero and his goal sparked a celebration throughout New England and set a date with the Flyers. Game 1 is in Philly on Saturday afternoon.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Bruins will always, always choose the path of most resistance

Oh man, where do I begin? First, I promise not to whine about the referees too much in last night's Game 6 between the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre.

Yes, the men in stripes played a huge part in Montreal's 2-1 win but crying about that would overlook the fact that the Bs shot themselves in the foot (0 for 19 on the power play in the series) repeatedly like only they can. Plus, the Canadiens had a goal blown off after an incorrect quick whistle less than four minutes into the game.

The Canadiens scored both of their goals on 5-on-3 advantages. I'd love to bury Boston but they actually played pretty well considering all the joke calls that went against them and bad bounces.

Milan Lucic was given a game misconduct at 4:37 of the second period after stapling Montreal's Jaroslav Spacek into the boards. The hit wasn't all that bad but Spacek turned at the last second and ended up bleeding which in the Bell Centre is the equivalent to murder. There was no reason for Lucic to be kicked out but once that happened, you had to know that the Bruins would probably fall short no matter what they did last night.

After a penalty for too many men on the ice (ugh, again) and slashing on Dennis Seidenberg, Mike Cammaleri gave Montreal a 1-0 lead at 10:07 of the first period. P.K. Subban and Tomas Plekanec assisted on Cammaleri's one-timer that left Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas (25 saves) with no chance to stop it.

Seidenberg bailed himself out from his earlier penalty by tying it up with a 4-on-4 goal 48 seconds into the second period from Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley. Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31 saves) didn't cover the post close enough and Seidenberg was able to wrap around the net and squeeze it in.

Shortly after Lucic's game-changing penalty, Patrice Bergeron got a delay of game penalty for putting the puck out of play in his own end. Once again, the Canadiens cashed in (what a concept) as Brian Gionta scored his third goal of the series from Scott Gomez and Cammaleri. Thomas stopped Camalleri's initial one-timer and Gomez's rebound but Gionta got the third rebound past him.

For my money, the most needless penalty call was late in the second period when Nathan Horton barely slashed a Montreal defender before going in on a breakaway. A weak sauce slash negated a breakaway. I could have thrown my TV's remote through the window at that point, it doesn't get much more frustrating.

Predictably the Bruins huffed and puffed in the third period but couldn't find the tying goal against Price and here we are.

Game 7 tonight at TD Garden, exactly what no Bruins fan wanted. When you have a chance to close a team out in the playoffs, you have to do it (ask the Sabres). Boston's last three postseasons have ended with losses in Game 7, including the last two at home.

If you need me, I'll be curled up in the fetal position with my Bruins footie pajamas until 7 p.m.

Orioles young stud snaps Red Sox' five-game win streak

Strangely enough, Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz is the only member of the rotation not to spin a gem thus far this season.

With his talent and track record last season, Buchholz will turn it around eventually. However, at the moment he is spinning his wheels and Boston is paying the price.

The Red Sox (10-12) started a three-game set at Camden Yards last night and lost 4-1 to the Orioles (9-12). The loss snapped Boston's five-game win streak.

Buchholz (1-3) gave his team innings (6.2) but they weren't exactly quality as he allowed a career-high 12 hits, four earned runs, two walks and five strikeouts.

Orioles rookie Zach Britton (4-1) was much more impressive. In six innings, he allowed five hits, one earned run, two walks and two strikeouts.

Vladimir Guerrero led Baltimore with three hits while Derrek Lee, Matt Wieters and crazy Luke Scott all had two hits apiece.

Boston was limited to six hits in the game with no player notching over one.

The Orioles went ahead 1-0 in the second on a fluky infield single by Wieters that hit the first base bag (Red Sox first baseman Adrian Gonzalez waited for it to go foul which is never did) and scored Scott.

Adam Jones' sacrifice fly in the third scored Lee and gave Baltimore a 2-0 lead.

The Red Sox' lone run was produced in the fourth as Kevin Youkilis' sacrifice fly drove in Dustin Pedroia.

Jones added another sacrifice fly (this is putting me to sleep just writing it) that scored Lee.

Finally, Mark Reynolds drove in Guerrero with one more sacrifice fly in the seventh.

Orioles reliever Jim Johnson threw a scoreless seventh and eighth (with two strikeouts) before Kevin Gregg recorded his third save of the season with a 1-2-3 ninth.

Josh Beckett takes on Jeremy Guthrie tonight.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Sportsmanship in Hockey: Twitter and an Unintentional Bird

Early in the 3rd period of the Bruins 2-1 OT victory on Saturday night, Max Pacioretty aka @MaxPacioretty67 had a few choice words for Brad Marchand on Twitter.

Pacioretty tweeted, "This game is longer than Marchand's nose." Besides being unfunny, the tweet instantly hit the airwaves, as NESN commented on it during the broadcast, as did many journalists on Twitter.

As soon as I heard about it, I tried to see if Pacioretty had truly made that remark. I mean, there is no way that a guy who is at home watching hockey on TV like the rest of us would comment on a player, you know, playing in the game right?

I failed to find the tweet, then later read that he deleted it (which is something I have yet to figure out how to do) mere minutes after posting it for the world to see.

Bruins fans reacted as anyone would expect them to, mocking Pacioretty for his awful attempt at humor, as well as pointing out how ironic it was that Marchand scored the first goal of the game. This was the same guy who was classless in his response to Chara's apology and then tweeted about a movie he went to see, just days after suffering a "severe concussion."

Was this really a big deal though? I personally didn't have a huge problem with it, save for the fact that it wasn funny and that it came from a player whose team was currently on the ice. Most players root for their team rather than throw shots at an opposing players physical features. I'd like to think that most B's fans feel the same way, but if not, they should look in the mirror because what happened in game 4 probably crossed a line, although it was an awesome line.

Of course I am referring to Andrew Ference's self described, "accidental bird" that didn't tweet as much as it did taunt the Montreal fans.

After his blistering slap shot found the back of the net to tie the game, Ference turned towards the hostile crowd and appered to pump his fist. Montreal television found something entirely different however. With a defiant look in his face, Ference appeared to give the fans the old one finger salute, albeit briefly.

This prompted Montreal fans to once again storm the NHL towers, torches lit, and demand a suspension. Wisniewski got suspended earlier in the year for an obscene gesture, and Ference should get the same right? Not exactly.

Wisniewski made a blowjob gesture, which is as hilarious to type as it was to watch, so most Habs fans cried foul and wanted similar action to be taken.

The NHL gave Ference a pass, fining him 2,500 dollars which wasn't enough for Habs fans. Ference's absurd explanation of his "glove getting stuck up there" only made it worse, but there was little the NHL could do, or should've done, about it. Should Ference have done that? Of course not. Was it absolutely hilarious and a moment that any self-respecting Bruins fan will never forget? Yes.

All in all, both the Pacioretty tweet and the Ference bird had little to do with the actual games, they were just more prime examples of how absurd this rivalry can become, as the storylines often supercede the on-ice action.

All I know is that if the Bruins win tomorrow night and advance to the Eastern Conference Semifinals, covering the series will be nowhere near as entertaining. If they lose in 7 games, let's just say that Ference wont be the only Bruin flipping the bird.

Follow me on twitter @ryanburns88

Geez, the Red Sox straight up own the Angels

If the Boston Red Sox played in the American League West, they might set a record for divisional wins in a season. Not that anybody didn't know it already but that division is an absolute cake walk compared to the AL East.

The Red Sox (10-11) continued their victory tour of the West Coast with a 7-0 shutout of the Angels (12-10) yesterday afternoon. The four-game sweep of Los Angeles enabled Boston to continue its hot streak (five straight wins, eight of its last nine) while also posting back-to-back shutouts for the first time since 2007.

John Lackey and Carl Crawford were the heroes in yesterday's lopsided triumph. Lackey (2-2) went eight scoreless innings, allowing six hits with a walk and six strikeouts. Crawford is still a puddle at the plate (he hit eighth on Saturday night) but he did crush his first home run of the season in the sixth, a two-run shot. He also had a single and scored another run so hopefully he can get going sometime soon.

Adrian Gonzalez is heating up too, he had three hits, two RBIs and a run. Even Jacoby Ellsbury (2 hits, run) and Marco Scutaro (2 hits, 2 runs) had multiple hits in this laugher.

It started early as Boston got three runs in the first off Angels star Matt Palmer (1-1). Gonzalez's RBI double scored Ellsbury, David Ortiz knocked in Gonzalez with an RBI single and Kevin Youkilis scored on Mike Cameron's fielder's choice.

Dustin Pedroia's sacrifice fly in the fifth plated Scutaro. Lastly, Gonzalez's RBI single in the seventh scored Scutaro and made it 7-0 Red Sox.

The abysmal start is all but forgotten since Boston is only one game under .500 and 3.5 games out of first place. They have today off before beginning a three-game series in Baltimore who is currently struggling big time.

Celtics sweep the Knicks

Thanks to injuries (to Chauncey Billups and Amare Stoudemire) and their usual lack of defense, the New York Knicks quickly morphed from first-round playoff threat to pushover in the span of a week.

That's what makes yesterday's 101-89 win by the Boston Celtics so meaningful. By sweeping the Knicks at Madison Square Garden, the Celts were able to become the only NBA team to sweep a first-round series in 2011.

While the Heat, Bulls, Lakers and Spurs are all still battling, the Cs will have their feet up at home, getting plenty of rest ahead of what should be a war of a series against Miami in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Believe it or not, Boston hadn't swept a first-round series since a crippled Larry Bird was still balling (in 1992 vs. Indiana) so it had been a while.

The Celts were focused yesterday to get the series over with and not have to exert anymore energy. They built a 23-point lead and started to coast before New York made one last desperate run that cut it to four points in the fourth quarter.

From there, Boston settled down by hitting shots and making some stops. Goodnight New York, your fraudulent magical season is over. Have a great summer.

Kevin Garnett led the Celtics with a team-high 26 points and 12 rebounds. Rajon Rondo added 21 points, 12 assists and five rebounds. Ray Allen scored 14 points and Paul Pierce notched 13 points.

The key to the Game 4 win though and moving forward will be the bench trio of Glen Davis (14 points, 5 rebounds), Jeff Green (5 points, 7 rebounds) and Delonte West (2 points, 5 rebounds).

Other than Rondo, Boston's main advantage over Miami lies in their bench. Those three guys need to take their games to another level. Yesterday was as a start in the right direction as Davis started hitting shots again while Green and West were out there for important minutes.

Carmelo Anthony led New York with a game-high 32 points and nine rebounds. Stoudemire added 19 points and 12 rebounds (props to him for playing with a hurt back). Anthony Carter was a spark off the bench with 11 points. Thankfully Knicks head coach Mike Dantoni is a clown and playing Carter over the underwhelming and out of position Toney Douglas didn't click in his mind until crunch time of the elimination game. Good job Mike.

Boston led 29-23 after the first quarter and 55-38 at halftime. Like in Game 3, the Celtics really didn't give MSG much to cheer about, effectively taking out the crowd that was desperate for something to cheer about. The Knicks started their comeback with a big third quarter (34-27) before they fell short in the fourth (19-17 Boston).

For the game, the Celtics shot 49.4% to 34.1% for the Knicks. New York made five more 3-pointers (8-3) and three more free throws (21-18). Boston grabbed 11 more rebounds (53-42), five more assists (24-19) and two more steals (6-4).

Now let's all sit back and root for the Philadelphia 76ers to keep winning. The Eastern Conference semifinals won't begin until probably next Sunday at the earliest.

Bruins Overcome Toughest Opponent, Themselves

After Saturday nights's exhausting 2-1 OT win over the Canadiens, the Bruins are in prime position to advance to their second straight Eastern Conference Semifinals. One more win in Montreal is all it takes.

Sounds easy right?

Not if you have been following this team for the last 20 years.

Dropping the first two games on home ice, the Bruins looked dead in the water, another underachieving team that would be sent home early, vanquished by the hated Canadiens. But then something strange happened.

They responded to adversity like never before, taking games 3 and 4 in Montreal, including the game 4 overtime thriller that saw the often criticized Michael Ryder become the hero, at least for the night. When losing the first two games of a seven game series, the Bruins are 0 for 26 alltime. With history working against them, the B's outskated and outhustled Montreal in both away games, ignoring the white noise that came with the Chara-Pacioretty fallout, and creatig some of their own when Andrew Ference's "accidental bird" was seen flying proudly on Canadian television.

Tuning out all of the off-ice drama, Claude Julien's team was able to take two crucial games in a hostile environment, squaring up the series at 2 games a piece headed into Saturday's game 5.

An emotionally drained Bruins team was able to keep the momentum in their favor before a jam-packed TD Garden, leaving with a 2-1 double OT victory and taking full control of the series.

Each game has featured a hero, and game 5 was no exception. Michael Ryder continued to endear himself to Bruins fans, making a picture perfect glove save early in the first period, turning a guaranteed goal into a higlight that will be a part of Bruins lore forever.

The dimunitive Brad Marchand continued his stellar play, giving the Bruins a 1-0 lead in the third period, only a few minutes after Max Pacioretty's hilarious tweet about his giant nose. Marchand's non-stop effort throughout this first round series has given the Bruins an edge, and also has made his line the most consistent thus far.

Tim Thomas had probably his best postseason game as a Bruin, limiting his rebounds and making timely saves again and again, outdeuling Montreal's Carey Price both in regulation and in both overtimes. This was the game that Bruins fans were waiting for from the veteran Goalie and certain Vezina winner.

Regardless of how rosy things look at the moment, Bruins fans are trained to always anticipate the worst possible outcome in any situation. In the past, the Bruins' playoff woes have largely been self-inflicted. A choke job against Montreal in 2002. A game 7 loss to Montreal 3 years ago. Losing in 7 to the Hurricanes as a 1 seed. Last year's debacle versus the Flyers.

Will this year be different?

The first step in the healing process will be a win in Montreal tomorrow night. A loss would force a deciding game 7, in Boston, where the Bruins have not had the best of luck in recent years. In order to continue their success, the Bruins will have to defeat their toughest opponents, themselves

Follow me on twitter @ryanburns88

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Dice-K wishes you a Happy Easter

I didn't get to see much of the Boston Red Sox game last night against the Los Angeles Angels but I had a good excuse since the Bruins beat the Canadiens in double overtime.

From what I gathered, Daisuke Matsuzaka tossed his second gem in a row as the Red Sox (9-11) won 5-0. It was Boston's fourth win in a row and their seventh in their last eight games.

Anaheim (12-9) was limited to two hits, both infield singles, as they meekly went down to the Red Sox for the third straight night.

Matsuzaka (2-2) went eight innings, allowing one hit, three walks and nine strikeouts in 115 pitches. The long outing was especially important since both Bobby Jenks and Jonathan Papelbon were unavailable due to a ton of work lately.

Daniel Bard threw a scoreless ninth, allowing one hit and striking out two.

Once upon a time Ervin Santana (0-3) was compared to a young Pedro Martinez. Haha, must have been one of his relatives or baby mamas that came up with that ludicrous comparison. He's a good MLB pitcher but nothing close to special, ever. He went seven innings last night, allowing nine hits, five earned runs, one walk and nine strikeouts.

Boston got on the board in the second inning as Carl Crawford's (2 hits) infield single scored Jed Lowrie (2 hits).

Adrian Gonzalez had an RBI single in the third which drove in Jacoby Ellsbury (2 hits, 2 runs, 2 stolen bases), who looked good in the leadoff spot.

Kevin Youkilis returned after missing most of the last two games (he fouled a ball off his shin) and hit a two-run opposite field bomb for a 4-0 lead in the fifth.

Jason Varitek notched an RBI double in the sixth which scored Crawford for the final Red Sox run.

John Lackey gets the start tonight against his former team as Boston goes for the sweep against Matt Palmer and the Angels.

Nathan Horton scores in double overtime, Bruins win instant classic over Canadiens for 3-2 series lead

Not that you needed anymore proof but if you were wavering at all on what professional sport has the best playoffs, I hope for your sake you were watching Game 5 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals last night between the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens at TD Garden.

The Bs won in double overtime on Nathan Horton's goal, taking an all-important 3-2 lead. Game 6 is Tuesday at the Bell Centre in Montreal.

Where to begin with a game that had it all? Ridiculous saves by goaltenders, ridiculous saves by a forward and a defenseman, clutch goals, great backchecks, etc.

I don't smoke, drink only moderately these days and am in relatively good shape and I still think this game took a few years off of my life but it was totally worth it. Holy shit, the tension was through the roof. Whichever team won this totally has control of the series and the opponent couldn't be more hated.

Let's start with the three stars of the game: Horton, Tim Thomas and Brad Marchand.

For a player that had never competed in the postseason before now (since he was stuck in NHL hell: with the Florida Panthers), it's safe to say this was the biggest goal of Horton's life. He's been a solid addition to the team and he's only going to get better. It was also nice to see the top line rewarded since they played much better last night but had nothing to show for it until then.

Last week, Mike Felger talked about how Thomas had never stole a playoff game in his career. Can we agree that last night broke the seal on that valid theory? He still gave up some juicy rebounds but when it was all over, Thomas made 44 saves and outshined Montreal goaltender Carey Price (49 saves), who was also excellent. Thomas' save on Brian Gionta in double overtime was as good as it gets. Given the stakes and the shooter, it was an off the charts stop.

Finally, you have to love Marchand if you're a Bruins fan and absolutely hate him if you don't like the Bs. He's little, he's annoying, always chirping after the whistle and getting in scrums. I'm not comparing his skill level but he has a lot of Dustin Pedroia in him in terms of cockiness and confidence. Just like Michael Ryder in Game 4 and Horton last night, Marchand's goal in Game 5 also had to be the top one of his life.

The first goal of Marchand's playoff career, it gave Boston a 1-0 lead at 4:33 of the third period from Patrice Bergeron and Tomas Kaberle. At that point, it felt like that might be the only goal needed to win it.

Props to the Canadiens though as they tied it at 13:56 as Jeff Halpern took advantage of yet another bad clear in the Bruins' defensive zone. Lars Eller and Mathieu Darche assisted on Halpern's first of the series. Thomas had no chance to save it from so close.

In a game like this, some plays stand out even if they don't result in goals. Two such cases were a sprawled out save that Ryder (yes Ryder) made when Thomas was out of position during regulation. Later in overtime, Chara's legs blocked a Montreal shot that similarly would have beaten Thomas.

The Bruins couldn't possibly have anymore momentum in this series after winning the last three games, including two at the Bell Centre and the last two in overtime. Still, that could all change if they lose on Tuesday. They have the Canadiens on the ropes and in the playoffs, you absolutely have to eliminate teams when you get the chance. Play your game on Tuesday, take the yahoos out of it and get the hell out of that joke of a city.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Lestee outduels Haren, Red Sox hang on

Don't look now but the Boston Red Sox have won six out of their last seven and are inching closer to the .500 mark.

The Red Sox (8-11) won their third straight West Coast road game, 4-3 last night at Angel Stadium of Anaheim.

Jon Lester (2-1) gave Boston six solid innings (4 hits, 2 walks, 8 strikeouts) before a high pitch count (111 pitches) forced him to depart. He left with the Red Sox up 4-0 and they hung on as their bullpen had to cobble together innings without ace reliever Daniel Bard (who had worked a ton lately).

Dan Haren (4-1) suffered his first loss of the 2011 season for the Angels (12-8). Haren also went six innings but he allowed five hits, four runs (two earned), three walks and six strikeouts.

Boston built a 4-0 lead based on some luck. Back in his rightful leadoff spot for a night, Jacoby Ellsbury delivered with an RBI single in the third which scored Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

The gift was in the fourth as Angels rookie center fielder Peter Bourjos dropped a fly ball by Carl Crawford. Jed Lowrie and J.D. Drew (2 hits) scored on the pivotal play.

Finally, Drew drove in Lowrie in the sixth with an RBI single.

Los Angeles got on the scoreboard in the seventh as Jeff Mathis hit an RBI single off Red Sox reliever Matt Albers, scoring Erick Aybar.

Bobby Abreu added an RBI single (scoring Howie Kendrick) in the eighth off Bobby Jenks and then he scored on Saltalamacchia's passed ball.

However, Papelbon was able to get his fifth save thanks to a very efficient night (11 of 12 pitches for strikes) that included a hit and a strikeout.

Daisuke Matsuzaka faces Ervin Santana tonight in game three of this series.

Thank you New York, you've all been great

In terms of perfect scenarios for Game 3 against the New York Knicks, the Boston Celtics couldn't have been much more successful.

Not only did the Cs roll to a 113-96 win, for a 3-0 series lead, but they finally showed the killer instinct needed to sweep an inferior team that is banged up and sputtering.

The Miami Heat will likely close out the Philadelphia 76ers today in a sweep so Boston needs to get done with the Knicks as soon as possible. By stepping on their throats last night at Madison Square Garden, it's unlikely that the Knicks will do much of anything tomorrow in Game 4.

It's hard to know where to start with Boston's great performance. Paul Pierce scored a game-high 38 points on a ridiculous 14 for 19 shooting (including six 3-pointers). Ray Allen added 32 points (eight 3-pointers) and Rajon Rondo had a triple double: 15 points, 20 assists (a Celtics playoff record) and 11 rebounds.

With Chauncey Billups out again and Amare Stoudemire (7 points) extremely limited due to back spasms, New York didn't stand much of a chance as the Celtics shot the lights out in New York's first home playoff game in seven years.

All you need to know is that Shawne Williams was the Knicks leading scorer with 17 points off the bench. Carmelo Anthony and Toney Douglas added 15 points while Jared Jeffries (12 points) and Roger Mason (10 points) put up some points in garbage time.

The Celtics got off to a 22-5 lead to start the game. The Knicks initially responded but they just didn't have the horses to play their no defense, all offense flawed gameplan that has never been proven to work in the playoffs.

Boston's bench still was invisible. Jeff Green (9 points) and Glen Davis (4 points) were the only Celtics to score off the bench. In the next round, that has to improve or they'll bounced by the Heat.

The Celtics were up 27-20 after the first quarter and 52-44 at halftime. The third quarter is when Boston took the MSG crowd out of it (34-19) and slammed the door shut on court jester Spike Lee. New York outscored Boston 33-27 in the fourth but it was long over by then.

For the game, Boston shot 50.6% to 43.4%. The Celtics (Pierce and Allen) hit five more 3-pointers than the Knicks (14-9) while New York hit six more free throws (21-15). Boston grabbed 10 more rebounds (43-33) and dished out 13 more assists (31-18). The Celts also made three more steals (12-9) while the Knicks blocked three more shots (7-4). Boston had five more fast break points (11-6) while New York had six more points in the paint (30-24).

I can't think of a better way to celebrate Easter then by watching the Celtics sweep the Knicks tomorrow afternoon at MSG. One more decent effort should be enough to get by the checked out Knicks.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Red Sox win in first extra innings game of the 2011 season

On a night when the Bruins worked overtime in an incredible win over the Canadiens, it was only fitting that the Red Sox went to extra innings for the first time in 2011.

Sure the 4-2 win in 11 innings against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium of Anaheim didn't mean much relative to the instant classic playoff hockey game but it was a start.

Josh Beckett was superb once again but he got a no decision for his troubles. Beckett had a no-hitter going until the sixth inning and ended up lasting eight innings. He allowed three hits, two earned runs, two walks and five strikeouts.

Boston (7-11) was able to win its second straight road game and fifth game out of its last five thanks to the biggest hit so far in Adrian Gonzalez's Red Sox career.

Gonzalez (2 hits) had an RBI double which put Boston up 3-2 in the 11th and scored J.D. Drew. Jed Lowrie added some insurance with a sacrifice fly that scored Dustin Pedroia (3 hits, 2 walks, stolen base).

Beckett cruised until Torii Hunter crushed a two-run homer in the seventh, tying it at 2. Jacoby Ellsbury gave the Red Sox a 2-0 lead in the sixth with a broken-bat, two -run single which scored David Ortiz and Lowrie.

In only his third career MLB start, Angels (12-7) rookie Tyler Chatwood acquitted himself well. He went six innings, allowing six hits, two earned runs, five walks and three strikeouts.

Boston's bullpen was flawless and lined up exactly like Terry Francona wanted, despite the extra frames. With 125 pitches, Beckett got the team through the eighth then Daniel Bard (ninth), Bobby Jenks (1-1, tenth) and Jonathan Papelbon (fourth save, eleventh) combined to allow only one hit with no walks and two strikeouts.

Tonight figures to be a nice pitcher's duel as Jon Lester takes on red-hot Dan Haren (4-0).

Still can't get over you Michael Ryder

Others have made the J.D. Drew comparison for Michael Ryder and it's perfect.

I'm not going to bite another person's style though and I think I've formulated another great analogy for Ryder: he is the ex-girlfriend that your still friends with on Facebook.

You haven't talked for years, she's not all that hot or appealing anymore and yet, you still find yourself looking at her page from time to time for no explainable reason.

Such is the existence of Michael Ryder. He possesses the best shot on the Bruins but he is the definition of a one-dimensional, lazy offensive player.

When I went to bed last night though, Ryder was the number one star in my constellation. He scored two goals, including the overtime winner as the Bs won a bonkers Game 4, 5-4 at the Bell Centre.

The series is evened up at 2 and Game 5 is tomorrow night at TD Garden.

Given the stakes-with Claude Julien's job on the line and other front-office and personnel moves sure to happen-it's not hyperbole to say last night's win for Boston was one of its most memorable and meaningful in our lifetimes.

Montreal came out flying in the first period and grabbed a 1-0 lead on Brent Sopel's seeing-eye shot from the point at 8:13 (from Mike Cammaleri and David Desharnais).

Ryder tied it up with his first goal of the playoffs, an absolute snipe over Carey Price's (30 saves) shoulder, at 2:13 of the second period.

The Canadiens erupted for two goals in 55 seconds as Cammaleri (from Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez) and Andrei Kostitsyn (from Tomas Plekanec and Travis Moen) took advantage of Bruins defensive breakdowns. As true Black and Gold fans, you couldn't help but feel like it was over.

Julien did something he never does, calling a timeout, and the last-ditch effort worked as the Bruins scored not one but two goals to tie it at 3 before the second period was over.

First, Andrew Ference pounced on a loose puck at 9:59 and also put it over Price's shoulder. Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron assisted on it. The best part was afterwards as Ference flipped off the Bell Centre Zoo. A juvenile move for sure but how can you not love that if you root for the Bruins? They care, isn't that what we always cry about with pro athletes?

Bergeron tied it at 17:04 from Marchand and Seidenberg. Marchand displayed quick hands as he handed the puck to Bergeron right on the goal line, he couldn't miss from there.

Getting those two goals was huge for Boston but Montreal quickly jumped ahead for the third time, early in the third period, thanks to a bogus hooking call on Bergeron.

P.K. Subban roofed one over Tim Thomas (34 saves) at 1:39 on the power play from James Wisniewski and Cammaleri.

One last time, the Bruins answered and it was Chris Kelly (sporting a full cage to protect his busted up face) who was the unlikely hero. He tied it up with 6:18 left in regulation. Rich Peverley and Ryder assisted on it. Kelly was right in front of the net and poked it home.

Ryder capped off a spectacular night for his third line (3 goals, 5 assists) with the biggest goal of his life. Subban going off for a change at the wrong time led to a 3-on-1 rush. Peverley missed the net as always but it worked out well as Kelly got the rebound and passed it to Ryder, who had one more snipe left in his stick.

What a game and what a win for the franchise. The road team has won every game so far, needless to say the Bruins would like to flip that since they host two out of the last three possible games. Win tomorrow night and they're in great shape. Lose and all the hard work of the last two games gets buried. So yeah, kinda important.

I Was Wr- I Was Wron- I was WRONG!!! Ryder is the Hero as Bruins Even Series

There is a reason that Claude Julien is the Head Coach of an Original Six team and I am sitting here blogging from my cell phone.

That reason finally manifested itself last night in Montreal, as Julien was rewarded for his patience with the lineup, as the underachieving Michael Ryder scored in the first period and then again in Overtime, helping the Bruins even the series at 2 games a piece.

Yes, I wrote an article on earlier this week that questioned Julien's decision to leave Ryder in the lineup in favor of the speedy rookie Tyler Seguin. Today I feel like the Fonz, who could never admit being wrong.

However, I would rather be wrong and win a playoff series than be right and suffer another brutal playoff loss to the Canadiens.

Julien stuck with Ryder because of his experience and playoff success, and it looks like it was the right move, even if he doesn't do anything for the rest of the series. Ryder showed off his sniping ability early in the second period,lifting a wrister past Carey Price to tie the game at 1.

His true heroics came in overtime, picking the corner on Price on a feed from the bad ass Chris Kelly 1:59 into overtime, sending the 21,273 fans home very angry and possibly suicidal.

The Bruins overcame a 3-1 deficit and raised their level of play when the stakes were highest, saving their season with a spectacular effort from Ryder, Chris Kelly, and other unsung heroes. We all owe Ryder an apology for dogging him in the last few weeks, and even if he doesn't score again this series, I don't care.

The series is tied 2 games a piece and moves back to Boston for a critical game 5 on Saturday, where a win would put the Bruins in great position to advance to the next round.

So all together now..."We were wrong!!"

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Red Sox decide to finally win a road game in 2011

It doesn't get any uglier than the 0-6 and then 2-10 starts for the 2011 Boston Red Sox.

However, going 0-7 in their first seven road games was similarly unforgivable. Boston (6-11) finally notched a road win yesterday afternoon, 5-3 against the A's (9-9) at Oakland Coliseum.

Clay Buchholz (1-2) picked up his first win of the season too after his first two starts were nothing short of disasters. He wasn't great yesterday but he got the job done. He went 5.1 innings, allowing six hits, one earned run, four walks and two strikeouts.

Oakland starter Gio Gonzalez (2-1) came in on the opposite end of the spectrum after being basically unhittable in his first two starts. The Red Sox got to him though somehow as he went six innings, allowing eight hits, four earned runs, one walk and nine strikeouts.

Boston's offense righted itself with three home runs: by Kevin Youkilis, Jed Lowrie and J.D. Drew.

The real star of the game was reliever Daniel Bard who inherited a bases loaded situation in the sixth with one out and the Red Sox clinging to a 4-1 lead. He got out of that unscathed and also pitched a scoreless seventh. That made up for Bobby Jenks and Jonathan Papelbon who each allowed an earned run. Papelbon settled down and recorded the last two outs in the ninth with runners on first and third.

Coco Crisp gave Oakland an early (and I mean early 1-0 lead) as he homered on Buchholz's first pitch of the game.

Carl Crawford answered with an RBI single in the top of the second which tied it at 1. Youkilis' solo shot in the fourth, Lowrie's two-run bomb in the sixth and Drew's solo homer in the seventh gave Boston some breathing room.

They were able to withstand Crisp's RBI single in the eighth and Landon Powell's RBI single in the ninth.

From here, Boston travels to Anaheim with four games scheduled against the Angels. Josh Beckett faces rookie Tyler Chatwood tonight in the series opener.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Brett Anderson rules

They get absolutely no hype because well they're the Oakland A's and they play in the AL West but damn, Billy Beane has really constructed a young rotation to die for.

The Boston Red Sox got their first taste of it in 2011 last night as they opened a nine-game road trip at Oakland Coliseum.

Anderson (1-1) completely baffled Red Sox (5-11) hitters for eight innings as Oakland (9-8) won 5-0.

Anderson allowed just four hits and one walk with eight strikeouts in picking up his first win of the 2011 season.

John Lackey (1-2) actually pitched very well, for him, since he was facing an old AL West foe that he was familiar with from his days in Anaheim. Lackey kept the Red Sox in the game with six innings of work, allowing four hits, one earned run, one walk and three strikeouts.

In falling to 0-7 on the road this season, Boston proved that they still haven't figured out how to hit consistently despite coming in on a three-game win streak.

Old friend Coco Crisp gave Oakland a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first after a hit, steal and two groundouts. Woo, small ball!

In the seventh and eighth innings, Dan Wheeler (1 hit, 1 earned run) and Hideki Okajima (2 hits, 3 earned runs in his return) did their best to blow the game although truth be told, there was not a chance in hell Boston was scoring any runs last night.

Daric Barton's RBI single that scored Cliff Pennington in the eighth for a 2-0 lead was enough but Oakland padded their lead with three more runs in the frame.

Hideki Matsui added a two-run double and Kurt Suzuki notched an RBI single.

Clay Buchholz will try and help the Red Sox avoid the sweep this afternoon as he takes on another young A's lefty stud, Gio Gonzalez, in the conclusion of this brief stay in Oakland.

Celtics outlast Knicks B-squad, take 2-0 series lead

With Chauncey Billups ruled out with an ankle injury before Game 2 started, the Boston Celtics already had a distinct advantage.

When Amare Stoudemire left late in the first half with back spasms and didn't return, you had to think what else could go wrong for the New York Knicks.

Still, despite a severely limited roster of healthy bodies, Carmelo Anthony almost single-handily willed New York to victory with a playoff career-high 42 points, 17 rebounds and six assists.

Boston was able to hang on for a 96-93 win at TD Garden, giving them a 2-0 series lead. Just like in Game 1, the Knicks went up late but couldn't stop a later Celtics hoop (this time a KG hook shot) and then bungled their last possession (Jared Jeffries getting stripped by KG on the baseline).

After a terrible Game 1 performance, Carmelo was truly special last night. However, a mental error (letting almost four seconds lapse before fouling Ray Allen at the end) nearly overshadowed his dominant display.

There's not many other ways to say it then the Celtics know how to win and the Knicks are still learning how to do it when it really matters.

Rajon Rondo had a playoff career-high 30 points and seven assists. Paul Pierce had 20 points, Ray Allen scored 18 and KG put up 12 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.

Starting for Billups, Toney Douglas had 14 points and Jeffries was the only other Knick in double figures with 10 points (including the go-ahead hoop before KG's shot).

In an ideal world, Boston will sweep New York and the Celtics bench will get some more playing time in the next two games since they clearly need to get the work. Four players (Delonte West, Nenad Krstic, Jeff Green and Glen Davis) combined for 14 points last night and that's simply not good enough to win consistently in the playoffs.

The Cs got out to a 23-21 lead after the first quarter but the Knicks took a 45-44 halftime lead. Boston responded with a strong third quarter (30-22) and as I said, made enough plays to survive a shaky fourth (26-22 New York).

Boston shot 47.0% to New York's 35.6%. The Knicks hit two more 3-pointers (8-6) and nine more free throws (21-12). The most shocking stat was that New York had 16 more rebounds (53-37). The Celtics had seven more assists (21-14) and 12 more fast break points thanks to Rondo (16-4) along with six more points in the paint (40-34).

Billups supposedly will play in Game 3 and Stoudemire is getting an MRI today but you have to bet he'll suit up since New York's season will basically be on the line. It's in Boston's best interest to make this series as short as possible. If they get to the next round, it'll be much harder (yes, I realize these games have been really tight) against likely Miami.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Canadiens Dodge, Duck, Dip, Dive, and Dodge...and Still Lose

Whenever the Montreal Canadiens are playing a closely contested game, the theatrics can be pathetic. In the playoffs, at home, they are downright insufferable.

In Monday night's game 3 at the Bell Centre, the Habs did all they could to embellish injuries, take dives, and even doled out a few cheap shots of their own in their attempt to take a 3-0 series lead and essentially end the Bruins season.

It started early in the first period as Wisniewski went down after a stick to the mouth from Zdeno Chara. While he certainly look injured, flopping to the ice and grabbing his face, there was no penalty called.

Later in the action, Roman Hamrlik went down after a collision that he initiated, prompting Bruins' play-by-play man Jack Edwards to utter one of the most classic lines in recent memory.

After Hamrlik struggled to get to his feet, Edwards observed, "And Hamrlik goes down as if he's been shot! GET UP!" Once I was done laughing and texting friends to see if they had heard the latest maniacal call from Edwards, I realized that the Canadiens, once again, had to resort to flopping to win. Without the benefit of a man advantage, it became clear that Montreal was going to do whatever it took to agitate the Bruins.

The most controversial moment of the night was when Benoit Pouliot launched himself in the air and made contact with Bruins Defenseman Jonny Boychuck. After several non calls on similar interference penalties, the refs finally cited Pouliot for not playing the puck, after Andrew Ference made Pouliot answer for the cheap shot.

Funny how no Habs fans objected to the Pouliot hit, but howled when Chara was throwing his body around left and right. Just another example in a seemingly infinite list of ways Montreal fans and players try to manipulate referees, especially at the Bell Center, in order to gain a competitive advantage.

Looking forward to game 4, Montreal will certainly try to continue their embellishing ways, with the main goal being to get under the Bruins' skin and attempt to goad them into taking retaliatory penalties, as they tried to do on Monday night when Ference dropped the gloves with Pouliot.

Knowing that the Habs were trying to capitalize on Ference's retaliation, he told reporters, "Well, I waited for him to drop the gloves and throw a punch before I did anything. I definitely didn't want to take an extra penalty." In order to not fall victim to shady officiating, the Bruins are going to have to use this type of restraint, while at the same time protecting their players.

The next chapter in this rivalry will be written tomorrow night at 7:30, as the Bruins take on the Canadiens, and hopefully not the referees, north of the border.

A couple heart attacks later, the Bruins hang on for dear life and a Game 3 win

You know you're watching a pivotal Boston Bruins playoff game when your emotions run the gamut: from worry to joy to shock and despair.

Despite some ridiculously tense moments and two soft as silk goals allowed by Tim Thomas, the Bruins held on for a 4-2 win in Game 3 last night at the Bell Centre.

The victory cut Montreal's series lead to 2-1 and ensured there will be a Game 5 on Saturday night at TD Garden. First things first, Game 4 is Thursday night back at the Bell Centre.

To the Bs' credit, they finally decided to get out to a good start. Make that a great start. David Krejci gave Boston its first lead of the series at 3:11 of the first period with a one-timer from Patrice Bergeron.

Nathan Horton doubled the lead with a banked shot off Carey Price's (21 saves) back for a 2-0 lead at 14:38 of the first period.

Andrew Ference and Benoit Pouliot squared off with four seconds left in the first period, the direct result of Pouliot's attempted cheap shot (charging) on Johnny Boychuk.

Price had a terrible gaffe to start the second period as he cleared a puck right to Rich Peverley, who put in his first career playoff goal. Mark Recchi assisted on that gift which gave Boston a commanding 3-0 lead at 2:02 of the second period.

From there, it was hang on to your hats boys as Thomas (34 saves) gave up a weak backhander (deflected by Zdeno Chara) to Andrei Kostitsyn at 7:03 of the second period.

The tempo of the game was fast from the start but it really picked up after Montreal finally got on the board. Boston retreated to their dressing room with a 3-1 lead after two periods but the Canadiens got another jolt of energy from another weak sauce goal.

Tomas Plekanec turned quickly and fired a seeing-eye shot that somehow got under Thomas' pads and in the net. Yikes, 3-2 Boston with 15:52 left in regulation.

Thomas deserves a ton of credit though. After the two terrible goals he gave up, he stood on his head for the rest of the contest as the Bs could barely get the puck out of their zone.

Chris Kelly scored an empty-netter with 26 seconds and that was it. Boston heads to Lake Placid, NY for two days to get out of "the circus" as NESN's one and only Jack Edwards called it.

Game 4 is similarly a must-win for the Bruins. The keys will be the same: Boston needs to score first and they have to get out to a solid start. They can't get bogged down by Montreal's joker fans who freak out every time a Canadien gets touched or falls on the ice like they've been shot (which is pretty much every shift).

Dice-K on Marathon Monday, the reverse lock of all-time comes through

When we last saw Daisuke Matsuzaka, he was reduced to a lonely puddle on the mound at Fenway Park after get shellacked by the Tampa Bay Rays.

So of course, when his start was pushed back and he closed out Boston's long homestand with a Marathon Monday outing against the Toronto Blue Jays, he was outstanding.

Dice-K (1-1) allowed one hit in seven innings, walked one and struck out three in one of his most dominating and mystifying starts of his Jekyll and Hyde MLB career.

As I said last season, I'm done expecting anything of Dice-K or trying to predict what he'll do since he's the ultimate trick or treat pitcher.

Yesterday's 9-1 Red Sox (5-10) win on Patriot's Day, allowed them to win three of four from the Blue Jays (7-9), and hit the road (9-game, 10 day trip) on a good note.

For whatever reason, Blue Jays starter Ricky Romero (1-2) is a very good pitcher against everyone but Boston. Like always, the young lefty struggled. He gave up eight hits, five earned runs, five walks and four strikeouts in 4.1 innings of work.

The Red Sox pounded out a season-high 13 hits led by Jed Lowrie (4 hits, 4 RBIs, 2 runs), Kevin Youkilis (2 hits, 2 runs, 2 RBIs) and Jacoby Ellsbury, who all hit home runs.

The red hot Lowrie continued to crush the ball, get started early with a two-run single in the first that scored J.D. Drew and Dustin Pedroia for a 2-0 lead.

David Ortiz's RBI single in the third made it 3-0 and scored Youk.

Lowrie hit a two-run homer in the fifth (scoring Ortiz) over the Monster.

Earlier Youk had a double off the top of the bullpen wall in right so it was only fair that he hit a two-run homer in the sixth (that scored Adrian Gonzalez). Carl Crawford broke his horrendous slump with an RBI double that scored Lowrie and made it 8-0 later in the sixth.

Ellsbury's solo shot in the seventh opened it up to 9-0.

Yunel Escobar broke the shutout with a garbage time solo home run off Tim Wakefield in the ninth.

Boston has two games in Oakland, four in Anaheim and then three in Baltimore. It's a long trip but against three teams that they should beat.

John Lackey gets the ball tonight against A's young stud Brett Anderson. Lackey last pitched on Opening Day at Fenway so hopefully seeing an old AL West foe will allow him to be half decent. It's asking a lot, I know.

The Status Claude: Why Julien Isn't Doing Enough to Win

For a coach who is on the hot seat, Claude Julien certainly isn't coaching as such.

Many Bruins fans and journalists alike were calling for major changes to the Bruins lineup after their humiliating game 2 loss to Montreal. Some called for Tuukka Rask to replace Tim Thomas in net. Others asked for line shakeups. But most people wondered why, given the Bruins lack of offensive firepower in the first two games, Tyler Seguin was not inserted into the lineup in place of the apathetic Michael Ryder.

In the last few weeks of the regular season, Ryder, Seguin, and the emerging Daniel Paille seemed to be competing for the final two roster spots going forward to the poatseason. The inexperienced Seguin was chosen by Julien to be the odd man out for the first round matchup.

Ryder, who made the roster based on his above average performance in last year's postseason, has failed to contribute anything on either side of the puck. His "sniping" ability has been as invisible as the numbers on his stat sheet. In 3 playoff games Ryder has THREE shots on net in 35 total of ice time. Simply unacceptable for allegedly one of your best scoring threats right Claude?

Ryder was a puddle once again in game three, with his only legitimate scoring chance ruined by his relentless desire to dangle through traffic rather than put a shot on net. Much has been said about Seguin's defensive shortcomings, but Ryder is not exactly a bruising defender either.

Seguin can and should be used on the Power Play to provide a scoring spark and to counter Montreal's speedy and skilled forwards. Julien has to realize that by now, Ryder is simply going through the motions and plays with no sense of urgency.

However as Bruins fans will tell you, Claude is not known for mixing and matching lines, no matter how hot his coaching seat is. Many people feel that if he is in fact coaching for his job, he is either going to win with his guys or lose with his guys. Julien has coached Ryder for quite a while and is clearly uncomfortable playing the untested Seguin on the biggest stage of his life.

Whatever Julien's reason is for sticking with Ryder, he should hope that the struggling winger starts to turn it around, or else the both of them will be searching for new jobs come summertime.

Bruins Skate Hard, Climb Back into Series

Too many men has been a touchy subject for the Bruins and their fans over the years.

So it was not out of reason to think the worst when the B's were called for that infamous penalty less than a minute into last night's Game Three in Montreal.

Caught up in a line change, the Bruins were forced to toughen up almost immediately, as they were shorthanded before a raucous crowd that was nothing short of bloodthirsty.

The Bruins' penalty killing unit did their job and used their momentum to grab their first lead of the postseason at 3:11 of the first period, as David Krejci took a centering pass from Patrice Bergeron and rifled it past the red hot Carey Price to put the Bruins up 1-0.

Nathan Horton got on the board as well later on in the opening stanza, banking a shot off of Price's back and into the net to give the visitors a 2-0 lead. The first line of Krejci-Horton-Lucic has been criticized so far in this series for not producing like a traditional first line should, but responded very nicely in Game Three.

Taking advantage of a lucky break by Boston, the Bruins skated with much more energy in Game Three than in the previous two contests. They were able to carry their momentum to the second period and took advantage of yet another Canadiens' miscue.

Early in the second period, Price attempted to pass the puck from behind his own net. The pass bounced off of Mark Recchi's skates and ended up on the stick of Rich Peverley, who tapped in the empty netter to put the B's up 3-0.

Jack Edwards (who may have been the first star of the game) then pointed out that the last time the Bruins had a 3-0 lead in the postseason, they blew it and ruined their season. Thanks bro.

Bruins fans' greatest fears were soon realized, as Montreal scored a pair of bad angle goals closing the gap to 3-2 and injecting a shot of adrenaline into the sold out Bell Centre crowd.

The rest of the game belonged to Tim Thomas, who made 14 saves in the third period and closed out the victory after Chris Kelly scored an empty net goal to give the Bruins life in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

The Bruins look to tie the series at 2 on Thursday night in Montreal at 7:30, and they must recreate their effort last night in order to do so.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Winners (Celtics) win and losers (Bruins) lose

All it took was one playoff game or more specifically one fourth quarter to show why we have all the preconceived notions about the Boston Celtics and the Boston Bruins.

The Celtics played a terrible first half in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals last night at TD Garden against the New York Knicks. The Cs trailed by 12 (51-39) at the half and appeared old and lifeless.

However, unlike the Bruins who can't get out of their own way in any pressure-packed situation, the Celts calmly cut it to five (64-59) after three quarters and proceeded to reel off a pulsating 87-85 win as Ray Allen drained the game-winning 3-pointer with 12 seconds remaining.

Allen was the hero with a team-high 24 points and six rebounds. Paul Pierce had 18 points, Kevin Garnett added 15 points and 13 rebounds and Rajon Rondo notched 10 points, nine rebounds and nine assists.

Jermaine O'Neal was the pleasant surprise with 12 points and four blocks. There was a key stretch in the game where he actually energized the crowd and his teammates with a couple great blocks. He also hit some timely shots which made sure the deficit didn't get too big.

Amare Stoudemire put up a game-high 28 points and 11 rebounds, he was great. Carmelo Anthony had 15 points (on 5 for 18 shooting) but he dragged his team down since he was in foul trouble (five fouls) and took all the late shots despite having no rhythm. Chauncey Billups was the only other Knick in double figures with 10 points but he also struggled shooting (3 for 11). He rolled his ankle with less than a minute left in the game and departed to the locker room. His status is uncertain for Game 2.

Ronny Turiaf had nine points and four blocks for New York while Landry Fields was held scoreless.

Boston can't afford to dig themselves a large hole again like they did in Game 1. New York used a zone defense effectively in the first half but when Rondo and the Celtics' offense started to run in the second half, the Knicks showed why they gave up the third most points in the NBA during the regular season.

For the game, Boston shot 43.8% to 42.3% for New York. The Knicks hit three more 3-pointers (8-5) but the Celts made one more free throw (12-11). Boston grabbed 10 more rebounds (44-34) and had four more assists (20-16). New York registered four more blocks (9-5) but Boston had eight more fast break points (10-2) and nine more points off turnovers (26-17).

The Celtics want to keep this series as short as possible so they can converse their energy for the next round. That's why winning all home games is so paramount. Game 2 is tomorrow night at TD Garden.

Win streak!

The Boston Red Sox have finally put a win streak together as they won their second game in a row yesterday afternoon at Fenway Park.

Jon Lester (1-1) pitched well in his third straight start but this time the offense backed up him for a change as the Red Sox (4-10) beat the Blue Jays (7-8) 8-1.

Lester went six innings, allowing six hits, one earned run with three walks and five strikeouts.

Toronto starter Jesse Litsch (1-1) was sporting a bushy red beard but that didn't seem to help him as he gave up seven hits, six runs (four earned) with a walk and five strikeouts in six innings.

The Blue Jays got their lone run in the second inning as Aaron Hill scored on a successful double steal (Juan Rivera was caught in a pick off between first and second) for a 1-0 lead.

Jarrod Saltlamacchia tied it up in the bottom of the second with an RBI single that scored Jed Lowrie (2 runs).

Next up, Jacoby Ellsbury hooked his third home run of the season around Pesky's Pole in right for a 4-1 lead. J.D. Drew and Saltalamacchia scored along with Ellsbury, who hit out of the ninth spot once again.

Saltalamacchia added a two-run single in the sixth (scoring David Ortiz and Lowrie) while two runs scored in the eighth on Adam Lind's error.

Along with being Boston's first win streak, it was also their first blowout victory so no need to use closer Jonathan Papelbon.

The Red Sox look to get their third win in a row (and clinch the series) this afternoon as they close out their series with Toronto. It's the annual Patriot's Day 11:05 a.m. start and as a special treat, Daisuke Matsuzaka takes the hill against Blue Jays ace Ricky Romero. Dice-K is about as likely to throw a gem as an American man is to win the Boston Marathon. Zing.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Why do we even bother?

Before Game 2 had even started, the Boston Bruins were already cooked. Zdeno Chara spent Friday night in a hospital due to dehydration and he was a last-minute scratch for last night's pivotal game at TD Garden.

Some teams might use their Captain's absence as motivation but oh no, not our Bruins. The most fragile team in the NHL and maybe all of sports completely folded under the pressure (as always) and fell flat on their face in a depressing as hell 3-1 loss.

Montreal now leads the series 2-0 as it shifts to the Bell Centre for Game 3 tomorrow night.

All five goals that the Canadiens have scored so far in the first two games are direct results of egregious turnovers by the Bruins in their own end.

To make matters worse, Boston spotted Montreal two goals last night in the first 2:20 of the first period. After Game 1's debacle, I said Game 2 would be all about the first goal.

Well 43 seconds in and Mike Cammalleri scored from James Wisniewski. At 2:20, Montreal was on a power play when Mathieu Darche scored from Cammalleri.

You couldn't possibly script a worse beginning and just like that, the Bruins were done in the game and probably the series. They've never won a series (in 26 tries) after being down 0-2.

Carey Price is a good goaltender but the Bruins are making him look the second coming of Patrick Roy and Dominik Hasek. Price stopped 34 shots but once again, Boston failed to get bodies in front of him or capitalize on the few rebounds he allowed.

He made one spectacular save as he robbed Milan Lucic with his glove after Looch was set up right in front of the net.

On the flip side, can we agree that Tim Thomas is simply a regular season monster? Much like Claude Julien is a regular season coach? Up to this point, how can we say that either does anything but pee down their leg in the playoffs?

The Bruins finally got on the board with their first goal of the series at 7:38 of the second period as Brad Marchand fed a perfect tip in to Patrice Bergeron. Mark Recchi also assisted.

Unfortunately, all that hard work was nullified by Thomas (23 saves) who gave up a juicy rebound right to Yannick Weber. He scored at 17:21 of the second period from Lars Eller and Roman Hamrlik. That was it, you knew the Bruins had absolutely no chance to recover from that.

Honestly, they are done. Short of Julien being fired today and Tuukka Rask getting the surprise start in Game 3, I don't see how this team can overcome all their playoff shortcomings. The Canadiens are playing with more desperation and heart while the Bruins continue to add new head-scratching chapters to their pathetic legacy.

A new and improved Jed Lowrie

When you get off to a 2-10 start, tying the worst start in franchise history, you will take any spark you can get.

Jed Lowrie stepped to the forefront yesterday for the Red Sox (3-10) as he led off and continued his run as Boston's only hot hitter in a 4-1 win over the Toronto Blue Jays (7-7) at Fenway Park.

After an early career littered with crazy injuries and sicknesses (mono?), Lowrie has earned his playing time and deserves to play every day at shortstop over the useless, worn out Marco Scutaro.

Yesterday, Lowrie had three hits (including a two-run homer), two RBIs and two runs.

Coupled with another fine start from Josh Beckett (2-1) and that was enough to get the win. Beckett went seven innings, allowing three hits, one earned run with two walks and nine strikeouts.

On a freezing cold afternoon at Fenway (game-time temperature 39 degrees), Toronto starter Jo-Jo Reyes (0-2) struggled with his control. He could only go three innings, allowing seven hits, four earned runs with five walks and three strikeouts.

Beckett's work allowed Terry Francona to line up his bullpen in the best possible fashion with Daniel Bard pitching a scoreless eighth (1 hit, 1 strikeout) and Jonathan Papelbon (1 hit, 1 strikeout) wrapping it up for his second save of the season.

Adrian Gonzalez gave Boston a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first with an RBI single which drove in Lowrie. Kevin Youkilis followed that with an RBI double which plated Gonzalez.

Travis Snider cut it to 2-1 in the top of the second with an RBI double for the Blue Jays which scored Aaron Hill.

Lowrie hit his two-run homer in the bottom of the second, just over the Monster. Jacoby Ellsbury scored ahead of him.

The Red Sox look to start their first win streak of 2011 today as Jon Lester takes on Jesse Litsch.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Until "Hard Knocks" (if there is a season), "Everything to Prove" is pretty solid

Before forcing a rookie wage scale upon and locking out the prospects about to enter the NFL draft, the NFL is hyping up their online mini-series, "Everything to Prove," focusing exclusively on a handful of the top draftable players. So far there have been eight segments, each lasting for five or so minutes, following the players as they prepare for the NFL draft. It provides an up-close look at their workouts, training, Pro Days, the NFL Combine, and the players' individual stories and lives outside of football. Among the highlights of the series are: Stephen Paea injuring his knee and fighting through the frustration to set the bench-press record at the NFL Combine, Mark Herzlich bringing some of the guys to visit cancer patients, Jake Locker working out with his QB coach (shirtless, a must-see for the ladies), Blaine Gabbert's Pro Day and Cowboys Stadium hosting a visit for a large group of players right before the Super Bowl. Some of the other players featured in the series are: J.J. Watt, Von Miller and his #1 overall-worthy glasses, Nate Solder, Cameron Heyward, A.J. Green and Julio Jones. All of them seem like great guys -it makes me wish they all could be on the Patriots.

(Side note: I really hope the Patriots take a chance on Herzlich with a late-round pick; his attitude reminds me of Vrabel and Bruschi. Even if he never returns to his pre-illness form, Belichick has a pretty good track record of getting the most out of guys with late-round talent and that type of character. If he does get back to that level, it's obviously a steal).

"Everything to Prove" releases new segments on Wednesdays. Here is the link for the first eight episodes. I bet you'll never guess who sponsors the show. Enjoy!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Here we go again

It only took the Boston Bruins 2:44 in the first period to remind its fans what they're in for this postseason.

Former Boston College star Brian Gionta capitalized on Tomas Kaberle's terrible blind clearing pass attempt and gave Montreal an early 1-0 lead.

The Bruins never seemed to get untracked from there as they lost 2-0 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals last night at TD Garden.

Gionta's first goal was assisted by Scott Gomez. The pair teamed up one more time with 3:18 left in the third period to seal this one. Milan Lucic was the culprit that time as he had the puck stolen off his stick in his own zone.

Gionta skated in on Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas (18 saves) and roofed it on a shot that Thomas deflected and truthfully has to stop if Boston hopes to get anywhere past the first or second round (which apparently GM Peter Chiarelli doesn't care about).

Montreal goaltender Carey Price made 31 saves for the shutout but other than the second period (when Boston outshot Montreal 18-6), he wasn't really tested that much.

Boston fell back into its bad habits of just trying to score from the point every time. Doesn't matter if it's Zdeno Chara cranking slap shots from back there, unless you have traffic in front of Price, those are probably not going in. Too bad nobody on the Black and Gold seemed to understand that.

It's hard to be positive about the Bs after last night's performance gave you a week's worth of things to keep you up at night. Needless to say, tomorrow night is a must-win. Boston simply cannot go to Montreal down 2-0. It's hard enough to play at the Bell Centre in front of all those yahoos but the Bruins need to take care of business on their home ice.

Along those same lines, the first goal of Game 2 is huge. Once Montreal scored a goal, they were able to morph into a defensive shell and were happy to let Boston basically tire themselves out and then the Canadiens capitalized on their best chance. You have to put pressure on Montreal by scoring first, then you can get physical and pummel them. Not the other way around.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Habs Gear Up for Bruins Series

(Ed. Note: I thought it would be interesting to see a Montreal fans' perspective, so I asked fellow writer Brandon Hebert to contribute. Follow him on twitter at OT_Hockey - Ryan)

Every year for the playoffs a franchise comes up with some slogan for their postseason run. The Montreal Canadiens this year have come up with “put on your game face”, and if the Habs have any hope to win this series; that is exactly what they need to do.

The Canadiens seem to finally be beaten down by the Boston Bruins, a sight many Bruins fans are happy to see after years of regular season dominance by the Habs. You could even say this season was the same with them winning the series 4-2, but looking deeper it’s not the case. When Zdeno Chara put Max Pacioretty into the boards it not only broke his neck, it seemed to have broken the Montreal Canadiens. They haven’t flied around the Bruins as they once did, they don’t give the shot or two away from the play as they are accustomed to. They simply seemed to have given up. They were zombies in period three against the Bruins in the Paccioretty game, and lifeless on March 24th 7-0 shellacking. If the Habs want to win against the Bruins they need to become the fast skating team that gets under the Bruins skin that they used to be.

PK Subban needs to be himself. The Bruins hate him, and rightfully so. He’s cocky, he’s arrogant, and he’s got skill. And he can goad Marchand and Horton like nobody’s business. The Habs powerplay has had the Bruins number this season, and if PK can get the team on the PP that is the key to Canadiens success. Along with that, the fans in Montreal will be relentless, the booing heard for Chara will put Cleveland fans hatred for Lebron to shame. The fans in Montreal swing momentum and intimidate referee’s like no other. If a Hab goes down with a Bruin around they’ll b on the powerplay and they need to convert.

The Bruins are big and strong and tough, the Habs need to know their place here if they want to win. Push and shove after the whistle is fine, but don’t get tough, don’t get in a situation where the Bruins can hurt you. Cause they have, and they will. Ryan White and Paul Mara are the only two you should look for to have any fight in them. The rest of the team needs to play the same way that normally wins them games.

Carey Price needs to be who he was in the regular season, and Tim Thomas needs to be who he usually is in the post season, if the Habs want to win. Drive the net, get Thomas to bite first and get him out of postion, and take advantage. Easier said than done, because when the awards are handed out that man will hold another Vezina trophy.

At the end of the day if the Habs don’t show up tonight at 7 pm with their game face’s on. This series is going to be as easy as, one, two, three, four.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Call 911! Bruins and Habs Set for Round One Showdown

Here we are.

After weeks of staring down Montreal as the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference, Bruins fans have been preparing for a first round matchup of epic proportions. Whenever Montreal and Boston get together, hockey fans know that they are in for a treat, but considering the events of this season, they should expect the vitriol between the two clubs to reach an all-time high.

Montreal took the regular season series 4-2, but the games took several twists and turns after January 1st. Shortly after the New Year, Montreal embarrassed Boston, coming from behind to steal a 3-2 overtime victory. However the tone was set for the rest of the season when game-winning goal scorer Max Pacioretty bumped Bruins Captain Zdeno Chara after lighting the lamp in overtime. Chara then went after Pacioretty and later refused to answer questions from the media, a questionable move coming from the team Captain, especially after such a crushing defeat.

The Bruins took out their frustration the next time the two teams met, beating the Habs 8-6 in Boston, with both teams combining for 187 penalty minutes in one of the more memorable games any of us will ever see. Their next meeting will live in infamy both in Boston and Montreal, when Zdeno Chara angled Max Pacioretty into the turnbuckle between the team’s benches, when it was reported that he suffered a cracked vertebrae and severe concussion. This set off a firestorm of embarrassing rhetoric by Montreal fans and media, as Bruins players and fans alike rushed to Chara’s aid to defend the hit. The NHL sided with Chara, as they ruled the play a “hockey play” and elected not to suspend or fine Big Z for the hit. The story, however, did not end there.

Habs fans flooded 911, shutting down their emergency call center, hoping to prosecute Chara on criminal charges. Quebec police launched a full investigation into the hit, further embarrassing their province and city, (no way would this happen in Calgary, Edmonton, or Vancouver). The Bruins responded in the best way possible in their last meeting of the season, humiliating the Habs 7-0 at the Garden, out skating Montreal on their way to a lopsided victory.

The Bruins meet up with Montreal on Thursday night in Boston for a highly anticipated opening round series. Here are a few things to watch for as the most heated rivalry in Hockey continues.

Key Matchup: Special Teams

Every Bruins fan is more than familiar with the term “puck moving defenseman.” So much so that the mere mention of the phrase turned fans stomachs in the weeks leading up to the trade deadline. B’s fans clamored for GM Peter Chiarelli to trade for a D man to help the Power Play unit, and they were rewarded when the Bruins traded for Tomas Kaberle. However the results were not as expected, as the Bruins finished the season scoring 16.2% of the time with the man advantage. This will need to improve against Montreal’s 84.4% Penalty Killing efficiency. The Bruins’ superb defensive strategy will be tested against Montreal’s speedy forwards, especially on the man advantage. The Canadiens are slightly better on the Power Play, scoring at a 19.7% clip with the extra skater. The special teams numbers favor Montreal, and this is something that they will look to in order to expose the Bruins and gain an advantage in the series.

Key Players: (BOS) Milan Lucic – The Bruins’ only 30 goal scorer, Lucic has bounced back quite nicely from an injury-riddled 2009-10 campaign. While he chooses not to drop the gloves as often as in years past, Lucic has shown that he can still play his physical brand of hockey, while at the same time lighting the lamp. His importance to the first line alongside Nathan Horton and David Krejci cannot be understated, as they have been on a tear in the last few weeks of the season. They all have to get going in order to be successful and it starts with Lucic and his two-way play to put fear in the hearts of the Canadiens.

(MTL) Scott Gomez – Gomez has been a mainstay in the Montreal lineup, averaging 18:33 minutes of ice time per game this season and has played 80 games, but has failed to produce offensively. In fact, he had his worst season of his 11-year career, scoring just 7 goals all year long. Gomez needs to break his scoring drought, which has lasted since February 6th. His 29 game slide must end if the Canadiens want to have a chance in this series.

What to Watch For: Chara – Paccioretty Hangover – Clearly one of the biggest subplots to this series is going to be Zdeno Chara versus the city of Montreal, especially when the Bruins head north of the border for games 3 and 4. Bruins management has decided to relocate the team to Lake Placid, NY in between games 3 and 4 to minimize distractions from the relentless Montreal media and fan base. Simply put, the Canadiens have no answer for Chara, so hopefully the Bruins Captain can tune out the white noise and dominate the series.

Officiating – In the wake of the Chara hit, Montreal media members went on record and said that they get beneficial calls based on who is officiating as well as who is in the stands. When Campbell and Bettman were in attendance for the 7-0 drubbing, media members from America’s Hat told Boston radio hosts Felger and Mazz that they expected a closely called game because of the people in attendance. The Canadiens were expected to dive and embellish penalties more than usual, and they did. To quote Brad Marchand, the Canadiens play “weasely, greasy” hockey, and will certainly look to do their best Greg Louganis impression in order to capitalize on the power play.

Goaltending – “Goaltending is the most important thing in the playoffs”. That cliché has been slung around for so many years, it makes “run the ball, stop the run” in football look fresh. While great goaltending certainly helps in the postseason, it is not the most important aspect of the game. Out of the last ten Vezina winners, only ONE has made it out of the SECOND ROUND of the playoffs (Brodeur in ’03). Every other Vezina winner has failed to even make it to the conference finals, proving that great goaltending does not directly correlate to success. The Flyers were on their third string goalie last year and made it to the Stanley Cup finals, so you don’t have to have the second coming of Pat Roy to win the Cup.

Prediction: The Bruins have to take both games at home, because Montreal is going to be an absolute madhouse by the time the Bruins come to town on Monday night. I expect a fast-paced, emotionally charged series that will last six games. Montreal has proven this year that they can beat the Bruins both at home and on the road, and they will take game three or four. That being said, Chara and the Bruins are going to be too much for the Canadiens in the long run and will overpower Montreal on the way to the Eastern Conference semifinals. Bruins in 6.