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Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Philadelphia Phillies Are The Best Team In Baseball, No Doubt About It

Well the Boston Red Sox are so desperate for runs that they put their franchise player (Adrian Gonzalez) in right field (for only the second time in his MLB career) just so they could have his bat and David Ortiz's (first base) in the same lineup.

All the panic and worry by Red Sox fans and media proved to be a joke (no surprise) as both managed to live through nine innings at their respective positions.

The bigger problem is that the team is struggling big time, losing 2-1 last night to the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.

The Red Sox (45-34) have lost six of their last seven interleague games and they are in desperate need of a win today to turn things around.

Phillies (51-30) rookie Vance Worley (3-1) wasn't as good as Cliff Lee the night before but he still submitted an outstanding outing. He went seven innings, allowing one earned run on five hits with two walks and five strikeouts.

Another rookie Michael Stutes pitched a 1-2-3 eighth while Antonio Bastardo had a clean ninth for his third save of the season.

The ironic part about the loss was that Red Sox starter John Lackey (5-7) had one of his best starts ever for Boston. He went 7.2 innings, allowing two earned runs on eight hits with a walk and five strikeouts. He was pulled at 90 pitches and for once, I agreed with him that he should have stayed in there. Luckily Franklin Morales came on to retire Ryan Howard on a deep fly ball to center (with Chase Utley on third) to end the eighth.

Raul Ibanez (3 for 3, 2 RBIs, run) provided all the offense Philadelphia needed as he drove in Shane Victorino with an RBI single in the second and broke a 1-1 tie with a solo homer in the seventh. Ibanez was familiar with Lackey and had much success against him during their AL West days when he was on the Mariners and Lackey was on the Angels.

Josh Reddick (2 hits) was the only Red Sox with multiple hits as they were limited to five as a team. Lackey had the only RBI as he crushed an RBI double to center in the fifth to tie it at 1-1.

Two of MLB's best lefties and pitchers, Jon Lester and Cole Hamels, are set to go this afternoon in the series finale. Boston needs a win to salvage something from this stop.

Ortiz is out of the lineup again while Kevin Youkilis is out with a foot injury (getting X-Rays). The best news is that the team just designated Mike Cameron for assignment; his two years in Boston have been nothing short of a complete joke. Who thought he would have any success? He's the definition of washed up, good riddance Cammy.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Cliff Lee Is a Very Bad Man

The beginning of yesterday's "World Series preview" between the Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies was more like a prize fight.

In other words, it didn't live up to the hype as one side basically knocked out the other without really breaking a sweat which is precisely why I could give two shits about boxing (well that and the ridiculous pay per view prices).

Cliff Lee threw his third consecutive shutout (really) as the Phillies (50-30) rolled 5-0 over the Red Sox (45-33) at Citizens Bank Park.

Boston lost for the fifth time in its last six games, falling 1.5 games behind the Yankees in the AL East while the Rays are creeping up behind them (only 1 game back). The team has scored only 14 runs in its last six games meaning that David Ortiz is likely to start at first base with Adrian Gonzalez in right field (haha).

Philadelphia extended their MLB-best record, including a ridiculous 31-13 clip at home, while staying 4.5 games ahead of Atlanta in the NL East.

Lee (9-5) proved why he's the best left-hander in baseball and easily one of the top starting pitchers. He allowed only two hits with two walks and five strikeouts, throwing 112 pitches (71 for strikes).

Josh Beckett (6-3) couldn't match Lee's superb stuff as he went six innings, allowing five earned runs on five hits with a walk and a strikeout.

The Phillies crushed a pair of two-run bombs off Beckett: one by rookie Domonic Brown in the second and another by Shane Victorino.

As if he didn't have enough highlights last night, Lee scored Brown in the fifth with a deep sacrifice fly. It reminded me of a Little League player that dominates in every way possible. He got a standing ovation for the RBI and earlier in the game when he almost beat out an infield hit. Mercy.

Tonight figures to be much longer (last night was two hours and 37 minutes) and ugly as John Lackey opposes Phillies rookie Vance Worley. This might be the old reverse lock where you know Lackey will get shelled but then he pitches a gem but I wouldn't count on that. I get the feeling that he'll got rocked and leave after a few innings, call me an optimist.

It's Almost That Time Of Year: When Wilmington Is Relevant For A Week

As a life long resident of the North Shore (Massachusetts), there's not much I take more pride in than knocking the podunk places around here that I can never imagine living in.

Wilmington, MA is one of those places that really has no importance whatsoever. If I hadn't written for a daily newspaper with teams that faced Wilmington, I don't think I'd ever think of that nothing town. Yet I will give them credit, they do have one thing: Ristuccia Arena which hosts the Boston Bruins' development camp.

For the fifth straight year, the B's rookies will be put through their paces from July 7-11 at Ristuccia Arena. This event used to have no relevance but with Tyler Seguin (the No. 2 pick in the 2010 NHL Draft) appearing at it last season, suddenly there was some excitement.

This year doesn't have exactly the same pizazz but Bruins rookie defenseman Dougie Hamilton is slated to appear (their 2011 first round pick) and hey, it's a good excuse of something to do on a hot day when your sick of the beach or better yet, if the weather is crappy. Also, it gets your mind off of baseball for a few hours, which is never a bad thing in the monotony of summer in the sporting landscape.


The list of forwards expected to attend includes Anthony Camara, Craig Cunningham, Alexander Fallstrom, Brian Ferlin, Justin Florek, Josh Jooris, Jared Knight, Alexander Khokhlachev, Brett Olson, Tyler Randell, Eric Robinson, Ben Sexton, and Ryan Spooner.

The defensemen include Ryan Button, Marc Cantin, Tommy Cross, Dougie Hamilton, Robby O’Gara, Steven Spinell, Zach Trotman, and David Warsofsky.

Three goaltenders, Zane Gothberg, Mike Hutchinson, and Lars Volden, are also on the roster.

The schedule has been announced but is subject to change. Times and events can be confirmed by calling the Fan and Information Line at (617) 624-1910.

Ty Law Wants To Retire As A Patriot


Ty Law believes he has one more contract in him. But this time around, he’s not looking for the big bucks —instead, the former Patriots cornerback dropped a not-so-subtle hint on Tuesday night, saying that he was “pretty much retired,” but that he’d like to sign a one-day contract with New England and retire a Patriot.

“That would be ... that’s one of the reasons I haven’t officially turned my papers in because I would like to at least say the last contract I sign was with New England,” Law said, speaking prior to being honored at The Tradition at the TD Garden. “That would be an honor if I was able to do that, if Mr. Kraft was to bless me with something like that, that would be the icing on the cake for a 15-year career.”

To be honest, I've never gotten the whole "one day contract so I can retire with the team" thing. Jerry Rice did it with the 49ers. Nomar did it with the Red Sox. Shit, even NFL legend Donovan Darius did it with the Jacksonville Jaguars. I just don't get it. Ty Law was one of the greatest cornerbacks of his generation and will more than likely be enshrined in both the NFL and Patriots Hall of Fame. That being said, I respect his decision to want to retire as a Patriot because honestly, who wants to retire as a Chief or Jet?

What I don't like about these one day contracts is that they always seem to be from players who had a falling out with ownership and feel like it would be some sort of apology. Like aren't the speeches you will give in Canton and Foxboro enough? Just go into the Hall of Fame with a Patriots hat for Christ's sake.

Now rumor has it that Willie McGinest wants to do the same. The Patriots have never allowed any one to do this and for good reason. It is more of a publicity/ PR stunt than anything else and the Pats know that. I mean Jesus, look at what happened when Nomar retired as a Red Sox/Sock? Dude was on ESPN ten seconds later.

Law clearly wishes he had stayed with the Pats and I don't blame him but I just find all of this pointless. His number will get retired, he is a Hall of Famer and three-time Super Bowl Champion. He doesn't need to sign a fake contract to validate his time in New England.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Interleague Baseball: Boston Vs. Philadelphia, The Definitive Breakdown

Any blogger living in their mother's basement or Red Sox beat reporter can give a simple breakdown of the Boston Red Sox vs. Philadelphia Phillies series which begins tonight at Citizen's Bank Park.

It's a possible World Series preview (fingers crossed) so it deserves more than a simple player by player matchup. Nope, with a best friend from college that hails from suburban Philadelphia and an ex-girlfriend from South Jersey, I feel like I'm better suited than most to compare and contrast these cities, fan bases, food, universities, etc.

The Red Sox check in at 45-32, half a game behind the New York Yankees for first place in the American League East.

The Phillies have the best record in MLB, 49-30, and they lead the National League East by 4.5 games.

Best local food: Cheesesteaks (Phi) vs. Clam Chowder (Bos)
Everybody does cheesesteaks but they're truly a delicacy in Philly. Boston's clam chowder is delicious but there's only so much of it you can possibly eat.
Edge: Phillies.

Tonight is Josh Beckett (6-2) vs. Cliff Lee (8-5). Tomorrow night is John Lackey (5-6) vs. Vance Worley (2-1) and Thursday afternoon is Jon Lester (9-4) vs. Cole Hamels (9-4). There's something for everyone as the series opener and finale promise to be likely pitcher's duels between some of the best pitchers in the game. Tomorrow will probably be a shootout as both pitchers will get shelled.

Catchers: Carlos Ruiz (Phi) vs. Jarrod Saltalamacchia (Bos)
Ruiz is better although Salty has come on after a disastrous start to the 2011 season.
Edge: Phillies

Home Parks: Citizens Bank Park (Phi) vs. Fenway Park (Bos)
Both are hitters park, no questions asked but at least Fenway isn't a complete launching pad (other than the Green Monster). Citizens Bank is a glorified Little League World Series field but it's a modern stadium that's much more comfortable than the theme park known as Fenway.
Edge: Fenway for players, Citizens Bank for fans

1st base: Ryan Howard (Phi) vs. Adrian Gonzalez (Bos)
Two of the best first basemen in baseball, both can hit homers and extra base hits every time they come to the plate. However, Gonzalez is a more complete player (Gold Glover) and doesn't have as many holes in his swing.
Edge: Red Sox

Local Beers: Yuengling (Phi) vs. Sam Adams (Bos)
Two of my favorites so it's impossible to choose one over the other.
Edge: Push

2nd base: Chase Utley (Phi) vs. Dustin Pedroia (Bos)
Again two of the best at their respective position. Utley missed most of the season so far with an injury but he's back and seems to be himself again. Pedroia has gotten off to somewhat of a slow start but he is the heart and soul of the Red Sox.
Edge: Push

Overrated summer destinations: Jersey Shore (Phi) vs. Cape Cod (Bos)
Each have their charms but the traffic going to the Cape is brutal. Yet I can't choose the home of MTV's Jersey Shore over any other place in the world. A toxic dump that deserves to be paved over immediately.
Edge: Red Sox

Shortstop: Jimmy Rollins (Phi) vs. Marco Scutaro (Bos)
Probably the biggest positional mismatch. Rollins is an All-Star while Scutaro is a journeyman in what has been a revolving door for Boston since Nomar Garciaparra was traded to the Cubs in 2004.
Edge: Phillies

Ivy League Universities: UPenn (Phi) vs. Harvard (Bos)
Let's be honest, I wouldn't have had a prayer to get into either one but that won't stop me from saying Harvard-the World's Greatest University-is light years ahead of UPenn.
Edge: Red Sox

3rd base: Placido Polanco (Phi) vs. Kevin Youkilis (Bos)
Polanco is a solid pro, good in the field and at the plate but Youk is a little bit better in both ways.
Edge: Red Sox

Trademark movies: Rocky (Phi) vs. Good Will Hunting (Bos)
Absolute classics and two of my favorites of all-time. Still, I grew up around Boston and I'm not a working class Italian boxer.
Edge: Red Sox

Left field: Raul Ibanez (Phi) vs. Darnell McDonald (Bos)
This is a mess since Carl Crawford is on the DL for the Red Sox. Ibanez is washed up but McDonald hasn't had a pulse this season.
Edge: Phillies

Top musicians: The Roots (Phi) vs. Aerosmith (Bos)
Ugh, for a city that has a great music scene, Boston falls way short in this category. Unless you're a middle-aged dirtbag living in the North or South Shore, Aerosmith is a joke these days. Roots all day.
Edge: Phillies

Center field: Shane Victorino (Phi) vs. Jacoby Ellsbury (Bos)
Two of the most dynamic leadoff hitters in MLB. Electric is the best way to describe both. They have each earned All-Star spots if they keep up their fine play.
Edge: Push

Famous chicks: Heather Mitts (Phi) vs. Maria Menounos (Bos)
With my apologies to the fine people in the Keystone State, I couldn't think of any natives that are famous for their beauty. I'm sure I'm overlooking some. So give me Medford Maria in a heartbeat.
Edge: Red Sox

Right field: Dominic Brown (Phi) vs. Josh Reddick (Bos)
Two young guys that haven't proven much at the Major League level yet. Brown is the more hyped prospect but so far in a limited role, Reddick has been better.
Edge: Red Sox

Managers: Charlie Manuel (Phi) vs. Terry Francona (Bos)
Francona is a former Phillies manager that had no success in the City of Brotherly Love. Manuel is a lovable redneck. They're both baseball lifers.
Edge: Push

With no DH, David Ortiz is sitting to start tonight although Twitter is saying he'll get the start tomorrow night at first base with Gonzalez in the outfield. We shall see.

Fanbases: Philly lowlifes vs. Red Sox pink hats
Since they are the two most passionate and devoted fanbases in all of North American sports, it's easy to poke fun at both groups. However, Philly has more passion now that the Red Sox have won two World Series titles in the past seven years.
Edge: Phillies

Bullpen: Antonio Bastardo, Danys Baez & Michael Stutes (Phi) vs. Daniel Bard, Matt Albers & Jonathan Papelbon (Bos).

Clay Buchholz and Roy Oswalt are on the DL but the Phillies still have a better rotation. However, with Jose Contreras, Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge all on the DL, the Philadelphia better hope they get long outings this series because their bullpen is a complete joke at the moment. The Red Sox only have two reliable guys in the bullpen (Bard and Papelbon) but that's two more than the Phillies.
Edge: Red Sox in bullpen, Phillies in rotation

Place in American history: Liberty Bell (Phillies) vs. Freedom Trail (Red Sox)
The two most important cities in American history so this is the definition of an even matchup.
Edge: Push

So yeah, let's hope this is a World Series preview. There would be nothing better than October baseball with these two great, historical cities going face to face for a World Series title. The ratings and interest would be off the charts. Enjoy the games everyone, go Red Sox!

NHL Network Airing 2011 Playoffs All Summer Long...BOING!

Fans who missed some playoff action in the first few rounds or simply want to relive the Bruins' magical Stanley Cup run can do so thanks to the NHL Network.

Starting every weeknight at 8 p.m. Eastern and continuing in marathon style on the weekends, the NHL Network will air each playoff game in its entirety.

I believe that the broadcasts for the Bruins games will be the CBC version for the games originally broadcast on NESN, as well as the Versus/NBC broadcasts during the Conference finals as well as the Stanley Cup Finals.

NHL network has a full schedule of games on its website

Looking Forward: Will Ryder Be Back?

Looking Forward will be a multi-part series this offseason that will serve to address the Bruins offseason moves, trades, free agent signings and how the team uses the salary cap. Part 1 will discuss the always polarizing Michael Ryder.

Throughout his career in Boston, he has been somewhat of an enigma. A former Montreal Canadien, Ryder has spent the last three seasons in Boston. His best year was in 2008-09, scoring 27 goals and registering 53 points. However in the last two seasons, Bruins fans have seen his production during the regular season decrease, scoring just 33 and 41 points in 2009-10 and 2010-11 respectively.

Ryder is currently an unrestricted free agent, meaning that he is free to negotiate with any team, including the Bruins. Before the Bruins 2011 Stanley Cup Championship Run (yes, it still feels good to say), most B's fans would have felt comfortable letting the right winger walk, especially with his four million dollar price tag. But given Ryder's resurgence in the postseason and the Bruins' cap flexibility, the front office may explore resigning the sniper.

Ryder was a major contributor in the playoffs both this season and last. In fact, in this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs, his 17 points and eight goals were almost half of his regular season totals. Ryder has admitted that he raises his level of play in the playoffs, which is a major concern. However he came up huge for the B's this year on offense and defense, including his ridiculous glove save against Montreal. Considering the Bruins' bright future, Ryder can be key to the team's sustained success but at what price?

One possible issue would be Ryder's previous contract, which paid him four million dollars per year for the last three seasons. Although the Bruins are currently 12 million dollars under the cap, I don't forsee a situation where the Bruins would bring Ryder back into the fold for anything less than 2.5 million per year.

This begs the question, will Ryder accept that offer? Or will the Bruins even make an offer? It is unlikely that any team in the NHL would give Ryder the four million per year that he was used to making so he might be forced to take a hometown discount. Should negotiations turn ugly, the Bruins have more than enough ammo to get Ryder to see things their way.

Yes, Ryder would be welcomed back for the right price, as he would lend stability to the lineup and help fill the void at wing left by Mark Recchi's retirement. However it seems that he needs the Bruins more than they need him.

Should Ryder come back next year? How much would you sign him for? Any free agent alternatives? Let me know in the comment section.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Red Sox Snap Four-Game Losing Streak, Salvage Series Finale Vs. Pittsburgh

I missed pretty much all of the Red Sox-Pirates games on Friday and Saturday due to a couple concerts (Dispatch, Matisyahu). Clearly, those were better options than watching bad losses by Boston.

Yesterday afternoon was the first game of the series I actually paid attention to and no surprise, they turned things around (pats self on back). Andrew Miller made his second start for the Red Sox (45-32) and it was a good one as he helped Boston snap a four-game losing streak and leave Pittsburgh's (39-38) PNC Park with a 4-2 win.

To say this game was sloppy and Little League-esque, would be an insult to shitty Little Leaguers around the country. The Pirates made four errors while the Red Sox had two.

Miller (1-0) didn't seem to mind too much as he went six innings. He allowed two runs (one earned) on five hits with two walks and four strikeouts.

Alfredo Aceves (seventh), Daniel Bard (eighth) and Jonathan Papelbon (ninth) combined for three scoreless innings as Boston walked out of Pittsburgh with a little pride after a rough couple days.

Pirates starter James McDonald (first cousin of Boston's Darnell McDonald) went six innings, allowing two runs (zero earned) on five hits with two walks and five strikeouts.

This truthfully might have been the most boring win in Red Sox history. Their four runs scored on two sacrifice flies, an error and a ground out.

Pittsburgh didn't exactly set the world on fire either, scoring on a sacrifice fly and an RBI single.

Oh well, Boston has today off and then they get to the main course of interleague play: a three-game series in Philadelphia against the Phillies (the NL's best team and easily one of the best teams in baseball). Say it with me: Possible World Series preview!

While we wait for tomorrow, let's all pray for J.D. Drew who had to leave yesterday's game in the second inning after suffering a black eye bunting during batting practice. I think I'm going to write a book, start a blog or twitter handle chronicling all of Drew's ridiculous injuries (haha vertigo?). Either way the guy is a joke: he's the most accident prone person in the world or the biggest pussy.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Tim Thomas & The Boston Bruins Nominated For 2011 ESPYs

Since they barely cover the NHL in the first place, it might surprise some that the ESPN's ESPY awards actually features an NHL category.

Boston Bruins all-world goaltender Tim Thomas is a nominee in two categories: best championship performance and best NHL player.

In addition, the B's are also nominated in the best team category. Thomas deserves both awards but the NHL player award is probably his best chance for more hardware. Likewise, you could make a great argument for the Bruins but it's hard to see America voting for them over the Dallas Mavericks, the San Francisco Giants and the Green Bay Packers among others.

All I can say is vote early and often so that the Bruins pick up all these awards and ESPN is made to look like clowns for not covering hockey nearly enough.

Tom Brady Nominated for 2011 ESPY Award

The weather might not feel like it but with summer upon us, that means that we need any possible excuse to post anything non-MLB related.

In that vein, New England Patriots superstar quarterback Tom Brady has been nominated for an ESPY. He's in the category of 2011 Best NFL Player, an award he won in 2008 after his performance in the 2007 season.

The other nominees include Texans RB Arian Foster, Packers LB Clay Matthews, Steelers safety Troy Polamalu and Packers QB Aaron Rodgers.

Fans can cast their vote for the 2011 ESPY Awards here through July 9. The 2011 ESPYs air live on ESPN at 9 p.m., Wednesday, July 13. Seth Meyers of Saturday Night Live is the host and while it's not a great event, it's usually entertaining and that's all you can ask in mid-July.

Brady had another spectacular season but since the Patriots choked in their first playoff game, I'd have to guess that Rodgers is the front-runner here and Matthews is his biggest competition.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Bruins Solidify Blue Line, Draft Dougie Hamilton

Unlike last year, the anticipation for the Bruins' 2011 draft was tempered by both their Stanley Cup victory as well as not having to pick a franchise player.

When the Oilers took Taylor Hall last June, the Bruins had to take Tyler Seguin by default and that seemed to work out just fine.

This June, the Bruins completed their raid of Toronto draft picks that were acquired in the Phil Kessel trade, selecting defenseman Dougie Hamilton with the ninth overall pick in the draft.

Many mock drafts had the B's taking either Hamilton or fellow defenseman Ryan Murphy, who was also available when it came time for the Bruins to pick.

Ranked as high as 3rd in the OHL, the 6-foot-4, 193 pound Hamilton will join a steady blue line corps where he will have to fight to earn a spot. Tomas Kaberle is the only Bruins blueliner who is not under contract next year and if he doesn't re-sign, I expect Hamilton to challenge for a spot on the roster during training camp. The Bruins have other defensemen waiting in the wings, such as Steve Kampfer, who will also try to earn a spot with the big club.

Headed into the draft, most Bruins fans were expecting the team to select a D man, mostly due to the depth on the forward lines and Hamilton seems to be a solid pick. In 67 games for the Niagara IceDogs (best team name ever?), the 18-year-old Hamilton scored 12 goals and had a stunning 46 assists, proving he can, get ready for it.........move the puck!

According to many scouting reports, Hamilton has a big shot and does a great job quarterbacking the power play, something that all Bruins fans would like to see more of heading into 2011-12.

However, other scouting reports criticize his physicality, saying that he is inconsistent and shows up defensively only against weaker teams. His decision making is also a red flag, but at the same time, he is only 18.

Realistically, is he the defenseman of the future? Who knows. But Bruins fans should be thrilled that we got yet another top-10 pick who will contribute relatively soon.

Thank you Kess-el *clap clap clapclapclap*

Boston Celtics Draft A Pair Of Purdue Teammates

For about two minutes last night, my dream came true as the Boston Celtics drafted a player from my alma mater (Providence College) at No. 25 in the first round of the 2011 NBA Draft: shooting guard Marshon Brooks (@marshon2).

PC's last first round pick was Austin Croshere in 1997 so these occasions don't exactly frequently occur. I had my Ryan Gomes Celtics jersey on (probably the only one in existence outside of Gomes' extended family and friends) and all was right in the world.

However, as soon as I started tweeting about it and receiving congratulatory text messages, I read on Twitter that Brooks would be dealt to the New Jersey Nets (at No. 27) and they would pick Purdue power forward JaJuan Johnson (6-10, 220 pounds) for the C's. FYI, his Twitter handle is @BoilerBaller25

The Celts made it two Boilermakers as they selected Johnson's teammate E'Twaun Moore (guard, 6-4, 191 pounds) at No. 55 in the late second round.

Putting aside my obvious bias towards Brooks (who is going to be a legitimate scorer off the bench in the NBA right away), I have to say that Johnson and Moore both seem like good fits for Boston, a team that has a championship window of only a year or two more.

I will admit that I never watch Big Ten basketball since it is the most boring league in college basketball but I heard both these names a ton and they put up good numbers and most importantly, went to school four years apiece. This was supposedly a bad draft class but Boston was smart to go for two players that have done all they can to get better on and off the court in college.

The Celtics don't need more projects like Avery Bradley (last year's first round pick, a guard from the University of Texas), who barely played last season and looks years away from making any sort of impact.

Around this time of year, everyone and their mother literally produces a mock draft and becomes an expert on all the NBA prospects. The site that I trust the most is so therefore I was intrigued to see what they said about the two newest members of the Green and White.

This is their profile on Johnson.

This is their profiled on Moore.

It's tough to say how they will pan out and it's frustrating that there is no NBA Summer League this summer due to the probable NBA lockout. Still, grabbing a pair of teammates from a solid college program appears to be a smart move. They'll have a built in support system and hopefully be able to bring Boston two things they really lack: youthful energy and production off the bench.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Bruins 2011-12 Schedule Released

I can't ever remember being genuinely excited about the release of the Boston Bruins' schedule but such is the new world we live in: where Osama Bin Laden is dead, Whitey Bulger is captured and the B's are reigning Stanley Cup champions.

Here is the 2011-12 Bruins schedule. On first view, it seems to hit all the right notes in terms of marquee games.

The Flyers will be at TD Garden for the Bruins' season and home-opener on October 6. Tickets to that game will be particularly tough to get since the Stanley Cup banner will be raised for the first time in 39 years.

Two nights later, the Tampa Bay Lightning come to Boston for a rematch of the 2010-11 Eastern Conference Finals which went an epic seven games.

The second most coveted game will be on January 7 when the Vancouver Canucks return to TD Garden for the teams' only meeting of the season. After all the bad blood in the Stanley Cup Finals that just concluded, you'd have to assume that game might be a bloodbath (although that's not Vancouver's style at all).

Other marquee home games include October 22 vs. San Jose Sharks, November 25 (afternoon game after Thanksgiving) vs. Detroit Red Wings, February 4 vs. Pittsburgh Penguins, March 10 vs. Washington Capitals, March 17 vs. Flyers, March 27 vs. Lightning, March 29 vs. Caps and April 3 vs. Penguins.

Of course, any meeting with the Montreal Canadiens is life or death, so you have to note when these Original 6 rivals will play each other. They have a home and home series, starting in Boston on October 27 & 29. The Bruins go to the Bell Centre on November 21 and the Canadiens come to the Garden on December 19. Montreal returns on January 15 and finally, the B's go to Montreal on February 15.

Boston's longest homestand is November 7-17 (Islanders, Oilers, Sabres, Devils and Blue Jackets). Their longest road trip spans six games from February 15-25 (Habs, Winnipeg, Wild, Blues, Sabres and Senators).

If you're traveling and want to know the best road games for the Bruins, I'd recommend October 15 in Chicago, December 17 in Philly, February 5 in DC, March 11 in Pittsburgh, March 22 in San Jose, March 25 in Anaheim and April 1 in NYC.

I'm not wishing away the summer but on a rainy day, who doesn't want to daydream about the Stanley Cup champs back in action and a full season of hockey ahead of us?

The 2011 NHL Draft is tomorrow night in Minnesota and then all that's left before training camp in September is to get Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin some shirts and sober them up as they ease back into work.

Bruins Offseason Checklist

There are very few times where a Stanley Cup champion is left with very flexible cap space. The 2011-2012 Bruins will have the luxury to do as they please this summer. First, let's address their primary needs.

Resign Marchand.
No brainer. Hopefully, Chiarelli is a little tougher with his extensions than he was handing them out a few years ago. Please, nothing over 3.5 million. Even that is stretching it to me.

Puck Moving Defenseman has become such a cliche that the trade deadline almost became unbearable. People forget that if Lidstrom scored single digits, he would still be an elite defenseman. What the Bruins need to replace Kaberle is another overall solid defenseman with puck skills. A defenseman who can bang the puck up to our forwards, and make crisp passes and good decisions on the power play. If Tomas Kaberle wants to keep his black and gold #12 jersey another season, you can bet there will be a big paycut. He definitely fell victim to the "Savior of the powerplay" burden. The first thing Cam Neely should do is hook up Tomas with Dennis Wideman's number. Maybe they can hug it out and talk about how that responsibility to live up to crushed them both.

Replacing Mark Recchi.
This is a layered need. If Ryder is willing to take a paycut, it appears everything will fall into place. The fourth line can stay intact, other than that the only sure thing is that Bergeron and the Nose Face Killah will stay paired. Replacing Recchi will be a tough call, since Kelly & Peverley showed so much chemistry along with Seguin and Ryder. Seguin out of pure talent alone should get the nod to get the most playing time on the second line, being his job to lose. Most likely that slot will go to either him or Peverley. If Ryder choses to go elsewhere, this void will have to be filled. My personal choice, and I have been called out for having a pants tent over this guy, is Brooks Laich from Washington. Very responsible defensively, with hands, size, and versatility.

The 2011 NHL Draft is knee deep with defensive talent. Most mock drafts have Dougie Hamilton, Ryan Murphy and Duncan Seimens interchangeable at the 7-8-9 slots. I believe Seimens is the second best overall defenseman in the entire draft however. He seems to already "get" the big picture of the position, and possesses the talent for his offense to come out. Murphy may not be too small to be an effective NHL defenseman, however it is a brutal position, just ask undersized Ferrence who other than this year has spent quite a bit of time injured.

Things you should not sleep on:
-Trading the 9th pick. The bruins are young, in win now mode and have plenty of money to burn this summer. This is the type of pick that just landed Columbus Jeff Carter, so watch out.
-Trading Peverly. He did not do what he does best in Boston. He had a few good playoff games but was also invisible in some. Him and the Leafs pick would land something phenominal.
-Making a blockbuster move on an RFA. This is very un-Bruins like, but you have to believe the Bruins think they can win a few more with this team and a little more talent. Crosby & Malkin won't be hurt every year.
-On the opposite end of making a blockuster move, don't be surprised if the Bruins stand pat with what they have. Resigning Kaberle and Ryder could possibly come fairly cheap. If it does, the Bruins will have some serious wiggle room come trade deadline.
-Marc Savard announcing his retirement.

Padres take series against Red Sox, following four rain delays in one game and another John Lackey stinkbomb

The nice and mostly crazy people that live on Cape Cod year round were treated to quite a dog's breakfast of a game at Fenway Park yesterday afternoon.

You see it was Cape Cod Day at Fenway and the Boston Red Sox (44-30) celebrated by showing no signs of life in a 5-1 loss to the San Diego Padres (32-44). Did I mention there was four rain delays and John Lackey lasted 3.1 innings? All wonderful memories that I'm sure those in attendance will treasure forever.

Lackey (5-6) had somehow won his last three starts but he returned to his pathetic form yesterday by allowing five earned runs on four hits with four walks and four strikeouts. He also hit two batters and had a wild pitch.

Listen, I'm extremely sorry that Lackey is going through so much while his wife battles cancer but if he's showing up to work, he has to perform better. At the moment, he's one of the biggest busts in Theo Epstein's reign as Red Sox GM and I don't have much faith that anything will really change in the next few years for Lackey.

The Padres took advantage of Boston's misfortune as Clayton Richard (3-9) went five innings for the cakewalk win. He allowed one earned run on eight hits with two walks and two strikeouts. Ernesto Frieri threw a scoreless sixth and seventh and that's all San Diego needed as the game was mercifully called before the bottom of the eighth.

Lackey made sure to get off to one of his trademark fast starts by allowing a leadoff homer to Will Venable. They added four runs in the fourth on a bases loaded walk, a bases loaded hit by pitch, a wild pitch and an RBI single by Chase Headley. Excuse me while I go vomit after just reliving that miserable half inning.

Adrian Gonzalez (4 hits) provided the only highlight for Boston with an RBI single in the fifth which scored Jacoby Ellsbury. Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis each had two hits in the loss, further indications that they're both heating up.

Interleague play is over at Fenway for this season and now the Red Sox wrap up facing the National League by visiting Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Houston for three games apiece. Boston won't return to Fenway until July 4.

Jon Lester takes on Paul Maholm and the surprising Pirates (37-37) tomorrow night at PNC Park. It sounds like Gonzalez will play some left field on the road trip since Terry Francona has to find a way to keep both him and David Ortiz in the lineup. No easy solutions for that one with no DH.

Tim Thomas wins Vezina, Chara doesn't win Norris

Tim Thomas put a cap on his legendary season at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas last night, as he won his second Vezina Trophy in three years.

Teammate and Bruins captain Zdeno Chara lost out on the Norris Trophy to Nicklas Lidstrom but still managed to take home the Mark Messier Award for leadership.

Thomas' journey to the NHL has been well documented, starting in his hometown of Flint, Michigan, going through Europe and finally finding an NHL home in Boston. His success here is a testament to his perseverance, dedication and effort between the pipes. Throughout the season, Thomas displayed the ability to bounce back from rough outings, such as Games 1 and 2 in both the Montreal and Vancouver series. His mental toughness was on full display against the Canucks in the Stanley Cup Finals, especially when juxtaposed with another Vezina finalist, Roberto Luongo.

Thomas thanked Luongo and Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne, who was also a Vezina Finalist, and also gave credit to his defense for his success, saying he relied on them all season. I think the opposite is true but Thomas was grateful nonetheless. Even though Thomas has won the Vezina before, he realized just how special this was saying, “The first time is pretty special; because of how far I’d come, it looked like an unattainable award, but this is just as special, just special in a different way. Because of all I’ve been through, I could win this six times and it would be just as special.’’

Ironically, many members of the media questioned Chara's leadership throughout his career with the Bruins and hopefully he will serve as a leader for the future of this team.

Chara expressed disappointment with losing out to Lidstrom but was honored by the Messier Award, which was presented by Messier himself.

“I came here with a chance to win two more trophies, and leave with one, so I am absolutely happy,’’ he said. “It’s a privilege.’’

In related news, the Western Conference champion Canucks cleaned up as they took home various individual awards, most of which were predetermined.

Corey Perry from Anaheim took home the MVP Award and Carolina's Jeff Skinner was awarded the Calder Cup for Rookie of the Year.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Alfredo Aceves walks six, Padres luck out to gift win at Fenway

Basically the only way the San Diego Padres can win at Fenway Park this season is by some divine act of God or a completely uncharacteristic performance.

They got one of the latter last night as Red Sox starter Alfredo Aceves walked six batters (including five in the second inning alone) as the Padres (31-44) snapped a six-game losing streak with a 5-4 win over Boston (44-29).

Aceves is known for his fine control but he was a mess. In five innings, he allowed four earned runs on four hits with four strikeouts. It's a miracle that he didn't give up more runs, lasted that long and wasn't even charged with the loss.

Padres starer Mat (one t?) Latos wasn't exactly the picture of efficiency either as he lasted just 5.2 innings, allowing four earned runs on 10 hits with four walks and eight strikeouts. He also did not factor into the decision.

San Diego's offense didn't do much, they had more walks (eight) than hits (seven) which is pretty hard to do. Nick Hundley, their catcher and No. 9 hitter, was the only Padre with two hits. Jason Bartlett walked three times with a hit and RBI. Cameron Maybin scored twice for this offensively-challenged squad.

The Red Sox wasted 13 hits by its offense as they struggled with runners in scoring position (3 for 13) and left 11 on base.

Kevin Youkilis went 4 for 5 with an RBI while Jacoby Ellsbury (RBI), Marco Scutaro (run) and Josh Reddick (run, RBI) all had two hits in the loss.

Youk gave Boston a 1-0 lead with an RBI double in the first which scored Adrian Gonzalez.

San Diego scored twice in the second on bases loaded walks (maybe the most boring play in sports).

Maybin's RBI single and Hundley's RBI double in the third pushed the San Diego advantage to 4-1.

The Red Sox tied it with single runs in the third, fourth and sixth. Ellsbury had an RBI single, Reddick added and RBI double and Gonzalez tied it with an RBI single.

San Diego's winning run was plated by Anthony Rizzo's ground out in the seventh. The great duo of setup man Mike Adams and closer Heath Bell teamed up to hold Boston scoreless in the eighth and ninth. Adams struck out two in the eighth and Bell gave up a hit and struck one for his 19th save of the season.

John Lackey and Clayton Richard (two complete bums) close out the series this afternoon and with that interleague play is done at Fenway this season. The next time a National League team could play in Boston would be in October but let's not get too ahead of ourselves.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Head shot rule change; Horton says he is "symptom free"

While Bruins fans are still celebrating their Stanley Cup victory, the offseason storylines are already picking up some steam.

One of the more pressing issues that the NHL has to address is the ruling against head shots. Last year's "Rule 48" banned hits to the head from a lateral angle or from behind. In the wake of the Nathan Horton hit in the 2011 playoffs and Max Pacioretty in the regular season, the NHL has changed the language in the rule now taking any hit that targets the head and making it a suspendable infraction.

This zero tolerance policy for any contact to the head will surely not be without controversy but will hopefully deter NHL players from initiating contact with opponents' head and neck. Bruins fans are all too familiar with concussion related issues over the past few years as Patrice Bergeron, Marc Savard and most recently Horton have felt the effects of head shots.

Savard, once the Bruins' best playmaker, was the victim of a Matt Cooke elbow last season which carried over to this season and ended his year in early 2011 on a clean hit by the Avalanche's Matt Hunwick (a former teammate). His condition does not seem to be improving and early word out of Boston says that the veteran center is planning on retiring before the start of the 2011-12 season.

Savard still has lingering symptoms from his concussion and even said at the Bruins' parade that he is still experiencing memory loss. The odds seem to be stacked against him when it comes to making a full recovery and returning to playing hockey.

Horton was also sidelined for Games 3 through 7 in the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals after taking an open ice cheap shot from the Canucks' Aaron Rome. Initially Bruins fans were concerned about not only him missing the rest of the series but also possibly witnessing the end of his career.

The general consensus on concussions seems to be that everyone reacts to them differently which is certainly the case when comparing the Horton and Savard injuries. Horton was almost immediately back with the team, celebrating on the jumbotron during Game 6, raising the cup after Game 7 and being a prominent figure at the Bruins parade. His increased exposure led many Bruins fans to hope that Horton would be ready to rejoin the team in training camp.

The best news came today when Horton revealed that he was feeling no effects of the concussion.

"Personally, I'm fine. I don't have any headaches," Horton said. "I'm just relaxing and I have no symptoms, and I've been that way for a few days now. I'll rest up and hopefully start training real hard again and come into [training camp] in great shape and be ready to go."

What great news for Horton both as a hockey player and a human being, as we have seen these types of injuries wreak havoc on peoples livelihoods.

Hopefully the new emphasis on head shots can prevent these severe injuries from occurring, while maintaining the physicality in the game that we all love so much.

Andrew Miller teases Red Sox fans with a decent debut

No sport has as many busts and flameouts as baseball. With so many rounds in the MLB Draft, not to mention four levels of minor league teams before reaching MLB, it's Darwin's survival of the fittest to make a major league roster.

Andrew Miller was a first round pick of the Detroit Tigers in 2006 and he was rushed to the big leagues (he made eight appearances for them that season which is insane). Perhaps not surprisingly, his career went off the rails and he was traded to the Florida Marlins (2008-10) where he didn't do much of anything notable.

Fast forward to present day and the tall lefty (6-7, 207 pounds) from the University of North Carolina is a spot starter for the Boston Red Sox. He didn't get a decision in his debut with his new team but his promising start has to make Red Sox fans dream that this talented guy can finally put it together with a change of scenery (15-26 career record, 5.82 ERA, 1.74 WHIP).

He went 5.2 innings, allowing three earned runs on seven hits with three walks and six strikeouts. Miller departed after giving up a game-tying three-run bomb to Padres second baseman Orlando Hudson (3 hits) and ringing double to stud prospect Anthony Rizzo (obtained in the Adrian Gonzalez trade last winter) but Boston (44-28) turned it into a blowout with a 14-5 win over San Diego (30-44), which put more shine on Miller's start.

A 3-3 game in the seventh turned into a joke thanks to a bunch of awful performances by Padres relievers which enabled Boston to roll up 10 runs.

The biggest story line of the series is obviously Adrian Gonzalez's first trio of games against his former team. Gonzalez didn't disappoint, going 3 for 5 with three RBIs and two runs, including an RBI double and two-run single in the crazy seventh.

The Red Sox built a 3-0 lead on San Diego starter Wade LeBlanc (7 hits, 2 walks, 1 strikeout) before he left after three innings. Don't ask me how this terrible lefty has a job, even in the NL West and cavernous Petco Park. He throws complete junk, further proof that if you're a lefty pitcher, you have a much better shot to make it than garden variety right-handers.

Chase Headley went 4 for 5 with two runs for the Padres.

The Red Sox were led by Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz who had two hits and two RBIs while Dustin Pedroia scored three runs. Marco Scutaro had two hits and scored twice.

Boston had 14 hits and accumulated nine walks, a main reason why this nine inning game took a laborious nine innings and had NESN's Jerry Remy and Don Orsillo talking about soap operas and ties in the eighth and ninth innings.

Tonight could be more of a fair fight with Alfredo Aceves subbing for an ill Josh Beckett. San Diego sends Mat Latos (who is good but is having a rough season) to the mound. Oh who am I kidding, the Padres are awful and the Red Sox are the best team in baseball. Might be another ugly night for our visitors from the West Coast.

NHL's "No Words" commercial featuring Zdeno Chara, put together by a Bruins fan

A friend send me this link today from, it's a Bruins fan's remake of those sweet NHL "No Words" commercials that ran all during the playoffs. Hopefully the NHL rolls out a new official one soon. Maybe tomorrow night for the NHL awards? For now, this will more than suffice.

2010-11 NHL Awards preview and predictions

Even though the Bruins won the most coveted trophy (Lord Stanley's Cup) in sports last Wednesday night, the NHL still has a plethora of individual awards to hand out tomorrow night in Las Vegas. Really is there a more appropriate place for the Bruins to continue their Stanley Cup Celebration tour? Especially after their performance at Foxwoods on Sunday night, where they racked up an already legendary $155,000 dollar bar tab.

Here are a list of nominees, as well as my prediction for the winner of each Award.

But first, here's a list of Awards that have either already been won, or will be awarded.

*Presidents Trophy - Awarded to team with the most points in the regular season.
Winner: Vancouver Canucks with 117 points.

*Prince of Wales Trophy - Eastern Conference Champions
Winner: Boston Bruins

*Clarence S. Campbell Trophy - Western Conference Champions
Winner: Vancouver Canucks

*Conn Smythe Trophy - Playoff MVP
Winner: Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins

*Art Ross Trophy - Player with the most points
Winner: Daniel Sedin, Vancouver Canucks, 104 Points

*Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy - Most Goals Scored
Winner: Corey Perry, Anaheim Ducks, 50 Goals

*William M Jennings Trophy - Fewest Goals Allowed
Winners: Roberto Luongo and Corey Schnieder, Vancouver Canucks, 185 Goals Allowed

The Winners of the following awards will be announced tomorrow night:

*Vezina Trophy - Top Goaltender

Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins
Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks
Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators

All three nominees had great seasons but this award was locked up before the playoffs even began. Tim Thomas had one of the best statistical seasons of all time, a season that not only helped Boston win its first Stanley Cup in 39 years but also is right up there in the history of Boston sports. His .938 save percentage is a single season record and his 35 wins and nine shutouts carried the Bruins during times when they were offensively challenged. Tim Thomas will win the Vezina to join former Flyers great Bernie Parent as the only players in NHL history to win the Vezina, Conn Smythe and Stanley Cup in a single year.

The pick: Tim Thomas

*Frank J Selke Trophy - Best Defensive Forward

Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings
Ryan Kesler, Vancouver Canucks
Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks

An award that I can see Patrice Bergeron winning one day, the Selke trophy is pretty hard to quantify. Three key statistics can shed some light on just how important each forward is to their teams' defense. Kesler and Toews have similar numbers but the name of the game is to stop the opposing team from scoring. Kesler was a +24 and won faceoffs at a 54% clip. Toews was a +25 and won 57% of his faceoffs. I'm giving the award to Kesler because his team allowed the least amount of goals in the regular season and he was one of the only Canucks to not completely turtle in the Finals.

The pick: Ryan Kesler

*Calder Memorial Trophy - Best Rookie

Logan Couture, San Jose Sharks
Michael Grabner, New York Islanders
Jeff Skinner, Carolina Hurricanes

Heading into this year, most analysts had Taylor Hall penciled in for the Calder Trophy and while the first overall pick had a great year, an injury from a fight sidelined him for the last part of the regular season. All three finalists had great years, led by Grabner's 34 goals, good for eighth best in the league. The most consistent rookie had to be Jeff Skinner, who scored 31 goals, but also showed better playmaking ability with 32 assists. That's impressive considering that Couture played with much better players. Couture may have more name recognition, but i'm giving the Calder to Skinner.

The pick: Jeff Skinner

*James Norris Memorial Trophy - Top Defenseman

Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins
Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings
Shea Weber, Nashville Predators

The world got to see just how dirty Zdeno Chara was throughout this entire postseason, culminating with his absolute shutdown of the Sedin twins in the Finals. However, voters may be swayed by Lidstrom's ridiculous 62 points. However, his -2 rating may turn voters towards Big Z, who led the league in that category with a +33. If this was Lidstrom's last season (he just extended for one year) I think they would send him off with the trophy but I think this is Chara's award to lose for the next three to four years.

The pick: Zdeno Chara

*Jack Adams Award - Top Head Coach

Dan Bylsma, Pittsburgh Penguins
Barry Trotz, Nashville Predators
Alain Vigneault, Vancouver Canucks

This is another race that is no contest. Dan Bylsma's team lost two of the top five players in the league mere weeks apart from one another in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Losing most of your offensive firepower would doom most teams but Bylsma took control of his team and got the best out of them, which was a four seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. If Crosby and Malkin were healthy, I would imagine the Bruins' playoff run would have been a little different.

The pick: Dan Bylsma

Hart Memorial Trophy - League MVP

Nominees: Corey Perry, Anaheim Ducks
Daniel Sedin, Vancouver Canucks
Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning

Playoff performance aside, Sedin is probably the favorite to win the Hart trophy this year, but this season should spark up the old debate of "define MVP". If you are going for the player who is most valuable to his team, it's gotta be Perry. His 50 goals led the league, as did his 11 game-winning goals. Not to mention that his team is considerably less talented than the Western Conference Champion Canucks. Take Perry off the Ducks and they would suck ass. Perry should also win the Ted Lindsay award for MVP as voted by the players.

The pick: Corey Perry

Monday, June 20, 2011

Just another afternoon in the City of Champions

Yesterday was a formerly rare occasion that has happened all too often in the last decade in Boston: one of our local teams celebrated the championship of another one.

With the Boston Bruins parading around Fenway Park on Duck Boats during the pregame, holding the Stanley Cup, I can say that you're an extremely lucky bastard if you were at yesterday's Red Sox-Brewers game. The Bruins wore their jerseys and Red Sox hats, then threw out the ceremonial first pitches.

There's not much cooler than the synergy between the four pro sports franchises in Massachusetts and that's also one of the best parts about living in this area, at this time. The unscripted scene at Fenway is something that people in most other parts of the country can't even imagine and we've been witness to that a bunch of times. It's also a symbol of how much we love all our teams, not just one or two. If you win here, you'll be extremely popular.

The Red Sox (43-28) certainly didn't spoil the good times as for the second time in three games, they smoked Milwaukee (40-33), this time it was 12-3 as Boston took two out of three in the series.

Brewers ace Yovani Gollardo (8-4) was knocked around for eight runs (five earned) on nine hits with two walks and four strikeouts in three innings.

Red Sox starter Tim Wakefield (4-2), who had just turned 40 the last time the Bruins won the Cup in 1972, was the third straight Boston pitcher to throw eight innings. Wake allowed three earned runs on three hits with a walk and six strikeouts. With Clay Buchholz placed on the DL with back trouble, Wakefield's spot in the rotation is locked in for at least the next few starts.

Carl Crawford was also placed on the DL (on Saturday) with a hamstring strain but that didn't stop the Red Sox from getting 14 hits including three homers.

Boston put up six runs in the first inning to take most intrigue out of it on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Jacoby Ellsbury (2 hits, 2 RBIs) scored on Gallardo's error, Kevin Youkilis crushed his 11th home run of the season (a three-run bomb) and Ellsbury delivered a ground-rule two-run double in his second at-bat of the frame.

Crazy Nyjer Morgan got the Brewers on the board with a two-run homer in the second.

Boston added two more runs in the fourth including a solo home run by Dustin Pedroia (his sixth).

Pedroia's sacrifice fly in the fifth made it 9-2 and Marco Scutaro hit a two-run shot (his 2nd of the season) in the sixth.

Prince Fielder hit a solo homer in the seventh and Adrian Gonzalez closed out the scoring with an RBI triple (the 1000th hit of his career) in the seventh.

The San Diego Padres, Gonzalez's former team (and his hometown), come to Fenway for three games beginning tonight. Andrew Miller was called up from Pawtucket to make his first start for the Red Sox. Padres left-hander Wade LeBlanc takes the ball for the worst team in the NL West.

Bruins hidden injury number 2: Lucic played with a broken toe

Last week, it was reported that Nathan Horton played with a "severely separated shoulder" throughout the playoffs. This week, it has been revealed that Milan Lucic suffered a broken toe during practice before Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Teams in the playoffs typically hide their injuries during playoff action to avoid giving their opponent any competitive advantage. However, after the Stanley Cup has been raised, players are much more forthcoming about their ailments.

Speaking at the Bruins wrap up press conference yesterday, Milan Lucic let the fans and media know what was bothering him, saying, "against Tampa, just before Game 2 in practice Seguin hit me in the toe with a slap shot so I had a broken toe for the last 13 games which sucked. It really, really sucked. You don't realize how much you actually push off it until you break it. I don't know if you guys saw me limping, but I was limping a little bit. I definitely had to deal with that, which was pretty tough, especially in that Tampa series."

The incident was initially reported but the team hid the severity of the break. Many fans were disappointed at the bruising forward's lack of production in the poatseason speculating that he may be injured. It was clear to see that Lucic wasn't at 100 percent, as he seemed to not have his skates under him at all times.

Lucic also mentioned a sinus infection that was bothering him against Montreal, a problem that he will address in the offseason.

More injuries will certainly be addressed and revealed in the coming days.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Randy Wolf quiets the Red Sox bats

It only took four pitches last night for you to figure out that Red Sox ace Jon Lester didn't have his best stuff.

Rickie Weeks and Corey Hart hit a pair of solo homers in the span of the first four pitches of the game as the Milwaukee Brewers (40-32) won 4-2 over Boston (42-28) at Fenway Park.

The Red Sox tied it up in the second as Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Mike Cameron had RBI singles off Brewers starter Randy Wolf.

Former Red Sox backup catcher George Kottaras hit a solo homer in the third and Casey McGehee added an RBI single.

Like John Lackey the night before, Lester (9-3) lasted eight innings but this time, Boston's offense wasn't able to bail him out. He gave up four runs (three earned) on seven hits with three walks and eight strikeouts.

In a matchup that seemed to clearly favor the Red Sox, Wolf (5-4) surprisingly came out on top. He went seven innings, allowing two earned runs on nine hits with a walk and three strikeouts.

Kevin Youkilis and Marco Scutaro both had two hits apiece.

Brewers setup man Kameron Loe pitched a 1-2-3 eighth and closer John Axford had a clean ninth (with a strikeout) for his 19th save of the season.

Milwaukee star Yovani Gallardo takes on Tim Wakefield this afternoon in the series finale and the rubber match.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

You can't stop the Red Sox' offense, you can only hope to contain it

John Lackey is about the last guy I'll ever praise on the Red Sox but last night, I'll give him credit for once: he gave up four runs in the first three innings and looked destined to get shelled but he recovered and was able to go eight innings as Boston beat the Milwaukee Brewers 10-4 at Fenway Park.

It was the 12th win in the last 13 games for the Red Sox, who are the undisputed best team in the American League at this moment.

Lackey (5-5) gave up four earned runs on eight hits with no walks and five strikeouts. Jonathan Papelbon began serving the first of his two-game (it was reduced by a game) suspension so Boston's (42-27) bullpen was notably shorthanded.

The Brewers (39-32) were put behind the eight ball early as starter Shaun Marcum left after throwing 44 pitches in an eventful first inning. He hurt his left hip but it also has to be noted that Boston was very familiar with him from his days with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Casey McGehee gave Milwaukee a 2-0 lead with a two-run single in the top of the first.

Jacoby Ellsbury answered with a leadoff homer (his eighth homer of the season, one shy of his career-high). David Ortiz (3 hits) tied it with an RBI double that scored Adrian Gonzalez. Carl Crawford beat out an infield single in the first but he left with a strained hamstring, let's hope he's not out for too long.

Kevin Youkilis had a two-run single in the second off Brewers reliever Marco Estrada. Youk left in the fifth due to illness, poor guy must have eaten some bad Mexican or something pregame.

Milwaukee tied it in the third on an RBI single by Prince Fielder (2 hits) and a run scored even though McGehee grounded into a double play.

Adrian Gonzalez (3 hits, 3 runs) put the Red Sox ahead for good with a solo homer, his 15th of the season, in the fifth.

Jason Varitek had an RBI double and Dustin Pedroia added an RBI single in the sixth. A run scored on Darnell McDonald's ground out in the seventh and J.D. Drew made it 10-4 with a two-run single later in the frame.

The Red Sox rightly moved their game today from the afternoon to tonight to accommodate the Bruins parade. Jon Lester faces Randy Wolf.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Horton played with a "severely separated shoulder", according to Chiarelli


BOSTON --While the Bruins played the entire postseason without Marc Savard and the last four games of the Final without Nathan Horton, they were remarkably fortunate on the injury front this year. That doesn't mean there weren't some ailments that players played through and will need to have treated in the offseason.

"Well I know Nathan, before he was hurt with his concussion was actually hurt," Chiarelli said. "He had a serious separated shoulder. I think, I can't remember the game, but I think you can recall if you go back it was like, it was, he got hit, he had scored the winning goal that game. He got hit on the boards. So he was hurt significantly."

The parade hasn't happened ye, and we have already got our first hidden injury of the offseason. I love this time of year. Like clockwork, as soon as the season ends, the medical staff of each team will submit their injury reports and let the fans know just how bad ass hockey players really are. A few years ago it was David Krejci with the cracked ribs, now it's playoff hero Nathan Horton playing 20 playoff games with a separated shoulder. So bad ass.

For a city that saw "Shaq Diesel" miss the whole year with various ailments as well as JD Drew's annual injury bug, it is nice to know that there are athletes out there who can tough it out for the team and the greater good. And it's not like Horton was a slouch in the playoffs either, dude was as clutch as it gets. Almost makes you wonder if Hamhuis could have played through that whole ruptured testicle "injury". What a baby.

Red Sox put a bow on best nine-game road trip in 34 years

The Boston Red Sox return home from an extremely successful road trip, 8-1 over the nine games in New York, Toronto and Tampa Bay.

Last night, Boston (41-27) closed out the Rays (36-33) with a 4-2 win at Tropicana Field. The nine-game road trip was Boston's best in 34 years and they come into Fenway Park and a stretch of 15 interleague games having won 11 of their last 12 games.

The only negative things to come out of last night were the fact that Jed Lowrie is likely headed to the disabled list (not a huge deal) and Clay Buchholz's creaky back is acting up again (which could possibly shelve him).

Buchholz (6-3) was pitching well when he was forced to depart after five innings. He allowed one earned run on two hits with three walks and five strikeouts.

Rays starter-and one of the my favorite pro athletes on Twitter-David Price (7-6) continued his up and down season (trust me, I have him in Fantasy Baseball). He labored through five innings, throwing 106 pitches and allowing three earned runs on five hits with five walks and five strikeouts.

David Ortiz got the Red Sox on the board in the first with a bases-loaded walk. Darnell McDonald extended the lead to 2-0 in the third with an RBI single and then Dustin Pedroia drove him in with an RBI double.

Sam Fuld (2 hits), one of the only good things to ever come out of New Hampshire, had an RBI double in the third as Tampa Bay cut it to 3-1.

Casey Kotchman (2 hits) made it interesting with a solo home run off Alfredo Aceves in the sixth to make it 3-2 Boston.

Daniel Bard secured the hold with the last out in the seventh and a 1-2-3 eighth. Adrian Gonzalez (2 hits, 2 walks) gave Boston an insurance run in the ninth with his 14th homer of the season off Rays closer Kyle Farnsworth.

Jonathan Papelbon gave up two hits to start the ninth but he recovered to get three straight outs (the last two on strikeouts) for his 13th save of the season.

The Milwaukee Brewers are coming to Boston for only the second time since they went to the National League in 1998 and I couldn't be more thrilled. The Brew Crew are one of baseball's best teams this year but they're never on national TV. Looking forward to seeing Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, Corey Hart, Rickie Weeks and Co. up close.

Interleague play started out as a gimmick but I see it as a welcome diversion from the boring monotony of baseball's way too long regular season. After facing the Brewers, the San Diego Padres (Gonzalez's former team) come to Fenway. Then the Red Sox travel to Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Houston. It also helps that Boston has the best record (97-50 since 2003) during interleague play in the last nine seasons.

This couldn't come at a better time since all the focus in New England is finally on the Red Sox after the Bruins won the Stanley Cup on Wednesday night. It's going to take some time to adjust to how boring baseball is compared to playoff hockey (and basketball) but we've got all summer to get reacquainted.

Former Blue Jays starter Shaun Marcum (who is sneaky good) opposes John Lackey tonight.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

39 years of misery are gone for the B's as they capture their first Stanley Cup Final since 1972

When the Boston Bruins lost three straight Game 7s over the last three postseasons, who would have ever expected that the team could make such a drastic leap in 2010-11?

Honestly, any B's fan had to have serious doubts that head coach Claude Julien, GM Peter Chiarelli, not to mention owner Jeremy Jacobs would ever be in charge of the team when they finally broke their long Stanley Cup drought.

Yet here we are, the day after Boston snapped a 39-year skid and picked up the franchise's sixth Stanley Cup with a thrilling 4-0 win over the Vancouver Canucks in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals at the Rogers Arena.

Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas picked up the Conn Smythe trophy (playoff MVP) with one final masterpiece, 37 saves, as the B's picked up the first road win of the series for either squad in the Original Six team's first ever Game 7 in the Finals.

Patrice Bergeron (2 goals) and Brad Marchand (2 goals, 1 assist) were the offensive catalysts in the deciding game for a team that didn't have the name recognition of the Canucks but proved that heart, will and effort can sometimes trump talent in this wonderful sport.

One more time, Vancouver goaltender Roberto Luongo (17 saves), the Sedin twins, Alex Burrows, Kevin Bieksa, Ryan Kesler and Co. cracked under the relentless pressure of the Bruins and the enormity of the moment.

It's also fitting that Boston's fourth line (Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell, Shawn Thornton) was the key to the game as they were able to calm the Bruins down in the first period as Vancouver predictably came out on fire. Thomas held the fort but the toughness of the fourth line was able to impose itself on the Canucks and that's when the game started to flip.

Bergeron scored his fifth goal of the playoffs at 14:37 of the first period as Marchand shook loose in the corner after a Bergeron faceoff win then threw it to the middle for him and a one-timer. Luongo barely moved, showing that he was ready to poop his hockey pants like everybody in New England hoped and dreamed of heading into Game 7.

Marchand (10th of the playoffs, setting a Bruins rookie record) scored a classic Marchmont ("I don't like Marchmont, I don't even understand why he's on the team,") goal at 12:13 of the second period. Dennis Seidenberg and Mark Recchi (playing his last NHL game and going out a three-time champion) assisted on the tally but it was all Marchand. He wrapped around Vancouver's net on his backhand and stuffed it on Luongo. The fraud they call Bob Louie had it tied it but then he kicked it in with his leg pad.

If you thought that goal was soft or leaky, and it was no matter what term you prefer, I have never seen anything in an NHL game like Bergeron's second goal that sucked the life out of British Columbia and Rogers Arena. At 17:35, Bergeron came in on a shorthanded breakaway and was hooked down. He didn't even shoot the puck but it kept moving forward. Luongo is huge but for some reason he was more worried about the bodies coming at him then his job (you know, to stop the puck) and as a result, the puck went in. Haha, one of the most absurd goals I've ever seen in my life in any sport with goals (hockey, soccer, lacrosse, etc.). Seidenberg and Campbell assisted on Bergeron's goal that sealed the Cup even with more than a period remaining.

I said in the third period that Thomas would get another shutout (his fourth of this magical run) not that I was going out on any sort of limb. This was a team of destiny, as cliche as that sounds. How else to explain becoming the first NHL team to win three Game 7s in the same postseason?

Marchand put the punctuation mark on it with an empty-netter (tying the second highest goal total for a rookie in a postseason) at 17:16 and the party was on in Boston which rightfully regains its moniker as City of Champions (three Super Bowl titles, two World Series trophies, NBA title and a Stanley Cup in a ten-year span).

Like children (or so I'm told), it's impossible to rank championship runs for your favorite teams, especially when you've seen them all win in the last seven years (kisses ground). With that said, it's hard to picture a much sweeter and fulfilling run than this one we were lucky enough to witness.

They did it! The Boston Bruins are Stanley Cup champions, I never thought I'd live to see that day.