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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Celtics Back To .500 After Second Win In As Many Nights

I've been negative for much of the 2011-12 season but this evening was a time to be happy about the Boston Celtics.

The Celts (17-17) got back to the .500 mark and won their second game in as many nights by holding off the Milwaukee Bucks (14-21) 102-96 at TD Garden.

You know I love statistics and there were some tasty ones from this win. Kevin Garnett scored a season-high 25 points to go along with 10 rebounds. His second solid performance, showing that the All-Star break did plenty of good for his old body. Last night, Rajon Rondo went scoreless but had 11 assists. Tonight, he notched his third triple-double of the season with 15 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.

Other guys stepped up too: Brandon Bass had 16 points and seven rebounds, Ray Allen scored 15 and Paul Pierce had 10 points, six rebounds and five assists. Chris Wilcox put up seven points and 13 rebounds off the bench while Keyon Dooling scored eight points.

It was the seventh time that Boston has scored 100+ points, they are 4-3 in those games.

What the Bucks lack in talent, they make up for in effort which sounds cheesy but not when you think of all the lazy teams in the NBA. If they can ever keep Andrew Bogut healthy, they could be pretty decent. Ersan Ilyasova (25 points, 10 rebounds) is playing the best basketball of his life while Drew Gooden had 23 points and eight rebounds. Mike Dunleavy added 10 points off the bench. Milwaukee won't win many games that Brandon Jennings is held to six points and eight assists.

After an even first quarter (25-25), the Bucks led 54-50 at halftime before the Celtics turned it around in the third quarter (27-13). Boston looked poised for a rare blowout win since they got up 90-73 in the fourth but they had to sweat it out as Milwaukee cut it to 98-96 with 24 seconds left. KG hit all four free throws as the Celts held on for the second game in a row (something they couldn't do in the first half of this season).

Boston will look to make it three consecutive wins as the New Jersey Nets come to the Garden on Friday night. The Celts beat them 89-70 on January 4 but that was without Brook Lopez who just returned to the lineup.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Celtics Finally Win On The Road & Snap A 5-Game Losing Streak In The Process

It wasn't pretty but what else would you expect for the Boston Celtics in 2011-12?

They finally snapped their five-game losing streak and won their first road game in nearly a month as the C's (16-17) held on for a 86-83 win over the Cavaliers (13-19) at Quicken Loans Arena.

Anthony Parker had a chance to send it to overtime but his 3-pointer at the buzzer hit the front rim. Let's be honest, I'll take my chances with Parker (the second best basketball player in his family) any day.

Boston has to be happy to say goodbye to Cleveland (who isn't?) since the three games they played this season were decided by a total of seven points. The Celts were lucky enough to go 2-1 against the up and coming Cavs with the one loss being a game they totally gagged away at the Garden.

The first game after the All-Star break and official halfway mark of the season (33) was a success for Boston who saw the return of Brandon Bass (injury) and Rajon Rondo (suspension). With zombie Jermaine O'Neal the only Celtic out, Bass started and put up his usual 12 points and seven rebounds. Rondo was held scoreless (can't remember the last time that happened) but he managed to hand out 11 assists.

It was a good team win for Boston as nearly everybody that stepped on the court made a contribution. Ray Allen led the Celts with 22 points, Kevin Garnett had 18 points and eight rebounds while Paul Pierce slogged through a tough shooting night (4 of 11) to get 12 points and six assists.

Mickael Pietrus (9 points) and Chris Wilcox (5 points, 11 rebounds) were both excellent off Boston's bench as well.

Is it too early to hand in my ballot for rookie of the year? What's that, bloggers like me don't get to vote? Kyrie Irving (24 points in 27 minutes) is a stud and he's going to put the Cavaliers back on the NBA map soon. He's only 19 and played a handful of games at Duke but he has a polished all-around game. It's too bad he's surrounded by a bunch of stiffs, albeit hardworking ones.

Omri Casspi was the only other Cav starter in double figures with 10 points. Rookie Tristan Thompson (13 points, 10 rebounds) and backup point guard Ramon Sessions (13 points) played well off the bench for Cleveland.

Boston actually started fast (for once) to start and even jumped out to a 16-point lead (28-12) before Cleveland started to wake up, trailing 28-15 after the first quarter. The Celtics led 43-38 at halftime but the Cavs went up 66-64 heading into the fourth.

The three reasons the Celts won: they shot better (44.6% to 39.7%), they hit more 3-pointers (10-4) and they were unselfish (27-18 assists).

Boston will try to get back to .500 tomorrow night as they host the Milwaukee Bucks, who also played tonight (winning 119-118 vs. the Wizards in Milwaukee). The Bucks (14-20) aren't good but neither are the Celtics so expect it to be a close one.

It's Tough To Win Hockey Games When You Don't Score Any Goals

I suppose with the law of the averages, the Ottawa Senators were bound to beat the Boston Bruins at some point.

After losing the first four times they played in 2011-12 (including on Saturday in Ottawa), the Senators (34-23-8) came to TD Garden tonight and blanked the Bruins (37-21-3) 1-0 to pull within one point of the Black and Gold for first place in the Northeast Division.

These seem to be two teams headed in opposite directions: the Bruins have lost four of six while the Senators have won six of their last seven. This was the fourth time in the last 10 games that the B's were shut out.

The good news for the B's is that they have four games in hand compared to the Senators. Plus, they can turn the calendar to March before their next game which is a must since they were shut out five times in the year's shortest month. It's no surprise then that Boston still hasn't won consecutive games since mid-January.

The best offensive defenseman in the NHL, Eric Karlsson, provided the game-winner with a power-play strike at 14:44 of the first period. Karlsson's 15th of the season was assisted by Milan Michalek and Jason Spezza. Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas (37 saves; 26-13-0) was outstanding but he had no chance on the goal since he was screened by multiple players from both teams including Daniel Alfredsson who was right in front of him when Karlsson blasted it from the point.

Ottawa goaltender Robin Lehner (32 saves), recently called up from the AHL, recorded his first NHL shutout. He made some nice stops but truth be told, the B's didn't have many quality chances. Boston's power-play continued to be a mess, going 0 for 4.

New Bruins Brian Rolston and Mike Mottau made their debuts but neither had much of an impact. Greg Zanon was in the press box but he will see plenty of ice time on Thursday when Boston hosts New Jersey. The Bruins are 3-0 so far this season against the Devils (14-5 goal differential) but I'll be careful making any predictions since I learned my lesson with what turned out to be a reverse lock this evening.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Boston Bruins Make Two Trades Right Before The 2012 NHL Trade Deadline

Just like last season, the Boston Bruins swooped in at the last second to make two minor moves before the NHL trade deadline ended at 3 p.m. ET this afternoon. Let's hope that today's deals can have an impact like last season's (Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly) and the same end result: another Stanley Cup in June for the Black and Gold.

The B's acquired forward Brian Rolston and defenseman Mike Mottau from the New York Islanders in exchange for prospects Yannick Riendeau and Marc Cantin (neither of whom I'd ever heard of).

In the other trade, the Bruins dealt defenseman Steven Kampfer to the Minnesota Wild for defenseman Greg Zanon.

Non-Pink Hat Bruins fans will remember Rolston fondly. He previously played in Boston from 1999-2004 (338 games) and he has scored 20+ goals seven times in his career. At 39-years-old and in his 17th NHL season, he is quite long in the tooth but he can still skate (always one of his biggest assets) and he's an excellent penalty killer capable of playing all three forward positions.

A native of Flint, Michigan, Rolston has played in 1235 NHL games on five teams (Devils, Avalanche, Bruins, Wild, Islanders). In his career, he's totaled 339 goals and 407 assists with his best season coming in 2005-06 with the Wild: 34 goals, 45 assists (both career-highs). Good piece of trivia: he was part of the Ray Bourque deal to Colorado with Rolston going the other way-to Boston.

With Peverley out with a knee injury, I think you can count on Rolston basically taking his spot. He provides veteran leadership and experience plus he won a Cup with the Devils back in 1995. This year, he has four goals and five assists in 49 games on a garbage team.

Mottau is also familiar to hockey fans in New England since he's from Avon, MA (he must be one of the only pro athletes from Avon) and he went to Boston College. He was a stud for the Eagles, winning the Hobey Baker award (top college hockey player) in 2000 under Jerry York.

At 33-years-old, Mottau's pro career never took off like most expected with him bouncing between four teams (Rangers, Flames, Devils, Islanders). He's dealt with concussions and numerous injuries. This season with the Islanders, he had two assists in 29 games (he was activated on Sunday).

Zanon is the possible gem of the bunch, in the Dennis Seidenberg mold of a defensive defenseman. He was second in the NHL last season in blocked shots (212) so he figures to play right away with Johnny Boychuk out with a minor concussion. Both him and Mottau are left-handed shots which is something Boston had coveted for the playoffs when Seidenberg and Zdeno Chara will certainly be reunited. In 432 career games between Minnesota and Nashville, Zanon has 11 goals and 43 assists.

Kampfer was a victim of a number crunch and bad luck as far as injuries go. He showed promise last season but when this one started, he could never get on track (he kept getting hurt) and other guys passed him. He's young, mobile and a good player so hopefully he finds his place for the Wild-a more middle of the pack franchise. If nothing else, the original Bruins tweeter will be missed for his social media aptitude.

To make room for these three new players, who are all expected to suit up tomorrow night as the Bruins host the Ottawa Senators, Boston sent down three players to Providence: defenseman Andrew Bodnarchuk and forwards Carter Camper and Max Sauve. Of the three, I thought Bodnarchuk was sent down yesterday and I didn't know Sauve was around. Camper made a nice first impression in a very short first taste of NHL life. He'll be back.

In the NHL as a whole, there were no big trades made. Columbus swapping Jeff Carter for Jack Johnson from Los Angeles last week went down as the biggest move while today was especially slow and tedious. By staying the course and believing in what they've built the last few seasons on Causeway Street, the Bruins have set themselves up for another memorable spring. All three of these new players were very low risk and odds at least one or two of them will fill a hole and prove valuable almost immediately.

UPDATE 2/28: Rolston and Mottau are expected to play tonight for the Bruins vs. Ottawa while Zanon should make his B's debut on Thursday vs. New Jersey.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Pierce & Rondo Do Little As West Edges East 152-149 In 2012 NBA All-Star Game

For some unknown reason, I thought it would be a good idea to watch Billy Crystal host (for the ninth time) the 2012 Oscars so I can't say that I watched much of the 2012 NBA All-Star Game tonight in Orlando.

I caught bits and pieces which is all that matters in that glorified dunking session. The West beat the East 152-149 and Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant (36 points) captured the MVP award.

The two Boston Celtics-Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo-came off the bench and didn't have much of an impact. In 16 minutes, Rondo had two points, eight assists, four turnovers and two rebounds. He was 1 of 3 from the floor. Pierce had a brutal shooting performance, which is pretty tough to do when nobody is even thinking of playing defense on you. In 11 minutes, Pierce had three points on 1 for 8 shooting with two rebounds, a block and two turnovers. Me thinks, that might be the Truth's last All-Star game appearance.

Boston will regroup tomorrow in Cleveland before meeting the Cavaliers on Tuesday night in their 33rd game of the 66-game regular season. Brandon Bass and Rondo will return to a team that was on its death bed when we last saw it, in Oklahoma City.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

In 2011-12, The Bruins Own The Senators

Not to sound like too much of a degenerate but there will be two more opportunities (in the regular season) for you to cash in on the Boston Bruins' dominance of the Ottawa Senators this season.

Boston (37-20-3) improved to a perfect 4-0 against Ottawa (32-23-8) with a closer-than-it-should-have-been 5-3 win tonight at Scotiabank Place.

The Bruins have outscored the Senators 19-11 in those four games; they've tallied 4+ each time including five goals in three of those contests. The Senators have been held to three goals (three times) or less every time.

This one had some drama as the B's built up a 4-1 lead in the third period but then fell asleep briefly as Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson beat them twice with basically the same one-timer from the left-hand wall.

Patrice Bergeron (2 goals, 1 assist) clinched it with an empty-netter that made it 5-3 with 19 seconds remaining.

These teams actually meet again on Tuesday and I would expect more fights since Chris Neil knocked Johnny Boychuk out of the game with a clean but nasty hit. Later, Zdeno Chara and Neil fought. Plus, Kyle Turris elbowed Joe Corvo in the head.

Tim Thomas (27 saves; 26-12-0) gave Boston a five-point lead over the Senators in the Northeast Division with three games in hand for the Bruins (four by the time Ottawa comes to Boston).

Erik Karlsson (14th goal of the season; 1 goal, 2 assists), the NHL's leading scorer for defensemen, wasted little time as he gave the Senators a 1-0 lead 1:10 into the first period. Jason Spezza (3 assists) and Milan Michalek had the assists as the shifty Swede stickhandled into a good shooting lane and beat Thomas.

Just 2:46 later, Bergeron (18th of the season) answered with a rebound goal past Senators backup goaltender Alex Auld (33 saves). Chara and Tyler had the assists but Bergeron did most of the work by parking himself in front of Auld.

Auld showed just how terrible he is by giving up a weak goal to Brad Marchand (career-high 22nd of the season) at 16:13 of the first. Bergeron and Chara assisted on Marchand's wrister that beat Auld from a long distance.

There was a cool moment in the second period as rookie Carter Camper potted his first NHL goal. It wasn't a classic since his backhander didn't have much on it but who cares? Adam McQuaid assisted at 3:57.

David Krejci (13th of the season) staked Boston to a commanding 4-1 lead with a power-play strike at 10:24 of the third from Dennis Seidenberg and Corvo. Krejci was in the right spot as he followed Auld's stop by snapping a shot over his leg pads.

The longest road trip of the season ended with a 3-2-1 mark. Not bad at all, especially considering they never won two games in a row. They'll get to come back to TD Garden and wait to see if anyone gets dealt by the 3 p.m. trade deadline on Monday afternoon. Otherwise, they'll return to home ice on Tuesday night against the Senators.

UPDATE 2/26: The Bruins sent Andrew Bodnarchuk and Josh Hennessy to Providence, meaning that they are probably on the verge of making a move.

Rajon Rondo Finishes Second In Skills Challenge At 2012 NBA All-Star Saturday

Rajon Rondo had plenty of rest after sitting out the last two Celtics games (serving a suspension). He used that extra energy to perform well in his first Skills Challenge.

Rondo was second behind San Antonio's Tony Parker at All-Star Saturday night in Orlando. Rondo beat John Wall in a tiebreaker, with the best time of the night (27.5 seconds).

The bounce pass station proved to be his undoing as it took three attempts on his final run, which cost him in the time department (34.6 seconds). Parker came in at 32.8 seconds and Deron Williams was third at 41.4 seconds.

In the first round, Rondo and Wall tied with identical times of 32.8 seconds thus forcing the tiebreaker.

Tomorrow is the 2012 NBA All-Star Game. After all the pregame crap, the "game" will start after 7:30 p.m. on TNT. This will be Rondo's third All-Star Game appearance while Paul Pierce plays in it for the 10th time. They'll be coached by former Boston assistant Tom Thibodeau.

Friday, February 24, 2012

It's Been Over A Month & Counting Since The Bruins Last Won Consecutive Games

It might have something to do with the fact that I watched the game on DVR or more likely, that I knew the final outcome before I started but tonight's Bruins game in Buffalo was a boring one.

Boston (36-20-3) fell 2-1 in a shootout to the Sabres (27-27-7) at the First Niagara Center.

After beating them the first two times this season, the B's have dropped the last two against their Northeast Division rival. Fear not, there are two more meetings remaining in the regular season.

All this loss signified to me was that Boston continues to play inconsistently. After the high of a great win in St. Louis on Wednesday, they didn't have the same juice tonight for whatever reason.

Tuukka Rask (26 saves; 11-9-2) lost his sixth straight game but it wasn't his fault at all since he gave up one goal in 65 minutes.

Ryan Miller (35 saves; 19-17-4) was busier and he got it done in the shootout by stopping three shots and only allowing a goal by David Krejci. Thomas Vanek (noted Bruins killer) and Derek Roy (game-winner) had the shootout goals for the Sabres.

Andrej Sekera (3rd of the season) had Buffalo's tally in regulation, at 14:45 of the second period. Brad Marchand lost track of him and the Sabres defenseman took advantage by skating up from the blue line and putting it into the side of the net. Tyler Ennis and Drew Stafford had the assists.

B's captain Zdeno Chara (9th of the season) scored his first goal in nine games and it was of the power play variety. His laser from the point tied it at one just 3:36 into the third.

Boston concludes its six-game road trip (2-2-1 so far) tomorrow night in Ottawa. Back-to-back contests is a tough way to end it but the numbers favor the B's: they're 3-0 (14-8 point differential) against the Senators in 2011-12. With two points in their pocket would be a nice way for the Bruins to return home to Boston-a place they haven't seen in almost two weeks.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

B's Pick Up Their Biggest Win In Weeks, 4-2 In St. Louis

It's comforting to know that when the Boston Bruins are on their game, they can still transform themselves into one of the NHL's top teams.

It had been far too long since they looked like this but I'm sure B's fans were content that maybe tonight will get them back on the right track. Boston (36-20-2) beat St. Louis (36-17-7) 4-2 at Scottrade Center in a game that (don't laugh) could honestly be a 2012 Stanley Cup Final preview.

Why not? The Blues are playing great hockey and between their top-notch but unheralded goaltender (Brian Elliott), deep roster of forwards and gritty, tough defensive style, they resemble last year's Bruins who put it all together in the playoffs.

It was the first regulation loss at home for the Blues since December 3. The Bruins also avoided their first three-game losing streak since October.

After the first period, it seemed like the game might end up with a crazy final score like 7-6. Boston finally scored the first goal (something they haven't done at all lately) as Brad Marchand (20th of the season) stripped the puck from a Blues defenseman and roofed a wrist shot past Elliot (15 saves) at 2:29.

Adam McQuaid and B.J. Crombeen, two heavyweights, dropped the gloves nine seconds later in a quality fight.

The Bruins quickly doubled their lead as Milan Lucic (21st of the season) tipped Joe Corvo's shot from the point at 6:19. Chris Kelly had the other assist on a shot that really fooled Elliott even though it lost most of its steam.

St. Louis didn't back down as Chris Stewart (12th of the season) and Ryan Reaves (2nd of the season) scored on similar turnaround shots within five minutes of each other.

Kelly (15th of the season, tying a career-high) capped off the wild frame by one-timing a perfect feed from Lucic with 40 seconds remaining. Johnny Boychuk had the other helper.

Even though there were no goals (St. Louis hit the post twice and Boychuk also rung the post) in the second or nearly half of the third, this was one of the most exciting contests of the season. It felt like a playoff atmosphere.

Marchand (21st of the season, tying last season's total) iced it at 9:14 after Tyler Seguin sent him in alone on a breakaway. Marchand went to his backhander and calmly put it by Elliot. Patrice Bergeron also had an assist on the sweet goal.

Tim Thomas (30 saves; 25-12-0) was much busier than Elliott but it didn't seem to affect him as he had one of his best performances in a while.

At 2-2 thus far, Boston ends this lengthy road trip with a back-to-back in Buffalo on Friday and in Ottawa on Saturday. The last time the Bruins faced the Sabres, Feb. 8 in Buffalo, the home team rolled to a 6-0 whitewashing. Since Buffalo isn't good and Boston has way too much pride for that to happen again, I say the Bruins come out on top this time.

Mercy: The 2012 All-Star Break Is Finally Here For The Boston Celtics

I sincerely hope that Rajon Rondo enjoyed his 26th birthday today. Without having to play basketball, he was free to do whatever he wanted. The NBA even obliged by naming him to the Eastern Conference All-Star team as a replacement for the injured Joe Johnson.

Rondo's teammates on the Boston Celtics could have used him in Oklahoma City though as they lost 119-104 to the Thunder at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in a game that wasn't that close or competitive.

May I just say that I'm psyched I don't have to watch the Celts (15-17) for the next five days. Boston lost its fifth straight game while Oklahoma City (26-7) swept the season series 2-0.

The Thunder improved to 11-1 at home this season and they set an NBA season high for points in a half as they led 72-49 after two quarters thanks to an absurd 30-3 run. Really. That was the most the C's had allowed in a half in seven years.

I give Boston a ton of credit for cutting it all the way down to six points (108-102 with 3:31 left) but without Rondo, Brandon Bass, Jermaine O'Neal and Chris Wilcox, that was their last gasp.

Russell Westbrook led Oklahoma City with 31 points, six assists and five rebounds while Kevin Durant added 28 points, nine rebounds, six assists and four steals. Daequan Cook notched 17 points while former Celtic Kendrick Perkins had eight points and 10 rebounds. James Harden scored 17 points off the bench.

I absolutely hate the NBA and almost everything about it but I will admit that the Thunder would make me seriously consider buying League Pass that is if most of their games weren't already on national TV.

After missing two games, Kevin Garnett returned and looked good with 23 points and 13 rebounds. Paul Pierce had 23 points, eight assists and five rebounds while Ray Allen put up 21 points and seven assists. I honestly can't remember the last time those three all scored 20+ points, it figures it would happen when Rondo was out. Avery Bradley had 12 points, five assists and three blocks in his place. Mickael Pietrus had 16 points and seven rebounds.

Pierce and Rondo will be off to Orlando for All-Star weekend but the rest of the C's should get as much rest as possible. They have dug themselves quite a hole (3rd in the Atlantic Division, 8th in the East) by losing the first four games of this road trip and generally looking terrible for much of this season.

Barring a big trade (unlikely), the best we can hope for is that most everybody gets healthy at once and maybe this squad has one last run left in them. They return on Tuesday to close out the trip in Cleveland (1-1 so far this season against the Cavs). That's a must-win before they come back to Boston for a four-game homestand. The first half of 2011-12 was miserable, I feel like taking a cold shower after watching this mess.

UPDATE 2/24: Rondo was also added to the Skills Challenge, taking Stephen Curry's place (he's hurt too).

Patriots Release Mike Wright & Rich Ohrnberger; Likely Ending Wright's Career

The New England Patriots made two minor roster moves today as they released defensive lineman Mike Wright and guard Rich Ohrnberger, who both ended the 2011 season on injured reserve.

It's particularly sad for Wright (only 29 years old and a veteran of 7 seasons) since his career is likely over after he missed most of the last two years with concussions. Before that, he had a fine career after making the team as an undrafted free agent out of Cincinnati in 2005. He was undersized, tough and smart so Pats head coach Bill Belichick always loved him.

Ohrnberger was a fourth-round draft choice by New England in 2009 but he only appeared in five career games. He went on IR last Sept. 3 with a head injury and was never heard from after that.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Red Sox Finally Receive Compensation For Theo Epstein From The Cubs

I find it hilarious that after four months, the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs finally agreed to the proper player compensation for Theo Epstein going to Chitown.

The best part is that said player is named Chris Carpenter but obviously, he's not the one that anybody has ever heard of. Nope, he's 26 and he made a combined 42 relief appearances last season between Double-A, Triple-A and Chicago. For the Cubs, the righty out of Kent State (Julian Edelman's alma mater) had a 2.79 ERA in 10 relief appearances (his first MLB action). He was 21-19 with a 3.62 ERA in four minor league seasons.

Hahahahahahahahaha! I love that Boston went into negotiations by asking for either Cubs shortstop (and franchise building block) Starlin Castro or starter Matt Garza and after all this time, they settled for this bum. Good to see they're still getting it done at the negotiation table.

Plus, the teams will exchange players to be named later. Talk about a monster deal! I'm trying to think of a real life comparison to this move for the Red Sox. It's something akin to asking out Kate Upton on a date and getting stuck with some creature from Hoarders.

Don't get me wrong, I hope that Carpenter does well in Boston. He could be a factor in their jumbled bullpen as soon as this season but I have a feeling that when his career is all over, this moment will be the biggest footnote and the only reason he's remembered besides his already famous name.

With this move, the Red Sox had to make room on their 40-man roster so they put fat blob Bobby Jenks on the 60-day DL. Additionally, they added Rich Hill to the roster and put scumbag John Lackey on the 60-day DL too.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Mavericks Roll In Summer League Style Pretend Game Vs. Celtics

With their dynamic point guard (Rajon Rondo) suspended, their best interior player and soul of the team (Kevin Garnett) out to deal with a personal matter and their best bench scorer (Brandon Bass) sitting with a knee injury, the Boston Celtics should have never bothered to show up in Dallas tonight.

There was no way in hell that the Mavericks (21-12) would lose to the shorthanded Celtics (15-16) and they didn't as Dallas rolled to an easy 89-73 win at the American Airlines Center.

Boston has lost six of its last seven games (since the Lakers loss) to fall back under the .500 mark. The All-Star break couldn't come at a better time for them since they look like the NBA's version of Old Yeller.

Conversely, after a slow start to their title defense, the Mavs have picked it up and won seven of eight mostly thanks to Dirk Nowitzki (26 points, 16 rebounds) getting back in shape. This win gave them the season series with the Celts as Dallas went 2-0.

Paul Pierce led the Celts with 20 points while Ray Allen had 15 and Avery Bradley scored 12. Did I mention that Jermaine O'Neal and Chris Wilcox left with injuries so essentially Greg Stiemsma and JaJuan Johnson were Boston's only big guys left? Is it too early to say I wish this NBA season (not just for the Celtics) was over?

Shawn Marion added 11 points for Dallas while Jason Terry notched 16 points off the bench.

The unofficial end of Boston's first half is Wednesday night in Oklahoma City where they'll get pummeled by the Thunder, with or without KG. This is miserable.

Carter Camper Gets His First Call-Up To The NHL, With The Boston Bruins

After losing two straight and four out of their last six (two shootout wins) while getting blanked in four of their last nine contests, the Boston Bruins are in desperate need of somebody that can put the puck in the net.

With the trade deadline now only a week away, they are still trying to find answers from within the organization as today they called up Carter Camper, a center from the Providence Bruins.

The first-year pro and former four-year star and Hobey Baker finalist at Miami University (Ohio) is expected to join his new teammates tomorrow in St. Louis as they prepare for Wednesday night's game with the Blues.

This season, Camper led the Providence Bruins with 14 goals and 24 assists. He played center on their top forward line. Boston signed him as a rookie free agent on April 7, 2011.

So far in two games, Josh Hennessy has failed to make any sort of impact but maybe the diminutive (5-foot-9) Camper will show more of a scoring touch. Also of note, Camper is on Twitter (@c_camps11) which is exciting for Black and Gold fans because only Tyler Seguin and Steven Kampfer are currently active on the great social media tool.

If Camper doesn't play on Wednesday, he has two other chances (Friday in Buffalo and Saturday in Ottawa) to impress the Bruins' front office and head coach Claude Julien on their six-game road trip.

Who knows, maybe they're trying to showcase him for other teams with the trade deadline in mind? Hopefully he has a little more Nathan Horton and Rich Peverley (both currently out with injuries) in his game than Josh Hennessy.

Rondo Suspended For Two Games By The NBA

The NBA announced this evening that Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo is suspended two games for throwing the ball at an official last night in Detroit.

Rondo was ejected against the Pistons, so he wasn't on the floor or bench to see the loss, but he basically ensures that Boston will lose two more games without him. He has to serve the suspension immediately.

Tonight, the Celts are in Dallas to play the defending champion Mavericks, who have won six out of their last seven (and already beat the C's in Boston). After that, the Celtics play in Oklahoma City on Wednesday against the NBA's best team, the Thunder (who also won in Boston earlier this season).

The only break is that the All-Star Game and festivities are this weekend in Orlando so the Celts (who will most likely be under .500 and riding a 5-game losing streak) get some time off before ending this miserable road trip in fittingly one of the most worthless places in the United States-Cleveland, Ohio next Wednesday.

Rondo leads Boston with seven technicals this season which is also near the top of the league. Avery Bradley is expected to start in his place while it looks like Kevin Garnett (family matter) is out again tonight. In other words, the C's are screwed in Big D and Wednesday, thanks to Rondo's childish behavior.

UPDATE 2/20: KG is officially out tonight but the Boston Globe's Gary Washburn reports that he'll likely be back on Wednesday against the Thunder.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Rajon Rondo Needs To Grow Up

I don't ask for much from the Boston Celtics this season but if they're crumbling into irrelevance, can they at least do it with some class?

Apparently that's more than Rajon Rondo can handle since he got ejected tonight in Detroit for throwing the ball at a referee as Detroit (11-22) beat Boston (15-15) 96-81 for the second time in a week, in this case at the Palace of Auburn Hills.

The Celtics have lost three straight and their season is starting to become a joke. Kevin Garnett missed the game (family matter) and Brandon Bass is still out so clearly the C's needed Rondo (5 points, 10 assists) to be a leader for once and play well. Nope, that's too much to ask. Upset over not getting a foul call, he let his emotions get the best of him. They wouldn't have come back anyway but this one stings since he'll probably get suspended too, you simply can't pull a ridiculous move like that and hope to get away with it.

Four of five Pistons starter scored in double-figures led by Greg Monroe (17 points, 10 rebounds). Rodney Stuckey had 16 points, Tayshaun Prince added 13 points and Brandon Knight scored 12. Jason Maxiell grabbed 10 rebounds while Jonas Jerebko posted 13 points off the bench.

Paul Pierce had 18 points, Chris Wilcox added 14 points and Ray Allen scored 13. Jermaine O'Neal (8 points, 11 rebounds, 5 blocks) actually had one of his best games in a Celtic uniform but who will remember it? I always poke fun at Zombie Jermaine but I will give him credit: he can still play defense. It's a shame that he wasn't on the Celtics before all his assorted injuries.

It was tied at 26 after the first quarter but Detroit started to pull away after that. They led 55-42 and 75-61 heading into the fourth. The Celts could never make it interesting or whittle it down to anything manageable.

This contest had some wacky numbers, mainly because the Celtics had 24 turnovers which led to 40 points for the Pistons. Boston shot better (44.4%-37.8%), they had eight more assists (22-14) and blocked seven more shots (11-4). Here's where it gets really depressing. Detroit took 31 more free throws (46-15), only made 18 more (29-11), they had seven more steals (13-6) and scored 22 more points in the paint (42-20).

I wish I had something positive to say about the Celts but the fact that they play at Dallas tomorrow night and in Oklahoma City on Wednesday basically guarantees they'll lose five straight games regardless if Garnett returns and Rondo does or doesn't get suspended. Good times! Now is about the point when Celtics GM Danny Ainge does something insane that none of us saw coming. Am I right Danny?

Time For Peter Chiarelli To Pull The Trigger & Make A Move

Coming into this afternoon, the Minnesota Wild had lost 23 of their last 28 games.

After losing in Winnipeg on Friday night, I felt like the Boston Bruins would bounce back but boy was I wrong. For the fourth time in nine games, the B's were shut out as the Wild won 2-0 at the XCel Energy Center.

Minnesota (26-24-9) goaltender Nicklas Backstrom stopped a career-high 48 shots which is somewhat misleading. As is usually the case when the Bruins (35-20-2) are struggling, they pile up gaudy shot totals but the truth of the matter is that most come on shots from the point (which rarely go in during an NHL game). So credit to Backstrom but other than two Daniel Paille breakaways and what should have been a goal by Milan Lucic, he didn't have to do anything extraordinary.

This rough patch by Boston is attributed to more than just having Nathan Horton and Rich Peverley out of the lineup. The entire team appears to lack energy not to mention, they turn the puck over way too much and can't seem to score at all anymore. So yeah, it's time to make some type of move before this goes on for much longer.

The Wild scored both of their goals in the second period. Chad Rau (2nd of the season) looked off Tim Thomas (27 saves; 24-12-0) but ripped a shot past him at 10:15 from Dany Heatley and Cal Clutterbuck (one of the best names in sports).

Matt Cullen (12th of the season) doubled the lead at 15:30 with a power-play strike from Devin Setoguchi and Jared Spurgeon. Showing how much this wasn't Boston's day, Cullen mishit it at first but had time and space to recover and fire again, this time successfully into the net.

The only question at that point was if the Bruins would avoid the shutout. There was no chance they would rally from down two. Of course, they couldn't muster a single goal. As we've come to expect, Shawn Thornton was one of the only Boston players that appeared to have any type of a pulse. He fought scrub Matt Kassian early in the third in what turned out to be one of the longest fights I've seen this season.

At 1-2, Boston is halfway through its grueling six-game road trip. Not sure if it's a good thing or not but the B's get a few days off before visiting St. Louis on Wednesday to play the Blues. Boston has proven that they can lose to anyone right now but let it be noted that the Blues are a good hockey team that will be a factor in the Western Conference playoffs.

Friday, February 17, 2012

You Know The Bruins Are In Trouble When They Make Blake Wheeler Look Good

It's been over a month (Jan. 10 & 12) since the Boston Bruins last won two games in a row.

Their inconsistent stretch of play continued on Friday night as they lost for the second time this season in Winnipeg. Former Bruin Blake Wheeler had a goal and two assists as the Jets (28-26-6) kept their playoff push going with a 4-2 win at the MTS Centre.

The Bruins (35-19-2) couldn't use the momentum from their shootout win in Montreal on Wednesday as they crumbled in the NHL's smallest but likely loudest arena.

The season series ends 2-2 as both teams won twice on their home ice.

Tuukka Rask (21 saves; 11-8-2) showed why his starts have been diminishing lately as he dropped his fifth straight decision.

Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec (31 saves) shut the door as Boston tied it up twice but never led. Bryan Little put it away with the game-winner and an insurance tally in the third period.

Alex Burmistrov (12th of the season) opened the scoring for the Jets at 1:59 of the second. His wrist shot up high and glove side, caught Rask by surprise or at least that's how it looked. It was a shot I'm sure Rask would like to have back as it seemed to eat him up. Former Bruin Mark Stuart and Kyle Wellwood had the assists.

Mr. Invisible Jordan Caron (3rd of the season) finally did something as he sniped a goal at 6:10 from Chris Kelly. I had no idea he had that type of shot, maybe because he's never taken one outside of five feet from the net.

Wheeler (11th of the season), aka Mr. Offsides in his Bruin days, made it 2-1 at 15:50 when his wrist shot went through Rask's five-hole. Dustin Byfuglien and Evander Kane assisted on another one that Rask should stop if he wants to be considered a No. 1 goaltender.

David Krejci (12th of the season) picked up his first point in eight games when he tied it at two 49 seconds into the third. Tyler Seguin and Milan Lucic had the assists as Krejci put it over Pavelec from in tight. Maybe that will get him going, he's done nothing since Nathan Horton went out of the lineup.

Little's first goal (15th of the season) was the fault of Boston's defense as they all watched as he went for the rebound, untouched, and flipped it by Rask. Wheeler and Andrew Ladd assisted on that at 4:16.

Just 2:04 later, Little sealed it off a nice feed from Wheeler. Tobias Enstrom had the other assist.

Patrice Bergeron had a great chance to cut it to a one-goal game after that but he shot it right in Pavelec's glove.

The B's face the Minnesota Wild for the only time this season on Sunday afternoon (3:30 on NBC) in the Twin Cities. Boston needs to sure up many things: their leaky defense, their goaltending and they need to put the puck in the net more often. Other than that, things are going swell.

Thanks For The Memories Wake, You Were Truly One Of A Kind On And Off The Field

Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield will retire today, ending one of the most improbable careers in franchise and baseball history.

Wake played in MLB for 17 years, including the last 15 in Boston. He pitched in virtually every role: starter, closer, set-up man, long relief, mop up duty and was one of the most selfless players in a game full of guys obsessed with their own personal statistics.

Major League Baseball's oldest player at 45, Wakefield leaves the Red Sox with 186 wins, six shy of the franchise mark held by Cy Young and Roger Clemens. Wakefield notched his 200th win last season although that turned out to be a footnote in a brutal team-wide choke in September.

Since his primary pitch was a knuckleball, Wakefield was always treated as a sort of sideshow or oddity but his career totals proved his durability and a legacy that will probably never be matched by another pitcher (of any style) for the Red Sox.

His last season, 2011, was far from his best as he went 7-8 with a 5.12 ERA in 23 starts. He has a career record of 200-180 with a 4.41 ERA and 2156 strikeouts. He was drafted in 1988 by the Pittsburgh Pirates as a first baseman. Wake couldn't get out of the minors as a hitter so he learned how to throw a knuckleball and the rest is history (check out the million books about him).

For the Pirates in 1992, he went 8-1 with a 2.15 ERA and won two starts in the NLCS after getting called up earlier that season. He couldn't keep it up though and he was eventually released by Pittsburgh in 1995. The Red Sox signed him that year and he went 16-8 with a 2.95 ERA as Boston won the AL East.

He won 17 games in 1998 then filled in as closer in 1999 and picked up 15 saves. From 2003-08 he made at least 30 starts every season, winning 12 games for the Red Sox in 2004 (first World Series championship in 86 years) and he won 17 in 2007 when they captured another title.

Wakefield's 17 years in Boston are surpassed only by Carl Yastrzemski (23), Ted Williams (19) and Dwight Evans (19). For the Red Sox, he's third all-time in wins, first in appearances (590), starts (430) and innings pitched (3006) and second in strikeouts (2046).

Most of all, I'll remember Wakefield as a regular guy in a sport filled with the most douchebags and completely unlikable people. He never complained (well until the end), he was a consummate professional and teammate which means that he could have a promising career in broadcasting, coaching or with the Red Sox in some fashion. Basically, Wake can do whatever he wants for the rest of his life and why not, he deserves it. He's one of the easiest players to root for in my lifetime.

Rich Peverley Will Miss The Next 4-6 Weeks With An MCL Sprain In His Right Knee

Bad news for the Boston Bruins today as winger Rich Peverley will miss the next 4-6 weeks with a third-degree MCL sprain in his right knee.

The injury was the result of a knee-to-knee hit by former Bruin (and PC Friar) Hal Gill on Wednesday in Montreal. Ironically, Gill was traded today to the Nashville Predators.

If you're being positive, it could have been worse for Peverley like an ACL tear which looked possible when the ugly hit happened. Since Nathan Horton is already out and who knows when he'll return from his latest worrisome concussion, Peverley's absence will make the Bruins even more desperate to find some forward help.

Rockland native Josh Hennessy (great name) will make his Bruins debut tonight as he centers the fourth line between Shawn Thornton and Gregory Campbell. Daniel Paille gets bumped up to the third line to center Chris Kelly and Jordan Caron. Benoit Pouliot will be on the first line with Milan Lucic and David Krejci. Got it?

The NHL Trade Deadline is a week from Monday and even before Peverley's injury, it looked like Boston was in need of some new energy. It would be sweet if Hennessy could provide that but more likely, they'll need to make a trade to get a Top-6 forward and/or a Top-6 defenseman.

As currently constructed, the B's are perfectly capable of making another run to a Stanley Cup but I think at this point, after watching them struggle for weeks, we can all agree that some more talent wouldn't hurt them.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

If You Like Basketball, You Have To Respect The Chicago Bulls

I have to give props to the Chicago Bulls, they are one solid NBA team.

After losing 95-91 at TD Garden on Sunday afternoon (Rajon Rondo's monster triple-double being the main reason), Chicago returned the favor to Boston by winning 89-80 tonight at the United Center.

The Bulls (25-7) improved to 11-1 at home while the Celtics (15-14) fell closer to the .500 mark. Boston began its five game road trip with a thud since predictably, they didn't have their legs after their pathetic loss to the Pistons last night. The Celts are 4-6 on the road.

Despite having the reigning MVP Derrick Rose, the Bulls are about much more than him. They're long, they play outstanding defense, they're tough, unselfish and smart. Rose sat out against the Celtics again but this time his absence didn't matter since Carlos Boozer (23 points, 15 rebounds, 5 assists), Luol Deng (23 points, 10 assists) and Joakim Noah (15 points, 16 rebounds) all put up double-doubles.

C.J. Watson was the only other Bull in double figures with 11 points while former Celtic Mike James (just signed to a 10-day contract) had eight points off the bench.

Rondo (17 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds) was back to his best role: facilitator. It wasn't enough though since only Kevin Garnett (18 points, 10 rebounds) had what could be called a good performance after he sat out against Detroit. Paul Pierce (14 points, 6 of 16 shooting) and Ray Allen (12 points, 4 of 13 shooting) could never get into a rhythm other than Allen's flurry of 3s in the third quarter.

The only other bright spot for the C's was Chris Wilcox (9 points), who is really developing a chemistry with Rondo. They seem to team up on multiple alley oops every game now.

It was a strange contest as the teams went back and forth, playing well or terrible in consecutive frames. Boston led 24-16 after the first but Chicago took a 44-35 halftime lead after a miserable second for the Celtics. The Bulls increased the lead to as much as 16 but the Celts rallied and cut it to 60-59 heading into the fourth. Then they ran out of gas as usual.

A couple statistics jump off the screen: the Bulls hit seven more 3s (10-3), they pulled down 15 more rebounds (52-37 including 10 more offensive boards) and they handed out 12 more assists (27-15) which is wild considering Rose sat. So how did Boston make it somewhat close? Chicago had nine more turnovers (16-7).

These teams close out their four-game regular season series with another TNT Thursday night matchup on April 5. Boston must do everything in their power to avoid the No. 7 or 8 seed since they'll be virtually guaranteed to face the Heat or Bulls, the two Eastern Conference teams they simply cannot beat under any circumstances in a playoff series.

Boston travels to Detroit for a Sunday night game against the Pistons. The Celts will be looking for revenge after their embarrassing 98-88 loss to Detroit last night on their home parquet.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Enjoy Missing The Playoffs Montreal

Let me be the first to say: smell you later Montreal, enjoy not making the playoffs this season.

The Boston Bruins did their best to end the regular season series with their biggest rival positively as they won 4-3 in a shootout tonight at the Bell Centre.

Boston (35-18-2) was in control, up 3-1 heading into the third but credit Montreal (23-25-10) for rallying with two goals and forcing overtime. However, the Bruins got the last laugh as Tyler Seguin scored the only shootout goal and Tim Thomas (26 saves; 24-11-0) stopped all three Canadiens shooters.

After losing the first two in October, the B's won the final four against the Habs. It was standard procedure that the finale had to feature some batshit crazy incidents. For instance, four goaltender interference penalties were called in the second (two on each team). Montreal fans proved that they're still the worst in the NHL as they cheered when a puck hit Zdeno Chara in the face, causing him to get stitches. Frankly, I am happy to say goodbye to those clowns who fell to eight points out of the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference.

Besides the two points, the best part about the victory for Boston was that so many guys that had been cold woke up and made big plays. Just look at who scored the goals: Andrew Ference, Benoit Pouliot and Patrice Bergeron. In short, it was a great way to start their longest road trip of the season.

After Adam McQuaid and Ryan White traded heavy punches, Ference (5th of the season) made it 1-0 at 17:09 of the first from Brad Marchand (more on him later).

Mathieu Darche (5th of the season) tied it at 1 with a shorthanded tally (first one Boston had allowed this season, the last team to give one up) at 1:39 of the second. He drove to the net and P.K. Subban put it on his stick for the redirection.

Pouliot (9th of the season) pulled off a typical Pouliot move: amazing and completely out of nowhere. He put the puck through a Montreal player's legs than put it through Carey Price's (31 saves) legs. Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley had the assists.

At 14:33, Bergeron (17th of the season) increased the lead to 3-1 as he roofed a tough angle shot over Price. The power play goal was assisted by Seguin and Chara.

The second period ended with some more controversy about a Marchand hit. He clipped Alexei Emelin not as blatantly as the one in the Canucks game, but he'll likely be hearing from Brendan Shanahan again.

The Canadiens almost rallied for an epic win as Max Pacioretty (24th of the season) snuck a shot by Thomas at 3:34 and Erik Cole (22nd of the season) tied it at 11:12 thanks to Chara's mind-numbing giveaway.

It was an ugly game but the Bruins got the job done which is all that matters after they were completely outplayed last night against the Rangers. Up next, Boston travels to Winnipeg on Friday. The Jets beat the B's in Winnipeg back in December (2-1 on Dec. 6) but Boston paid them back with a 5-3 win Jan. 10 at the Garden.

There is no question that Tuukka Rask will get the start since Thomas played the last two nights, something which doesn't often happen. Unfortunately, it looks like Peverley will miss some time since he left with a knee injury tonight and never returned. Hopefully it's not too serious.

UPDATE 2/16: Peverley was sent home for further examination. He was injured on a knee to knee hit by former Bruin Hal Gill.

Marchand will not be fined or suspended for his hit which apparently was enough of a hip check to only merit a two-minute penalty. Still, with less than a second on the clock and the puck far away from Boston's goal, he needs to be a little smarter than that.

KG Sits With A Hip Flexor And Pistons Shock The Celtics At TD Garden

Kevin Garnett sat out for the first time this season and as a direct result, the Boston Celtics lacked any passion or heart.

The Detroit Pistons (9-22) came into TD Garden tonight and beat the Celts (15-13) 98-88, sending Boston on a pivotal road trip with a bitter taste in their mouths.

Going 11-8 at home during an easy schedule to start the 2011-12 season is not how Doc Rivers and company drew it up. Now, they'll finish with 24 of their final 38 games on the road. Hope you enjoy the jet life guys.

Rajon Rondo scored a career-high 35 points but his other numbers were more modest: six assists, five rebounds, four steals. The team won't be successful when he's asked to carry that much of the load offensively. Not surprisingly, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen each were limited to 10 points. They combined for 16 shot attempts while Rondo took 27 shots.

Chris Wilcox started for KG and put up a similar line: 17 points and nine rebounds. JaJuan Johnson notched 10 points and five rebounds off the bench.

Three Pistons had 22+ points which is hard to fathom since they're an awful team. Rodney Stuckey led Detroit with 25 points while Greg Monroe had 22 points and nine rebounds. Ben Gordon put up 22 points off the bench.

Boston was only down one point (73-72) heading into the fourth but they folded in the final frame, getting outscored 25-16.

The Celtics will embark on their second longest road trip of the season, surpassed only by an insane eight-game trip in March. It's stretched out even longer since the All-Star break happens next weekend as well. They play three contenders (Chicago, Dallas, Oklahoma City) and two teams going nowhere (Detroit, Cleveland) although the Pistons and Cavaliers have both beaten Boston already this season.

The fun gets started tomorrow night as Boston rolls into Chitown for the double whammy: second night of a back-to-back and they beat the Bulls on Sunday. Yeah, it could get ugly.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

We Know Who The Team To Beat Is In The Eastern Conference: The New York Rangers

How good are the New York Rangers?

They came to the TD Garden tonight and totally sucked the life out of the Boston Bruins in a 3-0 win.

New York (37-13-5) has now beaten Boston (34-18-2) both times they've played so far this season and they are nine points ahead of the Bruins for first-place in the Eastern Conference. The B's were blanked for the third time in their past six games which is not a good sign with their longest road trip (6 games in 11 days) starting tomorrow.

You're kidding yourself if you don't think the Rangers are the team to beat right now in the East. Meanwhile, Henrik Lundqvist (season-high 42 saves; 27-11-4, 7th shutout of the season) looks like the best goaltender on the planet.

Boston outshot New York 42-20, including 32-8 over the final two periods but it didn't matter as the Rangers clogged shooting lanes, blocked shots and made the most of their limited scoring chances.

Tim Thomas (17 saves; 23-11-0) took the loss for the Bruins although you can't really put the blame on him.

New York essentially won it in the first period as they scored twice; you're not going to comeback on the Rangers from down two with the way they're playing. Ryan Callahan (23rd of the season) made it 1-0 on the power-play at 10:09. Michael Del Zotto and Marian Gaborik assisted as Callahan drove to the net and was able to tap in Del Zotto's pretty feed.

The backbreaking goal was Ryan McDonagh's (6th of the season) unassisted tally with 12 seconds left in the first. Intentional or not, he banked it in off Zdeno Chara.

The Bruins had plenty of chances, including one insane sequence in the second where Lundqvist was sprawled on his back and he stopped Chara's shot with his shoulder while he wasn't even looking.

Artem Anisimov (10th of the season) aka the clown who did the machine gun goal celebration on 24/7 put it away at 2:53 in the third. Brandon Dubinsky and Anton Stralman assisted Anisimov, who waited patiently then put it in the far side over Thomas' leg pad.

The Rangers will host the Bruins twice (March 4, April 1) at Madison Square Garden. Let's hope Boston can find a way to turn the tables on New York next time. I'm sick of seeing New York teams beat Boston teams.

The Black and Gold will not return to the Garden for two weeks (a day after the trade deadline). They'll go to Montreal, Winnipeg, Minnesota, St. Louis, Buffalo and Ottawa. It's a particularly grueling stretch against either playoff contenders or bitter rivals. Let's not forget that one of the crucial parts of last season was a 7-0 road trip around this time. I'm not predicting another perfect run but I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to see the B's shake the cobwebs off and find their groove on this trip.

The Bruins play the Canadiens tomorrow night. Boston has won the last three meetings with the Habs after losing the first two (in October). Savor it since tomorrow is the final meeting of the regular season between the Bruins and Canadiens. Montreal has shown a little life lately but I still doubt they'll even sniff a playoff spot.

Johnny Boychuk Signs A Three-Year Extension With The Boston Bruins

This afternoon, the Boston Bruins locked up more of its young core as they signed defenseman Johnny Boychuk to a three-year contract extension.

He'll earn $3.1 million, $3.4 million and $3.6 million over the next three seasons. The deal also includes a limited no-trade clause.

From's Joe McDonald:
"Johnny really wanted to stay here and that's the over-riding theme," Chiarelli said. "He's obviously been a good performer for us. He's a big, strong and physical [defenseman].

"He's a Bruin-type of player. He's physical, yet he can score with his shot. He's a punishing player. He chose not to test the market, which was nice for us."

"It's nice that he signed," said Zdeno Chara, who is Boychuk's defensive partner. "He deserves that and he plays hard. It's great for him."

Drafted in 2002 by the Colorado Avalanche in the fourth round, Boychuk has spent all but four games of his NHL career in the Hub. He has gotten progressively better the last few seasons and at the moment, the 28-year-old native of Edmonton is having his best season yet. He has three goals, seven assists and he's +23 with an average of 20:31 time on ice per game.

Boychuk stepped his game up in the playoffs last season and he became one of the more dependable Bruins defensemen. He'll never put up a ton of points or make many flashy moves in the offensive zone but he's reliable, tough and smart. He's a prototypical Bruin and he deserves to play here for a while longer.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Ortiz and Red Sox Agree To Last-Second Deal Before Arbitration Hearing

If you're keeping score at home (and this is a great bit of Red Sox related trivia), Boston hasn't gone to an arbitration hearing with a player since 2002 with Rolando Arrojo.

That streak looked in serious doubt with the team and slugger David Ortiz due for a hearing this afternoon but lo and behold, they got an agreement done this morning.

The sides settled on $14.575 million for the 2012 season, halfway between what Big Papi ($16.5 million) and the Red Sox ($12.65 million) offered.

From's report:
"It just one of those things that when we all had everyone in the room together it just made sense that we would get to the midpoint and get it done," Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said, according to the Boston Globe.

Asked if Ortiz was happy, Cherington told reporters: "You have to ask him, but he seemed to be."

Ortiz was at the same hotel as Cherington in St. Petersburg, Fla., according to the newspaper, but left without commenting.

Cherington said that the team "made that clear again to him" that the team wanted him to return.

Ortiz's agent, Fernando Cuza, told reporters that "both sides are very happy with the deal and we'll leave it at that. This is a process and once we got together and talked it out it made sense to get a deal done and move on."

Ortiz had been seeking a multiyear deal, but Cuza would not comment on whether that subject was broached in discussions with the team.

Unlike Jason Varitek or Tim Wakefield, Ortiz is an icon for the team that still produces on the field. In 2011, he hit .309 with 29 homers, 96 RBIs and a .952 OPS. Yes, he didn't do much down the stretch as Boston suffered one of its worst collapses ever but he was far from alone in that department.

Ortiz is the best DH in baseball, a leader on the team and in the clubhouse so this was long overdue as far as I'm concerned. They can avoid any potential hard feelings that would surface after a hearing. Better yet, now they can just focus on baseball and hopefully signing Roy Oswalt.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Ice Cube Thought Rajon Rondo Had A "Good Day"

I will freely admit that I'm just about the biggest Felger and Mazz honk that you'll find in New England. I have listened to their show since the Sports Hub was created and I try my best to have it on as much as possible from 2-6 p.m. Monday-Friday. I almost always agree with Felger and Mazz about basically everything Boston sports related but I feel like they're dead wrong on one thing at the moment: Rajon Rondo.

While they want to run Rondo out of town and trade him for Pau Gasol or somebody else, I'm content with watching Boston's current best player and also the future of the franchise.

This afternoon, Rondo turned in his 15th career triple-double (including playoffs) with 32 points, 15 assists (including 2 back-to-back sick alley oops) and 10 rebounds as the Celtics (15-12) picked up their biggest win of the season, 95-91 at TD Garden against the NBA's best team, the Chicago Bulls (23-7).

It was a far cry from Boston's no show loss on Friday in Toronto and it snapped a two-game losing streak for the Green. Chicago had come in on a five-game winning streak of its own.

The win comes with an MVP award shaped asterisk since Bulls guard Derrick Rose sat out with back spasms. I'm also not blind to the fact that Rondo still can't shoot jumpers consistently or hit free throws (although he was 10 for 13 today including 4 for 4 late in the 4th quarter).

His game will never be clean like Chris Paul's or Deron Williams' but his unique skill set is a perfect fit for this team; yes we overhype him because he's one of ours but I think it's silly to think that point guards like Rondo are easy to find. That's why you have to build around him through free agency and trades after this season.

Kevin Garnett added 13 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks, Chris Wilcox (staring for the injured Jermaine O'Neal) had 11 points and nine rebounds, Ray Allen scored 11 points and Paul Pierce had nine points.

Other than Rondo's transcendent game, the thing I take away from this one is JaJuan Johnson. In his most extensive playing time in his NBA career (33 minutes), the rookie from Purdue proved that he's not shy about shooting (6 for 13 from the floor) as he had a career-high 12 points.

The immortal C.J. Watson led the Bulls with 22 points and six assists he started for Rose. Carlos Boozer (22 points, 7 rebounds) only plays on one end of the floor (offense) but he does it well. Joakim Noah had 16 points and nine rebounds while first-time All-Star Luol Deng (10 points) was neutralized.

The Celtics led 28-23 after the first quarter and 48-43 at halftime. Boston was up 72-66 heading into the fourth but it took them almost the entire frame to shake the Bulls.

Since former Celtics assistant Tom Thibodeau (a Salem State alum!) took over the Bills, Chicago has always owned the C's. They play solid defense, they're big and they control the paint. When Rose is healthy, I give them a slight edge over the Heat since Miami still has no depth and LeBron poops his pants in every fourth quarter.

Boston shot much better (49.3-38.6%) but Chicago hit twice as many 3-pointers (6-3). The Celts had a season-high nine blocks while the Bulls only had two. Boston had five more turnovers (18-13) but they ran much more (33-7 fast break points).

Today's win evened up the season series at 1-1. They'll play twice more, both in Chicago, including on Thursday which is basically guaranteed to be a Bulls win if Rose suits up.

Bad news on the injury front: while Keyon Dooling and Avery Bradley played in this game, Brandon Bass didn't and he'll reportedly miss 10-14 days with knee inflammation which is never a good thing. He's been Boston's best bench player so that's a big loss for however long he's out.

The Celts get a few days off before they host one of the NBA's bottom feeders, the Detroit Pistons, on Wednesday. Boston picked up its first win of the season back on Dec. 30 when they rolled 96-85 over the Pistons. Since the C's just lost to the Raptors, I won't say a loss to the Pistons is impossible but it's not likely.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

No Carrie Underwood At TD Garden But The Bruins Still Provide Some Thrills

After losing its previous two games at TD Garden, the Boston Bruins were on the verge of three setbacks in a row when Nashville's Mike Fisher aka Mr. Carrie Underwood made it 3-2 with 3:32 left in regulation this afternoon.

Boston (34-17-2) stuck with it though as Milan Lucic (20th of the season) tied it with a power-play strike at 18:53 with the goalie pulled and the B's went on to win 3-2 in a shootout against the Predators (32-18-6).

Tyler Seguin and Patrice Bergeron scored the only shootout goals, meaning that it was over in the third round. I usually complain that Saturday matinees are usually terrible for the B's but not today, this was a top-notch contest.

If the Bruins had lost, they would have been the victim of bad puck luck since for the most part, they controlled play from start to finish. Nashville took advantage of a few scoring chances and they leaned heavily on one of the NHL's top goaltenders, Pekka Rinne (38 saves).

This turned out to be one of the most meaningful wins of the regular season given Boston's recent struggles. Lucic was a beast all afternoon and in the shootout, Tim Thomas (19 saves; 23-10-0) was able to forget about Facebook rants for a minute and make two saves.

Nashville is a quality team, I'll predict that they'll win a series or two this spring in the Western Conference playoffs. They're short on goal-scoring but they play to that well with a defensive-minded system.

With the Bruins shorthanded, Bergeron (16th of the season) had given Boston a 1-0 lead at 16:00 of the first period. Brad Marchand made the play happen by chipping the puck ahead then finding Bergeron for a screened one-timer.

Shea Weber (11th of the season), who has the second hardest shot in the NHL behind Zdeno Chara, showed off his cannon by tying it at 7:32 of the second with a power-play slap shot. His defensive partner Ryan Suter had the lone assist on Weber's missle from the point.

NESN didn't bring its A game since their broadcast went out at the end of the first period and for most of the second period. I was left listening to the radio broadcast on the Sports Hub like some 90-year-old and checking Twitter like a fiend (even more than usual).

The third period was wild so thankfully I was able to see it with my own eyes, rather than just hear about it. Both teams scored two goals. Daniel Paille (9th of the season) kicked it off with a diving backhander at 2:55 from Shawn Thornton and Johnny Boychuk.

Patric Hornqvist (17th of the season) tied it at 9:33 from Sergei Kostitsyn and Rinne. It was against the run of play as the puck was in Nashville's end for a while but then they broke out and multiple Bruins defenders were left in the dust.

Fisher's goal was a result of his own rebound off the backboards. Thomas should have stopped that one since the weak backhander went under his pads.

The Bruins will look to carry over this great effort on Tuesday as they host the New York Rangers. Everyone remembers that their first meeting with the Rangers was a classic, won 3-2 by New York in a shootout on Jan. 21 so I have no doubt this one should be superb too. The teams play twice more after that, both at Madison Square Garden and they have to be the odds on favorites to meet in the Eastern Conference Finals. They are clearly the top two teams in the East.

So whatever you're doing on Valentine's Day, at least make sure that you have the DVR set for what should be a beautiful hockey game between the Original 6 rivals.

UPDATE 2/12: After the game, Steven Kampfer was sent down to Providence. He's been a healthy scratch the last five games with Boston so this will give him more playing time.

UPDATE 2/13: The Bruins made the interesting choice to call up defenseman Andrew Bodnarchuk this morning and not Kampfer. With the trade deadline two weeks from today, makes you wonder if Kampfer is going be be dealt soon. Boston also called up forward Josh Hennessey from Providence.