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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Four Goals In The 3rd Period Leads To A Bruins Win On The Island

Any time that Tim Thomas gets a game off, it's a good thing for the Boston Bruins. If they can also win, that makes it even better since the playoffs begin in less than two weeks and he'll probably start every game.

Marty Turco (19 saves; 2-1-1) did enough and the B's (46-28-4) scored four goals in the third period as they beat the New York Islanders (33-34-11) 6-3 this afternoon at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

The pro-Bruins crowd enjoyed a monster game from Boston's second line as Brad Marchand (1 goal, 2 assists), Tyler Seguin (1 goal, 2 assists) and Patrice Bergeron (1 goal, 1 assist) combined for eight points. Five different Bruins scored and Chris Kelly became the sixth Bruin to score 20+ goals this season.

The regular season finish line is a week away and Boston is playing like a determined team (6-1-1 in their last 8) with big expectations for another deep playoff run.

Krejci (22nd of the season) gave the B's a 1-0 lead at 18:11 of the first period thanks to a fine assist from Milan Lucic (2 assists). Andrew Ference had the other assist.

Turco allowed his only soft goal as Kyle Okposo (21st of the season) tied it 29 seconds later with a wrist shot that he should have gloved.

Gregory Campbell and Michael Haley fought early in the second period. It wasn't a classic bout but it seemed to get both teams into it, a tough thing to do with an early afternoon game on a Saturday.

Kelly picked up his career-high 20th goal on a sweet individual move and a hard shot that crossed Al Montoya (21 saves) up at 4:58 of the second period.

P.A. Parenteau (17th of the season) tied it at 2 with a nifty assist from the underrated John Tavares (2 assists) at 14:26. Matt Moulson (2 assists) had the other helper.

Marchand (27th) and Seguin (27th) matched each other with goals to start the third period. Parenteau made it interesting, with his second goal at 14:53.

Bergeron (21st of the season) and Krejci (career-high 23rd) iced it with a pair of goals 24 seconds apart. Bergeron's was off a rebound and Krejci once again benefited from Lucic moving his skates and looking up.

Thomas will be back in goal tomorrow night as the Bruins play at Madison Square Garden against the Rangers who are still the Eastern Conference's top team. Yes, it doesn't mean much since both teams are assured of getting a high seed (B's need 5 more points to win the Northeast Division and get the No. 2 seed) but New York is 3-0 so far against Boston. The B's need to at least play well if not grab two points to give themselves some piece of mind that the Rangers aren't unbeatable.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Sorry Kevin Love, Kevin Garnett Still Runs Minnesota

The Celtics are 14-5 since the All-Star break and in sole possession of first place in the Atlantic Division for the first time this season. Rajon Rondo recorded 10+ assists for the 12th straight game (a team record).

Those are the three most notable highlights from Boston's (29-22, 11-14 away) 100-79 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves (25-28, 13-13 home) this evening at the Target Center.

Ray Allen missed his fifth game in a row but the Celtics still managed to win their fourth straight and sixth out of their last seven games.

Since this was in his former home, it was only right that Kevin Garnett (24 points, 10 rebounds) was the best player on either team. I'm not sure what he did over the All-Star break but he appears to have found an anti-aging formula since he's playing some great basketball, it's the best he's looked in years.

Paul Pierce added 21 points, Rondo notched 17 assists, six rebounds and three steals (with two turnovers), Avery Bradley scored 17 and Brandon Bass had 12 points. Keyon Dooling (8 points, 3 assists) and Greg Stiemsma (8 points, 5 rebounds, 2 blocks) are the two bench players that are taking the most advantage of their increased minutes.

Minnesota is Kevin Love's (22 points, 11 rebounds) team and although he's been playing out of his mind this season, especially lately, suggestions that he could win an MVP award are absurd since the Timberwolves are under .500 and unlikely to make the playoffs.

Without Ricky Rubio (lost to an ACL tear), Love doesn't have enough help. Luke Ridnour had 15 points and eight assists. Rookie Derrick Williams put up 14 points and seven rebounds. No other Timberwolf scored in double figures.

This was one that Minnesota really needed to keep their fading playoff hopes alive but the funny thing is that the Celtics basically never gave them a chance. Boston was up 31-20 after one quarter and 56-45 at halftime. The Green took a 79-67 lead into the fourth and although the Timberwolves cut it to 10, the C's never were truly threatened.

Boston had one of its best defensive performances as they shot 14.2% better than Minnesota (48.9%-34.7%). Nearly doubling up the Timberwolves in assists (29-15) helped the Celts overcome 13 more made free throws (21-8). The Celtics had four more steals (9-5) while the Timberwolves committed a whopping 11 more turnovers (20-9). That helped Boston lead 16-3 in points off turnovers plus they had 10 more points in the paint (46-36).

This next week is arguably the toughest of the season for the Celtics in terms of opponents: they face Miami, San Antonio, Chicago and Indiana over seven days. April looks very tough as Boston starts out with seven playoff teams in a row. The good news is that their back-to-back couldn't be any easier: at Raptors, at Nets and at Bobcats.

The Heat come to TD Garden on Sunday afternoon and if it feels like they haven't played the Celtics in months, it's true. Their only meeting was the second game of the season, a 115-107 win by the Heat in Miami. Boston needs to prove they can beat a team the caliber of the Heat on a consistent basis. I'm excited since I'm going and it's my first Celtics game of the season. I haven't seen them play the Heat since Miami signed LeBron James and Chris Bosh so it should be a fun atmosphere (3:30 game on ABC, national audience).

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Capitals Earn Two Points The Hard Way

If you fell asleep or passed out for the first 2+ periods of tonight's Boston Bruins-Washington Capitals game, you're in luck if you woke up in the third period.

That's when the action really picked up as a scoreless game became 2-2 in a span of less than 11 minutes. Boston (45-28-4) rallied from a 2-0 deficit that looked fatal but Washington (39-31-8) held on in overtime and won 3-2 in a shootout at TD Garden.

Matt Hendricks, Alexander Semin and Brooks Laich (game-winner) scored in the shootout for the Capitals while Tyler Seguin and Patrice Bergeron had the Bruins goals.

Boston picked up a point but their three-game winning streak was snapped just the same. Washington ended the season series 3-1 against Boston, something which should give them confidence should these teams meet in the postseason (a first-round date is certainly possible).

Believe me when I tell you that nothing happened in the first two periods save for Adam McQuaid getting hurt (concussion?) on Jason Chimera's charging penalty in the first (14 strides!) and Caps goaltender Tomas Vokoun left with an injury (groin?) of his own.

Boston was also missing Dennis Seidenberg who was out with an infection from a cut on his leg.

Chimera got a 5-minute major and a game misconduct but the B's weren't able to take advantage of the extended power-play opportunity.

Two mistakes by Boston led to both Washington goals in the third. At 7:59, former Bruin Dennis Wideman (11th of the season) was allowed to slip into the offensive zone and he wristed a shot by Tim Thomas (21 saves; 33-20-0). Marcus Johansson and Alex Ovechin assisted on the goal.

Just 1:55 later, the Capitals seemed to put this one away and get back into eighth place in the Eastern Conference thanks to a 2-on-1 finish by Johansson (14th of the season) from Ovechkin.

The Bruins beat the Capitals by one second as they scored a pair of goals in 1:54. David Krejci (21st of the season) was the first to solve Michal Neuvirth (19 saves) as he redirected Zdeno Chara's shot at 16:50. Milan Lucic had the second assist.

Andrew Ference (6th of the season) tied it at 2 with a slap shot at 18:44. Krejci had the lone assist on the rare Ference goal.

Chris Kelly forced a solid stop by Neuvirth shortly after Ference's strike. Boston had all the momentum going into overtime but they weren't able to score in the extra frame.

Boston will get a full dose of New York this weekend as they travel to Long Island on Saturday to meet the Islanders then they face the Rangers at MSG on Sunday night.

Surprisingly, the Bruins are 1-1 against the Islanders with New York winning 3-2 on March 3 at the Garden. They haven't given up on this season either (even though they aren't going anywhere). The Islanders beat the Penguins 5-3 both nights of a home-and-home this week. Expect Marty Turco to get a start this weekend, more likely Saturday.

UPDATE 3/30: McQuaid didn't make the trip to New York so he's out for this weekend's games. Seidenberg is day-to-day meaning that he could potentially play.

UPDATE 3/31: With Buffalo's loss to Pittsburgh tonight, the Bruins clinched a playoff spot for the fifth straight season under Claude Julien. He has never missed the postseason in Boston.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Once Again, Celtics Are Tied With 76ers Atop The Atlantic Division

This season that looked so bleak at the beginning is very slowly getting more enjoyable with each passing game.

The Boston Celtics (28-22, 18-8 home) beat the Utah Jazz (27-24, 8-18 road) 94-82 tonight at TD Garden.

Utah had come in as one of the NBA's hottest teams, having won seven out of their last eight but they were completely smothered by Boston's outstanding defensive effort. The Celts won their fifth game out of their last six and as a reward, they're tied with Philadelphia again for first place in the Atlantic.

Kevin Garnett (23 points, 10 rebounds) and Paul Pierce (20 points) were the best players on the parquet while Brandon Bass added a quiet but effective 19 points. Rajon Rondo had double-digit assists (14) for the 11th consecutive game. Avery Bradley scored nine points as he started with Ray Allen missing his fourth game in a row because of an ankle problem.

Gordon Hayward (19 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists) had one of his best games as a pro but Al Jefferson (18 points, 12 rebounds, 3 blocks) struggled in his return to Boston as he shot 7 for 19 from the floor. Paul Millsap was the only other Jazz player in double figures with 16 points.

This was a true team win for the C's since the four bench guys that played all did something positive. Keyon Dooling had seven points (including a big 3-pointer) and three assists, Sasha Pavlovic had five points (including a 3-pointer), Ryan Hollins threw down two nice alley-oops from Rondo and Greg Stiemsma blocked four shots. You can't ask much more from those four in a relatively close contest.

Boston shot way better than Utah (46.8%-39.0%). That made up for another pitiful night on the glass (49-38 advantage for the Jazz, 16-4 offensive rebounds).

The Celtics close out March on Friday as they travel to KG's old stomping grounds: Minnesota or as he calls it "Sota." Nobody in the NBA is currently playing better than Kevin Love (three 40-point games in March including one 51-point game) so Boston will have their hands full with a young and energized squad that's playing decent even though Ricky Rubio is out for the season.

It's the only meeting of the season between the Celtics and Timberwolves. Minnesota has been awful since Garnett has been in Boston but I feel like they always give the C's a tough game every year.

Curt Schilling & A Bunch Of Bums To Be Inducted Into The Red Sox Hall Of Fame

I've blogged about the Patriots Hall of Fame inductees and everybody knows that the Bruins, Celtics and Red Sox retire iconic numbers at their respective homes. I learned today though that there is also a Red Sox Hall of Fame.

The patchwork quality of this mysterious place was signified by the group selected today: pitcher Curt Schilling, groundskeeper Joe Mooney, center fielder Ellis Burks, second baseman Marty Barrett, pitchers Joe Dobson (who is probably dead) and Hubert "Dutch" Leonard (definitely long gone).

They will all be part of the Class of 2012 in an induction on Friday, August 3 at Fenway Park. That night, the Red Sox host the Minnesota Twins that night with first pitch at 7:05 p.m. so I'm assuming this will all take place before that gets started.

We can only hope that the ceremony doesn't go on too long and that Big Schill doesn't take the mic for an hour. Keep it brief Curt and please don't plug your crappy video game company or your conservative political views. Congrats!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Black And Gold Are Finally Playing Well, At Just The Right Time

With the playoffs only two weeks away, the Boston Bruins are finally starting to resemble the dominant team from earlier in the season and of course during last spring's Stanley Cup run.

It had been three months since the B's (45-28-3) had won three games in a row but that's what they accomplished tonight as they beat the Lightning (35-34-7) 5-2 at TD Garden.

The season series ended 2-2 and there will be no Eastern Conference Finals rematch between these teams this May since Tampa Bay is all but guaranteed to miss out on the playoffs. The Bruins on the other hand have won five out of their last six and they look like they'll win the Northeast Division and grab the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference.

Fittingly on a night when the B's honored captain Zdeno Chara for his 1000th game (this being his 1002nd, he was in LA for the 1000th), he made it particularly memorable as he had three assists.

Five different Bruins scored goals and Tim Thomas (16 saves; 33-19-0) had an easy night except for two more goals by superstar Steven Stamkos.

Tampa Bay actually led 1-0 as Stamkos (54th of the season) took advantage of a Boston giveaway and snapped one past Thomas 5:03 into the first. UVM alum Martin St. Louis had the assist.

It didn't take the Bruins long to tie it up as enforcer Shawn Thornton (5th of the season) showed that he can score the occasional goal. Chara made a nice move to the net and Thornton was there for the rebound at 10:54.

Another unlikely goal-scorer for the B's stepped up as Dennis Seidenberg (4th of the season) made quick work of another juicy Dwayne Roloson (33 saves for the ex-UMass-Lowell River Hawk) rebound at 15:05 of the second. Chara and David Krejci had the assists.

Stamkos earned a bogus power-play as he went down a little too easily and Johnny Boychuk got called for a tripping penalty. Stamkos tied it at 2 just 5:46 into the third. Victor Hedman and St. Louis assisted on Stamkos' rocket one-timer.

Boston had enough so they pumped in three goals in the last 8:30 of the third. Benoit Pouliot (14th of the season) had the go-ahead tally at 11:34 thanks to a nice wraparound pass from Brian Rolston. Chara had the second assist.

Brad Marchand (26th of the season, tying Tyler Seguin for the team lead) put it away at 15:50 after Patrice Bergeron passed it to him then set a perfect screen on Roloson. Seguin had the other assist.

Rich Peverely (10th of the season) rounded out the scoring with an empty-netter from Krejci when seven seconds remained. It was a nice reward for a good performance from him, only his second game back after missing 19 with a knee injury.

Temporarily stuck in ninth place in the East, the Washington Capitals will be here on Thursday. They are 2-1 against the Black and Gold this season including a 4-3 win on March 10 in DC (which kicked off Boston's four-game losing streak). The Bruins will need to bring this same type of intensity and full team effort that they demonstrated tonight if they want to beat the Caps.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Improbably, The Sixers & Celtics Are Now Tied Atop The Atlantic Division

If I told you that on March 27, the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers would possess the same record, you would probably take it assuming you were a Celts fan.

This weird season is starting to get interesting for Boston since winning the Atlantic Division would ensure a No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference. That would give them a puncher's chance in the playoffs because they would have home-court for the first round.

That's big picture but tonight in Charlotte, the C's (27-20, 10-14 road) did enough to beat the Bobcats (7-40, 4-18 home), 102-95 at Time Warner Cable Arena.

By winning their second game in two nights and vanquishing the NBA's worst team, the Celtics pulled into a deadlock with the 76ers (who still own the tiebreaker since they're 2-0 against Boston so far this season).

Paul Pierce wouldn't let his team lose as he poured in a season-high 36 points plus 10 rebounds, four assists, three steals and three blocks. Did I mention that he was 15 of 18 from the free throw line? Kevin Garnett did his part as well with 24 points.

Brandon Bass scored 15 points, Rajon Rondo notched 13 assists and Avery Bradley had 11 points. Ray Allen missed his third straight game with an ankle injury, he's expected back in the lineup for the next game.

I don't think I've ever heard of this but leave it to the Bobcats to do something wacky: their bench outscored the starters 59-36. If not for Gerald Henderson's 21 points, the other four starters accounted for a pathetic 15 points. I don't know how Bobcats head coach Paul Silas does it; he must drink heavily and cry himself to sleep every night.

Byron Mullens had 18 points and seven rebounds off the bench along with Derrick Brown who put up 16 points and seven assists. D.J. White and Reggie Williams both scored nine points while former UConn star (how much things can change in a year) Kemba Walker had seven points and seven assists.

Boston looked like they might roll as they jumped out to a 33-15 lead but as they usually have this season, they almost immediately gave it back. The C's were only up 52-50 at halftime. A solid third quarter (30-25) and enough plays in the fourth (20-20) allowed the Celtics to survive a game that they led from start to finish.

It being Charlotte, the quietest and most funeral home like NBA arena, it only makes sense that the stats prove it was also bizarro world stuff. Boston attempted 10 more free throws (45-35) and made nine more (34-25). They also had four more rebounds (37-33), six more steals (8-2), eight more fast break points (17-9) and 14 more points in the paint (44-30).

More good news is that the Celtics face the Bobcats one more time, on April 15 back in Charlotte. I wouldn't guarantee a win against almost anybody but that's a W staring them in the face, Boston will be 3-0 against Charlotte.

After one game at the Garden, then this, the C's return home again for one contest. Al Jefferson and the Utah Jazz make their only appearance of the season on Wednesday. The Jazz are right in the thick of the last few seeds in the Western Conference playoffs; at least this meeting isn't in Utah where they possess perhaps the best home-court advantage in the NBA (Mormon power!). The Jazz are a quality team and Wednesday should be much more entertaining than the two dull exhibitions (Wizards, Bobcats) that Boston has played in the last two nights.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Marty Turco Might Not Be So Worthless After All

I can't think of a much better way for the Boston Bruins to wrap up their last significant road trip of the 2011-12 regular season.

Not only did they get Rich Peverley back on the ice but backup goaltender Marty Turco (25 saves; 1-1-0) survived more than four minutes as the B's (44-28-3) held on for a 3-2 win tonight against the Ducks (32-33-11) at the Honda Center.

Boston has righted the ship, winning four out of its last five games after losing a season-high four in a row.

Boston went 2-1 in California, including consecutive wins on back-to-back nights. With only seven games left in the regular season (and due to the fact that he's ineligible for the playoffs), this at least showed that Turco should get another start or two down the stretch.

The offensive revelation for the Bruins the last few weeks, particularly on this trip, was the third line of Chris Kelly, Benoit Pouliot and Brian Rolston. Tonight, they combined for two goals and four assists.

Boston jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second period and a 3-1 lead in the third but they had a few anxious minutes when Lubomir Visnovsky (6th of the season) scored an unassisted goal with 2:29 left in regulation.

Zdeno Chara (12th of the season) potted the first goal at 4:37 of the second on an unassisted slapshot past Jonas Hiller (22 saves). Before the Honda Center game ops guys could cue up Weezer's "My Name is Jonas,"-they really play that-Pouliot (13th of the season) finished a pretty pass from Kelly and Rolston at 5:59.

My hero, 41-year-old Teemu Selanne (24th of the season) got the Ducks on the board at 9:11 of the second thanks to a power-play goal. He tipped Cam Fowler's shot from the point with Ryan Getzlaf picking up the other assist.

If Pouliot's goal was pretty, Rolston's (7th of the season) in the third was a work of art. He blasted a one-timer from Kelly that was all started thanks to Pouliot's breakout pass before he got crushed along the boards in Boston's own defensive zone.

The regular season is rapidly ending, the Bruins only have seven more games. Four at home, three away, all against Eastern Conference teams (5 playoff teams, 2 that will miss out). A busy week (four games) begins on Tuesday as they host the Tampa Bay Lightning. When last seen, the Lightning hung a 6-1 loss on the B's in Tampa on March 13. It was probably the low point of the season (not including October) so Boston shouldn't need much motivation.

Who Needs Ray Allen When You've Got Avery Bradley?

You have to love the Washington Wizards. The Boston Celtics came off a grueling road trip (4-4), missing both Ray Allen (ankle) and Mickael Pietrus (head) so they had plenty of excuses to struggle tonight back at home.

Yet the Celts (26-22, 17-8 home) were able to notch a pretty easy 88-76 win vs. the Wizards (11-37, 5-19 away) at TD Garden (their first game there in over two weeks).

It gave Boston a season sweep (4-0) against Washington and it was mostly thanks to Avery Bradley's career-high 23 points. He started in Allen's place (probably the first time in years that he's been a shooting guard) and he played great. I've been a Bradley critic from Day 1 but I can admit that he is getting better. He'll always have a role based on his outstanding defensive prowess but his offensive game is slowly coming along too.

Paul Pierce added 21 points and eight rebounds, Brandon Bass had 11 points and seven rebounds, Kevin Garnett scored 10 points and had six assists while Rajon Rondo dished out 11 assists. Greg Stiemsma had 10 points and seven rebounds off the bench.

Jordan Crawford led the Wizards with 20 points. Kevin Seraphin had 15 points and 11 rebounds, John Wall had 12 points and nine assists while Chris Singleton scored 11. Jan Vesely had 11 points and six rebounds off the bench.

Washington is a complete joke and as such, I can't waste anymore of my life right now bothering to write about them. Luckily for the C's, they face a similarly pathetic franchise tomorrow night: the Bobcats, in Charlotte. Boston beat Charlotte 94-84 on February 7 at the Garden. The only reason anyone remembers that game is because it's the one that Pierce became the second leading scorer in Celtics franchise history.

Yes it's a back-to-back and Allen is out again but the C's will be looking for the fourth win in their last five games against the NBA's worst team (7-39). Don't worry, if you miss tomorrow night, they play the Bobcats again on April 15.

File This Under Who Cares: Chad Johnson Will Apparently Be Back With The Pats in 2012

I hesitated to even bother writing a post about this-that's how irrelevant Chad Johnson has become-but I guess it is newsworthy.

Johnson (I refuse to call him Ochocinco) restructured his deal for the 2012 season from $3 million to $1 million so it looks like we're in for another year of his uselessness.

How much things can change in one season huh? Who wasn't excited when the Patriots picked him up last summer? To say he was insignificant in his first year with the Pats or a non-factor is being too kind. It was a nightmare. He only had 15 catches for 276 yards with one touchdown. Pathetic production from a guy that New England had coveted for years before he got here.

I'm shocked that Bill Belichick and the Patriots want to put up with another dose of him but I guess they think maybe with another offseason, mini camps and full training camp he'll be able to learn more than the one play he knew in 2011 (a go route).

It's too easy to pile on Johnson at this point, he's 34 so regardless if he learns the playbook better, it seems unlikely that he'll ever be very effective. I will give him credit for one thing: despite all his struggles, he never whined or complained. He seemed to be a good teammate which is probably a big part of the reason he got invited back.

Otherwise, the Patriots don't need him. He's going to be on another reality show on VH1 (about his upcoming wedding) and he lives on Twitter so where does football fit in his busy life? Everyone waited for his breakout game but it never came, by the end it was like a bad joke. Obviously, at this price he's not a risk but I'm ready to say goodbye to Chad Johnson if he's the same player he was last season.

UPDATE 3/26: The Patriots signed fullback Tony Fiammetta (who sounds like a plumber from Malden) and released fullback Lousaka Polite.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Boston Ends LA's 6-Game Win Streak

There is no way to overlook the fact that Tim Thomas was awful for a long stretch of this season but it feels like right about now, with the playoffs starting in a few weeks, he's starting to find his game again.

Thomas (32-19-0) made 40 saves tonight as the Bruins (43-28-3) went into the Staples Center and broke the Kings' (37-26-12) six-game win streak, 4-2.

Zdeno Chara played in his 1000th NHL game so it must have been even sweeter since his team came out on top.

Boston freed themselves of a 1-1 deadlock entering the third period by scoring three goals in the final frame.

Former UMass-Amherst star Jonathan Quick (22 saves) did not play as well as the guy that he started over in the 2010 Olympics for the United States.

For once on the road, the B's benefited from some good bounces. Namely, a pass that went off Chris Kelly's (19th of the season) skate and into the net. That made it 3-1 and it held up after a review. Benoit Pouliot and Brian Rolston assisted on that one.

Earlier in the third, Milan Lucic (24th of the season) scored at 4:37 on a shot that trickled through Quick's five-hole. David Krejci and Jordan Caron had the assists.

Los Angeles didn't fold after Boston made it 3-1, Slava Voynov (7th of the season) put one past Thomas thanks to some traffic at 14:46. Thomas made some big saves though to keep the Bruins ahead and Brad Marchand (25th of the season) scored an empty-netter with one second left in regulation.

Kelly and Trevor Lewis fought in the first period, a very rare occurrence for Kelly although you wouldn't know that by the way he wailed on Lewis.

After a scoreless first, Patrice Bergeron (20th of the season) opened the scoring with a short-handed tally at 5:18 in the second. Brad Marchand intercepted a bad breakout pass and went in on Quick, who made the initial stop but Bergeron was there for the rebound.

At 13:17 something named Colin Fraser (2nd of the season) knotted it at 1 all thanks to Drew Doughty's impressive shot fake and pass. All Fraser had to do was redirect it in. Kyle Clifford had the second assist.

The effort wasn't there on Thursday in San Jose so it was nice to see the Bruins bounce back tonight against a solid team (sweeping the season series 2-0), that is fighting for every point since they are on the fringe of making or missing the Western Conference playoffs.

This three-game swing in California concludes tomorrow night with a visit to the Anaheim Ducks. It's the only meeting for the two teams this season and Anaheim is not going to make the playoffs so you can look at that two ways: 1) they have nothing to lose or 2) they're playing out the string and they'll pack it in if Boston can grab an early lead. All I know is that two more points particularly in a back-to-back game would be a wonderful result for the Bruins. Maybe Marty Turco will get another start?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Pietrus' Injury Overshadows Boston's Loss In Philadelphia

A serious injury in any sport always puts a damper on a game, no matter how important it is.

The Boston Celtics (25-22, 9-14 road) concluded their grueling eight-game road trip (4-4) with a 99-86 loss tonight to the Philadelphia 76ers (27-21, 17-10) at the Wells Fargo Center.

If they had won, the Celts would have moved into first-place in the Atlantic Division for the first time this season. However, for the second time, they were no match for the Sixers who now lead by 1.5 games but the Celts have a game in hand.

All of that seems insignificant though since Celtics swingman Mickael Pietrus suffered a serious injury late in the first half when he fell awkwardly on the court and his neck went back quickly. He had to be taken off on a stretcher and Boston released a statement that he had a "closed head injury" after the game.

At the time, the Celtics were leading but it is completely understandable that they ran out of energy and enthusiasm after seeing their teammate go down like that.

Plus, Ray Allen was already sitting out with an ankle injury and Avery Bradley suffered a similar injury (ankle) in the first half and he didn't return. He's hoping to return on Sunday, I'm not sure about Ray's status.

Elton Brand paced the Sixers with 20 points. Spencer Hawes had a double-double (12 points, 10 rebounds), Andre Iguodala (14 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds) filled the stat sheet like always and Jrue Holiday scored 15 points.

Philadelphia is deep too since Lou Williams (19 points) and Thaddeus Young (12 points, 9 rebounds) are arguably their two most skilled offensive players and they both come off the bench.

Paul Pierce (9 rebounds) and Kevin Garnett (8 rebounds) both scored 20 points for the C's. Brandon Bass added 18 points and Rajon Rondo handed out a quiet 17 assists, if that's possible.

These teams will meet one more time in the regular season: Sunday, April 8 (Easter) at TD Garden. I just found out yesterday that I will be there with front row seats behind the Celtics' bench, something I've never experienced so I'm hoping for a better result then.

After almost two full weeks on the road, mostly very far away, Boston returns home to face the Washington Wizards on Sunday. The Celtics beat the Wizards three times in January but they were all pretty close (8 points, 8 points, 6 points) so if they're not careful, Washington could possibly steal a win.

Most importantly, let's hope that Pietrus is o.k. and that wasn't as bad as it looked.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The More Desperate Team (The Sharks) Wins

It is lazy journalism and reporting to say that the Boston Bruins were simply tired from their cross-country flight to the West Coast.

No, they didn't lose to the San Jose Sharks 2-1 tonight at the HP Pavilion because of the time change and a long plane ride. They lost simply because the Sharks (37-27-10) played like the more desperate team while the Bruins (42-28-3) lacked that same type of energy. The Sharks also swept the season series 2-0.

San Jose needs every point they can get just to make the ultra-competitive Western Conference playoffs. Joe Pavelski (27th of the season) scored 3:57 into the game thanks to a bad defensive zone turnover by Milan Lucic. Former Bruin Joe Thornton intercepted it and fed it to Patrick Marleau who was robbed by Tim Thomas (25 saves; 31-19-0). Pavelski was on the doorstep for the rebound.

This game flew by, with only two penalties combined between the two teams. Former UNH star Daniel Winnik (6th of the season) scored his first goal as a Shark at 2:17 of the third period, the game-winner. Andrew Desjardins (No. 69 in your program, haha really) had the assist as Winnik went top shelf with a snap shot.

The B's made it interesting when Zdeno Chara (11th of the season) banked one in off Antti Niemi's (16 saves) pads with 3:15 left in regulation. Chris Kelly and Brian Rolston assisted on Big Z's goal, the captain was appearing in his 999th career NHL game.

Truthfully, Boston had no business coming that close. They were outshot 27-17 (17 was a season-low for them and season-low allowed by San Jose) and the Sharks had 12 more takeaways (16-4). I don't buy into the tired legs theory since the Bruins outhit the Sharks 40-13. A fatigued team wouldn't have a discrepancy like that. Plus, they hadn't played since Monday night and that was an 8-0 scrimmage vs. Toronto.

The Bruins' journey through California stops in Los Angeles where they'll play the equally desperate Kings, who are also on the cusp of the Western Conference playoffs. Boston beat LA 3-0 on December 13 at the TD Garden.

Bucks' 6-Game Win Streak Is Snapped By The Celtics

I bet nobody outside of Wisconsin knew that entering tonight, the Milwaukee Bucks had the longest current win streak in the NBA.

That is history now as the Boston Celtics (25-21, 9-13 road) went into the Bradley Center and beat the Bucks (21-25, 11-10 home) 100-91. The loss ended Milwaukee's six-game win streak while also improving Boston's road trip to 4-3.

The C's improved to 2-0 against the Bucks this season, they meet one more time-April 26 for the regular season finale-in Boston.

It was a true team win for the Celts as five guys scored in double figures not to mention some key contributions off the bench from Keyon Dooling (8 points) and Greg Stiemsma (6 points, 5 blocks, 4 rebounds, 4 steals, 3 assists) in front of his hometown fans.

Paul Pierce had a game-high 25 points and nine rebounds. Three Celtics had double-doubles: Kevin Garnett (16 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists), Brandon Bass (12 points, 10 rebounds) and Rajon Rondo (10 points, 14 assists, 3 steals).

Brandon Jennings led the Bucks with 19 points. Carlos Delfino had 16 points and eight rebounds. Ersan Ilyasova added 12 points and 14 rebounds. Monta Ellis had 13 points and seven assists while Mike Dunleavy scored 11 off the bench.

I included the picture up above since Ryan Hollins is the newest Celtic. Boston will be his fifth team in only seven seasons. Still, he's 7-feet-tall, he can run the floor and block shots. However, he can't rebound at all which doesn't really address one of Boston's biggest issues. He's expected to be in uniform tomorrow night in Philadelphia as the Celtics wrap up their insane eight-game trip against the 76ers.

Philadelphia is only a half game ahead of Boston while the Celts have a game in hand. If the C's can win tomorrow, not only does it make the trip very successful (5-3) but it vaults them from No. 7 in the Eastern Conference to No. 4 since they would lead the Atlantic Division.

The two teams have only met once so far this season, a 103-71 shellacking handed out by the Sixers on March 7 at the Wells Fargo Center. The C's have to be completely exhausted but with only one more game against the Sixers after tomorrow, this will be one of the most important contests of the regular season.

UPDATE 3/23: The Celtics waived Chris Wilcox to make room for Hollins, who will likely make his debut tonight for the Green in Philadelphia.

Deion Branch Sticks Around For What Should Be Another Fun Year In Foxborough

Well I'm no NFL agent but I'm pretty sure the negotiations between Deion Branch's agent and the New England Patriots probably took a grand total of 10 seconds this off-season.

The team confirmed something today that many expected since the Super Bowl ended: Branch will be back for another season with the Pats. He signed a one-year deal which keeps him with the team that has re-energized his career.

Yes he has slowed down but there's something to be said for the inane connection that he still shares with Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Last season, his first full one back in New England, was a solid one for Branch: 51 catches, 702 yards, 5 touchdowns as the team's No. 2 receiver.

He will probably never be a 1000-yard receiver again in his career but then again, his game was never about numbers. He is still absurdly clutch and his hands are still there. With the addition of Brandon Lloyd and hopefully the return of Wes Welker (who was franchised), Branch should slide into the more comfortable spot as No. 3 receiver. When you have Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd, Branch is a pretty nice fifth option.

Branch is one of the most beloved Patriots from his era and I doubt that he'll leave Foxborough again before his career ends. He deserves to end it here and then have his number retired at Gillette Stadium. A true pro, a good dude and a great teammate, basically all you can ask for in a football player. Deion is the man and I'm psyched that he's not going anywhere; he has earned another shot with Brady and Belichick.

UPDATE 3/22: The Patriots also agreed to a two-year deal with fullback/linebacker Spencer Larsen. You read that right, he plays both of those positions, hence why New England must have coveted him for his versatility.

UPDATE 3/23: Backup quarterback Brian Hoyer signed his restricted free-agent tender with the Patriots today. He was tendered at the second-round level ($1.9 million). This was expected, it's noteworthy because he now counts on the 80-man roster (whereas he didn't before).

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Thanks For Everything BenJarvus Green-Ellis, No Really

It is only fair that we salute BenJarvus Green-Ellis, one of the most underrated Patriots of the last four seasons, as he heads out to his new NFL home: the Cincinnati Bengals.

BenJarvus or "StackJarvus" (since he gets stacked up often) as my buddies like to call him has never been known for his long runs or electrifying highlights. However, you could always count on him to get a positive gain and most importantly, never fumble the ball. That's right, between his college career at Mississippi and his four seasons in New England (53 games, 510 carries), he never had a fumble. That's insane.

He made the team as an undrafted rookie in 2008 and over time, he beat out first-round bust Laurence Maroney and a broken-down Fred Taylor. He was a touchdown machine, quiet, dependable and he had no ego whatsoever which is what made him a quintessential Patriot.

His best season was 2010 when he got his first chance to be the feature back. Green-Ellis gained 1008 rushing yards on 229 carries (4.4 yards per carry) with 13 touchdowns. Last season, he had to split time with Danny Woodhead and rookie Stevan Ridley so Green-Ellis had worse numbers (181 carries, 667 rushing yards, 3.7 yards per carry, 11 touchdowns).

With Ridley expected to get more carries, not to mention Shane Vereen (who basically did nothing last season as a rookie) and Woodhead still being around, it makes perfect sense for BenJarvus to head to the Bengals. He gets a three-year deal, something I'm sure the Patriots didn't want to do and with Cedric Benson still a free agent, Green-Ellis will likely be the No. 1 running back on a team that went to the playoffs in 2011.

I hate nicknames for professional athletes but The Law Firm was definitely on my very short list of favorites. He was a good player and seemed like a decent guy that didn't take anything for granted. In other words, all you can ask for from someone on the team you root for. Best of luck in Cincinnati BenJarvus!

I'd love to see the Patriots bring in free agent Michael Bush to replace Green-Ellis. They don't need another rookie running back, that's for sure. Obviously, they'll need another body or two since I'm 99% sure that Kevin Faulk will retire at some point this offseason.

The other player to leave Foxborough today was defensive end Mark Anderson, who cashed in on a nice season in 2011 (10 sacks) to the tune of a four-year deal in Buffalo worth $27 million with $8 million guaranteed. This is a guy who has bounced around, the Bills will be his fourth team in seven years so I'm not surprised at all that he wants to get paid.

Good for him, the Pats basically took a flyer on him and he definitely overachieved for what anybody could have expected in his only season for New England. The only thing that I care about now is that New England either re-signs defensive end Andre Carter, sign somebody else that can get after the quarterback (one of their biggest weaknesses) or draft somebody in the first round that is all about sacks (unlikely since they never go that route).

Veteran cornerback Will Allen, formerly of the Dolphins (2006-11) and Giants (2001-05) was the one player that was added to the Patriots today. He's 33 so he might not make the team but I'm all for bringing in a guy with experience since New England has almost all young guys in one of the most important positions-cornerback.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Atlanta Hawks Will Never Change As Long As They Employ Josh Smith

It's good to know that some things in the NBA never change: namely that Josh Smith is still the dumbest player in the league. By association, his Atlanta Hawks (I can't believe they never traded him) will fail to get anywhere with that knucklehead.

The Boston Celtics (24-21, 8-13 road) took advantage of Atlanta's (26-20, 13-7) lack of smarts to win a sneaky big game tonight, 79-76 at Philips Arena.

Sure the C's almost blew a 15-point lead in crunch time, one of their specialties, but thankfully Jeff Teague airballed a 3-pointer then failed to foul, allowing Boston to run out the clock. Teague is the same guy that got called for a taunting technical in the third quarter after he dunked on Ray Allen. Atlanta led by eight (47-39) at the time.

Allen led the Celtics with 19 points. Kevin Garnett had 16 points and eight rebounds, Paul Pierce scored 13 and Rajon Rondo had 10 points, 13 assists and six steals. Every point counted in such a low-scoring contest so it's notable that Brandon Bass added eight points and 10 rebounds, Mickael Pietrus scored nine off the bench and Greg Stiemsma blocked four shots.

Joe Johnson (25 points) might as well be Ray Allen 2.0, what an incredible shooter. He got Atlanta back into it as he was 4 of 5 on 3-pointers. Zaza Pachulia had 16 points and 13 rebounds while Smith put up 10 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists. Good numbers if you have him in fantasy but not when you consider he was 5 of 20 from the floor.

This was the first of three meetings between the Celtics and Hawks (Apr. 11 in Boston, April 20 in Atlanta) so it was big for the Green to prove right off the bat that they could win at Philips Arena.

Only two more games left on this endless eight-game road trip for the Celts (3-3 so far). Even better, they get two days off before their next game: Thursday in Milwaukee. The Celtics beat the Bucks 102-96 on Leap Day but since then, Milwaukee has been playing better plus they traded for Monta Ellis. Him and Brandon Jennings with Ersan Ilyasova-maybe the NBA's most improved player-is a tough matchup for the C's.

Zombie Jermaine O'Neal officially is out for the season as he's opting for wrist surgery. Let's all pour out a goblet of blood for him.

Bruins Send Maple Leafs Down To AHL Or At Least They Should Have

6-0. 36-10. That's the season series and cumulative score respectively between the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs.

The B's (42-27-3) saved one final beating for the pitiful Maple Leafs (32-33-8) and they handed it out tonight at TD Garden, 8-0.

This is exactly the type of game Boston needed as they head out on a three-game road trip in California. After beating the Flyers in a shootout on Saturday, this last ass-whooping of the Leafs should do wonders for the Bruins' confidence.

It was all about Boston's third line as Brian Rolston (1 goal, 3 assists), Benoit Pouliot (2 goals, 1 assist) and Chris Kelly (1 goal, 1 assist) all had monster games-for them.

Before you could say Curtis Joseph, the Black and Gold were up 4-0 just 12:42 into the first period. Kelly started it off with his career-high 18th of the season. After a pass from Pouliot, he walked in on James Reimer and worked a backhander around him at 2:25.

Even more embarrassing for Reimer was Gregory Campbell's goal (his 8th of the season) at 5:40. It was something out of Pee Wee hockey as Campbell took the puck from behind the net and beat Reimer to the post to stuff it in.

Pouliot (11th of the season) added a tip-in from Johnny Boychuk and Rolston at 10:58 then Brad Marchand (24th of the season) capped it off with a power-play roof job at 12:42. Tyler Seguin found Marchand with a fastball of a cross-ice feed.

Campbell had fought Jay Rosehill before Marchand's goal and then Shawn Thornton absolutely crushed former Canadien Mike Komisarek shortly after Marchand's goal. Ironically, Komisarek was the one that got it started. Haha good idea.

Boston poured in three more goals in the second on backup goaltender Jonas Gustavsson: Pouliot got a one-timer from Rolston, Zdeno Chara (10th of the season) scored with a blast on the power-play and Rolston (6th of the season) finished it off with a snipe.

Seguin (26th of the season) added one more goal late in the third. I didn't mention Tim Thomas (31-18-0; 5th shutout of the season) until now since he only had to make 13 saves. Really. Toronto had two shots in the first period.

The Bruins begin their California trip in San Jose on Thursday night. In their only other meeting, the Sharks won 4-2 in Boston on October 22 which was a lifetime ago. San Jose is right on the cusp of the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference so they have plenty to play for.

UPDATE 3/21: Rich Peverley will make the trip to California with the Bruins, meaning he could possibly play on Saturday or Sunday. Also, they recalled Trent Whitfield and sent Max Sauve down to Providence.

The Patriots Can Never Have Enough Third Tight Ends

The New England Patriots continue to make exactly their type of moves in free agency as they agreed to terms with their sixth new player in the past week.

Former Denver Broncos tight end Daniel Fells will come to Foxboro seemingly with a place already locked up as the third tight end on New England's depth chart. The Pats have reportedly given the former UC Davis star a three-year deal worth $2 million per season and up to $7 million if he reaches all his incentives.

This is a no-brainer since the Patriots somehow went long stretches last season with only Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski. Sure, Dan Gronkowski was brought in for a few weeks as a blocking tight end but he had zero impact so he was quickly sent on his way out of town and back to the Gronk bros' estate.

Fells apparently is known more for his hands than his blocking which seems counterproductive to what his role will likely be for Bill Belichick. After getting signed as a rookie free agent by the Atlanta Falcons in 2006, he bounced from there to the Raiders and Tampa Bay's practice squad before finding a home in St. Louis (2008-2010).

He spent last season in Denver with Tebowmania where he was limited to 19 catches for 256 yards and three touchdowns. I don't put much stock on those numbers since we all know that Tebow can't throw a forward pass consistently-a key to football in 2012. In 58 career games, Fells has 88 catches for 1001 yards (11.4 yards per catch) and eight touchdowns.

His best season was 2010 with the Rams and Sam Bradford when he made 41 catches for 391 yards (9.5 yards per catch) and two touchdowns in 16 games.

Fells fits the mold of the other players that New England has signed so far: Jonathan Fanene, Steve Gregory, Trevor Scott, Anthony Gonzalez and Brandon Lloyd. None of them have received more than a three-year contract and they are all depth players that are low-risk, high-reward. Stop me if you've heard that one before. If nothing else, he provides insurance in case Gronkowski or Hernandez go down with an injury next season; both were pretty durable last season despite the fact that they take a ton of hits since they are beasts after the catch.

UPDATE 3/19: The Patriots had a very busy day as they added three other players: defensive back Marquice Cole (a special teams standout from the Jets), offensive lineman Robert Gallery (a former No. 2 overall pick in 2004 for Oakland who's been a complete bust) and wide receiver Donte' Stallworth (who was a Patriot in 2007 but he's only had 41 catches and three touchdowns combined in the last three seasons). Gallery and Stallworth got one-year deals.

UPDATE 3/20: Mike Reiss tweeted that Cole's deal is one-year and worth $615,000. He also said that Cole can become a "core special teamer."

UPDATE 3/21: Lost in all the other moves, the Patriots re-signed center Dan Connolly to a three-year deal while they also released linebacker Christian Cox who spent all last season (his rookie year) on IR.

Also today, New England signed veteran cornerback Will Allen to a one-year deal. Stallworth will get $875,000 including a $25,000 bonus and $25,000 workout bonus. Mark Anderson signed a four-year deal with the Buffalo Bills and some guy named Tim Tebow was traded from the Broncos to the Jets. The AFC East is getting very interesting, although the Miami Dolphins still have done basically nothing besides sign David Gerrard after getting turned down by every other free agent QB.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

No St. Patrick's Day Magic For The Celts As Their Comeback Falls Short In Denver

These days it's hard to figure out the Boston Celtics let alone predict what they'll do from game to game. After starting out 2-1 on their eight-game road trip and playing some of their best basketball in weeks, they got blown out last night in Sacramento and then they lost tonight in Denver.

The Nuggets (25-20, 15-11 home) held on for a 98-91 win at the Pepsi Center over the Celtics (23-21, 7-13 road). Let it be noted that on St. Patrick's Day, the crowd was filled with Green of the Boston variety.

You would think that the pressure would be off the C's since the trade deadline was hanging over their heads for months but Celtics GM Danny Ainge decided not to do anything.

Losing to a terrible Kings team, after they had a day of rest, made little sense but falling to the Nuggets-a fringe playoff contender in the Western Conference-on the second night of a back-to-back in high altitude and after a long plane ride were understandable.

Denver doesn't have a go-to guy per se but they get it done with a deep, mostly young roster that plays with energy and emotion. Danilo Gallinari led the Nuggets with 20 points while rookie Kenneth Faried put up a career-high 18 points and 16 rebounds. Arron Afflalo added 15 points and Ty Lawson had 10 assists. Fat Al Harrington scored 11 points off the bench.

Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett (9 rebounds) both had 22 points for the Celtics but Ray Allen (7 points) was invisible. Rajon Rondo (12 points, 16 assists) won the point guard battle against his fellow Oak Hill Academy alum Lawson. Marquis Daniels played 20 minutes (which has to be a season-high) and he looked good with eight points. Avery Bradley also scored eight off the bench.

I actually give Boston credit since they were down 16 points in the third quarter and trailed by 14 (82-68) heading into the fourth before they rallied. Believe me when I say that Denver tried really hard to gag it away. The Celtics cut it to two (87-85) and Allen had a chance to tie it (94-91 with 55 seconds left) with a three but he missed and that was it.

Looking at the numbers, I can't comprehend how this was that close. Denver hit four more 3-pointers (7-3), made seven more free throws (23-16), they grabbed 19 more rebounds (46-27), had three more steals (10-7), 15 more fast break points (21-6) and eight more points in the paint (48-40).

Boston mercifully has three more games (Hawks, Bucks and Sixers) on this neverending trip. Those are all Eastern Conference playoff teams or contenders so they will be tough for the C's. First up is in Atlanta on Monday. In a weird scheduling quirk (crazy I know in this great season), the Celtics haven't played the Hawks yet but then they see them three times in a month. Sweet.

Brandon Lloyd, Trevor Scott & Anthony Gonzalez: Your Newest New England Patriots

If there's one thing you can count on as a New England Patriots fan, it's that they'll never "win" the first few days of free agency.

Thankfully, the teams that usually make the biggest moves (Washington, Dallas, Philadelphia last season) rarely achieve any success on the field. Still, it takes patience to sit and wonder what the Pats will do. Today, we were rewarded as they picked up free agent receiver Brandon Lloyd, along with wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez and defensive end/outside linebacker Trevor Scott.

Lloyd has been rumored to be coming to New England for weeks so it's nice to see it finally happen, particularly since the pool of free agent wide receivers has completely dried up (Mario Manningham signed with the 49ers tonight).

This will be Lloyd's sixth NFL team in only 10 seasons. He was drafted by San Francisco in 2003 in the fourth round. He bounced around from there to Washington, Chicago, Denver, St. Louis and now New England. He is known mostly for 2010 when he led the NFL in receiving yards (1448 yards on 77 catches and 11 touchdowns).

Last season, he was traded after four games with the Broncos (19 catches, 283 yards) to the Rams where he put up good numbers (51 catches, 683 yards, 5 touchdowns) on an awful team that was going nowhere. Other than being a diva like all good wideouts, Lloyd is a deep threat (career average 15.4 yards per catch) that also moves the chains (224 first downs on 311 catches).

The hope is that with New England's receiver corps in flux (Deion Branch and Chad Johnson could both be gone), Lloyd will provide another viable option to team with Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. I'll caution against getting too excited since we all freshly remember what a bust Johnson turned out to be but it seems like Lloyd could be a good fit. Josh McDaniels was Denver's head coach in 2010 when he had that great season. Now, McDaniels is back as the offensive coordinator for the Patriots so maybe he can get the most out of his former star wide receiver.

Gonzalez and Scott are classic Patriots low-risk, potentially high-reward moves. Coming out of Ohio State in 2007, Gonzalez was projected to be a great slot receiver for the Colts and he had two decent seasons (2007, 2008) before injuries completely ruined his career. He's played in only 11 games the past three seasons and he has just five catches since 2008. So yeah, I expect him to get hurt in training camp and not make the team.

Scott looks like Mark Anderson's replacement, if they don't bring him back. He's shown some pass rushing ability in Oakland (5 sacks in 2008, 7 sacks in 2009) so I'm sure New England thinks they can squeeze a bit more out of him. Plus, and this is what sets their loins on fire, he can play special teams. Woo! Did I mention that he went to the University of Buffalo and he was a sixth-round draft pick? Oh yeah, classic Patriot.

All I ask now is that the Patriots continue to accumulate talent, not just bargains, through free agency and the draft. Oh and I want them to use their picks this year, forget trading down like always. I want young guys that can play on both sides of the ball right away.

UPDATE 3/18: Lloyd's deal is a very friendly three years for $18 million. What a steal if he plays well.

UPDATE 3/19: Gonzalez's deal is only one-year for $701,000 which cannot be much more than the league minimum for a veteran.

You Didn't Think The Bruins Would Lose At Home On St. Patrick's Day, Did You?

Since they were riding their longest losing streak of the season-four games-it wasn't hyperbole to say that today's game was the most important so far for the B's in 2011-12.

As always with the Philadelphia Flyers, it was physical, it got nasty and Boston (41-27-3) ended up on top with a 3-2 shootout win this afternoon at TD Garden.

The Flyers (41-22-8) gamely rallied from a 2-0 hole on St. Patrick's Day but the Bruins converted all their of their shootout attempts and Tim Thomas (30-18-0, 4th season of 30+ wins; 27 saves) stuffed Daniel Briere to end it. Thomas is a perfect 6-0 in shootouts this season and the Bruins wrapped up a 3-1 season series vs. the Flyers.

After no-showing last time out in Florida on Thursday, a game I admittedly didn't watch any of, the B's came out today with their best period in ages. It only took 1:55 for Gregory Campbell and Zac Rinaldo to fight, before many Bruins fans had probably sat down with their cups of Guinness.

For the first time in eight games, they scored the first goal (which always helps) as Chris Kelly (17th of the season) followed a Benoit Pouliot rebound at 6:23. Brian Rolston had the second assist.

Tyler Seguin (25th of the season) made it 2-0 at 17:07 thanks to a nifty goal-line feed from behind the net by Patrice Bergeron. Brad Marchand had the other assist.

Philadelphia goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov (31 saves) entered as the NHL's hottest goalie and he played more like that after the first period.

I wouldn't call it a fight, it was more like an ass-kicking when Johnny Boychuk absolutely demolished Max Talbot, who didn't return after that, early in the second.

Impressive Flyers rookie Matt Read (20th of the season) cut it to 2-1 at 9:16 of the second. He tipped in Briere's shot, Matt Carle also had an assist.

It looked like Boston might escape in regulation but Philly tied it up with 4:17 left on another tipped goal, this time by Jakub Voracek (14th of the season). Braydon Coburn and Read had the assists.

After no goals in overtime, shooters on both teams couldn't miss. In order: David Krejci, Read, Seguin, Claude Giroux and Bergeron all scored. Then Briere didn't, game over and Thomas rightly celebrated like it was a playoff game.

Two bits of good news from later in the day: 1) Toronto beat Ottawa 3-1 so Boston held its one-point lead in the Northeast Division (with two games in hand). 2) The Bruins signed a two-year extension with Shawn Thornton. It makes perfect sense for them to lock up one of their leaders both on and off the ice; you won't find many better teammates or tougher guys in the NHL. I'm pumped that Thornton will be around for two more years since he's one of my favorite Bruins.

The Maple Leafs come to the Garden on Monday. The B's will look for the very rare season sweep (six games) against their divisional rival. Two more points would be key before the Black and Gold head to the West Coast for three games (Sharks, Kings, Ducks) later in the week.

UPDATE 3/19: The Bruins announced Thornton's two-year extension today. Terms were not disclosed although reports peg it at $2.2 million.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Big 4 Makes Their Case For Danny Ainge To Hold Tight Tomorrow

If this was the last time that the Big 4 (Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo) played together for the Boston Celtics, what a way to go out.

The C's (23-19, 7-11 away) won a wildly entertaining game 105-103 against the Warriors (18-22, 10-11 home) at Oracle Arena tonight. KG (24 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists) hit a jumper from just inside the 3-point line with five seconds left then former Celtic Nate Robinson (20 points, 11 assists, 4 steals) clanked a hero 3-pointer and Boston survived.

It was Boston's eighth win in their last 10 games.

The NBA Trade Deadline is tomorrow and while I don't think Danny Ainge will do anything major at this point, he is the same guy who came out of nowhere last season and traded Kendrick Perkins to Oklahoma City at the last second.

I've arrived at the conclusion that Ainge might as well let this season ride out with the current cast. Blow it up in the summer when some contracts expire and the Celtics have two first-round draft picks plus they can spend money in free agency. If anything, this group has proven that they deserve one last shot. However, with Chris Wilcox now out for the year with a heart ailment, ala Jeff Green, the C's desperately need a big man (Chris Kaman please).

Brandon Bass had 22 points and nine rebounds, Rondo had eight points, 14 assists and six rebounds while Pierce added 15 points, six rebounds and six assists. Only nine guys played for Boston but Mickael Pietrus (15 points on 5 3-pointers) and Greg Stiemsma (8 points, 8 rebounds) each had their best performances in months.

It seems like nothing has changed under Golden State's new head coach Mark Jackson and even with Monta Ellis shipped out of town: they are still allergic to defense. The Warriors were playing shorthanded since Stephen Curry and the reacquired Stephen Jackson were out with injuries.

Rookie Klay Thompson, who could be Austin Rivers' twin brother, scored a career-high 26 points, the always underrated David Lee notched 22 points and eight rebounds while Dorell Wright scored 16 points and grabbed seven rebounds and Dominic McGuire had 10 points off the bench.

Golden State led 25-21 after one quarter and 60-55 at halftime. Boston responded in the third quarter (26-17) and made enough plays in the fourth (outscored 26-24) to hang on for their second win in a row.

The Celtics recorded 32 assists on 40 baskets which is insane. That made up for the Warriors dominating in the paint to the tune of 60-42.

Boston will try to make it three straight on the road (and 3-1 on this trip) when they visit the Sacramento Kings on Friday for their only meeting of the season. The Kings are just as awful as you remember so barring anything crazy tomorrow (knock on wood), the Celts should win it.

UPDATE 3/15: What did I tell you? The Celtics didn't make any moves today at all although they hinted that they'll buy out Jermaine O'Neal.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Lightning Help Bruins Hit Rock Bottom For 2011-12

The Boston Bruins have been handing out two-goal leads to start games like they were candy on Halloween. Tonight, they thought why not take it a step further as they were down 3-0 at 4:31 and 4-0 at 15:38 of the first period.

By rolling 6-1, the Tampa Bay Lightning (32-30-7) helped push the B's (40-26-03) over the cliff at the Tampa Bay Times Forum and they didn't forget to pour gasoline over the tire fire that is the Black and gold.

It's the first time since October, the month that shall not be spoken about, that Boston has lost three games in a row. The worst part was that this prideful team simply laid down from beginning to end, against an average opponent.

Marty Turco (8 saves) got the start but he was yanked after allowing three goals, one of which was completely preventable and his fault. Tim Thomas (3 saves) came in for almost two periods but he wasn't much better as he allowed two goals. Turco returned in the third period and he had the honor of allowing Steven Stamkos' 50th goal of the season (second time he's done that in his career, 51 in '09-'10).

Tom Pyatt (8th of the season) kicked off the scoring (no pun intended) by knocking the puck off his skate. It was called no-goal on the ice but somehow the league officials in Toronto thought it was a goal so it was reversed. Things only got worse as Turco fumbled a puck right to Nate Thompson (9th of the season) then former BC star Ryan Shannon (4th of the season) skated in on a breakaway.

Tampa Bay scored its fourth goal-the most Boston has allowed in a period this season-when Victor Hedman (4th of the season) put one over Thomas' shoulder. The only semblance of pride exhibited by the B's in that frame was from Shawn Thornton, as usual, who beat the hell out of Mike Commodore.

Did I mention that Boston had two shots (really) in the first? Stamkos' received a gift from Thomas in the form of his 49th goal in the second period. Stamkos flipped it on net, with no power and Thomas fall over the line and couldn't stop it.

Jordan Caron (7th of the season) prevented the shutout for Dustin Tokarski (33 saves) when he tipped in a shot by Johnny Boychuk in the third period.

The Lightning come to TD Garden in two weeks, maybe by then the Bruins will have woken up. Either that or they'll no longer be in first in the Northeast Division so they'll be on the fringe of the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

Boston ends this torturous trip (0-2 so far, 3 goals scored, 11 goals allowed) on Thursday against the Panthers. The Bruins are 2-1 against Florida so far this season although they haven't played them in nearly two months.

2012 NFL Free Agency Begins Or So I've Heard

The new calendar year for the NFL officially began at 4 p.m. this afternoon, meaning that free agency opened.

For New England Patriots fans, this day is strange. You watch so many teams around the league make big splashes but the Pats rarely spend a whole lot in free agency or acquiring marquee names. They much prefer to draft and develop guys or find castoffs that they turn into valuable players.

So while Vincent Jackson was getting paid in Tampa Bay, Peyton Manning was traveling around the country and Brandon Marshall was traded from Miami to Chicago, the Patriots chose to lock up mostly depth players that don't get many headlines.

Backup quarterback Brian Hoyer received a second-round tender from New England. The $1.92 million tender means that any other team can sign him to an offer sheet. If the Patriots don't match it, they get a second-round pick.

Defensive lineman Kyle Love received an exclusive rights free-agent tender. Center Dan Koppen is headed to the open market in free agency although he could return to Foxboro. Linebacker Niko Koutouvides was signed to a one-year deal with a base salary of $825,000. Finally, Matthew Slater is expected to reach an agreement tomorrow.

Only Brandon Lloyd is left in terms of impact free agent wide receivers. Let's hope that the Pats can get something done with him soon and they don't lose out to a team like the 49ers (who's hosting him on a visit tomorrow). I would list other pipe dreams like Mario Williams but I fear there's no chance they'll land anybody in his range.

UPDATE 3/14: The Patriots resigned linebacker and special teams standout Tracy White, terms were not disclosed. They've also signed former Bengals defensive end Jonathan Fanene to a three-year contract worth $12 million which includes a $3.85 million signing bonus. I'm excited that the Pats addressed one of their biggest needs but honestly, I've never heard of this bum. Looks like another nobody that they'll try to squeeze something out of on short money. He had 6.5 sacks last season and six sacks in 2009. He's 29 years old, 6-4, 285 pounds and he's from American Samoa. You probably would recognize him from his long hair.

UPDATE 3/15: Today the Patriots resigned Slater and also came to terms with defensive lineman Marcus Harrison, who was on the team for one day (haha really) last season. New England also signed safety Steve Gregory to a three-year deal (averaging between $2 million and $3 million) and they resigned Dan Connolly to a new contract. Gregory was on the Chargers since entering the NFL as an undrafted rookie in 2006.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Suck It Billy Crystal & Clipper Darrell

I might have forfeited sleep and sanity but that's a small price to pay since in return, tonight I was able to watch the best win of the season for the Boston Celtics.

Playing their second game in two days at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, the Celts (22-19, 6-11 away) were able to close on a 20-7 run for a truly awesome 94-85 win over the Clippers (23-17, 12-7 home).

This was the first time all season that Boston won the second game of a back-to-back on the road.

Paul Pierce (game-high 25 points, 7 assists) usually plays well when he returns home and this was no exception as he hit a huge 3-pointer near the end. Kevin Garnett (21 points, 8 rebounds) was great too and Ray Allen (15 points) survived a scary turned ankle. It looked bad at first glance, maybe something way more serious but after going to the back he returned a few minutes later and even finished the game on the court.

Brandon Bass had 10 points and nine rebounds before fouling out. The expected point guard showdown between Rajon Rondo (12 points, 10 assists, 3 steals) and Chris Paul (14 points on 3 of 12 shooting), two of the NBA's best, was a bust since Paul was basically invisible.

Freak of nature Blake Griffin led LA with 24 points and nine rebounds, DeAndre Jordan grabbed 13 rebounds and Mo Williams scored 21 off the bench with four steals.

This was the only meeting of the season between these two teams but you wouldn't know that by how chippy they played and how much trash they talked to each other. I complain all the time about regular season NBA games being dull but this one was great because it had an edge.

The Celts led 25-21 after one quarter but the Clippers rallied to take a 48-39 halftime advantage. Boston locked down on defense in the second half, outscoring Los Angeles 23-13 in the third and 32-24 in the fourth.

It was great for once to see the Celtics execute in crunch time and not fold like usual (such as yesterday against the Lakers). It gives us a flickering hope that maybe they can do that more consistently.

The C's shot 12% better from the floor (49.3%-37.3%), they attempted six more free throws (27-21) and made five more (23-18) while dishing out eight more assists (24-16) and blocking three more shots (5-2). The Clippers were beasts on the offensive boards (20-6) and rebounding in general (45-31), that's the only reason it was somewhat close.

Two games down on this eight-game road trip, six more remaining. Up next, the Celtics travel to Golden State on Wednesday for their only meeting against the Warriors. Monta Ellis, Stephen Curry, David Lee and Co. are always tough at home. Boston will need plenty of rest since Golden State loves to run.

UPDATE 3/14: The Warriors made a blockbuster trade last night as they shipped Ellis, forward Ekpe Udoh and blob Kwame Brown to the Bucks for injured center Andrew Bogut and swingman Stephen Jackson. There's been reports that Golden State would get a draft pick too but I'm not sure. Regardless, it totally changes the complexion of tonight's game. Now, I expect the Celtics to win. Jackson used to be on the Warriors but he's way past his prime.