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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Celtics Games Without Kevin Garnett In The Lineup Are Unwatchable, There I Said It

I suspect that if you're reading this, you have already figured out what my keen eyes have noticed about the Celtics these last few games: they are hopeless without Kevin Garnett so there is basically no reason to watch them lose. Tonight, the Knicks (46-26, 27-10) didn't break a sweat in a 108-89 blowout of the C's (108-89) at Madison Square Garden.

New York has won eight games in a row while Boston had their modest two-game win streak snapped. This closed the season series with the Knicks ahead 3-1 over the Celtics, Boston won the first meeting but lost the last three in progressively worse fashion. They've dropped four of six without KG but apparently he could come back sooner than they thought (I doubt it). The good news is that there are only nine games left in the regular season for Boston. I can't take many more of these preseason-esque scrimmages.

Carmelo Anthony led the Knicks with 24 points, 10 rebounds and two steals. Something called Chris Copeland had 22 points and five rebounds off the bench, Raymond Felton scored 18 points, J.R. Smith had 15 points, 12 rebounds and two steals while Steve Novak and Iman Shumpert both notched 10 points.

Boston basically had two guys show up: Paul Pierce (24 points, 15 rebounds, 5 assists) and Jeff Green (27 points) unless you count 10 points apiece from Jordan Crawford and Courtney Lee.

The Celts are in Minnesota tomorrow night (8 p.m., CSN) to face the Timberwolves (26-46, 5th in Northwest Division). Normally I would say this game will suck but Celtics head coach Doc Rivers hinted tonight that Pierce is going to sit out so yeah, avert your eyes kids from this dumpster fire.

Bruins Still Can't Score Goals But They Find A Way To Beat The Sabres 2-0

For 52+ forgettable minutes, the Bruins and Sabres played one of the most boring games of this bizarre NHL season. Thankfully, David Krejci scored a goal then Nathan Horton added another shortly after that to give Boston (22-8-4) a 2-0 win over Buffalo (13-17-6) at First Niagara Center.

This was one of the more important wins of the season for the B's since they lost 3-1 to the Flyers yesterday afternoon. They couldn't afford to come away with no points against two of the worst teams in the Eastern Conference.

Bruins backup goaltender Anton Khudobin (7-3-0) showed his value, putting up 26 saves for his first shutout in Black and Gold. It was the second shutout of his career (17 NHL starts), the only other time was in 2010-11 with the Wild.

Krejci's goal came after he ventured into virtually unknown territory for him: he went right next to Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller's (29 saves) crease to slide in a rebound at 12:54. Krejci's eighth goal of the season was assisted by Horton and Matt Bartkowski (cool moment for him since it was his first NHL point).

Horton is on fire, well not really but you could say that during this rough season for the free agent to be: he scored a goal in the third straight game. Krejci was the main reason why Horton potted his 11th goal of the season at 15:44 since Krejci's sick pass was right on Horton's tape and all he had to do was redirect it past Miller. Milan Lucic had the second assist.

The clock is ticking with the NHL trade deadline a little more than two days away (Wednesday, 3 p.m.). In case you forgot, the Bruins have yet to do anything (unless you count missing out on Jarome Iginla). With that drama playing out off the ice, Boston returns to TD Garden to face the Senators (19-10-6) on Tuesday (7 p.m., NESN). Boston is 3-0 against Ottawa this season although that is a bit misleading since each game has been a one-goal win (in regulation, overtime and a shootout).

The Bruins were 9-6-2 in March and they play 14 more games in April before the real fun starts with the playoffs. They only have four more games left against Northeast Division (2 vs. Ottawa, 1 vs. Montreal & 1 vs. Buffalo) foes so those contests take on extra importance give how tight it has been.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Canadiens Outlast Bruins 6-5 In Wild Shootout Victory At TD Garden

A game like tonight, as entertaining as it was, is further proof of why I hope the Bruins don't meet the Canadiens in the playoffs this spring. Boston gets sucked into Montreal's weasel game and it takes them out of their normal style (physical, defensive, rolling four lines). The Canadiens won 6-5 in a shootout at TD Garden to take control of the Northeast Division (the teams both had 45 points before the game).

Boston (21-7-4) fell behind 2-0 before rallying for a 4-2 lead in the second period but Montreal (21-7-5) outscored them 3-1 in the third period, survived overtime and Brendan Gallagher netted the only goal in six rounds of the shootout. The B's finished 6-2-0 at home in March, the catch is that both losses were to the Canadiens.

Michael Ryder scored on a one-timer in the first period to give the Habs a 1-0 lead then P.K. Subban added one of his patented lasers that Tuukka Rask (23 saves) had no chance to stop early in the second period. Dougie Hamilton scored his fourth goal of the season, 32 seconds after Subban's tally. Tyler Seguin and Patrice Bergeron had the assists. Brad Marchand (14th goal of season) tied it at two after great hustle, he followed his own rebound with Bergeron and Seguin providing the assists at 7:23. You knew the B's were rolling when Bergeron made it 4-2 thanks to a power-play goal at 17:01 from Rich Peverley and Torey Krug (called up today).

Ryder struck again, early in the third period, on another one-timer but Seguin appeared to wrap it up with a beautiful backhander at 11:50 from Marchand and Bergeron. Gallagher got the lucky bounces started for Montreal as he scored after no joke he shot it off Dennis Seidenberg's face then swept the rebound past Rask who was out of position. The Canadiens took advantage of a silly rule that needs to be changed as Andrei Markov was credited with a power play when there was only 8.2 seconds left in regulation. Aaron Johnson had mistakenly deflected the puck into the crowd in his own end. That was bad enough but the goal was deflected off Chara's stick past Rask.

Boston dominated in most facets: shots on goal (41-28), hits (33-21) and faceoff wins (44-26) but they couldn't find the game-winner in overtime and then all six shooters were stopped by Peter Budaj (14 saves). Carey Price (22 saves) started but got pulled after the second period, Budaj earned the win by only allowing one goal with nothing in overtime or even the shootout.

These teams meet one more time, on Saturday, April 6 in Montreal, before the playoffs begin. As it stands, Montreal leads the season series 2-1. For the first time in over a month, the exhausted B's get two days in a row without a game. Next, we'll see them in Philadelphia on Saturday (1:00 p.m., NESN) taking on the Flyers (13-17-2, 5th in Atlantic Division) who have been one of the NHL's biggest disappointments.

UPDATE 3/29: Torey Krug was sent back to Providence which means that Johnny Boychuk should be back in the lineup tomorrow against the Flyers.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Knicks Have No Problem With The KG-Less Celtics

With Kevin Garnett (left ankle) out for the next two weeks (wink wink), there is a serious cloud developing over the Celtics. Tonight, they got blown out by the Knicks 100-85 at TD Garden. Besides KG, Courtney Lee (sprained ankle) also had the night off so even though Tyson Chandler (neck) was out for New York (43-26, 19-16 away), that meant that Boston (36-34, 24-11) had no chance to win.

The Knicks won their fifth game in a row while the Celtics lost their fifth consecutive game. New York has won the last two games in Boston to take a 2-1 season series lead, they wrap it up on Sunday at Madison Square Garden although there is a very real possibility that they could meet in the first round of the playoffs.

J.R. Smith had 32 points, seven rebounds and three steals off the bench for the Knicks while Carmelo Anthony added 29 points, eight rebounds and three steals. No other player for New York had double figures but who cares?

Boston had five guys in double digits but none of them had 20 points or more. Jeff Green had 19 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. Paul Pierce put up 16 points, six rebounds and six assists, Jordan Crawford added 14 points and six assists in his first start as a Celtic while Brandon Bass notched 11 points, seven rebounds and three blocks. Jason Terry had 10 points off the bench.

It doesn't matter how it happens but the C's desperately need a win tomorrow night (7:00 p.m., CSN) at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland against the shitbum Cavaliers (22-47, 5th in Central Division) who won't have Kyrie Irving in the lineup.

UPDATE 3/27: Lee and Garnett didn't make the trip to Cleveland so they're both out tonight.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Milan Lucic Is Boston's X-Factor

It's not hard to see that when Milan Lucic is playing his physical game and scoring goals, the Bruins are a different team. It only took 14 games but he finally scored another goal (his first since February 24 at Florida) as Claude Julien reconfigured his struggling forward lines and put Looch on the third with Rich Peverley and Jordan Caron. Tonight at TD Garden, Boston (21-7-3) beat Toronto (17-12-4) 3-2 in a shootout.

The two points was particularly important for a couple reasons: 1) The Bruins had fallen behind 2-0, 2) a win tied them with Montreal for first-place in the Northeast Division and 3) the Maple Leafs had beaten the B's 3-2 on Saturday night.

After a scoreless first period, Toronto took a 2-0 lead on Joffrey Lupul's one-timer on a power-play at 2:04 of the second period. After a deflection in the slot, Jake Gardiner found Lupul for the goal. The Maple Leafs doubled their lead at 8:01 after blocking a shot then getting a breakaway as Boston's defensive pair of Aaron Johnson and Andrew Ference were left in the dust. Nikolai Kulemin beat Rask, who once again had no chance as his teammates left him out to dry.

Lucic broke his personal funk at 9:49 with a pretty backhander after a pass through the seams of Toronto's defense by Peverley. Caron had the other assist on Lucic's fifth goal of the season. Haha only one more and he'll catch Daniel Paille and Zdeno Chara. Patrice Bergeron delivered the clutch tying goal with 9:24 left in the third period. Dougie Hamilton took advantage of a bad line change by Toronto to go behind their net and he found Bergeron for a backhander (his 9th goal of the season).

Not much happened in overtime but that's alright since the second and especially the third periods were barnburners which is not something that I often say. Tyler Seguin and Bergeron scored in the shootout while Rask (23 saves; 15-4-3) stopped Nazem Kadri and Kulemin. The B's improved to 4-1 in shootouts this season while the Leafs fell to 0-4. Boston won the season series with Toronto 3-1.

There is basically a month left in the regular season (17 games) so it doesn't get much bigger than Wednesday night (7:30 p.m., NBC Sports Network) as the Canadiens (20-6-5) come to TD Garden. Before that, the Habs are in Pittsburgh tomorrow night as they try to snap the Penguins' 12-game win streak. Good luck with that. Regardless of how they do there, Wednesday will be for first-place in the Northeast Division.

UPDATE 3/26: Today the Bruins signed defenseman Matt Bartkowski to a one-year extension (don't ask me why) and they signed University of Minnesota-Duluth defenseman Chris Casto to an entry-level contract.

UPDATE 3/27: This afternoon the B's claimed Senators left wing Kaspars Daugavins (1 goal, 2 assists, -7 in 17 games). He's best known as the clown that tried that stupid spin-o-rama in the shootout against Boston on March 11 in Ottawa. He might be a bum but I guarantee that he's better than Jay Pandolfo who is extremely lucky to still be playing in the NHL.

Another move today by the B's was that they called up defenseman Torey Krug from Providence. He has put up great numbers (10 goals, 24 assists) there this season in 55 games. Johnny Boychuk (foot) was placed on IR.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Patriots Re-Sign Right Tackle Sebastian Vollmer To A 4-Year Deal

I've been ready to move on from the Patriots debacle with Wes Welker for the last few weeks and today's news makes me happy and more importantly, it should help Tom Brady feel better about this franchise going forward. New England has reportedly re-signed right tackle Sebastian Vollmer to a four-year deal.

Vollmer is the team's best offensive lineman and one of the better right tackles in the NFL, he was a second-team All Pro in 2010 and second-team Pro Football Focus All Pro in 2012. With all the free agents on the move, it seems like the offensive linemen market never really got going as much as the other more sexy positions which is to be expected I guess. After Welker went to Denver and Aqib Talib re-signed with the Pats, Vollmer was the other very important piece that they needed to address.

He was a second round pick (58th overall) in 2009 by New England out of the University of Houston. He played in 14 games his rookie season, made 16 starts in 2010, played in six games in 2011 (5 starts) and started all 15 games he played in the 2012 regular season. Vollmer had a minor knee surgery in February but he should be fine for training camp this summer. The German will be 29 in October but keep in mind that he got started playing football later than most and offensive linemen tend to peak later than most.

This was a move that the Patriots had to make to stabilize their offensive line (which has been solid the last few seasons) and give Brady confidence that they were making the best decisions for the 2013 season and rest of his career in New England.

UPDATE 3/25: Vollmer's deal is worth a max of $27 million with $7 million signing bonus, $7.75 in base salaries and $10 million in incentives/roster bonuses.

UPDATE 3/28: The Pats signed free agent wide receiver Michael Jenkins. Last season with the Vikings he had 40 catches for 449 yards and two touchdowns.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Bruins Pick Up Great 2-1 Win At Ottawa

It's no secret that the Bruins haven't been themselves lately, they have suffered a rash of injuries and forgot how to put the puck in the net with any regularity. For one night at least, Boston had plenty of reason to be happy since the B's (20-6-3) won 2-1 against the Senators (16-9-6) at Scotiabank Place.

Dennis Seidenberg prevented overtime by scoring a clutch goal, his first of the season, with 1:04 left in regulation. His slap shot from the point was assisted by Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron. Ottawa goaltender Robin Lehner (27 saves) played well but all we'll remember is that he didn't make the timely stops when he needed to.

Anton Khudobin (6-2-0) continued to solidify his role on the team with 27 saves. He's won four of his last five starts and this victory helped snap Boston's two-game losing streak which doesn't sound like a big deal to most clubs but the B's were pressing a bit this past week or so.

Props to David Krejci for playing through what had to be immense pain. He only missed one game after taking Johnny Boychuk's slap shot right off his knee on Sunday. I didn't know he was that tough, this proves plenty to me and all the other doubters. No Euroweenie in there Felger. Rich Peverley was a healthy scratch for the first time in his Black and Gold career as head coach Claude Julien tried to shake things up with his team that had scored one goal in each of the last two contests. Ryan Spooner started in Peverley's place on the third line.

The Senators broke the boring deadlock at 4:55 of the second period when Kaspars Daugavins wristed a shot over Khudobin's glove. Daniel Paille responded with a much needed goal (his 6th of the season) for the Bruins before the period expired. Boychuk and Gregory Campbell had assists on Paille's wrister that trickled over the line after it ate Lehner up like you read about.

This was the third time that Ottawa has lost by one goal to Boston this season, at least this version didn't include overtime or a shootout (both of which they've tasted before). These Northeast Division "rivals" will meet twice more, April 2 & 15 at TD Garden.

The B's close their four-game road trip (that has felt like a month) on Saturday (7 p.m., NESN) at Air Canada Centre against the Leafs (16-12-3). Toronto is 0-2-0 against Boston in 2013.

UPDATE 3/22: Matt Bartkowski was called up from Providence on an emergency basis, for Boychuk.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Anybody But Blake Wheeler, I Beg Of You

The Bruins pissed away a chance to be tied for first place in the Northeast Division tonight in Winnipeg. Boston (19-6-3) held a shaky 1-0 lead in the third period but the Jets (16-12-2) scored three times (including an empty-netter) in the final 8:16 for a 3-1 win at the MTS Centre. The Jets had 16 more hits than the Bruins (33-17), a disparity that never happens to the B's in that manner.

In not even three weeks, Boston has somehow managed to blow leads in the third period four times. For comparison's sake, they didn't do that once last season (32-0-0) when leading after two periods. Ugh. Well at least former Bruin Blake Wheeler scored twice for Winnpeg, oh wait that just makes me more depressed since he was a complete stiff in Black and Gold.

Offense was a real struggle for the B's with David Krejci out and their defense wasn't helped by the fact that Adam McQuaid hurt his shoulder in the first period and never returned. Boston had been lucky for the first month plus not to suffer any injuries but now they are coming nearly every game (Kelly, Krejci, McQuaid). Ryan Spooner, playing his second NHL game, couldn't coax anything out of Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic while the third line continued to exist solely on the side of milk cartons (they still have those right?).

Boston's lone goal was truthfully a gift since a pass around the boards ended up on Brad Marchand's stick alone in front of the Jets' goal. He deposited his team-high 13th of the season in eight seconds, the fastest goal to start a period for the B's all season. After that, Ondrej Pavelec (27 saves) put the clamps on while Tuukka Rask (22 saves; 14-4-3) allowed a tip-in by Wheeler at 11:44 to tie it. Jordan Caron's bonehead hooking penalty made him the goat on that play. Rask had to do better on the game-winner when he couldn't squeeze Grant Clitsome's (poor guy) shot and Evander Kane was there for the rebound 57 seconds after Wheeler's goal.

This is the first time in 2013 that Boston has lost consecutive games in regulation. They will look to regroup in Ottawa on Thursday (7:30 p.m., NESN) against the Senators (16-8-6, 3rd in Northeast Division) who continue to defy the odds by hanging in there despite all their calamitous injuries. Ottawa only trails Boston by three points heading into that game and the B's have won the first two games (in OT and a shootout) but then again, they had won the first two meetings with Winnipeg before this evening.

UPDATE 3/21: McQuaid has a left shoulder strain and he's expected to miss 3-4 weeks. I suppose it could have been worse but that's another obstacle for the Bruins to overcome in the injury department. That means Aaron Johnson will be on the third defensive pair with Andrew Ference.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Jeff Green Scores A Career-High 43 Points For Boston But Miami Wins Its 23rd Straight Game

I think I speak for all basketball fans, nevermind Celtics honks, when I demand that the Celtics and Heat face each other in the Eastern Conference Finals (again) this spring. Tonight, we were treated to an instant classic regular season game (an oxymoron if I've ever heard one) as Miami (52-14, 22-11 away) survived a career-high 43 points by Jeff Green (7 rebounds, 4 blocks, 2 steals) to beat Boston (36-30, 24-10 home) 105-103 at TD Garden.

This was the Heat's 23rd straight win and I doubt they had a harder one during this absurd streak. For the Celts, they exhibited their usual dose of incredible heart in the face of adversity. Kevin Garnett didn't play (thigh bruise) which made it seem like they had zero chance to win. Thanks to Green's once in a lifetime performance, Boston actually controlled much of the game but fell apart down the stretch.

Paul Pierce (17 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists) had a chance to give Boston the lead at the end with a 3-pointer out of a timeout but the shot hit the front rim and Miami controlled the rebound. Courtney Lee (13 points, 3 steals) was the only other Celtic in double-figures although Jason Terry (9 points) and Jordan Crawford (8 points) played very well off the bench.

LeBron James (37 points, 12 assists, 7 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 blocks) was brilliant, like you'd expect from the best player in the world, while Mario Chalmers scored a sneaky 21 points. Dwyane Wade (16 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals) was held in check which always seems to happen against the Celtics. Chris Bosh had 13 points and five rebounds while former Celtic Ray Allen (6 points, 5 rebounds in 30 minutes) was mostly silent.

Boston got off to a perfect start given the circumstances, they led 31-19 after one quarter. Miami chipped into that lead, trailing by only six at halftime (59-53). The C's were still up heading into the fourth quarter (82-78) but their shots stopped falling in crunch time.

The Celtics shot almost 5.0% (54.2-49.4) than the Heat, hit three more 3-pointers (10-7) and scored 16 more points on the fast break (22-6). Miami hung on because they grabbed six more rebounds (39-33), they had 16 more points in the paint (50-34) and five less team turnovers (21-16).

These bitter rivals opened up the 2012-13 NBA season and this gave Miami a 2-1 advantage in the season series. They meet once more (Friday, April 12) in Miami during the regular season. Another playoff series would be incredible after last season's Eastern Conference Finals went seven games.

The C's hit the road for three games: at New Orleans on Wednesday (8 p.m., CSN), at Dallas on Friday (8:30 p.m., CSN) and at Memphis on Saturday (8 p.m., CSN). The Hornets (22-46, 5th in Southwest Division) are awful but they won 90-78 in Boston on January 16. Austin Rivers is out for the rest of the season with a broken hand so there won't be that natural distraction for Doc. Look for the C's to bounce back from that loss, one of the worst of their season.

UPDATE 3/19: D.J. White has been signed for the rest of the season.

UPDATE 3/20: Apparently White's deal is multi-year whatever that means.

UPDATE 3/21: haha Shavlik Randolph was also signed for the rest of the season.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Welp, The Penguins Are Certainly The Class Of The Eastern Conference (At This Moment)

For whatever reason, the Bruins have been very competitive in their first two games against the Penguins this season (both this past week) but they have yet to figure out how to get two points. On Tuesday, they blew a 2-0 lead at CONSOL Energy Center and lost 3-2, today at the same tough venue they fell 2-1.

Pittsburgh (22-8-0) has won nine games in a row, they've beaten Boston (19-5-3) both times without the incomparable Evgeni Malkin and this afternoon, backup goaltender Tomas Vokoun (31 saves) beat Tuukka Rask (16 saves; 14-3-3). On Tuesday, B's backup goaltender Anton Khudobin took the loss.

The Penguins never trailed as Sidney Crosby (13th goal of the season) connected on a one-timer at 12:06 of the first period from Chris Kunitz, Pascal Dupuis had the second assist. Tyler Seguin (10th goal of the season) had the Bruins' lone goal after Johnny Boychuk's shot from the point deflected off a Penguin right to Seguin at 16:38. Patrice Bergeron had the second assist.

Three guys from Beanpot schools teamed up for Pittsburgh's game-winner as Joe Vitale (Northeastern; 1st goal of the season) dove for a beautiful diving shot over Rask, Craig Adams (Harvard) and Brooks Orpik (Boston College) had the assists at 19:28. It's hard to totally blame Rask on Vitale's goal since the initial shot had deflected off Andrew Ference but it wasn't the hardest shot (speed wise) and Rask fumbled it right to Vitale.

It was a tight game the rest of the way that had a playoff-type feel. The NHL would be in for a real treat if these teams met in the playoffs this spring, ratings would be excellent. They'll play once more, finally in Boston, on Friday, April 19.

Of more concern for the Bruins is the health of David Krejci. He took a Boychuk slap shot right off his knee cap late in the third period and had to be helped off the ice and into the dressing room. Losing him for a significant period of time would be tough, especially with Chris Kelly (their third line center) also out indefinitely with a broken leg.

This kicked off a four-game road trip for Boston, up next they hit Canada for three games beginning with Tuesday (8 p.m., NESN) in Winnipeg (15-11-2, 1st in Southeast Division). The Bruins have topped the Jets in their first two games this season (2-1 in a shootout and 3-2) but Winnipeg has been playing very well lately (6-3-1 in their last 10). At Ottawa and Toronto won't be easy either since they are both still in the top six of the Eastern Conference. The B's won't be back at TD Garden until next Monday against the Maple Leafs.

UPDATE 3/18: Looks like Krejci isn't too hurt, he's day-to-day although the B's called up Ryan Spooner from Providence for tomorrow's game against the Jets.

Without KG, Celtics Roll Over Bobcats 105-88

After they basically forfeited on Tuesday in Charlotte against the Bobcats (a 100-74 loss), the Celtics (36-29, 24-9 home) still sat a key player (Kevin Garnett this time instead of Paul Pierce) tonight but it didn't matter as they blew out the NBA's worst team 105-88 at TD Garden.

All five starters were in double-figures for the Celts: Paul Pierce (14 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds), Avery Bradley (13 points), Courtney Lee (12 points, 5 rebounds, 3 blocks), Brandon Bass (10 points, 6 rebounds) and Jeff Green (10 points, 5 rebounds). Jason Terry added 15 points off the bench and all 11 Celtics that played scored at least five points. It was such a joke that even Shavlik Randolph (6 points, 8 rebounds) and D.J. White (6 points) got to pretend they were NBA players for a few minutes.

Charlotte (14-52, 6-28 away) were paced by Jannero Pargo who scored 18 points off the bench. Gerald Henderson (16 points) and UConn's Kemba Walker (14 points) were the only other guys to reach double digits.

After three games in a row against Charlotte and Toronto, Boston gets to play a real team again on Monday night (8 p.m., CSN). Assuming they win tomorrow in Toronto, the Miami Heat (50-14, 1st in Southeast Division) will enter the Garden with a 22-game win streak. Their last loss was February 1 to Indiana and two games before that, they fell 100-98 in OT against the Celtics (the day they learned Rajon Rondo was done for the season). As a Celts fan, obviously I want the Heat to have that win streak since it would only add to the intensity and drama of one of the NBA's best new rivalries.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Bruins' First Line Drops By For A Productive Visit

One of the more incredible aspects of the Bruins' excellent start to this season is that they have completely weathered Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton being ghosts in so many games. Saturday afternoon served as a reminder to how dangerous the B's (19-4-3) can be when those guys are engaged and playing their physical style. Boston rolled to an easy 4-1 win over Washington (11-15-1) at TD Garden.

There was something for every hockey fan as the B's scored pretty goals, beat up the hapless Capitals in three fights (Brad Marchand vs. Mike Ribeiro, Horton vs. Matt Hendricks and Adam McQuaid vs. Hendricks) and received stellar goaltending by Anton Khudobin (32 saves; 5-2-0). It was exactly the type of performance they needed to build up the first line's shaky confidence heading into a monster game tomorrow afternoon (12:30 p.m., NBC) in Pittsburgh.

Horton made it 1-0 at 14:12 of the first period on a one-timer from Lucic and Zdeno Chara. It was Horton's eighth goal of the season but first since February 28. Lucic set a career-high with three assists and he found David Krejci for another one-timer and goal just 3:03 after Horton's tally. Horton had the second assist on Krejci's seventh goal of the season.

Washington deserved to get blanked but the hockey gods allowed them one gift when Krejci banked one in off Johnny Boychuk's skate, past Khudobin at 1:24 of the second period. It was a pretty awful moment that was quickly forgotten when Andrew Ference picked up his first goal of the season less than seven minutes later. Horton created the goal with a pretty drop pass, Krejci had the other assist as his relay to Horton started the play.

Rich Peverley potted a backhander (his 4th goal of the season) on the power-play at 2:41 of the third period, an early St. Patrick's Day Eve miracle. Lucic and Krejci had the assists. Today's game was really chippy, these teams clearly don't like each other. Too bad that their next meeting-April 27 in DC-is the regular season finale and by then, both teams could have nothing to play for. That's assuming that Washington doesn't wake up in time to make a run at the playoffs.

For Bruins fans, it doesn't get much better than tomorrow's game (OK, being in Boston would be perfect) as the Bruins visit the Penguins (21-8-0, 1st in Atlantic Division). You might remember Pittsburgh from their 3-2 win over Boston on Tuesday at the Consol Energy Center, after the B's blew a 2-0 lead. The Penguins are the top team in the Eastern Conference and hottest team in the NHL with eight straight wins after today's 3-0 shutout of the Rangers. As long as Montreal doesn't win tonight in New Jersey, it will pit the top two teams in the Eastern Conference.

Patriots Lock Up Their Top Cornerback-Aqib Talib-For Another Season

Aqib Talib only played eight games for the Patriots last season (6 regular season, 2 playoff) after he was traded from the Buccaneers but in that short time span, he established himself as the team's best cornerback by far. He has the confidence and ability to be successful at one of the NFL's most difficult positions and today, they signed him to a one-year deal worth $5 million.

I'm sure he wanted a longer deal here or somewhere else but given his track record of injuries and off the field incidents, he probably didn't have much of a market. This means next season for him will be a showcase of sorts as he tries to score a big deal.

He had 19 tackles in the regular season, 10 in the playoffs, a fumble recovery, two passes defensed and he returned an interception 57 yards for a TD in his first game as a Patriot against the Colts. When he left the AFC Championship Game against Baltimore with a hamstring injury, that changed the whole complexion of the contest. I'm not saying he would have made enough of a different to beat the Ravens that day but he certainly wouldn't have hurt the Patriots' awful secondary which was torched by Joe Flacco.

Talib is 27 and entering his sixth NFL season. With a full offseason and training camp with New England, it's not hard to see him really excelling and having a Pro Bowl type year since he should be in the prime of his NFL career. With Adrian Wilson signed last night and now Talib, the Pats are addressing their biggest need-secondary-since the NFL is totally a passing league now. Next I'd love to see them sign some more guys (Freeney, Abraham, etc) that can get after the quarterback, the Patriots' second biggest issue on defense.

Also, linebacker Niko Koutovides (probably the most obscure Patriot) was re-signed to a one-year deal. That fills New England's quota (1) of Greeks on their special teams units.

UPDATE 3/16: Brandon Lloyd has been released but he could return if they restructure his deal (aka take away a bunch of money).

UPDATE 3/17: Patriots signed free agent offensive lineman Will Svitek to a one-year deal.

UPDATE 3/20: The Pats re-signed cornerback Marquice Cole.

Patriots Wrap Up A Busy Day With A Great Signing: Safety Adrian Wilson For 3 Years

Apparently if the Patriots can get free agents to Foxborough for a whirlwind tour, they can properly woo them which often results in signing a deal. One day after inking Leon Washington and a few hours after bringing aboard Donald Jones, New England made their biggest splash yet of this young offseason by signing safety Adrian Wilson to a three-year deal.

A team captain with the Cardinals, he played 12 years in the desert before getting released earlier this month. Wilson made five Pro Bowls (2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011) and he was a first-team All-Pro in 2009 as well. He was available because he is 33 and will be 34 in October. That's a lot of wear and tear on such a physical player (6-foot-3, 222 pounds) that's known for his big hits.

I'm not saying he'll be Rodney Harrison since Rodney was a little younger when he came to New England so he had more of his career ahead of him but I feel like there are some similarities with Wilson in terms of great players that performed in anonymity on bad teams for years. Wilson has only appeared in six career playoff games, all of which were in either 2008 and 2009.

Wilson is one of only six players in NFL history to record 25+ sacks (25.5) and 25+ interceptions (27). In 15 games with Arizona last season (14 starts), he had 39 solo tackles, 15 assists, five passes defensed, one interception, one fumble forced and three sacks.

There are plenty of other safeties on the roster for 2013: Devin McCourty, Steve Gregory, Tavon Wilson and Nate Ebner but Adrian Wilson might still be the best one of them all. Even if he can't be counted on as a full-time starter anymore, I can see him being used often in sub packages (nickel, dime) and passing situations. Seeing him with McCourty would be nice and hopefully he can help the promising but very raw Tavon Wilson (no relation) to develop. I think Gregory is awful so I want him cut while Ebner is only a special teams guy.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Patriots Sign Donald Jones, Bring Back Kyle Arrington For Four More Years

Thanks to Twitter and the fine work of tireless NFL writers, we can all feel like ESPN's Adam Schefter with all the non-stop action in terms of NFL free agency. Today, the Patriots signed former Bills wide receiver Donald Jones (terms of the contract weren't known) and re-signed cornerback Kyle Arrington to a four-year deal.

In addition to those moves, running back Danny Woodhead signed a two-year deal with San Diego and the Patriots hosted free agent wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders ( I like him better than Jones but he's nothing special), defensive ends John Abraham and Dwight Freeney along with safety Adrian Wilson. If you need to sit down for a second or stop looking at the computer screen, I understand. Can you say ice cream headache? Woodhead will be missed but with Leon Washington, his role was basically eliminated.

Jones won't set the world on fire but he registered career-highs in catches (43), receiving yards (443) and receiving touchdowns (4) last season in Buffalo with the erratic Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing him the ball. The Pats obviously saw him up close and personal the last three years and he had two solid performances against them in 2012: he combined for eight catches, 164 receiving yards and two touchdowns (1 in each game). He set a career-long with a 68-yard catch against New England in Buffalo in Week 4. Hopefully, he can learn the playbook quickly and find a connection with Tom Brady. It could do wonders for his career, we'll have to wait and see.

Arrington fell to third on the Pats cornerback depth chart last season after they acquired Aqib Talib and the emergence of rookie Alfonzo Dennard. Now, Talib is a free agent (who knows if he'll return) and Dennard is potentially facing jail time, they had to bring Arrington back since he's young (26) and entering his fifth year in New England's system. He's durable since he's played 16 games in each of the last three seasons and versatile because he also plays on special teams. His seven interceptions in 2011 seems like a random blip since he had zero interceptions last season but I have no problem with a few more years of Arrington.

Moving forward, the Patriots need to keep bringing in talent on defense. Veterans like Abraham, Freeney and Wilson are all appealing since while they might be a bit long in the tooth, they can still make plays and most importantly, they can bring the leadership that they side of the ball desperately needs with so many young but important guys on the team (Devin McCourty, Chandler Jones, Brandon Spikes, Dont'a Hightower, etc).

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Why Are The Panthers Still In Florida/The NHL?

It sounds like I'm being way too cynical when I say that Boston's 4-1 win over Florida tonight at TD Garden put me to sleep. Sure, it was nice to see the Bruins (18-4-3) bounce back from Tuesday's bitter 3-2 loss in Pittsburgh but the Panthers (7-15-6) don't quite get the juices flowing like the Penguins or most other NHL teams.

Boston has won 10 of its last 13 games and they haven't lost consecutive games since March 2012. Florida has lost five in a row and eight of its last nine games although much of that is due to an absurd amount of injures to key players. Remember, they did reach the playoffs last season. The Bruins also beat the Panthers 4-1 on February 24 in Sunrise, Florida so it's safe to say that they have their number thus far.

Tuukka Rask (14-2-3 made 29 saves but I honestly can't remember any that were particularly difficult. The B's scored twice in the first period to take most of the fight from the Panthers. Zdeno Chara's blast from the point (his 6th goal of the season) got Boston on the board only 3:55 into the game. David Krejci and Nathan Horton had the assists. Patrice Bergeron's line continued to rack up points as he scored thanks to a great passing sequence from Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin to him for the tap-in at 14:56. It was Bergeron's seventh goal of the season.

Rookie Dougie Hamilton should buy Rask dinner or something since he ruined what was certain to be another shutout. He fell down while Boston was shorthanded and allowed Shawn Matthias to get by and cut it to 2-1 at 3:10 of the second period. It was the first shorthanded goal allowed by the B's all season.

At least there were a few highlights for the fans that filled the Garden. Shawn Thornton scored the insurance goal, his third of the season, after throwing the puck in front then going around the net and sweeping in the rebound late in the third period. Daniel Paille and Gregory Campbell had the assists. Bergeron's empty-netter gave him his first two-goal game (however fraudulent it might have been) since February 25, 2012.

Boston faces another shitbum team from the Southeast Division (the NHL's Sisters of the Poor) on Saturday (1 p.m., NESN) as the Capitals (11-14-1, 3rd in Southeast Division) come to the Garden for the first time since Game 7 of the first round of the playoffs last season. The Bruins will be motivated after blowing a 3-0 first period lead and losing 4-3 in overtime in DC on March 5.

At Least The Patriots Kick Return Game Is Getting A Serious Upgrade

The Patriots' raid of the NFC West continued today as they added kick returner Leon Washington (formerly of the Seattle Seahawks) on a one-year deal (terms were not disclosed). This comes a day after they gave former Rams wide receiver Danny Amendola a five-year deal. He's a two-time Pro Bowler (2008, 2012) who was also named an All-Pro in 2008 specifically for his prowess on punt returns and kick returns, an area that New England has really struggled the last few seasons.

Drafted in the fourth round by the Jets in 2006, Washington started out as more of a third-down back but he has morphed into mostly a return specialist. He played four seasons in New York and was in Seattle for the last three years. He's been durable too, playing in all 16 games in six of seven seasons. In 2012, he averaged 29.0 yards per kick return (2nd in the NFL to Baltimore's Jacoby Jones) with one touchdown and 8.7 yards per punt return.

He is tied for the most kick return touchdowns (8) in NFL history with Josh Cribbs. Seattle deemed him expendable since he'll be 31 in August and they just traded for Percy Harvin. The Patriots were 25th in the NFL last season with an average of 21.2 yards per kick return (from Devin McCourty and Danny Woodhead) so this should be a huge upgrade to their special teams.

Getting Washington means that Jeff Demps Patriots career might be over before it ever really started (since he missed last season on IR). Anyways, there has been talk that he wants to pursue a professional track career and I'm sure the team didn't want to hear that. Also, this could mean that Woodhead is gone if New England trusts Washington to get more touches than last season with the Seahawks (23 rushes, 4 catches). For his career, Washington has 2213 rushing yards, 16 rushing TDs, 146 catches, 1127 receiving yards and two TD catches. Keep in mind that he's short like Woodhead (5-foot-8) but bulkier (listed at 210 pounds).

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Danny Amendola Is No Wes Welker, That Much I Know

I have hardly ever feel like this but today was truly an awful day to be a Patriots fan. First, Wes Welker signed a two-year deal worth just $12 million with the Denver Broncos this afternoon. Then tonight, the Patriots made the obvious move which people had predicted for months should Welker leave in free agency: they signed his less talented and more injury-prone replacement Danny Amendola to a five-year deal worth $31 million ($10 million guaranteed). Ugh.

Last season, Welker had 118 catches for 1354 yards and six touchdowns while Amendola had 63 catches for 666 yards and three touchdowns in 11 games for the Rams. New England clearly valued other numbers over the mismatch in production last season and in their careers. Welker is 33 and heading into his ninth year in the NFL. Amendola is 27 and about to start his fifth NFL season.

I rarely get emotional about any professional athletes but Welker is a special case. He was the ultimate underdog who was undersized and virtually unknown before he came to New England in 2007 that morphed into the best slot receiver in the NFL that built insane chemistry with Tom Brady. Oh and he played through God only knows how many concussions, returned way earlier than expected after blowing out his knee and never showed an ounce of diva receiver tendencies. The NFL is a business but give me a break, if anyone deserved to get paid by the Patriots it was this guy. But nope, they low-balled him like you read about and let him go to one of their biggest rivals, who now becomes the AFC favorite in 2013.

This feels like a stupid move that the Red Sox would make after Carmine and Bill James poured over useless numbers for months. Sure, Welker and Amendola might have plenty in common on the surface: white, undersized, short, undrafted slot receivers that went to Texas Tech but that's pretty much where the similarities end. Since 2009 when he entered the league, Amendola has missed 23 games while Welker missed three in that span. Plus, he's never been on a good team, played with a decent quarterback or in an intense market where all eyes will be on him. Yeesh, I want to give him a chance but it's clear that Amendola is already fighting an uphill battle since he'll always be (unfairly) compared to Welker.

The best we can hope is that this is just the beginning of many significant offseason moves for the Pats. Otherwise, why did Brady leave money on the table and redo his deal? We haven't even talked about their defense which was the major issue before hand. Sure Brady might have relied on Welker too much in certain situations and his two drops that everyone remembers in the playoffs were unforgivable but now we have to pin our hopes on Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski, Amendola and whatever other schmuck receiver (Brandon Lloyd, Greg Jennings?) that they throw out there. Hernandez and Gronkowski are special but they also get hurt at an alarming rate.

Bruins Puke On Their Skates In 3rd Period, Cough Up 2-0 Lead To Penguins

Playing in the second night of a back-to-back on the road against the NHL's hottest team-the Pittsburgh Penguins-proved to be too much for the Bruins tonight at the Consol Energy Center. Boston (17-4-3) actually led 2-0 in the first period but the Penguins (19-8-0) rallied for a pair of goals in the third period before Brandon Sutter won it with the game-winner at 17:57. Pittsburgh captured its sixth game in a row but on the bright side at least the B's didn't have to go to overtime or another shootout again.

Zdeno Chara's power play goal (his 5th goal of the season) at 4:45, from Dennis Seidenberg and Rich Peverley, was a bomb from the point followed by Tyler Seguin's goal (his 9th of the season) which gave the Bruins a shocking 2-0 lead at 13:30. Seguin's was the result of tic-tac-toe passing between his linemates Brad Marchand (who won the puck along the end boards) and Patrice Bergeron. He roofed it by Marc-Andre Fleury (14 saves).

Anton Khudobin (4-2-0) got the start and he deserved a better result since he made 31 saves. After they scored their goals, Boston went into a deep slumber the likes of which their team logo is best known for. Khudobin kept them afloat for as long as he could that is until two crappy turnovers and one sublime finish proved to be a deadly combination.

Chris Kunitz got Pittsburgh on the board with his 18th goal of the season at 13:42, a laser of a one-timer over Khudobin's shoulder that was assisted by Kris Letang and Deryk Engelland. Sutter was the unlikely hero thanks to the gifts from Boston's leaky defensemen who couldn't help but hand him the puck in prime locations. He tied it at 14:33 from James Neal and Beau Bennett. His game-winner was fittingly unassisted although it would have been Dennis Seidenberg's best assist of the season if only they were on the same team.

Now officially halfway through this lockout-shortened season, Boston survived this three games in four days (2-1-0) segment and for their troubles they get to return to TD Garden to begin another three games in four days stretch. The worst team in the NHL-the Florida Panthers (7-14-6)-visit on Thursday night (7 p.m., NESN) in a game that the B's need to have before they start playing other legitimate NHL teams later in the week.

UPDATE 3/13: Chris Kelly is out indefinitely with a broken left tibia, suffered Monday in Ottawa. Ugh, this is the first major injury for the Bruins this season so get used to seeing Jay Pandolfo in the lineup every game for a while.

Celtics Tank It To The Max: Get Blown Out By The Bobcats

The Celtics chose to sit Paul Pierce tonight in Charlotte which made sense in the first game of a back-to-back. The rest of the team proceeded to mail it in from there as they lost 100-74 at Time Warner Cable Arena to the Bobcats (14-50, 8-24 home) aka the worst team in the NBA that came in with 10 straight losses. All I can assume is that Boston (34-29, 12-20 away) couldn't be bothered to put up an effort as they delicately try to have some momentum going into the playoffs yet not get the fourth, fifth or eighth seed so they can avoid Miami for as long as possible.

Gerald Henderson had a career-high 35 points for Charlotte, it was that kind of night. Josh McRoberts had a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds while UConn's Kemba Walker added 10 points. Another UConn product-Ben Gordon-scored 17 points off the bench.

Jeff Green and Jordan Crawford led Boston with 14 points apiece. Brandon Bass had 10 points and seven rebounds while Avery Bradley scored 10 points. Kevin Garnett only played 21 minutes as head coach Doc Rivers waved the white flag/threw in the towel early.

The C's return to TD Garden tomorrow night (7:30 p.m., CSN) to face the Raptors (25-39, 4th in Atlantic Division). And don't worry, if you didn't get your fill of the Bobcats tonight, Charlotte comes to Boston on Saturday night (7:30 p.m., CSN) to close this epic four-game season series. Haha the Bobcats have won the last two games against the Celtics. Bye.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Bruins Rally For A 3-2 Shootout Win In Ottawa

They have only played twice so far this season (with three more meetings on the Lockout-infused horizon) but the Senators must be wondering how they can beat the Bruins since they've lost both games in heartbreaking fashion. Tonight, Ottawa (13-8-5) jumped out to a 2-0 lead 7:18 into the contest but that was all the offense they could muster as Boston (17-3-3) rallied for a 3-2 shootout win at Scotiabank Place.

Tuukka Rask (13-2-3) had 30 saves, including three in the shootout as the B's grabbed two points at the start of their insane week: five games in seven days with two back-to-backs. It was Boston's third win in a row. Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci scored in the shootout for Boston. Senators goaltender Robin Lehner (33 saves) lost to the Bruins for the second time in less than two weeks after Bergeron beat him in overtime on February 28 for a 2-1 win at TD Garden.

Sloppy play in their own end gift-wrapped a pair of goals from the Bruins to the Senators. Guillaume Latendresse scored his first goal of the season just 55 seconds into the game (quickest goal Boston has allowed this season). Adam McQuaid couldn't clear a pass that handcuffed him and Latendresse took advantage. Kyle Turris put another loose puck in the top shelf after Boston fumbled it behind their own net. Chris Phillips had assists on both Ottawa goals.

The Bruins' fourth line had probably their best game of the season as Shawn Thornton scored his second goal of the season with 44 seconds left in the first period after an extended shift in Ottawa's zone. Zdeno Chara had the lone assist. Daniel Paille was sprung for a breakaway in the second period and he finished it for his fifth goal of the season, assists to David Krejci and McQuaid.

It was a chippy game too, something to remember when they play again on March 21. McQuaid hit Chris Neil awkwardly into the boards in the first period so he had to fight something called Patrick Wiercioch. Neil appeared to be seriously hurt at first but he recovered enough to return to the game and dish out a completely unnecessary knee-to-knee hit on Chris Kelly in the second period. Kelly couldn't put any weight on it as teammates and the Bruins' trainer helped him off the ice, he didn't return in the third period.

Kelly made the trip to Pittsburgh with the team but I really doubt that he'll be able to play tomorrow night (7:30 p.m., NESN) vs. the Penguins (18-8-0, 1st in Atlantic Division). Pittsburgh has won five games in a row to reach second place in the Eastern Conference. It'll be interesting to see if Rask gets the start (something that Claude Julien hates to do in back-to-backs) again since it's hard to see Anton Khudobin getting thrown to the wolves aka the NHL's highest scoring team on their home ice no less. It should be one of the best regular season games between two of the real contenders in the East.

Monday, March 11, 2013

We Will All Be Thunder Fans In June So You Might As Well Jump On The Bandwagon Now

If you call yourself a basketball fan, I have to assume that you are a big fan of the Oklahoma City Thunder. They are by far the most fun and exciting team to watch in the NBA led by the transcendent Kevin Durant. More importantly, even though they lost to them in the NBA Finals last season, they represent the most serious threat to a repeat by the Miami Heat. Who doesn't support that?

This afternoon, the Celtics (34-28, 12-19 away) lost to the Thunder (47-16, 28-4 home) 91-78 at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Boston's five-game win streak ended but honestly, they played about as well as we could hope for given that they had somehow beaten Oklahoma City 108-100 on November 23 at TD Garden and since the Thunder are basically unbeatable at home. Did I mention that they are the best team in the Western Conference (sorry Spurs)?

The C's were right in it, down only three (68-65) heading into the fourth quarter before Durant (23 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists) and crazy Russell Westbrook (15 points) did their thing in winning time. Kevin Martin (12 points) was the only other Thunder in double-figures, former Celtic Kendrick Perkins had six points, five rebounds and five assists while BC's Reggie Jackson added six points and four rebounds.

Paul Pierce (20 points, 6 assists) played well but he didn't get much help since Boston scored just two points more than its season-low (77 at Clippers, Dec. 27). The Celtics shot 10 of 40 (25% for math majors) in the second half, showing how their defense-especially Avery Bradley (12 points, 5 assists) on Westbrook (season-low 2 assists-kept them in it for probably longer than they deserved. Kevin Garnett (5-for-19 from the field) couldn't find his shooting touch all game and managed a very quiet 10 points and 11 rebounds. Brandon Bass had a season-high 13 rebounds including five offensive boards, haha I have no idea what that means.

In his first game back in Oklahoma City, Jeff Green (8 points) was a non-factor, he shot 2-for-11 from the field in 28 minutes with three turnovers, three fouls and two rebounds. Haha yikes.

There were numbers for the Celts to be happy about: they hit three more 3-pointers (7-4) than the Thunder and grabbed three more rebounds (44-41) with seven more offensive boards (10-3). Other than that, Oklahoma City owned everything else but that is to be expected by any rational Celtics fan.

The key for Boston is that they'll have to maintain their focus while they play a pair of really bad teams this week: the Celtics are at the Bobcats (13-50, 5th in Southeast Division) on Tuesday (7 p.m., CSN) before hosting Toronto (25-39, 4th in Northeast Division) on Wednesday (7:30 p.m., CSN) and the Bobcats on Saturday (7:30 p.m., CSN). I don't care that they have a back-to-back, they need to go 3-0 against those pathetic teams. The Bobcats once again are the worst team in the NBA although they did beat the Celtics 94-91 on February 11. Maybe that'll teach the C's not to underestimate them again.

UPDATE 3/11: Shavlik Randolph was signed to a second 10-day contract. No idea why, he's a stiff that hasn't played yet as far as I know.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Bruins Sweep Aside Flyers, 3-0, With Relative Ease

At the TD Garden on Saturday afternoon, we were treated to a pair of hockey teams that are going in opposite directions. Boston (16-3-3) beat Philadelphia (11-14-1) 3-0 as Tuukka Rask (12-2-3) made 23 saves for his 13th career shutout and second this season. He hadn't beaten the Flyers since the 2010 playoffs and we all remember how that ended so I'm sure it felt good to get this personal footnote out of the way. Truthfully, he really wasn't tested at all. It had to be one of the easiest NHL shutouts in his career.

Since Philly had dreams of a Stanley Cup run (however misguided those were), you have to think that something big is coming down the pike soon if they keep this crappy play up. They lost their third straight game and it's not out of the realm of possibility that they'll either fire head coach Peter Laviolette or trade one of their underachieving big names (Hartnell or Briere come to mind).

If you boiled it down, this game basically had two exciting parts. Granted one of those was when the B's poured in all three of their goals in 2:18 during the second period. The other instance was when Shawn Thornton fought Zac Rinaldo and dropped him I might add.

Tyler Seguin continued to heat up as he scored his eighth goal of the season, on the power play no less, from Milan Lucic and David Krejci at 11:53. Lucic used his backhand to throw it across the crease and Seguin ripped a one-timer before Ilya Bryzgalov (25 saves) had much of a chance to react. Chris Kelly got out of his slump with his second goal of the season, thanks to Jordan Caron's assist from the side of the goal (in his first game with the B's this season) at 13:28. Rich Peverley had the second assist as Boston's third line cashed in a goal they desperately needed. When Daniel Paille scored 43 seconds later, the rout was on. All but the first line had goals for the B's, Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton had the assists on Paille's fourth goal of the season-a sweet backhander after he got behind Philly's lazy defense.

These teams play twice more, the next one is March 30 in Philadelphia so it's not hard to picture the Flyers that take the ice that night looking much different. Boston needed this win since the upcoming week is brutal: five games in seven days including a pair of back-to-backs. Woof. Up next, they'll be at Ottawa (13-8-4, 3rd in Northeast Division) on Monday night (7:30 p.m., NESN). The Bruins beat the Senators 2-1 in overtime (on Patrice Bergeron's winner) February 28 at the Garden.

Celtics Edition: How Can You Not Love This Team?

The amount of wildly entertaining games that the Celtics have produced in the past few months is out of control. They turned in another instant classic on Friday as Boston (34-27, 22-9) outlasted Atlanta (34-27, 15-19 away) 107-102 in overtime at TD Garden. The win was particularly meaningful too since it pulled the Celtics into a tie with the Hawks for sixth place in the Eastern Conference.

Boston has won its last five games overall and nine in a row at home. It was their franchise record 11th overtime game of the season and they improved to 7-4 in the extra session(s). Oh and they are 14-4 since Rajon Rondo went down. Go figure. Sure the C's blew a 12-point lead in the fourth quarter but the overriding positives were that they rallied once again and Jason Terry (19 points, 5 assists, 2 steals) had the biggest basket of all-a 3-pointer in overtime that put them ahead for good.

Paul Pierce had another great game with a team-high 27 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and two steals. Kevin Garnett added 17 points, eight rebounds and two steals while Jeff Green put up 12 points off the bench. Jordan Crawford (9 points) also provided a spark in limited minutes.

Josh Smith had one of his his best performances that I've ever seen with a game-high 32 points, nine assists and eight rebounds. Jeff Teague (26 points, 9 assists, 2 steals) and Al Horford (22 points, 13 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 blocks) continued to torch the Celtics.

Boston led from start to almost finish as Atlanta tied it late then KG missed a jumper and Smith missed a rushed shot at the end of regulation. The Celtics were up 28-26 after the first quarter and 52-47 at halftime. The Hawks outscored the C's 21-20 in an ugly third quarter and then 26-22 in the fourth.

As it has been the case since Rondo got hurt, the Celtics' timely defense was the difference. They shot 5.8% better from the field (51.3-45.5) than the Hawks, made four more free throws (17-13) and had two more steals (9-7). The sneaky stat of the game was points off turnovers where Boston outscored Atlanta 21-9.

Boston improved to 2-1 against Atlanta this season with one more matchup remaining: March 29 back at the Garden. This victory was significant as well since the Celtics have to go to Oklahoma City (46-16, 1st in Northwest Division) on Sunday afternoon (1 p.m., ABC) to face the top team in the Western Conference. It's hard to see Boston winning that one no matter how well they play, the Thunder seem to be at another level than anyone these days (save for the Heat).

UPDATE 3/10: The Celtics signed D.J. White to another 10-day contract today. Shavlik Randolph's 10-day contract ends at midnight today and they're expected to re-sign him as well.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Maybe Someday The Maple Leafs Will Figure Out How To Beat The Bruins Again

I can't imagine what it feels like to be a Maple Leafs fan these days knowing that the Bruins still completely own them. Boston (15-3-3) had lost two in a row while Toronto (15-10-0) had won three straight coming into tonight but none of that seemed to matter since the B's skated home from the TD Garden with a simple 4-2 win. Boston has won eight consecutive games against Toronto-the longest win streak ever for the B's against their Original 6 rival.

Patrice Bergeron (1 goal, 2 assists), Tyler Seguin (2 goals, 1 assist) and Brad Marchand (2 assists) continued to carry the Bruins' offense. They have put up 14 goals and 23 assists in the last nine games, I doubt there is any other line in the NHL that can say that. The ironic part is that they are designated as the second line but clearly they've been Boston's best now for at least a season and a half.

Backup goaltender Anton Khudobin (4-1-0) continued to be a steady option when Tuukka Rask needs a breather, he made 25 saves for the win. Toronto had played at home against Ottawa last night so they didn't have as much energy as usual (I guess) and their No. 1 goaltender-James Reimer-got the night off. Ben Scrivens made 21 saves but fell to 6-7-0.

Adam McQuaid and Mark Fraser fought 3:23 into the contest as the Leafs tried to exert their will against the Bruins. It was a good fight but that's not the approach I would take against the B's, especially in Boston. If I didn't know any better, I would conclude that the B's were toying with the poor Leafs as they scored a goal in the final two minutes of each period. Bergeron opened the scoring (his 6th of the season) at 19:07 of the first when Seguin drove to the net which made Scrivens leave a juicy rebound. Marchand had the second assist.

After a bad giveaway by David Krejci, who hesitated with a chance to shoot, Nazem Kadri cashed in his 11th goal of the season at 2:32 of the second period from Clarke MacArthur and Carl Gunnarsson. Toronto took advantage of a 2-on-1, Khudobin had no chance to stop it. Seguin and the B's responded with a doppleganger tally as he finished a 2-on-1 (his 6th goal of the season) with Marchand. Bergeron had the second assist at 11:09. Krejci's goal (his 6th of the season) turned out to be the game-winner at 18:03. Andrew Ference and Milan Lucic had the assists as Krejci battled in front of the net and was rewarded with a rebound.

The Leafs didn't entirely fold as Jay McClement tipped in a shot from Mikhail Grabovski with 5:08 left in regulation but Seguin padded his stats with an empty-netter. Toronto will have two more chances later in March to beat the Bruins, otherwise it might never happen. Haha I'm only sort of kidding, they must have zero confidence against the B's.

Speaking of headcases, the Flyers (11-13-1) are due for a visit on Saturday afternoon (1 p.m., NESN). It'll be the first Bruins game against Philadelphia this season and even though it's a matinee (which are often dull), you can bet those teams will make it interesting.

UPDATE 3/8: The Bruins recalled forward Jordan Caron from Providence (for the first time this season) and Chris Bourque cleared waivers so he'll play tonight in Providence.

Chris Bourque Is The First Casualty From Boston's Underachieving Third Line

Even when they were playing great, winning six in a row and being talked about as the top team in the Eastern Conference last week, Bruins fans weren't satisfied with left wing Chris Bourque. To get him going, the team made him a healthy scratch a few times but nothing seemed to wake him up. Today, they were forced to waive him since somebody had to pay for the third line's season-long struggles.

Teams around the NHL will have until 12 p.m. tomorrow afternoon to make a claim on Bourque, if he clears then he'll go to the Providence Bruins. That's where he played during the lockout and truth be told, where his limited skills make him best suited for. In 18 games, Bourque had one goal, three assists, six penalty minutes and 24 shots on goal.

For whatever reason, Bruins head coach Claude Julien thought that Bourque deserved more than his share of ice time on Boston's awful power play. How'd that work out? The real numbers that show the third line's struggles are their plus/minuses: Bourque (-6), Kelly (-7) and Peverley (-8) have the three worst marks on the team. Obviously, Kelly and Peverley have more value so the B's are more reluctant to give up on them yet.

Still, the NHL Trade Deadline is less than a month away (April 3) so stay tuned. Boston is almost guaranteed to add another defenseman or Top-9 winger by then. Boston hosts Toronto tonight, Jay Pandolfo will be on the fourth line with Daniel Paille bumped up to the third line (where he's been taking regular shifts latey).

Other Than Miami, There Is Nobody For The Celtics To Fear In The Eastern Conference

In an NBA regular season, you won't see a much more meaningful or thrilling victory than the one turned in by the Celtics tonight in Indiana. Boston (33-27, 12-18 away) scored the game's last 12 points, capped off by Jeff Green's (11 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks) perfectly designed layup with 0.5 seconds left to beat the Pacers (38-23, 25-7 home) 83-81 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. It was Boston's fourth straight win.

Boston could have packed it in against a truly solid team (No. 2 in the Eastern Conference), playing the second game of a back-to-back on the road but instead they came home with arguably their best win of the season. Let's just agree that the win in New York, OT vs. Miami and 3OT vs. Denver were all spectacular but if you think about it, this probably meant the most since we're getting to the last segment of the regular season. Plus, this was a possible playoff preview and for the second time in as many games the Celts came out on top.

Kevin Garnett had 18 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks. Paul Pierce added 13 points and eight rebounds while Avery Bradley scored 13 points. Jason Terry notched 10 points off the bench.

One reason I don't fear Indiana is that without Danny Granger (injured for most of this season), they lack that true go-to scorer which is an absolute must in the postseason. Sure, Paul George (16 points, 7 rebounds, 3 steals), George Hill (14 points), Roy Hibbert (12 points, 12 rebounds, 6 blocks) and David West (11 points, 16 rebounds) are all nice players but they'll never win a playoff game by themselves. Don't even get me started on Lance Stephenson (12 points, 5 steals) either.

Boston's bench outscored Indiana's 29-16. The Celtics hung around the whole time, which is all you can ask against a top opponent. Sure enough, the Pacers had trouble closing it out and that's when Boston took advantage. Indiana led 27-19 after one quarter and 49-42 at halftime. With an ugly 19-16 third quarter in their favor, Indiana looked poised to get the win. Boston used all their experience and winning pedigree to put on a clinic in the fourth quarter (25-13).

The C's shot 4.6% better from the field (41-36.4%) and they had six more assists (18-12). Boston returns to TD Garden on Friday (8 p.m., CSN) for a very important game with the Hawks (34-26, 2nd in Southwest Division). Atlanta is only a game up on Boston, meaning a win by the Celts would bump them up from seventh in the Eastern Conference to fifth.