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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Red Sox End A Great April 2013 With A Loss In Toronto

The Red Sox will have to wait another year to try and set a record for wins in April. Boston (18-8 overall, 7-3 away) had a chance to set a new franchise mark tonight in their series opener at Toronto's (10-17 overall, 6-8 home) Rogers Centre but the Blue Jays held on for a wild 9-7 victory.

Jon Lester (6 innings, 6 runs, 5 earned runs, 6 hits, 5 strikeouts, 2 walks) had his first poor start of 2013 and predictably it cost his team. Toronto starter Brandon Morrow (5 innings, 3 earned runs, 6 hits, 7 strikeouts, 3 walks) was his usual hit or miss (literally) self.

Toronto snapped their four-game losing streak by getting a run in the first on Jose Bautista's RBI double then two runs scored in the third on Jarrod Saltalamacchia's throwing error and J.P. Arencibia (2 hits, run) made it 4-0 with an RBI double of his own.

Boston's five-game winning streak ended North of the border but it wasn't for lack of effort. David Ortiz (3rd of the season) and Mike Carp (1st as a Red Sox) had solo homers in the fourth and Dustin Pedroia (2 hits, run, walk) cut it to 4-3 in the fifth with an RBI single.

Edwin Encarnacion crushed a two-run bomb in the fifth as the Blue Jays led 6-3 but Boston went ahead for the first time thanks to Jonny Gomes' solo blast (1st as a Red Sox) in the sixth and Ortiz's three-run double in the seventh.

Boston's bullpen was one of the main reasons they had such an unexpectedly solid April but in this game, they blew it. Encarnacion provided the go-ahead run with another two-run shot-this time off Junichi Tazawa (2-1) in the seventh-and Colby Rasmus (2 hits) added an RBI single in the eighth against Joel Hanrahan (who was activated before the game but demoted from the closer role).

The Blue Jays bullpen was superior with Darren Oliver pitching a scoreless eighth (remember when he was on the Red Sox a million years ago?) and closer Casey Janssen had a 1-2-3 ninth for his seventh save of the season.

Jacoby Ellsbury got on base four times (2 hits, 2 walks, run) but he was also caught stealing third and even worse picked off second base to end the fifth inning.

Boston will look to bounce back tomorrow night (7:07 p.m., NESN) as Clay Buchholz (5-0) takes the mound against Mark Buehrle (1-1).

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Ready Or Not Bruins, Here Come The 2013 NHL Playoffs

If we're being honest here (which is what I strive for besides entertaining the unwashed masses), the Bruins didn't really deserve to win the Northeast Division this season. They were so terrible down the stretch that even though Montreal was in the same boat, the Canadiens won their last game (4-1 on Saturday night in Toronto) while the Bruins couldn't hold up their end of the bargain as they lost 4-2 to the Senators tonight at TD Garden.

The makeup of the Patriot's Day game against Ottawa and the final game in the 2013 NHL regular season determined that the Bruins will be the No. 4 seed which still means that they get home ice at least in the first round. Game 1 is Wednesday at the Garden and Game 2 is Saturday, times TBA.

Not winning the division probably won't mean much because facing Toronto (the No. 5 seed) rather than the Islanders (No. 8 seed) or Senators (No. 7 seed) somehow feels less daunting. Still, if Boston (28-14-6) continues to play like this (3-5-2 in their last 10 games) with two goals in seven of their last eight games, then the opponent they face is ultimately meaningless.

With the margin for error so small when you're scoring two goals or less, the B's really put themselves in a bind as Eric Condra gave Ottawa a 1-0 lead on a rebound at 16:59 of the first period then Jared Cowen's blast from the point at 10:33 of the second period found its way past Tuukka Rask (18 saves).

The B's showed some life as Rich Peverley beat Robin Lehner (34 saves) with a power play goal at 19:56 of the second period. Peverley's sixth goal of the season was assisted by Wade Redden (4th assist) and Dennis Seidenberg (13th assist). Redden's stretch pass allowed Peverley to use his speed along the boards and his low shot beat Lehner to the far post. Plays like that are why you'll see Redden in the lineup when the playoffs begin, not all the Bruins defensemen have that ability to make those types of passes/plays.

Seidenberg tied it up only 14 seconds into the third period with a top-shelf rocket past Lehner. Milan Lucic (20th assist) and Kaspars Daugavins (3rd assist; 1st point as a Bruin) had the helpers on Seidenberg's fourth goal of the season. Lucic is starting to look like himself again, he had a major heavyweight bout with Chris Neil late in the first period.

Boston had to win in regulation to face the Islanders or in OT/shootout to get a rematch with the Senators so Jean-Gabriel Pageau's (great name by the way) game-winner at 16:26 ultimately decided the first round matchups in the Eastern Conference. Kyle Turris scored an empty-netter with 37 seconds left to send the crowd streaming toward the exits like it was a Lakers playoff game.

The good news for the B's is that they can erase all the mediocre play of the last month with a strong showing in the playoffs. I still stubbornly believe that they can beat anyone in the East, except maybe Pittsburgh. They went 3-1-0 against Toronto in the regular season which I get is meaningless now but the Maple Leafs (who hadn't made the playoffs in 9 years) shouldn't scare anyone if the Bruins show up and play their style complete with more than two goals a game.

UPDATE 4/29: Game 1-Bruins vs. Leafs, 7 p.m. on Wednesday; Game 2-Bruins vs. Leafs, 7 p.m. on Saturday; Game 3-Bruins at Leafs, 7 p.m. on Monday; Game 4-Bruins at Leafs, 7 p.m. on Wednesday.

You Won't Convince Me That There Aren't At Least A Couple Triple-A Teams Better Than The Astros

The Houston Doormats I mean Astros are a hell of a team, the Red Sox certainly enjoyed playing those scrubs this weekend at Fenway Park. This afternoon, Boston (18-7 overall, 11-5 home) padded its MLB-best record with an easy 6-1 victory over the Astros (7-18 overall, 3-10 road). All other teams in the AL should be doing cartwheels over having the worst team in MLB in the league.

I have no idea how Houston has already won seven games since they are beyond wretched. Boston beat them by five runs on Thursday, four runs on Friday and Saturday then five today. You know a team is truly hopeless when John Lackey (1-1) looks like a decent pitcher (6 innings, 1 run, 5 hits, 4 strikeouts, 2 walks) against them.

Houston scored first on Ronny Cedeno's RBI single in the first but it was all predictably downhill from there. David Ortiz (2 hits, 2 RBIs) tied it with an RBI single in Boston's first at bats and the Red Sox were off. Stephen Drew had a two-run triple in the fourth, Dustin Pedroia and Mike Carp (2 hits, run, walk) had RBI doubles in the firth and Ortiz closed out his fantastic homestand with an RBI double in the sixth.

Daniel Nava was 2 for 4 with a double and three runs in the win for Boston. He also made a sick diving catch for the last out of the game.

The Red Sox earned their day off tomorrow after going 7-3 at Fenway during their longest homestand of the season. They have won their last five games heading into a six-game road trip.

Less than a month into the season, Boston gets its second trip to Toronto. The Blue Jays (9-17 overall, 5th in AL East) are off to a miserable start. The Red Sox have a chance to bury them even further so early on. The pitching matchups certainly line up well for Boston with Jon Lester (4-0) facing Brandon Morrow (0-2) on Tuesday (7:07 p.m., NESN), Clay Buchholz (5-0) opposing Mark Buehrle (1-1) on Wednesday (7:07 p.m., NESN) and Ryan Dempster (1-2) gets Josh Johnson (0-1) on Thursday (7:07 p.m., NESN).

After that series, Boston goes to Texas for three games next weekend against the Rangers (16-9 overall, 1st in AL West) who have been the second best team in the American League in April.

UPDATE 4/28: Daniel Bard was sent back to Portland (Double-A) and Joel Hanrahan is expected to be recalled from Pawtucket (Triple-A).

Celtics Pride Is Alive, Well Sort Of

It was long overdue (say 3 games) but the Celtics finally should some fight with stretches of solid execution mixed in and they were able to avoid getting swept by the Knicks. Boston beat New York 97-90 in overtime this afternoon in Game 4 of their first round playoff series at TD Garden.

Paul Pierce (29 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists), Jeff Green (25 points, 6 rebounds) and Kevin Garnett (13 points, 17 rebounds, 6 assists) carried the Celts while Jason Terry (18 points) picked a good time to show up for one of the first times this season.

Of course the C's had to make things way more difficult on themselves than need be since J.R. Smith was suspended for Game 4 and they led by 20 points in the third quarter (59-39). Carmelo Anthony scored 36 points with seven rebounds as only he can: on 10-of-35 shooting from the floor and 16-for-20 on free throws. HHaha my man was 0-for-7 on 3-pointers. The Knicks rallied and nearly stole this one since Raymond Felton (27 points, 3 steals) had the NBA game of his life. Iman Shumpert added 12 points, 12 rebounds, two steals and two blocks while Tyson Chandler grabbed 11 rebounds.

Boston had nothing to lose and they played like it from the start. The Celtics outscored the Knicks 22-17 in the first quarter and took a 54-35 halftime lead. New York crawled back into it since KG, Green and Brandon Bass all picked up four fouls early in the third quarter thanks to the usual crooked NBA refs. The Knicks outscored the Celtics 30-14 in the third quarter to cut it to 68-65 heading into the fourth quarter. New York took the fourth quarter 19-16 as Pierce missed a last-second game-winner for the millionth time in the last few seasons.

I couldn't believe it with my own eyes but Terry took over in the extra session, hitting a huge 3-pointer, layup, two free throws then the garbage time layup to seal it. I didn't think there was any chance the Celts would get it done once it went to overtime but I'm happy that they proved me (and many others) wrong.

Boston's defense was outstanding as they held New York to 34.4% shooting while the Celts shot 44.7%. The Knicks made it very interesting by owning the boards (54-40 total, 16-3 on offensive rebounds). The Celtics had 12 more assists (22-10) as they remembered how to play team basketball against Melo's one-man team. Boston had seven more fast break points (15-8) while New York scored eight more points off Boston's turnovers (18-10).

History is still squarely on the Knicks' side since no NBA team has ever come back from down 3-0 in a series. Game 3 is Wednesday (time TBA, CSN) at Madison Square Garden and all I'll say is that if the Celts can somehow win that one, then it'll get interesting. However, I'm not counting on that by any means.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Night We All Lost Any Remaining Hope In The Celtics This Season

It is going to be a very short stay in the 2013 NBA playoffs for the Celtics. Boston lost 90-76 in Game 3 to New York tonight at TD Garden, giving the Knicks a 3-0 series lead in the first round series with the chance to sweep the Celts on Sunday afternoon (1 p.m., ABC).

Boston has still yet to crack 80 points in a game as their half-court offense without Rajon Rondo is gone. Ironically, their defense has been good enough to win for most teams (holding NY to 90 or less in each game) but when you haven't topped 78 points, you won't win any games in the postseason.

Carmelo Anthony had a game-high 26 points, Raymond Felton added 15 points and 10 assists while J.R. Smith notched 15 points off the bench. The only real intrigue to Game 4, since the outcome feels like a forgone conclusion already, is whether Smith will play since he was ejected in the fourth quarter after catching Jason Terry (14 points) with an elbow in the face.

Jeff Green led the C's with 21 points and nine rebounds, Kevin Garnett had 12 points and 17 rebounds and Paul Pierce put up 17 points and five assists. The problem for Boston (among many other issues) is a lack of depth. I'd say that getting only 12 total points from the rest of the team in Game 3 would be tough to overcome. Green, KG & Pierce have been OK in this series, the problem is that nobody else can consistently help them. Avery Bradley is a puddle, Courtney Lee barely plays and Brandon Bass is also MIA. Yeesh.

I'm certainly not rooting for it but nothing happened tonight to make me change my mind that I feel like the Knicks will end this in four painful games. We knew it at the time that Rondo went down the knee injury that this season was going nowhere fast. However, the Celtics found a way to play decent for a while which gave us some false hope that they could turn it on in the postseason and make this a competitive series at the very least. Not so much, New York has been the better team by a mile and Boston can't get out of their own way without puking on their sneakers.

UPDATE 4/28: Smith was suspended for Game 4.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Bruins Blank Lightning 2-0, Inch Closer To Northeast Division Crown

If the Bruins played only Florida teams, at TD Garden, they might never give up a goal again let alone lose. Haha unfortunately the suckbag Panthers and shitbum Lightning's seasons end this weekend. For now though, Boston will take all the points they can get against the Southeast Division Sisters of the Poor. Tonight, the Bruins beat the Lightning 2-0 at TD Garden.

Boston and Montreal both have 61 points but the Bruins have two games left while the Canadiens only have one. Tuukka Rask (30 saves; 19-9-4) earned his second shutout in as many starts and his fifth of the season (which ties his career-high from 2009-10). The Bruins' (28-13-5) offense was still MIA for the most part but this time, their requisite two goals was more than enough against Tampa Bay (18-25-4) who probably mailed it in weeks ago.

For the first time in a while, this felt like a Bruins type of game since everyone on the team seemed to be throwing their body around. Plus, Andrew Ference dropped the gloves with former Bruins great Benoit Pouliot and Milan Lucic played his best game in weeks (maybe months) complete with a beating thrown to poor Keith Aulie. Looch even created some scoring chances with his physical play.

Rookie defenseman Dougie Hamilton was a healthy scratch (get used to it, that might happen in the playoffs too) but that didn't stop him from winning the Seventh Player Award as voted on by the Black and Gold fans. It is given out to the Bruins player that goes "above and beyond the call of duty and exceeds expectations." He's had a nice season but it really should have gone to Daniel Paille. I didn't vote so maybe that would have made all the difference.

Boston notched both its goals in the second period. Dennis Seidenberg took a drop pass from Brad Marchand and fired in his third goal of the season at 4:22. Tyler Seguin had the second assist. Paille reached double digits in goals (tying him with David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron!) at 13:31 thanks to a sweet one-timer from Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton. Fribbles for all!

It's only right that this absurd schedule wraps up with games in back-to-back nights for old time's sake. Boston travels to Washington (26-18-3) on Saturday night (7:00 p.m., NESN) then they makeup the Senators game that was supposed to be on Patriot's Day on Sunday night (7:30 p.m., NESN) at TD Garden. The game on Saturday means plenty to Boston but the Capitals clinched the Southeast Division so expect them to rest Alex Ovechkin and Braden Holtby (if they're smart). The Senators are in the playoffs (they clinched a spot tonight) but their seed is still up in the air. The final game in the NHL's regular season and the only one on Sunday could go a long way toward determining the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

UPDATE 4/26: Rookie defenseman Matt Bartkowski was assigned to Providence, who are getting ready for the AHL playoffs to start this weekend.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Red Sox Take Series With A's After A 6-5 Win At Fenway

After Alfredo Aceves' stinkbomb last night in a miserable rain-shortened 13-0 loss by the Red Sox (that earned him a demotion to Pawtucket today), Boston needed to regroup and find a way to bounce back against Oakland. The Red Sox (14-7 overall, 7-5 home) did just that by holding off the A's (13-9 overall, 7-5) 6-5 this afternoon at Fenway Park. With the win, Boston took two of three against Oakland-the best team that they have seen so far this season.

Jon Lester improved to 4-0 even though he had his worst outing of 2013: 5.2 innings, three earned runs, six hits, five strikeouts and six walks. Chris Young's three-run homer in the fourth gave Oakland a 3-0 lead. Boston responded with three runs in the fifth and three more in the sixth. That was enough to hold off single runs by the A's in the seventh and eighth.

Mike Napoli fittingly started the rally with an RBI double and Stephen Drew (yes him) tied it with a two-run triple. Shane Victorino's RBI double (he later left with a stiff back) put Boston ahead 4-3 then David Ortiz (2 hits, double, run) and Daniel Nava (2 hits) each added RBI singles. After Josh Donaldson's RBI single in the seventh, Young crushed a solo homer off Koji Uehara (second straight appearance that he's allowed a run) in the eighth.

Former A's All-Star closer Andrew Bailey struck out the side in the ninth for his fifth save. Of course, he had some help from the umpires since Jed Lowrie's (3 hits, double, run) possible double into the right field corner was ruled foul. It was too close to call and he ended up being the third out. I would say that Bailey has locked down the closer's position: in his last three appearances he has gone three innings, allowing no hits and no runs with seven strikeouts and one walk for two saves. Let's see Joel Hanrahan do that!

Boston received a gift from the MLB scheduling gods since this longest homestand of the season (10 were scheduled, 1 will be made up) is capped off by four games against Houston (7-14)-the worst team in their new league (American).

Clay Buchholz (4-0) faces Philip Humber (0-4) tomorrow night (6:35 p.m., NESN), Ryan Dempster (0-2) gets Erik Bedard (0-1) on Friday (7:10 p.m., NESN), Felix Doubront (2-0) takes on Brad Peacock (0-1) on Saturday night (7:10 p.m., NESN) then John Lackey (0-0) returns to oppose Bud Norris (3-2) in the series finale on Sunday afternoon (1:35 p.m., NESN). Good seats are still available for these awful games, the Red Sox need to win at least three against the hopeless Astros.

UPDATE 4/25: Ryan Lavarnway was called up from the PawSox, taking Aceves' spot on the roster.

The Celtics Are In A World Of Trouble Without Rajon Rondo

Capping off this night of suck for Boston sports teams (3 games, 3 blowout losses), the Celtics clocked in for the most costly setback of all since they are the only ones in the playoffs at the moment. The Knicks beat the Celtics 87-71 in Game 2 tonight at Madison Square Garden, giving New York a commanding 2-0 lead in the first-round series.

If you thought only scoring 25 points in the second half of Sunday's loss was pathetic (and it really was), Boston somehow sunk even lower with 23 points in the second half this evening. This was almost a carbon copy of Game 1: Boston led 48-42 at halftime and seemed in control. That is until New York hit them with a 32-11 third quarter. Game over.

The Knicks might have the most predictable and boring offense in the NBA-give the ball to Melo and J.R. Smith then get out of the way-but it is doing more than enough against the overmatched Celts. Anthony had a game-high 34 points, 6th Man of the Year Smith added 19 points off the bench (including a crazy 3 from nearly midcourt at the end of the 1st half) while Raymond Felton scored 16 points and Kenyon Martin (who Boston could have signed during the season) posted 11 rebounds and four blocks.

Paul Pierce was decent with 18 points, six rebounds and six assists but Kevin Garnett (12 points, 11 rebounds) was in foul trouble all game so he could only play 24 minutes. Where's Eddie F. Rush when you need him or Kenny Mauer? Jeff Green had 10 points, Jordan Crawford added 10 points off the bench and Brandon Bass grabbed 10 rebounds. Call off the search party because Jason Terry reappeared with nine points (after going scoreless in Game 1) but of course he did all his damage in the first half.

Our only hope is that David Stern wants this series to go more than four games since right now, the C's don't appear capable of winning once. That means, he has to send some crooked refs (like the ones mentioned in the previous paragraph) because Boston needs a victory on Friday (8 p.m., CSN) or the dream is over. It should be a great atmosphere at TD Garden for Game 3, the question is if the Celts can beat the Knicks without Rajon Rondo?

The Bruins Are Really On A Roll Headed Into The Postseason, Oh Wait......

What the hell is wrong with the Bruins? The Northeast Division title and No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference have been laid out on a silver platter (as opposed to a silver Cup) but they can't seem to get out of their own way. Tonight, Boston (27-13-5) played maybe its worst game of the season in a wretched 5-2 loss to Philadelphia (21-22-3) at Wells Fargo Center.

Other than Nathan Horton, who hasn't been anything above average this season, the B's don't have any major injuries to use as an excuse so what is it that's caused them to go 1-4-1 in their last six games? Lack of goal-scoring certainly has hurt them but this loss was all about an endless array of turnovers by the Bruins.

The only good news is that the Canadiens are playing even worse. They lost 3-2 at New Jersey tonight so Boston is still in control with one more game left than Montreal but the same amount of points (59).

Scott Hartnell gave the Flyers a 1-0 lead at 1:40 of the first period, that's how long it took the Bruins to make a fatal mistake. The Wade Redden tied it with his first goal as a Bruin at 4:54 with assists to Jaromir Jagr and Carl Soderberg. Redden was rewarded after his net drive following Steve Mason's (39 saves) juicy rebound, his followup was in the air and crossed the line before Philly could clear it.

For all intents and purpoes, Philadelphia clinched this with a pair of goals seven seconds apart in the second period. Yes, seven seconds. First Matt Read batted a rebound out of mid-air then Zdeno Chara had the hockey equivalent of an own goal (soccer) when he banked an awful pass attempt off Anton Khudobin's skates into the net.

Jakub Voracek made it 4-1 early in the third period but David Krejci cut it to 4-2 with a nifty move for his 10th goal of the season. One more time, the B's were caught with their hockey pants down only 13 seconds later as Redden's turnover gift-wrapped a goal to Simon Gagne.

It might be time to sit Chara for a game or two, the big guy is clearly exhausted (rightfully so) and not himself. If the Bruins are going to play this bad with him in the lineup then what's the difference? They return to TD Garden on Thursday (7:30 p.m., NESN) to host the Lightning (17-24-4). Tampa Bay isn't going to the playoffs so you'd think that they would be a pushover however Philadelphia is going nowhere but they rolled over the B's.

There is no secret formula but with the playoffs starting a week from tomorrow, Boston needs to wake up before they head to another first-round exit like last season against Washington.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Red Sox Use The Long Ball (Grand Slam, 3-Run HR) To Beat A's 9-6

The Red Sox probably won't be one of the American League leaders in home runs this season but tonight, they couldn't have asked for much more timely power. Mike Napoli hit a grand slam and Will Middlebrooks added a three-run shot as Boston beat Oakland 9-6 in the series opener at chilly Fenway Park.

Boston (13-6 overall, 9-4 home) had lost both games in a day-night doubleheader on Sunday to Kansas City so this was a nice way to bounce back against a quality opponent. The A's were swept in Tampa Bay last weekend so they have now lost four games in a row.

Felix Doubront (2-0) threw a career-high 113 pitches in 6.2 IP. He allowed three earned runs on three hits with eight strikeouts and five walks. Oakland (12-8 overall, 6-4 road) scored a pair of runs in the second inning on a wild pitch and former Red Sox great Josh Reddick's RBI single.

Napoli (who leads the AL with 25 RBIs, seriously) got the Red Sox on the board with an RBI double in the second then Middlebrooks crushed his homer (5th of the season) over the Monster in the fourth off A.J. Griffin (2-1). After Chris Young's sacrifice fly in the fifth, Napoli responded with his grand slam (fourth homer of the season) in the home half to end Griffin's night and Jarrod Saltalamacchia added an RBI double for the 9-3 lead.

Boston appeared to be on their way to an easy win but Clayton Mortensen allowed a two-run double to Josh Donaldson in the eighth and Reddick chased him with an RBI double of his own. This meant that Junichi Tazawa had to come in and get the last two outs of the eighth (no problem) for his fifth hold of the season. Working his third day in a row (meaning that he won't possibly be available tomorrow), closer Andrew Bailey pitched a scoreless ninth with two strikeouts for his fourth save of the season.

If the rain holds off enough to play a baseball game, Alfredo Aceves (1-0) is scheduled to face Bartolo Colon (2-0) tomorrow night (6:35 p.m., NESN). The game-time temperature was 45 tonight and it's expected to be even colder tomorrow with rain all day.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Mike Napoli & Andrew Bailey Named American League Co-Players Of The Week

In their 12-6 start to 2013, two of the Red Sox' best players have been first baseman Mike Napoli and reliever Andrew Bailey. For their efforts last week, they shared the American League Co-Players of the Week. It's the third time in Red Sox history that a pair of teammates have received the honor: Mike Lowell and David Ortiz (August 2007) plus Pedro Martinez and Trot Nixon (July 2002) were the others.

Napoli has been crushing it (3 homers, 21 RBIs, 21 hits, 9 doubles, 10 runs, .276 AVG/.313 OBP/.539 SLG) batting fifth in Boston's lineup. He was 10-for-29 (.345) last week with five doubles, a triple, homer and 10 RBIs in seven games. The highlight for him had to be the walk-off double that scored Dustin Pedroia on Patriot's Day as the Red Sox beat the Rays 3-2. That was the third walk-off hit of Napoli's MLB career and ironically, it gave Bailey his first win of the season.

With Joel Hanrahan struggling then going on the DL with a hamstring injury, Bailey has been great as the fill-in closer (why the Red Sox traded for him before last season). Whenever Hanrahan returns, I wouldn't be surprised at all to see their roles reversed.

In five appearances last week (five innings), Bailey was 1-0 with three saves, eight strikeouts and one walk. In 10 appearances this season (he started out as the set-up man for Hanrahan), Bailey has four holds, 15 strikeouts, a 1.93 ERA and 0.86 WHIP.

For the Red Sox to keep their lead in the AL East and continue to play good baseball, they'll need Napoli and Bailey to have more weeks like that.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Bruins Blank Hapless Panthers 3-0, Retake No. 2 Seed In Eastern Conference

The Bruins were far from perfect this afternoon at TD Garden but the margin for error is a bit wider when you play the worst team in the NHL-the Florida Panthers. Boston (27-12-5) beat Florida (13-26-6) 3-0 at TD Garden for a season sweep (3-0-0) which puts them back in first place in the Northeast Division. The B's are tied with the Canadiens, each has 59 points but Boston has four games left whereas Montreal has only three.

Any point is important and furthermore, every win is extremely vital since Boston had been 0-3-1 in their last four games. They are still struggling to score goals, one today was an empty-netter, but Tuukka Rask (28 saves; 18-9-4) snapped out of his personal funk with his fourth shutout of the season.

Would you believe me if I told you that Jaromir Jagr has been the Bruins' best offensive player since they acquired him from Dallas? He opened the scoring today at 3:03 with a sweet wrister from the slot, assists to Chris Kelly and Carl Soderberg (first NHL point). It was Jagr's second goal for Boston, the first that didn't go off his skate and 16th this season combined between the Stars and Bruins. In nine games with Boston, Jagr has two goals and six assists.

Rookie Dougie Hamilton has been in and out of the lineup recently to get some rest before the playoffs. He scored his fifth goal of the season at 13:33 of the second period when his blast from the point bounced off the bar in the back of the net and popped out. Shawn Thornton had the lone assist.

Boston's second line has been by far its best all season and they were rewarded with some points in garbage time as Brad Marchand notched his 18th goal of the season on an empty-netter from Tyler Seguin and Patrice Bergeron.

UPDATE 4/22: Nathan Horton will miss tomorrow night's game in Philadelphia as well after sitting out on Sunday.

The Bruins fittingly wrap up this warp speed regular season with four games this week: at Philadelphia on Tuesday (7:30 p.m., NESN), home against Tampa Bay on Thursday, at Washington on Saturday and home against Ottawa on Sunday. They need to win the next two games since the Flyers (20-22-3) and Lightning are not going to the playoffs. The Capitals and Senators could still be fighting for playoff positioning plus it's back-to-back so the weekend promises to be difficult.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

You Win This Round Carmelo

The NBA playoffs returned today in all their scripted and predictable glory. The Celtics played a great road game for three quarters this afternoon at Madison Square Garden before crumbling in the fourth for an 85-78 win by the Knicks. Both teams get an extra day to stew over this ugly battle since Game 2 won't be until Tuesday night (8 p.m., CSN) back at the world's most famous arena.

Carmelo Anthony proved why he won a scoring title, he put up a game-high 36 points with six rebounds and four steals. In true Melo ballhog fashion though, it took him 29 shots to get there and he had one assist (that came on New York's final basket). Three other Knicks scored in double figures but they were all complete afterthoughts: J.R. Smith (15 points, 5 rebounds), Raymond Felton (13 points, 6 assists, 2 steals) and Kenyon Martin (10 points, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks).

Boston's x-factor Jeff Green scored a team-high 26 points with six rebounds and three blocks (plus six turnovers). Paul Pierce added 21 points, seven rebounds and five assists but he also had six turnovers. Avery Bradley (15 points, 3 steals) was the only other Celtic to score in double digits. Brandon Bass pulled down 10 rebounds and surprisingly, the biggest no-show of all was KG (8 points, 9 rebounds).

The C's were up 29-26 after the first quarter on Green's buzzer-beating 3-pointer. Boston outscored New York 24-23 in the second quarter for a 53-49 halftime lead. The Knicks won a brickfest in the third (18-17) but the Celts still clung to a 70-67 lead heading into the fourth. I'm not going to say they choked but Boston was in control for much of the game and their turnover woes in the fourth were the direct result of a total meltdown.

There were three very simple conclusions to reach why Boston lost Game 1: they scored eight points in the fourth quarter, they had 21 turnovers (leading to 20 points) and their bench combined for four points.

All four playoff games today were won by the home team but honestly, if the Celts clean it up a little bit they should be able to win Game 2. Losing it could mean this series won't go the six or seven games that we all expect.

The Knicks hit four more 3-pointers (9-5) and recorded 10 more steals (15-5). The Celtics hit seven more free throws (19-12) and were a perfect 100% from the line. Boston also had five more assists (18-13) and six more points in the paint (13-7). Again, they very easily could have won this game.

Game 2 is basically a must win for the Green and White so you can bank on KG looking more like himself and not the ghost that wore a No. 5 jersey today.

As Big Papi So Eloquently Said, "This Is Our Fucking City!"

This dream start for the Red Sox in 2013 continued this afternoon as they returned to Fenway Park for the first time since the Marathon Bombings on Monday. Fittingly, they won it in memorable fashion. Daniel Nava hit a go-ahead three run homer in the eighth and Andrew Bailey hung on for the save as Boston beat Kansas City 5-4 for its seventh straight win.

Boston's (12-4 overall, 5-2 home) starting pitchers extended their streak to 16 games (all of this season) of three earned runs or less. Clay Buchholz (4-0) went eight innings, allowing two earned runs on eight hits with six strikeouts and a walk. Bailey gave up a solo homer to Lorenzo Cain (4 for 4, 2 doubles, 3 runs) but he worked around a walk and single to record his third save of the season.

Former Rays great James Shields finds himself in another MLB blackhole but unlike Tampa Bay, Kansas City (8-7 overall, 4-5 away) hasn't been good for at least a decade. He went six innings, allowing one earned run on four hits with eight strikeouts and three walks.

Jeff Francoeur got the Royals on the board with an RBI single in the fifth. David Ortiz tied it with an RBI single of his own in the sixth. Salvador Perez's RBI triple in the seventh gave Kansas City a 2-1 lead but Nava crushed a three-run shot (his fourth of the season) to right center in the eighth.

Last night's postponed game will be made up tomorrow as part of a day-night doubleheader. Ryan Dempster (1-1) faces Ervin Santana (0-1) in the afternoon (1:35 p.m., NESN) then Allen Webster (obtained from the Dodgers in that blockbuster trade last summer) makes his MLB debut vs. Jeremy Guthrie (2-0) at night (7:05 p.m., NESN) in the series finale.

Breaking News: Penguins Are The Team To Beat In The Eastern Conference

The Bruins are in one of their infamous goal droughts again and this time it has really hurt them. Boston (26-12-5) is winless in its last four games (0-3-1) after falling 3-2 to Pittsburgh (34-10-0) this afternoon at TD Garden. The Penguins clinched the top seed in the Eastern Conference while the Bruins continued their longest winless streak of the season. Boston has scored two goals in each of its last three games and they haven't scored more than two in their last four games, do you sense a pattern here?

Carl Soderberg made his NHL debut and Milan Lucic was a healthy scratch for the first time this season but he'll probably be back in the lineup tomorrow since Nathan Horton hurt his hand/wrist during a fight with Jarome Iginla in the first period. The B's have allowed two power play goals in each of the last three games, another sign that the NHL's top penalty kill unit isn't up to snuff at the moment.

Tomas Vokoun (38 saves) got the start while Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and James Neal were all out with various injuries. That coupled with the fact that Boston is right there with Montreal meant this loss was particularly rough. This is a game they should have won, starting with the fact that they outshot the Penguins every period with a final total of 40-24. Those numbers weren't padded either since the B's had way more quality scoring chances.

After Adam McQuaid and Tanner Glass fought, Brad Marchand (17th goal of the season) gave Boston a 1-0 lead with a power play goal at 10:18. Zdeno Chara and Tuukka Rask (21 saves; 17-9-5) had the assists as Marchand got a step on Pittsburgh's defense then took a shot that trickled past Vokoun.

Jussi Jokinen tied it at 5:10 of the second period with assists from Matt Niskanen and Glass. He jumped all over a loose puck right in front of Rask and roofed it with a diving backhander for a pretty goal.

Pittsburgh put it away with a pair of power play goals in the third period. Iginla's slap shot went through Rask's five hole at 4:43 then Kris Letang beat him at 8:29 with a shot that was a little closer and in a prime shooting spot. Make no mistake though, from that distance Rask has to stop Iginla's shot that was screened but not tipped.

Tyler Seguin scored his 16th game of the season with three seconds left in regulation, Chara had the lone assist on the garbage time tally. If it had come a few minutes earlier, it would have at least made things more interesting. The Penguins swept the season series with the B's (3-0-0) proving that the Eastern Conference will go through them and the CONSOL Energy Center.

Now the B's have to hope the Canadiens lose to the Capitals tonight so Montreal remains only two points ahead of Boston. Otherwise, they'll have even more work cut out for them. First things first, they need to clean up their own game and that starts with beating the crap out of the Panthers (13-25-6) tomorrow afternoon (12:30 p.m., NESN). I think that Anton Khudobin will get the start then again maybe Claude Julien picks Rask so that he can get back on track (he's 0-3-0 in his last three starts). The Bruins need a blowout win in the worst way.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A Shootout Loss Spoiled An Otherwise Unforgettable Night At TD Garden

There are very few things in professional sports during the regular season that give me goosebumps but tonight was one of the those rare occasions. The Bruins returned to the TD Garden ice for the first time since the bombings at the Boston Marathon on Monday and even though they lost 3-2 to the Sabres in a shootout, the pregame ceremonies, national anthem and chants during the game were things I'll never forget.

It wasn't all bad for Boston (26-11-5) who are winless (0-2-1) in their last three games but still clinched a playoff spot for the sixth straight season with the point. They are also tied with Montreal for first place in the Northeast Division although the B's have one game in hand. Ryan Miller (41 saves) stole the show with Cody Hodgson tying it with 27 seconds left in regulation and Drew Stafford scoring the lone shootout goal for Buffalo (19-19-6).

Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron were back in the lineup and each looked like they hadn't missed any time. Wade Redden made a predictably anonymous debut but Chris Kelly (1 goal, 1 assist) and Daniel Paille (1 goal, 1 assist) surprisingly carried the offensive load for Boston. Paille scored his ninth goal of the season at 5:45 of the first period after a feed from Kelly behind the net. Miller got a piece of the shot but it went over the line.

Thomas Vanek scored the first of two power play goals for Buffalo at 18:20. He tipped Christian Ehrhoff's wrist shot from the point past Anton Khudobin (30 saves; 9-3-1). Kelly helped Boston regain the lead at 14:48 of the second period with his third goal of the season. Paille and Andrew Ference assisted on Kelly's dogged effort to follow his own rebounds, the only real way to beat Miller.

With 48 seconds left, Ference was called for delay of game (putting the puck over the glass) and the Sabres made it count when Hodgson tipped in Vanek's pass. After a scoreless overtime, Tyler Seguin, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand were all stopped by Miller in the shootout. Khudobin stoned Vanek and Nathan Gerbe but Stafford got the job done.

It was a rough end to a long and very emotional night but with this type of effort (and better finishing), the Bruins will be fine. The Pittsburgh Steamrollers, I mean Penguins (33-10-0) come to the Garden on Friday (7 p.m., NESN) for their only regular season meeting in the Hub. Pittsburgh beat Boston twice in March at CONSOL Energy Center in the same weird week. Two points against the Pens, who have won five straight to run away with the Eastern Conference, would go a long way for Boston's shaky confidence.

Red Sox Win Their Fourth Straight, 7-2 Over Indians In First Game After Marathon Bombings

The Red Sox will lose plenty of games this season but it was nice that they could do their very small part to bring some smiles to a stunned region tonight. Since the Bruins' game was postponed last night and the Celtics' game tonight was cancelled, the Red Sox had the honor of being the first Boston team to play after the bombings at the Boston Marathon.

Boston (9-4 overall, 5-2 away) opened up a three-game set at nearly empty Progressive Field with a 7-2 win over Terry Francona's Indians (5-7 overall, 2-4 home). It was their fourth straight win after sweeping Tampa Bay. The game took 3:30 but really the second inning was all that mattered. Ubaldo Jimenez (0-2) couldn't get out of it as the Red Sox batted around and scored all seven of their runs. Part of the reason it took so long was that Boston struck out 16 times and walked nine times.

Felix Doubront (1-0) was the lucky recipient of the offensive explosion/Jimenez's meltdown. He had his usual five inning outing with two earned runs on four hits, seven strikeouts and four walks on 104 pitches.

David Ross walked with the bases loaded to start the onslaught in the second. Pedro Ciriaco hit a sacrifice fly then Jacoby Ellsbury (run, stolen base) knocked in a run with a single. Dustin Pedroia walked with the bases loaded then Mike Napoli (double, run) cleared the bases with a wall ball double.

Former Red Sox great "Friendly" Mike Aviles provided Cleveland's first run with a sacrifice fly in the second. Their other run came in the fifth on Ross' passed ball. It was a reunion of old Red Sox as Milton, MA native Rich Hill pitched a scoreless eighth for the Indians.

Clayton Mortensen and Alex Wilson both had two scoreless innings of relief for Boston.

Good seats are still available if you want to fly out (haha yeah right) to Cleveland tomorrow night (7:05 p.m., NESN) as Justin Masterson (3-0) faces Alfredo Aceves (0-0). Another former Red Sox, Masterson is off to a brilliant start with an ERA of 0.41, 0.82 WHIP and 20 strikeouts in 22 innings.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Clay Buchholz Flirts With Another No-Hitter, Settles For 8 Shutout Innings Vs. Rays

As we all know, Cy Young awards and World Series titles aren't won in April but damn it if Clay Buchholz wouldn't have wrapped up at least the former with the way he has begun 2013. He improved to 3-0 this season with eight shutout innings as Boston (7-4 overall, 3-2 home) blanked Tampa Bay (4-7 overall, 1-4 away) 5-0 at Fenway Park this afternoon.

Buchholz, who has allowed one earned run in 22 innings, had a no-hitter heading into the eighth inning but Kelly Johnson ended his bid for a second (2007 vs. Baltimore) with a single to start the frame. A no-hitter would have been cool except that Buchholz's pitch count was rising too high and it would have been very risky to send him out in the ninth. He finished with a career-high 11 strikeouts, four walks and two hits on 109 pitches.

Dustin Pedroia was the only guy on either team with multiple hits, he went 3 for 4 with two doubles, a run and stolen base. Boston scored two runs off Alex Cobb (1-1) in the third on Mike Napoli's two-run double. The Red Sox received a gift later that inning as Stephen Drew hit what could have been a double play to end it but Yunel Escobar's throwing error allowed two more runs to score. Boston tacked on its final run in the eighth via Will Middlebrooks' sacrifice fly.

Andrew Miller closed out Boston's second shutout of the season (13-0 at Toronto last Sunday) with a scoreless ninth inning of relief.

After getting rained out on Friday night, Boston won in 10 innings on Saturday then had today's victory. They can complete the sweep against Tampa Bay tomorrow afternoon (11:05 a.m., NESN) as Ryan Dempster (0-1) faces Jeremy Hellickson (0-1) in the annual Patriot's Day matinee.

UPDATE 4/16: Closer Joel Hanrahan was put on the DL with a hamstring injury while knuckleballer Steven Wright was called up from Pawtucket.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Bruins Lose To A Shitbag Team-Hurricanes-But Gain A Swede That Could Help Them

When you lose to a team that came in with seven straight losses, miss out on clinching a playoff spot and most importantly, don't retake possession of first place in the Northeast Division, it has been a rough night. Boston (26-11-4) had everything in their hands but they couldn't get the job done as they lost 3-2 at Carolina's (17-22-2) PNC Arena.

While the B's were faltering against one of the Eastern Conference's worst teams, the Canadiens were getting curbstomped by the Maple Leafs. Montreal ended up losing 5-1 which means that if Boston had won, they would have jumped one point ahead of the Habs.

I guess it wasn't to be; the only thing that should give B's fans a sliver of hope after this punch to the balls is that they were able to sign Swedish forward Carl Soderberg to a three-year deal. He's expected to play on Wednesday and he'll be eligible for the playoffs as soon as he suits up for the Bruins. It is beyond stupid to pin our hopes on a guy that's never played in the NHL, joining a new team right before the postseason but at least he is obviously skilled and he could potentially give Boston more scoring punch which would help balance out their faltering lines.

Milan Lucic scored his first goal in 10 games (his sixth of the season) at 6:07 of the first period from Matt Bartkowski and Jaromir Jagr. Looch tipped Bartkowski's shot from the point past Hurricanes goaltender Justin Peters (28 saves). Boston hadn't recorded a fighting major since March 27 so it was nice to see the Bruins drop the gloves three times in the first period: Shawn Thornton vs. Kevin Westgarth, Zdeno Chara vs. Jay Harrison and Gregory Campbell vs. Nicolas Blanchard.

The Hurricanes spoiled the fun provided by the fisticuffs since Jeff Skinner scored a backbreaking power play goal with 36 seconds left in the first period. He banked it in off Tuukka Rask's (34 saves) pads with assists to Alexander Semin and Justin Faulk.

Jiri Tlusty sneaked one past Rask at 14:04 of the second period from Jordan Staal and Tim Gleason. Boston pushed back as Tyler Seguin tied it at two with his 15th goal of the season, from Andrew Ference at 17:57. A bad line change by Carolina and heady chip by Ference led to Seguin skating in on a breakaway. Let's face it, there's nobody else on the Bruins that we'd rather see in that situation.

Joltin' Joe Corvo provided the game-winning goal against his former employer, Carolina scored its second power play goal at 9:36 in the third period. Corvo one-timed a pass from Marc-Andre Bergeron that Rask would normally stop. Tlusty added an empty-netter with 29 seconds left. Make no mistake about it, given the circumstances I think this was Boston's worst loss of the season.

The Bruins are back at TD Garden for a busy week of four games in seven days-all in Boston. They begin by hosting Ottawa (21-14-6, 4th in Northeast Division) on Monday (7 p.m., NESN). Boston is 4-0 against the Senators this season (all 1-goal games) so they'll go for the season sweep on Monday. Keep in mind that all numbers pointed to them beating the Hurricanes tonight. You never know what'll happen when two of your best players (Patrice Bergeron & Brad Marchand) are out.

Boston still has a chance to catch Montreal since five of their last seven games are at home while the Canadiens play four road games in their last seven contests to close out the regular season.

UPDATE 4/17: Jordan Caron was sent to Providence while Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand return to action for the B's tonight vs. Buffalo.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Bruins Really Need Bergeron & Marchand On The Ice Or Else They Won't Go Anywhere

Not that they wanted to offer them up but the Bruins had plenty of excuses for playing poorly tonight at TD Garden. They lost 2-1 to the Islanders in their third game in four nights. Thankfully, it was their last back-to-back game (they were in New Jersey last night) of the season. Making things that much more difficult, they are playing now without two of their top offensive players-Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand-who are both out with "mild" concussions.

New York (21-16-4) is going to be in the playoffs this season, you have to get used to that weird sight. The Islanders picked up a point in their sixth straight game as they are building some real momentum towards their first playoff berth in six years.

The immortal Josh Bailey scored both goals for the Islanders while Tyler Seguin notched the only tally for the B's. Evgeni Nabokov (30 saves; 20-11-4) was better than Tuukka Rask (34 saves; 17-7-4) which is not something I expected to ever write in my blogging lifetime.

It looked like the teams were going to skate into their dressing rooms scoreless after the first period but Bailey had other plans. He sniped a shot over Rask's glove, his eighth goal of the season, from the underrated Mark Streit and Kyle Okposo at 19:39.

The equivalent of a solar eclipse happened for the B's and yet they still lost. Seguin's goal (his 14th of the season) was on the power play, meaning that Boston has power play goals in consecutive games for only the second time this season (Feb. 15 & 17). He roofed one past Nabokov after he had loads of time and space, Gregory Campbell and Jaromir Jagr-haha that dynamic duo-had the assists at 3:41 of the second period.

Bailey's game-winner was pure luck since his not very hard shot somehow trickled through Rask's pads and just over the line at 13:12 of the second period. Frans Nielsen and Streit provided the assists, it was Bailey's fifth multi-goal game of his storied career.

By virtue of this loss and Montreal's 5-1 thrashing of the Sabres, the B's got to enjoy first-place in the Northeast Division for a little less than 24 hours. The Canadiens go back ahead by a point with each team having eight games left.

Boston's next game on Saturday (7 p.m., NESN) is a gift since they play the coldest team in the NHL: the Carolina Hurricanes who have lost seven games in a row. You might remember Carolina from their pathetic 6-2 beating at the hands of the B's on Monday. It doesn't have to be that one-sided but the Bruins could really use another easy two points like that.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Emmanuel Sanders Has Potential, Julian Edelman Does Not But The Patriots Are Still Obsessed With Him

For the life of me, I'll never understand why the Patriots love wide receiver Julian Edelman so much. Yes, he's versatile (slot receiver, punt returner, defensive back) and can play a bunch of positions if he has to but what does that matter when he can't stay on the field healthy?

It looked like he might be gone in free agency to the Giants but today New England brought him back on a one-year deal. In four seasons, he's never appeared in all 16 regular season games (11, 15, 13, 9) so I don't get why they continue to pretend like he'll suddenly be immune to all the injuries he normally picks up.

He was having somewhat of a breakout year (for him at least) last season with 21 catches for 235 yards, he also returned 17 punts for 263 yards and one touchdown plus he carried the ball four times for 45 yards. Predictably, his season was over in Week 13 (after 9 games mind you) with a broken foot. For what it's worth, he's the only guy in the NFL with a punt return for a TD the last three seasons.

What interests me way more is that they finally signed former Steelers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders to a one-year offer sheet. Last year in Pittsburgh (his third season in the NFL), he set career-highs in catches (44) and yards (626). He's small but a great route runner and he appeared in all 16 regular season games so if they get him, it's not hard projecting him to become Brandon Lloyd 2.0 (with more potential). The Steelers have five days to match or else the Pats will give them a third-round pick in this year's NFL Draft.

UPDATE 4/14: The Steelers matched the offer for Sanders (1 year, $2.5 million) so he's staying in Pittsburgh. In this case, being cheap and trying to outsmart everyone left the Patriots with nothing. Ugh, if they had just spent a little more they could have gotten a quality wide receiver that they desperately need.

UPDATE 4/16: The Pats resigned tight end Michael Hoomanawanui to a one-year tender.

Monday, April 8, 2013

If Only The Bruins Could Play The Hurricanes In The Playoffs Or At Least Every Week

That was exactly what the Bruins needed: after playing tight, low-scoring games almost all season, they exploded for a season-high six goals tonight in a 6-2 beatdown of the lowly Hurricanes at TD Garden. Boston (25-9-4) jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the second period so I'll forgive them for allowing two meaningless goals in the third to Carolina (16-20-2).

Ironically, Tuukka Rask (17-6-4) was the first star on a team with 18 points (6 goals, 12 assists) because he was forced to make a season-high 40 saves. The Hurricanes showed their only signs of life in the very beginning as they outshot the Bruins 7-0 in the first few minutes. That meant nothing though as Rich Peverley (1 goal, 1 assist) followed up his own rebound that fittingly went off the glass, for his fifth goal of the season at 3:51 from Dennis Seidenberg (career-high 3 assists) and Andrew Ference (1 goal, 1 assist).

Brad Marchand (2 goals) stuffed in a rebound from Gregory Campbell (2 assists) and that was the end of Justin Peters' (4 shots, 2 goals) night at 7:58. Things didn't get much better for Dan Ellis (4 goals allowed) as Marchand potted his second goal (team-leading 16th of the season) at 17:20 after Jaromir Jagr went around the net and threw it in front.

You knew it was Boston's night when Ference deflected a shot in (his 3rd goal of the season) off his hand and Jordan Caron scored his first goal of the season in the second period for a commanding 5-0 lead that might as well have been 10-0.

Something named Patrick Dwyer and another anonymous bum called Drayson Bowman ruined Rask's shutout in the third period after some sloppy rebounds but the Bruins fans went home happy since Nathan Horton's goal (his 13th of the season) was the last one of the contest. He tipped in Dougie Hamilton's perfect pass that was right to his blade at 16:56.

It is a busy week (like always this season) for the Bruins with three games in four nights but their opponents aren't exactly a murderer's row: they go to New Jersey (15-14-10) on Wednesday (7:30 p.m., NBC Sports Network) then return to the Garden on Thursday (7 p.m., NESN) to play the Islanders (19-16-4).

No matter how those winnable games go, they can take heart in the fact that they play the Hurricanes again-on Saturday in Raleigh, NC. Since they scored five goals against them the first time they met in January, put me down for seven this weekend.

UPDATE 4/9: It appears that the Bruins have signed their Swedish man of mystery, winger Carl Soderberg to a multi-year deal. Still waiting for the team to actually make it official, can't just trust the slob beat writers.

UPDATE 4/11: Nevermind, the Swedish Ice Hockey Federation blocked Soderberg's move to Boston. Thanks guys.

Red Sox Beat Orioles 3-1 In Fenway Opener Behind Buchholz's Gem & Nava's Blast

It was a perfect day for the Red Sox' 2013 home opener at Fenway Park: it was sunny, the temperature was mild and most importantly, Boston beat Baltimore 3-1 this afternoon.

Clay Buchholz (2-0) pieced together his second quality start of the season and this one topped last week's effort vs. the Yankees since he went seven scoreless innings. He allowed three hits with eight strikeouts and four walks. Boston's (5-2 overall, 1-0 home) bullpen looks rock solid as Andrew Bailey (1-2-3 8th with two strikeouts for his third hold) appears to be a nice fit as the setup man for closer Joel Hanrahan, who picked up his third save of the season despite allowing a solo homer to Adam Jones in the ninth.

Baltimore (3-4 overall, 2-2 away) starter Wei-Yin Chen (0-1) matched Buchholz for a while but his one mistake was a big one: a three-run homer he served up to Daniel Nava (his 2nd of the season) in the seventh inning. Chen went 6.1 innings, allowing three earned runs on five hits with three strikeouts and two walks.

Each team only notched five hits apiece with Nava (2 hits) being the only guy with multiple hits. Mike Napoli (double) and J.J. Hardy provided the other extra base hits.

Tomorrow is an off day so they'll get back at it on Wednesday night (7:10 p.m., NESN) with Ryan Dempster (0-1) facing Miguel Gonzalez (1-0) in the middle game of the series.

UPDATE 4/10: Get ready to hate Stephen Drew who was activated today while Jose Iglesias was sent down to Pawtucket. John Lackey went on the 15-day DL while Alex Wilson was called up from the PawSox. It's all happening!

The Patriots Love Their Washed Up Defensive Linemen That Used To Be Great

It wouldn't be a typical offseason for the Patriots under Bill Belichick without them picking up some seemingly over the hill defensive lineman/fat slob that they can park next to Vince Wilfork. The problem is that the last few times they've tried this predictable method, it hasn't worked (see: Albert Haynesworth and to a lesser extent Gerard Warren).

This afternoon, they signed former Raiders defensive lineman Tommy Kelly to a two-year contract. The poor guy had played his entire career in NFL hell aka Oakland after being undrafted in 2004 out of Mississippi State. He follows the familiar New England pattern of a guy that is low risk but potentially high reward. He's 32 and won't be 33 until December, keep in mind that the fat guys can last longer since they were never in peak physical shape to begin with.

Of his full seasons in the NFL, last year was statistically the worst and who could blame him since must have been very frustrated on that pathetic team. In 2012, he had 46 total tackles (25 solo, 21 assists) with 1.5 sacks and one fumble recovered. I assume he has something left in the tank since he was awesome in 2010 and 2011 for an interior lineman: 7 sacks in 2011 and 7.5 sacks in 2012.

A good sign is his durability, he's played all 16 games in seven of his nine NFL seasons including the last five in a row. Being undrafted has to play into that since that gives anyone a chip on their shoulder. He is 6-foot-6 and 325 pounds so no matter how unathletic he is, he should be a load to move when they play him with Wilfork.

Like most moves with the Pats, this isn't flashy and it won't get any headlines but it could be a steal for the next few years if he's motivated. I have to assume he will be pumped to be on a Super Bowl contender with a playoff spot a foregone conclusion. Those are a little different expectations than the neverending circus in Oakland.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Oh, Kevin Garnett Is Still On The Celtics? That Changes Everything!

Kevin Garnett (12 points, 6 rebounds, 2 steals) and Paul Pierce (15 points, 5 assists) were reunited tonight for the first time in nine games and the result was what the Greenteamers expected: a 107-96 win over the Wizards at TD Garden.

A victory against hopeless Washington (29-48 overall, 7-31 away) is nothing to beat your chest about except that the Celts (40-37 overall, 27-12 home) were repeatedly losing to teams like that the last few weeks with KG and/or Pierce out of the lineup.

Brandon Bass (20 points, 6 rebounds) had arguably his best game of the season as he shot 9 for 12 from the field and Avery Bradley scored 10 points. Boston's scoring was way more balanced than it has been in weeks, another byproduct of KG's return. All 10 Celtics that played more than one minute (sorry Terrence Williams) had six points or more. Chris Wilcox added 13 points, five rebounds and two steals, Jason Terry notched nine points and five assists, Shavlik Randolph had eight points and seven rebounds while Courtney Lee and Jordan Crawford both put up six points.

John Wall led Washington with 16 points and 10 assists. Martell Webster was the only other starter with 12 points and six rebounds. Former UConn star A.J. Price scored 15 points off the bench, Trevor Ariza added 14 points and three steals while Kevin Seraphin tossed in 10 points.

Boston is off for the next few days, they host Brooklyn (44-32, 2nd in Atlantic Division) on Wednesday (8 p.m., CSN).

Hey R.A. Dickey, Welcome To The American League East

It was only the first week of the season but if you're a Red Sox fan, you have to be happy with how they have looked in this tiny dose of 2013. They won two of three in New York against the Yankees and they followed that up by taking two of three North of the border in Toronto. This afternoon, they bludgeoned the Blue Jays (2-4 overall, 2-4 home) 13-0 at Rogers Centre.

Boston (4-2 overall, 4-2 away) got six homers as a team, led by Will Middlebrooks (career-high 3) while Daniel Nava, Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Napoli all had roundtrippers. Jon Lester (2-0) pitched like an ace, going seven shutout innings as he allowed five hits with six strikeouts and no walks.

Poor R.A. Dickey (0-2)-last year's NL Cy Young winner with the Mets-was introduced to the AL East and the results were not pretty. In 4.2 innings, he allowed eight runs (seven earned) on 10 hits with five strikeouts and two walks. Dickey served up the first two homers to Middlebrooks before Dave Bush was rocked for five runs (four homers) in relief.

The Red Sox built a 5-0 lead in the first inning so this one was never really in doubt. Dustin Pedroia (2 for 4, 2 runs, walk) began the barrage with an RBI single, Napoli added a two-run double then Middlebrooks hit an opposite field home run (his second of the season) to drive in Napoli.

Nava had a sacrifice fly in the third inning then Ellsbury knocked in Jose Iglesias (2 hits, double, run) with an RBI single in the fourth inning. Boston's final six runs all came via homers, they were 5 for 7 in this game with runners in scoring position. Two things that very well might not happen again this season.

Middlebrooks had solo shots in the fifth and seventh (first time a Red Sox has hit 3 HRs in a game since Pedroia in June 2010 vs. Colorado), Nava )first of the season) went deep in the seventh, Ellsbury had a solo homer (first of the season) in the eighth and Napoli wrapped it up with a two-run bomb (second of the season) in the eighth.

Boston comes home for its Fenway opener tomorrow afternoon (2:05 p.m., NESN) vs. Baltimore (3-3, 2nd in AL East) as Clay Buchholz (1-0) opposes Wei-Yin Chen on fittingly what is supposed to be a beautiful day. The teams are off on Tuesday then Ryan Dempster (0-1) takes on Miguel Gonzalez (1-0) Wednesday night (7:10 p.m., NESN) and Felix Doubront (0-0) vs. Jake Arrieta (0-0) is the series finale on Thursday night (7:10 p.m., NESN).

I have no issues with the idea of Opening Day at Fenway but what makes me sick is all the useless pregame crap that the shameless Red Sox owners put on every season. It's all a sell job with them trying to get you to buy something or other. That's why I skip all that bullshit, there's a time and place for it (after a championship) but not now following the last two miserable seasons.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Whelp, There Goes That Northeast Division Banner In 2013

As much as it makes me want to light my hair on fire and stab my eye balls with a butter knife, I can admit that so far this season the Montreal Canadiens have been better than my Boston Bruins. What other rational conclusion can you reach after the Habs beat the B's 2-1 tonight at the Bell Centre to wrap up a 3-1 season series?

The win put Montreal (25-8-5) three points up on Boston (24-9-4) in the Northeast Division, the Bruins only hope is that they still have a game in hand over the Canadiens but then again they don't play head-to-head again in the regular season so they'll be swimming upstream for sure.

Goal-scoring has been a major issue for the Bruins the last three weeks (5-5-1): other than the 6-5 shootout loss to Montreal on March 27 which was an outlier, the B's have scored three goals or less in 10 of their last 11 games. That breaks down to five games of one goal, four games of two goals & one game of three goals. This makes the margin for error when it comes to their goaltenders and defense extremely thin.

That previous paragraph is why it was so inexplicable that B's head coach Claude Julien decided to put Jaromir Jagr on the third line tonight with Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille. I'm not kidding, this really happened.

Carey Price (26 saves; 19-7-4) and Tuukka Rask (27 saves; 16-6-4) basically played to a stalemate, the difference being that Montreal had more puck luck. How else do you explain Alex Galchenyuk's goal at 6:49 of the first period? Yes, Bruins rookie defenseman Matt Bartkowski coughed up a bad turnover in his own end but Galchenyuk's attempted pass ended up going off Bartkowski's skate and in. Brandon Prust and P.K. Subban were credited with the assists when that honor should have gone solely to Bartkowski.

God damn Michael Ryder continued to torment his former employers, this time he scored a power-play goal at 57 seconds of the second period. He tipped in Subban's shot from the point for his 16th goal of the season (he would be Boston's leading scorer by two goals). Tomas Plekanec had the second assist.

The only puck that would find its way past Price was a tip by Daniel Paille at 7:10 of the second period. His seventh of the season was courtesy of Johnny Boychuk's shot following a faceoff win. For those keeping track, he has two more goals than Milan Lucic. Haha maybe Paille should be skating on that killer first line.

Nothing better symbolized Boston's inept power-play and goal-scoring touch in general than the miserable final 56 seconds of the game. The Bruins had drawn their first power play of the game and pulled Rask to have a 6-on-4. They kept the puck in Montreal's end but like the drive to nowhere from the Patriots a few years back in their playoff loss to the Jets, this was the power play to nowhere. The B's didn't even get off a shot before time expired, it's like they forgot the situation entirely.

The only solace for Boston is that they return home to face free-falling Carolina (16-19-2, 3rd in Southeast Division) on Monday (7 p.m., NESN) at TD Garden. The Bruins have 11 games left in the regular season which lasts less than three more weeks. It's time to get their game in gear before the postseason begins.