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Friday, January 31, 2014

Bruins Drop Their 1st Stinkbomb of the Season at TD Garden

I honestly feel bad for the people that paid good money to see the Bruins face the Canadiens tonight at TD Garden. For their time, energy and dough, they witnessed a 4-1 win for Montreal (29-20-5) that wasn't nearly that close. It was the first time this season that Boston (34-16-3) had lost by three goals at home. The strange part was that they were completely lifeless for about 58 of the 60 minutes combined.

Tuukka Rask faced Peter Budaj (34 saves)-Montreal's backup goaltender-which on paper looked like a great matchup for the B's. However, Rask proceeded to give up three goals in a period and a half. Claude Julien had seen enough since two of them were particularly weak.

You know something was up when a bum like Alexei Emelin scored the first goal, ironically his first of the season, with a shot from the point that Rask couldn't see through traffic at 2:16. New Canaan CT native (and Team USA forward) Max Pacioretty made it 2-0 at 14:32. It came on a breakaway so you can't fault Rask for that but Pacioretty's clumsy move and backhander wasn't exactly Crosby-esque.

Boston's only highlight was a goal originally credited to David Krejci but then changed to Dougie Hamilton who shot it from the point. His fifth goal of the season, assisted by the Swedes-Carl Soderberg and Loui Eriksson-came at 15:38.

Former BC star Brian Gionta's weak tip on a power play somehow eluded Rask at 11:54 of the second period for a 3-1 Canadiens lead. Rask's night was over as he stormed back to Boston's dressing room (look out milk crates!). Chad Johnson was summoned and rudely greeted by a breakaway and goal by washed up Daniel Briere at 13:46.

The third period was ultra rare garbage time at the Garden with the Black and Gold going through the motions and not doing anything positive of note. The good news for Boston is that they are back at the Garden on Saturday afternoon (1, NESN) to face the wretched Oilers (18-32-6, 7th in Pacific Division)-the worst team in the Western Conference who lost 4-2 to the Bruins on December 12 in Edmonton.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Bruins Destroy Tim Thomas & Panthers, 6-2 at TD Garden

Seeing them up close and personal, you realize that you had forgotten how completely terrible the Panthers are virtually every season. Bruins fans welcomed Tim Thomas (35 saves) back to TD Garden but watched him get shelled as Boston (34-15-3) rolled 6-2 over Florida (21-25-7). It was the third game in a row that the B's have scored exactly six goals. Also, they improved to 3-0 against the tomato can Panthers with two more meetings left in the regular season. Atlantic Division!

Tuukka Rask made 28 of the quietest saves in NHL history since by the second period, Boston had built up a 4-0 lead. It would have been cool to see him get a shutout vs. Thomas, but we have no reason to complain (Boston has won five of its last six and four in a row).

A night after the Bruins' second line went nuts at the Islanders, the first line nearly matched it with a combined seven points from David Krejci (1 goal, 2 assists), Jarome Iginla (2 assists) and Milan Lucic (2 goals).

Lucic scored at 7:41 of the first period to make it 1-0. His 14th of the season was assisted by Iginla and Krejci. He went into the infamous dirty area and was rewarded with a loose puck. Boston doubled its advantage with a pathetic mistake by Thomas: Zdeno Chara's nothing wrist shot from the point trickled in off Thomas who somehow dropped it. Chara's 13th goal of the season (3rd in 3 games) was assisted by Torey Krug and Krejci at 15:26.

Looch got another gift from Thomas when he couldn't smother the puck so Lucic shoveled it in at 1:46 of the second period. People in the crowd forgot that the second goal wasn't his (it was close) so a few stray hats went on the ice when they thought he got a hat trick. Nice try folks. Iginla and Matt Bartkowski had the assists.

Reilly Smith re-took the team goal-scoring lead with his 18th of the season at 14:54 that made it 4-0, from Carl Soderberg and Loui Eriksson on the power play. Former Bruin Brad Boyes' one-timer ensured that the Panthers at least wouldn't be shut out. Dmitry Kulikov cut it to 4-2 at 4:00 of the third period with a power play goal.

No problem, Shawn Thornton netted the prettiest goal of them all at 8:14. His fourth of the season was assisted by partner in crime Gregory Campbell. Buffalo forked over one more goal to the B's as a pitiful turnover in their own zone went right to Krejci's stick. He put it by Thomas with a quick flock of a wrist shot.

Tell your friends, the first installment of Bruins-Canadiens for this season is on Thursday (7:00, NESN and 98.5 FM) at the Garden. Montreal (28-20-5, 4th in Atlantic Division) has fallen back recently but it shouldn't take them much to get up for their bitter rival.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Bruins Finally Find A Way to Beat the Islanders This Season

For some strange reason, both times the Bruins played the Islanders this season, they walked away with two-goal losses. Thankfully, that bizarre hiccup was rectified by the B's (33-15-3) who won 6-3 over the Isles (21-26-8) tonight at Nassau Coliseum. The only other way these teams could meet again this season would be in the playoffs but it doesn't look like the Islanders will get there.

Brad Marchand is playing the best hockey of his NHL career, he added another goal and three assists for his sixth straight game with a point. His linemates weren't half bad either as Patrice Bergeron warmed up for Sochi with a goal and two assists while Reilly Smith had a goal and an assist, they also extended six-game point streaks of their own.

For the second game in a row, Boston scored six goals (tying its season high set on Saturday vs. Flyers). Perhaps the most important goal for the Bruins was the first one, scored by Loui Eriksson at 7:47 from an impossible angle. His sixth goal of the season snapped a 12-game goal-less streak and it was assisted by Daniel Paille and Torey Krug.

Good old Frans Nielsen tied it at 15:29 when he followed his own rebound and put it past Chad Johnson (34 saves). Marchand made it 2-1 Bruins thanks to some pretty passing from Bergeron and Smith at 4:50 and a perfect shot that he roofed over Kevin Poulin. It was his team-leading 17th goal of the season.

For a while, the Islanders kept responding as Michael Grabner finished a one-timer at 8:20 from Kyle Okposo and Thomas Hickey. Smith put Boston back on top with his 17th of the season at 12:21. Shawn Thornton and Marchand assisted on that tally.

Okposo knotted it at three following a 2-on-0 with Grabner, that's right folks: a 2-on-0 after Dougie Hamilton lost the puck at the end of the Bruins' power play. The B's closed it out with three goals in a row. Carl Soderberg put the Bruins up 4-3 with maybe the prettiest goal in his brief NHL career. He went around a defensemen and drove to the net but he couldn't be stopped. His seventh goal of the season was assisted by Milan Lucic and Jarome Iginla.

Bergeron handed Boston its first two-goal lead (5-3) at 2:17 of the third period. Marchand did the dirty work (haha) by stealing the puck behind New York's goal then feeding Bergeron for his 14th goal of the season. You had to laugh when Zdeno Chara's weak wrist shot from the point trickled in for his 12th goal of the season. Poulin celebrated allowing Chara's 500th career point by getting yanked for washed up Evgeni Naokov.

Back-to-backs usually aren't much fun but the B's have extra motivation tomorrow as they host the Panthers (21-26-8) and Tim Thomas (14-14-3, 7th in Atlantic Division). Bruins-Panthers games are usually one-sided blowouts but seeing Tuukka Rask vs. Thomas is worth the price of admission.

UPDATE 1/28: The Bruins activated Chris Kelly from IR after he missed the last 22 games; Ryan Spooner and Zach Trotman were assigned to Providence.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Bruins Own the Flyers, Except for that World-Famous Choke Job in the 2010 Playoffs

I don't know what exactly it is about the matchup but I feel like at least once every season when the Bruins and Flyers meet, Boston skates away with a blowout victory. In their first meeting this season, Boston (32-15-3) destroyed Philadelphia (25-22-6) 6-1 this afternoon at Wells Fargo Center. The six goals matched a season-high for the B's (6-2 win Dec. 23 at Nashville).

The B's efficiently tore the Flyers apart with two goals in each frame and big offensive games for Jarome Iginla (2 goals, 2 assists), David Krejci (3 assists), Zdeno Chara (2 goals) and Torey Krug (2 assists). In total, eight Bruins found the scoresheet and Tuukka Rask (25 saves) set a new career-high with his 23rd win of 2013-14.

Two things that always seem to plague the Flyers came back to bite them today: bad goaltending and undisciplined play (especially in the back end). For some reason, Steve Mason got a three-year extension last weekend but if you are delusional enough to think he's a legitimate No. 1 goaltender, I don't know what to tell you.

Chara made it 1-0 just 6:30 into the game when his intended pass deflected off a Philly stick (that sounds like a gross food product) past Mason. Iginla and Krejci assisted on Chara's 10th goal of the season. With that, Chara became the eighth Bruin and second defensemen (Krug, 11) to score 10+ goals this season.

Iginla scored a backbreaking goal with 17.1 seconds left in the first period. His 14th goal of the season was assisted by Milan Lucic and Krug. I don't think it would have mattered either way but I'm pretty sure that tally shattered any confidence that Philadelphia had going into the intermission.

Sure enough, Reilly Smith scored at 6:59 of the second period on a breakaway. His team-leading 16th goal of the season (tied with Brad Marchand) came on a backhander that went off the post, off Mason's back then barely over the line before the Flyers could get to it.

Bergeron ended Mason's outing with a goal at 13:10 off of his juicy rebound. Marchand assisted on Bergeron's 13th goal of the season.

Claude Giroux was about the only Flyer with any pride and not surprisingly, he scored their only goal-a power play strike at 7:55 in the third period that cut it to 4-1. I can see why Team Canada passed him over. Unfortunately for Philadelphia, Iginla answered with a power play goal 26 seconds later and Chara added his second of the game as well less than a minute later (both came on a double-minor for high sticking on Nicklas Grossmann).

Boston's brief tour of the Tri-State area concludes on Monday (7, NESN) against the Islanders (21-25-8, 8th in Metropolitan Division), who have played well lately but have still been one of the biggest disappointments in the NHL this season. John Tavares is playing at an MVP level, Kyle Okposo should be on Team USA and Thomas Vanek hasn't skipped a beat since getting traded from Buffalo but New York's defense and goaltending are terrible hence their under .500 record.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Unfortunately, Even the Celtics Can't Lose Every Game This Season

I pretty much only write about Celtics wins so needless to say, other than their two recent trades, I have been quiet lately regarding the Green and White. I had to break my silence tonight as Boston (15-29 overall, 6-17 away) held off Washington (20-21 overall, 10-11 home) 113-111 in overtime at Verizon Center.

With the rare victory, the Celts snapped a 10-game road losing streak and also won for only the third time in their last 18 games. Nothing from Boston's side can compare to this insane stat that I saw after the contest: John Wall (28 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists, 3 steals) has never been over .500 in his four years in the NBA. Wait, what? How is that even possible?

Playing on the road, in the second night of a back-to-back without Rajon Rondo (rest) and Avery Bradley (ankle), the C's shouldn't have been difficult at all for the Wizards to beat. So naturally, Boston got out to a 10-point lead after the first quarter (32-22) and 18-point advantage at halftime (61-43).

Clearly, Washington woke up in the second half-particularly in the third quarter when they outscored Boston 30-15. The Wizards also took the fourth quarter (26-23) and had a chance to win but Nene Hilario's (17 points, 9 reboudns) long jumper at the buzzer was a brick. Bradley Beal and Trevor Ariza both scored 14 points while Marcin Gortat added 11 points and 13 rebounds. Martell Webster scored 10 points off the bench.

Jeff Green had one of the best games of his career with a game-high 39 points (8 3-pointers!), nine rebounds and three steals. Rookie Phil Pressey had 20 points (5 3-pointers) before he fouled out in OT, Jared Sullinger put up another double-double (14 points, 11 rebounds) and Gerald Wallace (9 points, 9 assists, 6 rebounds, 4 steals) filled the stat sheet but most importantly made the last-second driving layup to clinch it for Boston. In his second game with the C's, rookie Chris Johnson (9 points, 4 steals) showed how much he doesn't want to return to the D-League.

Boston hit eight more 3-pointers (15-7) than Washington, made five more steals (15-10) and blocked twice as many shots (8-4). They also scored seven more fast break points (21-14) and 10 more points off turnovers (20-10).

The Celtics' reward for this hard-fought win is a day off before they return to TD Garden on Friday (7:30, CSN) to host Kevin Durant-MVP, MVP-and the Thunder (33-10, 1st in Northwest Division). Durant has scored 30+ points in nine straight games which is the main reason why this is the first Celtics game all season that I've had any interest in attending.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Bruins Sign Defenseman Kevan Miller Through 2015-16

Coming off what I thought was his best game as a Bruin (career-high 19:05, game-high 5 hits and 1 blocked shot) yesterday vs. Los Angeles, Boston rewarded rookie defenseman Kevan Miller with a two-year, one-way contract through the 2015-16 season. Miller went to the University of Vermont and played there from 2007-10 before being signed as a free agent by the Bruins in October 2011.

His initial success is a good reflection of two things: the Providence Bruins churning out quality pros and Boston making the most out of free agency (with some exceptions, obviously). I see Miller as a sort of poor man's Johnny Boychuk, he's relatively big and tough with a hard right-handed shot. In 16 games this season with Boston, he has one goal, one assist and seven penalty minutes (one fighting major).

At some point, Zdeno Chara will slow down and eventually retire. With young defensemen like Torey Krug, Matt Bartkowski, Dougie Hamilton, Miller plus Zach Trotman and David Warsofsky in Providence, the Bruins have plenty of talent in the pipeline to ensure that they won't fall off the map completely when Big Z is gone.

UPDATE 1/23: Trotman was recalled on an emergency basis from Providence.

Bruins Get Some Payback vs. Kings, Thanks to Marchand

Savor this moment because it won't happen too often: Brad Marchand is the hottest player (settle down ladies) in the NHL with six goals in his last four games and four in his last two. Boston beat Los Angeles 3-2 this afternoon at TD Garden thanks to his continued excellent play and Chad Johnson's more than serviceable start (21 saves).

The Bruins (31-15-3) had lost 4-2 to the Kings (29-15-6) on January 9 in LA so they were more than happy to repay them with some home cooking of their own in their only other matchup of the season. Since LA had been in Boston waiting for the B's while the Black and Gold were in Chicago on Sunday battling the Blackhawks, this was a particularly impressive victory.

I was surprised that Johnson got the start opposite UMass alum Jonathan Quick (20 saves) but he performed well and won in Dallas on Thursday so he deserved another opportunity instead of waiting nearly a month between starts (yes, that really happened).

Marchand scored at 12:07 in the first period on a shorthanded bid. First, his breakaway was stopped by Quick but by some stroke of good luck the puck returned to his stick through four Kings and he was able to put it in the net. His 15th goal of the season was assisted by Patrice Bergeron.

Torey Krug made it 2-0 at 17:51 with one of his patented power play lasers. His 11th goal of the season (tied for 2nd in the NHL for defensemen) was assisted by David Krejci and Ryan Spooner.

The Kings have trouble scoring, go figure with all their offensive talent, but that's why they have Willie Mitchell. Wait, what? The scrub defenseman scored his first goal of the season at 4:09 of the second period to cut it to 2-1. His one-timer was courtesy of Mike Richards.

Former Flyer Jeff Carter tied it at two at 8:35 in the third period with his 19th goal of the season. His one-timer was on the power play, from Drew Doughty and Anze Kopitar (ever hear of them?). Marchand and the B's would not be denied though as he potted the winning goal just 18 seconds after that. It was a sweet one-timer from Reilly Smith and Bergeron.

Milan Lucic made his presence felt in the first when he fought Jordan Nolan (who had tagged Krug with a questionable hit). Boston finally gets a little break as they don't play another game until Saturday (1, NESN) in Philadelphia (25-19-6, 3rd in Metropolitan Division)-their first meeting of the season.

UPDATE 1/21: The Bruins assigned defenseman Zach Trotman back to Providence. After yesterday's game, Boston head coach Claude Julien said Adam McQuaid was day-to-day with a leg injury but that was good news. I guess he'll be fine for Saturday in Philly.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Most Cut and Dry Patriots Playoff Loss that I Can Ever Remember

Well I think today's AFC Championship Game between the Patriots and Broncos left no doubt who the better team was today, tomorrow and in two weeks: Denver. The Broncos controlled play from start to finish and won 26-16 at Sports Authority. New England overachieved all season and at some point, you knew that their lack of playmakers on both sides of the ball would catch up to them. Unfortunately, this afternoon was that painful time.

I honestly can never recall a loss in the playoffs by the Patriots that was so simple. No drama, no bad calls (either by their coaches or refs) in terms of affecting the contest in a major way or things to second guess. Nope, this was an old fashioned beatdown. The Broncos should have won by 20+ points and if they were decent in the red zone (2 for 6), they would have accomplished that.

The lazy/hot sports take way to look at this result is that Peyton Manning (32 of 43 for 400 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs) badly outplayed Tom Brady (24 of 38 for 277 yards, 1 TD, 0 INTs). Clearly, Peyton was better but this just came down to his abundance of weapons and Brady's utter lack of anything outside of Julian Edelman (10 catches, 89 yards).

Denver got up 10-0 in the second quarter and 20-3 in the third quarter, thus eliminating New England's favored mode of attack: running the ball. SI cover boy LeGarrette Blount predictably plummeted back to Earth with five carries for six yards.

Meanwhile, the Thomas brothers-DeMaryius (7 catches, 134 yards) and Julius (8 catches, 85 yards)-dominated the Pats sorry secondary which lost Aqib Talib to a knee injury. PS they're not related. That makes it two years in a row that he went down with an injury in the AFC Championship Game. However, like last season I don't think his absence was the difference between a win and loss. Make no mistake, the Broncos would have won this game 10 out of 10 times.

Matt Prater opened the scoring with a 27-yard field goal in the first quarter. Jacob Tamme caught a 1-yard TD from Manning halfway through the second quarter for a 10-0 lead. New England's only points of the first half was a 47-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski. Prater added a 35-yard field goal with 25 seconds left in the first half for a 13-3 Broncos lead.

Demaryius Thomas caught a 3-yard touchdown in the third quarter and Prater's 19-yard field goal increased Denver's lead to 23-3 early in the fourth quarter. As they did all season, the Pats showed plenty of pride by not rolling over when most would. Edelman caught a 7-yard TD but Prater's 54-yard field goal and a missed two-point conversion after Brady's 5-yard TD run sealed New England's fate.

It doesn't make up for two weeks of crap but Broncos-Seahawks should be an excellent Super Bowl. More importantly, the Patriots need to get to work immediately to figure out how to maximize the next few seasons. Brady and Bill Belichick won't be around forever so they need to show more urgency by spending as much as they can and getting better players all around them.

If the last few years have taught us anything, it's that Brady and Belichick can rack up the (meaningless) regular season wins and even a few playoff games (assuming they face some scrub team) but they need way more help to beat super squads like the Broncos.

Before the Pats Lost In Denver, Bruins Lost In Chicago

Odds are that you didn't really focus all your time and energy on Bruins-Blackhawks this afternoon while you got ready for Patriots-Broncos and that's a shame because it was way more entertaining. Boston (30-15-3) also came up on the short end, with a 3-2 shootout loss to Chicago (32-8-11) at the United Center but unlike the Pats, there is plenty to build on with many games left.

The biggest positive for the Bruins was Brad Marchand. I say this not just because he scored both of their goals but he's finally playing like himself. He is prone to disappearing for weeks since he's not overly talented or big but when Marchand is on top of his game, look out.

Marian Hossa gave Chicago a 1-0 lead at 4:13. He scored on a one-timer from Patrick Sharp and Niklas Hjalmarsson. Marchand tied it with 19 seconds left in the frame. After forcing a turnover at center ice, Marchand picked a corner around Corey Crawford (34 saves). Patrice Bergeron and Adam McQuaid had the assists on Marchand's 13th goal of the season.

Marchand made it 2-1 just 50 seconds into the second period after he beat Crawford with a nifty move. Reilly Smith and Johnny Boychuk assisted on Marchand's breakaway.

Boston's lead was short-lived though as Tuukka Rask (35 saves) gave up a goal as soft as a dirty diaper at 9:44. Goon Brandon Bollig snuck one into the net on the short side which should basically never happen in the NHL against someone of his limited ability.

You hate to see a great game like this decided in a shootout but it's the regular season so what can you do? Jonathan Toews scored, Marchand answered it but Patrick Kane said good night.

I wish we didn't have to wait more than two months for the next Bruins-Blackhawks encounter: Thursday, March 27 at TD Garden. And while we're at it, can the NHL rig it like the NBA to get these teams back in the Stanley Cup Final again? Please and thank you.

UPDATE 1/19: The Bruins called up defenseman Zach Trotman on an emergency basis. He'll be available vs. Kings after Adam McQuaid left the game vs. Blackhawks with an undisclosed injury.

Friday, January 17, 2014

AFC Championship Game Injury Report: Patriots at Broncos

You might not know this but the 2014 AFC Championship Game is on Sunday (3, CBS) and it involves the Patriots taking on the Broncos. Now that we've got that out of the way, let's get to the very brief injury report.

Denver lists everyone as probable so we won't bother with those jokers. New England has three players that are questionable: wide receivers Aaron Dobson (foot) and Kenbrell Thompkins (hip) along with punter Ryan Allen (shoulder).

So Tom Brady can have someone other than Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola to throw to, he needs one of the rookies to play. Thompkins played last week vs. Indianapolis but he suffered a concussion, his hip injury is from earlier in the season. Dobson didn't play but he's practiced the last few days, giving us hope that the Pats could have their only viable deep threat. As for Allen, he famously got hurt vs. the Colts forcing Stephen Gostkowski into punting duty (something he'd never done before in the NFL). New England didn't bring in another punter this week so you have to think that Allen will tough it out (an oxymoron for punters).

I'll update this on Sunday-if I feel like it-with the inactives for the Broncos and Patriots. To quote the great Bart Scott, "can't wait!"

UPDATE 1/19: Patriots inactives are Steve Beauharnais, Isaac Sopoaga, Justin Green, Chris Barker, D.J. Williams, Jake Bequette and Thompkins. That means that Dobson is active. For the Broncos: QB Zac Dysert, RB Ronnie Hillman, CB Marquice Cole, OT Vinston Painter, G Chris Kuper, TE Joel Dreesen and DT Sione Fua.

Chad Johnson Propels the B's to 1 of Their Best Road Wins of the Season, Wait What?

I'll be honest, I didn't think Chad Johnson had performances like tonight-32 saves-in him. Granted, neither did Boston's (30-15-2) front office or head coach Claude Julien since his last start was way back on December 19. Regardless, he was great this evening as the Bruins won 4-2 at Dallas' (21-19-7) American Airlines Center.

Boston's top line showed up as well after taking the last four games off (with no points in any of them). David Krejci scored the first goal and Milan Lucic netted the third goal. In addition, Brad Marchand continued to heat up with another goal and Patrice Bergeron clinched it with an empty-netter.

Since they won, we can laugh about it a little more but the B's got absolutely hosed out of a goal by Gregory Campbell early in the first period. A Stars defensemen tried to clear it but the puck went off Campbell's skate and in. I didn't think he had time to react and do that but after watching a replay, the refs reversed the call of goal and said he kicked it.

Krejci scored his 10th goal of the season with four seconds left in the second. Lucic had the lone assist after winning a puck battle in the corner and passing it to Krejci who snapped it by Kari Lehtonen (37 saves). That was Krejci's first goal in six games.

Boston's struggling penalty kill had successfully survived the first four chances they gave Dallas but Erik Cole knotted it at one 1:18 into the third on a man advantage. It came on a nothing play as Tyler Seguin blindly threw the puck on Johnson but Cole was there to re-direct it before it got to him.

Two minutes later, Marchand put the Bruins back ahead for good after some old fashioned hustle. His first shot was stopped but he got to the rebound first and poked it in. Bergeron assisted on Marchand's 12th goal of the season.

Lucic gave Boston a rare two-goal lead with a tip-in of Krejci's wrist shot from the point on the power play. Torey Krug had the second assist on Lucic's 13th goal of the season at 15:46.

Jamie Benn padded his stats and created a few scary moments for Boston with a garbage goal at 18:49. Bergeron's empty-netter at 19:44 surely calmed nerves around New England. It was his 12th goal of the season.

Boston is off for two days before their must-see game on Sunday (12:30, NBC) at Chicago (30-8-11, 1st in Central Division). Tuukka Rask will be rested and ready to go as the teams square off for the first time since the 2013 Stanley Cup Final. I can't think of a better way to pass the time before Patriots-Broncos, can you?

Thursday, January 16, 2014

I'll Permit 1 Win Every 10 Games for the Celtics

If I had my way, the Celtics would lose every game for the rest of this pointless season. Unfortunately, that's not how it works. They are bound to stumble into a win at least every once in a while. Like tonight for instance, Boston (14-26 overall, 9-11 home) snapped its nine-game losing streak with a 88-83 win over Toronto (19-18 overall, 10-10 away) at TD Garden.

The Raptors had actually been playing very well (12-4) since they shipped Rudy Gay to hell, I mean Sacramento. Still, what does it tell you about the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference in general that the train wreck Celts could handle them?

Jared Sullinger was the star for Boston, he had a game-high 25 points, career-high 20 rebounds and two steals (his first 20-20 game and first for a Celtic since Kevin Garnett's debut in Boston-November 2007). Any rebuilding project with the C's should involve Sullinger. His style isn't pretty but damn if it isn't effective. Unlike many of the jokers that come in the NBA too early, he knows how to play. He's not going to be a Hall of Famer due to his limited athleticism but that doesn't mean he can't be an All-Star someday.

In a brief cameo with Rajon Rondo ready to be unleashed on Friday vs. Lakers, Phil Pressey made his first NBA start a good one with 10 assists and zero turnovers. Avery Bradley had 20 points, five rebounds and two steals; Jeff Green added 13 points and five rebounds while Kris Humphries also made the most of his rare start with 12 points and eight rebounds.

DeMar DeRozan led Toronto with 23 points and eight rebounds. Without Gay, he desperately needs more help around him. No offense Kyle Lowry (18 points, 12 assists, 7 rebounds). 90-year-old John Salmons was the only other Raptor in double-figures with 13 points off the bench.

Trailing 73-56 entering the fourth quarter, this had no business being a game but Boston is physically incapable of closing out any team. Toronto made it a three-point game a couple times but they couldn't get any closer than that.

This oughta make Tommy Heinsohn happy: Boston shot 11 more free throws (36-25) and hit 14 more (26-12) than bricklaying Toronto. Thanks to Sullinger's dominance, the Celtics grabbed 14 more rebounds (58-44) as a team. The C's also had seven more fast break points (13-6), eight more points in the paint (32-24) and eight more points off turnovers (15-7).

I can't recall a less anticipated Celtics-Lakers (14-25 overall, 5th in Pacific Division) than the one on Friday (7:30, CSN) at the Garden. However, with Rondo's expected return, there at least is a valid reason to tune in for a few minutes. Who knows what to expect from him basically a year removed from tearing his ACL?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Farewell to the Captain of the Tanking Committee of the Celtics-Jordan Crawford

The fire sale of the Celtics picked up some steam this morning as guards Jordan Crawford and MarShon Brooks were dealt to the Golden State Warriors in a three-team trade. Guard Toney Douglas goes to Miami and center Joel Anthony comes to Boston along with two draft picks (a first-round pick of the 76ers that is lottery protected for the next two years and Miami's second-round pick in 2016).

Boston squeezed all the "talent" it could by showcasing Crawford since this season began. Now with Rajon Rondo reportedly returning on Friday vs. Lakers (if you believe his mysterious tweet), the Celts had no use for one of the biggest clowns in the NBA (which is saying something). Crawford is the poster child of everything that people rightfully hate about the NBA: huge ego, takes really dumb shots every game, not a team player, far less talented than he imagines, etc. Still, he was having a career-year averaging 13.7 points per game and 5.7 assists per game.

Will Crawford get minutes in Golden State, one of the deepest backcourts in the NBA? Who cares. He's not our problem now and unfortunately, it sounds like Brooks will be waived by the Warriors. I know that my fellow PC alum has the talent to play in the league, he just needs another opportunity after he played well his rookie season with the Nets.

In case you forgot, Anthony is the stiff that looks 60 years old who has lucked out by being on the Heat the last few seasons. For tanking purposes, I'd love to see him start for the rest of 2014. Boston has lost their last nine games in a row heading into tonight's meeting with Atlantic Division leading Toronto (weird to say, right?).

The big chip left in Danny Ainge's arsenal is Rondo. Many have speculated that he'll be traded since if he's healthy, he could bring plenty back in return as the Celtics attempt to start over and reboot from square one. As we all know, this next draft is supposed to be incredible and Boston has a plethora of picks the next few years. That's the best way to rebuild since marquee free agents don't want to come here-time to face that harsh reality folks.

Bruins Return Home For 1 Night Only, Poop The Bed vs. Maple Leafs In a 4-3 Loss

The Bruins (29-15-2) had been gone for over a week for a 1-2 road trip in California and they came home to face the reeling Maple Leafs (23-20-5) at TD Garden. Naturally, Toronto rallied from two early deficits to win 4-3. Boston had beaten them 3-1 and 5-2 earlier this season with the finale set for April 3 in Toronto.

Every writer will mention it so let me be the millionth to talk about how crappy Boston's special teams were. The Bruins were 0-for-3 on the power play and allowed two goals on Toronto's five man advantages.

The first period harkened back to the glory days of the NHL-70s and 80s-when there was an abundance of goals and even a fight between Shawn Thornton and Frazer McLaren. It was Thornton's first brawl since he got back on Saturday in San Jose. Brad Marchand opened the barrage on Jonathan Bernier (38 saves) with a goal at 3:38 off a rebound. Reilly Smith and Patrice Bergeron assisted on Marchand's 11th of the season.

Tyler Bozak answered at 5:52 with a similar goal, off of Tuukka Rask's (22 saves) juicy rebound. Bozak was assisted by Milan Lucic's rag doll-Carl Gunnarssson and Phil Kessel (3 assists). Boston regained the lead at 10:48 after Bergeron's wraparound fooled Bernier and Toronto's defensemen. His 11th goal of the season was assisted by Zdeno Chara and Marchand.

Bozak potted his second goal at 12:47 of the first, this time on the power play to tie it at two. James van Riemsdyk and Kessel assisted on Bozak's goal which came after a cross ice feed left Rask out of position.

Little did we know that Toronto would rattle off two more goals before Boston responded (too late). Jake Gardiner's wrist shot on the power play made it 3-2 at 7:09. JVR got a lucky break a minute into the third when Johnny Boychuk sent him to the moon with a clean but filthy hit. He got hit so hard that one of the gloves flew into the crowd. He got the last laugh though as his routine wrist shot got by Rask a minute into the third period.

The Bruins' fourth line brought its typical energy and they were rewarded with a goal when Gregory Campbell roofed a backhander past Bernier at 9:35. Campbell had hit the post earlier on the same shift so the goal seemed like a gift from the hockey gods. It was his third goal of the season, assisted by Daniel Paille.

Boston outshot Toronto 41-26 for the game so they should have done more with all their scoring chances. They don't have much time to fix things as they visit Tyler Seguin, Rich Peverley and the Stars (21-18-7, 5th in Central Division) on Thursday (8:30, NESN).

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Bruins Can Take Something Positive Out of the California Trip After a 1-0 Win in San Jose

An 0-3 road trip by the Bruins in California would have been borderline disastrous (in terms of perception) and something they would have to talk about for the rest of the season. Instead, Boston (29-14-2) showed some mental toughness this evening with a 1-0 win vs. San Jose (28-12-6) at the SAP Center. PS this was only the second loss in regulation at home for the Sharks this season, why is it so hard to win in California?

Tuukka Rask (22-11-2) made 26 saves in his NHL-best fifth shutout of the season. After losing 5-2 to Anaheim and getting pulled after three goals in a 4-2 loss to Los Angeles, Rask needed this win more than anyone on the Bruins to show that he's not breaking down or in a true slump. The fact that he did this against his Finland teammate Antti Niemi had to give him some extra motivation, he should be the starter in Sochi.

This wasn't a particularly exciting contest except for Carl Soderberg's goal at 12:25 of the third period. Loui Eriksson's shot was deflected to Soderberg and he was able to bang in the rebound past Niemi (21 saves) for his sixth goal of the season. Eriksson recorded an assist in his first game back since December 7. If that date sounds familiar, it was also when Shawn Thornton lost his mind and beat the hell out of Brooks Orpik. Ironically, Thornton returned to the lineup tonight too.

Rookie Kevan Miller fought goon Mike Brown for his first career NHL fight (the 10th Bruin to drop the gloves this season which has to be at or near the top of the league) in the second period. Patrice Bergeron hit the post earlier in the third period on a Bruins power play. With the win, Boston swept (2-0) San Jose in the season series after a 2-1 win at TD Garden on October 24 (David Krejci scored in the last second of play).

Boston returns to TD Garden on Tuesday (7, NESN) to face the Maple Leafs (21-20-5, 6th in Atlantic Division). Toronto's season is unraveling (four straight losses) so the Bruins have to be careful not to let them get back on the winning track.

UPDATE 1/12: The Bruins sent forward Mark Fraser back to Providence.

UPDATE 1/14: Dougie Hamilton has a concussion so he's out for tonight's game vs. Tornto (7, NESN).

Patriots Run Over Colts En Route to Their 3rd Straight AFC Championship Game

(30 for 30 voice) What if I told you that the Tom Brady would go 13 of 25 for 198 yards and zero TDs but the Patriots would beat the Colts 43-22 at Gillette Stadium in the AFC Divisional Round? The seemingly impossible actually happened tonight as New England rode a team-record six rushing touchdowns (4 from LeGarrette Blount and 2 from Stevan Ridley) along with four interceptions of Andrew Luck to their third AFC Championship Game in a row and eighth in the past 13 seasons.

The Pats host the Chargers if they upset the Broncos in Denver tomorrow. If the Broncos win, New England heads to Mile High for a super hyped game between Brady and some guy named Peyton Manning. Despite the fact that Indy only trailed 29-22 heading into the fourth quarter, we never really sweated this one out since Luck had too many turnovers and more importantly, the Colts defense is atrocious (in two playoff games this season they allowed a combined 87 points).

Blount (24 carries, team-record 166 yards) showed that the last few weeks of the regular season weren't a fluke. It was also nice to see Ridley (14 carries, 52 yards) chip in. The problem with New England's passing game is that it only really has two legitimate targets: Julian Edelman (6 catches, 84 yards) and Danny Amendola (3 catches, 77 yards). Aaron Dobson (foot) missed the game and Kenbrell Thompkins only had one target and no catches (plus he might have picked up a concussion on that one play). Depending on who they play next Sunday (3, CBS), the Patriots have to find a way to squeeze more out of their receivers cause you have to figure Blount will be their main focus defensively.

On the third play of the game, Luck (20 of 41, 331 yards, 2 TDs, 4 INTs) threw nearly a pick-6 to Alfonzo Dennard who returned it to the 2. The next play was a two-yard TD run by Blount. He did the same thing a little more than six minutes later for a 14-0 Patriots lead. Playing from behind for the second week in a row against a smarter and better coached team was too much for Luck.

Granted, he made some sick throws like the 38-yard pass to LaVon Brazill that put the Colts on the board. Another 2-yard TD run by Blount made it 21-7 Patriots before Indy got a 36-yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri and a safety on a bad snap to punter Ryan Allen (who also hurt his shoulder on the play). New England only led 21-12 at halftime.

A 21-yard field goal by Vinatieri was as close as Indianapolis would get (21-15). Ridley had a 3-yard TD run and 2-point conversion. Brazill's only other catch was a 35-yard touchdown (at least he makes them count). The fourth quarter belonged to the Pats and their offensive line. Blount ran for a 73-yard TD and Ridley capped it off with a 1-yard TD run.

Rookie linebacker Jamie Collins (6 tackles, 3 solo, 1 sack, 1 interception, 2 tackles for loss, pass deflected, 3 quarterback hits) hadn't done anything during the regular season but in his playoff debut, the second-round pick out of Southern Mississippi was the star of New England's resilient defense. Donta' Hightower (8 tackles, 3 solo, 1 pass deflected, 1 interception) had been bashed all season for all his obvious flaws but he was great in this one. To show you how few plays that he's made in two seasons, that pick was the first of his career. Dennard wrapped it up with his second interception.

We know that the Patriots in many ways are lucky to be one of the final four teams left in the NFL but at the same time, you have to marvel at their resilience through all the major injuries. No matter if it's the Broncos or Chargers, New England will have to take its game to another level and improve in many departments. Clearly, we'd prefer San Diego to win tomorrow since that would mean the Pats only need another win at Gillette to get to the Super Bowl. However, Denver is a tougher opponent on paper (keep in mind New England already beat them this season) but there is something to be said for going into Denver and knocking them off.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Celtics Lose For the 10th Time in Their Last 11 Games, A Heartbreaker to the Warriors

When the highlight video is put together from the lottery-bound 2013-14 season, I hope the Celtics include some clips from tonight's 99-97 loss to the Warriors at ORACLE (all caps?) Arena. This was a game that Boston (13-24 overall, 5-14 away) had no business being in, let alone almost winning. Thankfully, Golden State (25-14 overall, 12-4 home) came to their senses long enough for Stephen Curry (19 points, 7 rebounds) to hit the go-ahead 3-pointer w/2.1 seconds left. Gerald Wallace is no Curry so obviously his 3-pointer at the buzzer had no chance.

Boston was a 12-point underdog and Golden State is seen a darkhorse contender in the Western Conference. This fell into the classic NBA trap game category since the Warriors were coming off a long road trip on the East Coast and who can take the Celtics seriously? Now Boston has lost 10 of their last 11 games to achieve the fifth worst record in the NBA. Don't stop until you get to the bottom fellas!

Jeff Green had a game-high 24 points and 11 rebounds. Jared Sullinger had a double-double off the bench with 21 points and 11 rebounds. Kris Humphries (16 points, 14 points, 3 blocks, 2 steals) put together maybe his best game in Green and White (trade him immediately!) while Jordan Crawford added 10 points and seven assists.

Golden State is one of the few teams in the NBA that I always watch if they are on TV. Curry and Klay Thompson (17 points) aka the Splash Brothers are awesome, probably the two best shooters in the league, and they have some other nice pieces like Andre Iguodala (22 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds, 3 steals), David Lee (16 points, 7 rebounds) and Andrew Bogut (13 rebounds). Celtics killer/journeyman Marreese Speights had 13 points in 13 minutes. Maybe the C's can acquire him like they did with Jerryd Bayless earlier this week.

I kept waiting for the Warriors to pull away/the Celtics to fall apart like they usually do but it never materialized. Golden State led 24-21 after the first quarter but trailed 49-47 at halftime. The Warriors put together a nice third quarter (25-18) but needed Curry's usual heroics to get it done in a shaky fourth (outscored 30-27).

Here's a bizarre stat: Boston had eight blocks while Golden State had none. The C's go for the rare 0-5 road trip tomorrow night (10, CSN) in Portland (27-9, 1st in Northwest Division). After hanging with the Warriors, there is no chance in a back-to-back (and final game of a week-long trip) that the Celts can do that again versus one of the best teams in the NBA.

Injury Report: Divisional Round-Patriots vs. Colts

It is about that time folks. Tomorrow night (8:15, CBS) the Patriots host the Colts at Gillette Stadium with a trip to the AFC Championship Game on the line. Today the injury reports came out and unlike the regular season, they weren't cluttered with fake injuries and jokes.

For New England, wide receiver Aaron Dobson (foot) is out. For Indianapolis, wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (hamstring) is also out. The only guys that are questionable for either team are Patriots wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins (hip) and cornerback Alfonzo Dennard (knee/shoulder).

Dobson's injury certainly hurts the Pats but it's not something that should prevent them from beating the Colts. He missed four games during the regular season so having him out isn't a complete shock plus given that and the fact that he's a rookie, he never really seemed completely comfortable. Sigh, hopefully his sophomore campaign is much better in terms of health and production. They need someone with big play ability that can stretch the field, is he that player?

As for Heyward-Bey, he was Indy's fifth receiver so that's not a big loss. The ghost of Deion Branch should be a suitable replacement for that bum that can't catch anything, R.I.P. Al Davis!

UPDATE 1/11: Patriots inactives are Chris Barker, Dobson, D.J. Williams, Jake Bequette, Isaac Sopoaga, Justin Green and Steve Beauharnais. Colts inactives are Josh Lenz, Sheldon Price, Daniel Adongo, Khaled Holmes, Joe Reitz, Heyward-Bey and Branch.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Insert Applicable Line from "The Mighty Ducks (1-3)" Here

If you missed the game and you just see the score or a few highlights (mostly Anaheim's) at some point tomorrow, you'd think that the Bruins got run over tonight in a 5-2 loss at the Honda Center. The truth is that Boston (28-13-2) played an excellent first period but couldn't score, gave up three power special teams goals and trailed 3-0 before rallying to make it 3-2.

However, from there Anaheim (32-8-5) did what championship teams (or at least ones with those lofty expectations) do: they crushed the B's with two late goals. Oh, the Ducks are now the team with the most points in the NHL (yes even more than Chicago) and they remained unbeaten at home (18-0-2) this entire season. I know they play in the West Coast and a lame market but it's time to start paying attention to this wagon.

The B's were already an underdog before Milan Lucic was a late scratch with the flu. I guess he just can't handle that beautiful California weather. That meant that Boston chose to use seven defensemen rather than the usual six. Turns out, that completely backfired.

Trust me when I say that Jonas Hiller (30 saves) stood on his head in the first period as Boston outshot Anaheim 16-3. His best stop was robbing Brad Marchand with a fantastic glove save. For some reason, the Bruins typically go to sleep in the second period and this night was no different as Mathieu Perreault and Corey Perry scored power play goals (that Tuukka Rask had no chance on) then Andrew Cogliano had a shorthanded goal after a wretched turnover by Reilly Smith manning the point during a Bruins man advantage (can't remember him doing that before).

I'm sure many that had stayed up in frozen New England at that point turned it off and boy did they miss so much! Seriously though, the B's actually made it a game for a while. Daniel Paille scored on a backhander with 16 seconds left in the second, cutting it to 3-1. Justin Florek (1st NHL point) and Gregory Campbell each had assists.

An even more unlikely source provided the second goal for Boston as Dougie Hamilton used screens by Jarome Iginla and Carl Soderberg to beat Hiller at 7:19. Hamilton's fourth goal of the season gave the Bruins hope for approximately 6:04, that is until BU product Nick Bonino scored Anaheim's third power play goal. The Ducks sealed it with another tally from Perreault (3 of his 9 goals this season have come in 2 games vs. Boston).

The middle game of Boston's tour in the Golden State is actually the most winnable: Thursday vs. Kings (26-13-5, 3rd in Pacific Division). Jonathan Quick is back but the Kings are just 4-5-1 in their last 10 games. It sounds like Lucic should be able to play which would be a big help (no pun intended) against a grinding team that plays a similar style to the B's.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

5 Bruins Headed to Sochi to Play for Teams Other than the U.S.

Chances are that if you're reading this, you bleed red, white and blue like me. Still, we also love the Bruins so it is pertinent information that five players currently on Boston will be going to Sochi, Russia in February to compete for their home countries in the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Zdeno Chara is the captain of Slovakia and will make his third Olympics appearance. Patrice Bergeron (Canada), Loui Eriksson (Sweden) and David Krejci (Czech Republic) got the invites to their second Olympics on three of the heavyweight teams. Finally, Tuukka Rask (Finland) makes his inaugural games and he could be the starter for a team deeper in goaltending than any other.

Torey Krug (U.S.) and Milan Lucic (Bruins) were the only other Bruins thought to have a decent shot to play in Sochi but I'm also a little surprised that Eriksson was picked over teammate Carl Soderberg considering he's been out for a month with his second serious concussion of the season. Then again who knows if Soderberg really had a chance to play for the Swedes.

As always, we'll be rooting for the U.S. first and foremost, but it'd be nice to see all these other guys do well except when they're playing the Americans. I can't wait for Olympic hockey, other than the World Cup it's about as good as it gets in terms of international sports tournaments in my humble opinion.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Things Just Got Real: Patriots Put Spikes on IR & Colts Sign Branch

After their bye week (for the fourth season in a row), the Patriots have started preparation for their game on Saturday night (8:15, CBS) vs. the Colts at Gillette Stadium. New England opened up as a 7.5-point favorite against Indianapolis and that shouldn't changed based on today's roster moves but they are certainly something to chew on as they try to reach their third straight AFC Championship Game. The Pats put linebacker Brandon Spikes (knee) on IR while the Colts signed former Patriots star and Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch.

As primarily a run stopper, Spikes occupies a dinosaur position in the NFL that is quickly going extinct. Still, he played all 16 games this season (for the first time in his career) and totaled 48 tackles, 38 assists, one fumble recovery, one interception and eight tackles for loss. On a defense already missing Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo, Spikes brought some semblance of toughness and attitude, for that he'll be missed. Odds are he wouldn't have played a ton since the Colts mostly pass and use running back Donald Brown who can hardly be described as a punishing runner. The part that really stinks for him is that he's a free agent this offseason so this isn't the best way to cash in.

By signing Branch, the Colts resorted to some Jets type of mind games. There is little the Jets enjoy more than signing some former Patriots scrub the week before they are playing Bill Belichick and New England. Indy's fifth wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey will miss Saturday's game with a hamstring injury and apparently Branch lives in Indiana so the Colts had worked him out before. Sure sure. Whatever the case, don't count on a guy who hasn't played in an NFL game since the AFC Championship last season (with New England) to have any kind of impact.

In other moves, the Colts elevated receiver Josh Lenz from the practice squad while placing defensive end Fili Moala and cornerback Greg Toler on injured reserve. Thus far, the Pats haven't made a corresponding move with Spikes but you can bet that rookie Jamie Collins and Dane Fletcher will see way more playing time. I'm guessing they'll just make rookie linebacker Steve Beauharnais active although I think he's been a healthy scratch basically all season.

UPDATE 1/7: Patriots promoted linebacker Ja'Gared Davis from the practice squad and signed wide receiver Reggie Dunn to the practice squad.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Celtics Start Their Road Trip of Woe with Blowout Loss in OKC; Swap Lee for Bayless

Don't worry if you forgot/didn't watch a second of Celtics-Thunder tonight after an excellent NFL Wild Card weekend. Boston (13-21 overall, 5-11 away) started a killer five-game road trip (Nuggets, Clippers, Warriors and Blazers) with a 119-96 loss at Chesapeake Arena to Oklahoma City (27-7 overall, 15-5 home). The Celts have lost seven of their last eight games.

Former BC standout Reggie Jackson led the Thunder with 27 points while Kevin Durant had 21 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and three steals. Serge Ibaka added 17 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks, former Celtic Kendrick Perkins notched 12 points (which has to be a season-high) and six rebounds with former UConn star Jeremy Lamb scoring 13 points and six assists off the bench.

Jeff Green and Avery Bradley both had 19 points to pace the Celtics while Jordan Crawford put up 17 points and seven assists and Kris Humphries scored 14 points off the bench.

Why am I telling you this/who cares? The only reason I mention this pointless midseason NBA exhibition is because the Celtics made a little more news (well not really) off the court this evening as they traded overpaid (2 more years left, $11 million) and overrated swingman Courtney Lee to Memphis for underachieving point guard Jerryd Bayless.

Lee was here for the last two seasons but I honestly can't recall one notable positive contribution to the team. That's not to bash him either, he seems like a decent enough guy but it was just a case of a player that looks better on another team then you see him up close and realize those numbers must have been hollow. He averaged 7.8 points last season in 24.9 minutes per game yet those both went down this season on a rebuilding team (7.4 points in 16.8 minutes per game) with a new coach and system, so there.

Bayless was the No. 11 pick in the 2008 NBA Draft but he never played for the Pacers. Since then, he's been on the Blazers, Pelicans, Raptors, Grizzlies and now Celtics. Boston has always coveted him since he routinely tears them up in recent years for some unknown reason. For his career, he's averaged 8.2 points in 19.3 minutes per game.

Don't get too attached to Bayless though (haha yeah right, like anyone would do that) because he simply could be a trading chip moving forward. Sure, he could serve a role on a contending team that needed bench scoring or a backup point guard.

At the moment, the C's find themselves one game back of Detroit for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference-the sacrificial lamb to Indiana or Miami. Hopefully this trade, their recent awful stretch (plus upcoming games) and talk of Rajon Rondo rehabbing in Portland with the Red Claws (their D-League team) has woken up Boston to the fact that they need to tank or else they'll pay for years to come. The last 48 games promise to be painful but this is the only logical option if they ever want to return to relevance in the city and league.

The road trip of doom continues on Tuesday (9, CSN) with Boston visiting Denver (16-17 overall, 3rd in Northwest Division). At least the Celts can ease their mind with Colorado's finest legal weed (topical!).

UPDATE 1/7: The trade was finalized today with Lee going to Memphis and Bayless coming to Boston. Additionally, the Grizzlies get a 2016 second-round pick from the Celts, Ryan Gomes returned to Boston from Oklahoma City (but he was immediately waived) and the Thunder received a 2017 second-round pick from Memphis.

UPDATE 1/9: MarShon Brooks was recalled from Portland, he'll be back with the Celtics tomorrow night at Golden State.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Bruins Open 2014 With 3-2 Overtime Win vs. Predators

As expected, Bruins-Predators wasn't exactly an instant classic (think Winter Classic without the outdoors and national audience) but at least Boston sent home their hearty fans with an overtime win as Brad Marchand scored 54 seconds into the extra frame at TD Garden to sweep the season series (2-0) with Nashville. It was a milestone moment for Niklas Svedberg (33 saves) who picked up his first NHL win, he's also the first Swede to ever play goaltender for the B's. Somewhere P.J. Axelsson smiles!

In case you haven't gotten out of your mom's basement all day (zing!), there is a blizzard hitting all of New England so I can excuse many fans for not showing up to the Garden. Still, you have to admit it was a pretty decent turnout for a Bruins-Predators game that was the 41st contest of the season (halfway through).

The first period was devoid of anything notable but former UVM star and Blackhawk Viktor Stalberg gave Nashville a 1-0 lead at 18:04 after Svedberg left a juicy rebound in front, one of his only mistakes of the night. Johnny Boychuk tied it at 4:55 of the third period from Ryan Spooner and Carl Soderberg. It wasn't a patented Johnny Rocket per se but his second goal of the season did the trick as he filled the shooting lane and was there for Spooner's on the money sauce.

Jarome Iginla scored his 13th goal of the season at 12:29 and given the way the Preds struggle to score, you felt like that might be enough. I forget when it happened exactly earlier in the season but the tally was a carbon copy of an earlier goal by him: he flies to the net and tips in a crisp pass from Milan Lucic, with David Krejci providing the second assist.

Zdeno Chara has the fastest shot in the NHL-if you're into that kind of stuff-but Shea Weber is right there with him. He showed he can still bring it as he knotted things at two with 5:25 left in regulation. His bomb from the point was an example of what he'll likely be doing for Team Canada (hopefully not against the U.S. though) at the Sochi Olympics.

Marchand's goal game after a sweet dangle that he rarely ever successfully completes. It was his 10th goal of the season and it was assisted by Patrice Bergeron and Dougie Hamilton. Soderberg and Hamilton both returned from injuries tonight and Svedberg was sent back to Providence after the game but he certainly earned another look in the near future by the big club.

Maybe the snow will have temporarily stopped by the time the Bruins host the Jets (19-19-5) on Saturday (1, NESN). It's the final game for Boston of a three-game homestand which precedes a very difficult three-game road trip in California: Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Jose. Needless to say, Boston needs to beat Winnipeg to feel as confident as they can going into next week against three of the top teams in the Western Conference.

UPDATE 1/4: Bruins called up forward Justin Florek, if he plays today vs. Winnipeg it would be his NHL debut.

UPDATE 1/5: Florek was sent back to Providence.

UPDATE 1/6: Florek was recalled on an emergency basis and he'll join the team in Anaheim ahead of tomorrow night's game vs. the Ducks (10, NESN).