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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Can Anyone Play Goaltender for the Bruins Tomorrow Night at Madison Square Garden?

It didn't all happen at once but between injuries to goaltenders Tuukka Rask (general soreness, day-to-day) and Anton Khudobin (upper-body, out 3 weeks) over the last few days, this left the Bruins (3-3-0) in quite a predicament. Tonight, they were forced to suit up both of their Providence Bruins (AHL) goaltenders-Malcolm Subban (13 saves, 3 goals allowed) and Zane McIntyre (15 saves, 2 goals allowed)-against a decent Wild (4-2-1) team at TD Garden with predictable results: an embarrassing 5-0 Minnesota victory that was as ugly as you'll ever see in an NHL regular season game on home ice.

Like a fateful David Price start in the MLB playoffs, you quickly wondered why we ever thought for a second that maybe the B's could squeak out a point or two tonight. Subban, their terrible first-round pick from 2012 (24th overall) made his second NHL start and just like the last time in St. Louis (spring 2015), he was pathetically pulled in the second period. Where did it all go so wrong for Malcolm? It was 0-0 after a dull first period (save for a brief mauling of one Zac Dalpe by PC's own Tim Schaller). It all began when BU's Charlie Coyle managed to get a weak shot through traffic that Subban (who probably didn't see it) couldn't stop. Coyle's third goal of the season came at 5:07, assisted by Nino Niederreiter and Eric Staal. 12 seconds later Chris Stewart banged in the puck that came shooting out to him in front of Boston's goal, it had deflected off of Patrice Bergeron's skate. Stewart's second goal of the season was assisted by Joel Eriksson Ek and Jason Zucker.

Subban's night was prematurely over after he gave up the softest goal of the trio: Ryan Suter floated a one-timer by his glove (which seemed to be in the proper position). Suter's second goal of the season was assisted by Matt Dumba and Mikael Granlund at 10:36. McIntyre's first NHL appearance (in a regular season game) was a strange one and he didn't have that much more success although down 3-0 with a lifeless team in front of him (no David Backes either), what did you realistically expect? Boston's defense let Zucker park in front of McIntyre where he tipped in Suter's shot from the point. Eriksson Ek had the other helper on Zucker's first tally of the season.

If you were hoping for any kind of spark for the Bruins to build on from the third period, it wasn't your night. At least they showed some balls when Torey Krug stuck up for Noel Acciari who had been boarded by Dalpe. Former Sabre Jason Pominville deposited a rebound after McIntyre made an initial quality save on Eriksson Ek. Pominville's second goal of the season rounded out the scoring mercifully at 15:12 (by that time the Garden was so empty, on Hockey Fights Cancer night no less) with the other assist credited to Zucker.

Along with these key injuries that have piled up recently, the B's have no luck from the schedule as tonight kicked off their first of 14 sets of back-to-back games. Tomorrow is Rivalry Night on NBCSN so the entire hockey world will get to see another potential disaster as the Rangers (4-2-0) host the Bruins in primetime (8 pm). I suppose the team doesn't have a choice but to start Subban again for fear of losing him mentally if they started McIntyre over him. Then again, barring the return of Tim Thomas or some other Bruins legend from the past, it's tough to see a much different outcome playing out in the Big Apple. All we can hope is that Rask's injury is not that serious; obviously if it is, the front office can't sit by idly and watch all those points get flushed down the Black and Gold toilet.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Bruins Fall 4-2 to the Canadiens in their First Meeting of the Season

We are nowhere close to being sure if the Canadiens (4-0-1) are a quality team in 2016-17 but this much is true: they are better than the assorted slop that the Bruins (3-2-0) faced in their first four games of this campaign (Columbus, Toronto, Winnipeg and New Jersey). Many of the names and faces have changed but in this opening installment of Bruins-Canadiens, Boston was no match for Montreal as they lost 4-2 at TD Garden. Tuukka Rask (general soreness) was surprisingly out for the B's but backup goaltender Anton Khudobin (25 saves) did the best he could on short notice, frankly his teammates let him down for the most part. Oh and Montreal improved to 7-0-2 in their last nine regular season games in Boston, yeesh!

Carey Price (19 saves) didn't need to be anywhere near his best since Boston only managed 21 shots on goal in the entire contest. After a scoreless first period, Montreal potted a pair of goals midway through the second. Brad Marchand's brother from another mother Brendan Gallagher made it 1-0 Canadiens at 11:41. He was left wide open above a face-off circle to fire an easy one-timer from Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk for his third goal of the season. Something named Phillip Danault doubled Montreal's lead at 17:44 when he finished a 2-on-1 from Alexander Radulov for his first goal of the season. Greg Pateryn notched the second helper on the goal that came courtesy of the Bruins getting caught up ice.

The Bruins trailed 2-0 going into the third but thankfully, they woke up a bit thanks to another goal from their fourth line that has already shown some nice chemistry early on. Harvard's Dominic Moore got the goal, assisted by my PC guys Tim Schaller and Noel Acciari. Moore's second tally of the season came at 5:34 to cut it to 2-1 Canadiens. Montreal didn't give Boston much of a sniff at a comeback attempt though as "Lord" Paul Byron broke free for a shorthanded breakaway and goal less than two minutes later at 7:32. Shea Weber (who you might have heard was traded straight up for P.K. Subban over the summer with Nashville) banked the pass to him off the boards that eluded Torey Krug pinching in at Montreal's offensive zone. Andrei Markov had the second assist on Byron's first goal of the season.

Boston's scuffling power play (2 for 20) finally came through 37 seconds after Byron's backbreaking goal as Ryan Spooner (who for some reason was a healthy scratch on Thursday vs. the Devils) hammered in a one-timer from David Backes' sweet cross-crease sauce. David Krejci had the other assist on Spooner's first goal of the season. The B's put some pressure on the Habs for a few minutes when it was a one-goal game but yet again, their suspect defense fell apart when UVM's Torrey Mitchell stole the puck from Joe Morrow and put it past Khudobin with a beautiful diving shot (while he got a high stick in the face by Morrow for his troubles).

This inaugural three-game homestand ends on Tuesday night (7, NESN) as the Bruins host the Wild (3-1-1). Minnesota is at the Islanders (2-3-0) tomorrow night but at the moment, they are in first-place in the Central Division. Unless it's something really serious, you'd have to think that Rask will be back for that one. Following that matchup, Boston heads out on a four-game road trip (Rangers, Red Wings, Panthers and Lightning) that promises to be much more difficult than their first trip. Plus those are all Eastern Conference foes that they'll be seeing plenty of from now until April and hopefully beyond.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Unlike Last Season, Bruins Decide to Actually Win Their Home Opener 2-1 vs. Devils

The Bruins (3-1-0) continued their promising start to the 2016-17 season as they beat the Devils (1-2-1) 2-1 tonight at TD Garden in their home opener. While the teams that they've beaten so far are not exactly Cup contenders (Blue Jackets, Jets and Devils), anything is better than their horrid 0-3 start last year (all blowout home games). Patrice Bergeron played his first contest of this campaign (after nursing a minor lower-body injury) so of course he scored the game-winning goal with 1:15 left in regulation. His best friend forever Brad Marchand assisted on Bergy's patented one-timer from the slot with David Pastrnak picking up the second helper.

Marchand (3 goals, 6 assists) currently leads the NHL in points while both he and Pastrnak are riding four-game point streaks. It was a good night for Boston's stars as Tuukka Rask made 28 saves. If you missed the first two periods, believe me you won't need to see the highlights of it since there literally weren't any to speak of. All the action fittingly came in the third as Kyle Palmieri put New Jersey ahead at 4:14 with a power-play goal from Damon Severson and Jacob Josefson. The shot apparently was meant to be a pass and even more tricky, it took a slight deflection off of rookie Brandon Carlo's skate for Palmieri's second goal of the season.

The 2016 World Cup of Hockey apparently wasn't a fluke as Marchand is playing like one of the best players in the NHL. He beat Devils goaltender Cory Schneider (34 saves) with a wicked snap-shot top shelf, blocker side at 9:47 that tied it at one. John-Michael Liles and Colin Miller had the assists on Marchand's tally which quite honestly, was all due to his brilliance. With tonight's win, the Bruins now have an all-time record of 47-23-20-1 in home openers.

Boston hosts Montreal (3-0-1) on Saturday night (7, NESN) in what should be a much more entertaining tilt than tonight's mostly forgettable game. It is new Bruins like David Backes Dominic Moore and Carlo's first taste of the Boston-Montreal rivalry and you know that the Garden crowd will be very into it even if it is only late October. Carey Price (27 saves) made his first appearance of the season in the Canadiens' 5-2 victory against the Coyotes (1-2-0) so you can bet that he'll be between the pipes and opposed by Rask. The B's have allowed the first goal in each game this season which makes 3-1-0 all that more impressive. Needless to say, that bizarre trend won't last much longer.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Thanks for Everything, Big Papi

Clearly everyone that calls themselves a sportswriter, blogger, reporter, author etc in New England (or with ties to these six wonderful states) has chimed in with the token David Ortiz farewell piece at this point since he announced his retirement last winter. Still, seeing him officially play his final game ever for the Red Sox tonight at Fenway Park (that sounds so weird to say) as they were swept by the Indians in the 2016 ALDS, I couldn't help but feel like I should chime in with a few thoughts of my own.

Like a great song, album, TV show or movie, the best athletes and teams always have a special way to transfer us back to a unique time in both their careers and as a fan, in our own collective minds. Big Papi anonymously joined Boston in 2003 (which seems like a lifetime ago) and by now, he's carved out his place not only in Boston sports history-as the most clutch Red Sox ever-but in MLB as well. Name another pro athlete that is more universally beloved, I'll wait. For a sport that is all about individual accomplishments not to mention filled with too many hardos and rednecks, Ortiz was always a breath of fresh air with an enormous smile permanently etched on his face.

He was the best Red Sox in my lifetime and I feel confident in saying that sadly we'll never see another player like him (for many reasons). For a native of the Dominican Republic, he reached such a mythical level that he basically became a member of all our extended families. He appealed to every age (from children to grandparents) and demographic (rich or poor) and while he was larger than life on the field (especially in the unbelievable postseason performances), he still seemed like an actual human being as he won three World Series titles in Boston (2004, 2007, 2013).

The dream scenario was obviously to see him go out on top once again but it wasn't to be. Such is life. However, nothing will ever diminish all the sheer joy and fun that he brought to our lives for the last 13 years. We can only hope that he sticks around the Red Sox in the future with a front-office job. He has become such a part of the fabric of this region that it would be a shame to see him move elsewhere. I won't rattle off the best moments in his Red Sox career since they're so widely known but at the same time, we all have our own memories of him that are singularly important to us. In short, he was everything to everyone and that's why there will never be another David Ortiz.

You are the best, Big Papi. You will always hold a special place in all of our hearts, forever. Don't be a stranger!