Monday, February 08, 2010
For the 20th time in 58 years, it's BC vs. BU in the Beanpot Final. BU is looking for their 30th title, and BC their 15th.
This is the 4th meeting of the season between BC and BU. Funnily enough, it's also the 4th different venue. They met at Agganis Arena in December, Fenway Park in January, then Conte Forum just a few weeks ago.
On paper, BC is the better team. They're faster, and are more skilled at putting the puck in the back of the net. But BU matches up against them extremely well, and they've won 2 of 3 matches this season.
The Terriers' 11-11-3 record disguises how well they've played good teams this year. They beat #19 Michigan, #18 UMass-Lowell twice, #15 UMass twice, #14 Boston College twice, and tied #5 Cornell in Madison Square.
And although the game's at the Garden, which is technically "neutral ice," this is BU's tournament. It's hard to argue with history (46th time for BU in the finals, that's 46 out of 58 or 79.3% and 29 wins).
I'm picking the Terriers in an exciting 4-3 tussle.
What a game, much closer and more exciting than the final score suggests. In fact, the last three Super Bowls have all been instant classics.
Coming into the game, the primary storyline and general consensus was that this would be Peyton Manning's coronation as King of QBs. And while the Saints had a more compelling backstory, their mere presence in the Big Game was victory enough for the City of New Orleans. The Saints were definitely David against Goliath.
During the postgame malarkey, the media kept talking about the Saints' "comeback." But they only fell behind 10-0. Their offense struggled to get going, but give credit to their defense for keeping it a 10-0 deficit.
The Saints adjusted their passing routes, and took advantage of the ample time Drew Brees had in the pocket. Apart from Freeney's one-handed sack, Brees was hardly ever rushed, always had a clear line of sight, and had excellent passing lanes. A Saints field goal, combined with the Colts going 3 and out, was the turning point of the game. And it came 7 minutes into the 2nd quarter.
The Saints were a 4th & goal at the 1, off tackle rushing play away from tying the game as early as the 2nd quarter. But even after that failed, the Saints' defense stopped Manning in the 2 minute drill, giving Garrett Hartley another chance at a long field goal.
Garrett Hartley is a bit of an unsung hero in this game. Not only was he a clutch in the NFC Championship, but he all three of his field goals, all over 44 yards. Kickers have really struggled this postseason, but Hartley was 5/5, with all of his kicks 40+ yarders.
The Saints were super aggressive to start the 2nd half. They were also extremely confident in their defense, which had adapted to Manning and the Colts.
Going for it on 4th and Goal, trying a random onside kick, I was reminded of Bill Belichick. In 2005, the Patriots tried an onside kick in the 3rd quarter of an eventual loss to the Colts. And we all remember 4th & 2. It's amazing how much execution can make a coach look good.
The onside kick set up a Saints touchdown, which was good because the Colts' offense woke up on the next drive with a touchdown of their own.
The Saints answered with a field goal to retake the lead at 17-16. It was starting to look like this would be an offensive slugfest, with the last team with the ball winning. But it wasn't. The Colts were shutout in the 4th quarter.
The New Orleans defense, unsung heroes for the 2 weeks leading up to the Super Bowl (for the whole season really), and still unsung heroes, stopped the Colts, and forced a long field goal attempt, that was short and to the left. The game was over, even though nobody yet knew it.
Brees engineered a 58 yard touchdown drive that consisted of 2 runs and 7 short passing plays. Only one play of the drive was longer than 10 yards, and that was a Reggie Bush run. The Saints' offensive adjustments were complete, they took advantage of the time Brees had in the pocket to send their big receivers on complicated and involved patterns. This left players open underneath or on comeback routes, and with room to advance once they caught the ball.
But the outcome was still in doubt, down by 7 with 5:42 left is supposedly when Peyton "Best QB Ever" Manning shines. And he did advance the ball into Saints territory. But as I've mentioned, the Saints had adjusted. Tracy Porter smelled the ball, and picked off Manning. It was vintage Ty Law.
To put an exclamation point on the 31-17 win, the Saints defense came up with a goal-line stand as the clock ticked away.
The Saints deserved this win, as a team, not just because of Katrina or anything. They played well, and actually wanted to go undefeated, unlike the Colts.
Brees was the MVP of the game, but the Saints won as a team. From Hartley to Bush, to Colston, Henderson, Shockey, and the entire defense. And Sean Payton, too, who wasn't afraid of being second guessed. He knew that winners are aggressive, losers are passive. He went for the win and his players executed.
Fuck Tony Dungee
Last Monday I was cautiously optimistic after an 0-1-1 weekend. So as you can imagine, I'm thrilled after a 1-1-0 weekend. With an OT loss Saturday and a shutout win Sunday, the Bruins have collected 4 points in 4 games. The sun isn't high in the sky just yet, but it's starting to peak over the horizon.
I'll focus more on Sunday's 3-0 shutout win over Montreal because it's much more pleasant to write about.
It was a game of firsts. The first Bruins victory since January 14th. Adam McQuaid scored his first NHL goal. And Blake Wheeler got into his first NHL fight.
It wasn't an epic debut for Wheeler into the world of fighter, but just the fact that he felt scrappy enough to drop the gloves, and was actually the only one in the fight who threw a punch, is a good sign.
Tuukka Rask is the hot goalie, and you have to ride him while he's hot. I'm still not completely sold on him, but the results don't lie. Besides, goaltending isn't this team's biggest concern, so why not let Rask play until he starts losing?
David Krejci left the game early with an undisclosed injury. The good news is that the Olympic Break commences soon. And honestly, I'm not going to miss Krejci's ghostlike presence on the ice, or lack of presence. He might be available for Tuesday's game in Buffalo.
To be perfectly frank, I was hoping Krejci would be out for a few weeks. Ryder too. I'd much rather have a forceful line with Sobotka and Bitz out there. Krejci's looked fine his last few games, but he's been lacking in every department all season long.
The Bruins bring their roadtrip to Buffalo Tuesday, then Tampa Bay Thursday and Florida Saturday. Then it's Olympic time. Hopefully a strong series of games will give the B's some positives to reinforce over the break.
AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Graham Hughes
I recognize that Peyton is great, one of THE greats, a firstballot HOFer, all that jazz. But I've seen him make too many panicked throws in playoff games, with the ball usually winding up in Ty Law's hands. I've seen him utterly choke too many times (revisionists blame the Colts' defense for Peyton only having one ring, but how many times have Cols' seasons ended thanks to Manning INTs? More than you think).
Peyton's great. Best ever?
Peyton's great. Best ever?