Thursday, March 31, 2011


The Red Sox scored the 2nd most runs in baseball last year. They were 2nd in homeruns, 3rd in OBP, 2nd in slugging, 1st in OPS. In other words, they were pretty good at the plate. And they should be even better in 2011.

Adding Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez were the big stories of the off-season. Not to mention the returns of Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia, who only played in 102 and 75 games last year, respectively. These newcomers and returning producers should more than offset the loss of Beltre and Victor Martinez.

The middle of the lineup will be fierce. Gonzalez, liberated from San Diego's pitcher friendly park, should hit over .300, with an OBP close to .400, slug near .600, and approach 40 homers. Youkilis should hit nearly 30 homers, with an OBP well over .400, and slug around .570.

Putting Crawford and Pedroia ahead of them will result in abundant runs. Gonzalez could knock in 120, and Youkilis should easily surpass 100 RBI.

JD Drew's contract is up, so I think he'll actually play more than 140 games and produce. Then there's Ortiz, whose 32 homers and 102 RBIs were impressive in 2010. But he really struggled against lefties. Drew also can't hit southpaws. So against righties, the Sox will have an excellent 5-6 to keep the pressure on. Against lefties, you'll see plenty of innings ended by Drew and Ortiz.

The bottom of the lineup will be solid enough. I like Ellsbury as a 7th or 9th hitter, either keeping the middle of the orders' rallies going, or helping Crawford and Pedroia start a new one. He should hit .300, with a .350 OBP that keeps him from being a good leadoff option. Minimal power, but plenty of speed.

Scutaro had a decent year last season. But we've all sort of forgotten. So did Lowrie. Having both of them as options is a nice luxury. Both play good defense, and neither are easy outs. That's all you really want or need from the 8th spot in your lineup.

Speaking of easy outs, we come to Varitek/Saltalamacchia. They'll ground into so many double plays. That is, if they even make contact with the ball.

Anyway you stack it, this lineup is pretty sick. Mike Cameron can fill in for Drew against lefties. And the speed of Crawford and Ellsbury can help keep the whole batting order from slumping. And even if a tough lefty is on the mound, guys like Youkilis (.404 against LHP last year), can still give them problems.

The Sox scored 818 runs last year, or 5.05 per game. If they stay healthy, they'll score over 900.

You have an amazing offense, and suspect pitching. I'm reminded of the Cleveland Indians from 1995 to 1999. They'll be fun to watch. They'll win 100 regular season games. And they'll lose the World Series to a team with superior pitching. I'm thinking the Phillies. 1946 all over again.


100 wins. All I keep hearing about is 100 wins. It's something the Red Sox haven't done since 1946. But is that really the achievement to long for? The Sox lost the 1946 World Series. And there are some parallels to that 1946 team, which led the Majors in offense, scoring half a run per game more than anyone else, but were 9th of 16 teams in runs allowed. They lost the World Series to St. Louis, the team that allowed the fewest runs in baseball.

Then, as now, pitching wins. And that's where I'll start this preview. Because even though a great offense can win 100 regular season games, it's pitching that wins 11 postseason games.

The Sox rotation looks the same as last year. And it has just as many question marks. We can pretty much bank on Jon Lester to have an ERA below 3.50, and 16 to 20 wins. He's been the rock of the rotation, and one of the most consistent pitchers in baseball the last 3 seasons.

Then there's Buchholz. Call me negative, but him repeating his 2010 feats is not guaranteed. We've all sort of assumed he will once again register an ERA around 2.50 and win close to 20 games. Maybe he will. Even 17 wins and a 3.00 ERA would be excellent. But he's 26. He has one great season under his belt. He's still a question mark. Even though he's overshadowed by much larger question marks in the rotation.

15-10 record. 3.96 ERA. 23 homeruns. That's what Josh Beckett averages every 162 games in his career. Even I was a little stunned to see that. It's so below average. With the Red Sox, he's been 71-40 with a 4.29 ERA. And since 2008, he's been atrocious. It's gotten to the point that Beckett isn't much of a question mark anymore. He's a bad pitcher until proven otherwise.

Among qualifying pitchers, John Lackey had the 73rd lowest ERA in baseball last year. He did eat innings, but that's pretty much it. You can live with him as a #4 starter, but if Beckett doesn't have a good year, he's your #3. And if Buchholz falters, he's your #2. And that's an alarming thought.

Then there's Daisuke. If any other pitcher won 18 games their sophomore season, then was repeatedly injured, struggled when healthy, and averaged 96 walks per full season, we'd be talking about sending him to Pawtucket. So what makes Daisuke so special? I just don't have a good feeling about Daisuke in 2011. Even when healthy, even when at his best, he doesn't go deep into games. His 18 win season was coupled with 167.2 innings pitched. 90 pitchers managed to surpass that mark in 2010.

Sorry folks, but the rotation is too vulnerable, and too dependent on all the stars aligning. Actually, it's dependant on time travel. If Buchholz is the same as he was in 2010, if Beckett is the same as he was in 2007, if Daisuke is the same as 2008, if Lackey is the same as he was in 2007 and in another city....

But it's 2011.

Thankfully, the bullpen looks quite a bit better than last year. The Sox blew the 4th most saves in baseball last year. And with shaky starting pitching, the bullpen will be worked hard in 2011.

Papelbon is still the closer. And even though he's not as elite as he used to be, he's still good enough. It'd be tough to find an improvement over him, but it won't be hard to find a replacement.

Daniel Bard has impressed as a set-up man, with a 1.11 WHIP in 124 career relief innings. Bard and Papelbon represent a quality 8th and 9th inning tandem. But they can't be overworked. They need help.

Bobby Jenks is a possible option. That's what the Sox did to this bullpen: added options. They signed a number of guys, hoping that one or two would work out as reliable set-up men. In the dice game that is relief pitching, this is a viable strategy to build a quality bullpen.

But Jenks is coming off a bad year. And he's gotten progressively worse since 2007. You never know with relievers, but it's hard to imagine that trend changing.

I'm much more optimistic about Dan Wheeler, who's pitched with success in the AL East. He's 33, but has 530 appearances under his belt. He'll wind up as the secondary set-up guy alongside Bard.

Wakefield will be a mop up man and spot starter. Doubront will be used against lefties.

The rest of the bullpen will be a revolving door of arms. Maybe one will be reliable enough to be a 6th inning man, or the type of guy that's brought in when the Sox are down 2 runs in the 7th.

Overrall, the bullpen isn't great, but it's no longer a liability. The rotation, however, is very suspect. So much needs to happen for it to work. And so much can go wrong for it to fail. I don't see Beckett winning more than 15 games. I don't see Daisuke throwing more than 180 innings. I see Buchholz having a good-not-great year. I don't see Lackey doing much better than he did in 2010.

But the offense should be able to make up for these shortcomings. At least in the regular season.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


On paper, wins over Montreal, Philadelphia, and Chicago in a 6 day span is pretty impressive. But Montreal were menstruating, the Flyers were flatter than Kiera Knightley, and the Blackhawks were sleepy. I watched the end of the Detroit/Chicago game on Monday, and it was a brutal grinder. So I'm not overly enthused about the Bruins' 3-0 win over the exhausted Hawks.

Then again, it's not as if the B's lost to a tired team. They did what needed to be done. And when Chicago was able to muster the strength to play hard, the Bruins matched their intensity.

Oh yeah, and Tim Thomas is unbelievable. His GAA dropped below 2 thanks to his 9th shutout of the season.

These have been nice wins, but they've hardly been tests. Which is why I'm not letting them influence my feelings about this team in the playoffs. Right now I'm just anxiously awaiting the start of the playoffs on April 13.

Shawn Thornton is a savage. He gets his forehead sliced open by a skate, then on his way to the bench someone from Chicago says the wrong thing (I'm guessing a tampon joke), and he wants to fight the guy.

Thornton received 40 stitches. He also said of the Blackhawks chirping at him: "If I ever find who it was, I'll deal with it my own way." And I believe him.

Bruins next play a team that will probably be very motivated. The Maple Leafs come to town on Thursday, only 5 points out of a playoff spot.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Monday, March 28, 2011


Even if they helped ruin your bracket, you have to be pleased to see teams like Butler and VCU make it to the Final Four. But now the proponents of expanding the field have some ammunition. And I'm concerned that we'll see even more expansion in the 2012 tournament.

The problem is, for every VCU, there will be ten UABs. Remember that 70-52 UAB/Clemson play-in game? It was kind of sad to watch. And Clemson's not even that good. Do we want to see more games like this? A mediocre team clobbering a sub-mediocre team?

Do you want to see Colorado State battle St. Mary's? Or how about Harvard vs. McNeese State? Actually, I wouldn't mind these small conference teams getting in, but imagine an NCAA tournament that gave the ACC 8 berths? The opening rounds would just be too filled with bad teams playing bad basketball.

Isn't that what the NIT is for?

Photo Credit:
AP Photo


Yes, I am going to kill your buzz with this post. The Bruins clinched a playoff berth with a 2-1 win over the Flyers last night. Sounds grand, doesn't it? And if I hadn't seen the game, and also hadn't seen the 1-0 loss to the Rangers, I'd probably be smiling.

But how hard did the Flyers play last night? Those were two teams on cruise control, and the Bruins were going slightly faster. And maybe that's fine. Maybe the B's will hit the accelerator once the playoffs start. Then again, we've seen such "tendencies" from this team before. Are they coasting into the postseason, or just in the midst another mood swing?

On Saturday, the Rangers were trying. They're vying for a playoff spot, and are essentially in playoff mode already. And they completely shutdown the Bruins' offense. Sure, the goal they scored was a deflection which came after a missed offside call, but the Bruins never looked like the better team until about 8 minutes left in the 3rd.

The Rangers' forecheck kept the Bruins pinned in their own zone. The Rangers' stickwork harassed the B's in the neutral zone. And then there were the blocked shots. New York blocked 29 shots. But for most of those, the Bruins would shoot right at the skates of the Ranger standing 5 feet in front of him. They weren't blocks, they were bad shots taken by the Bruins.

The Bruins are in the playoffs, and that's nice. It's sort of like being bowl eligible in college football, though. Half the league gets in. They have 7 more games to tune up for the postseason, and there are more than a few wrinkles that still need straightening out.

Bruins host the Blackhawks Tuesday night on Versus.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Friday, March 25, 2011


The Bruins didn't just kill the Canadiens, they took their souls.

When these teams have met this season, the game tends to be decided early. That trend continued. The Bruins were in charge from the drop of the puck. The Power Play struggled with entry, but once they took the zone, they stayed there. The Bruins simply wanted it more.

Everyone contributed (except Ryder). Gregory Campbell atoned for his mistakes in the New Jersey game with a rare 3-on-5 goal. Horton looked like a scorer again. Peverley was a few inches here and there from a multi-point night.

The defensemen played well in all three zones, smothering the Canadien forwards, and contributing on offense. Like Chara with 3 assists. Kaberle with his first goal as a Bruin. McQuaid scored, as did Boychuk, who was in playoff form all night.

Then there's Thomas, who only had 24 stops to make, but some of them were pretty big in the 1st period. And some of them were pretty difficult in the 2nd and 3rd. 8th shutout of the year for Timmy.

The Bruins didn't do much wrong last night. It was a Flawless Victory, with Campbell's 3-on-5 goal the Fatality.

You had to be pleased with the Bruins putting in maximum effort for 60 minutes. Actually, 60 minutes and 2 seconds, because that's when Seguin shot the puck at Auld after the buzzer.

So let's enjoy this big win over our ancient rival. But come Saturday, this is in the past. Bruins host a team that actually has a heart. They're called the New York Rangers. That's another potential playoff preview.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Thursday, March 24, 2011


I know that every concussion is different. But in the aftermath of the Chara-Pacioretty incident, we heard that the Montreal winger had a "severe" concussion. That one word made us in Boston think about Patrice Bergeron's concussion, and of course Marc Savard's. Then the Canadiens estimated that Pacioretty would be out for the rest of the year, once again using that word "severe."

Maybe there's a language problem here. Perhaps "severe" loses something in translation from English to French. Because now it seems as though Pacioretty could be back for the playoffs. It's either a medical miracle, or the concussion wasn't as bad as we were led to believe.

On 98.5 yesterday, Mark Recchi accused the Canadiens of embellishing the injury report in an effort to get Chara suspended. There's no way to prove that, but the Habs definitely did want Chara disciplined, and they were very quick to give their diagnosis of Pacioretty's head injury. Too quick. It takes more time to properly diagnose the severity of a concussion.

There's a history of this kind of exaggeration in Montreal. I remember in '02 when Kyle McLaren obliterated Richard Zednick.

After that hit, the injury reports were extravagant as media outlets fueled fan rage. Some said he'd broken his neck, some said he'd fractured his skull. While he did wind up with a concussion and a broken nose, his injuries were not nearly as severe as Montreal's media had proclaimed, and which the team did nothing to deny.

There's that "severe" word again. I don't know if the Habs were scheming to get Chara suspended. But they weren't striving for accuracy when they immediately deemed Pacioretty's concussion to be "severe." And the truth is, they did want Chara "severely" punished.

I don't like the Canadiens. I don't like their diving players. I don't like their whining fans. I don't like their media. I don't like their organization. I don't like Pacioretty, either. I'm glad he'll soon be back on the ice so he can be slammed into the boards again.


When will college football forsake their coveted bowls and realize that college playoffs are some of the most exciting, riveting drama in sports? Anyway, 16 teams will vie for the 2011 NCAA Hockey Championship. Divided into four regions, all these games will take place this weekend, with the Frozen Four played two weeks later in St. Paul, Minnesota. Here's the tournament field:

#1 Yale Bulldogs vs. #4 Air Force Falcons
Yale only lost 6 times all season. But one of those came against Air Force back in November. But it was also in Colorado. This will be in Yale's backyard, and the Bulldogs only lost once at home all season. Yale are the #1 overall seeds in the tournament, and even though I think they won't win it all, they'll be able to cruise past Air Force 5-1.

#2 Union Dutchmen vs. #3 Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs
It's been an historic year for Union hockey, and now they make their first ever tournament appearance. They'll face UMD, one of 5 teams representing the mighty WCHA. Union were solid all year, and won the ECAC regular season title. They even beat Yale. They might have some jitters, though. Both these teams were knocked out by inferior opponents in their conference tournaments. But looking at UMD, they took care of business in the WCHA when facing teams that weren't ridiculously good. I think they beat Union 4-3.

That would set up a Yale vs. UMD meeting. I'd pick Yale in that one, because UMD frequently lost to the super talented WCHA teams they faced.

#1 Miami (OH) RedHawks vs. #4 New Hampshire Wildcats
One thing I don't like about this tournament is that "hosts" like Yale and UNH were going to wind up in Bridgeport and Manchester, respectively, no matter what. It's an effort to ensure a packed house. But it unfairly punishes a good team like Miami. It also sends a team like BC to Missouri.

However, Miami is good enough to overcome the disadvantage. The RedHawks have won more NCAA tournament games (5) in the past two seasons than either BU or BC, the winners of those tourneys. They're experienced, hungry, and very good. UNH and Miami actually split a 2 game series in October. However, it's now March, and UNH sucks in March. They're 4-5-2 in their last 11. Miami will make that 4-6-2. RedHawks win 4-1.

#2 Merrimack Warriors vs. #3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Merrimack get to play this game only an hour's drive from Andover. So count on lots of yellow and blue in the stands. The Warriors were nearly unbeatable at home. And their valiant effort in the Hockey East finals against BC was quite impressive. Notre Dame held their own in the difficult CCHA, but never won the big games. Merrimack has done well against good teams, so long as they're close to home. Merrimack wins 3-2.

That would pit Miami against Merrimack. I think Miami is simply too good to not emerge from this region. RedHawks advance.

#1 Boston College Eagles vs. #4 Colorado College Tigers
East vs. West in St. Louis. How appropriate. Since Thanksgiving, BC has lost a total of 2 games. Colorado College lost that many games in the WCHA tournament. BC hasn't lost an NCAA game since the 2007 Finals. And even though that game was played in the same building as this, that winning streak will continue. BC 3, CC 1.

#2 Michigan Wolverines vs. #3 Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks
Michigan just announced that they'll be joining the new Big Ten hockey conference in the 2013-14 season. These teams split a series in Ann Arbor back in October. Both struggled against the elite teams in their conferences, but both occasionally beat them. I'm going to go with Michigan because they have a tradition of excelling in the NCAA tournament (9 titles). Wolverines win 4-2.

BC against Michigan would be a fun game to watch. And I think the Eagles would win 6-4.

#1 North Dakota Fighting Sioux vs. #4 RPI Red Hawks
North Dakota might be the best team in the country, and after grinding out a double OT 3-2 win over Denver to win the WCHA title, it'd be hard to disagree. RPI limped down the stretch. They have some solid wins on their resume, but 20 wins with a soft ECAC schedule doesn't impress me much. North Dakota will destroy RPI 5-0.

#2 Denver Pioneers vs. #3 Western Michigan Broncos
WMU's 19 wins is the lowest total in the NCAA field. Denver beat NCAA tournament teams 6 times this year. They also lost their fair share of games against such teams, but being able to beat the likes of North Dakota in Grand Forks is pretty impressive. They've got a good goalie that keeps them in every game, and they should dispense of WMU with ease. Denver wins 3-0.

I think Denver will upset North Dakota 4-3 in OT, and move on to the Frozen Four.

Yale vs. Miami - Yale hasn't played teams like this in the ECAC. Miami extends their 7 game NCAA win streak against teams that aren't from Boston.

BC vs. Denver - Great offense vs. great goaltending. But BC's offense is too great to be fully stopped. Eagles win and advance to the finals.

Miami vs. BC - I think Miami will exorcise a lot of demons and win this one.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


There were a lot of things to like about how the Bruins played this game. The Power Play looked good all night and finally broke through with a goal. The B's adjusted to New Jersey's forechecking. Marchand and Kaberle skated their brains out. Seguin and Peverley are clicking. Thomas had an excellent rebound game. Lucic returned to scoring form.

The three players who have carried this team (Thomas, Chara, and Lucic) all had bad games in Toronto. They all had great games last night. Thomas with 30 saves, including 15 tough ones in the 1st period. Chara with a goal and two assists. Lucic with a goal and an assist. These three guys are the foundation of this team. Without them, this team is doomed.

Now let's not go nuts. We've seen this team answer wake-up calls before. Too many times. The real questions are: why were they asleep at all? And why will they fall asleep again? I've said it before; over the course of a season, this team requires more wake-up calls than a hotel hosting a narcolepsy convention.

And this game wasn't all roses either. The Penalty Kill allowed yet another goal. And it was thanks to Gregory Campbell, who saw Kovalchuk drifting behind him, and did nothing to get in the shooting lane. Instead, he tried to cover a forward that Boychuk had contained. On the Penalty Kill, you have to make compromises, and you will allow shots. But one of those compromises doesn't have to be letting Ilya freaking Kovalchuk have half the ice to shoot from.

If I have to watch Michael Ryder screw up anymore, I'm going to have an aneurysm.

He and Krejci had golden scoring opportunities, ruined by poor judgment. Both failed to position themselves in a shooting stance as they drove toward the net. Each received passes that were just inches off the mark. But instead of shooting a backhander anyway, they tried to get the puck to their forehand. When in the slot in front of the net there are two things you don't have much of: time and space.

Maybe I'm nitpicking. While I'm satisfied with how well the Bruins played last night, their problem has been maintaining such energy and fortitude.

Big game on Thursday as Montreal comes to town. The Habs haven't been too sharp since the Chara incident. This is a chance for the B's to put some distance between them.

Monday, March 21, 2011


If the NHL wants to get serious about concussions, they need to get serious about repeat offenders like Matt Cooke, who has repeatedly displayed a complete disregard for the rules, and for the health of his opponents. This isn't "reputation," this is a repeat offender. And suspending repeat offenders for 4, 6, even 8 games is insufficient.

The NHL needs to implement an escalating punishment scale for these kinds of hits. Sort of like what MLB does with steroids, or the NFL does with their "substance abuse policy." First offense, 2-4 games. Second offense 5-10 games. Third offense 10-20 games. Fourth offense is 20 to 40. Fifth offense is an 80 game suspension. Sixth offense: permanent banishment.

Now this would only be for blatantly intentional head shots like this. It wouldn't get rid of concussions in the NHL, because it's a fast paced, hard hitting game. But it might make the Matt Cookes of the world think twice before charging and elbowing a defenseless player.

And it might make Mario Lemieux think twice when assembling his team.


For the 10th time, the BC Eagles won the Hockey East tournament, grinding out a 5-3 win over Merrimack. Both BC and Merrimack were selected for the NCAA tournament, along with UNH. We'll have a preview of the NCAAs in the next few days.

What Jerry York and Boston College have done in the last decade has been nothing short of extraordinary. They've won 4 of the last 5 Hockey East tournaments. Since 2001, they've won 6 of these tournaments, 5 regular season titles, 5 Beanpots, made 9 NCAA appearances, 6 Frozen Fours, and won 3 national titles.

However, some of BC's weaknesses were thoroughly exposed by Northeastern and Merrimack this past weekend. Goalie John Muse has a stellar record, but he tends to over-commit just a tad. He's got a few small gaps that skilled shooters and lucky bounces can find. BC also struggle against physical teams like Northeastern that are able to keep the puck on the boards, and staple BC's skill players against the glass. BC's forwards aren't soft, but their strengths are in the middle of the ice. They hardly ever grind out physical goals.

Fortunately for BC, most of college hockey has tried to emulate them. It's about speed and skills. Very few teams can play 60 tough physical minutes. Even if they can, they then lack the requisite skill to score 3 or 4 goals to beat BC.

BC starts the NCAA tournament in St. Louis on Friday. They'll play Colorado College at 9.


Maybe if Tim Thomas hadn't had one of his worst games in months, and if James Reimer hadn't had the best game of his career, the Bruins could have eked out a win, or an OT loss. But for too long, Thomas has carried this team. And when he dropped them, nobody else picked them up.

Thomas, along with Lucic and Chara, have been the load bearing talent all season. All three had bad games. Thomas was caught out of position. Lucic had a few token shots that wouldn't trouble a high school goalie. And Chara failed twice to make a play on a puck, which led to a Toronto goal.

The rest of the team was doing what they've been doing all year long: being very good at being very mediocre.

Toronto was fighting Saturday night. They're just a few points out of the playoffs. Just like Nashville was fighting on Thursday. The Bruins have no fight in them. They might play a good shift here and there, but they can't string multiple quality shifts in a row. There's no fire. No motivation. No dedication.

Then the mistakes. McQuaid was beat to the outside, and that resulted in a goal. Chara had some miscues that ultimately resulted in a goal. Seidenberg completely screened Rask, then failed to block a shot, allowing a goal.

Actually, I think the defensemen have probably been making these errors all season. We just didn't notice. Because when Thomas was on his A-Game, those errors didn't become costly errors.

I just don't like many of the forwards on this team. We have a 1st line center who can't score goals. We have an "energy" line that hasn't produced energy since January. We have frequently slumping "scorers," and more role players than there are roles.

The Bruins' offense is like a very complex machine with a million moving parts. When everything's in order, the machine produces. But it just takes one tiny flaw in all those parts for the whole thing to break down. Ryder turns the puck over too much. Lucic is slumping, so the whole 1st line can't score. Marchand and Bergeron are cold, so now the whole team can't score.

Then there's the power play, which hasn't produced a 5 on 4 goal since February 18th, and they're 1 for their last 29.

If the Bruins aren't motivated by seeding, they should at least be motivated by pride. Down 5-1 going into the 3rd, they didn't show any life, or any determination to win the period until just a minute was left on the clock.

This team will not make much noise in the playoffs. I'm fairly certain of it. I'll still watch, I'll still hope. But it's sort of like how I feel about MegaMillions on Tuesday. I've bought a ticket, because you never know. But I haven't put a down payment on a Ferrari yet.

Bruins host the surging Devils on Tuesday. Then the Canadiens on Thursday. Should be an interesting week.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Friday, March 18, 2011


The other March Madness continues in Boston as four teams remain in the Hockey East tourney. Two have NCAA at-large bids locked up, a third probably does, and the fourth needs to play their way in by winning twice this weekend. The semifinals start today at 5, and the finals are tomorrow at 7 (and I believe will be broadcast on NESN tape delayed).


A rematch of the Beanpot final. NU has played BC well this year. BC needed overtime in that 7-6 Beanpot game. Then they met a few days later and tied 7-7. Then Northeastern beat them 2-1. But it's hard to pick against BC in what I call "Trophy Games" (Beanpot, Hockey East tournament and NCAA tournament games). The Eagles have won 14 straight of those, dating back to March of 2009.

BC wins 6-4 in a close fought, high paced game.

Merrimack beat UNH twice, and are the upstart surprise of Hockey East. They've struggled on the road, but it will be interesting to see how they perform on neutral ice. UNH had a brilliant regular season, but they're sort of like the snow on the ground. Overwhelming in January and February. Melting away in March.

I think Merrimack wins 3-2.

And BC wins the final.


The Bruins didn't play bad, but they didn't play good enough. It's amazing to watch opposing teams step up their intensity, and then see the Bruins fail to answer. It's a routine we've seen all too often under Julien. The Bruins haven't ended regulation with a lead since March 3rd.

Give plenty of credit to Pekka Rinne, who is perhaps the 2nd best goalie in the NHL right now. His name also sounds like a delicious pasta dish, served Alfredo. He made a some pretty big saves, most notably on Lucic and Ryder.

But when were the Bruins the clearly superior team? They never were. And their PP unit continues to struggle. When are the coaches going to evaluate their strategies and say "maybe this whole idea is wrong?" If they haven't yet, they probably never will.

I did like the line of Seguin-Peverley-Kelly. I think Seguin and Peverley compliment each other very well, and Kelly brings a physical presence. That's a decent 3rd line right there. Even though it's comprised of 3 centers.

I don't care too much about the divisional race with Montreal. I don't care about seeding either. The Bruins are better on the road anyway. The playoffs are about matchups. So if the Bruins are the 3 seed, or the 5 seed, or the 6 seed, it doesn't matter too much.

But I do like using this time of year to evaluate how the team performs in tough situations. Nashville played tough last night. The Predators are already in playoff mode, fighting for that final spot in the West. And this game reminded me of all the potential series winning games the Bruins lost last year and the year before. The Bruins gave it 9 out of 10, but the Predators gave it 12 out of 10. And that's what we'll see in the playoffs, if the Bruins are fortunate enough to be on the verge of eliminating an opponent. Which I kind of doubt.

Bruins at Leafs Saturday night.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


The good news is that the Bruins left Columbus with 2 points, ending their season long 4 game losing streak. The not so good news is that they barely did it. If not for some heart-attack saves by Rask, the Bruins would have once again found themselves outworked, and outscored by a significantly inferior opponent.

Even if the B's had dominated and won 7-0, I wouldn't be happy. This team has "turned it around" too many times in the past for me to invest any more faith in them. And ultimately, it's Columbus. Who gauges where a team is at by its performance in Columbus?

Krejci technically got the Bruins on the board in the 2nd, but it was a point shot by Chara, set-up by Lucic winning a battle along the boards. The deflection was actually due to Krejci being boxed out of the crease, losing a battle, but finding himself "guided" by a Blue Jacket to the right place at the right time.

The second Bruins goal was from Peverley, who's played solidly since arriving, but has yet to properly demonstrate his skills. I think that's because he hasn't been lined up with a very talented supporting cast. Sort of like putting Edward Norton in a serious cop movie, but casting him alongside Jimmy Fallon and Charles Barkley.

The problem is, who would Peverley play with? Bergeron and Marchand are mired in slumps. The 4th line hasn't scored since Marchand left it (I actually think Marchand should return to them and focus on playing, not scoring. The goals will then come). I actually wouldn't mind seeing Peverly centering the 1st line with Lucic and Horton, because he can score, and Krejci cannot.

Anyway, the offense has to come from the defensemen for now.

And thank the hockey gods above, Michael Ryder was a healthy scratch. That's actually what Ryder means in the native tongue of Newfoundland. "He who is healthy, but unworthy of a roster spot."

In the end, though, Rask won this game with some acrobatics. His teammates occasionally bailed him out, but they also occasionally put him in bad situations. He got lost on Columbus' 2nd goal, but the play should have never happened. This team still struggles with breaking out of its own zone. Such a childish thing for an NHL team to struggle with.

Bruins visit another hockey hotbed on Thursday as they play the Predators in Nashville.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Monday, March 14, 2011


This is why during the Bruins' 6 game road winning streak, I was maybe the least excited B's fan in Boston. Not just because I'm a burnt out, soulless pessimist. But because this team has a history of moodiness. I wouldn't say their streaky. Streaky implies an ability to be somewhat consistent for prolonged stretches. The Bruins, however, fluctuate period by period, shift by shift. They have mood swings.

Scoring 2 goals often isn't enough to win. Unless you have a soon-to-be 2 time Vezina winner in net, an imposing defense, and are playing one of the worst teams in the League. You have to be able to go to places like Nassau, and win 2-0 or 2-1. So even though the Bruins need to score more goals, I'm more upset about the goals they allowed in this one.

The penalty kill has been steadily deteriorating. It was a late in the period power play goal that revived the Islanders. The PK has been confused by opponents who move bodies around, not just passing the puck to each other from fixed points (like the Bruins do on their power play). And in the past few weeks, they've been overly eager to trigger shorthanded breakaways, instead of simply smacking the puck down the ice for a clear. That's what happened Friday. Bergeron hesitated, failed to clear, and eventually the puck found the back of the net.

The PK unit has fallen to 18th in the NHL, killing 81.5% of penalties. That absolutely must turn around for the postseason, where special teams can decide a series.

The Islanders simply outworked the Bruins in the 3rd period. While the Islanders hustled to get to loose pucks, the Bruins looked lost, like they'd never played hockey before. A puck would find their stick, and they'd gently bat it 8 feet away in some random direction, allowing an Islander to scoop it up again.

Even when the Bruins were up 2-0, they were hardly the superior team. After the game, Fraud Julien claimed that with a bit of luck the Bruins might have scored more goals. What he failed to mention was that if not for Thomas, the Islanders would have scored more goals. Timmy had one of his best games of the season.

The Bruins might start another hot streak. Maybe Bergeron and/or Marchand will catch fire again. Horton's been producing lately. But tha won't last. The B's might sail their way out of this storm, but what does that matter when the commander of the ship is a fool?

Right now, this team's chances of winning a Cup are 0%. At least while Julien's behind the bench.

Bruins @ Blue Jackets on Tuesday.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Friday, March 11, 2011


Canada has provided us with some great things. Molson XXX, Labatt Blue, hockey, and Elisha Cuthbert. But they can also be really annoying and stupid. The aftermath of the Chara-Pacioretty incident is another example of Canadians just being silly.

If you think Chara deserved a suspension, fine. I'll disagree with you, but I can at least understand your viewpoint. If you think he deserved to be arrested, you're an utter moron. And Canada manufactures morons like the US makes guns.

And now Air Canada has threatened to revoke its sponsorship of the NHL after Chara went unpunished.

Canadians have this weird inferiority complex, coupled with a sense of moral superiority over Americans. It all goes back to the Battle of Quebec in 1775. It's history. It's a fact.

I know Canadians love their hockey, and that's great. I've lobbied for the NHL to relocate teams to Quebec, Winnipeg, and Hamilton. But come on. Is this going to turn into an international incident, with ambassadors and diplomats getting involved? Is the Slovakian consulate in Montreal going to get attacked with Molotov Molsons?

Get over it.


I rarely blame officiating for losses. And certainly the Bruins might have found a way to win this one despite the referees. But it's difficult to beat a good team like Buffalo, when you're shorthanded for an entire period.

The Sabres had 7 power plays, including a pair of lengthy 5-on-3s. And the calls still make me facepalm. Zdeno got 2 minutes for being stronger than Steve Montador. The refs laughably called it boarding, even though it was a good 15 feet from the boards. How does that work? Seidenberg got 2 minutes for playing like a defenseman in the crease. Meanwhile, the Sabres figured out what was up, and proceeded to go down whenever a Bruin stick was near their feet.

The Bruins certainly could have played better. Their breakout was inconsistent. When they made smart moves through the neutral zone, they scored goals, or at least got a shot on net. They only got 7 shots on net in the 3rd period. With all the bad calls, it's easy to forget that the offense was truly inconsistent.

Part of that inconsistency was due to Ryan Miller. Both he and Thomas put on a clinic. The fights ad refereeing overshadowed it, but both were superb. Ryan Miller just doesn't allow goals on the first shot. It has to be off rebounds.

I'm usually angry when the Bruins blow 2-0 leads. But what can you do against goalies like Ryan Miller, and referees like that. Hopefully, this isn't the start of a trend in officiating. Bruins @ Islanders tonight.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Thursday, March 10, 2011


The OTHER March Madness kicks off tonight and continues all weekend. Hockey East could send anywhere from 2 to perhaps 4 or 5 teams to the NCAA tournament. Regular season champs BC and runners up UNH are all but assured a spot in the 16 team NCAA field, while upstart Merrimack will likely join them. BU has an outside chance, and Maine are the long shots. Those bubble teams can make a difference in this tournament, and of course winning the tournament earns an automatic bid.

Here are the first round pairings. They'll play a best of 3 series at the superior seed's home rink. The winners will be re-seeded for the semifinals next weekend at The Garden in Boston.


BC wins trophies. Since 2007, they've won 2 National Championships, 3 Hockey East Tournament Championships, and 3 Beanpots. But this was the first time since 2005 that they've won the Hockey East regular season title. BC beat UMass three times this year, and are on a completely different level. They score 3.9 goals per game, and kill 87.6% of their penalties. BC should sweep this in 2.

UNH lost the regular season title to BC in the final weekend, and have a reputation for choking in March. Fortunately for them, Vermont is not a very good team. The Catamounts won 8 games all season. UNH beat them twice and tied them once. UNH sohuld handle them in 2 games.

BU needs to go deep in this tournament to make the NCAA field. To do that, they have to get past old rival Northeastern. These teams split a home-and-home last weekend, and all three of their games were determined by 1 goal margins. NU started the season poorly (1-7-3), but gradually turned things around. Northeastern struggled down the stretch, though they held their own against BC and UNH. Northeastern wins in 3 very close games.

At the moment, Merrimack would be in the NCAA tournament. But they can cement a spot by winning this series. They beat BC twice early in the season, they beat UNH twice in February. They also lost two blowout games to Maine. They're excellent at home (12-2-1), and mediocre on the road (10-6-3). Thankfully for them, this series will be in Andover. Merrimack will sweep this in 2.

That would set-up a semi-final of #1 BC vs. #6 Northeastern, and #2 UNH vs. #4 Merrimack. I'd take BC and Merrimack to win and meet in the finals, with BC taking the title.


I was a bit surprised to hear that the NHL wouldn't discipline Zdeno Chara for his hit on Max Pacioretty. No fine. No suspension. I thought Chara would at least get 2 games. After all, Pacioretty's got a severe concussion, a cracked vertebrae, and the NHL has been harshly punishing hits to the head all season.

As I thought more about it, I realized that a 1 or 2 game suspension was impossible. If you think Chara's intention was to drive Pacioretty's skull into that stanchion, then he deserves a 15+ game suspension, at least. To do that intentionally is beyond dirty. It's criminal.

If you think Chara's intent was to hit Pacioretty, but not necessarily into the stanchion, then he deserves no further discipline whatsoever. How could the NHL suspend a player for an interference hit that unfortunately was at the worst possible time and location? There's no degrees or gray area on this hit. It's either very dirty, or just interference.

PJ Stock (who was born in Montreal, played for the Bruins, and now works for CBC as well as a Montreal radio station) made a few excellent points on WEEI. One of them was that if Chara wanted to injure someone, he could do it at any time. You can listen to the whole interview here:

Chara obviously wanted to hit Pacioretty. He wanted to hurt him, not injure him. Just like every hockey player wants to hurt their opponent when they hit him. The hit was late, in that the puck was already gone, but Chara starts pushing Pacioretty while they're away from that corner. It's the width of 3 Bruins players away when Chara initiates the contact. If Chara's intent was to drive Pacioretty into that corner, he has perfect timing.

But why wasn't Chara suspended in the midst of the NHL's crusade against hits to the head? Because this one was different. Blindside hits to the head in open ice and against the boards were plaguing the NHL, like an epidemic. They were too common. Whereas this was a freak, one in a million type thing.

The reaction from Montreal is pathetic. To be fair, had Subban or Gill done that to Marchand, there'd be plenty of pissed off morons wearing black and gold down here in Boston. But Quebecois are very passionate about their team, and they're very whiny and very French.

The Montreal Police had to publicly appeal to people to stop calling them to file complaints against Chara.

And some Habs fans are claiming the NHL has an anti-Canadian, pro-American agenda. Even though Chara is Slovakian and Pacioretty is from Connecticut. If it'd been a Maple Leaf who'd hit Pacioretty, the Habs fans would bitch about pro-anglophone, anti-francophone bias.

While Montrealers prepare to boo the Star Spangled Banner the next time a US team plays up there, I think we should evaluate this incident, and try to make rinks safer, if possible. One potential solution is to have the benches on opposite sides of the ice. Many college rinks are like that. That'd eliminate the need for a barrier at the center-line. And while there'd still be four dangerous stanchions (as many as there are now), they'd all be near the blue-lines, where checking is rare, and typically at much lower speeds.

Or maybe they could angle the glass at the end of the benches to a more forgiving 45 degrees, instead of 90. They need to at least look into this specific part of the rink and investigate ways to making it safer.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Wednesday, March 09, 2011


The Bruins better hope they don't face the Canadiens in the playoffs. Because it's just not a good matchup for the B's. They're 1-4 against Montreal, and have allowed 20 goals in those 5 games (4 per game, for the mathematically challenged). And the main reason is speed.

The Canadiens remind me of Boston College's team. They use their speed on defense and to win physical battles. Their fast forwards help out the defensemen with back pressure. And they get to loose pucks in an instant.

The Bruins aren't fast. They're not slow skaters, but they're slow doing everything else. They're slow to shoot, to pass, to make any sort of decisions whatsoever.

Montreal didn't utterly dominate like the score might suggest. Domination is rare when two quality teams engage in a playoff style game like this one. However, they won battles on the boards and in front of the net. They got to loose pucks. They made plays. The Bruins didn't. Hence the lopsided score.

Montreal's first goal came when Lars Eller got to a loose puck before Matt Bartkowski could.

Their second goal came when Michael Ryder got beat to a loose puck by Travis Moen.

Their third goal was a bit of a weird one, tumbling through Rask's padding, then poked by Chara off Rask's back and into the net.

The fourth goal came after winning a battle on the boards.

That's how you surrender 4 goals. Now how do you only score one?

Well Marchand had his worst game of the season. He misfired on a penalty shot, missed a gift goal in the 1st, and I don't think he completed a single pass. But 19 goal scoring rookies are easily forgiven. I just hope that since he's cooled off a bit (0 goals, 1 assist in last 6 games), he's not pushing too hard to recapture how hot he was. Especially as his teammates struggle to replace that production.

I've already mentioned how poorly the Bruins did on the boards and in front of the net. That was true offensively as well. The static power play continued to inspire yawns.

Now, regarding Chara's hit. Even though I think Max Pacioretty is an utter tool, you hate seeing this:

Did Chara mean to check him into that corner of glass? I doubt it. Did he hit him late? Definitely. Did he hit him in a dangerous part of the ice? Most definitely. Does he deserve a suspension? I don't know. Will he get suspended? Yes.

What gives me mixed feelings is that Chara usually doesn't get interference penalties. Roughing and cross-checking, sure. The token hooking, tripping, high-sticking, of course. He usually doesn't hit late. And almost never this late.

I think Chara was frustrated and badly wanted to hit Pacioretty hard over the boards. They have a history.

But Pacioretty passed the puck along. Despite that, Chara finished his check. Unfortunately for Pacioretty, it was in a dangerous spot.

How dirty was it? That depends on your definition of "dirty." I don't think there was intent to injure. I don't think Chara specifically meant to hit Pacioretty into that corner. I do think Chara's emotions were boiling over. He was reckless. Though I think that recklessness spawned the lateness of the hit, not the location.

We'll see what kind of punishment is handed down by the geniuses who suspended Sean Avery 6 games for words and Matt Cooke 0 games for a hit to the head.

Bruins host the Sabres Thursday night.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Tuesday, March 08, 2011


It's the one month of the year that I actually follow basketball and can't get enough of it. And the city of Boston might send three representatives to the big tournament. BU, Harvard, and BC all have very good chances of earning bids.

BU will host Stony Brook Saturday afternoon at Agganis Arena to determine the America East Championship. The Terriers beat Stony Brook twice this season, boast a 12-4 conference record, have won 10 straight, and haven't lost at home since December. BU haven't made the NCAA tournament since 2002.

Harvard (yes they play in Boston, their court is in Brighton) is in one of the more interesting situations in college basketball. The Ivy League doesn't hold a tournament, and sends its regular season champ to the NCAAs. The Crimson beat 1st place Princeton 79-67 over the weekend. Princeton plays Penn tonight. If Princeton loses, then Harvard wins the Ivy League outright. If Princeton wins, then they and Harvard will meet in a playoff game at a neutral site (Yale). That game would be played on Saturday. Harvard hasn't been in the NCAA tournament since 1946. That tournament featured a field of 8 teams, including NYU and Oklahoma A&M.

By the way, Harvard beat both BU and BC this season.

BC have been popping in and out of the at-large bubble all season. They finished 5th in a lackluster ACC, don't have an overly impressive resume, and if a few upsets occur in the mid-major tournaments, BC might have to do work in the ACC Tournament.

The good news is that BC faces Wake Forest in the opening round of the ACC tourney. They trounced Wake a few days ago, 84-68. But they need to win this game. With losses against Harvard, Yale and URI already marring their schedule, they can't afford to add 8-23 Wake Forest to that list.

After Wake, the Eagles would face Clemson, who they lost to in February. Although it's easier to beat Clemson than it is to beat UNC or Duke. With both teams on the bubble, BC vs. Clemson might essentially be a play-in game into the NCAA tournament. BC last appeared in the NCAAs in 2009.

So come Selection Sunday, there may be three Boston representatives in the 68 team field. Or none.

PS: Can we retire the phrase "punch their ticket?" It's just so antiquated, overused, and stupid.

Monday, March 07, 2011


Saturday night's game against Pittsburgh was very much like a postseason game. That's how Pittsburgh's been playing. They're winning without Crosby, without Malkin, because their roster is full of battlers. And despite what Mario Lemieux might think, they even have one or two dirty players. But they're all tough. And they make everything tough for their opponents.

The Bruins didn't play too poorly on Saturday. Boychuk's giveaway was foolish. The defensemen have to get involved for the offense to work, but committing to a loose puck around the blue-line is wise. Big risk, little reward. That's only one glaring error, though.

The Bruins didn't play great on Saturday, either. The Penguins contest everything and that exposed some weaknesses in the Bruins' game. They struggled breaking the puck out of their zone. They gave it away in bad locations. The power play didn't move bodies around enough.

Then there was the effort levels. The Bruins weren't lazy, but which team would you say put in the most effort? The Penguins. And Pittsburgh played an overtime game Friday night. So why are they able to play 62 minutes with more energy than the Bruins?

I'll take the point, but for me, this is the pre-postseason. In the playoffs, the Bruins will be seeing motivated teams like Pittsburgh EVERY GAME. Do teams like the Penguins have guys like Michael Ryder loitering on their roster? Nope. They have leaders. More importantly, they don't have followers. The Penguins have won 37 postseason games the last three years. The Bruins have won 17. On Saturday, I think we saw why there's such a disparity. The relentless effort.

Bruins @ Canadiens Tuesday night.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Friday, March 04, 2011


I don't think Tampa Bay is that good. They deserve their spot in the standings, but when the playoffs start, I think they'll finish them sooner than most. They fall down too much. Despite that, and despite the Lightning having played the night before, and being without Lecavalier, I was very impressed with this Bruins win.

Apart from Michael Ryder, the B's didn't do much wrong. They were a bit flat to start the 2nd, then a puck bounced off Kampfer's shin and into the net. But that woke the Bruins up. They dominated the rest of the 2nd, and had the puck for most of the 3rd.

The turning point was a nearly two minute 5-on-3 penalty kill. Thomas made some great saves, and the PK unit was smartly aggressive. Tampa Bay relies on the power play for 40% of their offense. If you shut that down, you're sitting pretty.

Lucic's game-winner came as a result of a scrum, which saw Lightning players literally tripping over each other. Horton and Krejci were in the hogpile, but Lucic was smart enough to wait for a loose puck to slip out. Like a buzzard, he circled around the carcasses, the puck came loose, and he flicked it in. Goal #28. And career point #200 for Krejci.

I loved how physical most of the Bruins played. Lucic, Horton, Boychuk, Chara, McQuaid, Thornton, Campbell, Marchand, Seidenberg, pretty much everyone. Except Ryder. Ryder gave up on easy hits, provided mere token pressure on the forecheck, and was playing a completely different game from his teammates.

After Ryder's going-through-the-motions forecheck, it was Chris Kelly who helped trigger Kampfer's goal in the 2nd. Kelly makes about half of what Ryder gets paid.

Good win over a tired, but still talented team. Saturday night, the Penguins (4th in the East) come to town.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Thursday, March 03, 2011


Yes. No. Maybe. Most people have them on the bubble, with their blowout win over Virginia Tech temporarily putting them in. But this post isn't about BC, or whether or not they should be in the tournament. To be honest, I don't follow college basketball closely enough to have an informed opinion on that.

This post is about the NCAA Tournament in general, and why it shouldn't expand. BC will help me demonstrate that point. Because they're not very good.

The Eagles occupy the middle of a very top-heavy and shallow ACC. Only 2 ACC teams are ranked. BC's 8-7 conference record is loaded with wins against Virginia and NC State. They did beat Virginia Tech twice, although they also lost to 9th place Miami. Twice.

Before that, they lost to Harvard and Yale. Thankfully, they didn't have to face Princeton, the top Ivy team. Princeton, by the way, only has one loss against Ivy League opponents, compared to BC's two.

BC might not even be the 2nd best team in New England (UConn being the best). They lost to URI, and they barely beat UMass and Providence. Apart from an early season, neutral site win over Texas A&M, they haven't beaten anyone impressive in or out of their conference.

They've got some good players, but no depth. And those good players all go through lengthy cold streaks. They're not awful. They're not great. If they make the tournament, it's not a joke. It's also not an injustice if they don't make it.

Finally, here's my point. If the tournament were expanded to 96 teams, BC would be a lock. They along with a few dozen other painfully mediocre teams. The field would be overly saturated by 10th place teams with .500 conference records.

There are plenty of good arguments to keep the NCAA field close to 64 teams. To me, though, this is the most alarming and convincing. This year, BC has been the quintessential bubble team. What would the bubble teams be like with 96 slots to fill? Wisconsin-Milwaukee? Long Beach State? Maybe NC State with their 15-14 overall and 5-10 conference records. The Wolfpack are 104th in RPI, and 54th strength of schedule. Why not them in the 96 team field?

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Wednesday, March 02, 2011


This had "trap game" written all over it. A game against a bad team sandwiched between big wins over the weekend and big games yet to come. Still, I'd like to think that since this was an obvious potential trap game, the Bruins would show up and play well. Or maybe have a shaky 1st period then settle down. Instead, they played about as well as Ottawa and escaped with a slim 1-0 win.

I must have forgotten who the head coach is. One of the things that's plagued this Bruins team under Julien is a false sense of achievement. Every hot streak seems to end with efforts like this one. Bland, uninspired, directionless.

I know, I know. A win is a win is a win. And six game road trips don't usually end with 12 points in the bank. Why am I being Robbie Downer? Because I've seen this pattern before.

A 6 game road winning streak is impressive. Until you remember that 4 of those games were against the bottom 3 teams in the NHL (Islanders, Senators twice, and the Oilers). The Vancouver win was impressive. The others were standard.

Then we get to last night. For the most part, the Bruins and Senators looked evenly matched. That's not supposed to happen against a last place team that's just traded away most of its roster. The Bruins weren't sharp, they weren't quick. They were indecisive, and they didn't skate. There were a few exceptions, like Horton, but it only takes one or two saboteurs on the ice at a time to slow things down.

We've seen it before, so many times. This team rips off a few wins, then they crap the bed. In the 2009 playoffs, they sweep Montreal, then beat Carolina in Game 1. They ease up on the throttle, allow Carolina to stick around, and suddenly they're on the losing end of a Game 7. And we all remember the Flyers series last spring. The Bruins' MO is to do well, get cocky and complacent, then let a near-death opponent cling to life. That works against Ottawa. It won't work in the playoffs against Philadelphia or Pittsburgh.

So the B's are 6 points ahead of Montreal, with a game in hand. They're tied for the 2nd seed in the East and have an unreal road record of 22-7-4. But I'm not convinced that they're much different from the chokers I've seen in the recent past. Not until they can go to places like Ottawa, give 100%, and outplay bad teams.

Being able to win at home would also help to make me optimistic. The Bruins have the best road record in the NHL, and the 21st best home record.

The next week is a good test for the Bruins. They host Tampa Bay on Thursday, then Pittsburgh on Saturday. They're in Montreal next Tuesday, and host Buffalo two days later. Some home games, some good teams, and then they'll probably lose a 3-2 game in OT to the Islanders after that.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo