Thursday, April 28, 2011


It was a little over a minute a minute after Horton scored the game-winner when I realized that I hadn't been breathing since the goal was scored. I was that excited, that relieved, that exhausted.

Now to the game. It was far from pretty for either team. Or for the refs. There was finally a goal scored while the Bruins had a man advantage. Unfortunately, it went the wrong way. The Canadiens dove a few times, got a few calls, but were eventually hurt by a dive. Then one of the Bruins' leaders made a silly mistake, the Habs capitalized, and to Overtime it went.

But it was Nathan Horton, a newcomer to the playoffs, who scored the winning goal. He scored 3 times in the series, and was the only first-liner to really imprint himself on this series. In the regular season, when Horton was scoring, the Bruins were nearly unstoppable. When he slumped, they had to grind games out. In other words, he's a key to the Bruins' success.

Beating the Canadiens is just extra sweet. Not only is it a rivalry with tons of history, but the Canadiens play a completely different style of hockey from the rest of the NHL. Habs fans bitch and moan about other teams playing dirty, not "playing hockey the right way," then the Canadiens dive and flop like a bunch of Brazilian soccer players. That's not hockey being played the right way. It was perfect justice that Hamrlik dove to steal a call, and Kelly took advantage of the 5-on-4 to score.

PK Subban is a hell of a hockey player. But his diving is just an embarrassment. He's a strong dude. Yet David Krejci apparently can manhandle him. So can Gregory Campbell. It's just sad to watch a talented player like that resort to such childish tactics.

While I'm thrilled to eliminate the Canadiens, there's still plenty of room for improvement that needs to be addressed by the time the Flyers series starts. The Power Play actually got worse last night. Not only did they fail to score, they allowed a goal.

The nature of the shorthanded goal was what pissed me off. The Bruins struggled with entry, so they tried a gadget play. Seidenberg's supposed to back-pass to Recchi in the center, which will cause the Montreal defenders to stand up at the blue-line. But Montreal was going to yield entry. There was no need for the trickery. And it was incorrectly timed anyway. The pass came too early, Recchi couldn't handle it, and Montreal tied the game with a shorthanded goal.

The Bruins are the first team to ever win a 7 game series without scoring on the Power Play.

Bergeron's penalty was also inexcusable. 180+ feet from his own net, late in a game, with a 1 goal lead, he doesn't need to be flailing his stick around like that.

The first line needs to show up. The big players need to make big plays. Krejci is useless. He had another golden opportunity tonight, with half a net to shoot at, but his backhander went way over the crossbar. Lucic made a smart pass to find Horton for the game-winner, but he's still floating, still waiting around for something to happen. He needs to make things happen. He used to seek contact. Now he's almost avoiding it.

The Power Play and first line need to contribute. The defense can't afford anymore giveaways. The Flyers are better than the Canadiens. Much better. Sure, the Flyers' goaltending is questionable, but their forwards are relentless. The Canadiens were dangerous on the PP and on the counter-attack. The Flyers are ALWAYS dangerous.

I'll revel in this victory for a few days. But the Flyers are next. Improvements need to be made. Meanwhile, the Canadiens can...

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


NESN's Andy Brickley (whom I'm a big fan of) remarked that he didn't think the better team won last night. I don't know what game he saw, but I didn't see the Bruins as being the better team. Montreal didn't really dominate, but they never screwed up, never gave the Bruins big chances, and when the B's had opportunities, they were squandered. The Habs were the better team.

This game was questionably officiated. While I understand Lucic getting a minor, even a major, for what he did, I don't see how an ejection was justified. Lucic and the Bruins get punished because Spacek put himself in a vulnerable spot and Lucic didn't hold back a check. How many times have we seen the Canadiens pull back a check in this series?

Then again, what has Lucic done in this series? Was his absence the difference in this game? I don't think so.

The Bruins cost themselves a number of penalties on their own. Too many men. Later, a delay of game. These are perhaps the most avoidable penalties of all, and yet the Bruins committed them, and both led to 5-on-3 goals.

And let's not forget that the refs screwed up a call that would have resulted in a Canadiens goal. If anything, the Bruins got a bit of luck in this game.

Then the B's own Power Play, which continues to struggle. The Bruins are the only team in the playoffs not to score a PP goal. Think about that. Multiple teams are already eliminated, and they all scored a PP goal. Poor entry, poor possession, that's been the story with the Bruins on the man advantage.

Under Julien, the Bruins are now 2-8 when they can eliminate their opponent. That's 2-8 against teams they've already beaten three times. Julien, in his career, is 1-3 in Game 7s. I'm more than a little worried. Game 7 tonight.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Monday, April 25, 2011


Things keep getting more and more intense. More OT games, more surprises, more teams fighting for their playoff lives. There's been at least one OT game for 6 straight days, which is one shy of tying the NHL record set in 2001

Pittsburgh leads series 3-2
Stamkos finally scored in this series, netting 2. Gagne and Kubina also scored twice, their first goals of the series. And Lecavalier scored only his second goal of the series. The Penguins have done a good job shutting down most of Tampa Bay's top weapons. This 8 goal explosion shouldn't worry them too much. The Lightning only scored 9 in Games 1 through 4.

Washington wins series 4-1
I thought New York's goaltending would be enough to beat Washington. I was wrong. Michal Neuvirth was the star goalie of the series with a .946 save percentage, 1.38 GAA, and a shutout. But that was against a poor Rangers offense. Washington joins Detroit among the teams already in the 2nd round.

Boston leads series 3-2
Playoff series are sometimes won and lost by the slimmest of margins. The Bruins have scored 2 more goals than the Canadiens in the last 9 periods of hockey. And that's all it takes to go from 2-1 down to 3-2 up.

San Jose leads series 3-2
Jonathan Quick rebounded for LA with a 51 save effort after back-to-back 6 goals allowed outings. LA's biggest advantage over San Jose is their goaltending. With Quick on his A-Game, the Kings are a better team. Anything less than stellar, though, and San Jose looks to be superior.

Series tied 3-3
The Flyers are, without a doubt, the toughest team to eliminate. Without Jeff Carter, essentially without Chris Pronger, and using 3 goalies in a series, they're still alive. It's because they stay even-keeled when they're down. Danny Briere now has 5 goals in this series, and Brian Boucher is probably the best relief goalie in the NHL. Game 7 Tuesday night in Philly.

Nashville wins series 4-2
Teemu Selanee was basically the only Anaheim player to show up for this series. He scored his 6th goal in this game, but none of his teammates did much of anything. Nashville's goaltending, defense, and timely offense was enough to win the first playoff series in their franchise's history. Nashville is team #3 to earn a spot in the 2nd round, and does anyone in Tennessee care?

Series tied 3-3
I lost all respect for Roberto Luongo last night. After he got pulled in two games, the Canucks decided to start Cory Schneider. Luongo, like a bitch, spent most of the game in the dressing room. His teammates are out on the ice, trying to win a playoff series against the Stanley Cup champs, and he's back in the locker room playing pocket pool. Schneider tore/strained/pulled a muscle trying to save a penalty shot, and Luongo went in. He then sucked. And it was his mistake that cost the Canucks the game. And in Stanley Cup storybook fashion it was Ben Smith who scored the game-winning goal. He played 6 regular season games and scored once. Now he's played 5 playoff games and scored twice. He played with Schneider at BC.

Tonight's games:
7:00 PM - Penguins @ Lightning (Pittsburgh leads series 3-2) - Versus
10:00 PM - Sharks @ Kings (San Jose leads series 3-2) - Versus


The Sox are only one game below .500 and they owe it all to the Angels. Remember last year? The Sox owned Anaheim, going 9-1 against them. So while I'm happy the Sox are now only 3.5 behind the Yankees, and have a record that's not too shameful, beating the Angels is old news.

Lackey beating the Angels doesn't impress me. But Daisuke beating them does. Then again, Daisuke's problem has been consistency, and two great starts don't demonstrate that a consistency problem has been solved. I'm not aboard the Daisuke bandwagon yet. And won't be for some time.

One thing the Sox have thoroughly demonstrated with this 8-1 run, is that pitching wins. Even if half the lineup is slumping, even if the bullpen is shaky, good starting pitching makes winning easy. Crawford is still hitting below his weight, Lowrie's the only guy hitting over .300, and it seems like a new middle-reliever struggles in every game. But the wins keep coming so long as the starts are good.

To continue this roll, Buchholz needs to step up. He's lost his confidence, he's been obsessing with baserunners, and allowing homeruns. The offensively challenged (3rd fewest runs scored in baseball) Orioles present Buchholz with an opportunity to re-establish his place in this rotation. He's the only starter yet to register a Quality Start.

He faces 3-1 Zach Britton Tuesday night in Baltimore. And yes, Britton is a lefty.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo


New Yorker's talk up their arena so much. Just because it's old, antiquated (why is it so poorly lit for hockey games?), and lots of college basketball gets played there, New Yorkers think MSG is "historical" even magical/mythical. But I guess if I were a Knicks fan, I'd brag more about my building more than my team.

The Celtics disposed of the Knicks on Sunday. And even though I'm not confident in a deep playoff run for the C's, I'm not surprised that the Knicks were so easily defeated. Maybe the games were close, and maybe the Knicks had a valiant 4th quarter effort yesterday to make things interesting, but when did they ever have control of this series? And look elsewhere. The Heat lost to the 76ers yesterday. Isn't that a bit more disappointing than only winning by a few points?

I don't think the Celtics have the depth, or the health to win it all this year. They can still go deep, simply because guys like Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and KG are so ludicrously clutch. And Rondo has stepped it up, as well. So while I don't think we'll be celebrating Banner #18 in Boston, I won't turn down the opportunity to celebrate a triumph over a team from New York.

Besides, anything is possible.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Horton Hears a WOOOOO!

How's your heart? Mine's still recovering from Saturday night's shenanigans. It took 89 minutes to determine a winner, but you can't say the Bruins didn't earn it.

Tim Thomas and Carey Price had two of the best goaltending performances of the playoffs. Price is the only Canadien that I respect. He and Thomas combined for 94 saves on 97 shots, which translates to a .969 save percentage. Thomas made his biggest save in the 2nd overtime period.

The three aspects of Thomas' game that combine to make him great are his balance, vision, and quickness. This save exemplifies all three of these qualities coming together to result in magnificence. His balance allows him to cut down the angle against Moen without committing to the shot. His center of gravity remains in his mid-section, which allows him to react to Moen's pass. Thomas actually does a better job reading the play than Ference. He starts moving to play Gionta before Gionta moves his stick to play the puck. Thomas' quickness allows him to get to the spot in time to not only block the shot, but to safely steer it to the corner.

But that play might not have been the save of the game.

This might have been Michael Ryder's best defensive game in a Bruins uniform, and not just for that play.

In order to succeed in the playoffs, a team needs to improve, from game to game, and series to series. The Bruins have done that in this series. They've stopped giving the puck away in dangerous areas. They're winning battles. They're getting bodies in front of Price. Ryder's actually playing. Horton is muscling people around. Chara is fully hydrated and once again a physical force. And Brad Marchand no longer looks like a rookie.

Marchand's goal was a prime example of Boston's physicality triumphing. The B's aren't going to get more big hits than Montreal. The Habs use their speed to inflict big hits, and to avoid them. But on Marchand's goal, the Bruins repeatedly won inside position, and it ultimately resulted in a goal. That's where the Bruins' strength can defeat the Canadiens' speed.

Things aren't perfect yet. It's hard to discuss faults and flaws after thrilling back-to-back OT victories. But there's plenty of room for improvement. The power play continues to struggle, which is fine because the PK is clicking beautifully. The Bruins have stopped turning pucks over on their defensive blue-line, but they need to take better care of it between the offensive blue-line and that Stanley Cup Playoff logo.

Then there's Kaberle. His lack of strength directly lead to Montreal's 3rd period goal. The Habs had been pressuring the B's for 10 minutes, but Kaberle's inability to push a puck to a safe area allowed Montreal to score. Kelly and Peverley have contributed so much more than Kaberle has.

I was glad that Horton and the first line scored the game-winning goal. But Lucic needs to show up. He's still floating around, hoping for some good luck. I wouldn't be shocked if he's injured because he looks like he did in last year's postseason, hardly skating at all. He needs to simplify his game, stop worrying about drifting into scoring positions, and play physical. The goals will find him if he just stays true to himself.

And Krejci needs to stop dangling and deking. Just shoot the friggin' puck. You're not going to trick Carey Price.

Thankfully, Game 6 isn't until Tuesday. Both these teams need some recuperation time. The Canadiens are facing elimination and that makes them very dangerous. Under Julien, the Bruins are 2-7 when they can eliminate a team from the playoffs. They're also 0-3 in Game 7's under Julien. So despite the 3-2 series lead, I'm hardly over confident.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Friday, April 22, 2011


It took 11 innings, and countless missed opportunities, but Adrian Gonzalez finally got the big hit that propelled the Sox to victory last night/early this morning. Angels pitchers issued 11 walks and gave up 8 hits, but Sox' hitters were useless with runners in scoring position, finishing 2 for 18. Gonzalez's 11th inning double, and a 2 run single from Ellsbury in the 6th were the only hits with RISP for the Sox.

Beckett continued to master the strike zone. His only significant miscue came in the 8th, surrendering a 2 run homer to Torii Hunter. In his last three starts, Beckett's pitched 22 innings and allowed only 3 runs (1.23 ERA). At the moment, he's the Ace of the staff. Which is good because Buchholz looks shaky.

Will it last? I don't know. But right now, Beckett is my first choice for a must-win game.

This is the first time the Sox have strung two road wins together. Better late than never.

Jon Lester faces Dan Haren tonight. Haren is 4-0, but he's another righty. So that's nice.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo


The Bruins spent the week in Lake Placid, NY. Then came out placidly last night, taking 30 minutes to properly wake up. During that time, Montreal unleashed 30 shots against Thomas and took a 3-1 lead. In the second half of the game, they beat Montreal 4-1. It was far from pretty. It was quite painful at times. But you had to love the ending.

I was fed up with Ryder being in the lineup. He hadn't contributed anything and I wanted Seguin to get a chance. I like being wrong sometimes. Ryder scored twice. His breakaway goal in the 2nd might have been more important than his OT winner, because it kept Montreal from pulling too far away.

For both his goals, Ryder was beautifully set-up by his teammates. Kaberle made himself useful and found Ryder with a zone stretching pass to trigger his breakaway. And linemates Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley ground out the possession that resulted in Ryder's second score.

Kelly now has 2 goals, 2 assists, and is +3 in this series. He's the type of guy that randomly has a huge impact in the playoffs. He's accustomed to physical play, he's an adept penalty killer, and he's always involved.

But give Ryder credit for the quality of his shots. His first goal was a snipe over Price's glovehand. His second shot came after he hesitated a fraction of a second. Price stretched his legs wide to get to the post, opening up the hole that Ryder shot through.

Bergeron continues to be the best Bruins' skater in this series. 5 points so far. Another great night in Game 4.

Andrew Ference is the type of guy who can decide a series for you. He can be that bad, and be that good. We've seen him make boneheaded mistakes, and brilliant plays. From shift to shift, the Bruins' fortunes have turned based on what guys like him have done. Last night he took a few hits to move the puck, then wound up in the high slot, and blasted a bullet past Price.

The PK unit may have allowed a goal, but they were excellent in their one kill of the game. Montreal had a golden opportunity to win it late in regulation, thanks to an iffy interference call on Seidenberg. But the PK was intelligently aggressive. Chris Kelly again having an impact.

I'm still waiting for the first line to show up. Lucic, Krejci, and Horton have combined for 2 goals, 0 assists, and are each -2 in this series. Last night, Krejci deked himself out of an unbelievable scoring chance. It was actually three chances in one play, and he messed up all of them. He could have one-timed at a half-empty net, instead he curled toward the crease. He could have forehanded a shot between Price's widely stretched legs, instead he went to the backhand. He could've backhanded a shot over Price's legpads, instead he lost control of the puck.

Then there's Lucic, who looked half-dead on most his shifts. When he did skate, he was electrifying. But for the most part he's still drifting around, barely noticeable on the ice. He played about 17 minutes last night. Do you believe that? How often did you notice he was out there?

So now it's a best-of-three series. The B's need to protect their house. They need to do something on the Power Play. The first line needs to score, or at least grind out good possessions. Guys like Bergeron and Kelly need to continue their good play. And Chara needs to bring his physical game. It doesn't get easier from here.

Game 5 Saturday night in Boston.

Photo Credits:
AP Photo

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


All 16 teams remain alive, though some are barely clinging to life. The quality of hockey seems to increase every game, and as teams start to face elimination, we're seeing that desperate ferocity that makes for really entertaining hockey.

Vancouver leads series 3-1
The Hawks staved off elimination with an offensive onslaught against a sluggish Vancouver team. Chicago's defensemen got involved in the offense, as both Duncan Keith and Brian Campbell scored. The Blackhawks power play, which helped propel them past Vancouver in last year's playoffs, also woke up, scoring 2 goals. This series hadn't been as brutally violent as last year's, until the 3rd period. 92 penalty minutes were issued in that frame, including six misconducts. Game 5 should be exciting.

San Jose leads series 2-1

44 seconds into the 2nd period, the Kings scored to make it 4-0. The Sharks pulled Niemi, and looked dead. But by the end of the period, it was 5-5. Devin Setoguchi scored the OT game-winner and the Sharks completed a monumental comeback, the likes of which has only happened 4 times in Stanley Cup history. That's why the NHL Playoffs are so exciting. One btilliant period of hockey could be the difference in this series. As the Sox are out West this week, do yourself a favor and watch bits of Game 4 of this series on Thursday night while the Sox game is in a commercial break.

Tonight's games:
7:00 PM - Capitals @ Rangers (Washington leads series 2-1) - Versus
7:00 PM - Penguins @ Lightning (Pittsburgh leads series 2-1)
7:30 PM - Flyers @ Sabres (Philadelphia leads series 2-1)
8:30 PM - Ducks @ Predators (Nashville leads series 2-1)
10:30 PM - Red Wings @ Coyotes (Detroit leads series 3-0) - Versus


Well John Lackey registered his first good start of the season. Not so surprising considering his record in Oakland and against AL West teams. Oakland also has a poor offense. It's just a shame that the Sox' batters and bullpen had to let such a fine start go to waste.

Is it me, or are 90% of starting pitchers lefthanded these days? It seems like every day the Sox are facing a southpaw. And therefore half the lineup is either on the bench or ineffective.

The Sox managed a mere 5 hits, all of them singles. They were 0 for 3 with runners in scoring position. We've seen them hit against Toronto's stable of forgettable pitchers, but against good arms, they're really struggling. When Lowrie and Pedroia aren't getting 3 hits a game, there's little chance for any scoring.

I don't understand why Lackey was lifted after only 93 pitches through 6 innings. Was it to save his confidence? Take him out of a game while he's doing well, instead of risking a confidence crushing collapse? I hope not. He was cruising. And the Sox' bullpen sucks. Wheeler did well, but then Okajima put the game out of reach.

The bullpen is still my biggest concern. All five starters have given at least one impressive performance. Except Buchholz, and he'll likely cut through Oakland's lineup this afternoon. And hitters like Youkilis and Crawford will assuredly raise their averages well over .200. But this bullpen... who knows? They might be this terrible for the duration of the season.

Buchholz faces Gio Gonzalez at 3:30 Eastern. Gio is 2-0 with a 0.47 ERA. And yes, he's a lefty.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo


In both these games, the Celtics and Knicks have been essentially equal for 47 minutes. Then in those final 60 seconds, the Celtics are clearly the superior team. And while I still have some concerns about the C's, both in this series and in any future series, they've proven to be far more clutch than the Knicks.

It was Ray Allen on Sunday. Last night it was Garnett. Having so many experienced, big game players is quite a luxury. One that most other teams don't have. KG's lead-taking shot, followed shortly by his game-winning steal was quite literally the difference in this game. The difference was clutchness.

We shouldn't dismiss the previous 47 minutes of play. Rajon Rondo deserves praise for his 30 points. And when Ray Allen got shots, he nailed them. On the other hand, there were some worrying aspects to this game.

The Knicks only got 18 minutes from Stoudemire, and still this game was evenly matched. Carmelo exploded for 42. And the Knicks collected 20 offensive rebounds. A huge chunk of their offense came from second chance baskets.

I don't see New York coming back from 2 games down. They'll win one or two in this series, but they're not poised or refined enough to do more than that. However, the Celtics long-term prospects aren't good unless Rondo continues to rampage, Allen continues to drain threes, the bench contributes more, and the overall defense improves.

Game 3 Friday night in New York.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


The Bruins looked so much looser last night in Montreal. Maybe that's why they're so good on the road. They made a few mistakes (a too many men penalty, for instance), but nothing as grievous as their giveaway gifts in Games 1 and 2. The offense played with more intelligence, and the defense was sound. The result was a 4-2 victory.

The offense wasn't amazing. They just made better decisions. They didn't let Price play the puck too often. And the one time they did, Peverley did a great job of charging the net, and was in perfect position to capitalize on a rare Price error.

The B's didn't score highlight reel goals. In fact, they squandered three different 3-on-1 opportunities. The goals were opportunistic, and a bit lucky at the end. Though that luck came after some solid play. That's how it works in the playoffs. Montreal's 2 goals were similarly fortunate, a pair of seeing eye backhanders that found Thomas' minuscule 5-hole.

The defensemen were excellent on the other side of the ice. Chara returned, and wasn't as physically commanding as we're accustomed to, but was still solid. Ference, Seidenberg, and Boychuk were all excellent. As was Bergeron.

Krejci finally did something, scoring thanks to a perfect pass from Bergeron and some good play by Seidenberg. Horton got a right place, right time goal. I'm still waiting for Lucic to show up. He had a nice steal off Subban which gave him a breakaway opportunity. But he's still drifting around, hoping for something to happen, instead of making it happen.

The power play has yet to score. Last night, the Bruins either struggled with entry, or made silly plays in the offensive zone, not valuing possession. Marchand's no-look pass behind him, which allowed Montreal to clear, for example.

Thankfully, Montreal's power play hasn't been very effective either. They've scored once in 12 chances. Last night Bergeron, Paille, Boychuk, Campbell, Chara, Seidenberg, Marchand, and Kelly all played great on the PK. It's no coincidence that two of the Bruins goals came just after big penalty kills. Now if only the PK can maintain that, and the power play contribute just an occasional goal here and there, this series would flip on its end.

I'm tired of seeing Michael Ryder on the ice (and have been for 2 years). Why not give Seguin a shot?

The officiating in the series has been dreadfully inconsistent. But that's what happens in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The refs are still figuring out what to call and what not to call. Holding is never called (except on Recchi last night). The leeway for interference expands. But negligible hooks still get called. It is what it is. Thankfully, the refs didn't buy all of Montreal's diving last night, and swallowed their whistles in the last 5 minutes.

So the good news is the series will come back to Boston. Maybe that's bad news too, considering the Bruins' road record. Game 4 is in Montreal on Thursday night.

Photo Credits:
AP Photo

Monday, April 18, 2011


The Celtics played their game. They controlled the tempo, kept it a low scoring contest, and the clutch shooting of Ray Allen came through in the end. Give an assist to Doc Rivers' ability to draw up an inbounds play.

I'm still not overly enthused with the Celtics, as they're lack of an inside game was more than a little frustrating. It seems like all 5 c's stand around the arc, pass it to each other, hope for an open look, then hope the shot falls. That means Ray Allen's shooting percentage will dictate the result of the game. And nothing against Ray Ray, but it's not smart to rest everything on one man's shoulders. Then again, it does mean that one man can carry the team.

And Glen Davis needs to shut up. He's a backup talking trash about Amare Stoudemire's offensive play. Stoudemire might not play defense, but he averaged 25.3 points per game this year. Davis is lucky to see that many minutes.

Game 2 Tuesday night.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo


Fundamentals. Protecting the puck. Breaking out of your zone. Hard wraparounds. This stuff's not complicated. But to Claude Julien's Bruins, it's rocket science.

Every Montreal goal in this series has come thanks to a Bruins' defenseman giving the puck away in a dangerous area. Five times. And it's been a problem with this team, no matter who the defensemen have been, since Julien took over. I still have nightmares about Carolina's forecheck in the '09 playoffs.

The Bruins don't seem to realize that the Habs are trying to intercept the puck from them. Not only are the Canadiens skating faster than the Bruins, they're thinking faster.

On the other end of the ice, Recchi, Marchand, and Bergeron finally got one past Price. That's not too complicated either. Get him to move side to side, and block his vision. One thing you can't do is lazily dump the puck into an area that he can play it or smother it. Hard wraparounds, and cross-corner dumps. And someone apart from the dumper has to be skating into the zone with speed. Too many Bruins' possessions ended with soft dumps that Price easily fielded.

And the power play. Special teams are extremely important in the postseason, and are often the difference between losing a series and winning it. The B's are 0/7 on the power play, 6/7 on the kill. Had Chara been on the ice Saturday night, maybe they'd be 7/7 on the kill. I'll get into that later.

David Krejci is not a playoff forward. He's not a scorer. He's not a grinder. He had a golden chance to slip a backhander over Price in the 2nd, which would have made it a 2-2 game, and would have swung all the momentum to Boston's side. But he dangled, whiffed, and was generously rewarded with a shot on goal in the box score. Krejci also found himself completely owned by P.K. Subban on the boards (unless Subban was trying to induce a call). Krejci can't score. He can't win battles. There aren't any great point-guard, "distribution" type players in Stanley Cup history. Those players get 50 assists in the regular season, then disappear in the playoffs.

At least Krejci is trying, though. Where was Milan Lucic? I saw him drifting around the faceoff dots as Krejci was struggling behind the net. Lucic has become the Bruins' best scorer, but he needs to remember his physical roots. He shouldn't be trying to slip into a seem while Krejci's 178 pound frame is being manhandled. Lucic has been a ghost this series. That's okay for the Michael Ryders of the world, but Lucic is better than this.

Now to Chara. Getting medical information during the Stanley Cup playoffs isn't easy. All we know is that he has a virus, and he was dehydrated. He skated in warmups on Saturday, then the coaches decided to bench him, deeming him unable to play.

What's the virus? It better be serious. Because Chara is the heart of this team. He doesn't have a good playoff record. But without him, this team cannot win anything. He's my 2nd favorite player behind Thomas, but if I find out that he just has a touch of flu, I'll never forgive him. Nothing short of the Hantavirus will suffice.

The B's go up to Montreal tonight. Chara's still questionable. The Bruins play better on the road, but Montreal plays good with a lead. Whoever scores first will win Game 3.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo


Winning becomes so easy when the starting pitcher does well. The pressure eases off the offense. The bullpen has less responsibility. All the hitters have to do is compile a few consecutive hits. It's really simple.

Josh Beckett looks pretty good. I'm still not sold on him yet, as he had brilliant starts in '09 and still finished with a decent but disappointing 3.86 ERA. So far, though, he's been excellent. His fastball is up to 95, and he's challenging hitters with it. The changeup is fooling batters, and the curveball is biting. He's getting strikeouts, and when hitters make contact, they get under or over the ball. That leads to pop ups and ground outs. It's once again fun to watch him pitch.

Lester had another Quality Start on Sunday. He was aided by some double plays, as he scattered 3 walks and 6 hits. He didn't give up the big hit though. It was his first win of the season, but his third straight Quality Start.

Buchholz has me worried. We all assumed that this 26 year old with 25 good starts under his belt was going to be a sure thing for 17-20 wins and an ERA under 3.00. We forgot who he was in '09 and '08. His confidence rises and falls with each start, and right now he's on a downswing.

The offense is still gradually getting better. I'm sick of seeing Crawford leading off games though. Lowrie is red hot and should be at leadoff until either he cools, or Crawford gets his average over .150.

It's funny/sad that taking 2 games from Toronto has become worthy of celebration.

Another tough lefty (how much do we miss Victor Martinez?) faces the Sox as Ricky Romero opposes Daisuke Matsuzaka at 11 AM today.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Friday, April 15, 2011


The remaining 3 series kicked off last night. There was some exciting, close hockey.

Montreal leads series 1-0
Turnovers by the Bruins, quality goaltending by the Habs. The only good thing about Montreal winning is I get to post pictures of their female fans.

Buffalo leads series 1-0
The Philadelphia media gave James van Riemsdyk the #1 star of the game. Yeah right. Ryan Miller was the star, stopping 35 shots. Patrick Kaleta scored the lone goal of the game, off a rebound. Buffalo is not to be underestimated. But I still feel like Philly will wake up by Game 3.

I went to bed before the conclusion of the Kings/Sharks game. Sorry.

Tonight's games:
7:00 PM - Lightning @ Penguins (Pittsburgh leads series 1-0)
7:30 PM - Rangers @ Capitals (Washington leads series 1-0) - Versus
10:00 PM - Blackhawks @ Canucks (Vancouver leads series 1-0) - Versus
10:30 PM - Predators @ Ducks (Nashville leads series 1-0)


A few days after a guy named Price shut down the Sox, Carey Price shutout the Bruins. I'm just glad the Knicks don't have anyone named Price.

It's been my mantra all season long. The Bruins give the puck away too easily in dangerous places. Their power play sucks. They have too much trouble entering the zone. The forwards aren't good shooters. All these problems were on display last night.

The two goals the Bruins allowed came off inexcusable turnovers. First, let's discuss Kaberle's mistakes.

He wasn't under enough pressure to justify his blind pass. The B's traded for Kaberle because he was a "puck moving defenseman." But last night, he moved the puck far too often. Instead of trying to win a one-on-one confrontation with a Canadien, he'd arbitrarily pass it to another spot on the ice, often a more dangerous spot.

Kaberle's second mistake was how hard he passed along the boards. It wasn't a soft dribbler to the relatively safe corner. It wasn't a hard screamer along the kickplate and out to the blue line. It was the perfect speed to set up a Canadien by the faceoff circle.

Kaberle's third and fatal mistake was to take a large circular route around the net. He vacated the slot, abandoning Tim Thomas to fend for himself against a pair of Montreal forwards. Three mistakes in one play. That's impressive.

Lucic's giveaway was a lot simpler, but no less stupid. There was no reason to try to outmaneuver Scott Gomez there. Just pass it back to the defensemen, or self-pass off the boards, but there's such little reward for so much risk in that situation. Lucic simply lost his patience, and tried too hard to make a small play.

That's why the Bruins allowed 2 goals. Why didn't they score any?

Give some credit to Price. Give some credit to nerves, as playoff rookie Brad Marchand had a few golden opportunities he seemed a bit too eager to slam home. Krejci was still in regular season mode, trying and failing to make his clever plays in the middle of the ice. Those don't work in postseason play. And Milan Lucic was a complete ghost for 2 periods. He didn't show up until the 3rd, and then his most important play favored the Canadiens.

The Bruins' power play was dreadful. But the penalty kill was good. I'll take that exchange. In this series, if the B's can emerge from a game even on special teams, that's a victory.

For the Bruins to win this series and go deep into the playoffs, they need their best players to show up. Lucic, Chara, Marchand, Bergeron, Recchi. They need to eliminate the mistakes they made last night. They need more ferocity, more energy, and more bloodthirstiness. When Montreal was on the ropes, the Bruins seemed to slow down. That's when they need to speed up. They need second chance opportunities on Price. They need to control the crease on both ends of the ice.

It's easy to say, not so easy to do.

Game 2 Saturday night at the Garden.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Thursday, April 14, 2011


The hits. The saves. The goals. There's just nothing like the Stanley Cup playoffs. Here's how night #1 went down:

Detroit leads series 1-0
Detroit's annual goal is to win the last game of the Stanley Cup playoffs. They won the first thanks to goaltending and special teams. Jimmy Howard carried the Wings through the 1st period, and Phoenix was unable to capitalize on some early power play opportunities, including a 5-on-3. In the 2nd, Detroit scored a power play goal, and another goal just after a power play expired. Players like Datsyuk and Franzen were engineered for the playoffs.

Pittsburgh leads series 1-0
M.A. Fleury was all over the place, stopping 32 shots for his 5th career playoff shutout. Kovalev and Arron Asham did the scoring, plus Chris Kunitz added an empty-netter. The power play reliant Lightning only had 1 power play opportunity. Stamkos was held to one shot, and met Mr. Brooks Orpik.

Washington leads series 1-0
The Rangers were on their way to a 1-0 shutout over the Caps. Late in the 3rd, Lundqvist locks up a puck between his thighs, Ovechkin pokes at it, the ref is tardy with his whistle, the puck rolls across the line. Then after almost a full period of OT, fatigue catches up with Marc Staal who gives the puck away to Jason Arnott. Then Alexander Semin scores the winner. Without Ryan Callahan, the Rangers might be in serious trouble.

Vancouver leads series 1-0
Roberto Luongo was brilliant. 32 stunning saves. His 2nd career playoff shutout. Chicago held the Sedins scoreless, but weren't able to do much offensively themselves. This Blackhawks team is just completely different without Dustin Byfuglien driving the engine. Sharp, Kane, and Toews need to show up.

Nashville leads series 1-0
Mike Fisher scored twice with an assist, Shea Weber had a few big hits and a power play goal, but the star of the game was Pekka Rinne, who made an unbelievable kick save to keep the game at 1-0. As you might expect from a blowout, there was some ugliness at the end. The Ducks collected 32 penalty minutes in the last 15 seconds.

Tonight's games:
7:00 PM - Canadiens @ Bruins - NESN (Versus nationally)
7:30 PM - Sabres @ Flyers
10:00 PM - Kings @ Sharks - Versus

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


We don't get to see the Western Conference teams very often in Boston. It's a shame that we play Florida and Atlanta far more often than Detroit, Chicago, Vancouver, or even San Jose.

The defending champion Hawks were victimized by the salary cap in the off-season, which I think will do the NHL more long-term harm than good, and that's why they barely made it in as an 8 seed. Vancouver have been electric all year. #1 in goals scored, goals against, power play, and #3 in penalty kill. The Sedin-Samuellson line totaled 78 goals. Then Ryan Kesler added 41 more from the 2nd line. Luongo had a brilliant year, and on paper, the Canucks have to be favorites to win it all. The Hawks also boast plenty of weapons, but their goaltending is untried, and their defense is suspect. Vancouver wins in 6 high scoring games.

The Pacific Division sent 4 teams to the postseason and these are two of them. They split the season series 3-3. And while San Jose has dangerous scorers like Marleau, Thornton, Pavelski, Heatley, and 22 year old Logan Couture (who scored 32 goals), I have my doubts. The Sharks are perennial postseason failures. Their offense depends a great deal on the power play, and LA has an excellent penalty kill. The Kings also have Jonathan Quick. I don't think LA has the offense to go very far, but they do have enough defense to stop San Jose. Kings in 7.

Detroit made the playoffs for the 18th straight season. They can score, but their defense and goaltending is shaky. Zetterberg's health is a question mark, but the Wings can deploy plenty of other weapons. Not to mention a roll call of strong, experienced forwards. Datsyuk, Franzen, Cleary, Bertuzzi, Draper. And it's the same on defense. Lidstrom, Rafalski, Kronwall, Stuart. Phoenix doesn't have many recognizable skaters. Even goalie Ilya Bryzgalov had an off year. Phoenix are solid 5-on-5, but have an anemic power play and a gaping penalty kill. That will be their undoing. Detroit wins in 5.

The Predators were 3rd in goals against, and 21st in attendance. The Ducks had the 3rd best power play, and were 26th in attendance. Two of the best players in the NHL will duel each other in this series. And they'll finally be able to do it in front of full houses. Anaheim's Corey Perry scored 50 goals, with 48 assists. Nashville's Pekka Rinne had a 2.12 GAA and a .930 SV%. The Ducks have some weapons beside Perry, including George Parros' bristling black mustache.

But Anaheim's offensive output depends too much on getting power play points. The Predators also have Shea Weber, a burly defenseman who also scored 16 times this year. I'm picking Rinne and the Preds in 6.

It's difficult to not pick Detroit to win the West. But they're old. They don't have the goaltending. I think this is finally the year for Vancouver to shine and go all the way to the finals.

Tonight's games:
7:00 PM - Red Wings @ Coyotes - Versus
7:00 PM - Lightning @ Penguins
7:30 PM - Rangers @ Capitals
10:00 PM - Blackhawks @ Canucks - Versus
10:30 PM - Predators @ Ducks


This just gets worse and worse. You knew this would be a pitcher's duel, you knew it would be tight, but watching this offense still hurts. Crawford's struggles are beyond a slump. Same with Youkilis. It's psychological, or physical, or physiological. It's not a run of the mill, ordinary slump.

Lester was good, apart from the 5th inning. And even though he allowed 3 runs off 4 hits in that frame, the Rays were hardly knocking him around. It's Lester's second Quality Start in a row, and the second time the Sox have failed to win despite such a start.

One of the few bright spots has been the performance of Jed Lowrie. He hit a pair of doubles and knocked in a run. He's now hitting .438. There's no reason he shouldn't be starting every day, at least until he's cooled off.

The Sox are now in danger of being swept for the 3rd time this season. John Lackey takes the mound to face James Shields. I'm rooting for the rain.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


The most exciting postseason in pro sports begins Wednesday. Here's a preview of the first round Eastern Conference matchups:

Ovechkin had an atypical year, only scoring 32 goals and 53 assists. The Capitals found some defensive discipline, and guys like Semin and Knuble contributed on offense. The Rangers won the season series, thanks in no small part to Henrik Lundqvist, who allowed 4 goals in 3 games against Washington. If guys like Marian Gaborik wake up for New York, it might be another early exit for Washington. I'm picking the Rangers in 7.

The Flyers limped down the stretch, having clinched their division long ago. They boast some serious playoff experience, and a number of dangerous forwards. Buffalo also have some weapons. Thomas Vanek and Drew Stafford each surpassed 30 goals. And an ex-Vezina winner in net always helps. I think Buffalo takes an early lead in this series, then the Flyers wake up and win in 6.

Strength vs. speed. I'm not very optimistic about the Bruins in the postseason, but I think they'll be able to instill fear in the Canadiens. Montreal doesn't have the high flying offense they once had, and Tim Thomas will help shutdown the Habs' power play. Bruins in 6.

No Crosby, no Malkin, no problem. The Penguins have been playing playoff calibre hockey for months now. They grind out every battle, turn every inch of the ice into a war zone, and make opponents pay for everything. Tampa Bay falls down too easily, their offense is too reliant on the power play (less penalties are called in the playoffs), and Pittsburgh's goaltending is far superior. Penguins in 5.

I actually think Pittsburgh will win the East. We'll preview the Western Conference tomorrow.


It took Tampa Bay 5 games before they scored 7 runs. Daisuke allowed that many in 2 innings. Everything he threw was a meatball, with no action, no bite, it was essentially batting practice for the Rays.

The people that think Daisuke is a good pitcher really baffle me. They allude to his 18 win season. But if any normal player came up through the minors, had a decent rookie year, then had an 18 win sophomore campaign, then struggled for two years, we'd dismiss them as washed up. As Brian Rose redux. Why is Daisuke any different?

He's just not a good pitcher. He doesn't throw strikes. He needs 20+ pitches to get out of an inning. He taxes the bullpen. And who knows if he's healthy or hurt?

That's pretty much all there is to say about this game.

Jon Lester faces David Price tonight.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Monday, April 11, 2011


The hockey gods have for the 33rd time pitted the Bruins against the Canadiens in the playoffs. The fast, nimble Canadiens against the lumbering, physical Bruins. A chance for Montreal to avenge their sidelined teammate Max Pacioretty. A chance for Boston to literally add insult to injury.

The Habs won the season series 4-2. But they ended the season 7-7-1 after the Chara/Pacioretty incident. They don't have the high flying skilled players that we've seen them bring in years past. Gionta was their leading scorer with 29, and only three Canadiens scored more than 20. They use their speed for defense, and were a respectable 8th in goals allowed this year.

The Bruins can bring a physical element to this series that Montreal might be able to outrun, but won't be able to match. Chara, Lucic, Horton, Recchi, Boychuk, Marchand, Campbell, Thornton, and McQuaid can all throw their weight around.

The Canadiens' speed will win them some games in this series. The Bruins' strength will win them some games. The difference will be that speed doesn't create fear. Physicality does. And Montreal is very susceptible to fear. They will come down with a bad case of Charaphobia.

One thing the Bruins absolutely must do is kill penalties. The Canadiens were 9 for 28 (32.1%) on the power play against the Bruins this year. Nine of their 20 goals against the Bruins came with a man advantage. If the Bruins can neutralize their power play, they'll win this series. Forwards like Bergeron, Campbell, Paille, and Kelly, along with Ference and McQuaid, all need to step up and focus on the penalty kill. And even though the Bruins scored a lot of shorthanded goals this year, they need to think about clearing the puck and not generating chances.

The Bruins best player is their goalie, Tim Thomas, who set a record for highest save percentage ever at .938. But Montreal has a pretty good goalie too. Thomas' biggest contribution in this series might be on the penalty kill.

I think the Bruins win in 6. But I have doubts. Julien's record in the playoffs is mediocre, and if it goes to 7, the Bruins are screwed. So this is more of a hopeful pick.


Taking 2 of 3 from New York will make you forget about an 0-6 start. The Sox finally got some hitting, and finally got some pitching. It wasn't the prettiest series win, but I think we'll all take the W's.

John Lackey sucks. We have to come to terms with that. He's a #5 at best. Hopefully, he'll be the only #5 pitcher in this rotation. He's not going to recapture the form he had with the Angels 4 years ago.

I'm worried about Buchholz. He looked so much like his 2009 self on Saturday. He obsessively threw to 1st base. His body language wasn't confident. He's not throwing strikes. And he's struggling the second time through the lineup. It might just be a temporary thing. But he's allowed 5 homers and 8 earned runs already. In 2010, he didn't allow his 5th homerun until July.

The bullpen also looks ugly. I'm getting flashbacks of 2003, when Todd Jones, Brandon Lyon, and Ramiro Mendoza infested the Red Sox pen.

Josh Beckett was simply magical last night. 8 innings, 10 strikeouts, 1 walk, only 103 pitches needed. He retired the last 14 batters he faced. His fastball had bite, his curve was snapping, and he was confident in what he was doing.

The question with Beckett is consistency. We've seen sporadic brilliance like this before. We need to see a steady string of 7+ inning, 2-3 run starts, though. No more of the 5 inning, 4 run clunkers that we've seen him throw so many times. We'll learn a lot from the quality of his next start.

Offensively, it's still kind of ugly. The Sox scored 4 runs from 12 hits and 8 walks last night. That's not good. Pedroia's upped his average to .400, Gonzalez is hitting, and Ortiz is getting by. But there's still some serious slumping in this lineup. They'll snap out of it, though. Crawford hit a few balls hard, just not in the right place.

Sox host the 1-8 Rays starting tonight. Daisuke faces 24 year old Jeremy Hellickson.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Friday, April 08, 2011


It's not about seeding, it's about matchups. This weekend, we'll find out who will matchup against the Bruins in the opening round of the playoffs. It could be one of four teams: Montreal, Buffalo, the Rangers, or Carolina.

Right now, it'd be Montreal. They're nearly a lock to be the 6th seed. And despite losing the season series to the Habs, this might be the best matchup for the Bruins. The Canadiens have been a terribly streaky team. They're 6-6-1 since the Pacioretty/Chara incident. They're very fast, but they wilt against physical teams.

But the Bruins might not finish 3rd. They have a very good chance at earning the #2 seed. The Flyers are currently 2nd. They're 4-4-5 in their last 13, and have lost 4 straight. So the Bruins might face the 7th seed.

Which is currently Buffalo. The Sabres and Bruins have had mixed results against each other this year. And while you might feel confident about meeting Buffalo in the postseason again, remember one key fact: Thomas Vanek was injured in Game 2 of that series. And Vanek owns the Bruins. In 6 games against the Bruins, he's scored 4 goals, and added 3 assists this year. Not to mention Drew Stafford, who scored 7 times against the Bruins this year. And 6' 8" defenseman Tyler Myers will not be pushed around by any Bruin forward.

While the Bruins would be the favorites against Buffalo, it'd be a very tough series.

Then there's the Rangers, who are perhaps the worst matchup for the Bruins. The Rangers have an excellent goalie who has frequently frustrated the Bruins. They play disciplined defense. And now they have some guys who can score. I haven't felt good about a Rangers/Bruins game for 3 years now, and I don't want to see the Rangers somehow sneak into 7th and face the Bruins.

The longshot opponent would be Carolina. The Hurricanes are currently 9th, but have won 7 of 9 to get close. The B's won their season series with the Hurricanes 3-1. All three of those wins came within a 16 day span. Cam Ward isn't as good as he was in 2009, so I think the Bruins would win this series. But the odds of Carolina making it up to the 7th seed are so astronomically slim that it's hardly worth thinking about.

So, I'd prefer the Bruins met the Canadiens. Then the Sabres. Then the Rangers. If the Hurricanes make it, then they'd be better to play than Buffalo or New York.

Thursday, April 07, 2011


The Sox finally got a Quality Start. Jon Lester was superb, throwing 7 shutout innings, working his way out of what little trouble he found himself in. He just didn't get any support. And now the Red Sox are off to their worst start since 1945. And I'm starting to worry.

The bullpen once again failed the Sox. Give Cleveland credit for manufacturing a run, but Bard's inability to throw strikes helped Manny Acta do things like call for a squeeze play.

The only hitter in the lineup doing their job is Adrian Gonzalez. The Sox are getting baserunners here and there, but can't get hits to knock them in. They're now 7/44 (.159) with runners in scoring position this season. They're only hitting .181 as a team, so it's not like they're only struggling in clutch situations. They're struggling to hit in every situation.

Youkilis is pressing too hard. Maybe the thumb is still bothering him, but I think a combination of rust and pent up frustration is why he's swinging so freely, and why he's dropping balls in the field. Remember, he hadn't played a competitive game since August 2nd. He's not exactly mild mannered, either. I think he's trying too hard to force the hits.

The Sox are failing at even the little things. Darnell McDonald's moronically wide turn of 2nd base that ended this game is an excellent example. And Varitek can give all the excuses he wants, but he made a huge mistake last night in not tagging Buck.

The Red Sox need to turn things around at Fenway. It's Opening Day tomorrow, and time to start the season over again. Unfortunately, John Lackey is pitching. He faces Phil Hughes, who struggled in his first start.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo