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Friday, January 29, 2010

You can't just walk into Amway Arena expecting to win

The Celtics' three-game cage match started last night in Orlando and things looked great as Boston built a 16-point lead on the Magic.

Sadly this was just a prelude for an epic choke job in the fourth quarter that was capped off by Rashard Lewis' (game-high 23 points) layup with 1.3 seconds remaining.

Boston (29-14) had a great look at the buzzer but Rasheed Wallace (17 points) airballed a 3-pointer from the top of the key. Orlando (30-16) held on for the 96-94 win that the C's completely pissed away.

On the night that they were named to the Eastern Conference All-Star team, Paul Pierce (12 points) and Rajon Rondo (11 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds) didn't submit their best games by any means.

Spurred by Rasheed and 10 points from Eddie House, Boston's bench scored a season-high 41 points but it still wasn't enough to make up for subpar games from Kevin Garnett (6 points, 7 rebounds) and Kendrick Perkins (4 points, 3 rebounds).

Ray Allen was the only Celtic with what could be termed a nice stat line of 20 points on 8 of 12 shooting.

Dwight Howard had 19 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks for the Magic while Jameer Nelson scored 12 and J.J. Redick had 11 off the bench (including a clutch 3-pointer late in the fourth quarter).

It should not have come to that since Boston led 34-23 after the first quarter and 51-40 at the half. They still held the 11-point lead going into the fourth (62-51).

After it was over, Inside the NBA, which is by far the best NBA coverage, said that the Big Three had been 86-0 in games that they went into the fourth quarter with double-digit leads. So there is that.

The numbers indicated a close game since the C's made six more threes (12-6) but the Magic converted many more free throws (26-12). Orlando was also beastly on the boards (47-32), which is particularly surprising since Howard didn't go crazy and finally Boston was much more unselfish (22-8 assists).

I'd love to see the Celtics put it behind them and play great in Atlanta tonight but as I've said earlier in the season, nobody in the NBA has the Celtics' number or matches up with them as well as the Hawks. In the ATL on the second night of a back-to-back against Eastern Conference contenders makes the challenge that much tougher.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I'll take this starting five over anybody else's

It's a very big if, since they're aging faster than the Jonas Brothers, but when the Boston Celtics' starting five is healthy and on the court, I like their chances against anybody else in the NBA.

After losing three straight, the C's got KG back and no surprise, won their second consecutive game last night 95-89 over the Clippers.

It wasn't a pretty win since the game was delayed multiple times because of a slippery court (somewhere Red is smiling) but it was nice to get some revenge after the Celts lost in LA a few weeks ago on Baron Davis's buzzer-beater.

The defensive presence that Garnett brings is immeasurable but something which is not talked about ad-nauseum with him is how much he opens up the passing game for Boston offensively.

Paul Pierce led Boston (29-13) with a game-high 22 points, Garnett added 17 points and Rajon Rondo notched 16 points, 12 assists, seven rebounds and four steals. Ray Allen scored 15 and Kendrick Perkins posted nine points and 15 rebounds.

The Clippers (20-24) had six guys in double figures but nobody went off. Rasual Butler (who was a Celtic for about a minute) led LA with 17 points, Davis had 16 points and seven assists, Al Thornton added 12 points and Chris Kaman had 10 points and nine rebounds.

Former BC star Craig Smith (who could be a good NBA player if he got consistent minutes) scored 13 points off the bench and former Celtic bozo Ricky Davis added 12 points and two blunts smoked on the bench.

The Clippers led 19-17 after the first quarter and 44-43 at the half. Reversing their recent trend, the C's played well in the third quarter (21-15) and made enough plays in the fourth (31-30) to hold off the talented but helter skelter Clippers.

After a couple days of practice, Boston embarks on what I would nominate for the toughest four day stretch in the NBA this season: at Orlando on Thursday, at Atlanta on Friday and home against the Lakers on Sunday afternoon. They also go to the Wizards on Monday but we won't count that (please don't shoot me Gilbert, I'm just playing).

Friday, January 22, 2010

Will the Bruins ever win another game?

At this point, I'm just glad that I don't cover the Boston Bruins for a living. Those must be some (even more than usual) miserable sportswriters right about now.

The B's (23-18-8) rapid death spiral continued last night at the TD Garden as they lost 3-2 to the equally terrible but still more spunky Columbus Blue Jackets (20-24-9), 3-2.

Milan Lucic is finally starting to look himself, he had a great fight in the first period with Columbus tough guy Jared Boll, but his high sticking double minor late in the third (which was a bum call) turned into the deciding play.

Obviously you can't give a great team like the Blue Jackets a power-play opportunity like that as they cashed in when R.J. Umberger (outstanding name) tipped one in with 1:16 left.

Boston can't catch any sort of break at this point. They were up 1-0 in the first when Michael Ryder made one of his bi-weekly appearances with a goal 2:11 in from Trent Whitfield and Miroslav Satan.

Former Washington captain Chris Clark tied it up in the first period but the Bruins once again took the lead in the second period when Patrice Bergeron's long distance wrist shot found the back of the net. Daniel Paille and Zdeno Chara assisted.

Umberger had an earlier goal waved off in the second period (would have tied it at 2-2) since he kicked it in. Nice try Pele. Ultimately it didn't matter though since Antoine Vermette tied it in the third and then Umberger broke Bruins' fans black hearts with the late goal.

Tukkaa Rask (10-6-2) had 22 saves in the loss but as I've said all season long, goaltending is the least of Boston's worries.

The Bruins host Ottawa tomorrow afternoon in the teams' final meeting of the season.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

It's a good thing these games don't really matter

Yuck. The Celtics choked away a twelve-point lead last night at the Palace and lost to the woeful Pistons 92-86.

It was Boston's (27-13) third consecutive loss and the fifth in their last seven games. This was maybe the worst loss of the season so far since Detroit (15-26)-who recently lost 13 games in a row-is just an awful team, there's no way around it.

The centerpiece of the rebuilding Pistons is Rodney Stuckey and the 50 Cent look-alike has some game: he scored a game-high 27 points, with 11 rebounds and six assists.

Charlie Villanueva scored 19 points off the bench for Detroit while Jason Maxiell and Richard Hamilton scored 12 points apiece.

Paul Pierce got off to a hot start with 17 points in the first quarter but he was held to four points the rest of the way. Rajon Rondo added 21 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and four steals.

In his big return to Detroit Rock City, Rasheed Wallace tallied 16 points, seven rebounds and three steals but he didn't make any plays down the stretch when the Pistons started to run away with it.

The most interesting part of the game was Big Baby swearing at a clown Detroit fan that was courtside. It's good to see that Davis has really grown up since his injury at the start of the season.

(Fingers crossed) Kevin Garnett is supposed to return tomorrow night for the C's as they host the underrated Trailblazers. Portland star Brandon Roy is banged up with a hamstring injury so his status is probably up in the air too.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

PJ Brown is rolling over in his grave

It doesn't take a haughty degree from Harvard or M.I.T to figure out the formula for success for the Celtics. Without KG, they're pretenders; with KG, they're one of the NBA's best teams and a championship contender.

As Kevin Garnett sat out his eighth straight game, the Dallas Mavericks came into the TD Garden last night and beat the Celtics 99-90 behind 37 points from Dirk Nowitzki.

It was Boston's (27-12) third consecutive loss at home as they continue to play better on the road than at home (better road beef?).

Paul Pierce led the Celtics with 24 points, Ray Allen scored 21, Kendrick Perkins had 14 points and 12 rebounds and Rajon Rondo notched 12 assists. Rasheed Wallace added 11 points but when he got in foul trouble, the game shifted in Dallas' (27-14) favor.

The ageless and hairless Jason Kidd had 13 points and 17 assists, Shawn Marion added 16 points and eight rebounds, Erick Dampier scored 11 and Drew Gooden had 10 points off the bench.

The C's were up 25-20 after one quarter and 50-41 at the half but once Wallace went out in the third quarter, Glen Davis and Brian Scalabrine were forced to cover Nowitzki, advantage Mavericks.

Dallas outscored Boston 34-18 in the third and they pushed the lead to as much as 18 points in the fourth while Boston didn't have any type of comeback in them.

Dallas shot 57.4% for the game to Boston's 50.6%. The Celts continue to struggle at the line (8 for 16) while the Mavs (17 for 24) did enough to win.

With KG's possible return looming on Friday vs. the Blazers, the Celts have a very winnable game tomorrow night in Detroit against a garbage Pistons team. A blowout would be just what the Doc (Rivers) ordered.

Watching the Bruins slide back to complete irrelevance

It's not hard to pinpoint why the Bruins have struggled so much lately: they've had a ridiculous amount of injuries to numerous vital players. This is not a worthy excuse though; in professional sports, every team has injuries.

The lineup reconfigurations and Providence call-ups have not done anything to stop the ship from sinking as Boston lost 5-1 to Ottawa yesterday afternoon at the TD Garden, their fifth loss in their last sixth games.

It's hard to rank defeats but yesterday's lifeless effort was at the top of that invisible but still dubious list.

Ottawa (25-21-4) scored two in the second, two in the third and one in the third to chase Tim Thomas (6 saves, 3 goals allowed). Putting Tukkaa Rask (15 saves, 2 goals allowed) in goal didn't provide any spark since he can't help the pathetic group of forwards currently skating for the B's (23-17-8).

Boston had beaten Ottawa all four times they had played before yesterday but now the Senators are tied with them with 54 points and they they seem to be getting better heading into the teams' final meeting on Saturday back at the Garden.

Daniel Alfredsson had a hat trick for Ottawa and Mike Fisher had three assists. Daniel Paille prevented the shutout with a goal in the third period which cut it to 4-1 Senators.

A still hobbled (broken thumb) Patrice Bergeron returned to the lineup but Steve Begin, Marco Sturm and Byron Bitz didn't play due to various maladies.

The Bruins have today off before practice tomorrow and then the Columbus Blue Jackets come to Boston on Thursday night.

A season that started off with such high expectations (since they had the most points in the Eastern Conference last season) is quickly devolving into a battle with futility. At this point, the Olympic break can't come soon enough for this team.

Friday, January 15, 2010

It's too bad nobody saw this gem of a win

Without a doubt, I'm sure the only people in New England that saw the Bruins' thrilling 2-1 shootout win in San Jose last night were me, a few of my friends, hopeless alcoholics, drug addicts, strip club owners and bartenders. And that's a shame because wins like this, especially with the current hand they've been dealt, are rare indeed for the B's.

Tim Thomas played like the Vezina trophy winner of last season, stopping a season-high 41 shots, Zdeno Chara scored the only goal in the shootout and for one night, you could forget that we use to have Joe Thornton (a future MVP) and then we shipped him away for a bag of pucks and some broken sticks.

Daniel Paille gave Boston (23-16-7) a 1-0 lead in the second period after an assist from Shawn Thornton. San Jose (30-10-8) defenseman Rob Blake had the rebound of Paille's shot go off his skate and past Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov (30 saves).

It didn't take San Jose long to tie it as Thornton stuffed in a rebound, assisted by Dany Heatley and Boyle.

After a scoreless but very exciting third period and overtime session, it went to a shootout which Chara solved by cranking a slap shot from 10 feet away.

If the Bruins can manage at least a point tomorrow afternoon vs. the Kings, it'll be a .500 West Coast road trip. Joy.

Life without KG and Sheed is not fun

Pick an excuse: the Celts played the Bulls last night without Kevin Garnett or Rasheed Wallace and it was the sixth game in nine nights for Boston.

Whatever the reason, the Bulls (who had been blown out in their previous two meetings this season) looked like the team that gave the Celtics so much trouble in the first round of the playoffs last spring as they won 96-83 at the TD Garden.

Luol Deng scored a game-high 25 points, Derrick Rose added 17 points and eight rebounds while the world's ugliest man Joakim Noah posted 15 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks.

Rookie Taj Gibson played well for Chicago (17-20) notching 14 points and six rebounds and Kirk Hinrich scored 11.

Boston (27-11) got a very quiet 20 points, eight rebounds and six assists from Paul Pierce and 14 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks by Kendrick Perkins but nobody else (save for 11 points by Eddie House off the bench) bothered to show up for an obviously tired C's team.

The Bulls are certainly not as good as the Hawks but they fit the young, athletic team mold that is so clearly Boston's kryptonite.

Chicago jumped out to a 29-18 lead after the first quarter and 47-39 at the half and the C's could never really make a definitive run in the second half. Boston outscored Chicago 24-23 in the third quarter but the Bulls closed with a 26-20 fourth.

Missing 13 free throws (15 for 28) especially for a veteran team that normally shoots so well is inexcusable for the C's. Predictably the Bulls owned them on the glass (50-39) and had five more blocks (10-5).

Thankfully the Celts have a few days to relax at home as they prepare for the Mavericks, the second best team in the Western Conference (still frauds), who come to the Garden on Monday night.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Is Goldberg (the goalie) still alive?

As the Bruins embarked on a three-game West Coast road trip, I wondered why am I even going to watch these miserable games since I know the outcome (no wins)?

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results so I guess I'm insane for the Black and Gold.

Boston (22-16-7) actually played a very entertaining game (with two great fights) and showed a lot of heart-which is all you can ask for right now-but still lost 4-3 to the Ducks (21-19-7) last night at the Honda Center.

It was Anaheim's fifth win in a row as they rallied from a 3-2 deficit entering the third period.

Dan Sexton scored a power-play goal with 46 seconds left in the first period to give the Ducks the 1-0 lead at the first intermission.

In one of its most inspired periods of the season, the Bruins pumped in three second period goals, giving them a precarious 3-2 lead heading into the third.

Zdeno Chara started it off with a blast from the point, his fourth goal of the season, from David Krejci and Michael Ryder. Believe it or not, Big Z actually leads the Bruins in points despite the fact that he's having a pretty ho hum offensive season thus far.

A little over three minutes later, the B's grabbed the 2-1 lead as Matt Hunwick scored his sixth of the season from Mark Recchi and Marco Sturm.

Somebody named Matt Beleskey tied it up for Anaheim after B's goalie Tukkaa Rask (28 saves) fumbled with the puck behind the net. Puck-handling is most certainly not the talented Fin's strong suit.

Next, Sturm tipped home a wrist shot by Recchi. Miroslav Satan also assisted. Since the Bruins have absolutely no goal-scoring prowess (have I mentioned that before?) a vast majority of their goals come from tip-ins (hello Recchi) and rebounds around the net. As my friend likes to say, "it's all about mucking and grinding!" Just thought you'd like to know that.

Rask's crazy Tim Thomas-style deflected save fell basically on the goal line and Ryan Getzlaf pounced on it early in the third for the Ducks. Then Steve Eminger's first NHL goal turned out to be the game-winner as Boston could not get one more by Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller (27 saves).

Boston travels to San Jose tonight to take on former star Joe Thornton and his all-star team of studs. It could get ugly which is precisely why I'll watch.

The Situation should coach the Nets, it couldn't hurt

Well at least MTV's newest reality phenomenon, Jersey Shore is bringing the wonders of New Jersey to homes across the country. That has at least partially diverted attention away from the trainwreck, joke of a team that is the New Jersey Nets.

I don't know if I would call it a game, glorified scrimmage, summer league or preseason was more like it, but the Celts went down to the Izod Center last night and won 111-87.

If it wasn't over after the first quarter (38-22), it was time to call Vinny, Ronnie, Pauly D and the Situation at halftime (71-35) to see what they were up to since the Nets (3-35) were putting up less of a fight than your average Jersey boardwalk zoo creature.

Seven Celtics (27-10) scored 11+ points, led by Paul Pierce's game-high 24 points. Rajon Rondo had 11 points and 14 assists while Ray Allen scored 15, Kendrick Perkins had 12 points, eight rebounds and five blocks and even superscrub Brian Scalabrine notched 11 points. Scal started again since Rasheed Wallace is expected out for the week with a sore foot.

Glen Davis posted 13 points off the bench and Tony Allen (11 points) also made the most of his extended minutes.

The Nets (3-35) were led by Yi Jianlian's 19 points, Brook Lopez had 18 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks and Devin Harris scored 15.

As you could imagine, the numbers were almost as scary as J-Wow's skunk hair. The Celts shot 53.1% for the game (including 66% in the first quarter) to the Nets' 37.7%. The C's had 11 more rebounds (47-36), 17 more assists (30-13) and five more steals (9-4). The Nets actually made 14 more free throws (33-19) but that's about as memorable as Angelina's abbreviated stay in Seaside Heights.

Appropriately enough, the green and white bros get back at it tonight (right before two new episodes of Jersey Shore) back at home against the Bulls.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Atlanta: More than just world-famous strip clubs

How many more times do the Atlanta Hawks (24-13) have to beat the Boston Celtics before everyone can just admit that the Hawks own the C's?

While the Celtics take turns hanging out at the local senior centers with their peers, the Hawks have gone 3-0 against them this season, including last night's come-from-behind 102-96 win at the TD Garden.

Former Celtic Joe Johnson silenced the home crowd with a game-high 36 points while Jamal Crawford (17 points off the bench) continues to be one of the best pickups that nobody talks about.

After his best game of the season (a game-high 29 points Sunday in a win vs. the Raptors), Rasheed Wallace joined Boston's (26-10) neverending injury list with a sore foot. Kevin Garnett continues to be out for 10 to 14 days with his mysterious knee injury which is very worrisome if you were paying attention at all last season.

Without Sheed and KG, Brian Scalabrine had to start last night. And yes, I just puked all over my computer monitor when I wrote that. A guy that shouldn't be paid to play basketball started against a damn good team. Yikes.

Rajon Rondo (vote for Rondo!) continued to tear it up as he had 26 points and seven assists while playing 45 minutes. He deserves to make the All-Star game. Paul Pierce added 19 points, eight rebounds and five assists, Ray Allen scored 16 and Kendrick Perkins notched 11 points and nine rebounds.

Besides the masterful fourth quarter by the Hawks (25-16), the most notable part of the game was the reemergence of Glen Davis. After struggling for the last few weeks to get back his game, Davis looked good last night with 13 points in 28 minutes. He'll be a big factor this season since who knows how healthy KG and Sheed will be from here on out.

Josh Smith and Marvin Williams had 14 points apiece for Atlanta while Al Horford grabbed 12 rebounds.

This was a game Boston had in hand as they led 31-21 after one quarter and 55-46 at the half. The Hawks responded with a 31-25 third quarter which preceded the efficient fourth.

Johnson is one of the countless big names that will be a free agent this summer and it'll be interesting to see if the Celtics can make a run at their former draft pick. He's basically a younger Ray Allen. The problem is some team will probably throw a ridiculous offer at him that he can't pass up.

The C's shot a blistering 55.4% to Atlanta's 45.5%. The Hawks made nine more free throws (23-14), six more offensive rebounds (9-3), five more steals (7-2) and nine less turnovers (16-7). Cue every YMCA league basketball coach you ever had telling you about the importance of hustle and the little things that win games. You get the picture.

Boston travels to the Jersey Shore, not really but I wish, as they take on the Nets tomorrow night. If the Celts lose to the Nets (owners of three wins), then we'll have issues.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Ray Rice and the Ravens ruin my first Patriots playoff game

I knew the Patriots were not Super Bowl contenders this year but in my worst nightmares, I couldn't have envisioned the beatdown thrown on them yesterday by the Ravens 33-14 at Gillette Stadium in a Wild-Card game.

Baltimore set an NFL playoff record with 24 points in the first quarter which the Patriots could never recover from. Wes Welker, the Patriots' heart and soul sat in owner Robert Kraft's luxury box during the game while Brady might as well have taken a seat alongside his injured teammate since he was utterly useless.

Brady finished his up and down 2009 campaign 23 of 42 for 154 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions. Until next season starts, we'll be left to wonder if Brady and the Patriots will ever regain their dominance of the last decade anytime soon.

This wasn't all Tom's fault though since aside from ageless Kevin Faulk (89 total yards) and rookie wide receiver Julian Edelman (6 catches, 44 yards, 2 touchdowns), nobody for New England came to play (and I hate to fall back on that stupid cliche but it couldn't be more fitting for yesterday's explosive-diarrhea performance from the home team).

Ray Rice (22 carries, 159 yards) took the first play from scrimmage 83 yards for a touchdown and the Ravens (still led by everybody's favorite murderer Ray Lewis) had no trouble from there. Joe Flacco, who is still completely average, only had to attempt 10 passes on the day, completing four. The running game (234 yards) and defense (four turnovers) were that dominant.

Terrell Suggs forced a fumble by Brady on New England's third play and the Ravens used the short field to take a 14-0 lead on Le'Ron McLain's 1-yard run.

After both teams punted, Brady threw an interception to Chris Carr, who returned it three yards to the Patriots' 25. The Ravens once again cashed in on the short field and Rice had an easy 1-yard TD run for the 21-0 Baltimore lead.

Just two plays later, Brady was picked off again, this time by Ed Reed who returned it 25 yards before lateraling it to teammate Dewan Landry for another 25 yards. New England's defense held the Ravens to a field goal even though they started in the red zone (at the 9) but it didn't matter at that point.

Gillette Stadium was stunned as there was zero chance of the Patriots mounting a comeback without Welker.

After a muffed punt, Edelman provided a little hope early in the second quarter with a 6-yard touchdown catch but Randy Moss (5 catches, 48 yards) didn't provide the deep threat and big plays that his team needed to win a playoff game. I can't completely dump on Moss (since the rest of New England will over the next six months) but he couldn't have been more of a fraud at the key points in this season.

Billy Cundiff's 23-yard field goal made it 27-7 Baltimore early in the third quarter before Edelman closed it to 27-14 on a 1-yard touchdown catch. All that did was ensure that his jersey will be a hot-seller in the offseason.

Willis McGahee closed it out with a 3-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter and now Baltimore is off to play at Indy on Saturday night in the divisional round.

This brutal loss will leave a lasting impression on the 2009 Patriots season. They only had one true road win and it was against the Bills so that barely counts. At various points, their defense and offense both sputtered badly and coach Bill Belichick lost some of his genius mystique by making some head-scratching calls (most famously vs. the Colts).

New England needs to spend some money in the offseason (first and foremost by bringing Vince Willfork back) and draft well so that they can rejoin the NFL's elite. Now, they're just a team that's good enough to win a bad division and go one-and-done in the playoffs. The dynasty is over folks, get over it.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Party on Wayne, Party on Garth

By attending last night's Bruins-Blackhawks game at the TD Banknorth Garden, I was able to see what a Stanley Cup contender looks like up close.

Chicago (31-10-3) fell behind 2-0 less than halfway through the first period but didn't flinch as they rattled off five straight goals en route to a 5-2 win.

The Blackhawks came in the with the NHL's best record and it was quite refreshing to see a team that can roll out four solid lines, defensemen that can skate and love to join the rush and strong goaltending. In short, while I was obviously rooting for the Bruins (22-14-7), you have to appreciate greatness and I wouldn't be surprised if the Blackhawks make it even further in the playoffs than last spring (Western Conference Finals). This was a case of the Bruins simply not having the horses to match up with another team.

The game got off to an ominous start for Bruins fans as top-line center (and the only above-average offensive player) Marc Savard crumpled along the boards and left the game with a leg injury. He'll have an MRI today.

Blake Wheeler continued his superb play of late as he tipped home a Derek Morris shot for a power-play goal and a 1-0 Bruins lead. Johnny Boychuk also assisted on that strike.

The good vibes continued when new guy Miroslav Satan scored his first for Boston, a snap shot from in close on Blackhawks goalie Antti Niemi (19 saves). Wheeler assisted on that goal. It was much earlier than usual but the Bruins' two-goal ceiling had been reached and therefore the remaining 52 minutes were quite predictable.

Duncan Keith, a fantasy stud and one of the NHL's best defensemen cut it to 2-1 with a laser slap shot from the point. Before the first period was over, Chicago tied it up as fourth-line forward Tomas Kopecky scored on tic-tac-toe passing.

Two more goals in the second period by the Blackhawks (Andrew Ladd tapping one in after Boychuk couldn't clear it from the crease and a screen shot by Keith) led to Tim Thomas (20 saves) getting the hook from Claude Julien in favor of Tuukka Rask. It wasn't Thomas' fault but it was probably best to save him from further damage. The game was over at that point.

After the burst at the beginning of the game, Boston failed to have almost any other quality scoring chances (getting outshot 36-21) and Patrick Kane stopped beating up cab drivers for a minute to score one last goal for Chicago late in the third period.

The B's host the Rangers tomorrow afternoon and Savard has already been ruled out, meaning his injury is probably very serious. Ugh.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

When will the misery end for the Bruins?

Any thoughts of some positive carryover effect from the 2010 Winter Classic were quickly extinguished last night in New York as the Bruins sleepwalked through the first two periods, down 2-0 at Madison Square Garden to the average at best Rangers.

Boston (21-13-7) made it interesting by scoring their requisite two goals late in the third period but Tuukka Rask (32 saves) pulled a Tim Thomas by giving up a cellulite-soft goal to Chris Higgins with 1:29 left in the game.

Even worse, the B's lost Patrice Bergeron to a thumb injury earlier in the game when Dennis Wideman hit him with a slap shot. Yup, it's been that type of season. Their three best offensive players: Marc Savard, Milan Lucic and Patrice Bergeron will have all missed significant time in the first half of the season.

Two bums scored for the Rangers (20-17-5), Ales Kotalik had a power-play goal in the first period and Erik Christensen made it 2-0 in the second period.

Matt Hunwick's short-handed goal with 5:27 left in the game put some sparks in the Bruins' skates. Blake Wheeler and David Krejci-two of the team's biggest underachievers-assisted on that goal. 1:26 later, Wheeler tied it up with a snap shot from the slot. Michael Ryder and Hunwick assisted on the goal that looked sure to produce at least one point.

Thomas should be back in net tonight as the Bruins travel to Ottawa. They've beaten the Senators the first three times they've played this season, we'll see if that trend continues. Miroslav Satan is expected to be in the lineup (haha, yes our offense is that bad) with Bergeron shelved anywhere from 2-6 weeks.

Bergeron's injury is certainly not on the Wes Welker level of heartbreak but after having just made the Canadian Olympic team and having a great overall season (Claude Julien called him Boston's best player this season), Bergeron deserved a better fate. This is a guy whose career almost ended with multiple severe concussions, it seemed like he finally was catching some breaks.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Well there goes the 1% chance of the Patriots doing anything in the playoffs

On the first Patriots drive yesterday afternoon at Houston's Reliant Stadium, New England wide receiver Wes Welker planted to make a cut and his left knee buckled. He was down for a long time with the trainers, Tom Brady and Randy Moss huddled around him, slowly went to the sidelines and finally was carted off to the locker room.

And with that, the Patriots' Nicole Richie thin Super Bowl chances completely bit the dust.

The Texans (9-7) were down 27-13 in the fourth quarter and rallied to win 34-27 but that ended up being completely irrelevant since the Texans still didn't make the playoffs and New England (10-6) got the number 3 seed in the AFC thanks to the Bengals' diaper full of Indian food performance last night at the Meadowlands.

The Patriots host the Ravens next Sunday at Gillette, 1pm.

The million dollar question heading into the regular season finale was how much would Tom Brady and the other Patriots stars play? If you've been paying attention the last decade, you'd know that Bill Belichick hates to sit key players, at any time. Regardless of how crazy that may seem.

As it turned out, Belichick wasn't even sure what to do yesterday since Brady played until late in the second quarter, was pulled for Brian Hoyer and then started the second half and played most of the second half. And what was the point? Seeing Welker get hurt (albeit on a freak accident, a non-contact play) reminded everyone of the sheer brutality of football.

With no bye week and no depth at receiver, wouldn't it make sense to give Brady and Moss the rest of the day off? Apparently not. You can say Brady had to work in a game situation without Welker but I'm not buying it.

Julian Edelman (10 catches, 103 yards), the man who will have to fill in for Welker, did an admirable job but can he be counted on in the playoffs?

The Texans scored on their opening drive as Matt Schaub (303 yards, 2 touchdowns) threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jeff Dreessen.

Fred Taylor tied it up with a four-yard touchdown run. Stephen Gostkowski gave New England a 10-7 lead in the second quarter with a 51-yard field goal.

The Patriots' defense made a goalline stand but on the next play Taylor fumbled in the endzone and former Chief great Bernard Pollard (who ripped up Brady's knee) recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchdown.

Gostkowski tied it before the half with a 43-yard kick.

Rookie cornerback Darius Butler made the play of the game in the third quarter as he corralled a tipped pass and returned it 91 yards for a score.

When Taylor had an 11-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter, it looked like the Patriots might win a road game against a decent team.

Jacoby Jones' 8-yard touchdown catch from Schaub cut it to 27-20 Patriots and rookie running back Arian Foster (20 carries, 119 yards) took over with a 1-yard score and a 3-yard touchdown.

The last Texans touchdown was made possible by a terrible interception from Brady. Pressured by Mario Williams, Brady threw it up for grabs to Sam Aiken.

Going into the Texans game, I was feeling good that the Pats could win their home playoff game and then give the Colts and maybe even the Chargers a scare in the next round. Now, I'm not sure what to think. It's been a terribly disappointing season with one distraction and costly mistake after another.

Since I'm going to the Ravens game (my first playoff action), I'm simply hoping for a win and then we'll worry about the next step.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Winter Classic 2010: lived up to the hype and then some

I shelled out my hard-earned (haha) money for a ticket to the 2010 Winter Classic and I'll say it was one of the best investments I've ever made.

I would probably have a different opinion if the game ended in a 1-0 Flyers win (which looked like a certainty) but the Bruins' incredible comeback for a 2-1 overtime win capped off one of the best sporting events I've ever seen, let alone attended.

My buddy Jim and I sat in the bleachers under the scoreboard in center field. For a Sox game, we would have had some of the worst seats in Fenway but yesterday it worked since we were up high and therefore had good sightlines. Money baseball seats (first base, third base lines) weren't good because they were too low meaning most of the action was impossible to see.

Flyers' season-ticket holders had the chance to get tickets to the game and there were a ton of Philly fans decked out in Flyers gear. Haha, I even saw a guy wearing a white Randall Cunningham jersey. I always wonder what goes through people's heads when they were another sport's jersey to something. Bizarre.

There were hours of pomp and circumstance, some might say needless pagentry but for the most part, Boston, the NHL and the Bruins and Flyers got it right. Bobby Orr and Bobby Clarke-the greatest Bruin and Flyer-shook hands at center ice and the teams came out to fireworks after the Dropkick Murphys played "Shipping Up to Boston" on a stage near home plate. Somewhere in rehab, Steven Tyler realizes the huge opportunity he missed out on.

There was no scoring in the first period but Daniel Carcillo and Shawn Thornton brought some excitement as they had the first fight in Winter Classic history.

Philadelphia (19-18-3) opened the scoring with a gift of a goal 4:42 into the second period. Bruins goalie Tim Thomas (24 saves) went to cross check Scott Hartnell in the back but he forgot that Danny Svret had the puck as he shot it into the wide open net for his first NHL goal.

With Michael Leighton (24 saves) poised for a shutout and Boston's (21-12-7) impotent offense mucking and grinding but not much else, Mark Recchi finally gave Bruins fans something to cheer about as he scored the 1000th tip-in of his career. With just 2:18 left in the game, Recchi set up shop in front of the crease and tipped in David Krejci's perfect feed. It was a power-play goal also assisted by Derek Morris.

The Bruins rode that momentum into overtime and topped it as Marco Sturm scored his team-leading 14th goal of the season and what he called "the most memorable goal he'll ever score." It was also a tip-in, this time from Patrice Bergeron with another assist to Zdeno Chara.

In another great moment, immediately following the game Team USA's roster for the Olympics was announced one by one with little kids wearing the jerseys of the players. The last player they named was Thomas and he skated back onto the ice with a Team USA jersey and full pads on. I'm too old and cynical to get sucked into most cheeseball stuff but this was awesome.

Thomas has never played in the Olympics and he was a journeyman that really found his game a couple seasons ago. To see him skating through the line of kids, high-fiving was one of the best moments in sports that I've ever seen.

Boston still desperately needs someone to score goals for them (haha, they picked up Miroslav Satan today) and Thomas is prone to give up a dud goal in almost every game but you can accept that because he also plays great and makes stops most others can't make routinely.

The Winter Classic is a spectacular event for a league that needs moments like that to remain relevant. I can't say enough good things about my time at Fenway watching the Flyers and Bruins.