Talking about both Boston winter sports teams…Celtics and Bruins. The simple answer to the question? Not quite. But wins on Friday night for both gives them both some hope. For one of the squads more than the other, but we will get to that.
If I had written this piece before Friday night, I would have entitled it “Life Support?”. Because it had seemed at that point that the playoffs were over for both teams before they had even really begun. Prospects were indeed bleak. One win apiece doesn’t necessarily change that. But things may be looking up.
The Bruins had the most exciting win of the two. Took them until double overtime to get it done. And won by someone who most people had never heard of…Sean Kuraly. 8 regular season games for the B’s with one assist. 2 playoff games with no points. Averaged less than 10 minutes a game in those 10 contests. Then in Game 5, back in for a benched Ryan Spooner, over 28 minutes played and 2 goals? What?!
Of course the B’s should have won in the first overtime, but let’s not even go there.
This series with Ottawa has been a dogfight, no question. The Senators have outscored the B’s 12-11. 3 OT games out of 5. A bounce here or there and the B’s could be in the lead actually.
Do I think the win Friday will spur the Bruins to victory in the series? No, I don’t. I’m thinking they will actually lose Game 6 Sunday (of course making my Ottawa 4-2 series win prediction come true!).
I just don’t think the B’s have the horses. For as much as the Game 5 win will pump their spirits and probably do wonders for them mentally, the physical aspect cannot be ignored. How much do they have left in the tank? About 39 hours after the finish of Game 5, they will lace them up for Game 6. David Krejci, who wasn’t healthy in the first place, left last game early with another injury. Hard to believe he will suit up for the next one. Brandon Carlo, Torey Krug and Adam McQuaid presumably are still out.
The defense is the real key here. It’s amazing they have only allowed 12 goals in the series with some of the characters on the blue line. Tommy Cross had to play in one game! Yeah, Ottawa is no offensive juggernaut for sure. And Tuukka Rask has had his “7 million dollar goalie” moments. He has not played as well as people will lead you to believe…and admittedly part of that has been because of the rotating defensmen around him. But he was absolutely fantastic for at least the second half of Game 5 though, no question.
Back to the defense though, Zdeno Chara played over 36 minutes Friday and is averaging almost 30 for the series. 40 years old and still a good player. But…that’s some serious mileage so far. Charlie McAvoy? He may have plenty of juice for Game 6, but can we guarantee he keeps playing the way he has been? Perhaps the intensity in the NHL playoffs will wear him down a bit? And Joe Morrow played almost 30 minutes Friday. Joe Morrow? Seems he played pretty well, but can we count on that going forward?
For the Bruins, great win in Game 5. But I see that as the last hurrah. Unless Brad Marchand finally decides to show up…
On to the Celtics…
Now this one is a different story. Game 1 disappointment, Game 2 atrocity. Then a Game 3 rebound on the road. Though a blown 20 point lead early doesn’t help matters. Even if they still won by 17.
I don’t love the Celtics’ chances overall for the entire playoffs. But I do think they come back and win this series. And no, not just cuz Rajon Rondo is likely done for the series. Rondo has (had) clearly stepped up his game for this series. And I didn’t think “National TV Rondo” would show up for the series. So I was wrong. Wasn’t the first time and won’t be the last.
The Celtics, despite their flaws, and despite the personal situation Isaiah Thomas is still going through, are simply a better overall team than the Bulls.
Jimmy Butler will get his. Dwayne Wade will do enough. Robin Lopez, unfortunately, will probably still do OK against any of the Celtics’ “bigs”. But can the rest of the Bobby Portis’, Jerian Grant’s and Paul Zipser’s keep doing what they are doing? Maybe. But I’m not counting on it.
This Celtic team is not a championship team by any means. Many moves still have to be made to keep on that path. We’ve been through all this before. But they are too good to drop a first round series to a team that barely made the playoffs. I would have even said that if there was still a healthy Rondo to deal with.
Now that it is 2-1, the series becomes more manageable, even if Game 4 is in Chicago.
I can’t say that I thought inserting Gerald Green into the starting lineup in Game 3 was the perfect answer. But it didn’t hurt. Brad Stevens will have to continue to mix and match to find solutions. And despite his putrid career playoff record, I somehow have faith that he will. For this round anyway.
I see a C’s win in Game 4, but still a 6-7 game series, probably 7. It won’t be easy. But at least winning Game 3 gave them a shot to get back in this thing. And sure, their 3-point shooting in Game 3 was off the charts. I hate all the threes, but that’s their game. I expect more of the same going forward.
In any event, it makes for a good day of Sunday viewing. Along with the Boston Red Sox trying to actually win a game in Baltimore. But that’s a story for a different day…
…or did they? Talking about the Boston Bruins avoiding the Washington Capitals in Round One of the Stanley Cup Playoffs which begin tonight. You know the same Capital team that had the best record in the NHL…by 7 points. Seems like a good idea on the surface.
But now they are up against the Ottawa Senators. A Senator team that had a mere 3 more points than an honestly mediocre Bruin team. And 20 fewer points than the Capitals.
Should be fine, no?
Problem is, Ottawa took all 4 games against the B’s this year. Two by 2 goals and Two by 1…so not necessarily blowouts. But the B’s were swept nonetheless.
Of course, they were swept this season by Washington too, so maybe that doesn’t matter.
In any event, after missing the playoffs the last two years, it is great to see them back in this year. The team went 18-9 under Bruce Cassidy and showed a little more life after he took over. They needed every one of those wins/points, as Tampa Bay and the New York Islanders both each finished with only one less point than the B’s and were on the outside looking in.
Say what you want about the situation. Claude Julien is a very good coach. But Cassidy got them on a roll. The coaching change spurred the playoff run. There simply isn’t any disputing that. But I’ve ranted about this enough in the past.
Back to the Senators.
Of course the B’s have a better chance against Ottawa than they do against Washington. But do they really have a chance against anyone this year?
Despite the late season success, the Bruins remain a flawed team. No secret there.
And now…the injuries. Torey Krug plays every game this year, then in Game 81 goes down. Last I saw, he was expected to miss the entire series. Rookie Brandon Carlo plays all 82 games himself…and goes down himself in that one. Last I saw, he is definitely missing Game 1 and who knows how much more. Noel Acciari? Yeah, you may say he is kind of a bit player. And he probably is. But he has been playing well lately and seeing more minutes. He will be out for Game 1. Jimmy Hayes, he is…well, who really cares about that stiff…
As for Krug and Carlo, there goes 2 of your 6 regular defensemen. When your defense is already suspect, that’s a tough pill to swallow. Say what you want about Krug’s actual defense…and I do…but he is a key part of the power play and obviously provides some offense from the blue line. Carlo is a kid and has his ups and downs. But he had a pretty good year for a 20-year-old in my estimation.
That leaves a 40-year-old Zdeno Chara, still relatively effective for the most part, but also playing waaaaaay too many minutes. Also Kevan Miller and Adam McQuaid…two somewhat useful guys, but you don’t need both of them. And they aren’t exactly stud D-men either. Rounding things out among the regulars are John-Michael Liles and Colin Miller. I don’t know if Cassidy has lost confidence with Colin over the last stretch leading to his healthy scratches. Or if it’s rest. Or it’s to get Liles some action before the playoffs. Or for the veteran presence. But it concerns me. I’d take Colin over Liles any day of the week. And Carlo didn’t need rest, so why would Colin? No matter, they will both be in the lineup it appears. Not necessarily a good thing.
That leaves one spot open. Joe Morrow? Nah. I’ve been looking on milk cartons for his face. Makes that Tyler Seguin trade look even better, eh? The ONE guy you wanted to pan out (since Loui Eriksson is what he is and is now gone anyway, Reilly Smith the same and then they turned him into Jimmy F’n Hayes and Matt Fraser appears to have been out of the league for 2 years), apparently will also be gone over the summer. Awesome.
The wild card on the back-end? Last year’s first round pick, Charlie McAvoy. Since they burned a year on his entry-level contract by signing him right before the playoffs, he will be in uniform tonight. What to expect? No clue. Kid is 19 years old, fresh out of college and has played 4 games in Providence (2 assists). Has a world of talent everyone tells me, but is he ready? No idea. Carlo started the year at 19 years old. But he played all of last year in Providence. And played a full year in Boston this year. Defense is hard, man. Tall task. But I guess I’d rather throw him in there than Tommy Cross though. We will see what happens.
The offense? Well, no Acciari and Hayes, but Marchand will be back from suspension. As long as he keeps his stick out of other players’ nuts, he should be a factor. Should. You know the rest of the names…David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron, David Backes, David Krejci, Ryan Spooner et al. It’d be nice if Frank Vatrano showed up for this series however. He hasn’t scored in quite some time it seems. And if he’s not scoring…
The wild card on offense? JFK! Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson. By the way, that will likely be the ONLY time I spell that name out in its entirety. What to expect? Again, no clue. 21-year-old kid, fresh out of college. His first year of his entry-level deal was burned too, so hopefully he can add something. Played 8:25 in his one game at the pro level this year. But…he can’t hurt if they play him on the third line with Spooner.
I haven’t seen any updates…but I’m guessing the lines look something like this: Marchand-Bergeron-Backes; Stafford-Krejci-Pastrnak; Vatrano-Spooner-Karlsson; Beleskey-Moore-Nash. Not horrible. But it’d be nice if a couple of the above woke up. I have no idea what the F happened to Beleskey. He doesn’t have to score a ton of goals. But if he returned to the 2015-16 Beleskey, that wouldn’t be too much to ask, would it?
For the Bruins, the series will come down to how the defense gels and plays in front of Tuukka Rask. We all know that Tuuks plays better with a better D corps in front of him (what goaltender doesn’t?). We also know he isn’t the type of goalie who “steals” a lot of games, like his predecessor Tim Thomas used to. Rask has his moments. But he is not a 7 million dollar a year goalie. You’ve heard me say that enough. As my cohort, The Thinking Frog, likes to say: “Tuukaa is as soft as puppy poo.” That about sums it up. But he has played better after Cassidy called him out a bit. As long as he doesn’t get the sniffles and has to bail on a game (never rule that out), I expect him to be at least decent in the series. But if the D is porous with all the player uncertainty, then there is not much he can do about that.
Ottawa may be brutal to watch, with their defensive style and all. But they can be beat. Unfortunately, not this time. The B’s will not get swept. I say 4-2 Ottawa. And then keep implementing the supposedly talented kids over the summer…
Donnie Hockey actually came through!! Things must be looking up!!
So Don Sweeney pretty much did what the Blowhard wanted him to do at the deadline. All Sweens did was trade a 6th round pick for a couple of months of Drew Stafford.
Some people may not even like that, since Sweeney traded away yet another pick. But it’s a 6th rounder. Sure you can get a Bob Sweeney or Mike Krushelnyski in that round. And maybe Anton Blidh and/or Zane McIntyre turn into something. But the list of “ne’er made its” is looooong. And yes, I totally looked all that up.
Plus, Sweeney has a slew of young talent (we hope) that has already been drafted or acquired and at some point at least some of those guys will have to be implemented into the mix. So who cares about the 6th round pick?
The most important thing is that he wasn’t blinded by the great record under Bruce Cassidy and pretend that this team was a player or two away from a Stanley Cup Championship run, give up too many young players and/or more picks…and then either not make the playoffs or lose in the first round. Would have been yet another black mark against him.
I’m sure he listened to both buy and sell situations. If he didn’t, he’s not doing his job. But thankfully, he did not pull the trigger on buying. I actually am ok with him also not completely selling at this point. As discussed previously, the edge of the roster guys weren’t going to bring you much anyway. The more talented players on this roster seemed to have been re-energized some with the coaching change. And it may behoove the team to keep a guy like Zdeno Chara for next year, to be a kind of “coach on the ice”…especially for the significantly reduced cap hit. Let’s ride this thing out this year as is, have no illusions of where the finish line is, then tinker with things over the summer.
To me, this was the best case scenario.
As for Stafford? I can’t say I have followed his seemingly less than illustrious 144 game Winnipeg Jet career. But I do remember when he was a Buffalo Sabre he always seemed to play well against the Bruins. Although Jimmy Hayes has played better since Cassidy took over, he still is playing only 8-9 minutes a night. So the coaching staff can’t be trusting him THAT much. Stafford would probably qualify as an upgrade, no?
Stafford would also seem to qualify a sort of “Peter Cehlarik”-type of insurance. Don’t get me wrong, in my eyes, Cehlarik has played pretty well with David Krejci and David Pastrnak. I like what I’ve seen thus far. But he’s just a kid. He hasn’t scored in his 8 career NHL games. And as the playoff race gets tighter, if he isn’t producing offensively on the second line, I can see him back in Providence (instead of buried on the 4th line or a healthy scratch) as Cassidy leans on the veterans more. Unfair? Perhaps. But all bets are off if the team is actually trying to make the playoffs. Which I presume they are. And I know, Stafford is technically a right wing and Cehlarik a left wing. But those types of things always work themselves out.
Seems to me that Stafford is a solid, if unspectacular acquisition. At a reasonable cost. No problems there.
So I applaud you Don Sweeney!! I’m not sure I’ve ever said anything positive about Donnie Hockey since he took over the GM chair. I suppose there is a first time for everything though, right?