Sunday, May 19, 2013
Even the best goaltenders in the NHL have off-days as Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist (27 saves) can attest to after a 5-2 Bruins win in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals this afternoon at TD Garden. This one was more wide open from the start than Game 1 with Boston leading 3-2 after two periods and they added two more goals in the third for a 2-0 series lead. Game 3 is Tuesday (7:30 p.m., NBCSN) at Madison Square Garden and it's not hyperbole to say that New York faces a must-win.
Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask (35 saves) played better than his more heralded counterpart for the second game in a row. Both of these teams make it hard on themselves at times when it comes to goal-scoring but so far this series, you wouldn't know it by the way that Boston has scored eight goals in two games.
When the B's are playing at their peak level, they get contributions from all four lines and all their defensemen. It doesn't get much more spread out than today where Boston had goals from three different lines plus another pair of goals from defensemen.
In a series with such outstanding goaltenders and pathetic power plays, I think scoring first is more important than usual. Boston has done it in both games so I don't think it's a total coincidence that they lead the series 2-0. Torey Krug scored his second goal in as many games at 5:28 of the first period. He showed incredible hands to dig the puck out of his skates then shoot it past Lundqvist, Nathan Horton and David Krejci had the assists.
New York answered 2:33 later as Ryan Callahan outraced Dougie Hamilton and skated in a breakaway which he coolly finished by Rask. Boston scored the first goal in each frame as Gregory Campbell (first goal of the playoffs) made it 2-1 at 2:24 of the second period with a sweet backhander. Krug and Adam McQuaid had the assists as Campbell was able to get to the rebound off a Ranger skate.
Once again, the Rangers quickly responded as Rick Nash woke up from his slumber to score his first goal of the postseason. It was a great goal-scorer's move too as he got past Chara then ripped a low, hard shot into the corner 56 seconds after Campbell's goal.
Skating 4-on-4, Johnny Boychuk (3rd goal of the playoffs) scored what turned out to be the game-winner at 12:08 of the second period. Patrice Bergeron started the play by winning a faceoff back to Marchand who found Boychuk for a wrister. Bergeron also screened Lundqvist.
The roof began to cave in on New York 26 seconds into the third period as Marchand scored a similar goal to his overtime winner in Game 1. He went to the net and Bergeron found him for the tip in, Matt Bartkowski had the second assist on Marchand's second goal of the postseason.
I thought the Bruins had the worst power play in the universe until I saw the Rangers. New York was 0 for 5 on the man advantage today, making them 2 for 36 in the postseason and 0 for 21 on the road. Haha how is that possible? When the B's went up by two, I felt confident and after Milan Lucic went beast mode right at Lundqvist and knocked in his own rebound at 12:39 (his third goal of the playoffs), I knew it was all over. Krejci and Dougie Hamilton had the assists.
The Rangers know how to comeback from a 0-2 deficit, in fact they did it against the Capitals in the first round. However, it will be very hard to do that again especially in the following series. That's why Game 3 is so important for both teams: the Bruins can put themselves in great shape with another win or they'll let New York climb right back into the series.
Friday, May 17, 2013
Slowly but surely the Red Sox are starting to get their mojo back. They were down to their last strike but rallied for a 4-3 win last night in Tampa Bay then tonight they once again made a comeback that resulted in a solid win: 3-2 over the Twins in 10 innings at Target Field.
Jonny Gomes' sacrifice fly scored Dustin Pedroia (who made a couple outstanding defensive plays) with the winning run in the 10th for Boston (25-17 overall, 12-7 away). Koji Uehara was summoned for his first save opportunity with the Red Sox since Junichi Tazawa pitched two innings last night in Tampa Bay. Uehara got the job done with a 1-2-3 10th with two strikeouts against Minnesota (18-20 overall, 9-11 home).
Boston has won their last three games and they improved to 3-1 in extra innings this season. They are also 3-1 on this current road trip.
Clay Buchholz received his third straight no decision but he should deserved to snap that streak with a win. At least his team found a way to come out on top even if they didn't help his own statistics. Buchholz went seven innings, allowing two earned runs on four hits with nine strikeouts and three walks. When the Red Sox have a guy pitching this well, they basically have to win every start he makes. Through the first month and a half of the season, Buchholz is on a short list of the best pitchers in MLB with Mets youngster Matt Harvey, Diamondbacks rookie Patrick Corbin, Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw and Mariners ace Felix Hernandez
Twins starter Vance Worley pitched well (6 innings, 1 run, 6 hits, 1 strikeout, 3 walks) but Boston's bullpen was better than Minnesota's and that was the main difference in the final outcome. Andrew Miller went 1.2 perfect innings with three strikeouts, Alex Wilson (1-0) got the last out in the ninth which was enough for his first MLB win then Uehara closed it out.
Former Twins great David Ortiz (3 for 4, walk) drove in Daniel Nava (2 hits, walk) with an RBI single in the first inning. Pedro Florimon must love playing the Red Sox since he hit his second homer of the season-both against Boston-a two-run shot in third which gave Minnesota a 2-1 lead. The Red Sox tied it in the seventh on Jacoby Ellsbury's (stolen base) RBI single.
I wasn't really paying close attention when it happened last week but the Twins won three of four games at Fenway Park. Truth be told, Minnesota is not good so Boston can't let something like that happen again this weekend. Ryan Dempster (2-4) has a chance tomorrow night (7:10 p.m., NESN) to clinch the series for the Red Sox against Scott Diamond (3-3)-a distant cousin of former WCW star Diamond Dallas Page.
Thursday, May 16, 2013
Brad Marchand was mostly invisible in the first round series against the Maple Leafs. He had three assists, including a helper on Patrice Bergeron's series clinching OT tally in Game 7 but for the most part, he didn't play like himself. That's precisely why Bruins fans have to be psyched with what they saw from Marchand in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals tonight at TD Garden as he scored the game-winner in OT for a 3-2 Boston win over the Rangers. Game 2 is Sunday afternoon (3 p.m., NBC) back at the Garden.
Anything can happen in overtime but it wouldn't be wrong to say that the B's deserved this after David Krejci and Johnny Boychuk hit the crossbar and post respectively in the third period then Boston dominated on a power play in the extra session but couldn't beat Henrik Lundqvist (45 saves). Boychuk even hit the post again which made you wonder if it wasn't their night. In what had to be one of the only odd man rushes of the entire tightly contested game, Marchand redirected Patrice Bergeron's centering pass at 15:40 (2nd longest game in these playoffs). Zdeno Chara had the second assist.
The first period was dull and scoreless but things started to pick up in the second period before a truly wild third period. Chara snapped Lundqvist's shutout streak at 152:23 when his shot somehow eluded the Vezina Trophy nominee (he won it last year too) and trickled past him at 12:23 of the second. David Krejci and Nathan Horton had the assists, continuing their strong playoffs.
New York scored a backbreaking goal with 1.3 seconds left in the frame as Ryan McDonagh's blast from the point found a hole by Tuukka Rask (33 saves). The Rangers used the momentum from that goal to bag another one as Derek Stepan beat Rask with a one-timer just 14 seconds into the third. Truthfully, that was one Rask would like to have back but that only made him even with Lundqvist.
No worries, rookie Torey Krug has been sent here to solve Boston's power play woes and help them win another Cup. Haha or something like that. Playing in his first career NHL playoff game, Krug scored a power play goal at 2:55 from Dougie Hamilton and Marchand. This was a man's goal, not a lucky bounce or break. After Hamilton walked it along the blue line, he passed it to Krug who hammered it home.
New York survived an interference penalty on Derek Dorsett in overtime but that man advantage seemed to really get Boston into attack mode. They peppered the Rangers with shots in OT (16-5) so it felt right for the Hockey Gods that they finished the job.
This game was the grind that everyone expected and the rest of the series should be more of the same. Since the Bruins and Rangers play similar styles and each has great goaltenders while sometimes struggling to score goals, expect plenty of one-goal, low-scoring affairs. After both teams went seven games in the first round, you can bet they'll both be happy to have an extra day off before Game 2. Time to rest their weary legs.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
He will never make a Pro Bowl, an All-Pro team or many highlights on Sportscenter but Patriots fans could see over the last few seasons that Kyle Love had developed into a solid defensive tackle in the NFL. That's why the news that he was released by New England this afternoon came as such a surprise.
Love made the team as an undrafted free agent out of Mississippi State in 2010 and he put together two good seasons in a row in 2011 and 2012 (when he played all 16 games in the regular season plus playoffs). In fact, during last season the Pats rewarded him with a two-year deal. Apparently, New England cut him because he has Type 2 diabetes. I'm not a doctor, my name isn't Doc Slate and I don't play one on TV so I won't pretend to know the ins and outs of Type 2 diabetes. From what I read today, there have been plenty of other athletes that have played through it and had productive careers.
I can understand where the Patriots are coming from, they were clearly worried about Love's health going forward but at the same time, it seems pretty heartless (this is the NFL after all) to show him the door right away. I hope that Love can soon feel like himself again and hook on with another NFL team quickly. Haha I just hope that it's not another AFC East team since he'll certainly be extra motivated if he ever plays the Patriots.
The timing of this move was strange too since the Pats just released fellow defensive tackle Brandon Deaderick on Monday (claimed by the Jaguars on Tuesday). Other than Vince Wilfork-who is still one of the cornerstones of the franchise-New England's defensive line is looking mighty thin (no pun intended) with Tommy Kelly and Armond Armstead (CFL pickup) expected to replace Love and Deaderick. I think this means that the Pats will invest in another big body between now and training camp.
UPDATE 5/16: Today Love was also claimed by Jacksonville. The Patriots signed rookie cornerback Logan Ryan. He joins former Rutgers teammates safety Duron Harmon and linebacker Steve Beauharnais who are the other two 2013 draft picks to sign with New England. They have four more guys from the draft to agree to terms with in the coming weeks or months.
UPDATE 5/17: New England signed their top pick, second round draft pick Jamie Collins (a linebacker from Southern Mississippi).
Monday, May 13, 2013
Even after a lifetime of watching sports, there are always games and moments that stick with you forever. Tonight, the Bruins added themselves to my short-list of epic comebacks as they rallied from a 4-1 deficit in the third period at TD Garden then went on to beat the Maple Leafs 5-4 in overtime of Game 7. They advanced to the Eastern Conference semifinals where they'll have home ice against the New York Rangers, their Original Six rival that they haven't met in the postseason since 1973.
No NHL team had ever lived to see another day after going down by three goals in the third period of Game 7 so it's only fitting that the B's would put themselves in that impossible situation yet still somehow find a way out. Patrice Bergeron was the hero for the B's, he scored the tying goal with 51 seconds left in regulation then the game-winner at 6:05. Boston actually scored the first goal (a key in Game 7s) at 5:39 of the first period as rookie defenseman Matt Bartkowski picked the perfect time to pot his first career goal. It was unassisted following a turnover along the wall by Maple Leafs defenseman Cody Franson.
Toronto answered right away when Franson tied it at 9:35 with a power play goal off a rebound. Franson put the Maple Leafs on his back, scoring the go-ahead goal at 5:48 of the second period with a blast from the point. The Maple Leafs appeared to put it away early in the third as Phil Kessel scored on another Tuukka Rask (24 saves) rebound at 2:09 then Nazem Kadri did the same at 5:29 after a 2-on-1. There can't be one Bruins fan that thought a team who had scored three goals total in almost three games could erupt for three in less than 10 minutes.
Nathan Horton got the momentum turning Boston's way when he scored on a wrist shot (his fourth goal of the series) at 9:18 from Milan Lucic and David Krejci. Toronto and James Reimer (30 saves) wanted to give the B's another goal but Boston didn't seem capable of putting another puck in the net. However with Rask pulled, Lucic (2nd goal of the series) trimmed it to 4-3 following a rebound (Reimer's old friend) on Chara's blast from the point. Bergeron had the second assist. The roof basically came off the Garden when Bergeron tied it, thanks in no small part to Chara's screen of Reimer. Rask was also on the bench for Bergeron's tying goal, the second time all season (Feb. 12 vs. Rangers) Boston scored twice with a goaltender pulled. Krejci and Jaromir Jagr assisted on Bergeron's second goal of the playoffs.
In overtime, it's all about getting the puck to the net. Usually, the deciding goal comes on a broken play, lucky bounce, etc. True to form, Bergeron's goal in overtime came following a loose puck and giveaway in front of Reimer. Bergeron put it over the Toronto goaltender who was out of position after a shot got blocked. The two biggest Bruins scapegoats for this series-Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand-showed up on that shift and they were credited with the most important assists of the seven games.
Game 1 vs. New York is Thursday (7:30 p.m., NBCSN) at TD Garden and Game 2 is Sunday afternoon (3 p.m., NBCSN) at TD Garden. The Rangers are coming off their own exhausting seven-game series, they rolled 5-0 against the Capitals tonight in DC (the first game won in the series by a road team). It doesn't get much better than Boston vs. New York (Red Sox vs. Yankees, Patriots vs. Giants), we already had a taste of it with Celtics-Knicks a few weeks ago. It's crazy that it has been so long since the Bruins and Rangers have met in the playoffs. Expect a low-scoring, very physical, long series dominated by the goaltenders. New York's Henrik Lundqvist is one of the best goalies in the NHL and the Rangers can grind teams down with the best of them.
UPDATE 5/14: We still don't know the status of Dennis Seidenberg who only played two shifts last night before getting hurt. Today, Boston called up defenseman Torey Krug from Providence.
Adam McQuaid was nominated for the Masterson Trophy (given to overcoming injuries/adversity), Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby and Minnesota's Josh Harding were the other selections.
UPDATE 5/15: Patrice Bergeron was nominated for the Selky Award (defensive forward) which he won last season. Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk and Chicago's Jonathan Toews are the other impressive choices.
I'm not counting on it happening anytime soon but I hope that when I have children and I teach them to love the Bruins that by then, the Black and Gold have figured out a way to close out teams and series better. Boston's bad habit has sprung up yet again as Toronto erased a 3-1 series lead with a 2-1 win tonight in Game 6 at Air Canada Centre. That forces Game 7 tomorrow night (7 p.m., NESN) at TD Garden; winner faces Rangers/Capitals who are also locked in a Game 7 tomorrow night as well.
I have trouble logically explaining how the B's could pile up 15 goals in the first four games then only two in the last two games. Yes, James Reimer (29 saves) and his defensemen have improved while Tyler Seguin (0 points in the series) and Brad Marchand (2 assists) have been ghosts all series long. Still, what is it about Boston that made them lack urgency in Game 5 on home ice? At least the effort was there from the beginning tonight but much like the last few painful months of the regular season, they can't score a goal when it counts to save their life.
Tuukka Rask had 24 saves and it was 0-0 heading into the third period. Dion Phaneuf scored his first playoff goal in five years when he deflected Nazem Kadri's shot at 1:48. James van Riemsdyk had the second assist. Phil Kessel added his second game-winner of the series following a rebound at 8:59 from JVR and Cody Franson. For the second game in a row, it took an impossible 2-0 hole in the third for the Bruins to truly wake up.
The best you can say for Boston is that they saved themselves the indignity of having a nobody like Reimer shut them out. Milan Lucic tipped in Jaromir Jagr's pass with 25 seconds left in regulation. It was Lucic's first goal of the playoffs and Zdeno Chara had the second assist.
Boston won twice as many faceoffs (40-20) but Toronto had eight more hits (58-50) and 12 more takeaways (17-5).
Game 7 is when you have to be willing to try anything to get that most important victory of the season. We saw that later this evening as Detroit head coach Mike Babcock shuffled his lines (and this was after they won Game 6) and it paid off as the Red Wings won 3-2 in Game 7 at Anaheim. With that said, I'd love to see Bruins head coach Claude Julien give Jagr a chance on the second line with Patrice Bergeron and either Brad Marchand or Tyler Seguin. One of those last two guys deserves to be demoted to the third line since they've combined for zero goals and two assists (both Marchand's) this entire series. Yuck. Jagr is clearly sick of playing with scrubs like Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley since he doesn't even try to pass it to them anymore and who could blame him?
Julien, Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli and numerous B's should be feeling the heat to win Game 7 of an Eastern Conference quarterfinal (first round) series. The Stanley Cup win was only two years ago but it'll feel like a million if they choke this series away-on home ice no less-against an average team that has no business beating them in a seven game series. Boston has all this big game experience, tomorrow night would be a good time for that supposed advantage to kick into gear. Right now, the Leafs have all the confidence and momentum.
UPDATE 5/13: Andrew Ference is on crutches and in a boot so needless to say, he won't be playing tonight either.
Saturday, May 11, 2013
There are few baseball games that on paper look like automatic wins: when you play a bad team, at home, with your ace on the mound, that's one of those rare occasions when a loss is simply unacceptable. The Red Sox found themselves in that scenario this afternoon and they lost 3-2 to the Blue Jays at rainy Fenway Park.
Clay Buchholz pitched very well (8 innings, 2 earned runs, 6 hits, 4 strikeouts, 3 walks) but Mark Buehrle (7 innings, 1 earned run, 5 hits, 5 strikeouts, 2 walks) was a notch better.
Toronto (14-24 overall, 7-12 away) went up 2-0 on RBI singles by Melky Cabrera and Colby Rasmus (run, walk) in the third and fourth innings respectively.
Boston's (22-15 overall, 13-9 home) continually shot themselves in the foot since they were 0 for 11 with runners in scoring position and left eight men on base. They clawed back in it with an RBI triple by Jacoby Ellsbury off Darren Oliver (2-1) in the eighth and Dustin Pedroia's (2 hits, stolen base) grounder ate up shortstop Munenori Kawasaki, allowing Ellsbury to score.
It wasn't a save situation but Junichi Tazawa's first appearance since getting elevated to closer didn't go smoothly as Adam Lind (3 hits, 2 runs) cranked a solo homer off him to center in the ninth for the winning run. Toronto closer Casey Janssen pitched a scoreless ninth for his 10th save of the season.
The three game series wraps up tomorrow afternoon (1:35 p.m., NESN) with another pitching matchup that favors the home team: Ryan Dempster (2-3) faces rookie Chad Jenkins, who is making his first start of 2013 (it'll be his fourth career start). After splitting the first two games, both squads are going for the series win on Mother's Day.
UPDATE 5/12: David Ross went on the 7-day DL with a concussion suffered yesterday so Ryan Lavarnway was recalled from the PawSox.