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Mike Shalin's Working Press: It's been a rough stretch in Boston

April 21. 2017 5:44AM
Boston Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy skates off the ice after the Ottawa Senators won game four of the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs at TD Garden on Wednesday. (Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)

Four nights of hell at TD Garden.

Call it the Boston Massacre revisited.

Back in September of 1978, when the Yankees were making their comeback to win the AL East, they came to Boston and swept four games from the Red Sox, winning 15-3, 13-2, 7-0 and 7-4. The sweep erased a four-game lead, the Red Sox fell behind by 3½ and then wound up catching up and losing … well, Bucky (Bleeping) Dent and all that.

Fast forward almost four decades.

Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Celtics, Bruins, Celtics, Bruins. Four playoff games, four losses, the first time ever at the "new" TD Garden the locals lost on four straight nights in the playoffs. It was the fourth time it ever happened in the two buildings, only the second time — the other in 1969 — it involved both teams losing twice.

It was a major kick to the head to the local sports scene and may well have, for all intents, ended the seasons for both.

Both will play tonight, the Bruins, a franchise that has NEVER come back from 3-1 (0-22) trying to extend their season in Ottawa. The Celtics try to avoid going down 0-3 in Chicago.

Different games. But there are similarities.

Both major deficits involve problems with 5-foot-9 athletes.

We know what Isaiah Thomas is going through and while he seemed able to perform in Game 1 — albeit in less control of the ball — he missed seven free throws and was limited to 20 points in Game 2. It's impossible to imagine what the guy is going through.

The Bruins' 5-9'er is Torey Krug and while the entire defense has been decimated by injuries — the Bruins lost a defender in four straight games starting with the regular season finale — the puck-moving Krug is sorely missed against the Senators and their trap.

I can recall at least twice where a B's defenseman was trying to lug the puck Wednesday night and the thought of "what if that were Krug" crossed my mind. He is not a great defenseman, but he's the Bruin who moves the puck. Charlie McAvoy can be that guy but he's already being asked to do too much, as is a 40-year-old Zdeno Chara.

The other similarity is the opposing playmakers: Ottawa's Erik Karlsson and the Bulls' Rajon Rondo.

Karlsson, who used to get knocked for his lack of defense, is a magician with the puck and the Bruins just can't keep up with his wizardry.

In Game 2, he worked his magic to set Derick Brassard up for the tying goal. In Game 3, he was directly responsible for three of the Sens' four goals, even though he was credited with two assists. And then he pulls that presence-of-mind play to shoot the puck wide off the back boards because he knows Bobby Ryan was behind McAvoy.

"I think you look at the NHL and there's a handful of guys that are able to make those type of plays," his coach, Guy Boucher, said at the team hotel Thursday. "Whether it's the Crosbys, or Johnny Tavares and those guys, or its Erik … that's what makes them those guys.

"They're able to see through the traffic in times of pressure, their minds seem to be working either faster than everybody else or they seem to be able to slow down the pace of the game in their minds to a level that not a lot of guys can do."

Rondo has that kind of ability. If he's healthy and playing, with something he has to prove like he obviously does to one of his old teams, he, too, can be a wizard. He was good in Game 1. He was great in Game 2.

"I just tried to stay aggressive. I was pretty aggressive last game, but I got myself into some foul trouble," Rondo said. "Isaiah is a really crafty guy and I just wanted to go out and play as hard as I could.

"Definitely Game 3 is just one game, but it's going to be the biggest game of our season and we want to approach it with that mindset and try to go out there and get another W."

The question now remains: Does either indoor team come home to play another game?

Where's Marchand?

Brad Marchand had six of the Bruins' 22 shots on Craig Anderson Wednesday night, including a pair of breakaways. For the third straight game, he came up empty. In fact he has one goal — the winner in Game 1— in his last 24 playoff games, staggering for a guy who has developed into quite a scorer.

Another question concerning the Bruins is what happens to Bruce Cassidy if this road ends in Ottawa? Through all the talk of a secret handshake between management and the interim coach, you just have to wonder. The excuse of the battered defense is there and the guy deserves a chance to keep the job, regardless of what happens in this series.

Season over

Clay Buchholz's stay in Philadelphia will apparently be a short one after arm surgery ended his season, prior to free agency.

Regrets on the part of the rebuilding Phils? Did they miss something? After all, the Red Sox DID exercise a $13.5 million option before trading him.

"I think there's a difference between reviewing your decision-making process and determining if there were any pieces of information that you should have considered that you didn't," club president Andy MacPhail said. "I don't think that's the case.

What you can do differently is not have to depend upon getting pitching from that area, really. It's one of the reasons that you haven't seen us go beyond a year. An organization can absorb an injury for a year. You just don't want one that's going to sink you."

White House visit

It was almost impossible to keep track of the Patriots Tuesday and Wednesday. Aaron Hernandez's death, the trip to D.C., the players who didn't go to D.C., the Malcolm Butler signing (with a trade still a possibility), the chasing of running back Mike Gillislee, the inexplicable shunning of LeGarrette Blount (I just don't get that one), the three-year contract for James White.

The trip to Washington? Thanks to NESN's Doug Kyed for posting the list of players who did not go. Really quite embarrassing for the leader of the free world:

Tom Brady, Blount, White, Butler, Brandon Bolden, Dion Lewis, Danny Amendola, Michael Floyd, Martellus Bennett, Shaq Mason, LaAdrian Waddle, Alan Branch, Malcolm Brown, Chris Long, Vincent Valentine, Dont'a Hightower, Barkevious Mingo, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Cyrus jones, Devin McCourty, Logan Ryan and Ryan Allen.

Wrong Move

Yesterday in Toronto, we saw the latest example of how baseball managers run their teams, regarding pitching, these days.

Chris Sale at 102 pitches through eight powerful innings? John Farrell gets Craig Kimbrel up, in the ninth inning. Sale should have been allowed to pitch the ninth. But with Kimbrel already up, the manager knows he has to use him, because that's what they do these days. Kimbrel blew the save, and wound up getting the win working two innings – and you'd have to think perhaps knocking him out of tonight's game in Baltimore.

Farrell got away with the move but Sale is still has one win in four starts: 29 2/3 innings, 0.91 ERA, 42 strikeouts, 15 hits, six walks. Pretty good stuff.

Tweeted Mike Cole of NESN: "Chris Sale exceeded 102 pitches in 23 of his 32 starts last season."

Thanks to @Bostontweet for yesterday's: "105 years ago today (April 20, 1912) the first professional baseball game was played at Fenway Park - Sox beat the NY Highlanders (Yankees)."

Finally, Ottawa's Ryan Dzingel, who hit a post with what would have been the insurance goal for the Sens in game 4, was asked yesterday about the atmosphere playing at TD Garden, in one of the league's original cities. He smiled and said, "I grew up in Chicago so I never really liked you guys in the first place."

He certainly couldn't have liked the idiots who bombarded the ice with debris after Game 3, or the clown who tried to steal Chris Wideman's stick, right out of his hands.

If you get another chance, stay classy, folks.

Mike Shalin covers Boston pro sports for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is

Sports columns Patriots/NFL Red Sox/MLB Celtics/NBA Bruins/NHL