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Mike Shalin's Working Press: Absences not hampering Bruins

By MIKE SHALIN
March 08. 2018 10:40AM

Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers looks up after losing a fly ball in the sun in the first inning of Boston's 2-1 loss in a spring training game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Spectrum Field on Wednesday. (USA TODAY Sports)



Patrice Bergeron is vital to the Bruins’ offense. As perhaps the best defensive forward in the NHL, he is vital to the Bruins’ defense. As one of the league’s best faceoff men … well, he’s vital in that area as well. Oh, and did we mention his leadership, “in the room” as they say in the hockey world?

So, when the B’s lost Bergeron to a broken foot, you had to figure they would struggle.

But the B’s have responded with four straight wins to further establish themselves as true contenders in the league.

Now, it should be pointed out here that losing Bergeron coincided with the start of a six-game homestand, which always helps. But 4-0 is 4-0.

Not every game has been an artistic success, especially that 6-5 overtime mess against the Red Wings Tuesday night, but these guys always seem to find a way to win.

The last two wins belonged to Brad Marchand, whose overtime goals in both games probably moved him past Bergeron, his linemate, into the league MVP race.

Asked after Tuesday’s OT winner, which capped a five-point night, about Marchand’s propensity to come up big in big moments, coach Bruce Cassidy said, “I appreciate all of it. I’ve known Brad a long time. I’ve got a lot of respect for the way he plays the game, the way he conducts himself as a person, as a pro, and we need it.

“… I was chuckling after the game because, you know, there he is, puck finds him, but he’s on it, doesn’t quit, made some real nice plays tonight.”

As he usually does. As you probably know, Marchand has gotten himself into trouble through his career, doing the odd silly thing that earns suspensions. He’s as chippy as it gets, but he also has been very good at controlling himself most of the time. And that’s not easy.

“I thought they were trying to get to him. I thought he did a good job with that,” Cassidy said. “… He’s going to be targeted every night, so he has to get used to that.”

And he has, and the Bruins are now getting along without Bergeron and Charlie McAvoy, and even won the last two with Tuukka Rask out with a minor injury. They have also won the four straight while incorporating the new guys into the lineup. And now they’ll have to play the next three without David Backes, who was suspended for three games for Tuesday’s hit on Detroit’s Frans Nielsen.

Interest in Swihart

The Red Sox, according to our pal Sean McAdam of the Boston Sports Journal, have been getting all kinds of calls on the versatile Blake Swihart, who is hitting like crazy in Florida and isn’t likely to go anywhere.

There has been some noise on the free agent front, with that Florida training camp about to close down and names like Mike Moustakas ready to start the season without a job.

“The teams are coming, and Moose is going to be playing baseball,” super agent Scott Boras told the Kansas City Star. “But I don’t control time, and I don’t control competitiveness. The question is when do those teams want to commit to winning, and of course I think he’ll be playing, yes.”

Moustakas, of course, has that draft pick compensation hindering his chance at a new deal and probably would have been better off accepting the $17.4 qualifying offer made by the Royals. But who knew THIS was going to happen?

The draft pick goes away after the June draft.

“Watch what happens,” Boras said. “This player has no picks attached to him. It goes away, because they can only put it on him once. So now it’s a totally different world for Moose.”

Right-hander Lance Lynn reportedly turned down a two-year/$20 million offer from the Twins.

Leadoff spot

Don’t count on this happening, but Yankees manager Aaron Boone refuses to dismiss the possibility of batting big man Aaron Judge leadoff.

“I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s likely, but something like that I would consider,” Boone told MLB.com “I’ve thought about it.”

Judge struck out 208 times as a rookie last year, but he also walked 127 times.

Count CC Sabathia among those who thinks his catcher, Gary Sanchez, is a special hitter.

“I just think he has power to all fields and reminds me of like a young Manny Ramirez,” Sabathia said. “That’s enough said right there.”

There was more, Sabathia said, “It’s a tough lineup, top to bottom. With (Giancarlo) Stanton, I think Sanchee’s probably the best hitter in the lineup. You don’t talk about him at all, so it’s a tough one.”

Needs some Love

Kevin Love revealed something powerful this week, talking in a Players Tribune piece of a panic attack he suffered during a game this season.

The reaction was apparently great, Love tweeting, “Wow...I can’t even describe how grateful I am for the love and support. More than anything, it’s been amazing to see YOU tell your own stories about Mental Health. Let’s keep it going.”

In the piece, Love, who has battled the problem his entire life, said, “For 29 years, I thought about mental health as someone else’s problem.

“It’s hard to describe, but everything was spinning, like my brain was trying to climb out of my head,” Love said of the attack. “The air felt thick and heavy. My mouth was like chalk. I remember our assistant coach yelling something about a defensive set. I nodded, but I didn’t hear much of what he said. By that point, I was freaking out.”

Classy move

Dwyane Wade continues to honor the victims and survivors of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., showing up at the school this week to offer his support.

“Thank y’all. I just want to come here today, and hopefully for a moment — for a second bring a little bit of this. Bring a little excitement, bring a little joy,” he told the kids. “What you guys have been going through has been amazing from afar, and I just wanted to come and say I’m inspired by all of you.”

Draft talk

It’s that time of the year, where a different NFL mock draft seems to show up every day.

We saw one this week, from theScore, that had the Patriots, picking 31st, taking Texas A&M wide receiver Christian Kirk. Prognosticator Dane Belbeck wrote: “While many outlets have Kirk going in the second round, Bill Belichick will love the versatility of the Texas A&M star and grab him at No. 31. Kirk is a very dangerous option in the slot and will provide the Patriots with some needed receiver depth. He’s also a terror in the return game.”

Here and there

The Pats said goodbye to Martellus Bennett again Wednesday. … Marcus Smart was fined $15,000 for comments he made after the Houston game Saturday over special treatment for superstar James Harden. … Steelers receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster has an idea where LeBron James should take his talents next season, saying, via Twitter, “Announcing my official campaign to recruit @KingJames to the Pittsburgh Steelers for the 2018 season. LeBron has done everything in the NBA. He can be the best athlete EVER if he makes the move to the NFL and wins a Super Bowl with Steeler Nation... #LeBronToPittsburgh” … Saw a suggestion that the Red Sox didn’t really need to re-sign Mitch Moreland, and the way the roster looks now, that makes some sense. But they didn’t know about J.D. Martinez nor the way Swihart would look. … Free agent QB Kirk Cousins on Twitter: “Next week is now officially the first time since 2007 that I’ll be choosing where to play football. I’m open to suggestions. #freeagency” … Am I the only one who sees Jimmy Graham in a Patriots uniform next season?…

Finally, actor Macauley Culkin, of all people, took a shot at the Patriots — and did it on Twitter during the Academy Awards — saying “Actually, the best original score of the year was New England 33 - Philadelphia 41 #Oscars”

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


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