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Mike Shalin's Working Press: Two U's, two K's, two opinions on goalie

By MIKE SHALIN
April 26. 2018 10:32PM




SURVIVE AND ADVANCE.

That’s what the Bruins did in a rather wild and sloppy game at TD Garden Wednesday night.

Down 4-3 after two periods, with their fans fretting over an early exit — and about what to do about the future of Tuukka Rask — the Bruins rallied and now meet the Lightning in Tampa Saturday afternoon.

While home ice turned out to be a difference for the Bruins in the opening series, it’s not there in Round 2 thanks to the shaky finish that allowed the Lightning to steal the top spot. In addition to having to go through the seventh game against the Leafs, it appears the Devils were an easier first-round out and finishing first allowed Tampa to avoid a 100-point team.

Now, the Lightning have home ice for this series.

The Bruins went 3-1 against Tampa this season and while they are 4-3 against the Lightning in the last three seasons at TD Garden, they are 5-1 against them on the road.

“They won the Eastern Conference,” GM Don Sweeney said Thursday. “I think it’s equally formidable, if not even more so, task. Not a lot of holes in their lineup. We had some success in the regular season against them. We’re going to have to find a way to replicate that and probably be even better.

“We had pockets of our game in this past series that we know we need to improve upon and it’s going to take our best effort from start to finish to play against Tampa. We’re a confident group to go in. We deserve to be here. We’re moving on and I’m sure they feel the same way.”

Rask, as usual, is a key in this series. Hockey’s most up-and-down high-paid goalie has never been known as Mr. Clutch in situations like this but you know how good he can be when he’s right. He gets blamed for losses and often doesn’t get enough credit for wins.

Lou Merloni criticized Rask on WEEI and Jack Edwards, as one might have guessed, came to the goalie’s defense.

“I know Lou. I respect him for having made it into a major league dugout, where he spent most of his playing career,” Edwards said Thursday. “But you’ve got to understand, in the land of spoiled children, which is what Boston sports fans are, Tuukka Rask’s career is defined by 17 seconds in Game 6 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals. When you have two different talk radio stations in a market that has been just an embarrassment of riches since the turn of the century, they have to talk about something controversial, and Tuukka Rask is the easiest guy to throw under the bus.”

This year

For what it’s worth, Rask is an impressive 16-7-1 with a 2.49 goals-against average and .908 save percentage lifetime against TB. Counterpart Andrei Vasilevskiy is just 1-4-1 with 2.51/.922 against the Bruins.

Just a thought: if Rick Nash can bury his playoff past and bury some pucks, the Bruins can win this series. But the vote here is the Lightning in seven.

Bruce Cassidy is a deserving finalist for the Jack Adams Award that goes to the league’s top coach. But that award was won LONG AGO by Gerard Gallant of Vegas, this season’s true NHL success story.

In the story of the postseason, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman wrote: “After Game 1 of the Toronto/Boston series, the Bruins got a ‘We’d prefer if you could tell Brad Marchand to stop licking people’ phone call from the NHL.”

Jersey Street

The name “Yawkey Way” will soon disappear after a unanimous vote by the city decided to eliminate a racist part of the team’s history. As I have said here before, I defer to Tommy Harper, who lived so much of this stuff, especially down in Winter Haven, Fla., on a matter like this — and Harper was for the change.

I was looking on Facebook Thursday and the reaction was mixed, some offering alternate names: like Tony Conigliaro Way, Johnny Pesky Way, but it appears Jersey Street, the name of the street until 1977, fitting into the city’s alphabetical street grid, will indeed get the nod.

“We recognize we have a long way to go, but remain committed to building a spirit of diversity, inclusivity, and openness within our front office and our ballpark,” says the team, which requested the change.

Linda Pizzuti Henry, John Henry’s wife, was tabbed as Boston Magazine’s Most Influential Person in the publication’s list of top 100.

The Boston Globe, speaking of its managing director, said, “In a note accompanying the ranking, contributing editor David Bernstein explains that the mag “wasn’t looking for the richest people in Boston, or even the smartest. Instead, we sought out the businesspeople, tech moguls, politicians, and tastemakers that the rest of us are all watching, the folks who are truly shaping the city.”

Suspension upheld

Thursday night, Joe Kelly began serving his six-game suspension for throwing at Tyler Austin last Thursday — after his sentence was not reduced. Austin, who played for the Yankees earlier in the day, had his five-gamer reduced by a game and will start his four-game suspension today with the team in Anaheim.

Remember, these suspensions leave their respective rosters down a man, which can be difficult for the Sox with a pitcher missing.

Justin Verlander, now 13-1 with a 1.55 ERA and an opponents’ OPS of .496 with the Astros, including postseason, defeated the Angels Wednesday, allowing the Astros to avoid a sweep of a three-game series. The loss dropped the Angels to 11-2 on the road.

Changing his thoughts?

First, Robert Kraft, who gave a million bucks to Donald Trump’s campaign, sent his team plane down to Florida to transport the Parkland kids and their families to Washington, which couldn’t have sat well with the prez.

Now, comments leaked from the owners’ meetings, addressed the POTUS’ slamming of kneeling football players, saying:

“This kneeling. The problem we have is, we have a President who will use that as fodder to do his mission that I don’t feel is in the best interests of America. It’s divisive and it’s horrible.”

Former Patriot Chris Long, talking about Colin Kaepernick, said, “If he was on a roster right now, all this negativeness and divisiveness could be turned into a positive.”

Rams coach Sean McVay, on dealing the 23rd pick in the draft for Brandin Cooks: “If you told me I’d be getting that player at 23, I’d be throwing a pool party. And I don’t even have a pool.”

Michael Vick has been named the offensive coordinator for the Atlanta franchise in the new Alliance of American Football. Steve Spurrier is coaching the Orlando entry.

More to come?

Dwyane Wade and Manu Ginobili were both eliminated from the NBA playoffs this week. Both are headed for the Hall of Fame but are either or both headed for retirement?

Warriors coach Steve Kerr, in his post-series handshake with Ginobili, urged him to keep playing. Meanwhile, actress Gabrielle Union, Wade’s wife, tweeted: “I hope this isnt the end, but my God... @DwyaneWade has a career most people dream of. He is a damn legend. An icon. And hes cute.”

Long time coming

Jonny Venters, once a hard-throwing left-hander with the Braves, on Wednesday night pitched in the major leagues (for the Rays) for the first time since 2012. He retired the only batter he faced. Venters returned after THREE Tommy John surgeries, as well as another less-serious operation.

“It was an amazing experience, just to get out there on a big-league mound, in a big-league game with this group of guys. .. A special thing I’ll never forget the rest of my life. .. A dream come true really,” Venters said.

New teammate Daniel Robertson tweeted: “The outpouring (of) love this man is receiving on Twitter is not a mistake. Beyond honored to have met you a couple years ago and see you climb and persevere back to where you belong in this game. Most humble, soft spoken man I have met in baseball. Congrats Jonny V!!”

Speaking of a long wait, former Soxer Kevin Youkilis has graduated from the University of Cincinnati at age 39 — and just before his induction to the Red Sox Hall of Fame (his number is retired at the school).

He tweeted: “Proud to announce that I have taken my last final exam today and officially a graduate of the @uofcincy!!! #GoBearcats #FinishWhatYouStartInLife #BearcatPride”

There were four pitchers — Jake Arrietta, Yu Darvish, Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb — who signed late. Their numbers through Wednesday: Arrietta 3-0, 1.82 ERA; Darvish 0-2, 6.86; Lynn 0-2, 7.71; and Cobb 0-3, 13.11.

Hey, it’s early.

Finally, we give you the once-great Matt Harvey, who celebrated his demotion to the bullpen by declaring some sort of war on the media. After his first relief outing, one that almost hung a loss on him, Harvey, with the media approaching, snapped, “No chance. Zero chance.” Asked why, he said, “I have nothing to say to you guys. I don’t (bleep) want to (talk).”

Harvey was 0-2 with a 6.00 ERA in four starts before the demotion.

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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