Weekend: Boston’s hockey team was the lone bright light.
LOCAL SPORTS FANS have the Boston Bruins to thank for saving what was otherwise a terrible weekend.
The Patriots were pounded by a group of old friends. The Celtics lost Friday and Sunday to cap off a 1-4 road trip. Oh, and Boston College, on the national stage, just didn’t have enough to answer No. 2 Clemson.
But the Bruins, playing under the cloud of what might be going on with Tuukka Rask, outscored the Maple Leafs and Golden Knights 9-2 behind Jaroslav Halak to finish off a 3-1 homestand.
The loss during the home stay was that 8-5 disaster last Thursday, where both goalies were shaky.
“It looked like a debacle, but at the end of the day we were in it and had a chance to win it,” Bruce Cassidy said after Sunday’s win. “Good win against Toronto. And Vegas, I don’t care what their record is they’re a hard team to play against, and they’re a good hockey club. I thought the Dallas game we played more to our style, and I think that got us going a little bit. So yeah, it was a good week.”
Halak, the new No. 1 goalie, made 77 saves on 79 shots and was often under siege Saturday night. But he did what goalies are often asked to do – bail out his buddies; and the B’s were able to leave for a four-game western journey on a positive note.
And, according to what is being said, Rask was to rejoin the team in Colorado.
David Pastrnak delivered a hat trick and an assist Saturday night — Toronto’s first road loss of the season — and then scored again Sunday. He has 16 goals in 17 games and Monday was named the NHL’s first star for the week.
Halak is 6-1-2 with a 1.77 goals-against average and .945 save percentage, second in the NHL to Pekka Rinne in both categories. He was brought in to be a quality backup to Rask, but …you know the rest.
“We’ve seen it from day one,” Cassidy said. “We knew he was a good goaltender. I couldn’t sit here and say he’d be leading the league in save percentage, goals against, or whatever he is, first or second. We knew he’d be solid. He’s certainly exceeded expectations, and it’s what’s required right now.
“He’s getting lots of starts, guys are confident in front of him, we’re starting to understand how he is. There’s a lot of — he stops a lot of pucks. There’s pucks laying there that we’ve got to clear, so we’re starting to get that. Hey, converge on the slot, get it out of there, get going, so how he plays the puck we’re reading off better each game. I’m happy for him. He’s a hard-working guy, and he’s had good success in this league, and it’s required for him right now, and he’s giving it to us. Just keep on going, Jaro.”
Pastrnak is on his way to a special season. This is a team that’s clearly top-heavy in terms of scoring, and Pastrnak and linemates Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand may well form the best line in the NHL.
Music City debacle
It started on the opening kickoff and never really got much better.
The Patriots don’t have games like this very often, but this was certainly one of them.
No Rob Gronkowski usually doesn’t spell disaster for this team but Sunday it did. But it wasn’t just Gronk’s absence.
After what Cordarelle Patterson did as an all-purpose weapon against Green Bay, he got the Malcolm Butler treatment; almost fittingly on the day they played against Malcolm Butler.
Was this win a big one for the ex-Pats? You bet it was.
“Hell yeah it’s personal,” Dion Lewis said. “That’s what happens when you go cheap. You get your (butt) kicked.”
Monday, Tom Brady, who looked every bit his age for a rare time, answered Lewis’ comments on WEEI Monday, saying, “It’s an emotional thing. I think people have different emotional feelings. Dion had a great career here. It’s hard to see great players go and I know it’s not the first time it’s happened, it has happened to a lot of guys. I am sure when they go to different places they want to beat us, absolutely. I can understand that emotion. We’ve had guys come from other teams and they have wanted to beat that team. It’s just part of the sport.
“I give them credit, they beat us. When you win, you can say a lot of things. That is the reality of winning. We’ll just take our lumps and try and learn from them. And come out here and do a lot better job the next six weeks.”
No doubt the Lewis quotes will be brought up if the teams meet in a playoff game down the road. Sunday’s win kept the Titans alive at 5-4, while the Patriots slipped to 7-3.
This is a perfect time for the bye for the home team — before a gimme in New Jersey against the Jets the following week.
By the way, more Gronk retirement talk, this coming from Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio Sunday:
“I think there’s a good chance he just walks away after this year unless the Patriots are willing to rip up the last year of that contract and give him some form of security that is not tied to being healthy and producing on the field,” said Florio, alluding to two straight years of incentives, things Rob Gronkowski can’t reach if he can’t play.
Florio believes Gronk would have walked had the Pats won it all last year.
The Celtics led the NBA in defense in October, allowing 96.2 points per game. November has been quite a different story.
A complete collapse by the Suns and a rookie coach making a mistake in not giving a foul late in regulation are the only things that kept the Celtics — the 7-6 Celtics! — from going 0-5 on their western journey.
Boston has yielded an average of 110.3 points per game and allowed at least 100 in all six November games. They have trailed by at least 20 points in the last three games.
“Just thoroughly outplayed,” Brad Stevens said after Sunday’s loss in Portland. “I don’t know what else to say. When we’re desperate and urgent, we’re pretty good. We’ve got to do a better job, and I’ve got to do a better job of making sure that we start games that way.
“You find your flow by making the next right play and playing hard, that’s it. When you’re in the game, you have a job to do on that possession, you do it. Then if you do it really well over and over again, you have a good team. We’re not there yet and so that, to me, is well-coached teams that get there. We’re not a well-coached team right now, that’s pretty obvious.”
From column pal/stat maven Dick Lipe: “When Celtics got on the plane for the first leg of the trip, they were first in the NBA in defensive rating (98.2) and fewest points allowed (99.5) as well as second in opponents field goal percentage (.418).
During the trip, they were 26th in defensive rating (110.0), 20th in points allowed (109.8) and 22nd in opponents field goal percentage (.467).
More Lipe, this on the offense: “There’s a reason Celtics are dead last in NBA in points in the paint at only 36.8 a game. They are 30th in the NBA in shots attempted within five feet (24.9), 29th in shots made within five feet (14.5) and 21st in field goal percentage within five feet (.580). (Aron) Baynes (.455), (Terry) Rozier (.467) and (Jaylen) Brown (.473) are all shooting under .500 within five feet. Among the 121 players who make at least two baskets a game within five feet, Brown has the fifth-lowest field goal percentage.”
Kyrie Irving thinks the Celtics can use a veteran leader at the end of their roster. Carmelo Anthony and the Houston Rockets are apparently about to part ways.
Anthony in Boston?
Said Irving: “Right now I think it would be nice if we had someone that was a 15-year vet, a 14-year vet that could kind of help us race along the regular season and understand it’s a long marathon rather than just a full-on sprint.”
After Sunday’s loss, Irving said, “We needed this. We’re not as good as we think we are. I said it at the beginning of the season. The excitement is done. It’s real basketball now.”
Anthony can’t guard anyone. He was never a great defender but he’s older now. But he can score. His greatest talent has always been shooting and he would come to Boston with something to prove: that’s he’s not all done.
Was Irving talking specifically about Anthony? It’s hard to think another shooter is the answer, but you never know.
Boston College’s football team had advanced all the way up to No. 17 in the country, but was clearly no match for Clemson Saturday night.
It is becoming more and more obvious that the country currently consists of Alabama and Clemson at the top and then everyone else. Sure, each could lose before what would be a dandy of a national title game, but the money here is on both.
BC kept the score respectable but played it ultra conservative to aid the score turning out the way it did. Punting in the closing minutes was a sign of “let’s just get out of here with a decent score.”
But here’s the thing: the 7-3 Eagles, who slipped to No. 22 with the loss, lost the game and again lost their quarterback. Last year, Anthony Brown went down with a knee. Saturday night it was his shoulder.
Monday, coach Steve Addazio said Brown was day-to-day with an abdominal injury.
In a show of class, Clemson coach Dabo Sweeney, appearing on ABC, said, I hope their quarterback is OK. That hurt them.”