ON THE BRINK.
Bad call? Perhaps. But the bottom line on why the Bruins moved within one game of ending their season Friday night is the problem we’ve talked about all season — the lack of consistent scoring.
This dates back to Day 1, moves on to the trade deadline and has carried through to this afternoon’s Game 6 that could mean the end of the season for a pretty good hockey team.
Personally, I have the feeling this team will rebound and bring it back to Boston for Game 7. But if they don’t, it will probably be because they just don’t have the overall firepower – and playoffs are a time big lines often get stopped.
The B’s have scored four goals in their three losses, the fourth coming in the final minute Friday night with the goalie pulled. They can score, but don’t do it often enough when things go sour.
Now their season is on the brink. They have often reacted well to adversity throughout this season – and this would be an ideal time to do it again.
“Win or lose I think you just park it right after and then get some rest and maybe do a little practicing the next day and then that’s it,” said goalie Tuukka Rask. “I think our mindset has been pretty good all year with that, so not going to change now.”
Back to bad call: Toronto’s first goal, which was allowed and perhaps should not have been. The way things are dissected to the umpteenth level in all sports these days, you can see there was contact on Rask in the crease by the Leafs’ Zach Hyman. But remember, the goal broke a 0-0 tie and we can’t assume the Bruins would have won even if the call went their way. Fact is they were bottled up by the Leafs all night and couldn’t score until Rask was pulled.
“I think today both teams defended pretty well, it was just kind of one of those chippy games that up until the end there was not too many rushes or whatnot,” said Rask. “Just kind of a grinding game for both teams, so that’s what it takes. That’s kind of playoff hockey sometimes, you know, especially when you get late in the series, you know, mistakes play a huge role so nobody wants to make them and you just end up kind of grinding it out and I guess that’s what we’re expecting Game 6.”
Know this: The Bruins will show up on Easter Sunday north of the border. Let’s see if it’s good enough.
While the Bruins were frittering away the chance to regain control of their series, the Celtics moved the Pacers to THEIR brink with their win at Indiana.
Game 4 arrives two hours before the Bruins Game 6 on another busy sports day in the area (third straight time the Bruins, Celtics and Red Sox are playing at the same time).
Kyrie Irving, who promised the playoffs would be a different story for this team, said after Friday night’s game, “We’ve come a long way. We’re all making sure we’re giving each other confidence and doing the little things to ensure we win. When you have that type of camaraderie, executing is a lot easier. Now that the stakes are higher, we’re settling into who we want to be.”
Friday night provided the latest illustration of what a special player Jaylen Brown can be when he’s right. In his 23-point game Friday, Brown went 8-for-9 from the floor and had seven rebounds.
The Celtics, who had held Indy (remember, there’s no Victor Oladipo) to eight points in the second quarter of Game, then to 12 in the fourth quarter of Game 2, had another 12-point defensive effort in the fourth to send the Pacers almost packing.
Now, the finale?
”In Game 4, we expect them to take it to another level,” Brown said. “We’ve got to come out and not take our foot off the gas. We’ve got to come out and play great basketball and try to close this thing out.”
A trip around
Returning to our regular Sunday look at notes and quotes look around the sports world:
• With Dustin Pedroia, Brock Holt and Eduardo Nunez all on the Injured List, Nathan Eovaldi hit the shelf Saturday because of loose bodies in his right elbow. The injuries don’t come close to what the Yankees have endured, but they’re mounting.
• The Yankees? Aaron Judge went down Saturday with an oblique strain and was getting and MRI as this was being written. The injury was suffered after he had already hit his fifth homer of the season in a 9-2 win that got New York back to .500 (10-10).
• The Lightning and Flames took a place in NHL history by becoming the first pair of top seeds ever to go out in the first round of the playoffs. To make it worse, they combined for ONE WIN.
• Sandy Leon, who returned to save the Red Sox’ pitching staff after the banishment of Blake Swihart, recorded the top pitcher ERA (3.29) in the majors in 89 games behind the plate for the Red Sox last year.
• I have told you many times before the only reason I ever watch golf is if Tiger Woods is relevant. Last weekend, he pulled off a monumental feat in winning another Masters. Special talent. Special achievement. But the Presidential Medal of Freedom? For THIS guy? Ummm, no.
• His name is Luke Borer. Never heard of him? Well, Monday, the junior at Perrysburg High School in Ohio hit for the “homer cycle,” meaning he belted solo, two-run, three-run shots and a grand slam. Note: he had never hit a high school home run until Monday. The feat has never been realized in MLB but it has been done once in the minors and once in college.
“I still can’t believe I even hit one,” he told the Toledo Blade. “Those were the first four home runs of my high school career.”
• Re: Swihart: the guy can hit a little and might have been able to help the Red Sox down the road. But let’s not act like the Red Sox traded Mookie Betts to the Diamondbacks, who plan on using Swihart everywhere but behind the plate. This story took on a life of its own – kinda reminded me of the Michael Bishop story with the Patriots. Remember the backup QB Pats fans were clamoring for? He had an eight-game NFL career in 2000. Swihart is better than that, but he’s just a spare part.
• Pats QB Tom Brady took to social media to wish head coach Bill Belichick a happy birthday, posting, “Happy birthday Coach! He’ll definitely see this.. big social media guy.”
• Logan Morrison was outspoken when Gary Sanchez was picked over him for the Home Run Derby even though Morrison had more homers at the time. Then, last year, he called Yankee fans “stupid.” Now, he has signed with the Yanks, Sanchez saying, through an interpreter, “That’s a long time ago. We’re way over that stuff. Now he’s a teammate and we’re gonna treat him as a teammate. We’re gonna welcome him here in this clubhouse. There’s no sense in talking about something that happened so long ago.’’
• Zdeno Chara‘s winning goal in game four made him the second-oldest player ever to score a playoff goal. Chris Chelios was 45 when he did it in 2007. Chara is ONLY 42.
• Did the Red Sox bring Pedroia back too quickly? Sure they did. He should have played three weeks in the minors and then come back if all was well. But Pedroia is notorious for being a pain in the you know what when he can’t play, so they tried it this way. It didn’t work.
• NFL Films’ “Road To The Super Bowl,” the look at the 2018 season, debuted at the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, this week.
• With Kevin Durant set to hit the free agent market, the A’s signed their KD, slugger Khris Davis, to a two-year contract extension this week, even trolling the Warriors with a full-page ad in the SF Chronicle that read “KD Commits to Oakland.” The Dubs, by the way, are moving to their new arena in San Francisco next season.
• End of the line? The Indians designated old pal Hanley Ramirez for assignment to make room for the return of Francisco Lindor, making his 2019 debut.
• Joey Votto of the Reds popped up to first base earlier this week. Not a big deal, you say? It was the first time in 6,826 career plate appearances he had ever done it.
• Adam Gase, who learned while in Miami what it’s like to see the Patriots win the AFC Least every year, has a simple objective as he takes over the Jets. “He’s going for that one team that’s been winning every single year in this division,” says LB C.J. Mosley. “He said that’s one of the main reasons he came here and we all believe that and the guys that are new additions to the team, we’re pretty much here for the same reason. We know what team that’s been on top for a long time. We feel we have the tools and the players and the game plan is to get that done.” Good luck with that.
• Friday night in New York, Adam Ottavino of the Yankees faced Terrance Gore of the Royals, in MLB’s first-ever matchup of two number zeroes. Earlier in the week, KC’s Jorge Lopez started against Reynoldo Lopez of the White Sox, the Elias folks telling us it was the first Lopez-Lopez matchup ever. The last game with opposing starters with the same last name was on Aug. 12, 2017, when the Angels’ JC Ramírez faced off with Seattle’s Erasmo Ramírez, the latter just designated for assignment by the Red Sox after one relief outing.
• Reigning National League MVP Christian Yelich has eight homers against the Cardinals this season. That is one off the record for homers against St. Louis in a season (since NL expansion in 1962). It’s only April.
• Sports Illustrated’s mock draft ahead of next weekend’s NFL proceedings had four quarterbacks going in the first round – and had the Patriots taking defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence from Clemson, with the words, “Expected a WR or a TE? It would be typical Patriots to then go ahead and draft the 6’ 4”, 342-pound run stuffing defensive tackle.”
• Classy move by Red Sox chairman Tom Warner. Tweeted now-former Sox announcer Tim Neverett: “Very grateful to the RedSox who presented me with my World Series ring tonight. Thanks especially to Sox Chairman Tom Werner for personally delivering it to Dodger Stadium. Great gesture by the organization that is very much appreciated.”
• From our buddy Phil Rogers of Forbes: “Most disappointing stats from Tuesday night’s box scores: 8137 at Marlins Park with the Cubs in Miami, and only 9842 at the Trop to see the first-place Rays play. It’s easy to forget how much success those franchises have had. They should have built a fan base by now.”
• Doug Kyed of NESN.com had the Patriots taking DL Jerry Tillery from Notre Dame in his “ideal” Pats draft scenario.
• Here’s a reason why teams are staying away from ex-Sox closer Craig Kimbrel — until after the June draft, anyway. From Mark Bowman of MLB.com: “If the Braves were to sign Kimbrel, they’d lose this year’s 60th pick and the $1.157 M bonus pool allotment attached to that slot. Facing strict international market limitations until 2021, that slot money is very important as they have both the ninth and 21st picks this year.” Earlier this week, Braves fans chanted, “We want Kimbrel” during yet another arson game by the Atlanta bullpen.
• Finally, Rob Gronkowski has retired – for now, anyway. And his final piece of legacy from his proud days with the Patriots is a dent he put in the latest Super Bowl trophy – which was the result of his “batting” against Julian Edelman as Edelman warmed up for his first-pitch toss at Fenway Park prior to the home opener. As far as the retirement, don’t know about you, but I kept waiting for Rob Ninkovich to come back the year he quit. He never did.
Perhaps not getting your brains beaten in feels good.