Big Night For Boston: Sox, Bruins Win On Big Stage

Boston sports fans needed 2 TVs on Thursday night as the Red Sox battled the Yankees in the series rubber match and the Bruins kicked off their 2018 playoff hockey against a tough Toronto squad.  Most fans likely flipped back and forth and if they were lucky didn’t miss a run or goal and both teams dominated.  The Sox have now won three in a row after more dominance today and the Bruins are on tonight so no flipping is needed.

The Red Sox topped the Yankees 6-3, winning their first series of 2018 against New York.  The Sox looked very good throughout the series.  Although both teams are suffering numerous injuries, I think this is a good sign that the Red Sox may be ready to contend for a World Series title.  Some people believed the opposite before this series, as the Red Sox had faced only rebuilding teams before their series against the Yanks.  If they can do well against the 12-3 Los Angeles Angels and start next week’s west coast road trip off right, that will continue to solidify the Red Sox position as a true contender to win the AL East again and maybe go further.

While the Bruins limped into the playoffs losing 4 of their last 5 to miss a chance to lock down the #1 seed, they returned to midseason form Thursday and dominated in Game 1.  They blew out Toronto 5-1.  The Bruins refused to let injuries hold them back, and the depth of their roster helped them.  If the Bruins can bring the same intensity for the rest of the series, the Maple Leafs may struggle to win a game, let alone the series.  The top line of Marchand, Bergeron, and Pastrnak played extremely well and their play really shined on the power play as the Bruins were 3 for 6, scoring one PP goal in each period.

Please read on for a few more details on the big night for the Sox and B’s.

Porcello Dominant, Red Sox Cruise to Victory 

Image result for rick porcello

The Red Sox came out aggressive fearing a rain-shortened game and put up 6 runs over the first 3 innings on their way to victory over the Yankees, 6-3.  Rick Porcello was dominant on the mound and had a no-hitter through six and finished with seven scoreless innings, giving up just two hits.  Porcello stayed warm waiting out a rain delay after five innings but Rick came back into the game showing no ill effects from the delay.  His no-hitter came to an end in the 7th inning when Yankees star hitter Aaron Judge doubled to break it up.

Image result for eduardo nunez red sox

The Red Sox grabbed hold of a lead early in the game.  Hanley Ramirez, who has been on fire of late, left the game in the 1st after being hit in the hand by Sonny Gray but that did not stop the Red Sox.  Eduardo Nunez led off in the next inning with a base hit.  The cold was giving him knee discomfort as he raced down the first base line but he decided to keep on playing.  JBJ walked to make it 1st and 2nd, and Sandy Leon drove in the run with a single.  Brock Holt got on base with another walk to load the bases, and all three runners advanced one base when Mookie Betts hit a deep sac fly, making it 2-0 Red Sox with men on 2nd and 3rd.  Andrew Benintendi then grounded to second base with the infield in.  The Yankees chose to throw home but the throw bounced in by Sanchez and allowed Leon to score.  Holt advanced to 3rd and Benny had time to advance to 2nd. Mitch Moreland, in off the bench for Hanley, drove in the fourth run with a single despite limited playing time this year.

The Sox scored again the 3rd.  Eduardo Nunez doubled to right, and JBJ hit a ground rule double to knock him in.  Sandy Leon struck out on a pitch in the dirt that got away.  Another bad defensive choice by the Yankees allowed Leon to reach as Gary Sanchez fired to 3rd but JBJ slid in safely.  Mookie Betts knocked him in with a ground ball to the right side, 6-0 Boston.  Betts ended up going 0 for 4 but he had 2 RBI on the night.

The Yankees did not score until the top of the 9th when reliever Marcus Walden gave up a bases-clearing double to Gary Sanchez with the bases loaded.  Craig Kimbrel came in to finish the job, and the Red Sox won 6-3.

Injury Update: Hanley Ramirez did suffer a wrist contusion but avoided a more serious injury.  He was out of the lineup Friday against Baltimore but returned today with a Home Run.

What’s Next: The Red Sox have taken the first 2 games against the Orioles in a 4-game Fenway series as Eduardo Rodriguez dominated again against his former team as he has struck out more batters against the Orioles than any other opponent in his career.  The Sox won easily 7-3.  Velazquez gave up just 2 runs in 5 strong innings as the Sox cruised to a 10-3 victory and weather permitting hope Sale can keep the strong pitching streak for Sox starters going.

Bruins Dominate vs. Leafs, Led By Power Play success

  

The Bruins dominated in Game 1 of the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  They topped a strong Toronto Maple Leafs squad, 5-1, with David Backes scoring one goal and being robbed of a second.  Rick Nash also made an impact returning after a long absence.  The Bruins dominated in their power plays, scoring a power-play goal in every period.  One PP goal was during a 5-minute major power play due to a gruesome hit Nazem Kadri put on Tommy Wingels, knocking him out of the game.  Kadri is suspended for the next 3 games of the series, and if the Bruins continue to dominate, he may not play another game this season.

Zach Hyman scored the only goal for Toronto when the Leafs tied it up in the 1st period. After that, the Leafs fell out of it due to 4 unanswered Bruins goals.

Injury Update: Wingels is out for Game 2 after being hit by Kadri. Riley Nash is doubtful with an ear laceration.  Donato is playing for Wingels.

What’s Next: The Bruins take on the Leafs at the TD Garden again tonight.  It is being aired on prime time on NBC.  The Bruins have jumped out to a 5-2 lead early in the 2nd period, going 2 for 2 on the power play and scoring another 4 unanswered goals to begin the game.

Stay tuned for more Red Sox and Bruins coverage soon, including my latest Red Sox Report.

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My 2018 NHL Playoff Bracket

I have finished my predictions for the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Here is my bracket:

The Bruins have a very tough road ahead. They will face a tough Maple Leafs team in the first round, and will likely see the Lightning in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, another tough team. Their defensive struggles will definitely hurt them in the later rounds, especially if they face the Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals, or the dominant Nashville Predators. I do think the Bruins will win in the end though. If they can stay healthy from here, they have a lot of talent that is capable of keeping the offense going. The defense should be alright without Brandon Carlo, especially if Zdeno Chara, Charlie McAvoy, and Torey Krug do well in the playoffs.

Here are some other notes about my bracket:

  • I have picked most of the higher seeds in the East besides the Bruins and Penguins. But in the West, I have picked several upsets. The Golden Knights were the league’s biggest surprise this year, but they are inexperienced in the playoffs, and regressed down the stretch after appearing to be the league’s best team in the early months. I think the Kings will give them a rude awakening and Vegas will struggle under pressure.
  • The Sharks will also go deep. I think they have a better roster than the Ducks and will outmatch them head to head. They will top the Kings, a lower seed after LA shocks the Golden Knights and advance to the Western Conference Finals. The Kings will win in Round 1, but do not expect them to go any further. But the Predators are too good for them. I also picked the Wilds over the Jets for similar reasons.
  • I think the Bruins would’ve been much easier off against the Devils. The Lightning will dominate in New Jersey. I think the Florida Panthers, who just missed the playoffs and a lot of other teams would have given their opponents a bigger challenge than the Devils.
  • In my opinion, although the higher seeds in the East will win in the 1st Round, lower seeds like the Maple Leafs, Flyers and Blue Jackets will give their opponents a good challenge. As I said earlier, I think the Devils will be the easiest first round opponent.

That’s all for my NHL Stanley Cup Playoff Predictions. Stay tuned for more coverage.

Red Wings Catch Bruins In Extremely High Scoring Showdown

The Detroit Red Wings defeated the Boston Bruins this afternoon, 6-5.  Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Darren Helm each had 2 goals, Zetterberg and Datsyuk got assists.  But the Bruins started the game really well.

Right off the face off, Brett Connolly passed it to Brad Marchand who shot it right in for a goal!!!!  Fastest goal in Bruins history!!!  8 seconds after the opening face off, the Bruins led 1-0.  A couple minutes later, Henrik Zetterberg of the Red Wings answered with a Detroit goal, but they were questioning whether it should have been called offsides.  Claude Julien challenged, but the call stood.  I personally agree with the call despite being a Bruins fan.

The Bruins quickly retrieved it, and seconds later, it was Zach Trotman for the unassisted goal.  2-1 Boston.  About 30 seconds later, Zdeno Chara was called for interference, so the Red Wings were on power play.  But it soon became 4 on 4.  Petr Mrazek, the Detroit goalie was called for a penalty.  Brad Richards served the penalty, and it was 4 on 4.  A couple minutes later, Torey Krug left the game after getting hurt on a body shot.  They already had Adam McQuaid and Patrice Bergeron out, they can’t lose another guy.

Soon though, Loui Eriksson got a pass from David Krejci, and he shot it into the net for a give and go goal.  A couple minutes later, Brad Marchand was called for interference, the Wings had another power play.  This time, it ended fast for a different reason.  Pavel Datsyuk scored a power play goal assisted by Justin Abdelkader and Brad Richards.  It was 3-2 Bruins at the end of the period.

In the 2nd period, Darren Helm scored a quick goal, assisted by Alexei Marchenko and Xavier Oullet.  A minute later, Colin Miller got in a little skirmish with Justin Abdelkader.  He was called for hi-sticking, while Abdelkader called for slashing.  Another couple minutes later, Loui Eriksson was called for tripping, and it was 4 on 3.  On the power play, Pavel Datsyuk scored the goal, and it was the first time the Red Wings had the lead, 4-3.  After a quiet 5 minutes, Darren Helm scored his second goal of the period, and it was 5-3 Detroit.  Right off the face off, Spooner went to Seidenberg, and he scored!!!  Another quick Bruins goal, and it cut the Red Wings’ lead to 1 goal.  Personally my dad and I thought it was bad goal-tending on Petr Mrazek’s end.

Right at the start of the 3rd, rookie Joonas Kemppainen got a quick Boston goal!  The score was tied, 5-5.  But Henrik Zetterberg finished the job with his second goal of the game, Detroit’s 6th.  The Red Wings topped the Bruins 6-5.  However, they dominated all other stats, Brad Marchand has 13 goals in the last 13 games, and Claude Julien has 500 career wins as a coach.

 

 

Northborough Helps Liam Fitzgerald Bump Out Cancer

The Bruins may have been bumped out of the playoffs last night, but today they helped helped bump out cancer with their biggest and most famous fist-bumping fan, Liam Fitzgerald, a cancer survivor.  This event, called “Northborough – Get Your Bump On” was a community fist-bumping event where people could line up to fist-bump Liam.  The event raised money for the Leukemia and Lymphona Society, an organization that raises money for blood cancers.  There were three other cancer survivors: Christian Campero, Max Blasko and William Furgal, who were also recognized at this event.  Event organizer Julie Stanwood, who is also director of Friends of Families in Transition, got the idea to start the event after watching Liam on TV fist-bumping the Bruins players.

“I knew what a supportive community Northborough was.”

Stanwood said.  She was able to get multiple local companies to sponsor the event, such as Uno’s Pizzeria, Berkshire Bank, Wegman’s, TD Bank, Buffalo Wild Wings, Lala Java, Core Connection and many others.  Liz Nolan, founder of Northborough Mom’s and Tots, also helped organize this event and created a Facebook page to spread the word called “Northborough – Get Your Bump On”.

Legislators Harold Naughton Jr., Danielle W. Gregoire and Jamie Eldridge were also there to support Liam and they honored him with a recognition award from the Massachusetts House of Representatives.

Adding to the excitement were mascots from various sports teams and organizations including Blades of the Boston Bruins, Jake of the Worcester Bravehearts and the mascots from Buffalo Wild Wings and TD Bank.  A lifesize Mater from the movie “Cars” owned by Jonathan Gabriel from Armory Motor Storage was also there.

Liam’s oncologist, Dr. Ghazali Usmani ,who helped save his life also attended as well as Northborough-Southborough superintendent Christine Johnson, who commented that it was a beautiful day for this event. Liam’s mom Christine Fitzgerald said,

“It was so humbling to see so many people come together from our town: the doctors and nurses at UMass, politicians, old friends and new.  It was just an amazing outpouring of love and kindness.  We thank you all from the bottom of our hearts.”

She also wanted to thank Julie Stanwood and Liz Nolan for organizing this event.  Over 400 people participated in the fist bump and over $4,800 was raised at today’s event.

Liam with TD mascot and Blades-rs

Liam with his oncologist from UMass Dr. Ghazala Usmani
Liam with his oncologist from UMass Dr. Ghazala Usmani
Liam with Jake, the Worcester Bravehearts mascot
Liam with Jake, the Worcester Bravehearts mascot
Liam receiving award from the Massachusetts House of Representatives
Liam receiving award from the Massachusetts House of Representatives
State Representatives Danielle Gregorie and Harold Naugton, Jr. with Bruins mascot, Blades
State Representatives Danielle Gregorie and Harold Naugton, Jr. with Bruins mascot, Blades
Line for fist bump
Line for fist bump

Bruins Shutout Penguins For Fifth Straight Win

The Bruins shutout the Pittsburgh Penguins for the 5th Boston win in a row, making their record 36-22-10.  The Bruins have won 6 of their last 7 games getting at least one point per game since I went to the game on February 28, making them one of the hottest teams in hockey.  The Bruins would be the 7th seed playoff team if the season ended today.  In the game, Tuukka Rask got 30 saves.  Dennis Seidenberg had the first penalty, tripping against Chris Kunitz.  Then, the first of 2 Boston goals was scored.  Milan Lucic scored a goal assisted by David Pastrnak and Dougie Hamilton.  Soon after, Penguins player David Perron tripped Max Talbot.  The next penalty was on Loui Eriksson, hooking against Paul Martin.  The second period was quiet but penalty infested.  Patric Hornqvist was responsible for the first penalty, interference against Torey Krug.   the second and final 2nd period penalty was Chris Kelly’s hi-sticking penalty against Christian Ehrhoff.  The third period had a penalty about one fourth of the way in.  Ben Lovejoy was called for hooking against Brad Marchand.  With a few minutes left, Tuukka Rask made the save of the game.  He dived out of the net to grab the puck and get it into his glove.  Then, the Penguins took out their goalie, Thomas Greiss with about 40 seconds left.  Greiss is the backup goalie for Pittsburgh, who rested their starting goalie for today’s game.  He wasn’t a scratch, but he wasn’t in the net for the whole game.  Then, one of the best and longest shots I have ever seen for a goal that counted happened.  Zdeno Chara shot the puck all the way across the ice to get an empty net goal assisted by Gregory Campbell to make it 2-0 Bruins.  At the minute the goal was scored, Steve Downie of the Penguins got penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct.  Some funny stuff happened in this final period as well.  At one point, the puck was stuck in Daniel Paille’s shorts, but he got up on his skates to see the puck drop out of his shorts.  Also, somebody shot on the goal but hit the post instead knocking the goalie net off its post.  Also, on a rebound from a Tuukka Rask save, the Penguins shot the puck and saw it go off a player’s leg and continue to bump against the boards.  The Bruins won 2-0.  In the game, Sidney Crosby, the Penguins’ best player was a last minute scratch.  Their next best player, Evgeni Malkin, barely played and did nothing due to an early game injury.  Still, it was still pretty impressive and good for the Bruins that they could shutout the Penguins in Pittsburgh, let alone defeat them in Pittsburgh or even beat them at all, visiting or not.  The Bruins were able to pull off an impressive shutout as visitors to one of the best teams in the entire NHL, but they were fortunate that Crosby and Malkin got injured before and early on in the game.  Either way, the Bruins had a good road win against a top NHL team.

Bruins Very Active at Trade Deadline, Acquiring Four Forwards In Three Trades

The Bruins were very active at the trade deadline.  They made three transactions.  They traded a second round draft pick for 2015 and 2016 away for forward Brett Connolly in return.  Personally, I think this was a fair trade that will help the Bruins in the NHL, but minor league could be a new concern after losing those draft picks.  They will get a first look at Connolly’s skills at TD Garden with the Calgary Flames coming to visit this Thursday.  I think Connolly will boost the Bruins offense.  That was the Bruins main need according to NESN’s fan poll at this past Saturday’s game.   Next, they traded Jordan Caron and a 2016 sixth round draft pick to the Colorado Avalanche for Maxime Talbot and Paul Carey, both forwards.  That brings more offensive depth to the team.  Finally, they traded Jared Knight to the Minnesota Wild for Zack Phillips, yet another forward, although they gave up one.  Talbot played 63 games with Colorado this season scoring 5 goals and 10 assists.  In past seasons he scored an additional 78 goals since 2006.  The trades made will bring a huge impact on the offensive side of things.

Bruins Treat Me to Greatest Sports Experience of my Life

Last night was a very special night for me. I got to sit in the press box because of getting noticed for my blog.  First, I’d like to thank all the Bruins press and TD Garden staff for getting this together for me. This was the greatest sports experience of my life. That says a lot when I’ve said play ball at Fenway Park and presented the Red Sox line-up on NESN.
To start my experience, I bought a new Bruins cap at the Pro Shop. I came back down to where I had entered to wait for Bruins Communications Specialist Erika Wentzell. Erika gave me a tour of the media areas of the TD Garden. Once I introduced myself and received my very own press pass, we got right in on the tour.

The press passes my Dad and I wore to have access to the press area
The press passes my Dad and I wore to have access to the press area

I first got to go in a huge elevator with supply carts for the game. I got off right in front of a goal waiting to be placed on the ice.

In the net before Tuukka was
In the net before Tuukka was

I then saw the ice and took a picture right in front of it.

In front of the ice before the game
In front of the ice before the game

I then saw the Zambonis waiting outside the area where you could see the ice.

In front of the Zambonis before the game
In front of the Zambonis before the game

We moved on to where the media was. I saw the room where the post-game press conference takes place. While I was there I met Jack Edwards, the Bruins TV announcer. Next, I saw a room where the press worked. I saw the locker room doors while the players were inside.

In front of the locker room before the game
In front of the locker room before the game

Across from the lockers I saw the room where I would meet and interview a player after the game. Then we went on up to the 9th floor press box. I got a tour of the press box including TV and radio announcer rooms. I got to sit in Andy Brickley’s chair while wearing his headphones.

Sitting in Andy Brickley’s NESN seat
Sitting in Andy Brickley’s NESN seat

Before we got to our seats, I got a look at the free food I would have access to including unlimited popcorn and soda. Then Erika walked us to our seats with a great view.

The view from our seats
The view from our seats

Before the game, I met many famous people. First, I met Caryn Switaj, the Bruins Digital Content Specialist. I met Dave Goucher, who remembered me from Play By Play Camps (http://playbyplaycamps.com/). I also met Comcast SportsNet’s Joe Haggerty during warm-ups. Shortly after he introduced me to Dave Goucher’s radio partner Bob Beers, former Bruins star, while getting popcorn and soda. Minutes before the game, I met Joe McDonald.

With ESPN’s Joe McDonald before the game
With ESPN’s Joe McDonald before the game

He tweeted my blog out which was very nice of him and I promised to do the same (https://twitter.com/espnjoeymac). They all told me to keep reading and writing and I plan to. I asked them to read my Boston SportsMania blog and gave them samples and the link (andrewr1008.wordpress.com).
Also before the game, I got game notes that only the press gets and saw my name on the media seating chart and a place card saving my seat at the left end of the press box. I also got lineups minutes before game time and stats before the game and at the end of each period.

Media Seating Chart
Media Seating Chart
Seating Assignments
Seating Assignments

The game started and I enjoyed great seats and free food that was delicious. I kept my own stats on the paper with the lineups. I also had the stats I got at the start of the game. After each period, they handed out updated stats which were very cool.
In the second period, I watched with Caryn Switaj, while watching her tweet out quick game updates to 700,000 followers of http://bruins.nhl.com/.

With Caryn Switaj in between periods
With Caryn Switaj in between periods

She was very nice and invited me to write this post. Joe McDonald also came by in between periods which made me feel special. Both Joe and Caryn taught me things about writing and also told me interesting facts like Zdeno Chara’s fastest shot in the game, 108 MPH! He scored to make it 4-0 Bruins.
As the third period went by I began to prepare to ask the first question to Claude Julien for the post-game press conference. The game ended with the Bruins winning 4-1 over the Arizona Coyotes.
After listening to a quick interview Caryn Switaj did, I left for the press conference. There, I asked Claude Julien, “Who do you think had a great performance in this game?” He answered, saying everyone did well, especially the young guys that were new additions to the lineup, like Ryan Spooner. He said that Milan Lucic was like a father figure to those players like Spooner, who scored his first career goal to win the Bruins the game in overtime on Friday night. Two sports writers complimented on how well I asked the first question and gave me high fives. I got to then practice for a question I would soon ask a player in the press dressing room.
Brad Marchand came in, and we introduced ourselves.

With Bruin Brad Marchand after the game with my Dad in the background taking the photo
With Bruin Brad Marchand after the game with my Dad in the background taking the photo

I asked him, “Thinking about how well you’ve done over the last four games, what do you think your playoff chances are right now?” He answered saying, if we keep playing the way we played tonight, I think we have a pretty good chance. After that, we said goodbye to Erika, and we started on our way home. This was the greatest sports experience of my life!