Category Archives: Boston Sports

Boston Bruins: Last Two Weeks By The Numbers For 3/28

One thing is clear: if the Bruins are going to make the playoffs this season, they are going to have to be nearly perfect in their eight remaining games. In the last two weeks, they have fallen out of the playoff picture, missed a chance to sweep the season series from one division rival for the first time ever, surrendered a half dozen goals to another division foe for the first time in almost a decade, got their first shutout in one Eastern city in nearly four decades and still have not scored a goal this year against one team they are chasing. This is Boston Bruins: Last Two Weeks By The Numbers.

The Bruins have been bumped out of the playoffs, but Tuukka Rask has been far from the problem.

The Bruins have been bumped out of the playoffs, but Tuukka Rask has been far from the problem.

0: The Bruins shut out the Penguins, 2-0, on March 14 and then were shut out by the same score at the hands of the Capitals in their next game the following night. It marked the first time the B’s were involved in shutouts in consecutive games since Nov. 19 and 21, 2011 with 6-0 and 1-0 wins over the Islanders and Canadiens. It was also the first time they won a game via a shutout and then lost their next via a shutout since March 24 and 26, 2010 against the Canadiens and Rangers.

1.35: Ottawa’s Andrew Hammond came into last Thursday’s win over the B’s with a 1.35 goals-against average in 12 starts before surrendering four to Boston.

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Boston Bruins: Last Two Weeks By The Numbers

After a less than stellar February, the Bruins seem to have found their stride again during the first half of March as they have put some separation between themselves and those chasing for the final Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference. The team has gone 6-0-1 in its last seven games and seen their first shootout goal of the calendar year, one winger accomplishing something not done in 31 years, a rare two-goal game for a member of the fourth line, the special teams doing something they have not done since 2009 and the team opening the scoring in as consistent of a way they have not done since 1990. This is Boston Bruins: Last Two Weeks By The Numbers.

Brad Marchand has been doing his part to help jumpstart the Bruins in the month of March.

Brad Marchand has been doing his part to help jumpstart the Bruins in the month of March.

0: Carl Soderberg failed to win a face off against the Flyers on Saturday for the first time since Nov. 21.

1: Ryan Spooner scored the first goal of his career on Feb. 27 to give the Bruins their 30th win, 3-2, over the Devils in overtime. It came in his 35th career NHL game.

1: Six nights later, he took the first shootout attempt of his career in the loss to the Flames (0-1).

1: Max Talbot earned his first point as a member of the Bruins with the primary assist on Brad Marchand’s game-winning overtime goal to beat the Flyers, 3-2, on Saturday.

1.20: David Pastrnak is tied for fifth in the league with 1.20 points per game against the Atlantic Division this season (just five games).

2: Daniel Paille recorded goals in consecutive games on Feb. 24 and 27 for the first time since Jan. 4 and 7, 2014.

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Red Sox Are Betting On Efficiency

I recently read an excellent article written by Alex Speier of the Boston Globe that I believe offers a great deal of perspective on both the Red Sox’ offseason strategy and their plan moving forward. There has been popular sentiment among most Red Sox fans that the team’s offseason goals remain incomplete due to the lack of an “established ace;” whether that deficiency changes the Red Sox’ postseason aspirations remains to be seen. However in the article mentioned above, Speier examines the returns on $20 million Average Annual Value contracts for pitchers, and then compares them to drafted amateurs who earned a bonus of $5 million or more, and Cuban free agents who received a bonus of $10 million or more. The article is definitely worth a read for more in-depth analysis, but the main conclusion is that while you generally get what you pay for, future considerations favor the Red Sox’ offseason strategy.

1 Hanley + 1 Sandoval = 1 Lester

1 Hanley + 1 Sandoval = 1 Lester

The first part of Speier’s article asks why the Red Sox flexed their financial muscle on Yoan Moncada instead of Jon Lester. This is really not a fair comparison, since the $63 million the team spent on Moncada (including the overage tax) is roughly one-third of what Lester eventually received from the Cubs in free agency ($180 million, including a seventh year option). Instead, let us compare Lester’s signing to what the Red Sox actually did with the money they saved from his defection. The Red Sox spent about $183 million to sign Hanley Ramirez AND Pablo Sandoval, effectively getting two above average players instead of one. While there is still room for improvement in the rotation, the lineup was also a major issue last season and getting two above average bats for the price of one above average starting pitcher should be applauded.

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Moncada Signing Solidifies Red Sox Infield

First a little disclaimer: the headline might be somewhat misleading. The Red Sox’ signing of Cuban uber-prospect Yoan Moncada does seem to stabilize the team’s infield picture, but for the future, meaning two or three years down the line. There is no current opening in the Red Sox infield, but there should be by the time Moncada is ready to show the world why the Red Sox just paid $31.5 million to a 19 year-old who has never played baseball in the United States. The tools, talent, and projectability are allegedly off the charts, so once he is ready the Red Sox might more or less have to find a spot for him, but it might not be as hard as it sounds.

Consider the Red Sox infield picture beyond the 2015 season; Mike Napoli is headed for free agency, and while he says he would like to stay beyond this season, there probably won’t be much motivation for the Red Sox to get something done beyond a one-year deal. So that leaves Dustin Pedroia and Pablo Sandoval locked up long-term, plus Xander Bogaerts sticking around at shortstop. However, given Sandoval’s less-than-inspiring physique (plus his career 0 DRS and 2.2 UZR at third), it might be best to move him to first base in the long term. If injuries or weight really become an issue, he could even DH on a near full-time basis, thereby leaving first base open for Hanley Ramirez. Regardless, the first base/DH duties should go between Sandoval and Ramirez, in whatever order the Red Sox see fit.

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New England Patriots: Super Bowl XLIX Champions!

The New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks contested arguably the greatest Super Bowl of all-time. It had everything from hard hitting defense to brilliant offense and just pure drama as the two teams battled it out until literally the last seconds of the game. With 23 seconds to go Russell Wilson threw an interception to Patriots rookie defensive back Malcom Butler on the one yard line sending the New England Patriots players and fans around the world to go in to a frenzy of celebration as well as disbelief that they had finally captured their first Super Bowl championship since 2004.

Brady’s reaction to Butler’s intercepted summed it all up for anyone associated with the Patriots

 

After Jermaine Kearse’s catch down at the goal-line it appeared that New England would surely suffer a third straight Super Bowl defeat as it seemed once again that the football gods were once again going to snatch victory away from the Patriots with a David Tyree/Mario Manningham type play. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick in particular needed this victory more than anything to quieten down all the doubters and finally get this massive weight off of their shoulders. Despite all Brady and Belichick have achieved if Wilson had indeed completed that pass to Lockette or if the Seahawks had just run the ball with Lynch like 99.9% of people would have done then Seattle would have surely won this game and left the Patriots franchise in devastation.



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But the beauty of sport is that it is all swings and roundabouts and that is none truer than in the National Football League. When Brady started his career he was a young kid fighting tooth and nail to make it in the NFL and under the guidance of Belichick the Patriots won 3 Super Bowls in 4 years thanks to a a fantastic defense, great coaching and the heart as well as the desire of a young quarterback. Some would say that at that time Brady was just a game manager, some would say that despite having the best win ratio in NFL history he hadn’t won the big one since 2004 and that it was just because of that great defense that Brady had 3 Super Bowl rings. People would even dare to call Brady a choker and bring up the lack of Super Bowl success since SpyGate despite guiding his team to the big one two more times since 2004. The 2007 team almost pulled of perfection, in 2011 the Pats just couldn’t get the job done and it appeared that the 4th championship may never come around.

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Super Bowl XLIX: Patriots vs Seahawks

super-bowl-patriots-seahawks

Destiny, rising in the face of adversity and desire; these are the things that great teams believe in, do and aspire too which is something both the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks possess.

These two NFL heavyweights will lock horns come Sunday evening for arguably the biggest prize in sport, the Lombardi Trophy. The Patriots are looking to capture their 4th championship in franchise history and more importantly their first since 2004. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick will also be looking to exorcise demons from previous Super Bowls as it was in this exact stadium back in 2007 where the Patriots were minutes away from pulling off the perfect season before losing to the Giants and finishing the campaign 18-1.

Despite all their achievements and all the success the Patriots organisation has achieved it appears that Sunday’s game is going to define a legacy. If Brady and Belichick win then it is a 4 Super Bowl win and 6 appearances, both have the most playoff wins for a QB and for a head coach and both hold numerous other records that help stake their claim as the greatest ever. If they don’t defeat Seattle then other fan bases will continue to jibe the Pats with “Spygate”, “Deflate gate” and about any other gate they can think of.

The Patriots are usually the masters of rising up in the face of adversity and punching it right in the throat which is something you could say they’ve done more so than ever this season but Seattle have had to combat this themselves. After a lacklustre start to the season the defending champions were heavily criticised including the almighty legion of boom and despite the fact that many experts were touting a possible return to the Super Bowl for these Seahawks secretly I believe and from what I saw about 90% of people really did feel that Dallas or Green Bay would knock off Seattle in this postseason but it never happened.

The Seahawks rose from the ashes last week to pull off one of the greatest playoff comebacks in NFL history as they rallied back from 16-0 down to take the game to overtime at 22-22 before Russell Wilson finished off the game to Jermaine Kearse with a beautiful touchdown leaving Green Bay shell shocked and wondering what if (I doubt any of their players will be watching the game tomorrow). So now Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch and this amazing Seattle Seahawks defense, who came up big especially in the red zone last week, will have a chance to repeat against a team who were in fact the last NFL franchise to pull off such a feat.

It’s that among many other factors which makes this game so exciting and so damn hard to predict! This will arguably be Seattle and New England’s toughest games of the season. The Patriots themselves pulled off a memorable playoff comeback against Baltimore in the divisional round so we know how much heart and determination both of these teams have. They also put in a stellar performance in last weeks AFC Championship game against the Colts to blow out the opposition 45-7 with LeGarrette Blount running wild and the Pats defense coming up big with huge intensity and fantastic play for near enough the entire 60 minutes.

The Patriots defense is probably the second best in the league and the truth is that they are not that far behind Seattle’s but with this Seahawks D being so tough and so nasty it just puts them head and shoulders above the rest. Now Tom Brady has faced many great D’s in the past and he will have been studying Seattle night and day for the past fortnight so he will be prepared and he has the tools to defeat the legion of boom.

The LOB’s and this Seattle defenses kryptonite for me is Rob Gronkowski as despite how good the likes of Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, Jeremy Lang and Bobby Wagner are they’ve never come up against a player like Gronk as this man can do anything. Now despite Gronk’s abilities to block, catch and just about to near enough anything my key to the game is this Pats o-line protecting Tom Brady as well as whether they can be effective enough to help get the run game going.

In Brady’s past two Super Bowl losses the Giants front 3 was able to create tons of pressure to force a collapse in the pocket and get to Tom. If that happens again on Sunday it will be hard for the Pats to win especially as we’ve seen how brilliant that the likes of Bruce Irvin and Michael Bennett are in the pass rush. They have the skills to crash up the middle and replicate the success the Giants had against Brady but this Pats o line ranks 4th in giving up the fewest sacks this season so them doing their jobs will be crucial.

If they can indeed hold up strong and give Brady time in the pocket as well as create a successful run game with Blount also being a key factor then the Pats have the tools to win this game. The recipe to New England’s success on offense this season has been quick passes, slants and the abilities of their small, nibble receivers creating plays after the catch so Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola will have big roles to play. This is something that Seattle have sometimes struggled against in the past with TY Hilton of the Colts being an example. Edelman, Amendola can both run similar corner routes to this one and because all are so good but with different qualities it makes for an exciting head to head when this Pats offense goes against the Seattle defense. Add Gronk in the mix as mention previously along with the big bodied Brandon LaFell who’s having a breakout year at wideout for the Patriots, he has become one of Brady’s most trusted weapons, and this Patriots offense will be giving the Seattle defense a few sleepless nights of their own. (Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan fans will appreciate the pun).

The Pats defense will be having a few restless nights of their own as they know how devastating Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch can be. Beast mode is the best running back in the league and thrives for the big games whilst Wilson always seems to keep calm in high pressure situations and also always manages to pull out a big play when needed. Doug Baldwin for me is a very underrated receiver and will pose the Pats defense threats but because of his slant running type nature New England will be well equipped for this.

Despite Russell Wilson’s ability to use his legs and considering how underrated his throwing ability is at times which was something the Broncos underestimated in last years Super Bowl I feel this Patriots defense has all the tools to combat the Seattle offense. Just like Wilson is a new type of QB these Patriot linebackers in the form of Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower are new breeds of linebackers and are equipped to disrupt as well as get after Russell Wilson. whilst the likes of Vince Wilfork, Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich definitely have a chance of frustrating beast mode.

Add the Pats secondary to this defense which includes brilliant safety Devin McCourty along with Darrelle Revis wanting to prove he’s the best corner in the game on the biggest stage of them all when he goes against Richard Sherman tomorrow and you can see why this is the best Patriots defense since 2007. Remember the last time the Pats were in a Super Bowl Julian Edelman played at corner; now they have key contributors such as Brandon Browner, Logan Ryan, Kyle Arrington and Patrick Chung who all have risen to the occasion thanks to the inspiration and leadership from the likes of Revis and McCourty. For the Seahawks to win they’ll need to run the ball effectively through Lynch so that Wilson can try to deceive the Pats D by using his own legs and with his throws but if that doesn’t happen they’ll become a bit more predictable which will help the Patriots in attempting to stop this Seattle offense.

Now everyone is talking about Seattle repeating or the fact that this is the game to cement Belichick but more so Tom Brady’s legacy and to be quite honest it is a little bit. It is incredible that he would have to win this to make on Sunday to have 4 Super Bowl wins from 6 appearances in the big one just to prove the doubters wrong but personally I see this as being the career game for Rob Gronkowski who will help Brady, Belichick and the Patriots achieve their dreams once again. Gronk, the man who played for the university of Arizona, has waited 3 years for this since the Super Bowl loss to the Giants when he hobbled around on one ankle and has missed the past two playoffs with other injuries so it’s only fitting that the biggest game of Gronk’s career will be played in Arizona, a place he loves and a place where he hopes his dreams will be fulfilled come Sunday night. Seattle may be favourites and I do agree with that assessment but I’ve been adamant all season that if Gronkowski stays healthy the Patriots will win the Super Bowl so despite the fact that Pete Carroll is up against his former team as well as that the all mighty legion of boom are the best defense to come along since 1985 Bears I am standing by that prediction now more than ever.

Prediction: Patriots 27-23 Seahawks

 

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