Saturday, December 31, 2011

Top Boston Sports Moment of 2011

#1: Bruins Win First Stanley Cup since 1972

ESPNBoston made their own countdown midway through ours, and placed game 7 vs. Vancouver third in the top ten. Wait, what? Seriously, the game that allowed Zdeno Chara permission to take the Cup from Commissioner Gary Bettman is behind the victory parade the next week and the raising of the banner the next October?

A great sports moment for me is something that gives me the unknown, a game or series that has something on the line. I loved watching the banner go up in Boston in the 2011 season opener just as much as I loved watching the duckboat parade. But both of those events had planning, both were productions. And neither happen if Patrice Bergeron and Tim Thomas don't lead the Bruins to their first road win of the series on that fateful night in southwest Canada. The entire day of game 7 I was anxious, every twenty minutes thinking to myself that my favorite team was going to be playing in arguably (by all means try arguing with me on this) the most intense athletic event that professional sports offers us that night.

There was a perfect storm of emotions for a diehard B's fan going into that night. Confidence was certainly flowing, as Boston had run the Canucks off the Garden ice in game 6. Roberto Luongo had been inconsistent while Thomas played pretty much lights out the entire playoffs. Caution
and doubt crept in as well, with Vancouver stepping up its physical game in the three home games to that point, all victories for the Western champs. The stage was set for an all or nothing game to decide a championship. The fact that the game was being played in Canada was a bonus for me as well, although Boston remains one of the few American cities that can create that type of atmosphere.

The game began with both teams earning scoring chances. Daniel Sedin hit a backhander that nearly squeaked between Thomas's legs ten minutes in. Five minutes later Bergeron hit an awkward one-timer past Luongo for a 1-0 lead. Midway through the second, Vancouver got it's best opportunity of the game, as Alex Burrows dragged the puck away from Thomas, sending him scrambling and out of position. Burrows got a shot away past Thomas but Chara was able to lunge in front of the goal line and make a leg save. Brad Marchand's wraparound was followed by a Bergeron shorty on a breakaway and put the game away. Vancouver's efforts proved fruitless in the third, as the Bruins played flawless in their defensive zone, and Marchand scored his second on an empty net, sending the Bruins bench into euphoria for the final minutes.

The Stanley Cup was the final piece to the puzzle for the Boston sports fan. It was special to the region for this reason specifically. For Bruins fans of our generation, this season was extra special, following the past three postseason heartbreaks. A game 7 blowout to Montreal in '08. A game 7 OT loss to underdog Carolina in '09. A 3-0 series lead fell apart against Philly in '10, including a 3-0 lead in game 7 as well. To be able to win three game 7's in this postseason, culminating with a 4-0 victory over a team that generated massive amounts of hate from Boston's faithful over a two week span made it even sweeter. A memory I'll never forget, and the defining moment of the year that was.

Side note: If you really aren't into hockey but love New England sports, there is literally no better time than TODAY to become a Bruins fan. They are the best team in the league, in the midst of a two month span that has seen them lose a whopping three games in 24 chances, and to top it off they are playing the Dallas Stars tonight. The last two games against Dallas have been absolute bloodbaths. Everybody loves fights and goals, and I guarantee this game will have plenty of both. Shawn Thornton is going to cause someone on Dallas to need stitches tonight, I'd bet the wife and kids on it.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Top 10 Moments of 2011: Part 5

This is the fifth installment of our countdown to the top moment in New England sports for 2011. Parts 1-4 can be found by scrolling down on our main page.

#2: Thomas and Roloson square off in Game 7 of East Finals

Simply put, this was the best-played hockey game I have ever seen. Prior to game 7, both teams had squandered opportunities and at times completely fell apart defensively. Highlights included the emergence of Tyler Seguin, who was stepping in for a concussed Patrice Bergeron, and Thomas's save of the year on Steve Downie in game 5.

This game was a different story. Both teams played lights out defensively. Tampa relied on its 1-3-1 zone that gave Boston fits
when it was executed. Boston answered with superhuman efforts by Dennis Seidenberg and Zdeno Chara, who logged ridiculous minutes on the blue line. Seidenberg was actually named the first star of the game, with 27:57 minutes played and EIGHT blocked shots. With a Stanley Cup berth on the line and a rabid crowd at the Garden, the intensity was palpable. Neither team was called for a penalty the entire sixty minutes. The flow of the game was brilliant, and game 7 extraordinaire Roloson (had never lost an elimination game in his career) matched the Vezina Trophy-winning Thomas through the first two periods.

In the Montreal series prior as well as the Vancouver series that followed, the Bruins opponents
in those contests often resorted to bush league tactics and diving. Tampa Bay would do no such thing. They were a tough and physical yet clean group of hockey players. Young sniper Steven Stamkos epitomized that effort, taking a Johnny Boychuk slapshot to the nose early in the game, only to return 12 minutes later.

Finally, with about seven minutes to play in the third, Andrew Ference started a clean breakout for the B's. He made a beautiful pass to a streaking David Krejci who gained entry and took the puck wide, allowing Nathan Horton to fill the middle lane. Krejci fired a saucer pass to Horton who kept his stick low on the wide post and connected for the game's only goal. Roloson never had a chance on the perfectly executed play.

Boston continued to play rock solid defensively for the final minutes and clinched their first trip to the Cup Finals in 21 years. If you have twenty minutes, I urge you to watch the condensed version of this game, full equipped with the Garden's support system being tested as fans never returned to their seats following the Horton goal. Gives me chills every time.

TOMORROW: What could possibly beat this? Our countdown concludes with the Top Moment in New England sports this year.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Celtics Struggles Continue, Get Trounced By The Hornets

For the first time since the 2006-2007 season, the Celtics have begun the season 0-3. The previous two games were hard fought, close games. But last night was a nightmare for the Celtics in a 78-97 loss to the Hornets. They seemed like they were tired, had no energy, but more importantly, had no passion and lacked effort. There were several times throughout the game where the Celtics had four guys down low and couldn't come up with a rebound.

Obviously the absence of their captain and leading scorer in Paul Pierce has hurt them, but you would think they would be able to win at least one game without him. Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen seem to be the only ones on the court who "care." If I were to tell you at the beginning of the year that Rajon Rondo would be the Celtics leading scorer, you would most likely say not a chance. Rondo seems to be playing with quite a big chip on his shoulder after the offseason trade rumors. He is averaging a double-double with 22 points per game and 10 assists per game. Not much else you can ask your point guard to bring to the table for your team. As for Ray Allen, he has started off with a hot hand. He's hit 63% of his 3-pointers, and is averaging 21 points per game.

Bottom line is that the Celtics need every aspect of what has become their "Big 4." If one of those guys is hurt, (Garnett, Allen, Pierce, Rondo) they will be playing golf this offseason. Without Garnett, they can't rebound. Without Allen, they can't score. Without Pierce, they have no leadership. And without Rondo, they have no chance.

An important factor about this season is the fact that there are 16 less games being played. That means a two week injury has the possibility of missing around 8-10 games. Paul Pierce, get healthy. Your team and city needs you.

Brady's Injury Situation

It was reported today by ESPN that Tom Brady has sustained a left shoulder injury that required x-rays (Does this impact your opinion on playing the starters in week 17? Please comment on JCole's post regarding the issue).

Listen, I value Brady's importance to this team just as much as anyone. If this is going to have a negative affect on his play, the Pats have no shot at winning a playoff game. In fact, I have thought that his tennis elbow issues have had a noticeable impact on his accuracy at times during the year. However, knowing the attitude that he and Belichick have towards the game, I just don't see him sitting nor it being any excuse for a drop in performance. The guy spent two full seasons on the injury list for soreness in his throwing shoulder. This reported injury is to his left shoulder. It shouldn't have any impact on his motion or accuracy. What will be a concern is keeping him upright and avoiding getting driven into the ground against Buffalo. With Logan Mankins, Matt Light, Sebastian Vollmer, and Brian Waters all seeing limited or no practice time this week, this becomes even more of a concern on Sunday. lists Brady as missing practice today due to a non-injury related reason as well.

It should also be noted that Belichick has a soft spot for football history. With Brady's chance at breaking the all-time single season passing yardage mark with a big game Sunday, it is possible that not only will he play, but could stay in the game regardless of the score if he keeps pace with what he needs to do statistically.

At the end of the day, this team is just as flawed as it is banged up. In order for the Patriots to make a run towards the Super Bowl, Brady is going to have to be brilliant as he has all season. He has to play up to the precedent he has set for this team to have a shot. Getting an x-ray today does not change that.

Top 10 Moments of 2011: Part 4

This is part 4 of a 6 part series featuring the top New England moments in sports from 2011. #'s 10-5 can be found at the bottom of our main page.

2010-11 was supposed to be an off year for Jim Calhoun's Huskies. UConn entered the year unranked and picked by Big East coaches to finish tenth in the conference. Many questioned whether or not Kemba Walker could step to the forefront and accept the 'star player' role after being such a valuable secondary asset in his first two collegiate seasons. Even if he did, it would be highly unlikely that he would get much help, with a very young and raw group rounding out the starting five. Walker then famously went bonkers at the Maui Invitational, averaging over 30 points per game.
After a tumultuous Big East season, UConn finished 9th with a .500 record. It would take five straight victories- in five straight days- to pick up a conference title. That's exactly what they did, defeating four ranked opponents including #3 Pitt and #14 Louisville (championship game) in the process. One of the most impressive weeks of basketball at the college level that we have ever seen catapulted Kemba and the Huskies to a 3 seed in the big dance.

The tourney run included wins over Arizona, pre-tournament favorite San Diego State, Kentucky, and finally Butler in the championship game in Houston. However ugly that final was, and believe me it was brutal, it was the culminating victory in a wild season that gave us one of the most spectacular individual (Kemba's season: NCAA record for points in a tournament, 23.5/5.5/4.4 averages) and team (4 wins over ranked teams in 5 days) efforts in New England's college sports history.

#3: Ray Allen Breaks Career 3 Pointers Made Record

This one is difficult for me to rank this high. First of all there has only been a three point line since the 1979-80 season in the NBA, so only players in the league after that have had a chance. Second of all, teams didn't start adapting their strategies and using the line as an offensive tool and grooming their players to shoot from distance until even after that. So with that in mind, only shooters who played the prime of their careers in the 90's and into the new millennium have a realistic chance at being the all time 3PM leader. Kind of puts a damper on things, no? Also, the sexiness of the record just isn't as appealing as some of the records in sports that were given the same attention. The list of season 3PM leaders in NBA history includes legends Vernon Maxwell, Kyle Korver, the iconic "Thunder Dan" Majerle, and Antoine Walker.

Any Celtics fan who remembers 'Toine's glory years will be able to tell you that he was an annual threat for this statistical category not because of his prowess as a shooter. It was because he was taking more three's than anyone in the league at the time by an astronomical margin. Reggie Miller of course held the record for many years before this past season. Unlike Walker, Miller actually shot for an outstanding percentage in his prime. He led the league in free throw percentage five times as well. His shot, while unorthodox, had beautiful arch on it.

This leads me back to the reason that I just couldn't look past this record. Ray Allen shooting a basketball is straight gorgeous, his release perfect, complete with jaw-dropping rotation. Anyone can relate to it. You could put anybody in a room with 5 professionals shooting a basketball, and even if that person hadn't the slightest clue about basketball fundamentals, they could tell you that Ray was doing it better. The lead-up to the record blessed us with many highlights of him shredding nylon, including my personal favorite game of his as a Celtic. He is just so much fun to watch play, and maybe that's why this record means more to us than it should. Every time he gets the ball at the Garden, everyone rises to their feet and that sound of anticipation comes out. It probably helps that it happened at home, on national TV with Reggie providing color analysis himself, and it was against the Lakers. We talk about special athletes having that "it" factor that just isn't explainable. Well for me this record and this moment just has "it".

COMING TOMORROW: The game that was referred to by many of this sport's experts as the greatest they have ever seen.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Bailey Headed to Boston!

It's been reported that the Red Sox have agreed to trade Josh Reddick, Miles Head, and Raul Alcantera to the Oakland Athletics in exchange for Andrew Bailey and Ryan Sweeney. I love this deal with every fiber of my being.

First off, I am sad to see Reddick go. He was a high energy player who made good contact, and was very strong defensively. Given the opportunity I think he had the chance to develop into a pretty decent big league starting outfielder. From what I've read about Head and Alcantera, they both are young and far from the big leagues but they both have some upside. All of that, I'm willing to trade in exchange for Bailey and Sweeney.

Bailey has proven in his short MLB tenure that when healthy, he is one of the best closers in the American League. He has a strong fastball that he can command, and is much younger and cheaper than his counterpart, Jonathan Papelbon. While Sweeney is somewhat of a MLB bust, this former top prospect still has some raw physical tools and he seems like a very logical fit as a 4th outfielder (and he has a 9.0 UZR in RF).

I believe this move signifies two things for the Red Sox; 1, Daniel Bard will definitively be a member of the starting rotation along with, potentially, Alfredo Aceves (I couldn't be more excited about Bard going to the rotation either, he has the stuff and makeup to be an All-Star in that role). 2, The Red Sox are going to need to pursue a right fielder for the upcoming season. I don't anticipate the Red Sox looking for an offensive powerhouse with so many offensive weapons already in the lineup, rather a more defensive minded outfielder who can give LH/RH balance to an already lethal lineup. These factors might allow Ben Cherington to hand the job over to top prospect Ryan Kalish to see if he can handle the role, or look outside the organization for a replacement. Regardless, the future is looking bright for the Red Sox this season.

Projected Lineup?
C: Saltalamacchia
1b: Gonzalez
2b: Pedroia
3b: Youkilis
SS: Scutaro
LF: Crawford
CF: Ellsbury
RF: Kalish?
DH: Ortiz

1. Jon Lester
2. Josh Beckett
3. Clay Buchholz
4. Daniel Bard
5. Alfredo Aceves

CL: Andrew Bailey
SU: Mark Melancon

Looks pretty damn good to me.

If you're interested in learning a little bit about the Red Sox prospects, head over to, they have great writeups on the players.

Top 10 Moments of 2011: Part 3

This is Part 3 of week long series highlighting the top New England sports moments in 2011. If you missed Parts 1 and 2, scroll down on the main page.

#6: Brady Rings in New Year With 38-7 Beat Down of Miami

We began our calendar year with high hopes for the top seeded New England Patriots. Unanimous MVP Tom Brady led the most efficient offense in the league and capped off his 2010-11 campaign with a bang at Gillette. Brady tossed two touchdown passes in a 31 point victory leading the Patriots to their 8th straight victory. TB12 added more ink to the record book, winning his 28th consecutive start at home, and with the 16 passes he attempted on January 2, 2011, he extended his record to 335 pass attempts without an interception. The final damage for the season: 3,900 yards, 36 TD's to only 4 picks and a 111.0 passer rating.

#5 Bruins-Canadiens Game 7

The best rivalry in hockey reconvened in the first round of the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, with the 3rd seeded division champion Bruins facing off against the high powered but inconsistent 6th seeded Canadiens. A back and forth series saw the teams split the first four games of the series- without the home team notching a win. Boston continued to roll with an overtime victory in game 5 thanks to Nathan Horton's game winner. Montreal countered with a 2-1 win scoring twice on 5-3 advantages thanks to undisciplined play from the B's. This set up the best situation sport has to offer: a game 7 between bitter rivals in a hotly contested series.

The Bruins came out firing with goals from Johnny Boychuk and Mark Recchi early. Montreal answered with shorthanded and power play goals to knot the game up at two going into the third. Chris Kelly banged home a rebound past Carey Price to give what seemed to be the deciding goal midway through the period. With less than two minutes to go and 18,000 fans at the Garden standing in anticipation, the Habs drew a penalty on the most unlikely of sources; Patrice Bergeron. The two way forward had long been one of the most disciplined and clutch players in the organization, making it seem as if once again the hockey Gods would kill a Bruins Cup run early. Those thoughts only grew as PK Subban hit an absolute missile past Tim Thomas on the power play to send the game into OT once again. Six minutes into the sudden death fourth period, Horton struck again, taking the pass from Milan Lucic and blasting a one timer through traffic to beat Price. This was as intense of a hockey game as I've ever watched from a fan's perspective. With so much on the line and the thought of bowing out in game 7 to an inferior Montreal team becoming more and more present as the game went on, this was the type of game that can turn the average hockey fan into a lifer.

BONUS FOOTAGE: This win sent NESN play-by-play man Jack Edwards into euphoria, resulting in one of the true youtube gems of 2011.

Coming Tomorrow: Storrs makes its mark on our countdown.

Starters: In or Out?

Over the past several years, the Patriots have been faced with the age-old question facing coaches in week 17. If you've locked up a postseason bye, do you rest your starters?

Different coaches take very different approaches. Back in 2007 when the Patriots were on the cusp of going 19-0, Belichick played his starters in week 17 and ultimately made it to the Super Bowl. Most recently, in 2010, the Patriots had secured a playoff berth going into a week 17 matchup with the Houston Texans. Belichick played his starters again, and consequently Wes Welker tore his ACL. His injury, some may argue, was a major factor why the Patriots were decisively thrashed by the Ravens the following week.

In other circumstances, coaches have taken the conservative approach and simply rested their starters in week 17, having already secured a buy and/ or home field advantage. The most recent example that comes to mind was in 2010 when the Indianapolis Colts were 14-0 and rested their starters in week 16 and 17 to make sure they were healthy come playoff time. They were seemingly rewarded as they advanced all the way to the Super Bowl before they were thwarted by the New Orleans Saints.

The question I raise is this; Bill Belichick has clearly shown a tendency to play his starters in week 17, and I understand that the Patriots are playing for home field advantage throughout the entire postseason. However, he has seen how devastating injuries in week 17 can be with little to no time to prepare the backup and on a team that is already banged up/ thin on the defensive side of the ball...will he risk it for a  couple home games?

I personally would love to see Brady and company in there for two quarters and then hand the reigns over to Brian Hoyer. As much as I value home field advantage, this team cannot risk losing a valuable starter that is simply irreplaceable (Gronkowski, Welker, Mayo, Wilfork, Brady). What do you think? Will Belichick change his philosophy and lean more towards rest or will he persist with his mantra of playing the starters in a seemingly insignificant week 17 matchup? I feel like he will play the starters the duration of the game, but if someone gets injured I think it's seriously time to question his philosophy on this topic.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Top 10 Moments of 2011: Part 2

Scroll down for the first part of this series; our honorable mentions and numbers 10 and 9.

#8 Celtics Sweep Knicks

Last June, New York's increasing relevance in professional basketball hit a high for the new millennium following the signing of Carmelo Anthony. Although Boston won the division by 14 games the Knicks had been seemed to gel at the right time with all of their pieces in place. Now equipped with two superstars in th
eir prime, as well as former Finals MVP Chauncey Billups, New York brazenly announced their presence as a contender.

Experts predicted if the C's were to win the series it would have to be a 6 or 7 game triumph. What ensued was a dominanting defensive effort from the banged up former champs in the first two games at TD Garden. 5 combined points separated the teams in the first two games, both going to the home team. Coach Mike D'Antoni's offensive scheme was shut down, as the Knicks were held to 85 and 93 points in the first two games.

When the series shifted to MSG, the expectation was that the excitement of having playoff ball back at the Mecca would give New York a decided advantage to get back into the ser
ies. Paul Pierce's 38 point night coupled with Rajon Rondo's 20 assist effort in game three put
the series away in a 17 point thrashing. Five C's reached double figures in game 4 as the Celtics completed the sweep.

#7 TIE: Drew Bledsoe's Induction into Patriots Hall of Fame
His internal bleeding was the greatest thing that ever happened to the organization, but no player had a bigger impact in turning the team from the worst in the NFL to what we have today. He took the team from dead last in the entire league to the Super Bowl in just four years. He never gets enough credit for how he handled losing his job due to that injury but the ovation he received at halftime during the Chargers game was enough to give any longtime Pats fan goosebumps.

#7 TIE: Tim Wakefield's 200th Career Victory

This probably would have been higher if it didn't happen halfway into the worst month of my life
as a Sox fan. It also would have carried more weight if it didn't take 29 tries to do it with the wild card on the line and the Sox blowing huge leads, specifically that game in late August in
Toronto. But with only 89 pitchers in the history of the game reaching this milestone, and having one be such an icon of class and success for this generation, you just can't make a list without Wake. And the tribute on the jumbotron after the game had to find its way into the blog.

TOMORROW: #'s 6 and 5 feature a record setting performance and an overtime thriller.

Elite Class: 3?

In the NFL right now I think there are currently 2 quarterbacks who are top 10-15 greatest of all time, and consensus first ballot hall of famers; Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. However, the development of Drew Brees over the past 5 years, and his role in turning the Saints into a perennial Super Bowl contender raise the question; is that elite class of two, now an elite class of 3?

Brees has the statistical results, he has the ring, and he has done it consistently now for the past seven years. While players like Aaron Rodgers are on the cusp, their statistical success doesn't nearly measure the longevity of the aforementioned quarterbacks. I personally feel like Brees is very very close, but I'm not ready to put him in the same class as Brady and Manning. He continues on this pace for 2-3 more years, or wins another Superbowl and I will change my opinions. However, at this point I still think it's a two horse race. What do you think?

Shortest Term For A Record? Brady In The Hunt

As you may know, Drew Brees passed Dan Marino on the all-time single season passing yardage record with 5,087 in last nights win against the Falcons. This record stood for 27 years and the question now is, how long will this record stand? The twist is that Brees still has one more game to go, so that record of 5,087 will most likely have at least 150 more yards added to it.

Tom Brady has 4,897 yards on the season and would only need 190 yards passing in week 17 against the Bills to tie Brees' current record. As I said though, Brees still has another game to play. It is a realistic feat that Brady could indeed break Drew Brees' record, but would need some help.

In order for Brady to break the record, he would have to throw for at least 375-400 yards and Brees would have to be shut down to no more than 200 yards. While the odds are stacked against Brady, he is one of the best QB's in NFL history and has done some pretty incredible things throughout his career that no one thought he would ever do.

Quick side note: Drew Brees is a class act. I've always had respect for him, but after seeing his post game locker room speech, I couldn't think of a better person for this to happen to. He deserves it.

Check the speech out here starting at the :30 mark:

Monday, December 26, 2011

New England's Top 10 Sports Moments of 2011

So today will kick off a
series of posts regarding the biggest games/players/moments of the past year. Feel free to make suggestions or
to @rhodetoboston on twitter, or in the comment section. We'll start with some honorable mentions.

Brown soccer defeats Fairfield 3-2 in NCAA Tournament
This was (obviously) nowhere near my radar when I was brainstorming topics, but was actually a suggestion from a reader of the blog. Brown was hosting Fairfield in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Fairfield had won 13 straight coming in, and built a 2 goal lead with just ten minutes remaining. This is a lead that is normally insurmountable at any point of a soccer game (game, match, whatever), especially in the closing minutes. All the Bears did was score two goals in 36 seconds, leading to this game winner to advance to play St. John's in the second round. Game recap can be found here.

UNH Men's Volleyball Wins National Championship
In comparison to the Bruins winning the Cup or Tom Brady breaking Dan Marino's passing record, this may seem irrelevant. However, this is my platform so deal with it. Or comm
ent about how I'm wasting your time, up to you. In my four years playing volleyball up in Durham, NH, our team got to two national quarterfinals, lost by 2 points in the last set against UCLA, and defeated second ranked Florida twice in the same weekend. The only thing missing was finishing the deal and winning the national club championship. The Wildcats beat Stanford and West Virginia this past spring on their way to beating URI for the title in Houston. Check out the team's website for a recap. OK now that that's out of my system let's get to the countdown.

#10: Jacoby Ellsbury's Breakout Season
There has never been a question about Jacoby's natural ability on the baseball field in his four season patrolling the outfield at Fenway. But after a 2010 season that saw him play just 18 games with a rib injury, doubts about his toughness and attitude towards the team started to take over the fans opinion of the speedster. Ellsbury's stolen base numbers fell off a bit after

leading the league in '08 and '09, but everything else shot up at a remarkable clip. He made his first all star game in July, won silver slugger and gold glove awards, and was seemingly the only Sox regular to have a standout September. 32 HR's and 105 RBI's in the leadoff spot launched Ellsbury into the MVP discussion, losing out to Tigers ace Justin Verlander. His 7.2 WAR was second in the majors among position players, and hopefully with an increase in production and consistency behind him in the batting order, this will be the launching point for a record-breaking career.

#9: Tom Brady Leads Last Second Comeback against Dallas
A big night game at home against an explosive Cowboys team was made even more important by the fact that New England was going into it's bye week. With Buffalo and New York fighting the Pats for the division lead, Brady found his team down 16-13 with less than two minutes to play. He proceeded to carve up a Dallas defense that had given New England fits all night for a vintage game winning drive.

COMING TOMORROW: #8 and #7 on our countdown feature an old fan favorite and a statement game against a rival.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

Just wanted to show some love for our readers and wish all of you a Merry Christmas. After a tough Celtics loss today that may have crushed the Christmas spirit, just remember through this picture that Boston is awesome. 

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Cause for Concern?

Look, a win's a win. I understand that more than anyone. I don't care how the Patriots win, or how ugly it looks as long as they get the job done. With that said, I've never felt less confident being a number 1 seed with a first round bye. Dating back to the MNF game against the Chiefs, the Patriots have managed to win games while taking entire quarters off...

11/21 vs. Kansas City: didn't score until 4 minutes left in the second quarter, with the Patriot offense being out-gained by the Tyler Palko led Chiefs.

11/27 vs. Philadelphia: Defense inconsistencies plague the team in the first 5 minutes of the game as they allow 10 points on their first two possessions.

12/4 vs. Indianapolis: Defense completely shuts it down in the 4th quarter, allowing 21 unanswered points as the Orlovsky led Colts were an onside kick away from a chance to win the game.

12/11 vs. Washington: Offense played pretty consistently throughout, however, the defense was terrible for the first two quarters before stabilizing and shutting down the 'skins in the second half.

12/18 vs. Denver: Defense lets up over 100+ rushing yards in the first quarter, while the offense struggles to move the ball.

12/ 24 vs. Miami: Today, Brady and the offense were horrible in the first half, while the defense was equally as poor in the first two quarters, heading into halftime with a 17-0 deficit.

I understand and value the fact that this is the NFL and there are absolutely no "cupcake" games. However, I cant remember the last time the Patriots have won all four quarters of a football game, or simply (as referenced in the 4th quarter of the Colts game) avoided a quarter where they simply lost focus or motivation. These types of quarter long lapses might cut it against mid-level competition, but what worries me is facing the Steelers or Ravens who don't have vulnerable defenses and are able to protect an early lead. One week it's offensive lapses, the next week it's defensive. We've all seen how good both elements of this team can be when they're working at a high level (2nd quarter vs the Broncos for example). I want to see it for four full quarters before I can rest easy on a potential Super Bowl run.

Happy Holidays to everyone.

Pats Win Ugly Again; Clinch Bye

As bad as the Patriots have looked on defense at times this season, getting carved up by
the immortal Matt Moore gets put right up there on the mantle of horrendous performances. What made it worse this time around was that the offense looked just as bad. Miami was able to get pressure on Brady and lock in on the Patriots receiving corps downfield. The run, surprisingly enough, was a non-factor as well.

Then halftime came around. Down 17-0 and getting dominated in all aspects of the game (special teams included, Gostkowski) Bill Belichick and his coaching staff did what they have done for years; adapt. Tom and the offense executed flawlessly, while the defense got back to their ball-hawking ways, forcing two critical turnovers. Gostkowski even made a huge tackle himself in the third quarter. The injuries to Matt Light and Logan Mankins are extremely worrisome moving forward, which makes the first round bye the Pats clinched today even more meaningful.

As Patriot fans we shouldn't be spending our time pointing out this team's shortcomings after wins. I know the defense has been horrendous, and if the offense plays like it did in the first half today it might be another quick playoff exit in Foxboro. But this team simply makes plays when they have to. They win games they're supposed to win as well as games against highly talented teams on both sides of the ball like Dallas, the Jets, Chargers and Eagles. Guys step up when they get the opportunity, except Underwood, that guy has blown EVERY chance he's gotten. They have a lot of work to do but as long as the game is within reach going into halftime, I'll put my money on the hooded one and reigning MVP quarterback making the adjustments necessary to win.

Defense Must Step Up For Pats

The New England Patriots defense is ranked dead last in the NFL. I don't care how electric the Patriots offense is because if the defense plays like they have played this season, they won't win a playoff game. Let's face it, the Pats haven't had the toughest schedule and haven't come across a true gun slinger that they will see once the playoffs start.

Now I'm not saying they have to become the number one ranked defense in the league, but they for sure cannot be last if they have any Super Bowl aspirations. The biggest problem for this defense has been the most important facet of playing defense; tackling. They miss way too many tackles and if you're missing tackles as a defense, you're not going to be very successful.

These next two weeks are the most important weeks of the season for the Pats. Even though they have already clinched a playoff spot, it is imperative that they get the number one seed. A first round bye and home field advantage throughout the playoffs is almost an unfair advantage.

Side note in all seriousness: I think it would be a brilliant idea for Robert Kraft to hire Tedy Bruschi as their defensive coordinator, or even just a linebacker coach. He knows the system, has a great relationship with every one in the organization, and is one of the best linebackers in NFL history. Not to mention his leadership skills are some of the best that the game has ever seen.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Last Chance For The Big Three

The upcoming 2011-2012 NBA season could mark the end of the Celtics "Big Three" era. Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen's contracts are both up at the end of the year and though it would be incredibly stupid to not re-sign at least one of them, it's questionable if either of them will re-sign. 

This is the first time during this era that the Celtics aren't favored to win the East. In fact, they are projected by the media and fans to finish behind the Heat, Knicks, and Hawks. 

This season is going to be a physical challenge for the Celtics. Even though they will be playing sixteen less games, they are going to be playing four to five games per week. This is for sure not going to work in their favor as they are old and beat up. Paul Pierce is currently nursing a bruised right heel and has been limited during the preseason. With a shortened season, taking a week or two off is a lot different then it would be with an 82-game schedule, especially when it involves one of your leading scorers.

It's going to be interesting to see if the Celtics age will catch up to them throughout the season and if the original "Big Three" has any magic left in them. The Celtics will tip-off their season on Christmas day against the New York Knicks.

Bruins 8, Florida 0

Late in the third period of Friday night's 8-0 Bruins victory over the Florida Panthers, NESN commentators Jack Edwards and Andy Brickley discussed whether or not this version of the B's is actually better than the title winning group from a year ago. While it is easy to get overexcited about your team 55 minutes into a bloodbath, the resume that this team has put together through the holiday break makes it hard to argue otherwise.

After a miserable start that had New England's radio and TV personalities frantically calling for the potential trade of Milan Lucic or David Krejci among others, all the Bruins have done is go 20-2-1. In a league that has teams like Tampa Bay go from the best young team in hockey at the end of last season to having the third worst record in the East in a matter of an off-season, and even tonight's opponent in Florida becoming a division leader overnight, 20-2-1 is flat out ridiculous. They hold the best goal differential in the league at +56...the Red Wings are second at +33. Digest that for a second, and realize that the 23 goal difference between the Bruins and anyone else in the league alone would stand for 4th in the NHL.

A major reason why this team is better than last year is having Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley for the whole season. Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand have stepped up their games tremendously, and the rock solid defense goes three pairings deep. This year's team is faster, more physical, better on the puck and infinitely better on special teams.

At this point last season Boston was a contender for playoff home ice, but frantically looking to deal at the deadline in order to ensure playoff positioning. They have found the magic they caught midway through the '11 playoffs and have improved in every aspect of their game since. From former enemy Benoit Pouliot to captain Zdeno Chara, every player knows their role and executes the gameplan night in and night out. They've dealt with injuries to key guys already and haven't missed a beat.

The road to the Stanley Cup will be going through Beantown, and in order for anyone to take the throne away, they will have to beat either Tim Thomas or Tuuka Rask 4 out of 7 games. At this point I don't see that happening. The goaltenders are putting together a historic season, both placing in the top three in the entire league in goals against and save percentage.

The 2011 Cup Champion Bruins fought through their flaws to win a title, the 2012 version will have to fight to find any.

Sox Stay Quiet This Offseason

There's no question that the Red Sox and general manager Ben Cherington have been abnormally quiet this offseason. They haven't signed any big time free agents and have stayed away from trading their high profile prospects for big name players. There biggest move thus far was the acquisition of Mark Melancon via trade of Jed Lowrie and Kyle Weiland. Even though Melancon will likely be the set-up man for the Sox, the move was pretty dull compared to the moves made last offseason.

So the question that has been marching around Sox Nation is: Are you O.K. with the lack of moves made this offseason? If your answer is yes, you're right. If your answer is no, you're most likely a pink hatter.

The Red Sox don't need another big time name in their clubhouse. In fact, signing another player to a huge deal would be detrimental as we've seen what happens when too many stars are put on the same team. The Sox have the talent to win a championship; there is no doubt about that. As we saw last season, it's all about leadership for this team, or lack there of. Towards the end of the season, the team got complacent and thought they were going to glide into the playoffs. Instead, they got one heck of a rude awakening.

The only position that the Sox need to improve is their bullpen. They need more depth and can't rely on Alfredo Aceves to throw 6-7 days in a row as we saw towards the tail end of the season. The acquisition of Mark Melancon is a great start. Now if Cherington and the front office can snag two or three more solid bullpen arms, a 2012 World Series ring would be theirs to lose.