Bruins Step Back After Two Steps Forward

The Bruins looked to be coming together in their prior two games, but last night they reverted to old habits and fell to the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-3 at the Garden.

A control issue with Woods – Chad Finn examines Tiger Woods’ recent interviews, and says that the disgraced golf star still isn’t being totally candid.

Bruins take another step back against Lightning – Joe Haggerty has the wrap from the Garden.

Bruins ripe for pickings – Stephen Harris says that the Bruins really need to get the #2 pick in the draft (via Toronto’s pick) and get themselves a pure goalscorer – and several will be available.

Opposite night in B’s loss to Lightning – Dan Rowinski says that everything was backward for the Bruins last night.

Bruins’ special teams anything but – Joe McDonald looks at another lifeless series of power plays for the Bruins.

Shawn Crable may be Patriots’ missing piece – Ian Rapoport talks to the former Michigan star, who has yet to play a regular season snap for the Patriots after being drafted two years ago.

Rocket scientist finds his space – In a piece that must’ve been in the works for awhile, Adam Kilgore (who has been on the Nationals beat for the Washington Post for a few weeks now) has a feature on Patriots linebacker coach Matt Patricia.

Patriots’ offensive line hopes to build upon last season’s success – Robert Lee  talks to center Dan Koppen about how his unit can get better than they were last season.

Matsuzaka starts his comeback – Sean McAdam has Daisuke Matsuzaka making his Grapefruit League debut yesterday.

For new Red Sox third-base coach Tim Bogar, success will mean no one notices him – Brian MacPherson looks at how the new coach is preparing for his first season at the hot corner.

Padres slugger could still find his way to Boston – Mike Fine thinks Adrian Gonzalez is still a good possibility for the Red Sox, though the end of the Globe notebook seems to indicate otherwise.

Journey to the D-League, Part 4: The game – Paul Flannery wraps up his four part series on the NBA Development League.

Rough Celtics begin to smooth out – Steve Bulpett has the Celtics making some progress.

Celtics small lineup comes up big – A. Sherrod Blakely looks at the small lineup employed by Doc Rivers against the Nuggets on Wednesday night, and why he might need to use it more over the coming weeks.

Differences between grid & diamond – In a blog entry, Mike Reiss cites access as the main difference between covering football and baseball.

And sort of media-related (For WEEI, anyway):

Congressman Fred Smerlas? It just may happen this fall – The Sun (Hamburg, NY) says that Fred Smerlas is thinking about moving his family to Western NY and making a run at Congress.

WEEI appears to be holding off WBZ-FM in the latest ratings. 98.5’s ratings have gone downhill since the start of the year (though ‘EEI’s have as well). Maybe the WEEI-lite strategy isn’t working.

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Week Log: The Tide Is Rising Again

Maybe the Bruins’ wimpy effort last Thursday against the Penguins was the low-water mark in Boaston’s underachieving winter. Since then, the B’s have beaten out the competition for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, the C’s have continued on their own renaissance, and hope is rising like the crocuses in my backyard. Well start with the best of the good news.

Celtics

The C’s made it four straight at home with last night’s win over the Denver Nuggets. That’s six of their last eight since hitting their own low-water mark in a 20-point home loss to the Grizzlies on March 10.

Evans Clinchy has the C’s looking more composed now than when they last faced Denver a month ago, and they let the Nuggets know it last night. Gino’s Jungle sees some good things on the court that weren’t there a month and a half ago.

Celtics Stuff Live cites some unexpected play from Tony Allen as a key contributor in last night’s win. The Three-Pointer has Boston’s bench stepping up big as of late. Hardwood Houdini says it may be five months late, but the bench we expected in October has finally arrived in March.

It’s going to take a few more wins against playoff contenders to move any discussion of the C’s legitimacy from Sports Talk Blog‘s heart to their head. With the next six games at home, SportsCenter 5 Overtime says this will be a good test of the C’s ability to hold home court in the playoffs. However, Celtics Blog has Rajon Rondo thinking it’s too late to instill fear in the hearts of visitors coming into TD Garden this spring. ESPN Boston Celtics Blog has Rondo snapping out of his funk and making a triple-double look easy last night.

Remember last year when the Bulls beat Boston on St. Patty’s Day dressed essentially in Celtics uniforms? So does North Station Sports, who warns us that this growing trend of jersey theft can lead fans to accidentally rooting for the wrong teams.

Red Sox

Big Shots starts us off with a pictoral blend of spring and spring training, but down in Fort Myers spring is not in full bloom for everyone. Fenway Fruitgirl is perplexed by Boston’s poor Grapefruit League showing and could use a few wins to please her brain and shut up ESPN. Toeing The Rubber pooh-poohed the whole underwhelming Spring Training affair . . . until Josh Beckett was lights out on the mound yesterday.

The Bottom Line wonders how the Sox can extend both Beckett and Victor Martinez now that the latter has become the top potential free agent catcher in next year’s market. Boston Sports Then And Now brings us the dilemma posed by Joe Mauer’s extension in Minnesota. The Mighty Quinn Media Machine is glad Mauer is staying put.

Mike Lowell is another guy that appears to be staying put, as Clubhouse Insider has his lack of mobility on stage for every scout to see. Full Count brings us Clay Buchholz being plagued by his old nemesis, the baserunner, in a disappointing spring thus far. Keep Your Sox On has Buchholz aging a little in his singing debut. On Subway Squawkers, Lisa claims a hatred of Sweet Caroline even as you know she was singing the chorus while logging her venomous thoughts. So good, so good! Masshole Sports tells Johnny Damon to pick a side already in the Good vs. Evil Empire war being waged within his head.

Fire Brand Of The American League learns the hard way that if you want to cheer in the press box, your pass better be made of cardboard. Sox ownership is fading fast in the estimation of Bingo Bar Blog, which finds the Krafts and Wyc Grousbeck more appealing. Funny, they didn’t mention Jeremy Jacobs. And with the regular season quickly approaching, Surviving Grady says nobody wins with a clean-shaven Kevin Youkilis in the lineup but that appears to be the voters’ choice for Youk’s Opening Night do.

NCAAM

Thoughts From Press Row promises us some excitement tonight and tomorrow in Sweet Sixteen matchups. Jade McCarthy is willing to sacrifice her bracket in the spirit of true March madness.

Down in Kingston, cows aplenty woke up on their backs this morning as fans celebrated URI’s comeback victory at Virginia Tech last night. Rhody is going to the NIT Final Four, and Ram’s Journal says they’ll be right at home in Madison Square Garden. UConn Men’s Basketball bemoans a lost opportunity to travel to Rhode Island as the Huskies dropped 10 of their final 14 games, the last coming Monday in their NIT quarterfinal at Virginia Tech.

Patriots

One thing you won’t see coming out of this year’s NCAA tournament is the Pats’ next corner as Tom E. Curran has Bill Belichick less than wowed by basketball’s foot speed. Extra Points is just as confused as the rest of us while Belichick, in classic Dickensian style, discusses the importance of participation in his offseason training program. The Rap Sheet has Ron Brace working it this offseason, as he looks to fill the void left by Jarvis Green.

The Crowe’s Nest doesn’t think the new rules fully solve the overtime problem, so they shouldn’t solve it at all. On New England Patriots Blog, Mike Reiss has seven NE-related observations from the NFL owners meetings, including the Pats’ award of four compensatory draft picks come April. Pro Football Talk thinks Belichick would do well to extend former compensatory pick Tom Brady before Peyton Manning gets a new contract in Indy.

Bruins

Even after outright wins against both the Rangers and Thrashers this week that have lifted the B’s playoff hopes, the punch in the guts taken by fans last Thursday has tempered enthusiasm. For instance, Jerry Thornton says last week’s no-heart effort against the Penguins smelled of dead woodchuck under the porch, making B’s fans have to decide how long we’ll put up with the smells until someone goes down there to clean it up. ESPN Boston Bruins says the B’s defense is in flux and the Andrew Ference extension leaves them little wiggle room for maneuvering. Rink Rap was surprised by the extension, given Ference’s history of injuries and questionable NHLPA politicking.

If you thought getting a national health bill through Congress was complicated, Kathryn Tappen takes you through the maze in getting some no-brainer legislation enacted in the NHL. Bruins Blog reports the NHLPA hurdle was cleared this morning, making headhunting a punishable offense starting tonight.

Tea Party Throwdown much prefers Tuukka Rask’s calming presence between the pipes to the heart-attack style of Tim Thomas.

Odds & Sods

. . . an unstructured wandering through the Boston sports world

With Boston College getting a top seed in the NCAA Men’s Hockey tournament, BC Interruption asks whether the Eagles are better served with success in hockey or in basketball. JSilver’s UConn Blog gives us the skinny on UConn’s Pro Day. If you watched much Huskies football last fall, you know their lineup was filled with some interesting skills positions.

The Inside Track hears of a new NESN program in development that explores the top MLB cities Sox fans travel to. Joe Posnanski looks back on an eternally long four months in the life of Tiger Woods.

And finally, The Joy Of Sox is livid that 60-something Mick Jagger has gone into the studio to enhance tracks for the Stones’ remastered Exile On Main Street. Kind of like Larry Bird and Magic Johnson going back into the ESPN Classics studio to enhance some missing footage from the 1984 NBA Finals.

Sorry for the late delivery, but I had some computer issues this afternoon. Have a great spring weekend, and we’ll see you next week. In the meantime, I’m on Twitter and Facebook these days.

Celtics Pan Out Nuggets

The Celtics did something rather unusual last night. Most of the season they have struggled at home, especially against quality teams. Last night however, they took care of business, wiping out the Denver Nuggets 113-99 for their fourth straight home victory – astonishingly, their first such streak of the season.

Celtics take care of Nuggets, 113-99 – Bill Doyle says that there is no doubt that this was the most impressive home victory of the season for the Celtics.

Tony Allen provides winning spark – Steve Bulpett has Tony Allen providing an unlikely spark off the bench for the Celtics, putting in 13 points and tough defense in 20 minutes of play.

Dantley gets more knocks than opportunity – Gary Washburn checks in with Adrian Dantley, who has been coaching the Nuggets in George Karl’s absence. Dantley in his playing days was one of the more unique players in NBA history, a 6-5 230-pound low-post machine.

Celts improving their board scores – A. Sherrod Blakely feeds us an assortment of notes from the game last night.

Paul Flannery is in the midst of a four-part series on the NBA D-League, which is definitely worth a read. Here are the first three parts:

Journey to the D-League, Part 1: The ‘D’

Journey to the D-League, Part 2: The Red Claws

Journey to the D-League, Part 3: The players

Lowell’s mobility limited . . . in more ways than one – Sean McAdam has Mike Lowell finding his options limited, both with the Red Sox and with other teams as well.

With Red Sox thin at shortstop, Bill Hall could be a key player – Brian MacPherson looks at a backup who could end up playing a big role for the Sox this season.

Relief for an anxious pitcher – The Globe notebook has Alan Embree looking sharp in a minor league game yesterday.

Carroll admits mistakes with Pats – Mike Reiss has the former Patriots coach talking about his time in New England. Was there any tension in talking to Ron Borges?

Re-signing Ference is a defensible move – Fluto Shinzawa tries to explain why in the world the Bruins gave Andrew Ference a three-year extension.

In the Metro, I’ve got What I’m looking forward to this Red Sox season.

Check Patriots Daily this afternoon for another draft prospect interview.

The bad? Two words. Buddy Thomas.

Rask, Bruins Win a Big One in Atlanta

Clinging to a one point lead for the final playoff spot in the East, the Bruins faced their closest competition for that spot last night in Atlanta. Tuukka Rask pitched the shutout as the Bruins roared to a 4-0 win, pushing their lead to three points. Couple that with their win over the Rangers on Sunday, and the playoff picture suddenly looks a lot better for Boston.

We’ll go with 15 links from this morning:

Bruins march through Atlanta en route to playoffs – Joe Haggerty with the thorough game story and talking points from last night’s game.

B’s respond nicely to pressure – Dan Rowinski assures Bruins fans that the sky is not falling, after all.

Grinders Starting to Produce as Bruins Beat Up Thrashers 4-0 – James Murphy notes that David Krejci and Milan Lucic showed their form of last season in the win.

Student bodies may be on the way – Fluto Shinzawa’s notebook reports that the Bruins might be signing some college and junior players soon, including 2008 first round pick Joe Colborne.

Life caught up to Antoine Walker – Mike Fine looks at how the former Celtic landed himself in the financial mess of a lifetime.

Nate Robinson and the Art of High Energy Basketball – Jessica Camerato looks at why the Celtics guard is always high-energy.

Celtics unpack, look to get right at home – Mark Murphy has the Celtics hoping that a 12-day homestand can help get themselves straightened out.

Happiness, hope on the diamond – Gordon Edes gets J.D. Drew to talk about as much as anyone has since he’s been in Boston. He recalls making his MLB debut with the Cardinals on the day that Mark McGwire hit home run # 62 in 1998, and talks about his son Jack, who might face more surgery.

10 takeaways from breakfast with Belichick – Tom E. Curran reports on the media breakfast with Bill Belichick at the NFL Owners meetings.

Offseason Workouts a Time for Patriots to Bond, Jell as a Team – Jeff Howe (who was the first to report that Randy Moss and Tom Brady had reported to offseason workouts) tells us what the players are trying to accomplish in these sessions.

Patriots could benefit from draft change – Mike Reiss says that splitting up the draft over several days could help the Patriots ability to make trades.

For Hermida, patience will be a virtue – Brian MacPherson in the ProJo profiles the Red Sox new fourth outfielder, who will have to make a number of adjustments this season.

Sox’ catching prospects are being well-received – Amalie Benjamin has bullpen coach Gary Tuck talking about the future receivers in the Red Sox organization. Tuck is particularly high on Luis Exposito.

Buchholz’ bad habit makes unwanted appearance – Alex Speier has Clay Buchholz reverting to some old ways, showing that he remains more of a work in progress rather than a finished product.

Pedroia suffers wrist sprain – Sean McAdam has a plethora of Red Sox notes from yesterday.

On the downside, Jim Donaldson writes today about breakfast with Bill Belichick being like “dry toast” and that the Patriots coach has no “personality”, says he laughed at an out-of-town writer who asked him if Belichick had said anything “revealing”, that Belichick “is nothing like the colorful and quotable ‘Tuna'” (Bill Parcells) and that he approaches press conferences like a “root canal.”

How long has he been the coach here? Is any of this new? In Tom E. Curran’s piece above, he notes that Donaldson was “dominating the proceedings with even longer questions than mine.” Donaldson says he got maybe one morsel of interest from the session, while Curran came away with 10.

Maybe the problem is with you, Jim.

(Funny, in this picture from said event, the dry-toast Belichick is smiling, while I believe that is Donaldson (top left) happily eating his free food.)

Celtics Fall In Utah, Kraft, Belichick Speak

I’m still under the weather this morning, getting ready to head out for a visit to the doctor, but meanwhile, here’s a look at some of the top stories from the Boston sportspages today:

Belichick touches on coaches, signings – Mike Reiss scores a one-on-one interview with Patriots head coach Bill Belichick down at the NFL owners meetings.

Owner of strong opinions – Shalise Manza Young in the Boston Globe reports one what Patriots owner Robert Kraft had to say about the future of Tom Brady and other topics yesterday.

Rivers, Celtics tossed – Julian Benbow has the details of the frustrating 110-97 loss to the Jazz last night.

Just one of those nights – Paul Flannery has a few points from the Celtics loss last night.

Truth sets ‘stubborn’ Paul Pierce free – Mark Murphy has Paul Pierce admitting that he probably should’ve taken more time off this season, especially after insisting on playing in the All Star game and then needing to get his knee drained the next day.

Cloning Crawford: A look at Ellsbury’s breakout potential – Alex Speier examines the similarities between Jacoby Ellsbury and Tampa’s Carl Crawford, and even has Crawford himself talking about how similar they are.

Lock up Red Sox’ valuables – Gerry Callahan says that Theo Epstein needs to get an extension done right now with Victor Martinez.

10 reasons why spring training baseball is the best of the entire season – Ron Chimelis counts down why he loves spring training baseball.

Bergeron concerned about Savard – Joe McDonald has Patrice Bergeron talking about the long uphill climb that Marc Savard is going to face as he recovers from his concussion.

Bonser takes a step back – Sean McAdam’s notebook wraps up the action from Florida yesterday.

Also check out Chris Warner’s Q&A With ECU DL Linval Joseph on Patriots Daily.

On the flip side, Dan Shaughnessy’s column today is a series of fake stories where the Red Sox sign Roger Clemens, Manny Ramirez, Grady Little and Carl Everett to one day contracts so that they can retire as members of the Red Sox. Yes, it is as bad as it sounds.

NESN will air tape-delayed coverage of Fox Sports North’s broadcast of tonight’s Red Sox-Twins game immediately following NESN SportsDesk at 10:30 PM.  Clay Buchholz is expected to start for the Red Sox with Connecticut native Carl Pavano expected to start for the Twins.
                     
The Red Sox game, which is being played at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, Florida at 7 PM, will not air live on NESN because NESN has live coverage of the Boston Bruins at Atlanta Thrashers game beginning at 6:30 PM with WB Mason’s Bruins Face-Off LIVE.

Bruins Loss Earns Record Regular Season Rating for NESN

The TV ratings are  an indication of how anticipated last night’s Bruins game was among fans.

The game garnered a 6.2 household rating, which is the highest rated regular season game in NESN’s history, as fans tuned in to see whether the team would retaliate against Matt Cooke and the Pittsburgh Penguins for the hit that left Marc Savard with a concussion that likely ended his season.

Fans ended up the evening disappointed, as the Bruins suffered a 3-0 loss at the hands of the Stanley Cup Champions.

Bruins Can’t Punch Their Way Out

The attempted to put up a fight last night and extract a measure of revenge for their fallen teammate Marc Savard, but in the end it was, like much of the Bruins efforts this season, too weak, as they meekly fell to the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-0 at the Garden.

To fans, job not getting done – There are times, rare occasions, when Dan Shaughnessy’s nastiness and acerbic writing are just what is warranted for the situation. Dan may actually have not been harsh enough on the Bruins in this one.

Bruins lose more than a game to Penguins – Joe Haggerty says that this defeat “might have just sealed this season as an abject failure.”

Score may be settled with Cooke, but loss to Pittsburgh leaves Bruins unsettled – Mike Loftus says so much “for the hope that the Bruins grasp the severity of their situation, and are determined to act accordingly.”

Matt Cooke, Penguins laugh it off – Steve Buckley has Pittsburgh laughing at the Bruins…and the media…after the game.

10 Red Sox campers who intrigued us, and 5 who haven’t – Ron Chimelis lists out young players and newcomers who have made an impression one way or the other during spring training.

Overlooked superstar: The perception of Kevin Youkilis – Alex Speier looks at why the national spotlight does not shine on Youkilis.

Bowden refines his pitch, to Red Sox’ delight – Sean McAdam has Michael Bowden coming to camp with a new, simplified delivery.

Scutaro, Pedroia blending in well – Peter Abraham has the Red Sox new double-play combination getting along well thus far.

Kelly will pitch in AA-Portland – Daniel Barbarisi’s Red Sox Journal also has an update on Ryan Westmoreland.

NESN is trying to solve a chemistry problem – Chad Finn reports that NESN is killing “Sports Desk” in favor of a new “issues-oriented show” called “NESN Daily” but is having trouble finding the right chemistry for a cohost to go with Jade McCarthy. Great, another show about “issues” and “takes”, just what we need around here.

Slamming this Patriots pair laughable – Ron Borges says that those criticizing Tom Brady and Ty Warren for not being in Foxborough this week for the start of offseason workouts are way off base.

Crumpler Pats’ latest attempt to stabilize tight end position – It has been reported that the Patriots have come to terms with free agent Tight End Alge Crumpler. Christopher Price examines the Patriots latest effort to patch the position.  Tom E. Curran is convinced that Crumpler will be a colossal bust with the Patriots.

Celtics survey playoff picture – Julian Benbow has Doc Rivers looking at first round playoff possibilities.

Danny Ainge: Kevin Garnett can’t do it alone – Steve Bulpett has the Celtics GM saying that others need to step up the games in the coming weeks.

Robert Morris gets excellent credit rating – Bob Ryan looks at the near-upset of Villanova yesterday.

A few others:

State of the Patriots: What the 2009 Film Revealed – Andy Benoit of the New York Times’ blog “The Fifth Down” tells us what a review of the Patriots’ season revealed.

It’s been reported that the Patriots have a workout scheduled with Indiana LB Matt Mayberry. He spoke with Patriots Daily earlier in the week.

Providence not kind to Cinderella – I try and spotlight some writers from the smaller papers around New England. Today Eric Rueb of the Narragansett Times gets a chance to write about the NCAA Tournament games in Providence. Also see ‘Nova avoids upset by Peter Gobis of The Sun Chronicle.

I’m not sure why anyone would be interested in reading Gerry Callahan’s column this morning: “Tiger Woods textbook example of real sicko.”  What’s the appeal? It’s predictable, and Callahan is much too talented a writer to be shoveling this sensationalistic-driven tripe.

With Mike Adams taking over the Big Show this week, my afternoon drive dial has been set solely on Felger and Massarotti, and Felger has been dead-on about the Bruins and this whole Savard/Cooke/Colin Campbell situation.

Mike Adams might be a good fit for the WEEI evening audience, who seem to be well into their nightly six pack by the time the phonelines open each night, but as an afternoon drive host, he’s horribly out of his league. (Though they’re not doing him any favors putting the likes of Larry Johnson and Steve Burton in there with him.) He isn’t current on sports topics at all, most of the knowledge he does have is on the 1970’s Red Sox, (or on Manny Ramirez) and his attempts at humor fizzle quickly. A winning combination.