Why are the Bruins getting a free pass?

The NHL playoffs are the best of all of the four major sports in terms of teams taking their game and passion to another level. Seeds are thrown out the window as any team can win on any given night, and there is usually a strong dislike that develops between the two teams over the course of a seven game series, which only adds to the drama. There are plenty of comebacks that keep fans on the edge of their seats, including some from multi-goal deficits. Finally, nothing beats sudden death overtime on the road to the Stanley Cup.

Unlike the NBA playoffs, hockey is not about individuals; hockey is about the teams. There is not even close to the amount of complaining about the officiating, and you don’t just watch the last two minutes of each game — in the Stanley Cup playoffs there is 60 minutes of hard-hitting, fast paced, intense hockey action that no fan wants to miss.

With all that being said, it is a shame that the hometown Boston Bruins were eliminated in their first round series with the Washington Capitals.

But, is it really a shame? Does it really matter when the Bruins were eliminated?

That is one sentiment shared by some fans and members of the media on the Bruins following their Game 7 overtime loss last week. Joe Haggerty tweeted this late last week:

Love @mikefelger incensed w/Bruins because they were dusted in 1st round rather than 2nd round. What’s the diff if they weren’t winning Cup?

Haggerty isn’t the only media member in Boston that has said something similar to that, but comments like this raise the question of, why are the Bruins getting a free pass for their first round exit?

The 2011-2012 Boston Bruins deserve to be criticized. They finished the regular season as the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, but fell in seven games to the No. 7 seeded Washington Capitals. Stars from last year’s Stanley Cup run, and the team in general, Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand combined to score just one goal and dish out four assists in the seven games. Tim Thomas was not on top of his game, as he let in a few goals that even he would admit he should have stopped. Why aren’t these players’ performances being brought up in the media?

Instead of bringing up the players who struggled, some members of the media have said throughout the season how the Bruins won the Cup in 2011 and how hard it is to repeat as champions because the team endured a long year and extremely short off-season. To these people the Bruins probably weren’t going to win the Cup in 2012, so what does it matter when they were eliminated?

Does this make any sense? It doesn’t matter when the team was knocked out? If that is the case, then why even bother playing the games? Is winning the Stanley Cup once every 39 years good enough? Isn’t the goal of any team to establish a winning tradition? Winning the Stanley Cup every year just isn’t going to happen, but teams can be contenders year in and year out. And no, just getting to the playoffs is not contending. Getting to the conference final, now that is contending.

There have been a handful a teams that have advanced to the conference finals in back-to-back years, it has been done on many occasions even just since the year 2000. From 2000-2003, the New Jersey Devils made the Eastern Conference Finals two out of the three years, Buffalo made it in back-to-back years in 2006-2007, same with Pittsburgh in 2007 and 2008. That is just in the Eastern Conference.

In the Western Conference, Colorado made it three straight years from 2000-2003, Anaheim made it in back-to-back years in 2006 and 2007, and the same goes for Detroit in 2008 and 2009, as well as San Jose in 2010 and 2011.

Taking it a step further, three teams made it to the Stanley Cup finals in back-to-back years. After winning the Cup in 2000, the Devils were right back in the Stanley Cup final the next year, the Red Wings won it all in 2008 and were also right back in the finals the next year. The Penguins were runners-up in 2008 before winning it in 2009.

This proves that just because a team made/or won the Stanley Cup the year before does warrant grounds for any excuses to be made on the teams’ performance the following year.

The 2011-2012 Bruins should be remembered for their successful regular season, but disappointing playoff run. The 2011 Stanley Cup is in the past, and should not even be brought up. The best franchises contend for conference titles every single year, not win the Stanley Cup and refer back to it as an excuse for losing the next year and in the years to come.

Any questions/thoughts/issues are more than welcomed. Follow me @hannable84, and/or email me at ryanhannable@gmail.com.


Patriots Undrafted Free Agents Review

By Chris Warner

New England entered the draft needing defensive help and went after it, snatching pass-rushers (Chandler Jones, Dont’a  Hightower and Jake Bequette, oh my!) plus defensive backs (Tavon Wilson, Nate Ebner, Alfonzo Dennard) before snagging a receiver (Jeremy Ebert) in Round Seven.

That late focus on offense continued post-draft, as the Patriots invited two offensive linemen and a tight end to Foxboro, along with a defensive tackle. A quick review…

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Where is Bruce?

I’ve gotten a few inquiries this week as to my whereabouts, though it looks like things have thrived around here thanks to the work of Ryan and Chris.

To sum things up – my son was delivered a few weeks early last Friday, and since Sunday has been in Children’s Hospital here in Boston. That’s about all I’m going to reveal about that, but needless to say, that is where my focus has been this week.

He’s likely to be there for at least the next week, possibly longer, so I expect to my presence around here to continue to be scant during that time.

In the meantime, a few weeks back I had a nice chat with Patrick McHugh, a senior at Northeastern, who profiled BSMW as part of a class project. This is part of his report:

Self-Made Media Critic Bruce Allen Puts Sports Media Personalities On Watch

I hope to get back to a regular schedule as soon as possible, but I really don’t know what the coming weeks hold.

Thanks for your support.

Bruins season comes to an end with OT loss, Red Sox sweep Twins

The defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins’ season came to a disappointing end Wednesday night as they fell 2-1 in Game 7 to the Washington Capitals at TD Garden. Joel Ward scored just 2:53 into overtime to give the Capitals the win. Tyler Seguin had the lone Bruins goal coming in the second period, while Tim Thomas finished with 25 saves. It was one of the most highly contested series in NHL playoff history, being the first-ever series where each game had a one-goal differential.

Patrice Bergeron injury hurts– Steve Conroy in his notebook has how an upper-body injury suffered in Game 5 limited Bergeron in the final two games of the series. He took one face off the past two games.

Tyler Seguin saves best for last– Mark Daniels looks at the 20-year-old who scored the final two goals in the Bruins’ 2011-2012 season. He scored the overtime goal in Game 6 and he tied the game in the second period of Game 7.

Seguin learns from Game 7 loss– Joe Haggerty has how Seguin was just starting to come around and play like he is capable of.

Bruins power play struggles prove costly against Capitals– Douglas Flynn looks at the Bruins power play that went 2-for-23 in the series. The Bruins struggled on the power play during last year’s Stanley Cup run, but couldn’t overcome it this year.

Five reasons why the Bruins couldn’t make it out of the first round– DJ Bean has five reasons why the Bruins season came to an end much sooner than people expected.

A shocking, silent end to a season filled with promise– Jim Donaldson looks at how the Bruins season came to a sudden, shocking end.

What kept them afloat last year was missing– Kevin Paul Dupont has a few reasons why this year’s team was different from last year’s team in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Bruins’ season comes to a sudden end– Dan Shaughnessy takes a look at the Game 7 loss, which ended the Bruins’ season.

Tim Thomas rides high road after crease crunch– Ron Borges takes a closer look at Ward’s game-winning goal, and wonders if there could have been goaltender interference called.

One of the biggest offseason stories with the Bruins will be whether or not Tim Thomas will be back, or will he be dealt in order to make way for Tuukka Rask to be the No. 1 goaltender in Boston?

Don’t look now, but the Red Sox have won three in a row after they completing their sweep of the Minnesota Twins with a 7-6 win Wednesday night in Minnesota. Starting pitcher Clay Buchholz struggled, but still was able to pick up the win. He pitched 5.1 innings, allowing five runs on ten hits and walked three. The team led 7-1 going into the sixth inning, before allowing five Minnesota runs, but the bullpen held on for the one-run win. Alfredo Aceves picked up the save.

Clay Buchholz needs to get it started– Nick Cafardo says if the Red Sox bring up Aaron Cook, Buchholz should be the spot they should be thinking of replacing.

Red Sox bullpen’s subpar game reinforces the importance of Rich Hill’s looming returnDidler Morais says the Red Sox are looking forward to getting reliever Rich Hill back this weekend.

Hot-hitting Sweeney got his start on mound– Brian MacPherson looks at Ryan Sweeney’s hot start to the season and how he originally thought he would be drafted as a pitcher.

A different clubhouse– Michael Silverman says going on the road after what took place last weekend was the best thing that could have happened for the Red Sox.

In what has flown under the radar this week because of all the Red Sox and Bruins attention is the NFL draft’s first round is tonight. The Patriots have picks 27 and 31 in the first round, but knowing how Bill Belichick operates it would not be a surprise if the team traded one/or even both of the picks.

Patriots have changed the way teams draft– Tom E. Curran takes a look at Belichick’s draft philosophy and how it has tried to be duplicated by other teams in the league.

Starting the selections: Patriots ready to roll into 2012 draft– Christopher Price looks at the the draft as a whole and looks at possible directions the Patriots may take.

Bill Belichick capable of anything– Karen Guregian says with Bill Belichick running the show anything is possible on draft night.

Our Best Patriots Draft Possible

By Chris Warner

Over the past week we’ve been studying potential players available throughout the NFL draft who fit New England’s needs. After much debating, head-scratching, and coffee-drinking (America runs on it, after all), we’ve decided on the following to best aid the Foxboro Footballers.

As of right now, the Patriots have two picks in the first round (27 and 31 overall), two in the second (48, 62), one in the third (93) and one in the fourth (126). They traded their fifth-, sixth- and seventh-round picks.

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Patriots Draft Potential: Defensive Backs

By Chris Warner

Let’s look at some possible 2012 additions who could bolster New England’s defensive backfield.

Last season the Patriots’ lineup of DBs went through a revolving door, if said door was hooked onto some super-fast thresher. Has-beens, Never-weres and Someday-might-bes helped contribute to a consistently poor passing defense that never seemed to form a cohesive unit.

While some of those players shall remain, a rookie signing would supplement a thorough housecleaning and possibly give opposing quarterbacks the least bit of apprehension that 2011 lacked.

The Patriots have two picks in the first round (27 and 31 overall), two in the second (48, 62), one in the third (93) and one in the fourth (126). They traded away their fifth-, sixth- and seventh-round picks.

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Patriots Draft Potential: Offensive Linemen

By Chris Warner

Today we preview possible New England draft picks for the guys up front protecting quarterback Tom Brady.

In 2012, the Patriots got surprise performances from veterans Matt Light and Brian Waters. The latter’s effort deserves special praise considering he arrived late in the preseason and ended up as a 16-game starter.

All seemed set for an uneventful transition year to give 2011 rookies Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon more experience, but both Light and Waters are considering retirement, guard Logan Mankins is recovering from knee surgery, and center Dan Koppen is entering his tenth season, crossing the Rubicon for NFL linemen. The health of tackle Sebastian Vollmer has become a lingering concern.

That all points to an unexpected urgency in finding at least one new linemen in the 2012 draft. The Patriots have two picks in the first round (27 and 31 overall), two in the second (48, 62), one in the third (93) and one in the fourth (126). They traded away their fifth-, sixth- and seventh-round picks.

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Red Sox snap five-game losing streak, Bruins prepare for Game 7

The Red Sox were able to snap their five-game losing streak Monday night in Minnesota. Cody Ross led the team with two home runs, including the game-winner in the top of the ninth inning, leading the Sox to a 6-5 win over the Twins. He also homered in the seventh inning to tie the game at 5. Daniel Bard pitched 2/3 of an inning in the eighth to earn the win. He didn’t allow a hit and walked one batter, but is still scheduled to start Friday. Alfredo Aceves came on for the ninth to earn his third save of the year.

Valentine lightens mood– Scott Lauber has in his notebook how Bobby V joked with Aceves when visiting him on the mound in the ninth inning.

Daniel Bard silences Minnesota in relief but increases chatter to return to bullpen– Didler Morais has with Bard’s performance Monday night the talk of him moving back to the bullpen will continue.

For Cody Ross game-winning homer was a blast from the past– Alex Speier has how Ross’ home run to the opposite field was something he learned to do a number of years ago while in the Tigers organization.

Decision time is closing in on Aaron Cook, Red Sox– Rob Bradford looks at the decision the Red Sox have with starting pitcher Aaron Cook. If the team does not call him up to the big leagues by May 1 he has an opt-out in his contract.

Bobby Valentine can’t rescue ship going down– Gerry Callahan looks at the decision to hire Bobby V as manager, and how things have not worked out thus far.

It’s not Valentine’s fault– Bill Reynolds says the start the Red Sox have had is not the fault of their manager.

Both the Bruins and Celtics were off Monday night. The Celtics will host the Heat tonight as the regular season is winding down. The team already knows they will face the Atlanta Hawks in the first round, but who gets home court as being the No. 4 seed remains to be seen. The Bruins are in preparation for their decisive Game 7 with the Capitals tomorrow night at TD Garden.

Emphasis on health, not homecourt– Steve Bulpett in his Celtics notebook has with Doc Rivers resting his start players of late shows he is more concerned with the teams health rather than the homecourt advantage.

Homecourt or health: For Celtics it’s no challenge– Paul Flannery says the Celtics will need to continue being a good road team in the playoffs as they will be on the road a lot considering they have chosen health over homecourt.

Newly aquired Williams looks to start fresh with Celtics– A. Sherrod Blakely takes a look at the newest member of the Celtics, Sean Williams.

One big history lesson– Ron Borges takes a look at tomorrow night’s Game 7 and says all the teams’ Game 7’s last year mean nothing now.

Bruins need vintage Tim Thomas in Game 7– DJ Bean has in what has been an extremely close series the Bruins need Tim Thomas to be the Tim Thomas of last year’s Stanley Cup run.

Bergeron a money player– James Murphy says the Bruins can count on Bergeron to be a force in tomorrow night’s Game 7.

Selfless Bergeron has proved to be the model Bruin– Matt Kalman looks at how Bergeron has made his case for being named one of three finalists for the Selke Trophy as the best defensive forward in the NHL.

Where is the Red Sox player accountability during the 4-10 start?

The Red Sox have started the 2012 season 4-10. Their pitching has been abysmal. They haven’t been able to get the timely hit. They even blew a 9-0 lead to the New York Yankees last Saturday in one of the biggest single game collapses in recent memory.

Although the 2011 Red Sox started their season 2-10, this start may be even worse.

Going deeper into the numbers, the pitching staff’s ERA of 6.68 is the worst in the majors by more than a run and a half. The Red Sox’ bullpen ERA is a dreadful 8.44, which ranks worst in major league baseball.

Their closer going into spring training, Andrew Bailey, whom the team traded for in the offseason, had thumb surgery before the season began and isn’t expected to return until after the All-Star break.

Mark Melancon, who was supposed to be the set-up man, is now in Triple AAA Pawtucket after allowing 11 runs, and five home runs in just two full innings of work this season.

Kevin Youkilis, has started the season hitting .190, with just one home run and 13 strikeouts, and their starting center fielder, Jacoby Ellsbury, was injured in the first week of the season and is expected to miss 4-6 weeks with a separated shoulder.

With all of the struggles on the field, who has taken the most criticism this season? Not any of the players, not the general manager, instead it has been the manager, Bobby Valentine.

Every time he goes out to make a pitching change, the boo’s echo all around Fenway Park. Late in Friday’s game there were even chants of “We want Tito.”

Criticism of the team is all well and good and certainly deserved, but Bobby V? Sure, he’s made some questionable decisions regarding keeping pitchers in too long, or who to bring in from the bullpen in certain situations, but when your bullpen can’t get 12 outs with a nine run lead, that is not the managers fault, it is the players.

Where has the player accountability been during the 4-10 start?

The players are the ones who have gave up 26 home runs in 14 games. The players are the ones who have failed to get the timely hit in certain games this year. The players are the ones losing games, not the manager.

With all the heat their manager has taken the past week, why haven’t any of the players come out and taken responsibility? Why hasn’t someone spoken up and say the players are the ones that deserve the blame, not the manager?

How about even speaking to the media at all…

After Saturday’s debacle with the Yankees all of the star players, and so called “leaders” didn’t even speak to the media.

David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Adrian Gonzalez, the list goes on and on, they all declined to comment, or bolted out of the clubhouse before the media was allowed in.

They left it up to role players, such as Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Mike Aviles, and pitchers Felix Doubront and Matt Albers to explain to the Boston media what just happened, and their 4-10 start.

None of the four players had been with the team prior to last season; they shouldn’t be the ones having to speak after a loss such as Saturday’s. That should be left to the veterans and key players.

All of this adds up to a sign that Bobby V has lost his clubhouse.

Imagine if this were last year and Terry Francona were the manager, and he was hearing the same boo’s and the same criticism that Bobby V is now.

Don’t you think a player like Pedoria or Jason Varitek would have come to the defense of their manager, and say how the players deserve the blame, not the manager?

There has been none of that this season. The only time the team has spoken out about their manager was when they were responding to Bobby V’s comments that Youkilis has “not been as into the game” as much as past years.

Pedroia and Youkilis questioned their own manager and his style saying it might work in Japan, but not America. This forced Bobby V to issue an over the top apology through the media to Youkilis, essentially taking back the comments he had made.

The bottom line is this… The Red Sox are a mess right now, both on the field and off, but the season is only eight percent completed. They are only 4.5 games back in the AL East. There is still plenty of time to come back.

With all the signs pointing to Bobby V losing his clubhouse, only one thing can fix that… winning.

After all winning solves everything, doesn’t it?

Thoughts? Questions? Comments? Feel free to email me at ryanhannable@gmail.com. Follow me on Twitter @hannable84.

Patriots Draft Potential: Pass Rushers

By Chris Warner

Today, we look at dominant pass rushers, creatures that have remained elusive to Coach Bill Belichick and his band of merry draftniks. The footballers chosen below aren’t meant as predictions (best to avoid those, judging by our track record); rather, they represent the level of talent available to the Pats in each round.

New England has two picks in the first round (27 and 31 overall), two in the second (48, 62), one in the third (93) and one in the fourth (126). They have traded away their fifth-, sixth- and seventh-round picks.

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