Life of a Sportsaholic

This blog is intended to be insight into my life as an irrational, stats-driven, obsessive sports fan in Boston. I am a fan of all types of sports with an emphasis on Boston teams and am a proud UConn alum.

Category: Boston Bruins

The Case for Bruce Cassidy

AP Photo/Winslow Townson

After yet another playoff OT loss at the TD Garden on Sunday, the Boston Bruins season is over. They played 6 one-goal games against the Ottawa Senators, including 4 games ending in OT (or double OT), and committed stupid errors left and right. It’s easy to say the season was a disappointment after bowing out in the 1st round, but I completely disagree. The Bruins took the Senators to 6 games with their depleted defensive core, and showed some serious heart at times during the series. In the end, the injuries and fatigue set in, resulting in the series loss, but don’t blame interim head coach Bruce Cassidy.

Since taking over the helm of the Bruins from long-time bench leader Claude Julien, he has gotten the most of a non-championship quality roster. The roster he inherited was strong up top, but very weak on the bottom, which is especially true with defensemen. The talk coming into the year is the same as at the end: d-men depth was lacking; the Bs need to add a top 4 d-man. To be fair, no one would have predicted that 4 of the Bruins top 6 d-men would go down with injuries late in the season or in the playoffs, but the lack of depth left Boston struggling when it counted. Thanks to the hockey gods for Charlie McAvoy or this series would have been over even sooner.

Cassidy took this roster with all it’s deficiencies and clinched a playoff spot (which was not looking good when Julien was fired) and made the Senators earn each victory in round 1. In 28 games at the helm, Cassidy’s Bs went 18-8-1 (16-4 in the regular season), which compared to the previous 26-23-6, is a really strong showing. The team won 8 of their first 10 games under Cassidy and had a strong 6-game winning streak down the stretch to help secure the playoff spot. Cassidy made in-game changes unlike his predecessor and was not afraid to make a bold move (i.e. sit Ryan Spooner and call-up Sean Kuraly in game 5). In the end, the team was fatigued and just not good enough to move on in the playoffs.

Given an offseason to make changes and implement his system, Cassidy will have a chance to correct the sloppy mistakes (3 delay of game penalties in game 6) and hopefully add depth to both the forwards and d-men. There was a lot to like about the way the young kids played when it counted (McAvoy and Kuraly especially) and given more experience in the league, they will only get better next season.

Now remove the interim tag from his title and hand the reins over the Bruce Cassidy. He’s the present and future.

Bruins Clinch Playoff Spot

After 2 consecutive terrible late season collapses, the Boston Bruins are back in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It felt like the playoffs had already begun on Tuesday night when the Bruins scored a huge 4-0 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Despite losing Brad Marchand to an ejection in the first period after he speared Jonathan Drouin in the groin, the Bruins played with a high-level of intensity and urgency. Now, with 2 games left, the Bruins have a chance at home ice in the first round of the playoffs.

Just a few weeks ago it seemed like a 3rd consecutive disappointing finish was a strong possibility, but Bruce Cassidy motivated his guys to play with urgency. In 25 games under Cassidy, the Bruins are 18-7 and have played much better and more consistently than under Claude Julien the previous 55 games this season. There are still a lot of question marks on this team, including some inconsistency on defense, but once you are in the playoffs, anything is possible.

Unfortunately for the Bruins, Marchand decided to be a moron and get himself ejected and likely suspended for the next game or two. The Bruins will be playing for home ice and improved playoff seeding without their leading scorer and assist-man thanks to all his prior infractions and his reputation as an instigator. There is no justification and no excuse, it was just one of the dumbest things Marchand has done in his entire career.

As a fan of the Bruins and the NHL playoffs, the win last night was a huge sigh of relief. There is no more intense and exciting action in sports than playoff hockey, so regardless of seeding and their success in the playoffs, the TD Garden will be rocking deep into April.

Weekend Sports Recap: Pats, Bruins, UConn, and Revs

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This was a busy weekend for New England sports teams, especially those I am particularly interested in following. Let’s take a look at each game from this weekend.

NFL

Final
New England Patriots 27
Pittsburgh Steelers 16

The New England Patriots overcame some early mistakes to beat Pittsburgh on the road. The Steelers were without Ben Roethlisberger, so resorted to starting Landry Jones. Jones wasn’t terrible for the Steelers and took another step in his development, but didn’t have enough in the 4th quarter to hang with New England and even make an attempt at a comeback. The Steelers defense looked good at times, but Brady found ways to use his plethora of weapons throughout the evening. LeGarrette Blount ran for 127 yards and 2 TDs (74 yards after halftime) against his former team and Tom Brady hit Rob Gronkowski for Gronk’s 68th TD. It was all smiles after the game for Gronk who pointed out to those assembled that his next TD will be his 69th. “One more and I got 69 touchdowns. You know what I mean.”

NHL

Final
Montreal Canadiens 4
Boston Bruins 2

After a 3-1 start for the Bruins and a 3-0-1 start for the Canadiens, the two bitter rivals matched up for the first time this season. Unfortunately for the Bruins, the Canadiens looked like the better team throughout. The Bruins again allowed the first goal and found themselves playing from behind the entire night, down 2-0 and 3-1 in the 2nd and 3rd periods. The Bruins made a lot of mistakes and had some sloppy play throughout the game, which tends to happen when teams have younger talent developing under the bright lights. It’s early, but the Canadiens look strong after a blockbuster off-season trade sending PK Subban to the Nashville Predators for Shea Weber. The Canadiens have now won 9 straight in Boston against the Bruins.

College Football

Final
UCF Knights 24
UConn Huskies 16

It was homecoming for UConn on Saturday as they hosted the UCF Knights. The Huskies came into the game at 3-4 and needed a W against the Knights, but looked flat and couldn’t muster anything in the 2nd half leading to their 5th loss of the season. UCF moves above .500 to 4-3 with the win, rebounding from a 1-pt loss to Temple a week prior. UConn travels to Greenville, NC for a matchup with East Carolina next week desperately needing a W to keep bowl hopes alive. The 2-5 East Carolina Pirates are coming off a 12-pt loss to Cincinnati on the road this past weekend.

MLS

Final
New England Revolution 3
Montreal Impact 0

Despite a disappointing season overall (11-14-9), the New England Revolution finished it off with a strong 3-0 win over the Impact at Gillette Stadium. The Revs made a late push for the playoffs, but knew prior to Sunday’s match that their season would be over finishing in 7th place, 1 spot out of the playoffs. With nothing to lose, the Revs played a strong match and got goals from Diego Fagundez, Juan Agudelo, and Kei Kamara. Coach Jay Heaps summed up the season after the game. “It’s disappointing that we waited too long to really find ourselves and express ourselves throughout the last part of the season. Five (wins) out of seven is really good, but we just didn’t do enough.”

Young Talent Showing Early Promise for Bruins

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Coming into the 2016-2017 season for the Boston Bruins the expectations were mixed with many believing the team did not improve enough this offseason, especially on defense. To make things worse, just before the season started the team announced Patrice Bergeron would miss the beginning part of the season with a lower-body injury. Without Bergeron, it’s realistic to think this team doesn’t have much of a chance to contend, but through 3 games, some young bucks have stepped up and played well leading the Bruins to a 2-1-0 record.

The biggest young star is RW David Pastrnak. In his first 2 years in Boston he showed flashes of great play and offensive ability, but hasn’t been able to consistently produce and stay on the ice for a full NHL schedule. At age 20, this is the year you hope for a breakout and thus far, he is showing his incredible offensive prowess. In just 3 games, he has 4 goals (1st in the league), 2 assists, and is a +7 (1st in the league). It has helped Pastrnak to play on a line with veterans LW Brad Marchand and newly acquired C David Backes. The three on that line have 8 of the Bruins 11 goals and 8 assists total. Not too shabby.

Another important young player for the Bruins is D Brandon Carlo. He was a 2nd round draft pick of the Bruins in 2015 and seemed to be a perfect fit for the organization: a 6’5″ 203lb hard-nosed, physically gifted player with solid puck control and finish. He’s not afraid to get in the dirty areas and as we saw on Monday night, can put the puck in the back of the net. Carlo is at the bottom end of the roster, but his poise and talent early on shows me that he belongs in the NHL. If he continues to grow and develop, it will go a long way in helping to sure up the d-core, which is critical if the Bruins want to contend. Through 3 games, Carlo has 1 goal and 1 assist (+7) and he has seen his ice time steadily increase each game.

Overall, the first road trip of the year was a success. The Bruins took 4 of a possible 6 points and the team was able to produce 11 goals over that span. The Marchand, Backes, Pastrnak line is lighting the world on fire and will lead to some interesting decisions when Bergeron is back (hopefully soon). I know it’s early, but I’m starting to think this Bruins team is better than I thought and at least has the potential to be quite good this year.

The Fall Sports Overlap and Overload

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It’s about this time every year that my head begins to fill will a jumble of sports craziness. Ok, maybe that’s unfair, my head is filled with sports craziness all year long, but this time of year it kicks into overdrive. With professional football beginning to pick up in week 4, professional baseball in the stretch run, and college football in full swing, life is crazy. Then you add the beginning of professional hockey now and professional/college basketball in the next few weeks and my eyes don’t know where to focus. It’s hard enough to keep up with 2 sports running simultaneously, forget 4 or 5. Here’s how I prioritize my limited sports viewing time in order to get the most bang for my buck during a nutty fall of sports.

Baseball

Since the Red Sox are very much in contention, they become the priority viewing experience, weekdays or weekends. Baseball is my true love and with just days left in the regular season and a potential championship contender in town, it has to be the focus. Once the Sox clinch the AL East (magic number is 1) and hopefully lock up the best record in baseball, I’ll have a small breather until the playoffs. Obviously, playoff baseball takes precedent over all else in October.

Also, since this week is the Fantasy Baseball championship for me, that will shift more of my focus away from other sports.

Pro Football/College Football

I limit my football focus to the weekends (unless UConn or the Patriots are playing another day) for now. Saturdays are for college football and Sundays are for pro football. It seems pretty logical, but can be surprisingly difficult to limit myself when both pro and college football are full-time viewing and following experiences. Between injury reports and match-up information, it’s an easy rabbit-hole to get sucked down on weekdays, but I must be strong!

Once the Red Sox season is over (hopefully not for another month+), I will shift the major focus of my attention to football. Since my Fantasy Football teams are terrible (combined 1-5), I may not have to worry too much about the fantasy aspect once baseball is over.

Pro Basketball/Pro Hockey

I know it’s blasphemy to say in Boston, but I’m just not a big NBA fan. I consider myself a periphery Celtics fan and enjoy watching an occasional game and following an interesting storyline, but can’t bring myself to watch on a consistent basis during the regular season. My wife would say that’s a good thing, because I love college basketball and pro hockey, which significantly overlap in seasons (not to mention the serious overlap with football), so I don’t know if I would have the time to avidly follow the Cs even if I wanted to.

The Boston Bruins are a newer passion for me. I grew up outside of Hartford, CT and was a big Whalers fan growing up. When they left Hartford in 1997, I denounced hockey for about a decade in protest. In 2007 when I moved to Boston, I began watching the Bruins and got the hockey itch back. Ever since then, for about 9 years now, I have been an avid hockey fan and a strong Bruins follower. On days when football is not being played and there isn’t a big UConn game (basketball or football), hockey is my major focus.

College Basketball

Being an obsessive UConn sports fan, college basketball season is often a joyous time. I follow the early season games as much as I can, but really start to watch obsessively after the turn of the year. January-April is prime college basketball watching season, with a special focus in early March and into April. Thankfully there are only a handful of earlier season games that are must-watch TV, allowing me to focus on other fall/winter sports until things really pick up. Regardless of what UConn does, the NCAA Tournament is the greatest sports viewing experience of any sport at any time hands down.

There are a smattering of other sports I follow casually during the fall/winter timeline, but everything else is secondary (or thirdary, or fourthdary, or fifthdary).  For right now, discipline and focus are the keys to successfully managing the sports nuttiness that is the fall. Happy watching everybody!

Bruins Busy at Beginning of Free Agency

Getty Images

Getty Images

A few minutes after the NHL free agency period began, the Bruins announced a flurry of moves. The Bruins re-signed D-man John-Michael Liles (1-year at $2 million) and G Anton Khudobin (2-years at $1.2 million/year) who are both nice, solid depth signings. The biggest moves were the signing of former St Louis Blues 32-year old C David Backes ($30 million over 5 years) and the decision to not resign Loui Eriksson who got a monster 6-year contract at $6 million per year with the Vancouver Canucks.

Although the length of time for a 32-year old isn’t ideal, Backes is an impact player and instantly makes the Bruins better. He finished last season with 21 goals and 24 assists in 79 games and could easily be a mid-20s goal scorer next year. He is a veteran presence in the locker room, which can only help a Bruins team that has some young forward talent. Many will balk at the length and price of the contract for a guy who is showing a little decline, but I believe he will have a big impact on this team next season.

After day 1 the Bruins made some nice moves, but still need D-man help. Hopefully that is coming soon…

Bruins Make Moves, Sign Torey Krug

ESPN New Hampshire

ESPN New Hampshire

The day after some major NHL trades and the day before free agency begins, the Boston Bruins made a few noteworthy, but not shocking moves. The first was cutting ties with D Dennis Seidenberg by buying out the remaining 2 years on his contract. Seidenberg was traded to the Bruins in March 2010 and was a good D-man for them for a few years, but injuries and age caught up with him. The past 2 seasons Seidenberg was a minus player and looked slow.

The buyout saves the Bruins $4.6 million in cap space, which then allowed them to sign D Torey Krug to a 4-year deal averaging $5.25 million annually. The 25-year old Krug is fast, offensive-minded D-man who still has some developing to do. His scoring dropped off last season, but he finished the year with 40 assists and a +9. Krug is a good investment for the Bruins, especially if they can bring in another top-tier D-man to fill out their lines.

It is sad to see Seidenberg go because he played a nice role in the Bruins winning the Stanley Cup in 2011, but it was 100% the right decision from the front office perspective.

Bruins Hot and Heavy on Kevin Shattenkirk

The Boston Bruins are in desperate need of top defensive help going into the 2016-2017 season. Of their top 4 d-men, Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg are 39 and 34 respectively and are both looking like time and injuries have slowed them down. Torey Krug, Adam McQuaid and Kevan Miller are all good players, but ideally aren’t your top D-pairing guys. A guy like Kevin Shattenkirk would instantly make the Bruins defense more formidable. 

Shattenkirk is a top 4 puck-moving defensemen who can leave a serious impression on a game. He collected 14 goals and 30 assists last season with the Blues in 72 games and had a career high in hits (82) and blocks (113). He is only 27-years, is signed through next season, and went to BU. He seems great, what’s the catch? The price-tag will be very hefty to get Shattenkirk in the black and gold uniform.

Giant Hockey Stick Hoisted Into Place

Photo by Derek Kouyoumjian

A 68-foot replica Warrior hockey stick was hoisted into place at the new Bruins practice facility this morning. The stick weighs 7,000 lbs and is visible from the Mass Turnpike.