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Bean: Why the Bruins have to move on from Tuukka Rask

Every year we have the, “is this their last run?” conversation, and every year the Bruins are back in the postseason. It’s clear they’ve got what it takes to get that far, but the current plan isn’t bringing them much more.

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Can’t believe you fell for that. In fairness, a lot of people scream “clickbait” at everything these days, so it’s about time someone actually did it. Anyway, let’s talk about that disaster of an end to the Bruins’ season.

It ended the way it was going to all along: by running into a team that could expose Boston’s lack of depth on forward and D. 

Someone was going to take advantage of the fact that the Bruins’ bottom-six and bottom-four were not championship caliber. That team should not have been the New York Islanders. 

So make it about Tuukka Rask all you want — he’s certainly part of the Bruins’ demise — but if you boil this season down to “Rask tailed off at the end of the series and now I get to say he’ll never win,” you’re dismissing why they actually lost. You’re also enabling the Bruins to stick to a roster construction that doesn’t work.

“Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat”

Since the Bruins blew it against the St. Louis Blues, they haven’t had good enough teams to win. They were clearly a paper tiger when they won the Presidents’ Trophy in 2019-20. This year, they bridged the gap by picking up Taylor Hall and Mike Reilly, but they’d also lost Torey Krug and Zdeno Chara the previous offseason while adding Craig Smith. 

On the strength of star power alone, the Bruins should have been able to beat the Islanders before being dismissed by the Tampa Bay Lightning. New York’s roster is not better, but it’s deeper. Boston’s bottom six was terrible this season, so that group struggling in the series could at least be expected.

The lack of serviceable depth on defense is what ultimately did them in, though. Once Brandon Carlo went out of the series in Game 3, the B’s became a circus in their own zone. 

An injured Rask’s job became to make up for Boston only having one reliable defensive pairing, but Matt Grzelcyk’s performance in Game 6 bumped that number down to zero. Grzelcyk got his pocket picked at the blue line to give Brock Nelson a breakaway goal, then got mugged in front by Kyle Palmieri to give New York its fourth goal of the evening. 

Now, Rask was right there with the rest of his teammates turning the puck over, as his pass to Mike Reilly before the Islanders’ third goal was reminiscent of Cam Newton whipping a short pass off his running back’s hands.

But when you look at an injured Rask not bailing out his teammates and most of the Bruins’ roster being subpar, which one is the problem? Which is more likely to continue being the problem if you only address the other? 

It’s the roster construction, and it starts with Boston’s inability to draft impact players. Charlie McAvoy is a No. 1 defenseman and Carlo, if healthy, is an important piece. That’s about it for Don Sweeney’s drafting.

The B’s let Krug and Chara walk because they figured they’d drafted enough guys that one or two of them would grow into a big role. None of them did. The best result of the experiment was Jeremy Lauzon, who was only in the lineup by season’s end because the B’s didn’t have anybody else. 

The Bruins left holes on their roster and hoped for the best because they had enough stars to get them through a round or two. It didn’t work and it won’t work if they try it again. 

The “big three” for Boston as it relates to signing its own guys is Hall, Rask and Krejci. They’ll have the dough to sign Hall to a team-friendly deal, but who is his center? It would be consistent with their handling of the defense this year to just hope Jack Studnicka can be a No. 2 center, but the smarter play is to bring back Krejci for another year or two.

As for Rask? Depending on his health and his desire to keep playing, the smartest play is to sign him for a year or two at $5 million per. That gives you a strong tandem while you figure out whether Jeremy Swayman is capable of taking over. Just giving the net to a good young player can be risky; look what happened with Philadelphia this year.

But this offseason won’t just be about who stays and goes. Boston absolutely must beef up its defense. We can rule out them signing the top free agent (great player you may have heard of; name rhymes with Shmuggy Shmamilton), but they need a good second-pairing defenseman (and perhaps then some to make sure they don’t get a repeat of this year). Reilly is a fine third-pairing defenseman, but he might get overpaid on the open market because he played well late in the regular season for Boston. 

The B’s also badly need some stability in their bottom six. Charlie Coyle had a down year but is worth keeping given Boston’s questions at center. Jake DeBrusk and Nick Ritchie are both expendable. DeBrusk makes sense to be exposed in the NHL Expansion Draft, while Ritchie is a restricted free agent whose postseason (one point in the final seven games) says buyer beware. The Bruins shouldn’t just walk away from Ritchie, but they should absolutely be willing to use him in a deal to get something more reliable. 

Boston’s fourth line was a mess all season. Getting Curtis Lazar helped, but Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner had down years. Kuraly’s a free agent and Trent Frederic should be pushing for a full-time job. 

Every year we have the, “is this their last run?” conversation, and every year the Bruins are back in the postseason. It’s clear they’ve got what it takes to get that far, but the current plan isn’t bringing them much more.  

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Red Sox Notes: Alex Cora Slaps Significant Label On Alex Verdugo

‘There’s a reason he’s hitting second’

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Alex Verdugo often can be overlooked as fans and media members alike fawn over the Red Sox offense.

This isn’t necessarily a slight of Verdugo. J.D. Martinez still is among the game’s best sluggers and Rafael Devers is on his way to becoming one of baseball’s most feared bats. Xander Bogaerts is, well, Xander Bogaerts.

But as Alex Cora explained after Friday’s walk-off win, Verdugo can do it all at the dish.

Verdugo’s latest thing of beauty with the bat: a game-winning knock plastered off the Green Monster that gave Boston a 6-5 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays. The heroics prompted Cora to a shine a light on the dynamic young outfielder.

“…There’s a reason he’s hitting second,” Cora said on a video conference after the game. “He’s probably the most complete hitter that we have. He can go the other way, he can hit for average, he can hit for power, he works the counts, you know? That’s the reason he’s hitting second.”

Cora continued: “…I’m very impressed for young he is, the way he controls his at-bats. He goes to the dugout and he’s upset about certain things, but then he slows it down and goes to battle. In left field today he was great. He made some good throws. He played the wall perfectly. Like I said before, this kid — he’s a good one. We got a good one. We just got to keep working with him.”

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Boston Celtics: 3 Players Who Didn’t Live Up To The Hype In 2020-21

It’s safe to say the Boston Celtics season didn’t go as anticipated.

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It’s safe to say the Boston Celtics season didn’t go as anticipated. After making it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals last season, the Celtics labored through a 36-36 regular season, and were promptly eliminated by the Brooklyn Nets in a quick five game first round series.

While there were some positive developments at times this year, this was pretty much a lost season for the Celtics. Just a year after making a deep run in the playoffs, and with basically the entire team returning, they couldn’t put all the pieces of the puzzle together this time around, and it resulted in a rather disappointing season.

While the blame can’t solely be placed on one player or issue, there are a few players whose struggles personified what this team was going through on the season. With that in mind, let’s take a look at three Celtics players who didn’t live up to their expectations this season.

No. 3: The Boston Celtics Bench

It would be wrong to call out just one person off the bench here when the whole unit struggled for the entire season.

Aside from brief flashes of potential from a couple of the guys off the bench, this unit was easily one of the Celtics biggest letdowns of the season. The lack of production off the bench is a big reason the Celtics are currently on vacation and not playing basketball right now.

Let’s start with the guards.

Payton Pritchard was the only consistent contributor off the bench for this group, and almost immediately passed over Jeff Teague, Carson Edwards, and Tremont Waters on the depth chart.

Teague was a free agent signing who was expected to be able to come off the bench as the sixth man, but he was so bad during his time with Boston that he was traded away at the trade deadline.

Edwards and Waters are more complicated cases. Edwards appears to be nothing more than a volume shooter off the bench who doesn’t hit nearly enough shots to fill that role, while Waters has shown some potential to be a solid bench ballhandler. Neither guy was able to carve out any sort of role off of the bench however, and their time in Boston may be coming to an end sooner rather than later.

The wing rotation was even worse. Grant Williams and Semi Ojeleye are basically the same player at this point, as they have been molded into three-and-d guys who can’t really shoot the ball. Both were in and out of the rotation, and it feels like at least one of these guys won’t be back next season.

Aaron Nesmith and Romeo Langford showed why they were both drafted 14th overall in the NBA draft at times this season, but those moments were fleeting, and often left something to be desired. Both are still young, and should be given time to develop, but it was clear they were in over their heads at times this season.

Jabari Parker also showed some potential down the stretch, but he could be bumped out of the picture depending on how Boston’s offseason goes.

The big man rotation never really felt settled this season either, partially due to injury. Daniel Theis and Tristan Thompson never really meshed together, and Theis was promptly dumped at the trade deadline. That basically left Thompson and Rob Williams, but with Williams missing time with injury, it was basically just Thompson at times this season.

The Celtics picked up two bigs at the trade deadline in Mo Wagner and Luke Kornet, but Wagner was so bad in his time in Boston that he almost immediately got cut.

Kornet showed more off the bat and kept his spot over Wagner, but after that he was pretty much unplayable, and lost his spot in the rotation.

Tacko Fall also resides as a reclamation project as sorts, but this spot was a mess all season.

All in all, the bench was a massive letdown whichever way you look at it. It’s now up to Brad Stevens to add some depth to this team to help out his starters, and as we will see in a bit, some of their starters could use some extra help.

No. 2: Boston Celtics Guard Marcus Smart

Marcus Smart remains an enigma of sorts for the Boston Celtics.

On one hand, you won’t find a guy that plays harder or with more passion than Smart, and that usually translates to a bevy of hustle highlights you can find anywhere on YouTube.

On the other hand, he has a stunning lack of basketball awareness, often firing up ridiculous shots regardless of the context, and his style of play seems to have taken a toll on his teammates.

Statistically speaking, this was one of Smart’s best offensive seasons of his career. He averaged the most points and assists per game in his career, and his overall field goal percentage hovered right around 40 percent.

The stats don’t tell the full story here unfortunately. Smart’s three point shooting regressed after looking like he had finally figured things out in the bubble last season, and his defensive play has clearly taken a step back. Whether it was due to injuries or something else, the main reason why Smart plays is his defense, and if his defensive play isn’t good, he becomes almost unplayable at times.

Smart shows flashes of being the consistent guard the Celtics have been waiting for him to become. When he plays as a pass first ball-handler who helps create open shots for his teammates, while letting his shots to come him, he is arguably Boston’s best guard on the roster. But that doesn’t happen too often, as Smart will often recklessly look for his own shot at the expense of his teammates, and it results in some awful shots and numerous turnovers.

It feels like Smart’s tenure in Boston has come to a head. He is largely considered to be the heart and soul of this team, but at what point does his performance on the court become too much to handle?

Smart’s play this season was barely above the league average, and it becomes more and more difficult to justify Smart’s play with each passing season.

With only one year left on his deal, Smart may be on the move this offseason. Boston’s new front office has to decide if it’s worth holding onto Smart, despite his clear regression in play, just because he represents the team well.

Smart’s poor play this season may have been the final straw, and we may have already witnessed the fiery guard’s last game in action for the Celtics.

No. 1: Boston Celtics Point Guard Kemba Walker

There really couldn’t be any other answer. Kemba Walker‘s play for the Boston Celtics was far below what the team had been expecting from him, and his time in Boston may be coming to a quick end as a result.

Reports have already come outthat Boston will look to move Walker and his massive contract this offseason after his miserable season, but that may be a tough task after what we saw this season.

Statistically, things don’t look horrible for Kemba. He still averaged 19 points per game on 42 percent from the field, and was typically Boston’s best ball-handler. But when you consider Kemba made upwards of $34 million, and only played in 43 regular seasons games, Kemba clearly isn’t living up to what the Celtics expected from him.

A deeper dive into his stats show more troubling trends.

Walker’s field goal percentage and three point percentage both decreased from last season, including a rather large two percent drop in his three point shooting. Combine that offensive drop off with some poor defensive play, and you have an undersized guard who looked unplayable for large stretches of the season.

All of this is troubling for both Walker and the Celtics. Boston shelled out a max contract to a guy who didn’t look anything like a max contract player in just his second year of the deal. And half of the time, Walker couldn’t even get on the court, due in part of a knee injury he suffered last season and never fully recovered from.

Just two years into his deal, it seems like the Celtics are at crossroads in terms of what to do with Walker. Maybe a full offseason of rest and rehab will help Kemba return to his old form, and he can finally give the Celtics what they were looking for when they signed him.

But Kemba was so bad at times this season that it seems like a stretch of sorts to expect him to be able to reach that level play again, especially considering he’s already entering his age 31 season next year.

That discussion is for another time however. The point is, Kemba Walker fell well short of expectations this season, and he has put the Celtics in quite a precarious situation heading into the offseason. The first big issue that Brad Stevens will now have to deal with is what to do with Kemba Walker, and that decision could have huge repercussions on how the Boston Celtics look in the future.

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Why Boston Is The Greatest Sports City On The Planet

Located in the heart of New England, Boston, Massachusetts is one of the most historic cities in the United States. They’re not only known for their rich history, but it’s also their much respected sports teams. Boston has four of the best teams in their respective sports: the New England Patriots, Boston Red Sox, Boston Bruins, and the Boston Celtics.

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Located in the heart of New England, Boston, Massachusetts is one of the most historic cities in the United States. They’re not only known for their rich history, but it’s also their much respected sports teams. Boston has four of the best teams in their respective sports: the New England Patriots, Boston Red Sox, Boston Bruins, and the Boston Celtics.

All of whom are arguably the best at what they do when it comes to both championships, and respect from the rest of the country. Are they the greatest sports city in America? There are valid points and arguments you can make for this case.

There are specifically three points I’d like to go over and review.

3. The Fanbase

Beantown has some of the most die-hard fans when it comes to their sports teams, that you will find anywhere. These men and women take heavy pride in their rich sports history with all of the championships and influences that their teams have  brought to their respective sports.

Their attendance at sporting events is something unheard of, as you will almost never see a low crowd count at any event. These fans will do anything and everything in their power to show their teams that they support them, and will do anything for them to win yet another championship.

2. Influence Around The Country

From Tom Brady to Bobby Orr, Boston provides some of the greatest athletes and figures in the history of the sports. The players of the teams take as much pride in their city as the fans do. When ‘Big Papi’ David Ortiz said after the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, “This is our F***ing city!”, it provided a mass amount of support, and even began the trend of “#BostonStrong”.

The Red Sox would go on to win the World Series for the third time of the new millennium, but this isn’t all about the Red Sox. The New England Patriots went on to win Super Bowl XXXVI after the national tragedy that was the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which was obviously a very important championship, as the whole nation watched the (ironically named) Patriots win as the highly doubted underdog over the St. Louis Rams.

Both of these championship runs not only showed great pride in their city, but their country as well. As athletes, Tom Brady is a 5x Super Bowl champion and is argued to be the greatest NFL QB of all-time.

David Ortiz is one of the most notorious hitters of all-time, and often gained respect from opponents, based on his power alone.

Larry Bird is again one of the greatest basketball players of all-time, as his outstanding leadership and shooting ability is respected around the whole NBA, as he even made it on the 1992 U.S. Olympics team, which was also known as “The Dream Team”.

Bobby Orr is arguably the best hockey player to ever set foot on the ice, and is a icon in the history of the sport. Not to mention, he was also a icon off the ice, as he opened his house to help people with illness and addiction.

1. The Championship Count 

5 Super Bowls, 7 World Series, 6 Stanley Cups, and 17 NBA Finals Banners. These are the things that makes Boston sports respected. Few cities across the country can say they have what Boston does. They are consistent winners, most recently being the New England Patriots, as they won Super Bowl 51 in a comeback fashion.

The Red Sox won it for the city in 2013, after what was mentioned before with the Boston Marathon bombings. The Bruins won it in 2011, ending a fourty-year drought. The Celtics winning seventeen is impressive as it is, but winning 9/10 in the decade of the 1960’s is unheard of.

The consistency is key in Boston, and somehow they are always in the running for another national title. They have some of the greatest franchises in history when it comes to winning.

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