By Matt Noonan
The best part of March Madness is it’s literally a prelude to the NBA and NHL playoffs.
Here in Boston, fans are eagerly anticipating the “second season,” but in all honesty, are the Bruins or Celtics prepared for a possible title run?
Should those who support the “black and gold” or bleed “green and white” pencil in a championship playoff parade in June?
Wait a second… I am getting way too ahead of myself, so allow me to provide an opinionated break down on where both Boston teams stand, as well as attempt to answer the question… are these teams ready for a successful playoff run?
Thoughts on the Boston Bruins:
As of lately, the Black and Gold appear tired, lazy and not prepared for what lies ahead. The NHL made a terrific move on Monday by suspending Pittsburgh Penguins forward Matt Cooke for the rest of the season, so hopefully, if the Bruins had to play of this particular team, they wouldn’t have to worry about his hard hits or unruly behavior.
Although, aren’t the Bruins known for their hard hits, emotional play and physicality?
Hmm… that was the Bruins of yesteryear, right?
Take the Montreal game from this past February and just hope that all the energy, which resulted in close to 200-minutes of penalties is on display every moment throughout the playoffs. Yet, both Boston and Montreal finished the game with literally enough players for one line, so it may not be the smartest idea to lose 15 players for an entire series, right?
Although, with the playoffs nearly a few weeks away, it’s perfectly normal for any New Englander to seem a tad bit worried about their current play. Between their offense, defense and goaltenders, the Bruins just don’t seem to have the fire in their bellies, which was constantly on display during October and November.
However, over the last six games, the Bruins have only won one and lost five. Any chance they finish the month of March with an identical record to last year, which was [8-8]? Could a brand new month of April brighten up this bunch of rag tag hockey players?
Finally, should the Bruins provide more rest for Tim Thomas, who most recently allowed four goals against an up and down Toronto Maple Leafs squad on Sunday.
What the Bruins need to do is take advantage of winning games on their home ice. They’ll be at home on Tuesday against New Jersey, Thursday against Montreal and Saturday against New York, but can fans count on three wins and six additional points in the standings?
Sure, it may seem like a lot to ask for currently, but it is critical for them to respond quickly and get ready for a “deep” playoff run.
They’ll have some “easy” contests against the New York Islanders and Ottawa Senators, which will literally be “scrimmages” or “tune-up games” that will get them ready for their real opponents, but what exactly do the Bruins need to do?
They need to get rest, play smart hockey and be mentally prepared for these final few weeks. Yes, the season is long, very long, but as long as they can add a few more wins to the win column, they may not be in too bad of shape for their first round opponent, who could be their rival, Montreal.
Thoughts on the Boston Celtics:
Talk about another team that has looked awful and played terribly bad over the past few weeks. In fact, after reading multiple reports on Tuesday, the word that seems to describe the Celtics best is “soft.”
Against the New York Knicks the Celtics lackluster offense appeared of sync and incredibly awful at times, especially during the entire first half. However, the Celtics are certainly lucky to have veterans like Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, to bale the youngsters out of tough and tumultuous situations. Yet, the window to win Banner 18 is certainly a lot smaller than it was last season. All three veterans are older, slowing down and may not have the same “jump” in their step like they did during the ’07-’08 season, so if they want a championship, it has to happen… NOW!
It is easy to imagine that the Celtics remaining opponents won’t give them too much trouble, but against San Antonio, Atlanta, Chicago and Miami, the Celtics need to be at their best, as all four teams are pretty much locks for the playoffs.
Also, capturing the number one seed is vital, so losing to Washington, Philadelphia, New York, Detroit and Minnesota shouldn’t be allowed. It seems more obvious that head coach Doc Rivers continues to learn more and more about his new players, but sometimes, it does seem that Carlos Arroyo, Jeff Green, Nenad Krstic and Sasha Pavlovic seem timid when on the court. Although, Green has been the best out of all five new players, so Celtics fans should have some faith.
Boston should also rely heavily on Glen Davis, who was lethal during certain playoff games last year, but as also, been a threat this past season when teams don’t properly defend him.
Although, rather than sit here and break down this team piece by piece, quarter by quarter and game by game, I’d rather just throw in my very own “two-cents” and say, I am indeed worried about this particular team. They haven’t seemed to fathomed or digested the Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson deal, but have also looked incredibly lazy when on the court. Yes, they have those “must watch” players, but in all honesty, who is going to rise up once the regular season ends? Will Davis or Pierce be the players to watch or will Garnett actually have a somewhat decent playoff run?
There are still a lot of questions that remains with this team, but in all honesty, who exactly knows how far the Green and White can go, especially against Chicago, a team that has always been under the radar all season, but is currently battling for the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
If the Celtics want to set themselves up for a successful playoff run, it all begins with good ball movement, playing as a team and doing what they do best, playing defense. Oh and one more thing to add to that list, acquiring the number one seed in the conference, which would provide them with home court advantage.