By Matt Noonan
The Boston Bruins and Celtics had their chances in 2010, but blew it.
If the Bruins had beaten the Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, most likely they would have beaten Montreal in round three and advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals to meet another original six squad, the Chicago Blackhawks, but that didn’t happen.
The Celtics made it to Game 7 of the NBA Finals last June, but faltered during the final four minutes of the fourth quarter, which allowed Los Angles to rally and win their sixteenth league championship. Had the Celtics retired, possibly their modern day “Big-Three” would have retired and head coach Doc Rivers would have left the Hub for good.
Although with ’10 in the rearview mirror, I have to ask this simple question, which is are we watching a replay of last year’s playoffs?
Allow me to explain.
Thoughts on the Bruins:
In May of 2010, the Boston Bruins had come off an exciting opening round series against the Buffalo Sabres and then won the first three games against the Flyers during the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. Yet, the Bruins never won a single game afterward, as they allowed Philly to comeback and stun the Black and Gold fan faithful during the four remaining games of the series. Philadelphia continued their quest for the cup, but eventually lost to the Blackhawks in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
Currently, Boston holds a 2-0 series lead, which again has some parallels to the ’10 postseason, but then I wonder, could the Bruins falter, again?
Will the Black and Gold fans exit the TD Garden whimpering or weeping on Wednesday or Friday?
Is it possible that the Flyers could rally from 0-2 to win the series?
Indeed, it’s certainly possible, but again, let’s try to forget what happened and focus on their most recent dramatic overtime win on Monday.
Boston is a completely different team than last year. They have players like Nathan Horton, Brad Marchand and Chris Kelly, as well as a veteran goaltender, Tim Thomas, who has practically stood on his head the past few weeks. The Bruins have also won four overtime games this year, but have yet to have a successful power play, so hopefully that will change too.
As for the Flyers, well, it’s easy to say that they’re not as strong as they were last season. Sure, they have the usual cast of characters, such as Chris Pronger and goaltender Brian Boucher, but again, they are not the same as they were last year.
So, could the Flyers comeback and win this series? It could indeed happen, but only if the Bruins play horrendous hockey the next two games.
Boston will welcome Philadelphia back to the TD Garden for Games 3 and 4 on Wednesday and Friday, a place where Philadelphia went [2-2] last year.
Prediction: I have thoroughly enjoyed watching Boston take control of this series, but Game 3 will truly help all fans understand if this series will be won in four or seven games. Everyone imagined that this series would last at least six or seven games, but if Boston is victorious on Wednesday, then consider the Bruins a lock to move onto the Eastern Conference Finals, as well as officially end the ’10 Game 7 nightmare.
Thoughts on the Celtics:
It’s official, this series is the “old men” vs. “young men,” but didn’t we already know that?
Boston played horrendous against the Miami Heat in Game 1, but just like last season the Celtics did not win Games 1 or 2 in Cleveland, so if they lose Tuesday, don’t panic.
Unlike last season, the Celtics have made some changes for the worse, as they went straight from being a favorite to an underdog. I’m not going to sit here and say that trading away Kendrick Perkins or Nate Robinson was the wrong thing to do because Boston needs to start the “Big-Three” transition.
So, why not start it now, right?
Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce are old, tired and ready to retire, but their desire to earn one more championship in Celtic green and white is what keeps them going. Although, against Miami’s “Big-Three,” Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron James, one has to wonder, can these guys actually run with the young guns?
In fact, consider this series the equivalent to a bunch of old, retired and out of shape men against a Division III varsity basketball squad. Who’d you expect to win this particular matchup?
Boston beat Miami three times during the regular season, but as anyone would tell you, the regular season doesn’t dictate how good one team is compared to the other. So, if the Celtics lose Game 2, then it’s quite possible the ’10 trend will continue, but then, Boston would have to win four games in a row, yet, are they capable of doing that this year?
Against the New York Knicks the Celtics won games, but they weren’t pretty. Boston needs to resort to playing team basketball and focus on their defense. Also, they need to not just guard James because unlike last year, Miami has key role players that Cleveland never had.
Prediction: As much as it pains me to say this, I certainly feel that Boston has seen better days. Sure, losing to their rival last season in Game 7 of the NBA Finals is heartbreaking, but wouldn’t fans rather the team lose to Miami and reload for the 2011-12 season?
Who knows if there will even be a season due to the leagues CBA issues, but again, if the Celtics can’t defend Wade, Bosh, James, as well as James Jones, then consider the team from South Beach the winner of this particular series.