One Year Stronger

Sports are a funny thing. They bring people together in inexplicable ways. As a New Yorker living in Boston I can attest to the immediate friendship formed, if even just for a few seconds, when I pass a fellow NY Giants or Syracuse Orange fan. Or the head nod and smile when someone notices I’m wearing the same Bruins shirt as them in the Charlotte airport. Sports turn complete strangers into your best friends.

Sports bring people together, especially in a city as passionate about their teams as Boston. But on April 15, 2013 the Tsarnaev brothers tried to use Boston’s most historic sporting event to tear the city apart.

But these young men failed to realize just how strong Boston was. They chose to attack a city that cannot be torn apart. Weakened? Yes. Wounded? Yes. Afraid, confused, angry and sad? Absolutely. But strong enough to overcome this together.

They chose the wrong event, the wrong day and the wrong city to mess with. It’s pretty hard to break the spirit of thousands of people who have just run 26.2 miles. It’s pretty hard to come into our city on our Patriot’s Day and get away with attacking our people. Our runners, fans, residents, law enforcement officials. Our hard workers from Medford. Our grad students from China. Our 8-year-old children. Our campus police officers. No. We will shut down the entire city until we hunt you down.

I can’t believe it’s been a year since that scary, confusing, devastating, sleepless week. A year of healing and growing and becoming stronger than ever. There’s still a long way to go for the many people affected by the attack and its aftermath, but every year from here on out we will remember that day and become just a little but stronger. We will watch the clock change to 2:49 P.M. on April 15th and we’ll remember that moment that changed the best sporting event in Boston forever.

Sports will continue to bring the people of this city together. Thousands of people will continue to take to the streets of Boston the third Monday of April to celebrate a resiliency that few can fathom. A resiliency that pushed you through 26.2 miles. A resiliency that leads you to run towards an explosion to save those who may be hurt. A resiliency that keeps you going after losing one or both of your legs. We will keep getting stronger. And the city of Boston will keep on running.

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In defense of Jackie Bradley Jr.

I’ll admit that I took a flying leap onto the Grady Sizemore bandwagon Monday night. What’s not to love? A 31-year-old three-time MLB All-Star and two-time Gold Glove winner who hasn’t played a game of professional baseball in over two years makes his return with the Boston Red Sox and goes 2 for 4 with a solo home run his second at-bat. Sizemore was a force to be reckoned with in the mid-2000s. He hit over 20 home runs and stole over 20 bases every year from 2005 to 2008, making the All-Star team three of those years. In 2008 he became the 32nd player in MLB history to hit over 30 home runs (33) and steal over 30 bases (38) in one season. By comparison, David Ortiz hit 23 home runs and Jacoby Ellsbury stole 50 bases that same year.

So when Sizemore stepped up to the plate for the first time in 2 years, 6 months and 9 days and got a base hit to right field, Sox fans began to nod their heads in agreement with the front office for picking up the injury-riddled, ten-year veteran. And when he sent the ball out of the park to tie up the game his second at-bat? Jacoby who? And forget Jackie Bradley Jr., Grady’s still got it.

Not so fast.

Bradley Jr. may not have had the best Spring Training numbers and he certainly didn’t help his cause when he struck out looking in his only at-bat Opening Day in the top of the 9th with two runners on and the Sox only trailing by one, but the 23-year-old has quite a lot going for him. Sizemore may have had a great game, but he also struck out with men on in the eighth inning to help the Orioles cling to their one-run lead. Sizemore isn’t the player he was back in 2008. He played only 33 games during the 2010 season before micro-fracture surgery on his left knee put him out for the year. He came back to play 71 games in 2011, but only put up 10 home runs and didn’t steal a single base. He then missed the entirety of the 2012 and 2013 seasons because of back and knee injuries.

He impressed John Farrell down in Fort Meyers and landed the starting center fielder position for Opening Day, but one 2 for 4 performance shouldn’t be enough to send Bradley Jr. down to Pawtucket for good. After missing most of the 2010 season, Sizemore came back to the plate for the Indians on April 17, 2011 where he went 2 for 4, including a double and a home run. He know how to excite a fan base. But he went on to put up the worst numbers of his career in home runs and stolen bases that season. Fast forward to Wednesday night when he went 0 for 4 in the Sox 6-2 win over the Orioles. Then to Thursday night when he was rested because of an early day game on Friday that he’s slated to start. Grady Sizemore is a ticking time bomb that’s reached its expiration date.

Jackie Bradley Jr., on the other hand, is just getting started. He took his first start on Thursday night and proved to the city of Boston that he was there to play. He hit an infield single to lead off the third inning and came around to score off an Ortiz single to put the Sox up 2-0. He had a sacrifice fly to push Will Middlebrooks to third base in his second at-bat and sent Middlebrooks all the way home with an RBI single his third time at the plate. This would end up being the winning run in a 4-3 decision at Camden Yards to give the Red Sox the series.

Sizemore gets the start Friday afternoon at 2:05 P.M. against the Milwaukee Brewers in the Fenway Park home opener. He’ll need to continue to bring some of that Monday night magic to the plate to prove himself over a young, rising player like Bradley Jr. This could still be the miracle season for Sizemore that Sox fans started daydreaming about the second they saw his 345-foot blast into the left field bleachers on Monday night. The ultimate comeback kid.

But if he fails to live up to this dream or is plagued by injury once again before he even gets the chance, there’s a young, promising player waiting down in Pawtucket who is more than ready to take his place.

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If the Playoffs started tonight, how would the Bruins fare?

The Stanley Cup Playoffs are less than three weeks away, but what if they were to start tonight? The first round would be Boston vs. Detroit, Montreal vs. Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh vs. Columbus, and NY Rangers vs. Philadelphia. So how would the Bruins fare if they started a 7-game series with the Red Wings tonight? Would they be hoisting the Stanley Cup in two months after missing it by just 17 seconds last season? Would they even make it past the first round? Will the first round go to overtime of Game 7? Probably. That just seems to be the Bruins way.

The Bruins have been known to struggle through Round 1 of the Playoffs, especially against the Maple Leafs. The Leafs forced a Game 7 in last year’s first round first round series after the Bruins went up 3-1 in the series. The Bruins went down 4-1 with ten minutes left in the third period, but ended up winning the game and the series in overtime in a game that has been dubbed the “Miracle on Causeway Street.”

Right now, the Bruins are set to face the Red Wings to whom they have lost two of three games so far this season. The Red Wings haven’t had the best season so far though and are just barely sneaking into the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. If the Toronto Maple Leafs can break their six-game losing streak, Detroit will have a difficult time holding off the Leafs for that remaining Wild Card spot. The Bruins travel to Detroit for the last time this season on April 2nd followed by a trip to Toronto the very next day. One of these games will likely be a preview of the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Bruins have won two of their three matchups with the Leafs this season, including a 5-2 win on December 8th. This victory came with Chad Johnson in net, Shawn Thornton out on a 15-game suspension for an illegal hit on Brooks Orpik, and Loui Eriksson, Chris Kelly, Adam McQuaid, Johnny Boychuk and Dougie Hamilton all out with injuries. This was just the beginning of a long couple of injury-filled months for the Bruins, but the B’s managed to pull out necessary wins even with a lineup cycling through Providence call-ups and a very young defensive core. Staying out of the penalty box has been the key to beating Toronto during the regular season. The B’s had two power-play goals in each of their two victories and the Leafs had a pair of their own in the Bruins 4-3 loss. The Bruins need to find a way to beat Toronto in the Playoffs though.

It isn’t only the Maple Leafs who have given the Bruins some first round challenges though. The first round has been decided by an overtime goal in Game 7 three years in a row. The seventh-seeded Washington Capitals knocked the second-seeded Bruins out of the Playoffs in overtime of Game 7 in 2012. In 2011 before winning the Stanley Cup, the third-seeded Bruins were almost sent home early by the Montreal Canadiens before Nathan Horton scored the game- and series-winning goal in overtime of Game 7. The first round never comes easy for the Black and Gold.

This year, the second round may prove to be just as challenging for the Bruins. Boston fans will be ferociously rooting for the Lightning or whoever finds themselves face-to-face with the Canadiens in the first round. If the Playoffs started tonight, it would be Montreal vs. Tampa Bay. The Lightning are 2-1 against the Canadiens so far this season and have won five of their last seven games. That being said, the Canadiens have had the better season and thrive in do-or-die situations. The Lightning, on the other hand, haven’t made the Playoffs since the Bruins knocked them out in seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals on their way to the 2010-2011 Stanley Cup. This was the same series that saw Tyler Seguin’s breakout performance where he tallied three goals and three assists in his first two postseason games in the NHL. Vezina Tropy winner Tim Thomas was in goal for the Bruins and carried them to a 1-0 win in Game 7. A lot has changed since then, but the Bruins won all four games against the Lightning this regular season.

Boston’s biggest threat in the second round would be a meeting with their fierce rivals from Montreal. The Bruins have notoriously struggled against the Canadiens, in the Playoffs and otherwise. The Habs took the regular season series with the Bruins 3-1. The Canadiens embarrassed the Bruins and Tuukka Rask with a 4-1 victory at TD Garden in January. The Bruins were coming off a four-game winning streak; the Canadiens had a four-game losing streak. Rask was pulled after the third goal in favor of Johnson who let up the fourth goal just two minutes into his appearance in the game. The Bruins bounced back in the third game of the series though with a 4-1 win. Rask proved himself early with two huge stops on two early breakaways by the Habs in the first period. He would go on to make 35 saves and help the Bruins to a six-game winning streak.

On Monday night, Montreal proved once again that they thrive in do-or-die situations. The Canadiens are fighting for every point to ensure a playoff berth and stifled the Bruins 12-game winning streak with a 2-1 shootout win. The Bruins played an incredible game though with 29 shots on goal against an impenetrable Peter Budaj. The story may have been different with another 20-minute overtime period.

This would be, by far, the most difficult series for the Bruins. However, if they could come away with four wins against the Canadiens, who have won six of the last seven meetings between the two, the Cup would be theirs for the taking.

The Eastern Conference Finals would likely be a faceoff against the Pittsburgh Penguins or New York Rangers. The Rangers, with Henrik Lundqvist in goal, have been dominant as of late. Lundqvist is on a five-game winning streak and was honored Monday night for breaking the Rangers all-time win record with 305 career wins. Right now, they would be facing the Flyers in the first round, who they decisively beat 3-1 last night with 31 saves by Lundqvist. Pittsburgh shouldn’t have a problem with Columbus, who they swept in the regular season.

If Pittsburgh and the Rangers do face off in the second round, it would be a very close series. They have each have one regulation win and one shootout win in their four-game regular season series. The Penguins have two players in the top ten point-scorers in the League with Sidney Crosby in first and Evgeni Malkin tied for sixth. Pittsburgh’s League-leading offense would have the best chance of getting the puck past King Lundqvist. However, Marc-Andre Fleury has lost his last five games.

The Bruins saw both teams in last year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs and breezed by both. The Bruins skipped over the Rangers in just five games in the second round, scoring 14 goals against Lundqvist in just five games to give him a mediocre 2.80 Goals Against Average in the series. The B’s only loss came in a Game 4 overtime decision that almost gave the Bruins the sweep.

Pittsburgh put up even less of a fight. The first-seeded Penguins were swept by the Bruins in the Eastern Conference Finals and were outscored 12-2. The Bruins have yet to face Fleury in the postseason though. He was replaced with Tomas Vokoun in the first round of the 2013 Playoffs after losing two games to the New York Islanders, giving up six goals in Game 4. Vokoun played the rest of the Playoffs, but has yet to play this season after a pelvic blood clot in September benched him. Head coach Dan Blysma has stated that even if Vokoun were to return before the end of the season, Fleury and Jeff Zatkoff will be between the pipes for the Penguins come the postseason. Zatkoff has gone 12-4-1 his first season in the NHL, but has no postseason experience.

The Bruins have won two of three in the regular season series against Pittsburgh and Fleury, including a last second thriller on November 25th. Crosby tied the game 3-3 with just .3 seconds left in regulation to force overtime, but Torey Krug responded just 34 seconds into overtime to give the Bruins the win. Pittsburgh is another team that the Bruins need to be mindful of giving up penalties to. The Pens have scored three power-play goals in their three meetings this season.

If the Penguins, who have lost five of their last seven games, do fall to the Rangers, the Bruins will be facing a team and a star goalie that they have swept in the regular season. The first win for the B’s against the Rangers this season came on Rasks second game in two nights. He made 43 saves, giving up only one goal. Zdeno Chara brought a natural hat trick to the second win, including the game-winning goal. The third win, a 6-3 decision, forced Rask to make 19 saves in a first period where the Bruins were outshot 20-9. The Bruins definitely know how to beat either of these teams. And they probably wouldn’t need seven games to do it.

Should the Bruins make a repeat appearance to the Stanley Cup Finals, they would most likely be facing the St. Louis Blues, Anaheim Ducks or Chicago Blackhawks. While the San Jose Sharks lead the Pacific Division, they choke every postseason. This team has been Division Champions six times in ten years from 2002 to 2012, but has never won a Stanley Cup or Conference Championship. In the last two seasons, they were knocked out in the first two rounds. They made it to the conference finals in both 2010 and 2011, but lost to Chicago and Vancouver respectively.

The Bruins have never faced St. Louis or Anaheim in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They took two points from the Blues this regular season in two games with a shootout and overtime loss. The B’s split the regular season series with the Ducks, winning at TD Garden and losing in Anaheim. With the way the Bruins are playing as of late and with all of their players healthy, they are more than capable of beating either of these teams, especially with home ice advantage.

A repeat Stanley Cup Final matchup has only happened once in the past century. The Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins faced off in both 2008 and 2009 with the Red Wings taking the first win and the Penguins hoisting the Cup a year later. There’s a good possibility that history could repeat itself this season. If the Bruins meet the Blackhawks in the Finals this year, Patrice Bergeron and the rest of the Black and Gold will be out for blood.

Chicago ripped the Cup out of the Bruins hands in 17 seconds that still haunt the city of Boston. The B’s went up 2-1 in the series, fought through three overtimes, played their star forward with a cracked rib, punctured lung and separated shoulder, and came within 1:16 of forcing a Game 7. However, Bryan Bickell scored with just 1:16 left in Game 6 with the goalie pulled. It looked like another grueling overtime, but the Blackhawks had a different plan. The Bruins defense never recovered from the tying goal and just 17 seconds later Dave Bolland ripped the puck past Rask to suck the life and all hope of hoisting the Cup out of the Bruins.

That’s all in the past though. The Bruins won in shootouts in Chicago earlier this season and face the Blackhawks at TD Garden tonight for the first time since those devastating 17 seconds. Now the Bruins are a different team. Rask has more experience under his belt, Patrice Bergeron is healthy, and Reilly Smith, Carl Soderberg and Eriksson have added more scoring depth to the B’s offense.

If the Playoffs started tonight, the Bruins could be hoisting the Cup by the end of May. But there are three months, 16 wins and two very good Canadian teams that stand between the Bruins and the ultimate redemption.

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The end of an era

On Wednesday night I officially played for my last BU sporting event as a student. With a heavy heart, I played the last four notes of Go BU, packed up my clarinet and walked out of Agganis Arena. It’s crazy to think that four years ago I made the decision to join pep band and now it’s all over. I never imagined what kind of crazy adventures it would have taken me on. There were countless trips to the TD Garden, a trip to New York City to play in Madison Square Garden, playing in a Foster the People concert, and so much more.

It wasn’t the best season to go out to, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. My last men’s hockey game was a weekend sweep of Northeastern and their first road win of the entire season after traveling across the country all year to watch them play. The women’s team went out on top again as the Hockey East Champions, but unfortunately lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament against a dominant Minnesota team. Women’s basketball lost in the Patriot League Quarterfinals after beating Loyola in the first round of the tournament.

It was men’s basketball that gave us the best run for our money this year, a sport I really didn’t care about until this year. And now I write this while watching my sixth basketball game of the day and shuffling through the five different brackets I filled out. Who knew Boston University basketball could give me March madness?

The month began with a trip out to Holy Cross where the Terriers won 68-64 and the regular season Patriot League title their first year in the conference. This was the same weekend of the aforementioned sweep of Northeastern in hockey and will probably go down as one of the best weekends in BU sports that I’ve experienced in my life. Unfortunately, the hockey team went on to lose their next game in the play-in round of the Hockey East tournament to Notre Dame, but the BU basketball was just getting started.

They entered the Patriot League tournament seeded first and demolished both Lafayette and Army in the first two rounds, scoring 91 points each night. The championship game, however, was a different story. BU put up only 36 points in the entire game as they were completely shut down by American University’s defense. Arguably the best basketball team, this senior class has seen at BU had to settle for the National Invitational Tournament. Had they won, they more than likely would have been seeded 14th and I would’ve gotten to see my two favorite basketball teams, the Terriers and the Orange, go at it in the first round of the NCAA tournament. But there was no miraculous repeat of 2011 and instead I got to watch one more game in Agganis Arena.

All things considered, watching BU go up by 17 points against a Big 10 school was a good way to end my pep band career.  Even though the Terriers went on to lose to the Fighting Illini, it was a much better last game than watching them put up a pathetic 36 points against a team they had beaten a few weeks before. I still found myself tearing up as I struggled to sing Go BU one last time, but it was a fitting end. I may have witnessed my last game as a student, but BU athletics hasn’t seen the last of me. And hey…there’s always next year.

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The key to bringing college basketball excitement to Boston

Today marks the official start of the NCAA March Madness Tournament. Sports fans across the country have finally submitted their brackets after days of tweaking and debating for a chance at a billion dollars and bragging rights at the office. There’s one region of the country, however, that is less than excited for the next two and a half weeks of college basketball. There isn’t much for the people of Boston or the greater New England area to root for in the tournament.

At the beginning of the season, the TD Garden hosted three opening day face-offs, including Boston University vs. Northeastern, UMASS vs. Boston College, and Holy Cross vs. Harvard. Six Boston-area basketball teams playing back-to-back in one of the most historic arenas in the country and the Garden barely reached half capacity.

The highlight of the year for college basketball in Boston was Boston College’s takedown of No. 1, undefeated Syracuse, a team that then went on to lose five of their last seven games. Overall, BC had a miserable season in the ACC going 4-14 in conference and losing in the first round of the tournament to Georgia Tech in overtime. Even Boston University had a better run, making it to the championship game in the Patriot League and an appearance in the National Invitational Tournament.

Boston College made the NCAA tournament eight times in the 2000s, but has done nothing of any significance in the last five years, leaving Boston fans with little to get excited about come March Madness. And what about Boston University? They’ve gotten away with not having a solid basketball program for the past ten years, making the tournament only once in the past decade after winning the America East championship game. They had their best team in a long time this year, winning the Patriot League regular season title their first year in the league and advancing to the championship game. However, they still failed to garner much support and continually found themselves playing in front of a very empty Agganis Arena home crowd.

Harvard is arguably the best college basketball team in the Boston area. They’ve made the tournament three years in a row and dominated the Ivy League conference, becoming regular season champions four years in a row. However, they have yet to make it past the third round and the Boston market doesn’t get excited over Harvard basketball. Boston doesn’t slowly change into a sea of crimson like the shade of orange that has settled over all of Upstate New York.

Bostonians should expand their horizons to all of New England. Providence College robbed the Big East championship from No. 3 seeded Creighton to gain an 11th seed spot in the big tournament. The University of Connecticut is also a good choice for Bostonians to follow. They have made it to the NCAA tournament 16 of the last 20 years, including a win in 2011.

However, if Bostonians want a college basketball team to get behind, they need to look no farther than the state of Massachusetts. The University of Massachusetts dominated in the 1990s with seven tournament appearances, including a trip to the Final Four. They also won five Atlantic 10 conference championships in this time. While UMASS basketball has been irrelevant over the past decade, this year could mark a true turning point for the Minutemen. They started the season winning 16 of their first 17 games, including big wins over Nebraska, Saint Joe’s and eventual Big East champions Providence College. They finally found their way back to the tournament this season after going 23-7 in the regular season and will take on the Tennessee Volunteers on Friday at 2:45 p.m.

There isn’t a lot of promise on the horizon for college basketball in the city of Boston going forward. Players from New England are simply leaving the area to play in the Big 10 or SEC. No one wants to stay in the area to play in the Ivy League or Big East or sit at the bottom of the ACC. Additionally, Boston viewers don’t tune in to college hoops or make the trip out to the arenas. Empty seats stick out like sore thumbs in Conte Forum, Lavietes Pavilion and Agganis Arena.

Boston just isn’t a college sport town. It holds some of the best college hockey teams in the country and Bostonians still don’t buy into the college scene. Basketball needs a serious investment or it doesn’t stand a chance. When a city has three of their four professional sports teams making it to the championship or conference championship game in the past year, there’s no need for Boston fans to rally behind a mediocre college team. Another college basketball opening day in the TD Garden, however, is a step in the right direction to bring college hoops back to New England. If you can’t bring Boston pro sports fans to college basketball games, bring college basketball games to them.

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Bruins settled with mediocrity at the trade deadline

There was nothing wrong with the status quo in Boston, as the black and gold have been proving week after week they can win games even with their young defensive line and still hold on to a comfortable first place spot atop the Atlantic Division. However, with Dennis Seidenberg out for the rest of the year, it makes sense that the Bruins front office would seek out added depth on defense. That’s exactly what they walked away with at 3pm on Wednesday afternoon, but Peter Chiarelli and company could have walked away with much more.

Since Seidenberg went out with a season-ending ACL/MCL injury on December 27th against the Senators, the Bruins Goals Against Average has increased by .460 and their power play has gone from third best to the worst in the league as far as Power-Play Opportunities. Bruins acquisition Andrej Meszaros is certainly no replacement for Seidenberg in the Bruins lineup and their were better prospects within the Bruins grasp, but he is a sufficient addition to the B’s locker room and can help fill some of the holes that have developed in the Bruins defensive line over the season.

Meszaros was drafted in the first round by the Senators in 2004 and will add a lot to the Bruins blue line in terms of size, a solid left shot and strong skating. Meszaros also has the ability to play a lot of minutes, averaging over 19 minutes per game for the Slovakians at the Sochi Olympics. He could easily find himself as a part of the blue line core as Adam McQuaid’s quad injury continues to keep him out of the lineup. However, if McQuaid’s injury keeps him out for longer than the 2-3 weeks predicted by Chiarelli in Wednesday’s press conference, the Bruins could run into some problems with an inexperienced postseason player like Meszaros.

There were several defensive names allegedly floating around the Bruins front office leading up to the trade deadline, including Christian Ehrhoff, Andrew MacDonald and Chris Phillips. MacDonald was traded to the Flyers on Tuesday for a 2014 third-round draft pick and a 2015 second-round draft pick, more than the Bruins needed to give up for the 27-year-old veteran with very little postseason experience. With Meszaros, the Bruins didn’t have to give more than they were willing to give up, namely a solid prospect like Ryan Spooner.

However, the Bruins could have benefitted from a guy like Ehrhoff who has put up more points this season than both Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug. He also has a lot of postseason experience, including a run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2011 that they eventually lost to the Bruins. A guy like Ehrhoff would be more suitable to handle the Thomas Vanek situation.

Just prior to the trade deadline, it was confirmed that the Islanders would be trading Vanek, who is known for having great success against the Bruins, to the Montreal Canadiens for a conditional second-round draft pick and prospect Sebastian Collberg. The Bruins have historically struggled against the Canadiens in the postseason and have already lost both games in the series to their division rivals this season. The Bruins face the Habs again on Wednesday night and will have the opportunity to see if Vanek’s dominant streak against them continues in a Canadiens uniform. Vanek has 30 goals and 61 points against the Bruins in 53 career games with 25 of his points coming on the power play. The B’s will have to prove that the young defensemen and Meszaros can fill the hole left by Seidenberg not only on the blue line, but also on the penalty kill.

The Bruins haven’t been able to defeat the Canadiens or quiet Vanek with the defense they have so far this season, but perhaps more defensive depth will be the secret. However, Ehrhoff has more experience to pull off this feat. Especially with Martin St. Louis moving to the Rangers and rumors of Ryan Kesler potentially going to the Penguins, the Bruins could use more solid defenders to fight off these offensively tough conference rivals.

Instead, the Bruins obtained Corey Potter and Meszaros. Potter, the Bruins other Wednesday acquisition, has spent most of his career in the AHL and is very unlikely to put up any significant minutes in Boston. On top of the fact that Meszaros is more inexperienced, he comes out of Philadelphia where he’s used to playing man-on-man defense and being thrown into the Bruins zone defense. In retrospect, the Bruins may not have done enough to alleviate the threat that Vanek could provide Boston with the Canadiens come Wednesday or the Stanley Cup Playoffs at the start of the summer.

The Bruins haven’t seen their last trade though. Chiarelli informed the media in Wednesday’s press conference the he had laid the groundwork for trades later on in the season. He feels comfortable with the forward depth with Jordan Caron and the players down in Providence, but the front office will most likely be striking more deals defensively as the season closes in on the playoffs.

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Tuukka Rask carries the Bruins to victory over the Rangers

It may have been Henrik Lundqvist’s birthday, but it was the goalie in white who was handing out presents Sunday night. Tuukka Rask held the Bruins in the game long enough for the offense to finally wake up and steal a win from the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Rask’s 39 saves propelled the Bruins to their first season sweep of the Rangers since the 1982-83 season

After allowing only nine goals in six games at the Sochi Olympics, Lundqvist allowed six against the Bruins offense in a 6-3 decision. The Bruins, who were 7-1-2 leading up to the Olympic Break, finally got back on track after dropping their first two games back against the Sabres and the Capitals.

It was a tale of two halves for the Bruins Sunday night as they got off to a rough start, playing one of their worst periods of hockey of the season. They suffered crippling defensive breakdowns throughout the first, allowing several Rangers odd-man rushes including a JT Miller breakaway goal just over three minutes into the game. Thanks to a heroic effort in goal by Rask, the B’s miraculously came out of the first period tied 1-1 after being outshot 12-1 in the first ten minutes of play.

Sloppy play and bad decisions continued for the Bruins defense throughout the first half of the game, forcing Rask to make spectacular save after spectacular save. The offense slept through the first 30 minutes of play as well. They had no control in the neutral zone, giving up several turnovers and failing to gain possession in their offensive zone.

The offense finally came alive in the second half of the game to score six goals on Lundqvist for the first time in franchise history. The Bruins scored three unanswered after New York took the early lead. Dougie Hamilton picked up a point on each, including a perfectly timed goal to lead off the second period off a great assist by Jarome Iginla who scored the equalizer at the end of the first.

While the defense continued to struggle with sloppy mistakes and slow play, the offense managed to maintain offensive zone possession and put up constant pressure against Lundqvist and the Rangers defense. This pressure paid off again as Carl Soderberg netted a rebound of a Hamilton shot to put the B’s up 3-1.

Brad Richards managed to pull the Rangers back within one seven minutes later after yet another bad turnover in the neutral zone. Richards gained the 2 on 1 rush off an assist from Callahan and beat Rask, who had been mostly flawless through 46 minutes of play, stick side.

By the third period the Bruins were off to the races, netting three more goals against the King. Gregory Campbell scored two back to back, including a shorthanded goal. Milan Lucic tipped in a Matt Barkowski shot with 1:32 to go in the game to hush the Madison Square Garden crowd for good just three minutes after Ryan McDonagh brought the Rangers back within two on a power-play goal.

Tuukka Rask proved that he was back and ready to play after a solid performance at the Sochi Games. He had something to prove after a rough first game back on Saturday afternoon where he gave up four goals to Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals. However, it was all Tuukka Sunday night as he single-handedly played defense just three days before the March 5th trade deadline that has been raising questions in the Boston media as to whether or not the front office should be giving the defense a closer look.

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