Bruins need to guard against overconfidence with Backstrom out


Bruins need to guard against overconfidence with Backstrom out

ARLINGTON, VA It would be natural for the Bruins to start relaxing now that gifted playmaking center Nicklas Backstrom is suspended for Game 4 on Thursday night.

Backstrom led all Washington forwards with an average of 23:06 of ice time per night in the first three games of the series, and had a goal and an assist while playing an active role.

So while its true the Capitals got used to life without Backstrom when he missed 40 games because of a concussion this season and its also true the Caps beat the Bruins a couple of times without their center Washington does lose something significant with Mathieu Perreault skating in his place.

That means the Bs will be on high alert for overconfidence, and need to be mindful of taking the Caps a little too lightly now that theyve seemingly got a grasp of the tenor of the series.

Obviously the league suspended Backstrom with what they felt was the appropriate amount of games and its over and done with, said Milan Lucic. With him out of the lineup and with him being a big part of their team, our mindset is that we cant take them lightly at all.

They battled a lot of the end of the season without him and played well without him. So theyre still going to bring their best because its a big game for both teams.

The gravity of Game 4 should be enough to keep the Bruins focused on the task at hand, and its something the veteran players know can tip the balance of the series.

As a player you hope you can come in and keep up with the pace of the game said Washington's Mike Knuble, who has played in plenty of Game 4 scenarios with the Bruins and with the Caps over the years. Its a very pivotal point in the series and Game 4 can be a very decisive game. A lot of things can turn on that. We just want to even the series and play whatever role I can whether its two minutes or 20 minutes.

Theres the additional motivation provided by accusations of headhunting and crossing the line by the Washington coaching staff. But most of that is he saidhe said stuff, and both clubs are expected to bring their best in a game that could give the Bruins a chokehold on the series if they take home a victory.

I think right now both teams are really focused on being at their best and thats what makes a series interesting," said Bruins coach Claude Julien. "No matter what is happening here as far as a rivalry is concerned -- the emotions and everything else -- I think theres still that respect that exists between the two teams. We know that theyre a good team. Were not just saying it.

We know it. We respect that and thats why we know we have to be at our best and that we got to keep improving. Im pretty sure they feel the same way.

The Capitals will be missing their best playmaker operating at a surprisingly high level coming off a concussion, and the Bruins are starting to set the thumping tone in the series. It would be easy to start thinking Game 4 is in the bank, but that would be a big mistake indeed.

Pastrnak on B's loss: "We kind of stopped playing"


Pastrnak on B's loss: "We kind of stopped playing"

BOSTON – At the end of the day, it was simply a game where the Bruins allowed themselves to get outworked in the third period and overtime. 

The B’s held a three-goal lead in the second period and still enjoyed a two-goal lead in the third period, but eventually dropped a frustrating, futile 5-4 overtime loss to the Buffalo Sabres at TD Garden on Saturday night. It was clear to most speaking after the game that the Bruins eased up on the gas pedal once they’d scored their fourth goal of the game in the second period, and simply watched as the Sabres stomped all over them in the game’s second half. 

“I think we might have been a little bit too scared to play [in the third period], you know? We tried to just flip the pucks away, and didn’t make any plays trying to get it in the zone. Instead we should have just kept going like we did in the first two periods,” said David Pastrnak, who scored a pair of goals early in the loss to allow the Bruins to build up the three-goal lead. “Obviously we’re disappointed. We got one point. I think we didn’t play our game in the third period. We kind of stopped playing and they were all over us, and you know, it’s on us. We were the ones that gave them their point, but the first two periods were good. It’s just another learning session.”

To Pastrnak’s point, the Bruins were outshot by a 15-6 margin in the final 20 minutes of regulation and 21-6 overall in the third period and overtime prior to Ryan O’Reilly’s game-winner during 3-on-3 play. It was at this point the Bruins certainly missed stalwart stay-at-home defensemen Adam McQuaid and Kevan Miller in the D-zone, and fell short of qualified penalty killers while trying to burn off a Brandon Carlo interference call at the end of the third period. 

All of that caught up to them once the Bruins loosened their grip on the Sabres, but certainly the feeling is that the loss should’ve been avoidable even if some of the circumstances made it difficult for the Black and Gold. It also should have been avoidable against a Sabres hockey club that was dreadful last season, and is again one of the doormats in the Atlantic Division in the early going thus far. 

“Those are the games you can’t lose. We obviously didn’t do the job there in the third and close it out, but we’re going to have to regroup and work on our game and be better for the next one,” said Brad Marchand. “We didn’t play the game we needed to play. We relaxed a bit and we started losing a few battles in the wrong areas, and you know, they just played better than we did.”

It’s mystifying that any team would need a crash-and-born loss like Saturday night in order to learn any lessons moving forward, and it certainly might have been a different story for the Bruins if they weren’t missing a few big defensive pieces. But that’s not how it went down for the Black and Gold as they sagged under rising pressure from the Sabres, and simply stopped working when the chips were on the table late in Saturday night’s game. 

Astros beat Yankees in Game 7 to advance to World Series, 4-0


Astros beat Yankees in Game 7 to advance to World Series, 4-0

HOUSTON - Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers combined on a three-hitter, Jose Altuve and Evan Gattis homered and the Houston Astros reached the World Series, blanking the New York Yankees 4-0 Saturday night in Game 7 of the AL Championship Series.

Just four years removed from their third straight 100-loss season in 2013, the Astros shut down the Yankees for two straight games after dropping three in a row in the Bronx.

Next up for the Astros: Game 1 of the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night. Houston aces Dallas Keuchel and ALCS MVP Justin Verlander will have plenty of rest, too, before the matchup begins at Dodger Stadium.

Houston has never won even a single World Series game. The only previous time the Astros made it this far, they were a National League team when they were swept by the Chicago White Sox in 2005.

Now, manager A.J. Hinch's club has a chance to win that elusive first title, while trying to boost a region still recovering from Hurricane Harvey.

Houston improved to 6-0 at Minute Maid Park in these playoffs and became the fifth team in major league history to win a seven-game postseason series by winning all four of its home games.

Morton bounced back from a loss in Game 3 to allow two hits over five scoreless innings. Starter-turned-postseason reliever McCullers limited the Yankees to just one hit while fanning six over the next four.

Combined, they throttled the Yankees one last time in Houston. Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and their New York teammates totaled just three runs in the four road games.

CC Sabathia entered the game 10-0 with a 1.69 ERA in 13 starts this season after a Yankees loss. But he struggled with command and was gone with one out in the fourth inning.

Houston was up 2-0 in fifth when former Yankees star Brian McCann came through for the second straight game by hitting a two-run double after snapping an 0-for-20 skid with an ground-rule RBI double to give Houston its first run on Friday night.

The Yankees, trying to reach the World Series for the first time since 2009, lost an elimination game for the first time this season after winning their first four in these playoffs. New York struggled on the road this postseason, with this loss dropping the team to 1-6.