Patriots

B's energy line lives up to its name

985691.jpg

B's energy line lives up to its name

Earlier this week the Bruins fourth line of Gregory Campbell, Shawn Thornton and Daniel Paille along with their coach Claude Julien lamented that they hadnt been as consistently good last year as theyd been in the Stanley Cup season.

So instead of coming up with excuses or simply accepting mediocrity, the Bs energy cranked it up like they main-lining Red Bull and became a huge factor in Bostons 3-1 victory over the Rangers on opening night.

They came as advertised: opportunistic offense, gritty and responsible defense and the courageous willingness to sacrifice their bodies for the purpose of spiking up the energy levels.

They did exactly what we expect them to do. Not so much the fight, which is something they do automatically. Thornton has always been there for us and Campbell always likes to take on bigger guys than he should, but that just means that he doesnt back down from everybody, said Claude Julien. Hes a trooper, no matter what, he was coming back in the third and he was going to play the same way. They did a great job.

Not only did they score the goal, they did a lot of good things. Every once in a while they were out there against some of their big lines. If you remember a couple of years ago, they were able to handle that. They were doing the right things and I felt like they were showing that again tonight, so they got that opportunity.

Paille finished with the game-winning goal in the second period after he redirected a long Gregory Campbell shot that dinged off the post, bounced off the backside of Henrik Lundqvist and rattled its way to the back of the net. That was the biggest portion of a solid night for the fourth lines left wing, but it wasnt long before his two fourth line partners got involved.

Thats something that weve been trying to drive through the net, especially our line, said Paille. When it works, it helps out huge for us to get some goals, and I think thats important for us for a good win like that.

Brad Richard rifled home a puck later in the second period that made it a one-goal game for the Rangers, but Thornton and Campbell factored in and changed that flow of momentum quickly. Thornton dropped the gloves with Rangers tough guy Mike Rupp and engaged in a minute-long dance that ended with the Bruins enforcer bloodying his Rangers counterpart with an overhand right straight to the face.

It had been awhile. Im sure its been awhile for Rupp too, said Thornton. They had just scored, I figured it was just as good a time as any to get the momentum going back the other way, maybe shake off some rust at the same time.

Then on the next face-off 6-foot, 197-pound Campbell took on the 6-foot-4, 207-pound Stu Bickel and fought to a draw after both combatants exchanged flying punches in an emotional bout.

Those two hockey fights wrested the momentum flow back away from the Rangers, and the Bruins put together dominant shift after shift to discourage New York before finally putting them away with Johnny Boychuks score in the third period. Paille, Campbell and Thornton spoke all week about the desire to bounce back from their combined minus-15 rating from last season, and to constantly provide the energy that arrived in erratic bunches last season.

Saturday was a good start for the trio in all of those areas.

Weve all talked about that line. Thats a line that gets us going. Weve seen that in the past years and again tonight and its the same thing again, said Patrice Bergeron. Its about getting momentum. A huge goal for us, but also those fights lift you up, and theyre always there for you so it means a lot for the rest of the team.

Two years ago the Bruins fourth line was called the best in the NHL when Boston captured the Stanley Cup, and nobody will ever forget the tone they set in Game 7 against the Vancouver Canucks. Its well-documented how important the energy line is to the fortunes of the Black and Gold, and it looks it could be a good year for both after a textbook performance on opening night.

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: 'Incomprehensible' to expect same greatness from Patriots?

best_of_bst_podcast.jpg

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: 'Incomprehensible' to expect same greatness from Patriots?

0:43 - Tom Curran, Kayce Smith, and Michael Holley talk about Bill Belichick saying it’s “incomprehensible” that people expect the Patriots to be on the same level as last year at this point in the season.

11:55 - Tom Giles, Kayce Smith, and Michael Holley discuss J.R. Smith’s comments about the Celtics not being a threat to the Cavaliers.

15:38 - Abby Chin, Chris Mannix, and A. Sherrod Blakely join BST from Cleveland to talk about Marcus Smart and the Celtics failing to agree to a contract extension, making him a restricted free agent in July. They also preview Tuesday’s Celtics-Cavaliers season opener.

19:25 - Reports say Alex Cora is the frontrunner for the Red Sox managerial position, but Brad Ausmus interviewed for the position on Monday. Who is the right man for the job? Tom Giles and Michael Holley discuss.

Stevens knows hanging banners is ‘what it’s all about’ in Boston

Stevens knows hanging banners is ‘what it’s all about’ in Boston

BOSTON – When Brad Stevens took the Boston Celtics job in 2013, he knew what he was getting into.
 
Yes, the Celtics at that time were rebuilding which usually means years and years of slow but steady progress – if you’re lucky.
 
And then after maybe a few years of struggling to win games, a breakout season occurs and just like that – you’re back in the playoffs.

MORE:

 But here’s the thing with the Celtics.
 
While most rebuilding teams spend years working their way towards being competitive, Stevens hit the ground running and in just four years, he led the Celtics from being a 25-win team to one that was just three wins away from getting to the NBA Finals.
 
He has the kind of basketball resume that’s impressive on many levels.
 
But Stevens knows good isn’t good enough in this town.
 
“We’re here in Boston,” he said. “Winning is good, but hanging one of those (banners) up is what it’s all about. That’s what makes this such a special franchise.”
 
And for Stevens, a franchise where the expectations for success under his watch have never been greater than they are now.
 
Boston only returns one starter (Al Horford) from last year’s squad which advanced to the Eastern Conference finals after having won an East-best 53 games.
 
However, they added a pair of All-Stars in Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving to join Horford. In addition, they drafted Jayson Tatum with the third overall pick in last June’s NBA draft.
 
Boston also has a slimmed-down Marcus Smart (he lost 20 pounds from a year ago) as well Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier who will both benefit from having another NBA season under their belts.
 
And while it’s a small sample size and consists of just two teams (Philadelphia and Charlotte), the Celtics breezed their way through the preseason with a flawless 4-0 record which included at least one game in which they did not play their usual starters which shows how impactful their depth may be this season.
 
That success can only help, especially with a challenging schedule that includes seven of their first 11 games being on the road. 
 
Still, the potential of this Celtics team has never been greater than it is right now since Stevens took over in 2013.
 
And just like the increased expectations of the team, the same can be said for Stevens who is considered one of the better coaches in the NBA.
 
Marcus Morris will begin his first season with the Celtics, but had a lot of respect for Stevens well before he was traded to Boston from Detroit this summer.
 
“You hear a lot of good things about him from other players,” Morris told NBC Sports Boston. “And once you get in here and start working with him and seeing what he does every day, you see what they’re talking about. He’s a good coach, man.”
 
This team’s success will hinge on how the players perform, but there’s an added element of pressure on Stevens to find the right combinations that will position the Celtics for success.
 
“We have a lot more guys who can do a lot more things on the court, so it will be a little more challenging for us to figure out how to best play with each other, and for Brad to figure out which combinations are the best ones,” Al Horford told NBC Sports Boston. “But we’ll figure it out. Brad’s a really good coach, a really smart coach. And on our team, we have a lot of players who are smart, high basketball I.Q. guys. We’ll be OK.”
 
Basketball smarts aside, the Celtics’ success will hinge heavily on how quickly they can bring a roster with 10 new players up to speed quickly.
 
It’s still early, but players like what they’ve seen from the collective body in terms of team chemistry.
 
“I think that’s the beauty of a lot of guys on the team,” said Gordon Hayward. “It’ll be different each night with some of the different roles we play.”
 
Which is why the Celtics, while lacking experience as a team because of so many new faces, are still seen as capable of winning because they have a number of players who can impact the game in many ways.
 
But as good as they are, it still comes back to Stevens doing a good job of putting them in the best positions to find success individually as well as for the Celtics team.
 
When you look at how time with Stevens jumpstarted Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder’s careers, or how it helped revitalize the career of Evan Turner, it’s obvious that he has the Midas touch when it comes to getting the most out of players.
 
For Boston to have the kind of success they believe they are due for, it’s going to take the contributions of many.
 
And even that might not be enough.
 
But having the path being bumpier than expected is something Stevens embraces.
 
“Here in this league,” he said, “you have to love challenges.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE