Bruins

Celtics' Johnson stays patient, waits for opportunity

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Celtics' Johnson stays patient, waits for opportunity

INDIANAPOLIS JaJuan Johnson received plenty of advice from folks in preparation for his first NBA season.

None of the conversations centered around the need for patience, something Johnson is learning he'll need plenty of this season.

"People say my time will come," Johnson, who is from Indianapolis and played at nearby Purdue, told CSNNE.com. "I know it will. When it happens, I'll be ready."

Johnson's time to shine may be tonight as the Boston Celtics try to snap a three-game losing skid against the Indiana Pacers.

Boston's Kevin Garnett had a noticeable limp following Friday's loss to Chicago. It is unclear if Garnett will play tonight. Even if he does, his minutes may be even more limited than they already are currently.

The C's will surely be looking for some kind of spark off the bench. For Johnson, it would be a fitting time and place for that to happen.

With hundreds of family and friends in the stands, Johnson would love nothing more than to get an opportunity to play decent minutes in front of so many of the people who supported him at Purdue.

Most of Johnson's days are spent on the scout team, well aware that his chances of playing most nights aren't very good.

"Obviously, I'd like to play more," he said. "But it's definitely valuable stuff I probably couldn't get on another team, just from playing behind KG (Kevin Garnett) and learning from a point guard like (Rajon) Rondo. Those are the kind of things, you really can't get from a lot of teams. I'm fortunate enough to have the opportunity to learn from those guys and other veterans."

And while patience may not have been a topic of discussion prior to entering the NBA, Johnson says this isn't the first time he has started a season buried on the depth chart.

"It reminds me a lot of my freshman year of college," Johnson said.

There were a couple players ahead of him on the depth chart, so he didn't play a lot of minutes at first.

The following year? - First team, All-Big 10.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers has been impressed with Johnson's work ethic, which is essential for a young player who isn't playing much early in their career. As long as Johnson continues to work at becoming a better player, the Celtics coaching staff will continue pushing him to reach his full potential as a player.

"We're patient with young guys, as long as young guys want to be taught," Rivers said. "It took me about a year of coaching to realize potential with character turns out to be good player. Potential with no character turns out to be the guy that keeps being traded. You get impatient with that, where you try to get a guy to be a better player, and they can't get out of themselves; they're so much into themselves, they're unteachable."

That doesn't appear to be an issue with Johnson, who has been taken under the wing of Kevin Garnett.

"Not playing does nothing but motivate me," Johnson said. "I just want to get better and learn as much as I can. I'm not satisfied by many means in not playing. I just work even harder. That's my mentality. That's how it's always been."

Talking Points: Marner lights it up while Pasta struggles

Talking Points: Marner lights it up while Pasta struggles

GOLD STAR: Mitch Marner has been a problem for the Bruins during the regular season, and he’s proving to be a problem once again in the playoffs. The Leafs forward scored the game-winning goal in the second period when he jumped on a Brad Marchand turnover in the D-zone, and snapped a backhanded bid past Tuukka Rask to give Toronto a 2-1 lead. It was part of a two points, plus-2 night for Marner in his 16:44 of ice time where played strong, solid hockey, and stayed patient until Boston’s top line made a misstep that they could jump all over at the end of the period. Otherwise Marner mostly stayed out of the fray in the game and simply played a strong two-way game that was easily their best defensive effort of the series. Marner now has two goals and eight points against the B’s in the six games played thus far.

BLACK EYE: David Pastrnak just wasn’t good in this game. He missed three shots on net, had another six blocked and finished a minus-1 with one shot on net in 19:44 of ice time while clearly looking frustrated at what was going on around him. Both Pastrnak and Brad Marchand were pulling out overly fancy moves, over-passing and missing the net with their shot attempts in a clear sign that Freddie Andersen is beginning to get in their heads. If that doesn’t cease quickly in Game 7 then the Bruins could be in a world of hurt with a big chance to take a nice step this season, and move on to at least the second round if not getting any further than it. But right now the Bruins top line has gone from looking like a well-oiled machine to looking like a sputtering jalopy in need of some service at the shop.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins took over the game in the first period with their puck possession and usual dominance from their top line, and looked really ready to roll when Jake DeBrusk scored little more than a minute into the second period. But the Bruins allowed Toronto to score right back 35 seconds later and that seemed to really knock the Bruins off their pins for most of the rest of the game. It was a long rebound of a Nazem Kadri shot that was kicked out by Tuukka Rask, and then went right to William Nylander for the rebound score. The Bruins were fortunate that another goal was overturned due to goalie interference that would have quickly made it a 2-1 game, but it was clear the Bruins never really controlled the game again after the two quick goals at the start of the second period.

HONORABLE MENTION: Jake DeBrusk had the only goal for the Bruins, so he earns a little credit in a 3-1 loss. DeBrusk now has three goals in the series and was on the spot firing home a shot after a David Krejci offensive zone face-off win that gave Boston’s second line their third even strength goal of the series. DeBrusk also finished as one of only two players, along with Tommy Wingels, that ended the night with a positive plus/minus rating, and had three hits while playing fast and strong along the boards and in front of the net. There are a few other young players that haven’t looked particularly adept at the playoff-style of play in this series for Boston, but DeBrusk has thoroughly looked like he belongs since the drop of the puck in Game 1.

BY THE NUMBERS: -- minus-16: the combined plus-minus rating for Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak in the three Bruins losses where they’ve also been kept off the score sheet by the Leafs defense.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Maybe there is a little bit of [frustration], but you've got to go back to the drawing board and find the character we've shown all year. Now it's about one game." –Patrice Bergeron, on battling the frustration of losing two straight and instead getting ready for a Game 7 showdown on Wednesday night.

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Bean: Bruins created a monster that could end their season

Bean: Bruins created a monster that could end their season

It goes without saying that you should never let a team linger. The Bruins did that with the Maple Leafs, and here we are. Game 7 will be played on Wednesday. 

The longer a series goes, the more likely it becomes that one of many variables will work against you: The other goalie will get hot, one of your guys will get hurt or, most frustrating of all, you'll get unlucky. 

The Bruins let the series go longer than necessary with questionable coaching decisions and poor goaltending in Game 5. They lost that game. Now, they've created a monster: An inferior roster with a bad defense is about to knock them out of the playoffs if they aren't careful.  

MORE BRUINS: Bruins fail to finish off Leafs again, lose 3-1

Take the second period of Game 6. It was a complete reversal of fortune from Games 1 and 4. Whereas the Bruins were dominated in the second periods of those games but still emerged with a lead, they experienced the opposite Monday. 

The period, which the teams entered scoreless, started with three quick strikes, one from Boston and two from Toronto. The second Leafs goal, which came as a result of a poor clearing attempt from Charlie McAvoy, was overturned when it was determined that Zach Hyman interfered with Tuukka Rask.

From there, it was all Bruins. Were it not for strong goaltending from the either hot or freezing Frederik Andersen, they could have potted multiple goals. Instead, the game's next goal came when Brad Marchand couldn't clear a blocked point shot and Torey Krug left Mitch Marner all alone in the high slot. Marner pounced on the puck and backhanded it past a not-quick-enough Tuukka Rask to give the Leafs the lead. 

The Bruins nearly doubled up the Leafs in possession in that period. It was all Boston. But the other goalie was good and the B's were unlucky. That's hockey. It's just frustrating when "that's hockey" happens in a game that didn't need to be played. 

MORE BRUINS: Talking Points: Marner lights it up while Pasta struggles

So now the Bruins face elimination. I don't expect them to lose, but they could. You never know. The variables, the "that's hockey" thing, etc. 

Bruce Cassidy has made non-injury related changes in each of the last two games. In Game 5, he changed his bottom two defensive pairs and changed his top pairing's deployment to disastrous results. Game 6 saw him scratch Danton Heinen in for of Tommy Wingels and demote Rick Nash to the third line. 

The new line of David Krejci between Jake DeBrusk and Wingels generated a goal, but the third line of Riley Nash between Rick Nash and David Backes once again yielded fruitless 5-on-5 play from Rick Nash.

Backes turned in his sixth even-strength disappearing act in as many games. Cassidy's next move should be to put Ryan Donato in the lineup.

The rookie was not impressive in his lone game this series (Game 2), but the Bruins need scoring.

Then again, Cassidy, like most coaches, is generally hesitant to give a young player the keys. He trusts what he knows. He also likely knows he's not getting enough from some of his regulars. 

There's little-to-no chance Cassidy would sit Nash or Backes unless they were hurt. Wingels is the most obvious candidate to come back out of the lineup since Boston's fourth line is too good to be disrupted. 

But this is not where the Bruins thought they would be. They didn't think that they, one of the three best teams in the NHL during the regular season, would be looking for answers entering the seventh game of the first round. 

But here they are. The Leafs, armed with a hot goaltender and the best hockey coach on the planet, are ready to complete an upset on Wednesday. It shouldn't happen, but a sixth game wasn't supposed to, either.

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