Bruins

The Greatest Holiday Party of All Time

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The Greatest Holiday Party of All Time

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

Yup, it's that time of year again.

Time to deck the halls, don your gay apparel and bask in the glow of more holiday-themed sports columns than Santa Claus himself could read.

Who's been naughty? Who's been nice? Who deserves what? Who's getting coal?!

Well, nobody here. You're not getting any of that from me. In fact, I don't even have to write a gimmicky column this holiday season. That's because I lived one.

Last night, atop the Renaissance Hotel at Patriots Place.

The Sports of Boston holiday party!

If you're unfamiliar, the SoB party is the annual event where all the owners, executives, players and coaches from Boston's four major sports teams convene in the name of holiday cheer. There's dinner, dancing, a photo booth. It's basically the prom which works out well because everyone already has their own private limo drivers.

So, how'd I get an invite?

That's not important. And anyway, if they didn't want people sneaking in, they shouldn't have made the air conditioning ducts so eccessible.

All that matters is that I was there.

I arrived a little early, because I'd heard the first people at the party are always the coolest. And who should I see as I walk in the door but Bob Kraft, John Henry, Wyc Grousbeck and Jeremy Jacobs, finishing up an early dinner.

It was a pretty surreal moment. You know, I just looked over at this table and thought, "Wow, they are the reason all this happened. These are the guys who made Boston a winner. What legendary owners . . . and Jeremy Jacobs."

I tried not to stare, but as I walked by could see Kraft, Henry and Grousbeck goofing around with each others' rings, while Jacobs asked the waitress for four separate checks.

"What?" he said. "I only got soup!"

The party was already getting wild and it hadn't even started. Although what did I expect, right? This was THE event of the year.

I made a quick pit stop, and then made my way through the dining room and into a lounge, where, by now, most of the guests were enjoying cocktail hour. Inside, Tyler Seguin, Devin McCourty and Avery Bradley passed appetizers (McCourty also intercepted some). Danny Woodhead walked with a sombrero-style nacho hat on his head. Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski worked the bar. And the sounds of a cappella duo "Kalish and Mesko" filled the speakers.

The rookies were doing a damn good job, and the night really started to take off. Spirits were sky high.

"OK, if everyone will please take their seats, we'd like to kick off the festivities," said emcee Don Orsillo as cocktail hour ended.

"Well, you better not kick it to Connolly!" screamed, of all people, Zdeno Chara, to a chorus of laughter.

Brandon Meriweather was so impressed that he walked over and gave Z a fist pound. (The scene is more powerful when you consider that Meriweather was wearing a 10-pound ostrich feather derby hat.)

Once everyone was seated, I was able to take a better lay of the land. The owners were still at their table. Cam Neely, Danny Ainge and Nick Caserio sat at the table next to them Theo Epstein should have been there but was up begging to the DJ to play more Pearl Jam. Next to them, you had Doc Rivers, Tito Francona, Bill Belichick and Claude Julien. Rivers and Francona were having the nicest, most friendly conversation you'd ever seen. Belichick was uncomfortably stirring a straw around the rim of his drink. Julien was just sort of looking at his shoes.

Next to them you had the head player table: Tom Brady, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia (MVP, sorry) and a place setting that used to say "Randy Moss" but had been crossed out and replaced by Rajon Rondo. Yeah, Rondo was there too but hadn't looked up much from the racing game he just downloaded on his iPhone.

You had a special table in the far back corner for Big Baby, Nate Robinson, Jonathan Papelbon and Meriweather. A table with easy access to the bathroom for Shaq, Jason Varitek, Tim Wakefield, Mark Rechhi and Tim Thomas. You had Dice K sitting next to Delonte West and Gerard Warren (mostly just for comedic value). The rest of the players and coaches were scattered randomly about.

Dinner was provided by the good people over at Aramark.

During the meal, Orsillo moderated a group discussion on the crazy year that was in Boston. The Pats talked about the disaster against Baltimore, the drama with Randy, and how ridiculous it feels to go from middle of the pack to king of the hill in a matter of months. The Celtics talked about the pain of Game Seven, and how it still pushes them every day. The Red Sox talked about relevance. How strange it was to have fallen out of favor last year, and how this season it already feels so different. And will be. The Bruins talked about just wanting to win. About how frustrated they were with the current state of the team, but that, on the bright side, at least they were invited to the party. A few years back they would've been standing outside bitching with the Revolution about what a jerk the bouncer is. But now, positive.

In fact, everyone was positive. It made you realize, once again, how good Boston has it. And that even though this year's had its ups and downs it's been a rebirth of sorts. In one year, the city completed the world's fastest rebuilding process. Everyone was well aware, and very grateful.

Then they all danced. Everyone. Even Dane Fletcher.

Now it was 11:59, and sadly, almost time for the party to end. But as we watched the seconds tick down on open bar, John Henry suddenly hopped on stage and screamed, "Hey! How about we extend this thing 'til 1 a.m.!?!" The party erupted, as Henry tossed a large bag of cash at the bar manager. And then, just as suddenly, Jeremy Jacobs grabbed the mic himself and yelled, "Orrrrr, how about we extend it to . . . 1:15!?" There were a few murmurs as Jacobs politely tucked 60 into the manager's pocket.

And so it went. The Party of the Year.

Or at least that's how I imagined it while procrastinating on my naughty and nice list.

Happy Holidays!

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on CSNNE.com. Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

Bruins demoralize Habs in three game set

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Bruins demoralize Habs in three game set

MONTREAL – The Boston Bruins weren’t about to dance on any Montreal Canadiens’ graves after it was over and done with, but they effectively closed the door on any flickering playoff hopes for the Habs this week. It all ended with Saturday night’s 4-1 win over the Canadiens at the Bell Centre that finished off the sweep of all three meetings between the two arch-rivals over an eight day span, and with the reeling Montreal a stunning 13 points out of a playoff spot in the Atlantic Division.

It was a close game nearly all the way through in Montreal until David Pastrnak and Riley Nash scored in the final few minutes of the third period, but the Bruins outscored the Habs by an 11-5 margin while clearly establishing they were the better team in all three contests. It all makes sense given the opposite directions that the two hockey clubs are headed at this point in the season, and because of that the Bruins were playing it pretty cool after burying the Habs.

“It was kind of a crazy week because we were playing them three times, so we obviously wanted to play good hockey,” said Tuukka Rask, who won all three games vs. the Habs while improving his lifetime record vs. the Habs to 10-15-3 in the process. “[We wanted to] get as many points as possible, and won all of those games along with the one on Long Island. So it was a great week for us.”

Certainly it seemed like there was more genuine emotion from the Bruins in Claude Julien’s return to Boston midweek, and perhaps a little more adrenaline in last weekend’s first game at the Bell Centre where rookies like Jake DeBrusk, Charlie McAvoy and Danton Heinen were dipping their toes into the storied rivalry for the first time.

But on this Saturday night it was more about a complete dismantling of the Bleu, Blanc and Rouge even as the Bruins initially fell down by a goal after a bad McAvoy turnover. Instead it was Boston’s Perfection Line that went to work with an efficient, dominant performance as David Pastrnak scored the game’s first goal and insurance third goal in the third period. They also accounted for the game-winner when Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak hemmed Montreal’s fourth line in the defensive zone, and Torey Krug eventually stepped up and rifled one short side on Carey Price.

Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak combined for two goals, six assists and a plus-8 in the resounding victory over the Habs, and had a dominant 12 of Boston’s 31 shots on net when the final horn had sounded. They simply overwhelmed Montreal with their depth, the high end quality of their lineup and the fact that Boston was rested while the Habs had to play in Washington DC on Friday night in a three games in four days stretch.

All of that allowed the Bruins to drive the final nail into Montreal’s coffin when the game was over, and it furthermore allowed Boston to keep worrying about the teams they’re trying to catch (ahem…Tampa Bay Lightning) rather than Eastern Conference bottom-feeders like the Canadiens.

“We talked about doing the job against them and finding a ways to push teams down while gaining ground on the teams above us,” said Patrice Bergeron. “I thought it was a great effort again. We knew that they would be ready for us, but we also knew that they had played last night. So maybe if we had a good start we could jump on them. I thought we had a good game.”

Clearly there have been ebbs and flows to the Bruins/Habs rivalry over their long history together, and both Boston and Montreal have been in the catbird at different times even in the recent editions of their history. But right now Boston is beating the Canadiens badly at their own skill and speed game and dominating thing with pure hockey rather than bullying, and that’s got to sting for a Habs group that simply couldn’t compete with the Bruins in three different chances to do so this week. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Celtics-Magic Preview: Boston looks to improve shooting down the stretch

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Celtics-Magic Preview: Boston looks to improve shooting down the stretch

BOSTON – When Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens was asked about what he saw in the team’s newest (10-day) addition Jarell Eddie, his response was, “shooting … shooting.”

Indeed, shot-making has been the one area of play that has been problematic for the Celtics most of this season.

Boston comes into today’s game against Orlando (13-32) shooting just 44.8 percent from the field which ranks 25th in the NBA.

In the month of January, Boston has been even worse, connecting on just 41.8 percent of their shots which ranks 29th in the league this month.

While the addition of Eddie had more to do with the recent flu bug that has made the rounds throughout the Celtics lineup and the uncertainty a couple days ago surrounding Kyrie Irving’s sore left shoulder (it has improved and he’s expected to play today), adding Eddie speaks to a greater problem – guys making shots – that has to be addressed in some capacity sooner or later.

Boston always has the option to pursue a trade. They also have an $8.4 million disabled player exception they can use on free agent players, with the most likely pool of talent that they will choose from consisting of players who would have been bought out by their current teams.

Or there’s raiding the G-League for talent, which is what they did in signing Eddie to a 10-day contract.

Regardless, there’s a growing sense that this team has to add more scoring punch to the mix or at a minimum, improve the overall offensive execution of the roster as it stands now.

“We have to do our stuff better,” Stevens said. “The start of the season it was predictable, losing Gordon (Hayward who suffered a dislocated left ankle injury in the season-opener) and having to adjust. The middle portion of games we were pretty darn good. And then I thought we were reasonable in London, reasonable against New Orleans. But the other three of the last five games, we weren’t very good.”

Boston’s offense should get a boost from Irving’s return to the lineup after missing Boston’s 89-80 loss to Philadelphia with a sore left shoulder.

And while it was just one game, Irving understands the challenge that lies ahead in getting Boston’s offense to play better and more consistently.

“We have very unique talents on this team,” Irving said. “When you’re trying to put that together and guys are coming back into the lineup and getting their rhythm still and guys are in and out sometimes … big picture, down the stretch, we’re going to need everyone to be on the same page.”

Marcus Morris has been one of the players who has been in and out of the Celtics lineup because of a sore left knee.

However, the schedule has eased up to where he’ll be able to play more games, for longer stretches.

He comes into today’s game having scored in double figures each of the last three games.

“I’m just trying to get healthy. I know what I can do,” Morris told NBC Sports Boston. “My confidence is always going to stay high, no matter if I miss or make shots.”

In the last three games, he has averaged 15.0 points while shooting 45.7 percent from the field.

While Morris’ play of late is promising, it doesn’t diminish the concern Boston should have for an offense that for the most part, has been sputtering this season.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE