Red Sox

Haggerty: Bruins seem to be finding themselves

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Haggerty: Bruins seem to be finding themselves

KANATA, ON The Bruins seem to have found themselves just in time.

The Bs summoned exactly what they needed to make a statement to an Ottawa Senators team breathing down their necks in the playoff race, and salvaged a key six-game road swing that once seemed destined for disaster.

The Bruins finished their 11-day road odyssey with a 3-2-1 record and dispatched the feisty Sens by a 5-3 final score at Scotiabank Place in a key home-and-home series against Ottawa that concludes Tuesday night at TD Garden.

The Bruins and Senators both featured the kind of playoff intensity one would expect with the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference on the line, but Ottawa showed they might have a few lessons they still need to learn.

The lessons -- which include teaching their starting goaltender to use kitchen utensils properly -- have to do with consistency and the ability to retain momentum when things start to go awry.

While Bs coach Claude Julien was encouraged by Bostons effort, he wanted to see more before he pronounced an end to his teams February doldrums.

Its encouraging. I like the way we finished our road trip. Six games in 11 days in different cities isnt an easy task in itself, said Julien. The last three games we have two wins and an overtime loss; it seems like were headed in the right direction.

Theres also a little thing called having your best players show up in the big games and thats something the Bruins enjoyed during the trip.

Sure Daniel Alfredsson toyed with Tim Thomas late in the third period, but Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron dominated the ice from beginning to end in an urgent effort from the Black and Gold.

Bergeron was the Bs player that answered Ottawa early in the game when Erik Karlsson cut through the Boston defense for a Senators goal just 70 seconds into the game. Less than three minutes later the Bs leading scorer had popped the rebound of a Chara shot past Sens goalie Alex Auld, and the Bruins had seized back control.

Bergeron also iced a one-goal game in the waning minutes of the third period when he flipped an empty net goal in for his 19th tally of the season. But there was so much in between.

Bergeron led all skaters with nine shots on net and once again led all forwards with 19:29 of ice time that also ranked him fourth on Boston behind only Chara, Dennis Seidenberg and Andrew Ference. With injuries to Nathan Horton and Rich Peverley, Bergeron has taken on a lions share of the forward responsibilities and a hefty workload in terms of ice time but has responded in every way imaginable.

It was a huge win. I thought we played really well using our speed. We were aware of the standings before the game and knew this was a huge one, said Bergeron. We answered the bell and controlled the momentum. As leaders we need to step up. I say that all the time and everybody needs to step up.

But as leaders you need to show the way and lead the way. Zee obviously did that in stepping up and fighting for Johnny in the third. Were aware of that and trying to step up and lead the way as much as we can.

Likewise Chara has led the way as the Bruins garnered five out of six points in their last three games, and is again finding the consistency that appeared so elusive for nearly two months in the middle of the season. Charas big shot was a weapon all evening while forcing Auld into juicy rebound situations, and that allowed the 6-foot-9 captain to collect a pair of assists on six shots on net. Between Chara and Bergeron they had nearly half (15) of the 38 shots Boston totaled as a team against a wide-eyed Senators bunch.

Best of all, Chara led with passion when he watched former Ottawa teammate Chris Neil take out Johnny Boychuk with a legal hockey hit that forced the thunderstruck Boychuk say that six times fast out of the game.

Chara approached Neil before a face-off later in the period and challenged the Ottawa scrapper to a dance.

Chara hit Neil flush with a couple of shots before the Sens tough guy dragged the Bs defenseman down to the ice, but the message was clear: You dont mess with the Bruins.

Theyre climbing up and playing really well with a lot of confidence and speed. For sure we were aware of that. These games are big because theyre right behind us, said Chara. Its a part of the game. It was a big, solid, clean hit, but Im obviously going to stick up for my partner there.

Thats what we do. We care for each other. It was very unfortunate and hopefully Johnny is going to be okay. But you have to show respect for your teammates and you have to do the job.

The effort by the Bruins was all the more impressive on the second night of back-to-back games on the road, but then again the Bs have put together a 7-2-2 record in such situations this year. Through inconsistency and injuries the Bs have proven a couple of things:

Theyre nearly unbeatable when both Bergeron and Chara decide they mean business at the top of the Black and Gold hierarchy. And theyre starting to get their mojo back.

Brad Ausmus interviews with Red Sox, but Alex Cora appears frontrunner

Brad Ausmus interviews with Red Sox, but Alex Cora appears frontrunner

BOSTON — Brad Ausmus was the second person to interview to replace John Farrell as Red Sox manager, baseball sources confirmed Monday afternoon. The Sox are expected to interview Ron Gardenhire, the Diamondbacks' bench coach, as well.

But the net might not be cast too wide. More and more, it sounds like the Sox already know whom they want.

Astros bench coach Alex Cora, who met with Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski in New York on Sunday, appears the frontrunner to take the reins next year. The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal has reported that to be the case multiple times, and for some inside the Sox organization, that's a growing feeling as well.

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The criteria the Sox value most isn't hard to guess: a strong connection with players, an ability to incorporate data and analytics; and someone who can handle the market.

"I knew Alex for a couple of years before getting a chance to work with him and had tried to recruit him to work a few years ago and he had other options," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said Monday in New York, before Game 3 of the American League Championship Series against the Yankees. "To watch him develop relationships with the players, he's all about baseball. He's all about the competition and small advantages within the game, one of the brightest baseball intellects that I've been around. And to see him pass some of that on and transition from player to TV personality to coach, he's had a ton of impact.

"He challenges people. He challenges me. He's someone who's all about winning. And I think to watch our players respond to him, he's got a lot of respect in that clubhouse because of the work he puts in and the attention to detail that he brings. That's why he's the hottest managerial candidate on the planet and deservedly so."

Cora joined the Astros before this season.

Ausmus, whom Dombrowski hired in Detroit ahead of the 2014 season, grew up in Connecticut and went to Dartmouth. The 48-year-old spent 18 seasons as a big-league catcher, the last in 2010. He was working for the Padres before Dombrowski gave him his first shot at managing the Tigers. 

Ausmus went 314-332 in four years managing the Tigers, a more veteran team than might have been ideal for him as a first-time manager.

Ausmus pulled out of the running to interview with the Mets, per Jon Heyman of Fan Rag while Cora was expected to interview with the Mets on Monday or Tuesday, per the New York Post's Mike Puma.

What could change from here? One baseball source indicated a second interview with Cora was expected. Asked if he plans a second round of interviews generally, Dombrowski did not say.

"We have started the interview process," Dombrowski wrote via email. "I do not have any specific time frames at this point. Will wait and evaluate as we go through the process."

The Boston Herald's Chad Jennings first reported Ausmus' interview.

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Smart, Celtics unable to agree on contract extension prior to deadline

Smart, Celtics unable to agree on contract extension prior to deadline

CLEVELAND – For the third year in a row, a first-round pick of the Boston Celtics is unable to come to terms on a contract extension prior to the deadline.

That means Marcus Smart will become a restricted free agent this summer. Last year it was Kelly Olynyk (now with the Miami Heat) and in 2015 it was Jared Sullinger (now with Shenzhen Leopards of the Chinese Basketball Association).

Both the Celtics and Smart's camp intensified their discussions in recent days as the October 16th 6 p.m. EST deadline drew near.

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While there was progress made, there wasn’t enough to get a deal done.

Smart has repeatedly indicated that he wants to re-sign a long-term deal to stay in Boston.

And the market for the 6-foot-4 guard became clearer based on the contracts that some of his fellow rookie class of 2014, were receiving.

Denver’s Gary Harris agreed to a four-year, $84 million contract after establishing himself as one of the better young two-way talents in the NBA last season. And at the other end of the financial spectrum, you would have to look at Phoenix’s T.J. Warren who signed a four-year, $50 million contract.

More than likely, Smart’s deal next summer will fall somewhere between the deals those two players received.

As much as Smart would have preferred to get a deal done heading into the season, it’s not something that he’s going to cause him to lose any sleep.

“Get it done now, or get it done in six months, I’m OK either way,” he told NBC Sports Boston. “I’m not worried about it.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE