Celtics

Haggerty: Time for sides to show they care about NHL season

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Haggerty: Time for sides to show they care about NHL season

With everybody and their puck-loving uncle believing that an 82-game NHL regular season hangs in the balance over the next 48 hours, the NHL and NHLPA arent going to meet because they essentially cant agree on who will cater the negotiating session.

Its more complicated than that, obviously, but it doesnt appear either side is taking seriously the Thursday deadline for a Nov. 2 start to the regular season at this point.

The NHLPA held a Tuesday conference call with over 100 players, and concluded that discussion by formally asking to meet with NHL officials on Wednesday as an extension of negotiations. They were rebuffed by NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, who essentially said theres nothing to discuss after last weeks breakdown in negotiations.

The league put out a straight 5050 offer with the players that included a make whole provision and a slight easement on the contract rights limitations proposed this summer. They also announced it was essentially a take-it-or-leave-it offer with only slight tweaks allowed to the proposal. In the leagues eyes there isnt much ground for discussion if the players arent ready to embrace that deal fully, and the NHL side contends that some hard line owners are displeased with the amount theyve already conceded.

They suggested they were willing to meet. But they also told us they werent interested in the proposal made last Tuesday and that they werent prepared to make their own proposal, said Daly in a statement to reporters. Not sure what we would be meeting about.

Daly's statement elicited a response from NHLPA lead counsel Steve Fehr outlining a group of NHL players looking to talk. This despite the fact there isnt a single actual concession from the owners in their latest proposal, and the NHL players would be in a worse position at every imaginable turn from the last CBA.

Have the 700-plus NHLPA members finally decided to further discuss the make whole provision and perhaps find a way to take deferred payments out of the owners profits rather than the players?

Have the players decided they can live with a small amount of escrow in the five percent neighborhood to help make a 5050 split possible at the start of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement?

Its difficult to tell whats afoot if theres not actual dialogue between the power quartet of Daly, Gary Bettman and the Fehr brothers.

"The league is apparently unwilling to meet, said Steve Fehr in a statement. That is unfortunate as it is hard to make progress without talking."

Thats solid logic from Fehr, of course.

But its also reached the point in these negotiations where nobody can differentiate between the PR spin battle and legitimate attempts to bridge the gap between each side. Theres no trust on either side, and that situation was exacerbated by the NHL owners, presidents and GMs secretly getting into contact with the players during a 48-hour period last week.

Bruins President Cam Neely gave a no comment when asked by CSNNE.com if hed been in contact with Bruins players during that 48-hour amnesty period last week. According to sources within the NHLPA, the union expected the hawk owners to be more proactive in reaching out the players during the lockout amnesty period. Bruins management would clearly qualify under that description.

The league contends there were specific controls in place for the ownerplayer conversations to keep proper good-faith bargaining in place, but its impossible to police those kinds of chats with so much at stake. A much more believable scenario is the NHL was doing its level best to get the players to strike out against Fehrs NHLPA leadership. But that kind of thing -- so common in the past for an NHLPA thats always been in a constant state of fracture -- just isnt going to happen this time around.

The clandestine operations to undermine each other and verbal volleys back and forth have come to characterize these negotiations, and theres real damage being done to the NHLs reputation and the fans' interest.

Thats particularly disappointing when its clear both sides have moved closer to each other in the last week.

The NHL wants a 5050 split of Hockey Related Revenue and the NHLPA wants the league to guarantee the full value of all contracts signed before Sept. 15. Both are fair and reasonable requests. Its impossible to have both, though, without escrow or long-term deferment, however.

Common sense would say that there has to be a creative way to incorporate both to the satisfaction of the owners and the players given the brain power involved with these labor talks.

The NHL and NHLPA are hundreds of millions apart (rather than a billion dollars) after last weeks flurry of proposals, but neither side has indicated a legitimate willingness to budge off their last offers.

Perhaps that wont change in the next 48 hours, and both sides will cry uncle on the possibility of an 82-game season.

But there has to be some greater wiggle room left to save a full 82-game regular season if both the NHL and NHLPA are truly interested in a full hockey campaign that could run through the playoffs until June 30. One NHL player on last week's conference call indicated there's a belief that Nov. 2 isn't a drop dead date, and that a full season could be possible if started a week or two afterward.

Maybe there would be a little flexibility left if one side can finally step forward for the greater good of the game. But that seems an old-time hockey pipe dream right now.

The more likely scenario: Nov. 2 goes by the boards and the NHL and NHLPA agree on a new CBA at some point later in the month of November. That could lead to a shortened NHL season of 60-70 games and picturesque glove save to keep the Red Wings-Maple Leafs Winter Classic intact. MLive.com indicated last week that the NHL wouldnt be forced to cancel the Winter Classic until around November 15-20 because it would need at least that amount of time to prepare for the Jan. 1 outdoor game.

So nobody needs to live in fear the entire NHL season -- and all of its tent-pole events -- will be cancelled if negotiations this week suddenly turn into the final bullet-riddled shootout scene from True Romance.

But it would be nice if both sides decided to show everybody else that they actually care, wouldnt it?

Celtics get off to strong start, cruise to 118-103 win over Magic

Celtics get off to strong start, cruise to 118-103 win over Magic

BOSTON – Well, so much for the Boston Celtics being hungover following their first loss in more than a month.
 
If anything, the loss at Miami on Wednesday served as a wake-up call for the Celtics to avoid easing their way into games.
 
Because the Celtics jumped on the Magic early and never lost control of the game as they cruised to a 118-103 win.

Kyrie Irving led all scorers with 30 points while Terry Rozier came off the Celtics bench to score a career-high 23 points. Nikola Vucevic led the Magic (8-11) with a double-double of 12 points and 11 rebounds.
 
After leading by as many as 32 points, the Magic opened the fourth quarter against Boston’s backups, with a 13-3 run that cut Boston’s lead to 102-82.
 
The Magic would score six of the game’s next eight points before Rozier drained a much-needed 3-pointer that increased Boston’s lead to 107-88 with 6:48 to play.
 
Following an Orlando timeout, Boston continued to play with a huge lead and in doing so, got a big, bounce-back win.
 
One of the issues Boston was having, even during the 16-game winning streak, was that they didn’t get off to the greatest starts evident by them trailing by double digits in the first half of each of their previous four games prior to tonight’s game.
 
But that would not be the case tonight; not even close actually.
 
Leading 22-19 in the first, Boston went on an 18-7 run to take a commanding 40-26 lead
 
The 40 points scored were the most they tallied in the first quarter of a game this season.
 
And while the points weren’t as abundant in the second quarter, Boston’s dominance was just as great.
 
On this night, the Celtics were an equal opportunity destroyer.
 
Kyrie Irving had a very Kyrie Irving kind of night with 17 points in the first half.
 
The Celtics also got an unexpected boost from its bench, led by Rozier who had 13 points in the first half.
 
It seemed no matter who Brad Stevens turned to off the bench, it was a given that they would have a positive impact on this night.
 
Meanwhile, the Magic could muster up little fight or resistance as Boston’s lead peaked at 28 points (68-40) before the half ended with Boston in charge with a commanding 73-47 lead.
 
It’s rare for a team to have such a commanding halftime lead, the kind of lead that makes a team oh-so-vulnerable to a second-half letup.
 
Not the Celtics; not tonight at least.
 
Boston continued to play with a purpose; to not just win but do so in an emphatic, consistently dominant fashion.
 
Sporting a lead of 20-plus points throughout the third quarter, Boston went into the fourth quarter leading 99-69.

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Grzelcyk's first goal for hometown Bruins 'a jolt through the system'

Grzelcyk's first goal for hometown Bruins 'a jolt through the system'

BOSTON – Bobby Orr’s iconic, leaping goal that clinched a Stanley Cup for the Bruins was memorable enough to earn its own statue outside the TD Garden, and will always be No. 1 in the hearts and minds of hockey fans around New England.  

But it’s been bumped down to No. 3 for longtime TD Garden Bull Gang member John Grzelcyk for understandable reasons, and both of those preferred favorite moments involve his hockey-playing son, Matt. One was a game-winning goal vs. Northeastern to secure a Beanpot when he played for Boston University, but the newest one was all about his burgeoning career with the Black and Gold. The Bruins rookie defenseman did his Zamboni-driving papa proud on Friday afternoon when he snapped home his first career NHL goal in a 4-3 B’s win over the Pittsburgh Penguins at TD Garden in their annual Black Friday matinee.

“I feel bad for Bobby Orr, but he’s my son,” said the elder Grzelcyk, beaming with pride. “Sorry.”

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The 5-foot-9, 174-pound Grzelcyk’s goal ended up being a pivotal one in Boston’s fourth win in a row as it arrived in the second period amid a flurry of three goals from the Penguins, and allowed the game to still be tied entering the third period. Jake DeBrusk had slipped a centering pass to David Krejci in the slot for a one-time opportunity, and the playmaking center fanned on the shot attempt with the puck drifting over to Grzelcyk crashing toward the net.

The quick change of puck direction opened up a shooting seam for the 23-year-old Grzelcyk, and he snapped the puck past Matt Murray for his first goal of the season at either the NHL or AHL level this season. The first NHL career goal would have been welcomed no matter when it happened for Grzelcyk, of course, but to have it go down on national TV in an NBC game had to make it extra special.

You couldn’t tell any of that, of course, because the younger Grzelcyk was trying to act like he’d been there before after the score. But it was clear how excited his teammates were for him as Kevan Miller quickly retrieved the puck for his D-partner, and they gathered around him for the time-honored hockey hug celebration.

“It was pretty special, obviously. It brings back memories of skating [on the Garden ice] as a kid and stuff like that. It hasn’t really set in yet, it was pretty cool to get that out of the way,” said Grzelcyk, who has a goal and two points along with a plus-4 rating in three games with Boston this season. “It was kind of a jolt through my system. I didn’t really know what was going on. I was trying to hide it the best I could. I think the rest of the guys were trying to make me smile. I was really happy.”

Part of the reason Grzelcyk got to remain in the lineup was Bruce Cassidy’s choice to go with seven defensemen against the Penguins, a game lineup look the Bruins haven’t used in an awfully long time. It allowed the Bruins to ease Torey Krug back into the lineup after missing the last couple of games with an upper-body injury, keep Robbie O’Gara active in case they needed more of a big-bodied presence in the D-zone and let Grzelcyk keep playing given how good he’s looked in his NHL appearances this season.

Cassidy indicated that plugging both Grzelcyk and Krug in among a 7 D-men formation, for a greater puck-moving dimension to the team, is something they may tinker with more moving forward.  

“We don’t mind that 11 forwards, seven D. It may be something we look at more often if you have Krug and Griz [Matt Grzelcyk] in there. But they both played well, well enough Robby [Rob O’Gara] didn’t see a lot of ice. I thought he was fine when he was in there, to be honest with you. It’s not easy to sit there,” said Bruce Cassidy. “But adding Griz into the mix does give you another puck mover with Charlie [McAvoy] and Krug if all three are in there. I think that’s important.

“That’s not being disrespectful to the other – when we have more heavy guys. It really helps our penalty kill. When you have four guys– makes it tough to get inside. We are finding that balance. And I think it’s something that we’ll tinker with for a while, and the more Griz plays consistent hockey, the easier the decision it makes.”

Either way, it will take quite a bit for Grzelcyk’s next big hockey accomplishment to live up to a pretty cool setting for his first NHL goal, or be enough to finally edge Bobby Orr out of the old man’s top-3 favorite hockey moments of all time.  

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