Patriots

Thomas shines in rebound game vs. Devils

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Thomas shines in rebound game vs. Devils

NEWARK Tim Thomas was mediocre in the loss to Tampa Bay, in the words of his coach Claude Julien.

Thomas is a lot of things an inspirational hockey success story, inarguably the best goaltender in the world and an interesting dude off the ice, to name but a few but mediocre really isnt one of them on a regular basis.

So the Bs coach went right back to the 37-year-old goaltender Thursday night in New Jersey, and Thomas repaid Juliens faith with 30 saves in a 4-1 victory over the Devils at Prudential Center. The win snapped a personal two-game losing streak for Thomas and washed away some of the sting from four goals allowed in Tampa Bay earlier this week.

The choice of Thomas or red-hot Tuukka Rask might have raised an eyebrow or two when the pick was dropped in Jersey, but there was little doubt about the correct decision when the Vezina Trophy winner was in the middle of stopping 13 pucks in the second period.

Tim is the kind of goalie that will bounce back from a mediocre game. It wasnt a bad game, but he knows and we know that it was a mediocre game against Tampa Bay for him, said Julien. Were used to seeing him being a stellar goaltender, and you understand the way he is. You give him an opportunity to get back in there as soon as possible, and show the kind of game that he can play.

That was huge for us. He played a solid game and made the huge saves when we needed him. The guys also played very well in front of him.
Thomas was beaten on one play in the first period when Petr Sykora poked a shot between his pads after a defensive breakdown around the net, but that was it for the Bs puck-stopper. He got stronger as the game advanced and was the beneficiary of much-better defense in front of him than the turnstile bunch that broke down multiple times against the Lightning.

Never was Thomas better than at the end of the second period with his team down 1-0 and New Jersey threatening for more. Kurtis Foster got Thomas moving with a mammoth slap shot from the left point, and the rebound went directly to David Clarkson in front of the Boston net. Clarkson let it fly as Thomas moved way out of the crease to challenge him, and the gritty Devils forward shook his head in exasperation when his scoring bid died in Thomas glove.

I was thinking if I couldnt hold the fort there in the second period that it would have been tough for us to come back and get two in the third period, said Thomas. We talked about needing to be better and needing to go out there and find a way to get the job done. But theres a big difference between talking about it and doing it. But the good thing about this team is we actually do it.

Theres no shame in that as four teams full of players were readily admitting after last seasons epic playoff run. For Julien the solid Thomas effort now frees the Bs coaching staff up to tap Tuukka Rask for the Saturday showdown against the New York Rangers, and a Thomas return to Philadelphia where hes routinely dominated over the years.

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

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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.

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 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.”

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