Damage control seemed to be all the rage in Boston on Thursday night.
What with Claude Julien’s read-between-the-lines middle finger to the media, John Farrell’s dreaded vote of confidence for shaky closer Joel Hanrahan and Doc Rivers’ gleeful assertion that the seventh seed is good enough for his Celtics, most of the good action was in the pressers…
…because on the field, the hometown boys took a couple in the teeth – the Bruins dropping a tough one to the Islanders on the second leg of a back to back and the Red Sox’ offense taking the night off at Fenway as they fell to the Orioles:
Seems Claude Julien is feeling more feisty than his players these days.
The soft spoken Boston Bruins coach issued a scathing reply to the inkling that his team is playing soft in the wake of last night’s less than physical response to star forward Brad Marchand taking a vicious elbow to his noggin…
…but really didn’t say much to dispute the notion that the physical intensity that you would expect after an incident like this just wasn’t there.
“We’ll deal with that internally. I don’t throw my guys under the bus, you know that,” Julien said when asked if he expected more of a physical response from his team, then went on to qualify that statement, saying “Could we, in the past? I think you would’ve seen that. Is there a reason why it didn’t happen? Not really.”
The longer Julien spoke, the more testy he became, finally uttering, “But you guys can say what you want. I’m not going to let negativity – like, for example, now we’re not hitting enough, our guys aren’t going to bat. My job is to right the ship, and I’m going to right the ship the way that we’re ready for playoffs. The battle is for ourselves to be better and the battle is to battle against you guys where you guys will find those kinds of things, and we’re not going to let that creep into our dressing room.”
His Belichick-ian rant not withstanding, Julien had his boys fired up to start the game, but the demanding rigors of playing back to back games caught up with the Bruins in the second period shortly after Tyler Seguin tied the match at 1-1 on the power play just 3 1/2 minutes in and were essentially done for the evening.
Tuukka Rask was stellar in goal, stopping 34 of 36 to keep the Bruins in the game, but the offense wasn’t clicking at all…
…which is the same that could be said for the Red Sox, as they could muster only eight singles off Baltimore pitching in a 3-2 loss, returning to small ball after a truly amazing three game power play that saw balls hit into the people and further onto Lansdowne street with regularity.
Farrell handed the ball to Alfredo Aceves on Thursday night, a move that had ball-seeking hoards patrolling Lansdowne like packs of zombies, and it appeared early that a few lucky flesh eaters could get away with souvenirs as Orioles’ first baseman Chris Davis connected on a solo park job in the top of the second – but that was it, as Aceves pitched with purpose, yielding 2 runs on just six hits and striking out four in five innings, a very respectable start for the much-maligned, gopher ball inclined long reliever.
Farrell ended up not using closer Joel Hanrahan, welcome rest for the Red Sox closer who has gotten bombed in his last two opportunities – the Sox manager setting the stage for that scenario at this afternoon’s presser while expressing confidence in the make up of Hanrahan and preaching time and patience for him as he makes the adjustment from the National League to the American.
Meanwhile in Foxboro, the Patriots drama coaster is open for business as the “will they or wont they” speculation on whether the Pittsburgh Steelers will match New England’s offer sheet to the restricted free agent wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders entered it’s second day, and the Boston Herald’s endless quest to ruin Rob Gronkowski’s name with Patriots’ fans was limited today to just aimless chatter…
…which was about what we heard out of both Doc Rivers and Danny Ainge the day after their Boston Celtics got taken behind the woodshed by the surging Brooklyn Nets, Ainge explaining that nobody could have beaten the Nets on Wednesday night and Doc looking at resting his players for the playoffs and hoping not to sacrifice the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference in the process.
Rivers will rest both Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett against the Miami Heat on Friday night, as he eases KG back into the lineup after seeing him miss eight games due to a bum ankle, while Pierce misses his second in a row dealing with soreness in both. Against the Nets Garnett looked a little hesitant and was seen sporting a walking boot afterwards, a fashion trend that he claims is just a precaution.
In the end, Doc Rivers has passed the point where he cares what anyone thinks of him or his team, Julien needs to get there quickly if he wants his team ready for the post season and Belichick hasn’t cared since like the 2nd grade…
…and Farrell is just enjoying the first few days of being the skipper of the Red Sox, and as long as Aceves and Hanrahan don’t get into a contest to see who can give up the most dingers – and the offense finds ways to get it done at the plate – he should be able to enjoy it for a little while longer….