Mitch's Sports Report: For Bruins, Objects In Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear
Driving towards the home stretch of the NHL post season, with just six games left, the Boston Bruins still have the wheel and are in control of their own playoff destiny. But if they dare to look to see who's behind them the first thing they'll note is that ominous warning: "Objects in mirror are closer than they appear."
The Bruins hit the ice tonight in New Jersey to take on the Devils, sitting just one point ahead of two teams that can knock them below the playoff waterline, the Detroit Red Wings and Philadelphia Flyers, both of whom won last night, the Wings edging the Sabres 3-2 and the Flyers getting two points with an overtime win against the Winnipeg Jets. The Wings are trying to pass Boston for third place in the Atlantic division, while Philly has a game in hand on both Boston and Detroit, so every game from now until the end of the season amounts nearly to a playoff game given those razor thin margins. There's a sense of deja vu here for Boston fans, and like that odd sensation, just as unnerving, because this nearly identical scenario last season ended with the Bruins missing the post-season by just one game. The Red Wings, meanwhile, are trying to stretch their incredible string of playoff appearances to twenty-five years in a row. The Bruins will need to dig deep and deeper for the critical two points available tonight, with injuries to center Ryan Spooner, who's been enjoying his best year as a pro to this point, and newly acquired defenseman John-Michael Liles is also on the shelf for tonight's game after suffering a lower body injury in Boston's win against Toronto Saturday night. The Devils are not playoff bound but would love to play spoiler against the Bruins.
To the NBA and the Boston Celtics are also heading into the regular season homestretch jockeying for playoff position, but in a much better position than their hockey counterparts. The Celtics are ensconced in fifth place in the eastern conference, a game and a half within striking distance of third, but they had a setback last night against the Clippers in Los Angeles. Chris Paul scored a double-double with thirteen points and fourteen assists and played just twenty-six minutes before getting the rest of the game to rest per orders of former Celtics coach Doc Rivers, who wants his star point guard as healthy and fresh as possible for the post-season. DeAndre Jordan also went double-double for the Clippers with fifteen points and thirteen boards as L.A. easily dispatched the Celtics 114-90, snapping Boston's four-game winning streak. The Celts still have Portland, the other-worldly Golden State Warriors, and the L.A. Lakers to contend with before getting back to the east coast.
As hockey and basketball move toward their post-seasons, Major League Baseball players are working out the kinks and looking to start their regular seasons, and teams that like or don't like what they see would perhaps like to work out some kinks with a pre-season trade. And to that end there's an intriguing report from the Boston Globe that scouts from the San Diego Padres have been spotted in Fort Meyers taking a look at Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval. Kung Fu Panda's disastrous season with Boston last year, his worst as a pro, has been well chronicled, and with four years and seventy-five million dollars remaining on his contract one might understandably ask "what could the Padres be thinking in even looking at the Panda"?
Well, San Diego needs an upgrade at third base and perhaps they're thinking that a return to the National League, where Sandoval captured three World Series rings and an MVP award in one of them, could be just the ticket to return him to form, and the Padres have a big contract of their own they might want to unload for pitcher James Shields, who has three years and sixty-five million dollars left on his San Diego contract and last season underachieved with a 13-7 record and ERA just under 4. The Red Sox, of course, have big question marks for their pitching staff after you get past ace David Price, so a swap here between two disappointing players who may yet meet the needs of each team if they can turn things around actually makes sense. A whole lot of Red Sox fans wouldn't mind seeing Travis Shaw get the starting job at third over Sandoval, the Padres reportedly tried to get Panda last off-season, and no doubt Red Sox management has kicked the tires on Shields. This is a potential win-win for both teams, but Dave Dombrowski isn't picking up my repeated phone calls urging him to make it happen. I can't imagine why.