Mitch's Sports Report: Rask Sharp Again As Bruins Beat Blues; A Super (And Puppy) Bowl Prediction
With outstanding goaltending at both ends of the ice keeping the outcome of the game in doubt until the closing second of play, the Boston Bruins outlasted the St. Louis Blues 3-1 at TD Garden in Boston last night.
Still without two of their best players in forward Brad Marchand and defenseman Charlie McAvoy, the Bruins relied on goalie Tuukka Rask to turn back the high-powered Blues offense, making 32 saves and nearly recording a shut-out but for a goal that cut Boston's lead to one with about 90 seconds to play in regulation.
Even busier at the other end was Blues netminder Jake Allen, who hadn't started for St. Louis in six games thanks to a great run by back-up Carter Hutton, but Blues coach Mike Yeo made the right choice in Allen for last night's game, as he made 43 saves, many of them show-stoppers to keep the Bruins from padding their 2-0 lead. Boston's first goal scored off a rebound in front by David Krejci looked in doubt when there was a lengthy video review to see if Allen was interfered with, colliding with two Bruins players in the crease, but what constitutes goalie interference in the NHL these days has as much definition and certainty to it as a question about what's the best flavor of ice cream. (It's Ben and Jerry's coffee coffee buzz buzz if you're keeping score at home, by the way). But the Krejci goal stood and the Bruins didn't score again until they were the beneficiary of another call that went their way when defenseman Torey Krug was nominated for the hockey equivalent of an Oscar, turning a slight hook from behind by Vladimir Tarasenko into a penalty when he dove dramatically to the ice, which could have earned him two minutes in the box himself for the crime of embellishing, but the refs bought the performance and on the resulting power play Patrice Bergeron lasered in a one-timer over Allen's stick side on a nice feed from David Pastrnak.
The game wasn't salted away until long-time Blue David Backes scored an empty-netter against his former tea, and the Bruins are back on the winning track just one game after having their 18 game unbeaten in regulation streak halted against Anaheim.
Elsewhere, the Montreal Canadiens were shut out 2-0 against the Carolina Hurricanes, the Canes sweeping the season series against Montreal and earning their third straight win in the process. The Habs are going in the opposite direction, now losers of three in a row and they have just two wins in their last nine games. Cam Ward made 27 saves to earn the goose egg, and it's the first time in his long career that he's recorded a shut-out against the Canadiens. The Habs will lick their wounds and get ready to host the Anaheim Ducks at the Bell Centre tomorrow night.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have recorded back to back shut-out wins. One night after beating the NY Islanders 5-0 the Leafs said "no goals for you!" to another New York team, blanking the Rangers 4-0 at Madison Square Garden behind a 25-save effort from back-up Curtis McElhinney. The Leafs got tallies from James van Riemsdyk, Patrick Marleau, Zach Hyman and Justin Holl, who scored his second career NHL goal in just his second NHL game since being called uo from the minors, and after slogging through some doldrums leading up to the all-star break, Toronto has regained that look of a dangerous team, now winners of four in a row, and if they keep clamping down ion defense and getting great goal tending from McElhinney and Frederik Andersen, their fleet footed offense led by phenom Auston Matthews is going to re-launch them into the discussion of serious Stanley Cup contenders.
In men’s college hoops the Norwich Cadets and Rivier Raiders both looked for a while like they didn't have much interest in playing basketball. It took eight minutes before either team hit a field goal, but once the throwing of bricks was done the Cadets, at least, found their rhythm and coasted to an 84-51 victory. Mike Hogervorst led Norwich with 16 points and 6 rebounds in just 19 minutes of play,and Northfield's own Ryan Booth matched that total as well as the Cadets improve to 9-10 on the season.
Finally, there's apparently a football game being played Sunday, and while I can't imagine it being more dramatic, or super, than last year's amazing Patriots comeback win, I do get the feeling this game will be a lot closer than many people think. The Eagles have the kind of pass rush defense that can get to quarterbacks and the only real way to stop Tom Brady is to rattle his cage and keep him from getting comfortable in the pocket.
Nick Foles for the Eagles is a journeyman quarterback and just doesn't have the track record that can even approach Brady's run of excellence, but he sure did look good in Philly's win against Minnesota. Still, Brady's favorite target Rob Gronkowski has been cleared to play, and if he's even close to 100% that spreads the field for the best signal caller ever and gives him a wealth of options, and let's not forget Dion Lewis as a running option.
The Eagles have a very good weapon on the ground as well in former Patriots running back LaGarette Blount and if the Eagles offense can put together long, time consuming drives to keep Brady on the sidelines they've got a good chance for an upset.
It's been a while since Patriots kicker Stephen Gostowski was called upon to win a game, and I can see his foot ultimately deciding this one, so my prediction here is a 24-21 Patriots victory on a game winning field goal as time expires. Feel free to remind me how wrong I was if the game actually is a blow-out either way that turns out to be as competitive as the Puppy Bowl. And by the way, I'm picking Team Fluff in that one.