Five thoughts: P-Bruins vs. Connecticut Whale

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Five thoughts: P-Bruins vs. Connecticut Whale

HARTFORD, CT -- Here are five thoughts from the first period of the P-Bruins and the Connecticut Whale with both teams tied at 1-1 after the first 20 minutes at the XL Center.

1) Ryan Bourque is winning the brotherly battle after taking the first goal of the game for the Whale to tie things up at one apiece. It was a pretty little play between Chris Kreider and Bourque to set things up, and showed the kind of firepower that some AHL teams are boasting this season during the lockout. It was a nifty move by former Boston CollegePhillips Andover stud Kreider to set it all up.

2) Providence's lone goal came on a Jamie Tardif tipped puck of Kyle MacKinnon shot, and underscores the quietly solid job Tardif has done for the P-Bruins as another calming veteran presence alongside Trent Whitfield and Chris Bourque.

3) Less than great period for Mike Hutchinson as the P-Bruins and Whale were tied at 1-1 despite outshooting Connecticut by a 12-6 margin. A Ryan Bourque shot off the post was all that kept it from being even worse, though Providence was robbed of a goal that appeared over the goal line before the refs whistled it off. P-Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said after the game he was told by the referees that instant replay wasn't working in the Hartford barn on Saturday night.

4) Colby Cohen picked up the helper on Tardif's goal and had a solid first 20 minutes. Cohen has been quiet among the P-Bruins defensemen this far in three games, but appears to be turning a corner as he's gotten involved offensively. He'll have to keep standing out as Cassidy has plenty of viable defensemen options if any of his blueliners are struggling.

5) Jared Knight still battling through that balky hamstringgroin, and has only played in two of Providence's first five games.

SECOND PERIOD

HARTFORD, CT -- Here are five thoughts from the second period with the Providence Bruins trailing the Connecticut Whale by a 5-2 score after 40 minutes at the XL Center.

1) Whale players Chris Kreider, Ryan Bourque and Logan Pyett had been largely kept under wraps early in the season, but the exploded all over the P-Bruins in the second period. P-Bruins have done a good job of keeping Connecticut's big producers off the board, the other forwards are killing them.

2) Michael Hutchinson was pulled after giving up four goals midway through the second period, and Niklas Svedberg was promptly greeted with Tommy Grant score that it 5-1. While it wasn't all of Hutchinson's fault tonight, Svedberg has shown much more early in this season for Providence despite suffering the loss to Springfield on Friday night.

3) Horrendous defense by Torey Krug and Colby Cohen on the Grant goal to make it 5-1. The Whale forward was completely uncovered by the Providence defense and it was a chip shot the flick a puck past Svedberg. It simply looked like a lapse in concentration for Providence, and has been one of several in the defensive end for Krug. He's a team-worst minus-6 on the season.

4) A great look by Chris Bourque on a slaps-pass across the ice to Jordan Caron for Providence's second goal of the game. Now the elder Bourque brother simply needs a goal tonight to be on equal bragging rights footing with younger brother Ryan after his first period score. Caron now has four goals on the season and holds a healthy lead for the P-Bruins in that category.

5) Providence will be on the PP to start the second on a delay of game penalty and could set themselves up for a comeback after Caron's goal gave them a little momentum at the end of the period.

THIRD PERIOD

HARTFORD, CT -- Here are five thoughts from the third period with the P-Bruins falling to the Connecticut Whale by a 6-3 score at the XL Center.

1) The P-Bruins aren't getting consistent production from their power play -- who would have ever thought we'd say that about a team in the Bruins organization, eh -- but they move the puck with ease, skill and precision when the Chris Bourque, Jordan Caron and Torey Krug unit is on the ice. They're fun to watch and they were 2-for-6 on Saturday night after going 0-for-5 the night before against Springfield. It's just a matter of consistency now.

2) Niklas Svedberg still having issues with playing the puck around his net. He went way outisde his net to corral a puck in the corner and threw it directly to Kris Newbury charging toward the net for an easy goal. The Swedish goalie has a lot of potential at stopping pucks, but he needs plenty of work when handling the puck.

3) Max Sauve with his third goal of the season in the third period after firing off a short side pass from a Craig Cunningham dish. That line has scored in 5 of Providence's six games this season. Sauve leads the P-Bruins with five points this year and is definitely doing his part.

4) Something feels so right hearing Brass Bonanza being played after every Whale goal here in Hartford. Would leave to see an NHL team back here in Connecticut someday.

5) Bobby Robbins with another fight for the P-Bruins tonight. I love that kid's spirit. He's dropped the gloves in just about every game for Providence and has tried to provide the emotional spark for the sub-.500 hockey club.

WATCH: Celtics vs. Knicks

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Celtics-Knicks preview: Thomas scoring at record pace in fourth quarter

Celtics-Knicks preview: Thomas scoring at record pace in fourth quarter

WALTHAM, Mass. –  As the fourth quarter rolls around, you will occasionally catch Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas looking down at his wrist, a gesture to remind anyone watching what time it is – Thomas time.

There are those who elevate their play in the fourth quarter of games, and then there’s Thomas who continues to smoothly navigate his way in unchartered fourth quarter scoring territory.

The Celtics begin the second half of the season Wednesday night against the New York Knicks, and there sits Thomas atop all players in the NBA when it comes to fourth-quarter scoring.

But that’s not all.

He’s not only dropping more points than any other NBA player in the most important quarter of them all, but he’s doing so at an unprecedented level of 10.1 fourth-quarter points per game.

Since NBA.com/stats began tracking fourth quarter scoring with the 1997-1998 season, no player has averaged more than 9.5 fourth-quarter points (LeBron James, 2006) in a season.

What makes Thomas’ fourth quarter heroics so impressive is that everyone in the building – fans, coaches, opponents – knows that’s when he’s looking to be most impactful for the Celtics and yet he still can’t be stopped.

Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford acknowledged how tough it is to limit Thomas despite knowing he’s looking to take over games in the fourth.

“It’s hard because the blitz game is impossible because they don’t roll,” said Clifford whose Hornets were beaten 108-98 by Boston on Monday. “If you watch the teams that try to blitz them, you’re going to give up basically lay-ups. We had things in to get the ball out of his hands but the way they played and the stuff that they usually go to late, they didn’t get to. He (Thomas) made some terrific plays; he’s a terrific offensive player.”

Despite what he does in the fourth and his overall scoring average of 28.2 points which is ranked among the league’s leaders, there are still lots of doubters as to how good Thomas.

Regardless of how you view his play, he has consistently played at a level this season that places him among the game’s best players.

And at the rate he’s scoring in the fourth quarter, he’s establishing himself as one of the great closers in the game.

Consider the list of players in the past decade who led the league in points scored in the fourth quarter.

  • 2016: James Harden (7.7)
  • 2015: Russell Westbrook (7.1)
  • 2014: Kevin Durant (7.9)
  • 2013: Kevin Durant (8.4)
  • 2012: Kevin Durant (7.3)
  • 2011: Amare Stoudemire (7.1)
  • 2010: LeBron James (8.0)
  • 2009: LeBron James (7.7)
  • 2008: LeBron James (9.1)
  • 2007: Dwyane Wade (8.2)

You have All-stars, All-NBA First Teamers, league MVPs as well as a few future Hall of Famers.

As good as those players were in their respective seasons, when the game mattered most – the fourth quarter – Thomas numbers (for now at least) stand head and shoulders above them all.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens gives Thomas a lot of credit for being such a consistent scorer, particularly in the fourth quarter.

But as good as Thomas is, he’s not out there getting all these baskets on his own, either.

“It says a lot about the fact that he’s got a lot of skilled guys around him that are hard to leave,” Stevens said. “When you’re playing Kelly (Olynyk) and Jonas (Jerebko) together with him, there’s a lot of space on the floor to operate. When those guys are at the four (power forward) and five (center), when you’re playing guys like Al Horford who can space the floor or Avery (Bradley) or Jae (Crowder), you know, those types of guys … at the end of the day I think that it’s a combination of a lot of things.”

And for opponents, a lot of problems.

“He’s been playing well,” Hornets guard Kemba Walker said of Thomas. “He’s been playing better than anyone in our league. He’s playing with great confidence and making the plays for his team to win games. He’s been great.”