It's a lifelong dream fulfilled for Chris Bourque

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It's a lifelong dream fulfilled for Chris Bourque

BOSTON -- Chris Bourque had already played hockey games on the TD Garden ice. Hed experienced the glorious high of potting an overtime game-winner to deliver a Beanpot championship for his Boston University team, and even scored against the Bruins in a preseason game while he was property of the Washington Capitals.

But neither of those moments came anywhere close to approaching Saturday night, when he suited up in the Black-and-Gold NHL colors of his Hall of Fame father, Ray, and took a regular shift with Bostons third line in a playoff-like 3-1 victory over the New York Rangers.

Bourque missed on becoming part of the score sheet when he flubbed a chance at an open-net goal in the final minutes of the third period, floating the shot high over the vacant net.

I need the goalie to be in there to score that, cracked Bourque with a knowing grin that he should have had it.

But the little boy inside Bourque that grew up cheering for his father, idolizing Cam Neely and becoming a normal visitor to the Bs dressing room was in something close to hockey heaven, anyway.

It was great. I think Ive said it a couple times this week, but it kind of felt a little bit surreal, said Bourque, who logged 12:46 of ice time and finished with a minus-1 rating on the night. Obviously it was a moment that Ive been dreaming of as a little kid and to finally get that first game out of the way was really exciting for me.

Chris Hall of Fame dad, his wife, his young child and a host of other family members and friends were waiting in the family room after the victory, and made it feel all the more intimate as Bourque talked about donning the Bs sweater. Ray and Chris became the fifth fatherson combo to both don the Black and Gold in the Bruins organization, and joined the Bennetts (Harvey and Bill), DeMarcos (Albert G. and Albert T.), the Grahames (Ron and John) and the Hodges (Ken R. and Ken D.) in the Bs history books follow Saturday nights debut.

At times coach Claude Julien played the mix-and-match game with the third line and inserted Daniel Paille at the left wing spot when he pitted Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley against one of New Yorks top two lines. But Bourque got 2:42 of power play time and said the nearly 13 minutes of time on ice was by far the most ice time hes received in an NHL game.

In typical Bruins fashion, Bourque said he was focusing on defense first when he was out on the ice. He finished without a shot on net and wasnt able to help break through on a Bs power play that went 0-for-7 in the game, so there are still some areas to work on.

But given his obvious skill displayed at the AHL level -- and his talented linemates in Peverley and Kelly the offense should come for a player still looking to prove it at the NHL level.

I really tried to focus on making the simple plays and chipping it out and being good and solid defensively. If you do that then everything else will kind of fall into place, said Bourque. I maybe focused on a little bit more tonight on defense, and as the season goes on Ill get more comfortable hopefullythats when plays happen. Youve got to think defense first, and then everything else falls into place.

The opening act of Bourques time with the Bruins was a promising one, and now hell dig into the tantalizing task of finding out exactly how good he can be given a legit chance to shine in his hometown of Boston.

Celtics make progress, but was it a successful season?

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Celtics make progress, but was it a successful season?

BOSTON -- Success comes in many shapes and sizes, and is not always seen the same by NBA players -- not even teammates.

That was certainly the case following Boston’s 104-92 Game 6 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, which ended the Celtics season.

While the C's won more regular-season games (48) than they did a year ago and put up a much better fight in the playoffs than last April's four-game sweep at the hands of Cleveland, having it all end the way it did at home on Thursday clearly left a bitter taste in the mouths of most players.

Whether this was a successful season is open to debate.

But what’s abundantly clear for the Celtics is this team did indeed make progress from where it was a year ago.

“You go from 40 (wins), under .500 and barely making the playoffs and kind of eeking in at the end by winning six straight, to being in the mix for being a top-four seed in the East,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “And so, yes, there’s progress.”

But as far as this being a successful season, that’s not nearly as cut and dry.

“Of course it’s only going to be one team to have a successful year and that’s when you hold that trophy up,” said  Jae Crowder. “So until we do that, it’s not a successful season. We are going to keep building, keep working.”

Marcus Smart had a slightly different opinion on the matter.

“I don’t look at it as a failure, for sure,” Smart said. “We did a lot of great things this season. We’re a young team. That’s good for us coming back. We have a lot of work to do, obviously, but I don’t look at the season as a failure. So I guess you can say it was a success for us.”

But looking at how this season ended, while disappointing, serves as a reminder as to how Boston remains a team with talent but plenty of room to grow.

“People have told me all along there’s two really tough tasks, right?” Stevens said. “One is getting to be a very good, competitive team at a top 10-15 level on offense and defense and give yourself a chance to be in the discussion we’re in right now. And that’s been a path in the last three years to get there.

"And the next (task, which is becoming a legitimate championship contender) is tough. And that’s been communicated before to me and we’re learning a lot. We learned a lot through this playoff series, but one of the things that I’ve learned is we’ve got to get better. And you know what? That starts with me. I’ve got to get better, and then I think each of our players will look at that accountably as well and we’re all going to be better the next time we take the court.”

In doing so, they look to build off the progress made this season and inch closer towards having a truly successful season . . . which around here more often than not, means competing for an NBA title.

That’s why for Jared Sullinger, one of the few remaining players from the Big Three era of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen when deep postseason runs were an expectation and not a goal, he doesn’t see this season as being a successful one for the Green team.

“If we’re thinking making it to the playoffs is a successful season, then we’re going in the wrong direction,” Sullinger said. “If you look in this locker room, you see everybody’s down. We didn’t want it to end like that; we wanted to make a run. It’s tough losing like that.”

Sullinger added, “Last year we were glad to make the playoffs. This year, we wanted to make a run, we wanted to make some noise. Unfortunately, our noise got cut short.”

C you next season?: Future is unclear for several Celtics

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C you next season?: Future is unclear for several Celtics

BOSTON – There are few guarantees when it comes to the NBA and the Boston Celtics, but one thing’s for certain: change is going to come next season.

This is especially true for the Celtics whose season ended with a 104-92 Game 6 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, sending the C’s home for the season with a second straight first-round exit.

“That’s just the business of the NBA,” said Isaiah Thomas who had a double-double of 25 points and 10 assists which were both game highs on Thursday. “One thing I do know, I ride with these guys until the wheels fall off; I mean this was a special group.”

But whether they stay together remains to be seen.

Among those who could be on the move is Evan Turner, an unrestricted free agent this summer.

He will be among the more heavily pursued Celtics this summer, in large part because of his versatility as both a playmaker and scoring guard off the bench.

Several teams will come hard after Turner, among them being the New York Knicks and the Orlando Magic who are desperate to add talented, proven veterans to their young rosters.

The second year of Jonas Jerebko’s contract becomes fully guaranteed if he’s still on the roster after July 3. Considering the way he played in the postseason as well as his steady presence during the regular season, the Celtics are more than likely to keep him around for next season.

Boston has a pair of restricted free agents in Tyler Zeller and Jared Sullinger. It is unclear what the Celtics will do with them because it remains to be seen what type of offers (if any) they receive from another team.

“This season didn’t go exactly how I would have wanted it to,” Zeller told CSNNE.com. “But I like it here, I like the coaching staff and the players. So we’ll see what happens this summer. But yeah, I’m definitely open to the idea of coming back next season.”

There’s a certain amount of uncertainty surrounding Amir Johnson who could potentially become a free agent this summer if the Celtics decline to pick up the second year on his contract which is worth $12 million.

When I asked Johnson if he felt he had done enough to have to his second year picked up by the Celtics he told CSNNE.com, “I hope so.”

Johnson added, “We never quit even when we were down big at the end of the game. I feel there’s stuff we can clean up and be better, from the coaching staff to the players to the front office. But there’s something about this team, we don’t have no quit in us. I feel like we can definitely go far if we just put the right pieces together.”

And as far as his future in Boston, “I definitely want to here.”

Only time will tell just how many of Boston’s potential free agents will be riding with the Green Team next season, or be swept away and wind up on another roster in what will surely be an offseason of change.