From Comcast SportsNetNEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Quarterback Joe Flacco put off contract talks with the Baltimore Ravens until after the season was done.Seems like a terrific decision now, huh?Capping a perfect postseason, the unassuming and unheralded Flacco completed 22 of 33 passes for 287 yards and three first-half touchdowns Sunday, earning Super Bowl MVP honors for leading the Ravens to a 34-31 victory over the San Francisco 49ers.It was a back-and-forth game oddly interrupted more than a half-hour by a power outage."We gave the country a pretty good game to watch," Flacco said.Sure did his part, especially at the outset.Flacco set aside any questions about just how good he is and whether he belongs in the conversation about the league's best quarterbacks, becoming only the sixth in 47 Super Bowls to throw for three scores in a first half. He connected with Anquan Boldin for 13 yards, Dennis Pitta for 1, and Jacoby Jones for 56."Now they're gonna have to talk about Joe Flacco," center Matt Birk said. "Joe's a stud. He showed it tonight."Not just Sunday, actually.The admittedly mild-mannered guy, who played his college football far from the spotlight at Delaware, wrapped up Baltimore's four-game run to the title with a record-equaling 11 TD passes and zero interceptions, going 73 of 126 for 1,140 yards. It was an impressive streak that included road victories against two of the game's most respected QBs, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, and a first-round home win against No. 1 overall draft pick Andrew Luck."I'm a Joe Flacco fan. I've been a Joe Flacco fan," said Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, who ended his 17-year career with a second championship. "To do what he did today, that's what we always see."Flacco's job in the second half Sunday was more about being safe than spectacular. He had helped Baltimore take a 21-6 halftime lead, and it grew to 28-6 when Jones returned the second-half kickoff a Super Bowl-record 108 yards.That is when things got strange.First, the lights inside the Superdome cut out, delaying action for more than a half-hour. And when play resumed, San Francisco quickly scored 17 consecutive points to make things interesting.The Ravens held on down the stretch though, with two short field goals by rookie Justin Tucker padding the lead, and the Lewis-led defense stopping the 49ers on a fourth-and-goal at the 5."I was sitting there thinking, There's no way. There's no way we stop them here,'" Flacco said. "But we did."Neither Flacco nor his team appeared to be ready to take on all comers as the regular season concluded.After all, the Ravens lost four of their final five games in the regular season to stumble into the playoffs.And Flacco, a fifth-year pro, finished only 12th in the 32-team NFL in passer rating at a merely passable 87.7 -- way behind league leader Aaron Rodgers' 108.0 -- while compiling 22 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions.Middle-of-the-pack, to say the least.But he and his team definitely did shine when the results mattered most."I tell you what: We don't make it easy," Flacco said. "But that's the way the city of Baltimore is. That's the way we are."He simply becomes a different player in the playoffs. He set an NFL record for quarterbacks by leading his team to playoff wins in each of his first five seasons. He is 9-4 overall in the postseason.His contract is up now. And he could wind up with one of the biggest deals in NFL history, perhaps commanding somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 million a year.There would have been an opportunity to sign something last offseason, but Flacco's agent and the Ravens could not agree on how much he was worth.The rest of the world wasn't really certain, either.Flacco delivered quite an answer Sunday."He's taken a lot of criticism over his career, for whatever reason," Pitta said. "But we've always believed in him. We've known the kind of player that he is. He's showed up on the biggest stage and performed."
BOSTON – The Bruins are running out of superlatives for 20-year-old David Pastrnak at this point.
The right winger continued his torrid goal-scoring pace in a breakout season with the B’s by scoring a couple of goals, including a dazzling overtime game-winner, in a 4-3 OT win over the Florida Panthers at TD Garden.
Pastrnak now has 15 goals scored in 21 games this season for the Bruins, and has matched career-high for goals scored in a single season already with nearly three quarters of the season still left to be played. Only Sidney Crosby and Patrik Laine have scored more goals than Pastrnak in the NHL this season, and it’s a scary thought to imagine where the 25th ranked Bruins offense would be without their ascending superstar from the Czech Republic.
Certainly the Bruins wouldn’t have taken two points from the Panthers without him: Pastrnak ended the overtime session quickly when he wheeled up and out of the offensive zone after getting the puck to David Krejci, and then gathered speed before taking the puck from Krejci, blowing the doors off Florida D-man Mike Matheson with a couple of moves and then easily beating Roberto Luongo with a game-winning goal. It was a highlight reel, electric overtime game-winner by any measure, but it’s also the kind of thing that’s started to become routine for an offensive player with as much speed, skill and creativity as anybody currently playing in the NHL.
“He’s coming into his own, I think. There’s no doubt about that confidence wise, it’s at its highest right now and rightfully so. I think when you look at him skate – and not only in the goal, but even before the goal – he went after that puck to get control of it before that goal even happened,” said Julien. “So once you’ve got control and he moved it around and then got it into Krech’s [David Krejci] hands, at that point when he came back from circling just in the neutral zone a little bit, he had caught their defenseman flat-footed.
“With that speed I guess there’s not much that D could have done, but what a great move. Obviously taking the time to lift the puck up was pretty impressive – especially that last move. So a nice goal and a great way for us to finish with that win. I think he’s been our best forward since the beginning of the year. So, no doubt it’s nice to see him growing the way he is right now.”
The second period goal was just as impressive for Pastrnak for all kinds of different reasons. The young right wing started a puck possession in the corner when he battled to hold onto the puck from his knees, and eventually worked possession up to Patrice Bergeron. Bergeron fired and missed wide on his chance at the net, but Brad Marchand grabbed the loose puck and uncorked a no-look, spinning pass to Pastrnak waiting in front of the net.
The natural born scorer fired a laser blast past Luongo and temporarily gave the Bruins the lead in a seesaw game between Boston and Florida. All three of the forwards on the Bergeron line touched the puck on that scoring possession leading right up to the score, and it’s been part of the learning process for a player hitting his offensive peak in his third NHL season.
“All the games I play beside Bergy [Patrice Bergeron] and Marchy [Brad Marchand] and [with] those two guys it’s such a pleasure to play [with them] and learn a bunch of stuff, learning every single shift,” said Pastrnak. “They talk to me, tell me what to do, and then I guess [I’m] trying to listen. We have a lot of guys here who have been around the league for a long time, so they [are] helping us young guys. It’s really helpful.”
Now it’s Pastrnak tearing up the league in just his third pro season, and playing like he’s going to be “around the league for a long time” just like some of the players on the Boston roster that have jumped from a talented young player to the pathway to NHL stardom. The sky is truly the limit for a player in Pastrnak that can win battles, score goals and skate around in overtime just waiting to embarrass any defenseman that dares try and stop him.
The bumps and bruises continue to pile up for Isaiah Thomas, adding a new one to the group during Boston’s 107-106 loss at Houston.
The 5-foot-9 guard said he strained his right groin in the second quarter, but added that the injury won’t force him to miss any games.
“I’ll be alright,” Thomas told reporters after the loss. “I’ll get treatment. I’ll be fine for Wednesday (against Orlando).”
The injury appeared to have happened shortly after Houston’s Trevor Ariza hit a 3-pointer that put the Rockets ahead 55-45.
At the time it didn’t seem all that serious as Thomas, who had 20 points on the night, came down and drained a 3-pointer.
But after the game, Thomas acknowledged his groin did bother him during the game in which he played 33-plus minutes.
“A few drives I didn’t have the lift,” said Thomas, who finished with 20 points. “It is what it is. I’ll figure it out.”
Thomas, who played in all 82 regular season games last season in addition to each of Boston’s 21 games this season, has dealt with an assortment of injuries including but not limited to, a swollen middle finger injury on his left (shooting) hand.
Thomas, an All-Star last season for the first time, has played at an elite level that should once again position him to be represent the Eastern Conference.
Following Monday’s game, Thomas is averaging a career-high 26.0 points per game which ranks ninth in the NBA along with 6.1 assists.