Bruins' power play kill slows surging Leafs

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Bruins' power play kill slows surging Leafs

The Maple Leafs had scored power play goals in eight straight games and were firing off at a 44 percent success rate headed into Saturday nights game against the Bruins.

So it goes without saying that Torontos special teams were featuring sky-high confidence heading into the weekend shot, but that offensive sureness didnt do them any good against a Boston club that beats them in every possible direction.

That span of offensive production and power play prowess came to a screeching halt against the Bruins, and the Bs held the Leafs power play to an 0-for-4 performance while taking down the 4-1 victory over Toronto at TD Garden.

The Bruins hatched a plan to disrupt Torontos ability to carry the puck into the offensive zone with speed and ferocity, and thats exactly what they did while shutting down the Leafs man advantage. Speedy penalty kill forwards like Daniel Paille and Rich Peverley were busting up Torontos power play formation into the offensive zone, and that maximum effort paid big dividends.

When the Leafs did enter into the offensive zone there were big hits like Johnny Boychuks body shot on Tyler Bozak, or Tuukka Rask smothering the few Toronto chances in between.

The specialty teams are always big. It depends on the game, but it seemed like we didnt have any power plays. They got power plays and they have a really good power play, so we wanted to make sure that we took away their speed on the breakout. We wanted to try to force them to make some plays that they dont want to make.

We did a really good job I thought on a lot of their entries and stop them right there. When we had the chance we put pressure on them.

Andrew Ference, Chris Kelly and Johnny Boychuk all logged more than three minutes of penalty kill work in Saturdays win, and Daniel Paille, Dennis Seidenberg and Rich Peverley all managed more than two minutes of PK work.

The biggest piece of the strategy against Toronto was staying disciplined and out of the box, but the collaborative work of the Bs penalty kill unit allowed only three shots on net when they did get their four power play chances.

We talked about being very disciplined tonight. Those calls that were madeIm not saying they were bad calls -- but they were really border-line and they chose to call. So I cant criticize our team for lacking discipline, said Claude Julien. But our PK came out there and did a great job, and Tuukka (Rask) made the saves when he had to. We put a lot of pressure up the ice and didnt make it easy for them to enter our zone.

The Bruins entered Saturday night seventh in the NHL with an 85.1 percent kill rate that just keeps climbing higher and higher after a few struggles to start the season and showed exactly how it can help the Bs win games along with an ever-improving power play unit.

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 Boston won more regular season games (48) than they did a year ago and put up a much better fight than last season's four-game sweep at the hands of Cleveland, having the season 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 they were a year ago when they were swept out of the playoffs by Cleveland in the first round.

“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 head 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 Boston’s Jae Crowder. “So, until we do that, it’s not a successful season. We are going to keep building, keep working.”

Celtics guard 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 one 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.”

And in doing so, look to build off the progress made this season and inch closer towards having a 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.