Kelly: Bruins should beware of the Senators

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Kelly: Bruins should beware of the Senators

WILMINGTON, Mass. Who better to understand the domination of the Ottawa Senators over the last four years at the hands of the Boston Bruins than Chris Kelly?
Kelly was a member of the Senators for 6 12 years prior to his acquisition by the Bruins at the trade deadline in 2011, so he's seen life from both sides. The B's are 18-5 over Ottawa in the last four years, and Kelly will tell you it's better being the hammer than the nail.
But he'll also tell you that assuming the B's will roll over the Sens in the playoffs -- the two are likely first-round foes -- just because they've beaten them consistently in the regular season these last few years is pure folly.
If we take the approach to the playoffs that teams will roll over then wed be in some big trouble," said Kelly. "The regular season is the regular season, and the playoffs are a whole different beast. Youve seen it in the past where a team has done extremely well against a team during the regular season, and then it goes the other way during the playoffs. The regular season gets thrown out the window after Saturday.
Its all but assured the Bruins and Senators will open up as first-round opponents when Bostons playoff Cup defense begins, probably on April 12 at TD Garden, and those teams meet for the final time this season Thursday night at Scotiabank Place. It wont have the feel of a potential playoff preview, of course, as Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara and Tim Thomas were all left back in Boston to get some rest with the playoffs around the corner.
But that didnt stop Kelly from remembering the ill-at-ease feeling he had when he knew Thomas was going to start against them during his Ottawa days.
Thomas has lost only 5 of the 16 games hes played at Scotiabank Place over his highly decorated career, and he has a current nine-game winning streak in Ottawas home building. Kelly joked that whenever Boston was coming to town it got to the point where the Senators hoped Thomas would get the night off for any reason under the sun.
I was always hoping hed get the flu and miss the game, said a laughing Kelly. But once you saw that gold on the mask, you knew you were in for it.
In his career at Scotiabank Place, Thomas has 1.99 goals-against average and a .940 save percentage in 16 games. He even wins exhibition games in Ottawas building, as he took the victory in Team Charas win at the NHL All-Star game in January.
But none of that matters much to the young Senators, who are readying for a surprise playoff bid. They're a group of largely young, unproven players hungry for a taste of the postseason. Only a handful remain from Kelly's days with the team.
While most NHL prognosticators picked the Senators to finish last in the Northeast Division and out of the playoffs Chara said hes not surprised Ottawa could be Bostons first-round foe. Both he and Kelly give credit to Sens head coach Paul MacLean bringing a new attitude after Cory Clouston couldnt provide the answers Ottawa was looking for.
The biggest difference we see from last year with Ottawa is that theyre really committed to the system and the structure this season, said Chara. They seem to really be paying attention to details, and the new coaching staff seems to have a lot to do with that.
Whats a little more relevant to this seasons potential playoff matchup?
The Bruins are 4-1 against the Sens this season, with the lone Ottawa victory coming in their last game in Boston, and all the Sens defensemen aside from Filip Kuba and Erik Karlsson were minus players against the Bs this year. But Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson also combined for 11 points in nine games against the Bruins this season, and give the Senators their biggest wealth of postseason experience heading into the first-round match.
Alfredsson and Spezza led the playoffs in scoring the year we went to the Cup Finals (2006-07), along with Dany Heatley, so its kind of rare that all three guys would have 26 or 27 points each, said Kelly. Youve got to know where they are on the ice. Theyve been in the postseason before, but there are also a lot of new faces with postseason experience because they all won the Calder Cup with Binghamton last year. There is no shortage of playoff experience on that team.
The AHL playoff experience is obviously much different than the Stanley Cup playoffs, but Kellys point is well-taken.
The bottom line with the Ottawa Senators: Theyre a young, talented team that did well to force themselves back into the playoff picture this season, but the Bruins should have little problem picking them off in an ideal first-round challenge.
Hockey history has shown that the Bruins have been the superior hockey club for a long, long time, and hockey history doesnt lie.

Monday's Red Sox vs. Orioles lineups: Ortiz back from sore foot

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Monday's Red Sox vs. Orioles lineups: Ortiz back from sore foot

David Ortiz makes his return to the Red Sox lineup after being a late scratch on Sunday due to a sore left foot is sore after getting hit by a pitch Saturday. However, Hanley Ramirez is getting the day off, with Travis Shaw getting the start at first.

The lineups:

ORIOLES:
Adam Jones CF
Hyun Soo Kim LF
Manny Machado SS
Chris Davis 1B
Mark Trumbo DH
Jonathan Schoop 2B
Nolan Reimold RF
Ryan Flaherty 3B
Caleb Joseph C
--
Tyler Wilson P

RED SOX:
Mookie Betts RF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Travis Shaw 1B
Blake Swihart LF
Ryan Hanigan C
Marco Hernandez 3B
---
Steven Wright P

Red Sox haven't allowed opponents to break out the brooms

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Red Sox haven't allowed opponents to break out the brooms

Through the first sixteen series of the season, the Red Sox are 9-5-3 (two ties coming from two-game sets) en route to their AL East leading 30-20 record.

Boston’s only mustered up two series sweeps -- taking two in Atlanta and three from the Yankees at Fenway -- but they’ve avoided the dreaded broom in each of their five series losses.

In fact, in four of their five series losses the Red Sox earned their lone victory in the final game, with Sunday being the most recent instance.

None of the series finale, sweep-defying wins were cakewalks either. Three of the four were decided by three runs or less -- the other being decided by four.

Boston’s MLB-leading 5.9 runs per game offense scored below its average each time -- so Red Sox pitching didn’t have the same gigantic cushion it’s used to.

Prior to his injury, Joe Kelly was the first savior, chucking five innings allowing two earned runs against a Baltimore Orioles team that was undefeated at that point in the season’s youth. Fast forward to the series at Yankee Stadium and Steven Wright nearly through a shutout, holding the Yankees to one run through nine innings.

In the two most recent cases, David Price’s turn came in the lineup -- and he’s answered the call. Boston’s ace held down both the Kansas City Royals and Toronto Blue Jays -- on the road -- limiting both offenses to two runs each. Both starts have come the day after one-run losses, too.

So while Price’s “stuff” hasn’t been at its best, admitting Sunday it usually isn’t against the Blue Jays, he’s displayed the intangible aces are supposed to have – guts.

Now on any other team, they might be in trouble given Boston’s offense is the best in baseball. Because a bad scoring day for the Red Sox is better than almost half the league’s average day. But they aren’t on any other team, so that’s not the issue.

For all the struggles the Red Sox’ starting pitchers have dealt with, they’ve managed to get the job done when they’ve needed it.

Those wins add up, too.

If the Red Sox are swept in these four series, they sit at 26-24 right in the middle of the AL East -- and this season has an entirely different feel to it.

In an age where numbers have become the central focus of the game, Boston’s starting pitchers have managed to lock-in when the club needs it most -- and must continue to do so.

Nick Friar can be followed on Twitter @ngfriar.

Monday, May 30: Sullivan reminisces about coaching Thornton

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Monday, May 30: Sullivan reminisces about coaching Thornton

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while honoring and remembering those that paid the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freed on this Memorial Day.

*Here’s a hockey column from Mark Madden, which kind of proves his dopiness when it comes to pucks. He writes about Pittsburgh’s excellent shutdown pair of Ian Cole and Justin Schultz, who have averaged a whopping 15 and 13 minutes of ice time respectively in these playoffs. Yeah, that’s not a shutdown pair. That’s called a bottom pairing.

*PHT writer Joey Alfieri with another chapter in hockey’s version of the Never-ending Story: John Scott wants to make his own World Cup team with Phil Kessel.

*Mike Sullivan reminisces about coaching Joe Thornton, and playing for the San Jose Sharks, as his Penguins ready to take on San Jose in the Stanley Cup Final.

*In the interest of self-promotion, here’s me wondering what the heck the Bruins are doing on Sports Sunday last night on CSN.

*Apparently Alex Semin is going to stay in the KHL for this coming season. I don’t think anybody is too heartbroken around the NHL about this given the way things ended for him.

*Buffalo’s Mike Harrington says that Sidney Crosby returns to the Stanley Cup Final with a new kind of hunger

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Mike Zeisberger goes 1-on-1 with Joe Thornton, who says that the cat likes his Hillbilly Jim playoff beard.

*For something completely different: I haven’t yet read this Joe Posnanski piece on the play Hamilton and his daughter, but I’ll include it because everybody says that it’s great.