Marchand, Lucic bring emotion to table in lieu of offense


Marchand, Lucic bring emotion to table in lieu of offense

Here's something that's now a news flash if you've paying close attention to the Bruins during the playoffs: Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand arent exactlylighting up the scoreboard.

That much is obvious after three playoff games where neither winger has managed any involvement in anything remotely close toa goal during the postseason despite combining for an impressive54tallies during the regular season.

But both players also fill the role of emotional catalyst for the Bruins, and performed that task perfectly at a time their teammates needed their spark. Both Lucic and Marchand playedmajor energy roles for the B's in their stirring4-3 victory over the Washington Capitals at Verizon Center -- a winthat gives them a slight2-1 leadOvie and the quarterfinal playoff series. Rest assured that both hockey clubs have gone from cordial, polite playoff hockey to puck hatred in one short 60 minute playoff contest.

"The more we play each other, the more we hate each other and the worse things get out there, said Marchand. Its definitely going that way.

Lucic was breathing fire all over the icewith a game-high eight hits among Bostons whopping58 registered hits for the game. It appeared early that he was determined to make an impact ona pivotal middle game in the serieseven ifgeneratedfrom a menace and intimidation perspective.

It seemed that No. 17 wanted to end every period with a violent hockey flourish that let his Washington rivals know he wasn't going anywhere. He'd be there all night ready to inflict punishment. Lucic ended the first period in a shoving match with Nicklas Backstrom after the Capitals center cross-checked him in front of the Boston net. The play ended when Bostons power forward knocked Backstroms helmet off his head and both sides retreated to their respective dressing rooms.

Both players were whistled off for matching penalties to start the second period, but the lasting image from the incident was Zdeno Chara skating around the ice with Mike Green in a headlock that Jake "The Snake" Roberts would have been proud of.

Lucic was at it again in the second period when he tangled with both Jason Chimera and Brooks Laich before a face-off. Chimera and Laich actually exchanged places because Lucic threw the latter Washington forward down to the ice, and once again both players were whistled off for matching penalties.

Finally Lucic lost his patiencein the third period of a 3-3 hockey game when Dennis Wideman cross-checked the Bs left winger in the back. The cross-check arrived justas play was whistled dead in front of the Washington net. It took Karl Alzner, Wideman and Matt Hendricks to hold back the rampaging, enragedLucic, and he was whistled for a double-minor that some might have seen as ill-timed or poorly conceived at the time.

The skirmish led Alzner to pantomime that Lucic was crying and drying his eyes as No. 17 was being led off to the penalty box. The forward, voted the toughest player in the NHL by his peers, had a fleeting reaction to Alzner and on-ice bravery that will likely disappear when challenged by Boston's brawling left winger.

I dont even know what to say coming from my side to show that Im not a crybaby, said Lucic. Thats a lot to say coming from a guy in Alznerthat has two roughing penalties in three years, so there you go.

But all the aforementionedplays were under thesameheading: Lucic setting a physical tone for the game against a Capitals team that hasn't always been known as the strongest group of fighters when backed into a corner. Lucics Bruins teammates picked up on that when Zdeno Chara banged home the game-winning goal a little more than 30 seconds after Lucic's post-whistle histrionics.The Bruins freelyadmitted afterward that Lucic's actions fired them up as a team this time around, and they pretty much always do once he puts himself into that postseason zone he hasn't quite reached.

I think we showed a lot more emotion and that goes a long way in this series, said Daniel Paille. Lucic is definitely an emotional guy and he does whatever he can to get us going. He definitely has the right attitude. Were happy to have that. He might not be scoring right now, but he cares and he shows it out on the ice.

On Marchands end, the Little Ball of Hate didnt have a shot on net in 15:20 of ice time, but he did draw a Jason Chimera slashing call and a Nicklas Backstrom cross-checking penalty in the third period. The rabble-rousing winger also absorbed an Alzner elbow during the game that had the Washington defenseman following Marchand to the team bus Monday nightto apologize for it postgame.

So its clear Bostons agitator was doing his job as well when the offense wasnt coming quite so easily. That's just as important for Marchand as an emotional catalyst as it is for Lucic, who gets the crowd moving in a completely different way.

Emotions are running a little higher out there and things are getting a little more physical, said Marchand. Those are games that you get emotionally attached to and those are the ones that you want to play in.

When things arent going your way then you have to bring something else to the table. You saw Looch getting physically involved and trying to take control. Thats what you have to do: find a way to draw penalties or play physical to get momentum somehow.

Lucic and Marchand are still looking for their first playoff goals this season for the Bruins, but make no mistake: their paw marks were all over a pivotal road victory in Washington.

NBA Notes: League seems to be on upward surge in interest and ratings


NBA Notes: League seems to be on upward surge in interest and ratings

For so many years the NFL has had an almost impenetrable veneer in the way it has successfully pivoted away from a myriad of scandals that would have at the very least delivered a significant, noticeable blow to most professional leagues.

But that Teflon-tough image has taken a whacking of late with the league dealing with what has been for the most part an across-the-board ratings dip in its programming.

The NFL’s slide comes at a time when the NBA seems to be on a upward surge in terms of interest and ratings.

Kevin Durant’s decision to leave Oklahoma City and play for Golden State is a needle-mover across the NBA landscape. LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers are looking to defend their NBA title – a phrase no one thought they would ever hear even when James signed on for a second tour of duty – will certainly generate tons of interest.

The Boston Celtics added Al Horford to a team that many believe will be among Cleveland’s stiffest challengers, in addition to being a team that has played Golden State as well as anyone the last couple of years.

There are many hands responsible for the NBA having such a strong position on the professional sports landscape, chief among them being former commissioner David Stern.

He was in town last week as part of the Shamrock Foundation’s annual Gala.

Stern gave a rundown of what he’s been up to since passing the commissioner’s torch to Adam Silver.

He said he has been a senior advisor to a venture capital firm, counsels several start-up companies and of course a senior advisor to the NBA.

But it’s what he’s not doing – negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement with the player’s union – that seemed to bring him the most joy.

“That’s when I got the least amount of sleep,” quipped Stern.

But those sleep-deprived marathon sessions with owners and union leaders, have helped bring the league to where it is today – thriving with its players and the profits both seem to be reaping.

That’s why the reports of the NBA and the player’s union being close to coming to terms on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, make a lot of sense. The NBA or the player’s union can opt-out of the current CBA prior to Dec. 15, although that’s looking less likely to happen because of what should be a new deal that better reflects the economic changes that currently exist in the NBA.

This past summer saw the salary cap in the NBA balloon to $94.14 million after having been $70 million for the 2015-2016 season.

With both NBA players and owners profiting significantly from the new TV deal, most of the changes to come about (paying players on the rookie scale more money; increasing the dollar amounts for veteran’s minimum and team exception contracts) are just common sense rule changes that have both sides closer to getting something done sooner rather than later.

And while he’s not directly involved in any of the current dealings, what he accomplished prior to retiring as commissioner certainly laid the groundwork for what appears to be a relatively smooth negotiation period.

“I didn’t project anything other than I was leaving it in the most spectacular of hands with an All-Star executive cast and they would just do what’s right for the league and they have,” Stern said.

And as far as the current talks that have reportedly been ongoing for months, Stern understands all too well that the last CBA talks which led to a shortened, 66-game season led to changes that has both players and owners feeling better about current negotiations.

“I’m proud to say the league has gotten to a very good place in terms of the player’s share, the owner’s share and where they can all see this is something that pays to keep going,” Stern said. “It’s fun to watch from a distance and not be involved.”



So much for that logjam in the frontcourt for the Philadelphia 76ers. The latest big man to go down with an injury is Nerlens Noel who recently had “minor” surgery on his left knee that will sideline him for reportedly three-to-five weeks. Keep in mind that the Everett, Mass. native missed his entire rookie season following left knee surgery, although the Sixers indicate this was an arthroscopic procedure and is considered minor. He joins No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons who suffered a foot injury that’s expected to keep him out until at least January. That means a lot of the trade rumors involving Noel (and Jahlil Okafor to a certain extent too) should cool off for a little bit.



Signing with Toronto during the offseason was supposed to be Jared Sullinger's chance at a fresh start. Unfortunately for him, things are looking a lot like they did in his early days in Boston. Concerns about his back dropped his draft-day stock from a likely lottery (top-14) pick, to falling in the Celtics' lap at No. 21. During his rookie season, he played well but had to have season-ending back surgery. With the Raptors, it appears he will miss some time early on due to a foot injury that occurred in the team's first preseason game which has kept him out of action ever since.  

“May be a little while before he comes back,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey told reporters recently. “He may get checked out just to see what else is going on.”

Sullinger’s weight was an issue during his time with the Celtics. It’s unclear what impact if any, it had on his current injury or whether it’s a factor in the injury keeping him out indefinitely. 



We have seen Metta World Peace (formerly known as Ron Artest) in lots of different basketball roles from hitting big shots to just hitting people.

But as a coach? That is reportedly being discussed by the Los Angeles Lakers brass as they try to trim their training camp roster down to 15 players.

MWP is likely on the outside of the 15-man roster now, but the Lakers still want him to be part of the organization. While it may seem a bit of a stretch at first, he does bring a wealth of basketball experience to the table, a player how has seen the highs and lows of the game in a way few players can fully understand or speak about with a great amount of credibility.



The LaMarcus Aldridge trade talk will be one of the storylines this NBA season. The Boston Celtics will continue to be discussed as a possibility, but the team to watch is the Phoenix Suns. They came close to convincing him when he left Portland for San Antonio. Phoenix provides him a team that can be built around him (which he wants), lots of shots (which he wants) and a team with no pressure on his back to lead them to major success (yup, he wants that too). … Michael Carter Williams’ stock seems to continue to tumble after winning the league’s rookie of the Year award. He’s going into his fourth season and he’s already on to his third team. … Multiple league executives believe Devin Booker is the best 20-and-under player in the NBA right now. He's good, but I'd probably take Minnesota's Karl-Anthony Towns.