Celtics-Wizards: What you saw

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Celtics-Wizards: What you saw

WASHINGTON It wasn't always pretty, but the Boston Celtics (6-9) were able to get the job done and escape with a 100-94 win over Washington on Sunday. The C's have won all three matchups with the Wizards this season, and have locked up winning the head-to-head series. Not that it'll matter with the Wizards (2-14) unlikely to even sniff the playoffs. As for the Celtics, they're a difficult team to get a read on right now. You have to like what you saw on Sunday, but it has to be put in perspective. Boston's next win over a team with a winning record will be its first this season. When you couple that with the fact that half their wins have come against Washington, and you have a Celtics team that still has a lot to prove.

Now with the game in the books, we'll reflect on the keys to victory for Boston against the Wizards, and how things actually played out.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR - Rebounding today, as is the case most games, will be a huge factor in the game's outcome. Boston has to hold its own on the defensive boards, which as we've come to find is easier said than done. It becomes a really big issue against the Wizards. Despite all their flaws - and they have plenty - offensive rebounding is the one thing they do pretty well. They come into today's game ranked 10th in offensive rebounds, while the C's are just 26th (out of 30 teams) in defensive rebounds. But the C's haven't been hurt too badly by second-chance points against Washington, which has outscored the Celtics, 26-20, in second-chance points this season.

WHAT WE SAW: The C's came up short, 37-35, on the boards. But from a rebounding standpoint, the day was very much a success. Along with being minus-two on the boards, Boston managed to keep it relatively close in terms of second-chance points (10-9 in favor of the Wizards).

MATCHUP TO WATCH - Paul Pierce vs. Chris Singleton. On paper, it seems like a given to give this to Pierce. But the way he has struggled all season - career lows across the board - combined with Singleton's steadily improving play, this battle has the potential to be a lot closer than most would anticipate.

WHAT WE SAW: The Truth stepped up in a big, bad - bad meaning good this time, folks - way for the Celtics. Pierce lit the Wizards up for a season-high 34 points. He also had 10 assists for his first double-double this season, not to mention grabbing eight rebounds. As for Singleton, he was one of the many non-factors on the floor for Washington. He finished with two points on 1-for-4 shooting from the field.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Ray Allen. He is the one Celtic who the Wizards have had the most trouble defending. In the two games this season, Allen is averaging a team-best 20 points per game which includes connecting on 8 of his 12 3-point shots. For Allen to be effective, that means freeing him up for shots - something the Celtics have not done a good job of lately. Allen averages 10.2 shots per game this season. He has failed to get double-digit shot attempts in the last four Celtics games, and five of the last six.

WHAT WE SAW: Allen was well on his way to snapping the single-digit shot attempt streak he's on. However, Wizards rookie Jan Vesely stepped on Allen's foot in the second quarter which led to Allen jamming his left ankle and being unable to return in the second half. Having only played 11 minutes, Allen had seven points while connecting on 3-of-5 shooting from the field.
STAT TO TRACK: It's a four-quarter game, obviously. But Boston's success - at least thus far this season - is usually known by halftime. The Celtics have only been tied or ahead three times this season at the half. Their record in those games? 3-0.

WHAT WE SAW: After ending the first quarter down by one point, Boston rallied in the second and closed out the quarter with a 7-0 run to lead, 49-40 at the half. So the C's string of halftime leads resulting in victory, remains intact.

Acciari, Heinen called back up to Bruins

Acciari, Heinen called back up to Bruins

BRIGHTON, Mass. – The Bruins made a few roster moves after a slogging 4-2 loss to the Colorado Avalanche earlier this week, with an eye toward getting some competition going among the forward group, and perhaps spark a team struggling offensively.

Danton Heinen and Noel Acciari were brought up from Providence to skate with the big club on Saturday morning at Warrior Ice Arena and gritty Anton Blidh was returned to the P-Bruins after a solid stint as a fourth-line energy guy for the Black and Gold. 

Jimmy Hayes and Colin Miller were the late skaters off the ice following morning skate, so those will be the healthy scratches for the Bruins with both Acciari and Heinen in the lineup for the Black and Gold tonight against the Toronto Maple Leafs at TD Garden.

Heinen has been tearing it up for the P-Bruins lately with four goals and seven points in his past five games with a plus-2 rating, including a couple of two-goal games for a Providence team that’s starting to heat up. 

Otherwise, things looked fairly similar for the Black and Gold, who didn’t make any changes to the struggling top power-play unit that was a disaster on Thursday night in the first period. It was Patrice Bergeron in the bumper role, Ryan Spooner on the half-wall, David Backes at the front of the net and David Krejci and Torey Krug manning the point positions. 

Here are the Bruins projected line combos and D-pairings based on the morning skate: 

 
Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak

Heinen-Krejci-Backes

Spooner-Nash-Czarnik

Schaller-Moore-Acciari/Hayes

 
Chara-Carlo

Krug-McQuaid

Morrow-K. Miller

C. Miller

Rask

 

Bruins power play looking for some upgrade answers

Bruins power play looking for some upgrade answers

BOSTON - It would appear things can’t continue the way they are for the Bruins' power play. 

After a disastrous first period helped dig them a hole in a 4-2 loss to the lowly Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night, there was some pretty serious soul-searching going with a man-advantage that has been both toothless and mistake-prone on far too many nights. 

In the Colorado loss a couple of early power-play possessions, one that was completely ineffectual with zero meaningful possession or shots on net and then a second that turned into a Nathan MacKinnon shorthanded goal, dropped the B’s into a hole they couldn’t climb out of. The shorthanded sequence was particularly damning with a desperate Torey Krug diving to keep a puck in the offensive zone, and then watching helpless as MacKinnon beat him to the loose puck and then took off down the ice behind the last line of B’s defense. 

Krug placed the blame on himself for the high-risk play at the offensive blue line, but it’s hard to wholly blame somebody that was using hustle to try and make something happen offensively. 

“I thought they were tired, and if I could keep it in then we keep them hemmed in and get them running around. At the end of the day, it’s a 50-50 play, but maybe early in my career, I learn that now and probably won’t do it anymore. Sometimes you’ve got to go through those things to learn,” said Krug. “It’s just one of those plays I thought instinctively I could get there and keep him hemmed in, and you could even tell when he went in on the breakaway that he was tired.

So, if I keep that in and we keep them hemmed in, hopefully we get a couple chances. But we’ve got to be better, some of our better players on our team, and we’ve got to take the onus on ourselves to start capitalizing on opportunities and changing the game for our team.”

Nobody is going to reasonably suggest that a dangerous power-play guy like Krug be removed from the special-teams unit, but clearly something needs to change. The Bruins are tied for 25th in the NHL on the power play with a 14.1 percent success rate, and they can’t blame lack of opportunities because they’re middle of the road when it comes to power-play chances this season. 

Only the Flyers, Stars and Blackhawks have allowed more shorthanded goals than the Bruins (four) in 28 games played as well, so the Black and Gold essentially aren’t playing good defense or offense on the power play this year. Krug saie that it’s a mindset thing and that the Bruins need to get back to the confident, energetic way they attacked penalty kills last season. 

“We want to make plays, we want to help our team. It’s not like we’re out there not trying to make plays or anything, but we just have to be better,” said Krug. “We’ve got to have better focus, crisper passes, making quick plays to the net and making things happen. I feel like right now we might just be standing there, [just kind of] static, just hoping that things are going to happen and we’re not making them happen. 

“So, we’ve got to change our mindset, and like I said, those guys on that unit are the guys that will go to work and make sure we’re better next time for our team.”

But it goes beyond simple approach. The Bruins lost their second-leading PP goal-scorer last season when Loui Eriksson signed with the Vancouver Canucks. Other top unit PP performers like David Krejci,  Krug and Ryan Spooner haven’t been as good this season. Still, perhaps the biggest reason is the all-around offensive disappearance of Patrice Bergeron, who had 12 goals and 13 assists on the PP last season for a team-best 25 power-play points. This season, Bergeron has one goal and two points on the PP in 25 games and has been neutralized by opposing penalty kills from his “bumper” position roving up and down the slot. 

The Bruins are determined to ride things out with Bergeron both five-on-five and on the PP, and rightfully so, given his quality, productive body of work with the Bruins. He’s Boston’s best player and you don’t ever go away from those guys. 

But Bergeron has been ordinary for the Bruins on the PP after being extraordinary last season, and not much is going to change with the B’s man advantage unless No. 37 begins to find the range, confidence and short-term quick burst that’s needed for the B’s power play to flow through him like a well-oiled scoring machine. A greater impact by David Backes on the net-front power play could help and an uptick in PP production from Krug, Krejci and Spooner would obviously be welcome for the Black and Gold. 

But the Bruins power play is designed to play off Bergeron’s many qualities and strengths when he’s at his best, and a big part of the B’s troubles and Bergeron’s troubles are linked together because No. 37 has been less than his best in a season that’s been challenging for him from the very beginning.