Bruins get big lift from youngsters Seguin, Caron

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Bruins get big lift from youngsters Seguin, Caron

TORONTO Quite often lately, the Bruins have appeared mentally and physically weary.

So its only appropriate that youth led the way on a night when the Bs needed some kind of spark.

The two youngest position players on the Boston roster accounted for four of the teams five goals in Tuesday night's 5-4 win over the Maple Leafs, and submitted the kind of powerfully energetic effort thats highly contagious once it gets going.

In this locker room, Jordan Caron and I definitely dont have the excuse of not having our legs, said Tyler Seguin. We know that were the young guys and we need to bring the energy every single night. Were at the end of the year and I think its about our entire team being consistent . . . everybody bringing it every night.

We want to get our identity going into the playoffs that were a consistent hockey team. We are able to do that tonight.

Coming off his best game in the NHL against the Rangers on Sunday, Caron had a hand in three goals for Bs while enjoying the first two-goal game of his career. It was a performance that was badly needed with injuries decimating the winger depth in the Bs organization.

When the puck goes in once it kind of gives you that confidence boost and it pushes you to keep it going, said Caron, who now has six goals on the season. You realize you have more time with the puck, and you slow down waiting for the play to develop. The more you play on a regular shift is pretty big. It can really help you get your legs going.

Seguin finished with a pair of goals scored and now has nine points, six goals and a plus-6 in five utterly destructive gamesagainst the Maple Leafsthis season.

Seguins domination of the Leafs continues to make the Phil Kessel deal appear more one-sided than it probably deserves to be.

Caron and Seguin combined for four goals, five points, a plus-4 and eight shots on net against Toronto while so many of their fellow forwards look like hospital extras on Greys Anatomy.Nathan Horton, Rich Peverley and Daniel Paille were already down entering Tuesday nights game, and the Bruins lost Benoit Pouliot to a lower-body injury just a couple of shifts into the second period against Toronto.

It may be a challenge moving forward for the rest of the season amid the injuries, but these are the kinds of things that build character, said coach Claude Julien. Im hoping that we can take advantage of this situation.

So Caron rose to the occasion and got things going for the Bruins after they were already down 1-0 three minutes into the game. Joe Corvo fired a point blast that ricocheted off a skate in front of the net before taking a wild bounce off the end boards. Pouliot quickly flipped the bouncing puck toward the net and Caron shoveled it past a spread-out Jonas Gustavsson to even things up.

The Maple Leafs stormed back to take the lead less than a minute into the second period when a Tim Thomas rebound turned into a John-Michael Liles power play score to again hand Toronto the lead.

But this time the two roommates sharing a Charlestown condo performed a 1-2 Bunker Hill combination on the Leafs.

Seguin tipped home a Zdeno Chara shot from the slot after the 6-foot-9 defenseman dangled the puck around a disinterested Kessel, and 41 seconds later Caron created a textbook scoring play for linemate Chris Kelly.

Caron carried Luke Schenn on his back as he charged to the net with the puck and created a healthy level of chaos when Gustavsson managed to stop his scoring rush. Kelly jumped the net and jammed the loose puck away for his career-high 16th goal of the season.

Thats the exact kind of play the Bruins are preaching for Caron to create with his 6-foot-3, 210-pound frame.

We need a lot of guys to step up right now. It goes to show that sometimes you just need patience with younger players, said Julien. Once Caron gets going you give him more ice and encourage him to keep playing that way. Hes been around and in and out of the lineup for the last couple of years. But hes starting to get that confidence and were seeing the things that we saw him do in junior hockey.

Hes a power forward that can take pucks to the net and finds those loose pucks around the net area. Hes been showcasing that, hes been finishing his checks and hes a big, strong kid. What we expected of him is what were seeing out of him right now.

The Leafs managed to tie it one more time when Thomas couldnt handle Kessels spinning shot on the power play: Kessels first goal against the Bruins this season in five games.

But Caron and Seguin pounced once more in the second period.

Chara created the play when he carried the puck deep into the Toronto zone and found Caron criminally open on the backdoor for an easy tap-in. Less than three minutes later Milan Lucic wheeled the puck behind the net and found a wide open Seguin for the one-timer on the edge of the right face-off circle.

Seguin hammered it for his team-best 24th goal of the season and his sixth score against the Maple Leafs in his breakout sophomore campaign. The 20-year-old added a little salt to the wounds afterward when he expressed happiness that he didnt drop another hat trick on the Leafs at the Air Canada Centre.

Im kinda happy I didnt get that third goal because then theyd say that I can only get a hat trick in Toronto, said a smiling Seguin.

Thats a wonderful humble-brag and parting jab at the Leafs in Bostons final game of the year at the Air Canada Centre on a night when the Bs youth movement was coming up large -- and running wild.

Celtics overcome big game from George to beat Pacers, 109-100

Celtics overcome big game from George to beat Pacers, 109-100

BOSTON – Having already clinched a playoff spot prior to Wednesday’s game, no one would have been shocked to see them come out and play fat-and-happy basketball.

Especially against an Indiana Pacers team that’s hungry for a win to bolster their playoff position.

But the Celtics continue to show us that they are a different team than the one that far too often failed to stack strong performances on top of one another.

That was not the case on Wednesday as they pulled away in the second half for an impressive 109-100 win over the Pacers.

Isaiah Thomas led the Celtics with 25 points and five assists. His backcourt mate Avery Bradley was solid as well, scoring 18 points to go with eight rebounds. Jae Crowder and Al Horford each had 15 points while Kelly Olynyk had another strong showing off the bench with 11 points and eight rebounds along with four assists.

With the win, Boston (46-26) swept the regular season series 3-0. While it’s unlikely they will finish in a tie record-wise with the Pacers, there is the possibility that they could meet in the first round of the playoffs next month.

Knowing they haven’t lost to the Pacers all season could be a huge mental plus for Boston if in fact their first-round foe was Indiana.  

Wednesday’s game was the first between these two with most of their respective rosters at full strength.

And the Celtics at full strength, regardless of the opponent, have been pretty tough to beat.

But the Pacers (36-35) weren’t going to make this easy for Boston, even as they fell behind by as many as 17 points to the Celtics.

Paul George, who led all scorers with 37 points, began to lead the Pacers back into the game with a strong fourth quarter showing.

And when Boston’s defense tried to adjust to George’s jacuzzi-hot scoring, he got others like Jeff Teague involved.

Teague, who had 25 points, made a 3-pointer that cut Boston’s lead to 93-86 with 6:31.

That was enough for Celtics head coach Brad Stevens who called a time-out.

After a pair of Isaiah Thomas misses, the Celtics got a little more cushion following a mid-range jumper by Olynyk.

While Indiana continued to get timely offensive rebounds, the Celtics went into bend-but-don’t-break mode defensively down the stretch.

And while the Pacers certainly were in the game, there was never a moment down the stretch when Boston’s impending victory was in doubt.

Both teams set the tone defensively in the first half which was a relatively low-scoring affair.

That should not come as a surprise considering how well each team has played of late at that end of the floor.

Since the All-Star break, Boston has the third-best defense in the NBA while the Pacers aren’t far behind, coming in at No. 6.

A 3-pointer by Bradley to close out the second quarter gave Boston a 49-42 lead at the half.

Boston’s control of the game remained solid through most of the third, but an 8-3 spurt by the Celtics to close out the third put ahead 88-74 going into the fourth.

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Strong defense standing out

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Strong defense standing out

BOSTON – Boston and Indiana know there’s a chance they could face off next month in the playoffs, with both teams delivering the kind of defensive performance on Wednesday that highlighted two teams playing with a heightened sense of urgency fueled by tough, physical defense.

It was indeed a “Both Teams Played Hard” kind of first half which ended with Boston ahead 49-42.

Avery Bradley drained a 3-pointer that just beat the halftime horn which gave Boston its biggest lead of the half.  

The tone was set by both teams with a low-scoring first quarter in which the defenses for both teams stood out.

It really should not have been that big a surprise considering how well both teams have defended since the all-star break.

Boston has the third-best defense in the NBA since the break, while the Pacers have proven to be no slouch coming in at No. 6.

After falling behind 37-36 in the second, Boston ran off eight straight to lead 44-37 which was their largest lead of the game at this point.

But the Pacers stayed within striking distance in large part because the Celtics’ unusually high number of turnovers.

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from the first half of Wednesday’s game between the Boston Celtics and Indiana Pacers.

 

STARS

Paul George

A four-time All-Star, George was scoring but the Celtics made him work a lot harder than he would like. He leads all scorers with 14 points, but has done so on 4-for-11 shooting.

Isaiah Thomas

Like George, the opposing team’s defense made for a rough first half. Thomas still managed to lead the Celtics with 10 points.

 

STUDS

Jeff Teague

He really went at Isaiah Thomas to start the game, and for the most part it was working for him. He had 11 points on 4-for-7 shooting in the first half.

Jae Crowder

Solid defense and timely shot-making made for a solid first half for Crowder. He had nine points on 4-for-7 shooting.

Avery Bradley

He did more than deliver a timely shot to end the half for Boston. He had nine points on 4-for-6 shooting in addition to grabbing four rebounds while being one of the main contributors defensively to Paul George not having an efficient night shooting the ball.  

 

DUDS

Celtics turnovers

By far the biggest concern Boston has heading into the second half. The Celtics average 13.2 turnovers per game. They had 14 in the first half, which led to 17 points for the Pacers. Boston’s season-high for turnovers is 24 which they racked up against Philadelphia on Feb. 15.