Bruins looking for statement game vs. Rangers

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Bruins looking for statement game vs. Rangers

The Bruins have experienced plenty of statement games already this season with mixed results. Some have been wildly successful and others have been anti-climactic. Theyve got another on tap with the New York Rangers coming to town for their second Boston invasion on the last three weeks.

The Bruins were able to topple the Flyers and Penguins on the road when each team was leading the Eastern Conference earlier this year, but the Rangers have run away with the East down the stretch. The Blueshirts quietly matched the Bruins win-for-win during their hot stretch in November and December, and have kept right on winning as the Bs have tailed off into a .500 hockey club since early January.

The Bruins have dropped big home games to the Vancouver Canucks and these very-same Rangers on the TD Garden ice over the last six weeks, so now is the time to file some of the so-called statement games back into the home win ledger.

Theres no better test than the top team in the East right now, said Milan Lucic, simply and correctly. Weve come up short in a couple of these big games and marquee match-ups at home lately, so hopefully we can find a way to win one before we head out on the road.

In many ways the Bruins and Rangers are cut from the same roughly-hewn cloth: blue collar at their core with elite goaltending, excellent leadership and an opportunistic offense that jumps all over mistakes from their opponents. That presents the Bruins with a unique challenge against a hockey club thats consistently been their most difficult regular season opponent over the last five years.

Everybody knows who the Rangers are, how good they are and what they represent, said Claude Julien. I dont think thats necessarily an issue. Were a team that likes to put the focus on ourselves rather than who were playing or how good theyre playing.We need to look at ourselves because thats what has given us the most success in all the years that Ive been here.I think thats where we have to be right now. Nashville was a really good team coming in last weekend and all of our focus was on how well we were going to play. I think we need to do the same thing against the Rangers. We understand what New Yorks strengths are and you bring that to the attention of the team. But its really about how good and how hard are we going to execute the game plan.

Just look at the stats: the Bruins are 7-10-4 against the Rags over the last five years while building into one of the NHLs best franchises.

The Rangers hold a slight 33-29 scoring edge over their last 18 games, but an amazing 15 out of those 18 contests have been one-goal games with six of them decided in overtime or the shootout.

Plenty of that has to do with the elite goaltending at both ends of the ice, and thats also the reason the Bruins havent scored more than three goals against the Rangers since a Jan. 20, 2004 win.

That was obviously before the Henrik Lundqvist era on Broadway, which has been a truly stingy time for the Black and Gold. To put the offensively bereft BostonNew York rivalry into further perspective, the last time the Bruins put up a four-spot or more against the Rags Carl Corazzini, Jiri Slegr and Andrew Raycroft were the three stars of the game. A whole new generation of Bs followers probably doesnt even realize that all three were wearing Bruins sweaters on that day eight years ago. That is truly Old Time Bruins Hockey.

It seems like since Ive been here there have been a lot of 1-0 games and 2-1 games against the Rangers. I think 3-2 is the highest scoring game since Ive been here, said Lucic. They play a really stingy style. They play committed to their game plan. Theyre blocking shots and theyre being physical.

They do all the little things really well and I think thats what has given them a lot of success this season. Were going to have a find a way to battle through their defensive layers and push that pace like we did in the last game. Theyre a complete team and Lundqvist really makes them a complete team.

Theres more to Tuesday nights game beyond making a statement against the Rangers, however. Its about putting together two straight hard-working, solid performances over a 60-minute span against quality opponents rather than the fits and starts that have plagued the Bs over a six-week stretch. Shades of mediocrity have hung with the Stanley Cup champs since an emotional loss to the Vancouver Canucks in early January.

It would seem that another tight-checking, blue collar tilt against the Blueshirts will be exactly what the Bruins need to set them on the righteous hockey path with only two months left to fine tune before the postseason.

Isaiah Thomas continues to claim Celtics' franchise records

Isaiah Thomas continues to claim Celtics' franchise records

BOSTON – This continues to be a historic season for Isaiah Thomas as more records fell in Wednesday’s 103-100 loss to Milwaukee, and the company he’s keeping becomes even more exclusive. 

Thomas had a game-high 32 points on Wednesday which included five made 3’s on nine attempts. That gave him 223 for the season which is a new franchise single-season record for made 3-pointers. The previous record was 222 set by Antoine Walker during the 2001-2002 season.

And his 32 points scored gives him 2,012 this season. 

Only six players in franchise history (Paul Pierce was the last to do it during the 2005-2006 season) have scored 2,000 or more points in a single season. 

Oh, there’s more. 

With Wednesday being the 66th time this season he has had 20 or more points, Thomas has now tied Pierce (2005-2006) and Larry Bird (1985-1986; 1987-1988) for sixth on the Celtics’ single-season franchise list. 

“I didn’t even know that,” a visibly disappointed Thomas said following Wednesday’s loss. “It doesn’t feel that good right now. But when I look back on it, probably in the offseason, I’ll appreciate it a little more. But I’m just staying in the moment and try and play as best I can to lead this team to as many wins as possible.”

Other season milestones Thomas is in the mix for include the following:

  • The 5-foot-9 guard is one of three players this season to have 50 or more games of 25-plus points, joined by Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook (57) and Houston’s James Harden (54).
  • Thomas has made at least one 3-pointer in a franchise-record 50 straight games (Dec. 3 – March 29). That’s also the longest current streak in the NBA. 
  • With 66 games of 20 or more points this season, Thomas is second in the NBA to Westbrook (67).

Marcus Smart at center of yet another controversial call

Marcus Smart at center of yet another controversial call

BOSTON – One of the more bizarre plays in Boston’s 103-100 loss to Milwaukee came in the second quarter, requiring some explanation from the officials afterwards. 

With 3:55 to play in the second quarter, the officials had originally called a foul on Marcus Smart which he verbally protested that eventually led to him being whistled for a technical foul. 

After the officials reviewed the play, they changed the call to a personal foul against Khris Middleton but no change to the called technical foul against Smart who objected to a call that, upon review, they agreed was the wrong call to make. 

Official Sean Corbin, through pool reporter Ken Powtak of the Associated Press, acknowledged that the original call was a loose ball foul against Smart. 

“The (officiating) crew got together, we met prior to video and we decided that we needed to look at video because both players were on the floor bleeding so we went to the video for a hostile act,” Corbin told Powtak. “In the review we noticed that Khris Middleton initially made contact to Marcus Smart’s face. That’s how the original contact to the play occurred.”

Fortunately for the Celtics, Middleton missed his technical free throw while Smart split a pair of free throws which cut Milwaukee’s lead to 49-40.

Still, that’s no consolation for Smart who was whistled for a technical foul on a play that the official acknowledged was the wrong call to make. 

In the fourth quarter, Smart was at the center of yet another controversial call that was also reviewed by the officials. The verdict wasn't nearly as good for Smart who was whistled for a flagrant foul after getting his feet tangled up with Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo who was called for a non-shooting foul in the play with 4:46 to play. 

Antetokounmpo made one of two free throws and on the Bucks' ensuing possession, he was called for traveling.

Smart was unavailable to talk after the game in part because the aforementioned incident left an abrasion to his mouth and, because of the technical foul, a little lighter in the wallet as well.