Bruins need to guard against overconfidence with Backstrom out

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Bruins need to guard against overconfidence with Backstrom out

ARLINGTON, VA It would be natural for the Bruins to start relaxing now that gifted playmaking center Nicklas Backstrom is suspended for Game 4 on Thursday night.

Backstrom led all Washington forwards with an average of 23:06 of ice time per night in the first three games of the series, and had a goal and an assist while playing an active role.

So while its true the Capitals got used to life without Backstrom when he missed 40 games because of a concussion this season and its also true the Caps beat the Bruins a couple of times without their center Washington does lose something significant with Mathieu Perreault skating in his place.

That means the Bs will be on high alert for overconfidence, and need to be mindful of taking the Caps a little too lightly now that theyve seemingly got a grasp of the tenor of the series.

Obviously the league suspended Backstrom with what they felt was the appropriate amount of games and its over and done with, said Milan Lucic. With him out of the lineup and with him being a big part of their team, our mindset is that we cant take them lightly at all.

They battled a lot of the end of the season without him and played well without him. So theyre still going to bring their best because its a big game for both teams.

The gravity of Game 4 should be enough to keep the Bruins focused on the task at hand, and its something the veteran players know can tip the balance of the series.

As a player you hope you can come in and keep up with the pace of the game said Washington's Mike Knuble, who has played in plenty of Game 4 scenarios with the Bruins and with the Caps over the years. Its a very pivotal point in the series and Game 4 can be a very decisive game. A lot of things can turn on that. We just want to even the series and play whatever role I can whether its two minutes or 20 minutes.

Theres the additional motivation provided by accusations of headhunting and crossing the line by the Washington coaching staff. But most of that is he saidhe said stuff, and both clubs are expected to bring their best in a game that could give the Bruins a chokehold on the series if they take home a victory.

I think right now both teams are really focused on being at their best and thats what makes a series interesting," said Bruins coach Claude Julien. "No matter what is happening here as far as a rivalry is concerned -- the emotions and everything else -- I think theres still that respect that exists between the two teams. We know that theyre a good team. Were not just saying it.

We know it. We respect that and thats why we know we have to be at our best and that we got to keep improving. Im pretty sure they feel the same way.

The Capitals will be missing their best playmaker operating at a surprisingly high level coming off a concussion, and the Bruins are starting to set the thumping tone in the series. It would be easy to start thinking Game 4 is in the bank, but that would be a big mistake indeed.

Weird umpire replay mistake helps Red Sox to record-tying 20 Ks

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Weird umpire replay mistake helps Red Sox to record-tying 20 Ks

New York’s mistake helped the Red Sox, and they weren’t playing the Yankees.

The Red Sox struck out 20 in a game for the third time in franchise history on Thursday night, and they were able to do so only after MLB’s replay team — based in Manhattan — gave Craig Kimbrel an extra batter to strike out in the ninth inning.

A 6-2 win over the Rangers featured 16 strikeouts for Red Sox pitching heading into the top of the ninth at Fenway Park. Kimbrel came on for a non-save situation because he had five days off previously.

There’s always that outside chance for a four-strikeout inning, and it happened. Even for a four-strikeout inning, however, this was bizarre.

The first batter, lefthanded hitting Nomar Mazara, swung and missed at a back-foot breaking ball for strike 3 — a literal back-foot breaking ball, because it hit him in that foot after he whiffed on the pitch.

On a swing and a miss with a pitch that hits the batter, the ball should be dead. He should not have been able to reach first base. But the umpires didn’t catch the ball hitting Mazara, and instead saw it as a wild pitch. 

Sox manager John Farrell asked for a review and the umpires went for one, but came back empty-handed. The crew was told, erroneously, that the play could not be looked at and the batter was awarded first base.

“It was just a swinging strike three, ball that go away and he obviously reached first base,” crew chief Alfonso Marquez told pool reporter Tim Britton of the Providence Journal. “The only thing that I can tell you, and the only thing I will say is, this was a replay issue. New York will come out with a statement.”

You could say it worked out just fine. Kimbrel went on to strike out the next three, and got the Sox to 20 Ks.

Kimbrel and Tim Wakefield are the only Red Sox pitchers to fan four batters in a single inning. Wakefield did it in the ninth inning on Aug. 10, 1999. 

Kimbrel did it once before as well, when he was with the Braves on Sept. 26, 2012.

No one has struck out five in a major league inning, although Kimbrel has as good a chance as anyone.

“The guy strikes out the world,” Matt Barnes said. “It’s ridiculous. … His fastball is seemingly unhittable. Complement that with the breaking ball he’s got, which comes right off that same plane, when he’s commanding it like he is, the numbers kind of speak for themselves. It’s kind of ridiculous. It’s fun to watch.”

The Sox have struck out 20 in a nine-inning game three times since 1913. Roger Clemens' two 20-strikeout games are the other two.