Haggerty: 15 thoughts from the Bruins-Habs matchup

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Haggerty: 15 thoughts from the Bruins-Habs matchup

Here are five thoughts from the first period with the Bruins leading the downtrodden Montreal Canadiens by a 1-0 score after the first 20 minutes of play at TD Garden:

1) A Herculean effort from Tim Thomas in the first 20 minutes allowed the Bruins to maintain the slim lead over the Habs. Plenty of mistakes and sloppiness out of the starting gate for the Bs in this one. Best stop for Thomas: probably the bonehead turnover by Dennis Seidenberg to Andrei Kostitsyn that turned into an unobstructed shot from the high slot. Thomas turned it away and 15 others just like it.

2) Another really slow start for the Bruins after the players admitted they were sluggish in the first couple of periods against the Winnipeg Jets. This could be an issue tonight against a desperate Habs bunch if they cant snap out of it.

3) Patrice Bergeron is 0-for-5 in the face-off dot after the first period. Perhaps hes a little down after missing out on the All-Star selection process today that he so richly deserved. Bergeron may still be a substitute once the injuries start piling up for the Eastern Conference hopefuls, but he was one of the top 25 players in the NHL over the first half.

4) Benoit Pouliot is still having trouble lassoing those emotions against his former team after taking a boarding penalty to wipe out a Bruins power play. Pouliot has an unorthodox, controlled aggression that makes him so effective, and it turns into something closer to blind rage against the Habs. Figured that would change with his nemesis Jacques Martin gone, but it hasnt yet.

5) Jordan Caron is the perfect example of a pay-off coming for those players showing persistence and being a good soldier when things dont go their way. Gets a great bounce off the glass from a Johnny Boychuk dump-in attempt and fires into the open net. Its like the Hockey gods wrote the script. Still wondering where Carey Price was going knowing the erratic bounces off the glass in this building.

Here are five thoughts from the second period with the Bruins still leading the Habs by a 1-0 score after the first 40 minutes of play:

1) A couple of missed chances for the Bruins in the second period to really extend that lead. The biggest lost opportunity was Patrice Bergeron lifting a shot just a little too high on a 2-on-1 with Tyler Seguin after a clever little breakout bank pass off the boards from Benoit Pouliot. Its just not Bergerons day today.

2) The BruinsCanadiens rivalry has definitely lost its luster this season. Its just not the same with the Vancouver Canucks now a part of the equation with the hate they bring. Montreals tough season also plays into it, of course.

3) Milan Lucic with a couple of good tipped attempts around the net, but couldnt pull the trigger in the first 40 minutes. That line has enjoyed some chances tonight, but hasnt been able to finish any of them off.

4) Adam McQuaid enjoying an excellent game tonight. Hes blocking shots and controlling the puck in his own end, and did a good job of jumping all over Alexei Emelin when the Habs troublemaker was going after Tyler Seguin following a whistle. Also dropped Lars Eller with a huge hit in front of the Montreal bench. Hes having a much stronger game than the box score might indicate.

5) Both teams did a really good job of clogging everything up on the ice in the second period after a pretty wide open first period. Montreal did a much better job of frustrating the Bruins offensively, and the Bs couldnt convert when they did get close to the net.

Here are five thoughts from the third period with the Bruins beating the Canadiens by a 2-1 score after 60 full minutes of play at TD Garden:

1) P.K. Subban hit on David Krejci looked clean on the first replay I saw, but multiple viewings showed some forearmelbow contact to Krejcis head. Andrew Ference did the right thing coming to the aid of his teammate, and then the refs did the wrong thing by encouraging Subban to do it again by handing Montreal a power play. Thats not the way the league should be going with these things.

2) Alexei Emelin is going to be a thorn in the side of the Bs for years to come. You heard it here first.

3) Never seen an athlete traded in the middle of a game, but that seems to be exactly whats happened with Mike Cammalleri getting yanked out of the locker room after the second period and sent back to the team hotel. Crazy.

4) Milan Lucic with the eventual game-winning goal and David Krejci with an assist for a point in his 10th straight game. Thats a career-high for Krejci and the longest streak in the NHL this season.

5) Impressive, gritty win by the Bruins without their best stuff tonight.

Stars, studs and duds: Stevens doesn't need stats to recognize Crowder's impact

Stars, studs and duds: Stevens doesn't need stats to recognize Crowder's impact

BOSTON – Brad Stevens was sitting at his post-game podium when the first question tossed his way centered around Jae Crowder.

“I don’t have a stat sheet in front of me so I don’t know exactly what … I know that he was really good,” Stevens said.

And that made Crowder’s performance not all that different than what he does on most nights.

But Crowder, much like his Celtics teammates, stepped their play up in beating a Miami Heat team, 112-108, that they could potentially see down the road in the first round of the playoffs.

Crowder had a season-high 25 points on 8-for-13 shooting, with six rebounds, two steals and two blocked shots.

With Miami playing a considerable amount of small-ball, Stevens used Crowder more as a power forward than usual.

And to Crowder’s credit, he rose to the challenge and played within himself which was a major factor in Boston (48-26) winning their fourth straight and eighth in the last 10 games.

“Being aggressive” was how Crowder described his role in the Celtics offense, adding that “they (opponents) put a lot of different defenders on me. Some smaller, so I know I had to be on the offensive glass a little, but just being aggressive.”

Stevens offered up plenty of praise for the job Crowder did, as well as his versatility.

“We had to play small so he’s playing at the ‘four’ (power forward a lot,” Stevens said. “He ended up on (Hassan) Whiteside a couple of different times on block-outs. He had to guard James Johnson who’s just a matchup nightmare, the way that they play. And I thought he did a lot of good things, and obviously the points were huge too.”

 

STARS

Isaiah Thomas: Another big night for Thomas, who cracked the 25-point plateau for the fifth straight game. He led all scorers with 30 points on 10-for-18 shooting.

Hassan Whiteside: Boston had its share of problems on the boards, and Whiteside’s presence had a lot to do with that. He led the Heat with 19 points and 14 rebounds, giving him 51 double-doubles this season.

 

STUDS

Jae Crowder

There wasn’t a single area of the game on Sunday night that Crowder did not impact in a positive way for the Celtics. Along with his season-high 25 points, He also had six rebounds, two steals and two blocked shots.

James Johnson

Watching the way he navigated the Miami offense off the bench was similar in some ways to how Boston operated a year ago with Evan Turner (now in Portland). Johnson had 20 points on 7-for-17 shooting in addition to five rebounds, six assists and two blocked shots.

Tyler Johnson

His ability to penetrate and get into the lane created a lot of scoring opportunities for him to finish at the rim. He led the Heat with 24 points off the bench, shooting 9-for-15 from the field.

Amir Johnson

It’s not always pretty, but Johnson continues to be one of the more effective Celtics in his overall play. He made all six of his field goal attempts, finishing with 14 points to go with seven rebounds, five assists and two steals.

 

DUDS

Celtics turnovers

It’s great that Boston continues to find ways to win despite playing long stretches of not-so-great basketball. But you have to believe that the high number of turnovers – and the points they generate – will catch up to the Celtics sooner or later. Against the Heat, Boston turned the ball over 19 times which led to 30 points for Miami; a point total that represents just a shade under 30 percent of the Heat’s scoring for the game. 

Celtics hold off Heat fourth-quarter rally for 112-108 win

Celtics hold off Heat fourth-quarter rally for 112-108 win

BOSTON –  As the final 10 or so games for playoff-bound teams like the Boston Celtics were poked and prodded to see who would have the toughest go of things down the stretch, the Celtics were deemed to have the easiest go of things.

Somebody forgot to tell their foes because it seems every night the Celtics are in a down-to-the-wire battle that’s not decided until the final minute or so of play.

And Sunday’s game against the Miami Heat was no exception with the Celtics managing to outlast the Heat for a 112-108 win. 

A 3-pointer by Jae Crowder put the Celtics ahead 102-101, which was soon followed by a pair of Isaiah Thomas free throws and a Thomas lay-up which made it a 106-101 game.

Miami's James Johnson scored four straight to make it a one-point game (106-105) with a minute to play. 

But Boston managed to maintain their lead for the remainder of the game as both teams exchanged free throws and defensive stops before the Heat simply ran out of time.

Boston (48-26) has now won four in a row and and eight of its last 10. 

In addition, Sunday's victory matched the team's win total from a year ago, with eight games to play. 

And maybe most important, Boston has now set itself up to at a minimum have home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs with a really strong shot at finishing with the top overall record in the East and with it, home court advantage throughout every round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. 

Both teams swapped one defensive stop for another, a free throw here with a few made baskets sprinkled in for good measure.

And with 4:50 to play, the score was tied at 99 following an Isaiah Thomas lay-up.

Boston went on a 7-2 run capped off by a driving lay-up by Thomas that made it 106-101.

But the Heat responded with a James Johnson dunk followed by a pair of free throws by Johnson which made it a 106-105 game with 1:23 to play.

Boston countered with – who else? – Isaiah Thomas whose driving lay-up which was set up by a Marcus Smart offensive rebound, gave the Celtics a 108-105 lead with 60 seconds to play when Miami called a time-out.

Thomas led all scorers with 30 points while Horford once again flirted with a triple-double, finishing with seven points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. 

This game being so close down the stretch wasn’t all that surprising when you consider it was a relatively close game most of the night.

Trailing 58-53 at the half, the Celtics knew that changes had to be made in order for them to regain control.

It didn’t take long to see that the Celtics’ plan of attack in the second half was to do just that … attack!

They were more aggressive offensively with their drives and ball movement.

Defensively, their close-outs were tighter, rotations more crisp.

Within minutes, the Celtics had the game tied up on an Amir Johnson basket and 3-pointer from Jae Crowder.

Boston began to get some separation behind a 9-2 run that gave them a 79-73 lead, and closed the quarter off by scoring six of the last eight points to lead 85-75 going into the fourth.