Haggerty: Campbell makes Gordie Howe proud in win

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Haggerty: Campbell makes Gordie Howe proud in win

NEWARK There is no denying some heavy speechifying took place in the Prudential Center visiting dressing room between the second and third period in New Jersey Thursday night.

The Bruins were down 1-0 after two nondescript, colorless periods of hockey, and the tenor of the conversation was the enough is enough variety. There isnt more else to say after a couple of unsatisfying losses on a road swing through the NHL south home of the Unoriginal Six.

Bostons exuberant chatter and excited tones were certainly welcomed for a team furtively searching for answers, but decisive, productive action always serves as a much better solution than words. Gregory Campbell had already attempted to take action when he squared off with New Jersey rookie Brad Mills midway through the first period after a long conversation at the face-off circle a hockey chat described by Claude Julien thusly I thought their conversation was probably longer than the fight. At one point I didnt know if they were friends or what.

But all pre-fight conversations aside, Campbell pays devout attention to hockey details and doing things the correct way. All of those things have traditionally paid dividends for Campbell in his hockey career, and they did again in the third period as he collected two points amid four unanswered goals for the Bs in a 4-1 victory over New Jersey.

Seven of the nine points collected in Bs victory were supplied by Bostons third and fourth lines, and that was no mistake.

It took us a while as a team to get going, but I think the message was clear going into the third that we needed to be better, said Campbell. For our line we just wanted to establish our game, create that energy, move our feed and win some of those battles. They were just going in for us tonight.

The goal, assist and fisticuffs amounted to Campbells first career Gordie Howe hat trick and had teammate Chris Kelly acting as the postgame carnival barker in the Bs room urging reporters to go talk to Mr. Gordie Howe Hat Trick while they had the chance.

I guess its a good feeling because the goal, the assist and the fight all meant something, said Campbell, with the hint of a proud smile on his face. They are few and far between, the Gordie Howe hat tricks. But it was really important to me that our line contribute tonight.

Campbell was just happy to factor so prominently in a victory the Bs needed desperately after losing to Eastern Conference basement dwellers like Carolina and Tampa Bay.
The assist started up a play that eventually led to an Andrew Ference post-rattling goal to tie things up minutes into the third period, and the Campbell goal was an insurance strike in front of the net.

Shawn Thornton created a scoring chance rebound for Campbell with a rocket from the left point area that Martin Brodeur couldnt smother.

The whole scoring sequence for Campbells tally started with a Daniel Paille cross-ice pass, and showed how dangerous the fourth line can be with the right mixture of emotion and suffocating fore-check pressure. The fact Campbells goal arrived 35 seconds after Nathan Hortons power play game-winner lent it the kind of morale-crushing effect Julien was looking to inflict on the Devils.

They went out there and scored another goal for us, which was huge. I thought that fourth line played really well for us tonight and they looked a lot more like the line that we saw last year, said Julien. It was a nice thing to see. We were capable of having everybody going.

Thursdays glorious third period was the kind of throwback performance for both Campbell and his Merlot Line cohorts that reminded all of the impactful influence the Bs fourth line had on the Cup last year. It was also the perfect example of the inspirational courage Campbell inspires in his appreciative teammates: the center isnt the biggest body, he isnt the fastest skater and he isnt the most skilled offensive specimen.

But hes willing to do things to win that others simply arent.

Campbell jumps into some hockey fights knowing hes not likely to get the upper hand on his opponent, but he still throws himself into harms way with the knowledge it might spark his team. That willingness means its not always Groundhog Day with Shawn Thornton being forced into a fight whenever the Bruins need to snap out of something.

Campbell takes on some of the most difficult chores charged to a fourth line energy center, and he does it with aplomb.

Campbell is a gamer. Hell do whatever he needs to help this hockey club, said Julien. Hes not worried about winning or losing fights. Hes just worried about showing up, and thats what we appreciate him for.

Campbells courage is a much different kind of puck bravery than a 6-foot-5 bomb-throwing bruiser sure that most nights hell be the toughest mother on the hockey block.

But thats what makes Campbell admired among his teammates, and thats what allows him to tap into a deep reservoir of energy and fortitude when his Bs need him most.

Thats our job as a line: if were not creating energy then were probably not going to get back out there, said Thornton. Its all Campbell. He earned it tonight, thats for sure. He did some good work for us. He was our best player all-around tonight.

Hes a character guy. He doesnt look for anybody else to do it. He always puts a lot of pressure on himself to make sure hes impactful, and he did that tonight.

The Bruins needed him after taking the best punches New Jersey could muster through the first 40 minutes, and Campbell once again backed up all the locker room talk headed into the pivotal 20 minute with some high character hockey work.It's the kind of day's work in hockey that would Mr. Hockey himself nod in approval.

Blakely: Game 4 loss shows just how much Celtics miss Isaiah

Blakely: Game 4 loss shows just how much Celtics miss Isaiah

CLEVELAND --  Down the stretch in Game 4, the Celtics were desperate for someone, anyone, who could slow down Kyrie Irving.
 
But short of that, Boston could have used an offensive closer, too. You know, someone like Isaiah Thomas.

GAME 4: CAVS 112, CELTICS 99

 

The Celtics have relied on the two-time All-Star to carry much of the offensive burden this season, but he was almost always at his best in the fourth quarter.
 
A right hip injury knocked him out of this series after 1 1/2 games. Still, Boston managed to win Game 3 without him and, for large chunks of Tuesday night, seemed poised to beat the Cavs again on their home floor.
 
But as much as Game 4 was a reminder of just how special a talent Irving is (42 points, 21 in the third quarter when the game’s momentum swung in Cleveland's favor), it also provided a clue to the clueless who thought the Celtics were actually better without Isaiah Thomas.
 
Defensively?
 
Absolutely.
 
It’s no secret that teams go to great lengths to try and use his 5-foot-9 stature against him. And as we have seen, the deeper we get into the postseason the more trouble he and the Celtics seem to encounter from a defensive standpoint.
 
But just as we praise Irving for being such a special talent, Thomas has shown that he, too, has offensive gifts that, throughout this season, have left many fans, media and defenders befuddled as to how “the little fella” keeps coming up with one big play, one big shot after another.
 
But as we have learned, he has been dealing with a sore right hip injury for several weeks. The pain and discomfort eventually became too much to bear and so the Celtics did the right thing and shut him down.
 
Without him, the C's are still a good team that on any given night can knock off anyone, even the defending champs.
 
But as Game 4 reminded us, they need Thomas in order to be their best.
 
When Irving torched Boston’s entire defense with jumpers, ankle-breaking crossovers, Euro-step lay-ups and free throws, the Celtics had no one to turn to who could maybe, just maybe, go back at Irving at the other end of the floor.
 
That's what Thomas does that makes him such a special, unique talent in this league.
 
He can score in a variety of ways, with the best in the NBA.
 
We saw that this past season, when he led all players in the Eastern Conference in scoring with a 28.9 points-per-game average.
 
Boston’s excellent ball movement and high assist numbers are certainly important to the team’s success. But to make a deep and meaningful playoff run, you need one or two guys who can just go get buckets regardless of what the opponent does defensively.
 
That’s not Avery Bradley.
 
That’s not Al Horford.
 
That’s not Kelly Olynyk.
 
You can search, poke and prod this roster all you want, and you'll come up empty when it comes to finding a player like that . . . other than Isaiah Thomas.
 
The fact the Celtics were able to avoid getting swept is a victory of sorts in itself. Boston’s coaching staff, as well as the front office, has repeatedly said that as talented as their team is, they aren’t on the same level of the defending champion Cavaliers.
 
And yet here we are four games into this series and the Celtics are basically a bad half of basketball away from being tied, 2-2.
 
It says a lot about their mental toughness, their ability to handle and navigate past adversity to give themselves a chance to be competitive against any team -- including the Cavs.
 
But their success this season has always been about the collective group, regardless of how many late-game shots Isaiah Thomas knocks down.
 
And while he has his shortcomings defensively, not having him available is going to hurt them in those late-game moments when they need a closer. It’s not a coincidence the Celtics were just 2-4 when he didn’t play during the regular season.
 
So as cool as it was for them to win Game 3 without Thomas, he’s still the straw that stirs the Celtics emotionally, bringing them to levels few think they're capable of reaching.
 
They were able to get by for one night without him, but remember this: It took Marcus Smart having an Isaiah Thomas-like game of 27 points and seven made 3’s, for them to win.
 
No one did anything remotely close to that Tuesday night.
 
They looked like the Isaiah Thomas-less Celtics, which is a look they don’t need this time of year.
 
Because that look is so not about winning.