Julien still holding out for down-sized equipment

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Julien still holding out for down-sized equipment

TAMPA With all of the talk of raising the red line from the dead and allowing obstruction back into the game during this weeks NHL GM Meetings in Boca Raton, Claude Julien is sticking to his guns.

The Bruins coach like many of the NHL GMs doesnt see the benefit of inserting the red line back into the game, and its admittedly difficult to see how thats going to significantly reduce the head injuries rampant throughout the league. Hes got a wish list of things hed like to see tweaked just like everybody else.

If you think deep about it for long enough youll always come up with a couple of things, said Julien. Those delay of game penalties are tough calls when the puck is rolling off your stick and its not deliberate. Maybe suddenly youre killing a penalty in the final minute of the game. If you eliminate that or leave it to the refs discretion it puts a little more pressure on them because who says its deliberate.

Much to Juliens expected chagrin the NHL general managers plan to keep the delay of game rules intact for pucks fired over the boards under duress or even accidental in nature.

Julien also thinks theres a healthy level of legal obstruction currently in a game thats moving faster by the year, and players can impede the speed by simply holding their ground on the ice.

According to NHL Vice President of Hockey Operations Kris King, the leagues statistics say that head injuries in the NHL have stabilized over the last two years even if players like Chris Pronger and Marc Savard may be done playing forever because of too many concussions.

The anecdotal evidence is compelling, but the raw numbers say that the NHLs efforts to root out headshots are slowly having the desired impact.

Instead the Bs coach is in the camp that wants to reduce the size and potential danger of shoulder pads worn by all players. Basically the philosophy goes a little something like this: its better for a player to have a separated shoulder from throwing a hellacious hit than a head shot victim knocked out by a shoulder to the noggin.

Its hard to argue that one.

The biggest thing for me is always the safety of the players. How do we deal with that? said Julien. Part of me feels that the game has really picked up its pace, and the equipment along with the strength of the guys has helped cause injuries. Im one of those people encouraging the league to look at the upper body equipment: the shoulder pads and the elbow pads.

The shots are so hard these days that you really need the legs pads and shin pads just to protect you. But when it comes to shoulder pads and elbow pads Id rather see a guy out with a separated shoulder than a concussion. Thats my opinion. If you minimize the padding then youre going to minimize the injuries because guys are going to slow down before they come in for a hit in the corner. Id take that trade-off by subtracting some of the hardness from the shoulder and elbow pads. Thats something Id like to see and its logical to at least have a good look at.

Julien isnt alone in his suggestion of downsizing the upper-body equipment for NHL players, and NBC hockey analyst Mike Milbury has been another vocal critic of the hard shoulder pad shell that looks more like armor than athletic equipment. But that wasnt expected to be on the GMs agenda for discussion amid the hybrid icing and raging trapezoid debate.

Part of that may be because the NHLPA would have to sign off on any radical equipment changes and it appears theyve put away their rubber stamp with collective bargaining with Gary Bettman scheduled for this summer. But downsizing the shoulder and elbow pads seems to no longer even be considered as the NHL moves on to other yeah or nay decisions on issues facing the league.

Carson Smith 'had to take a step back' in recovery from Tommy John

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Carson Smith 'had to take a step back' in recovery from Tommy John

Neither set-up man the Red Sox traded for under president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, Tyler Thornburg and Carson Smith, is throwing off a mound presently.

Smith, on his way back from Tommy John surgery, felt soreness after throwing a bullpen session and is back to doing long toss. 

"He’s had to slow down," Sox manager John Farrell said Thursday. "Once he got on the mound with some aggression and good intensity, was throwing the ball well. And as a result there’s been some soreness that has kind of reared its head. So have had to back him off, back into long toss, he’s thrown out to about 110 feet here today. We’re hopeful that in the very near future that mound progression resumes.

"The unique thing about Tommy John recovery is that every situation is going to be different. In this case, we’ve had to take a step back a little bit and get back to flat ground."

Smith is in Boston as part of a previously scheduled meet-up with the team, Farrell said. When the season began, Smith was rehabbing in Florida. He was put on the 60-day disabled list on Thursday, a formality that opened up a 40-man roster spot for new acquisition Chase d'Arnaud.

Smith was put on the disabled list on April 3, so he can return June 2 at the earliest, but may now need more time.

Thornburg (right shoulder impingement) is building up his long-toss distance.

In other injury news, Brock Holt (vertigo) may begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Pawtucket on Friday or Saturday, Farrell said.

Despite series lead, Celtics lament their inability to hit open shots

Despite series lead, Celtics lament their inability to hit open shots

BOSTON – There are many factors you can point to in the regular season as indicators of what may happen when two NBA  teams meet in the playoffs.

You don't have to be inside the Chicago Bulls' locker room to know that when it comes to the Celtics, they were fully prepared to face a team that took a lot of 3's but wasn’t necessarily shooting them at a high percentage. 
 
That reality has certainly come into focus in Boston’s first-round series against the Chicago, one the C’s lead 3-2 as they continue to try and 3-point shoot their way on to the next round – without giving a damn how many long-range shots it takes to get the job done. 

In five playoff games, Boston is shooting 45.3 percent from the field, which puts them in the middle of the pack (eighth overall) among the 16 teams that qualified for the postseason.
 
But when it comes to the long ball, they are on the back-nine of playoff teams, ranking 10th while shooting 32.4 percent from 3-point range while leading all postseason clubs with 38.7 3-point attempts per game.

In the regular season, the Celtics ranked 16th in field-goal percentage (.454) and 14th in 3-point shooting (35.9 percent) while attempting 33.4 3's per game, which trailed only Houston (40.3) and Cleveland (33.9) this season.  

Boston's shooting from the field mirrors what it did in the regular season, but they know all too well that their shooting percentage in this series should be much higher due to the high number of open shots they have missed. 
 
Take a look at Game 5.
 
In the 108-97 win, the Celtics shot an impressive 53.1 percent when their shots were contested.
 
But let the Bulls have a defensive breakdown like a failed switch, or a guy gets beat for what turns into a great opportunity for Boston to score with no resistance, and instead of burying the open shot, the Celtics have  consistently blown those opportunities. That’s evident by the C’s connecting on just 30.8 percent (12-for-39) of their uncontested field-goal attempts in Game 5.
 
Even the usually reliable Isaiah Thomas had issues making uncontested shots in Game 5 and this series as a whole.
 
He had 24 points and shared game-high scoring honors with Avery Bradley on Wednesday night, but Thomas probably should have led everyone outright in scoring when you consider he had five open shots and wound up missing four of them.
 
That’s why when it comes to Boston’s offense, the last thing Thomas or any of his teammates complains about is getting the shots they want.
 
“I’ve been getting good open looks,” he said. “My teammates have been getting me open. We just got to knock down the shots. Coach [Stevens] keeps saying one day soon we’re going to knock down the open shots that we are missing and it might be [Game 6].”