New beginning for the Bruins

720092.jpg

New beginning for the Bruins

It wouldn't be a day here on Standing Room Only without some commentary on the Bruins, and today will be no different. After all, today the B's Stanley Cup defense officially begins.

Not to take anything away from the last six months, but all that's out the window. The slow start. The red hot November. The dominant December, flakey February and mediocre March. Tim Thomas skipping the White House? Tyler Seguin sleeping with more girls than you even spoke to? Old news.

It's all about now, and the only question on anyone's mind:

Can the Bruins do it again?

Answer: Of course they can. All things considered, the Bruins are more prepared to win the Cup this season than theyve been at any point in the last 30 years. Why? Because they already have.

Wasn't that always the biggest problem with the B's?

The culture of losing?

The fact that no matter how well they played in the regular season, there was always the expectation that when it came down to winning time, when the season was on the line, that the Bruins would come up short?

After all, it's not like the team was horrible for the entire 39-year Stanley Cup drought. Hell, in those 39 years they only missed the playoffs five times. They won 13 division crowns. They weren't the Los Angeles Clippers. They were just a solid franchise with no backbone.

But last year delivered a transplant. And now, with this core starting with the man in net, regardless of how you feel about his politics you do have faith. You don't look back on the regular season and think: "Eh, it doesn't matter, because they're going to blow it anyway." It's more, "Eh, it doesn't matter, because this team is built for the playoffs. They've shown us that already, and there's no reason to think they can't show us that again!"

Actually, OK. Maybe there are a few reasons to believe it won't happen. Namely, that only two teams have won back-to-back Cups in the last 20 years and the Bruins don't have Mario Lemieux or Steve Yzerman. On top of that, there are obviously injury concerns, especially on defense. Not to mention some pretty stiff competition in the Eastern Conference and beyond. Still, there's no doubt that the Bruins have a chance. A great chance.

Of course, at the end of the day, like in any NHL playoffs, the Bruins fate may still come down to how many games Tim Thomas can steal, how many times they can sneak in the first goal of an overtime, how many times there's a make or break moment and for one reason or another, the Bruins make it happen.

But for the first time in a long time, you're not crazy to think that the Bruins do have what it takes, and they will make it happen.

Either way, the story starts to unfold tonight.

The title defense begins now.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Quirky Super Bowl schedule this time around for Patriots

Quirky Super Bowl schedule this time around for Patriots

The Patriots schedule for the next few days in Massachusetts and Super Bowl Week in Houston is a little quirky.

Players are off on Tuesday (media has conference call access to Bill Belichick, Josh McDaniels and Matt Patricia). There’s no media access on Wednesday at all as the team begins getting introduced to the Super Bowl game plan that will have been partially formulated (and subject to tweaking). The players are in Thursday, Friday and Saturday for afternoon practices and there’s media access to the players each day. There’s no media access on Sunday.

The team will fly to Houston on Monday and – in a major departure – will do its media duties at night. The NFL has repackaged media day as Super Bowl Opening Night. It will be held at Minute Maid Field (home of the Astros) with access to the Patriots from 10 to 11 p.m. EST.

Tuesday, there will be access from 1:30 to 2:30 EST to Belichick and a handful of players at the Patriots’ hotel. There will be full access to players and coaches on Wednesday and Thursday from 5 to 6:15 EST.

There’s no NFL-sponsored access of any kind on Friday or Saturday. Previously, there was a final press conference with the head coaches and a press conference with the NFL Commissioner. His name is Roger. Roger Goodell.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame committee meets on Saturday and will announce the 2017 inductees by the end of the day.

For those of you who like television - or who stream on your tiny devices – we’ll be all over this mess.

This week, look for Patriots Wednesday Live on Thursday at noon (hard to have Wednesday Live if ain’t nobody gonna be live from the team).

Mike Giardi and I will be down there Sunday so start looking for live reports and my giant nose in the great state of Texas at that point.

If we’re not live during media day in the evening, I don’t know what we’re doing with our lives. Quick Slants will be Tuesday night and Jerod Mayo will be down there.

Lotta podding planned. Lotta podding.

We’ll keep you updated.

Celtics-Wizards preview: Making of a matchup

Celtics-Wizards preview: Making of a matchup

BOSTON -- While it’s debatable whether the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards are rivals, there’s no question there has been a heightened level of animosity towards one another when they play.

When these two met on Jan. 11, the Celtics came away with a 117-108 win.

But the game itself featured plenty of back-and-forth trash talk, finger-pointing, cries of dirty play and NBA fines.

IN FACT . . . Washington plans to bury Boston

“It’ll be a physical game,” said Jae Crowder who was hit with a five-figure fine for his role in a post-game incident involving Washington’s John Wall. “We have to answer the bell; we’ll be ready.”

Crowder knows he and his teammates must balance being the more physical team, with not losing their cool because if tonight’s game is anything like previous ones, there will be trash talk … lots of trash talk.

“They talk a little bit more than other teams,” said Crowder who added that was a factor in the incident him and Wall which cost them $25,000 and $15,000, respectively.

Crowder said a flagrant-foul committed by Washington’s Bradley Beal against Marcus Smart was what really cranked the level of animosity that was already at a high level.

But Beal probably hasn’t fully put behind him an incident last season in which Smart broke his nose and put him in the league’s concussion protocol program on a Smart drive to the basket.

As far as the hard foul that Beal delivered to him earlier this month, Smart said, “you take exception to every hard foul.”

Smart added, “It’s the game of basketball. You play with your emotions and intensity and everything like that. It comes with the game.”

While Crowder understands the Celtics have to play a physical brand of basketball, he’s not looking to do anything that might result in him having to cut another $25,000 check which was the amount of his fine from the Jan. 11 game against the Wizards.

“I’m looking at it as another game we have to win,” Crowder said. “I’m not looking at it as a rivalry or anything like that. I’m not coming in talking; they might.”

For the Wizards, winners in four of their five games since losing to Boston, a major key to their success lies in the play of their backcourt.

John Wall and Bradley Beal are the latest high-scoring backcourt tandem that the Celtics have to be worried about.

And making matters worse for Boston, the Celtics will have to try and make due without Avery Bradley who is still dealing with a right Achilles injury.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said the 6-foot-2 Bradley was not going to be with the team in Washington and would most likely be out all this week.

That means Boston will lean heavily on Smart to not only help the offense run relatively smooth, but also provide some much-needed defense to help limit Wall and Beal who collectively rank among the higher-scoring starting backcourts in the NBA.

“We have to slow them down; by any means we have to slow them down,” Thomas said. “We know they go as far as those two take them. It’s going to be a tough game. They have a lot of momentum at home. It’ll be a tough game for us. But we’re ready for the opportunity.”

Wall and Beal are just the latest in a string of high-scoring backcourts that the Celtics have had to contend with recently.

In Saturday’s 127-123 overtime home loss to Portland, C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard combined to score 63 points on 20-for-42 shooting from the field.

“This stretch of backcourts is exceptionally difficult,” Stevens said. “They (Wall and Beal) both should be and certainly are in the discussion for the all-star team. It’s a real difficult challenge. Our guys are going to have to be really good on both ends of the floor.”