Penguins could be a handful in the playoffs

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Penguins could be a handful in the playoffs

While the Bruins would have preferred to win Tuesdays showdown with the Pittsburgh Penguins, there was no denying the difference in motivation between the two teams.

The Penguins still have a No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference to protect and they helped do just that with a 5-3 win over the Bruins at TD Garden.

To a man the Bruins assured they were trying to put their best foot forward, and there was plenty of evidence supporting that when Boston came back from a 2-0 deficit to make a hockey game out of it in the second period. There was no sitting back and relaxing from the Black and Gold despite having their entire postseason lives locked up.

You still want to go into the playoffs feeling good about yourselves and when you let your guard down, thats when you do get hurt. Thats what we talked about going into the game, said Milan Lucic. Were a team with a lot of pride and were not just going to fold a tent just because weve already clinched that second spot. We want to end the season off on a good note for ourselves and our fans. Thats what our mindset is going to be going into these next two games, as well.

Unfortunately the Penguins showed just what a handful theyll be in the playoffs for a number of reasons: James Neal scored his 40thgoal of the season and acted the part of a menace all night until Andrew Ference stood up to him, Sidney Crosby responded to Crosby Sucks chants and Mike Milbury-verbal barrages by potting a pair of goals in the necessary victory for Pittsburgh, and Pittsburgh had all kinds of success with Evgeni Malkin registering a very silent 18 minutes of ice time.

The second-half of that equation is the number of calls that tend to go Pittsburghs way as part of the entire package facing Crosby and the Penguins in the playoffs. The Daniel Paille charging call on Matti Niskanen was borderline, but the fourth line winger did leave his skates upon impact.

But the high-sticking call on Kris Letang featured one of the worst embellishments youll see in the NHL, and the mockery of hockey manhood awarded Pittsburgh a 5-on-3 advantage that produced a pair of Pens goals at the end of the second period. That was the difference for Pittsburgh, and could be in the postseason as well.

A lot of times thats the difference in hockey games, when youre able to score on power plays and the way that we kill penalties. We do such a great job with that, its a big boost if we can score on the power play, said Crosby. It was nice to get those. Big boost from Nealer James Neal there with a good fight and I think were all happy to respond that way after that.

Clearly the Bruins will bring a little something extra if these two Eastern Conference titans end up meeting down the line in the playoffs, but the Bs got a pretty good indication of what awaits them from the Penguins.

Blakely: This could be the start of something big for Celtics

Blakely: This could be the start of something big for Celtics

BOSTON -- Prior to this year, the Celtics hadn't been to the Eastern Conference finals since 2012. That trip served as a curtain call of sorts for the last great C's dynasty.
 
But this one, which ended with Cleveland's emphatic 135-102 Game 5 victory Thursday at TD Garden, is very different.
 
Rather than closing another chapter in the Celtics' longstanding legacy of greatness, it could serve as the beginning of a new narrative in the franchise's steady growth.
 
"For us to be in the Eastern Conference finals after the first year of this team really being together, adding additions like Al Horford and Gerald Green . . . I can go down the list of guys that we needed to learn to play with, and for us to talk about where we wanted to be and actually make it, it's a big-time accomplishment," said Avery Bradley.
 
Boston has been among the younger teams in the NBA, with the 31-year-old Green being the oldest player on the roster.
 
But what the Celtics lacked in experience, they made up for with great effort.
 
"The great thing about this is the experience," Bradley said. "We were able to go to the Eastern Conference finals, learned a lot about being in this position, and I feel like it's going to help us for next year."
 
But as we all know, the Celtics will look to strengthen themsevles this offseason, which means there's a very good chance they'll have a different look when they gather again in the fall.
 
How different is anyone's guess.
 
"It's difficult every year whenever you don't have guys back," said coach Brad Stevens. "I think you share a bond (over the course of a season)."
 
Stevens and this group have been together for eight months. Eight months of struggles, successes, frustrating defeats and euphoric victories that brought them to the conference finals, which is where their season came to an end.
 
But as disappointed as the players and coaches are inow, there's definite excitement about this franchise in the very near future.
 
Boston has the No. 1 overall pick in next month's draft, with all indications -- for now -- pointing to Washington's Markelle Fultz as their choice.
 
And their top first-round pick from a year ago, Jaylen Brown, seemed to steadily improve as the season progressed. It was one of the few times in his life where minutes weren't just handed to him, which he admits was a learning experience unlike anything he had ever had, yet he adjusted and played better as the year went along.

"I've had ups, I've had downs, I've had opportunities, I've had mistakes," said Brown. "So I've been learning and growing and improving all year and I'm going to continue growing and improving and prove people wrong, prove doubters wrong."
 
Having the season end the way it did has indeed left a bad taste in the mouths of many Celtics.
 
"I can use it as fuel," Brown said, adding: "I want to get back to the same place I'm at now."
 
Bradley, who was on the 2012 team that lost to the Miami Heat in the conference finals, knows the Celtics are going to do whatever they feel is necessary to give them the best chance at competing for a title.
 
"It's out of our control as players," Bradley said. "We had a great year together. If guys are here, if guys aren't, we all wish the best for each other.

"But I do feel this is a special group. We all gave our heart every single night, played as hard as we could. I respect all my teammates, and I really appreciated playing with all the guys I had a chance to play with this year; a special group."