Well, I said the Ottawa Senators would win their opening round series against the Boston Bruins in six games, and I was right, and I get no satisfaction from that. The Bruins were ousted 3-2 in overtime at the Garden yesterday when Clarke MaCarthur put home the game winner on the power play, the second time the Bruins lost an overtime game in that fashion in the series.
Every game was decided by just one goal. Four of the six games were decided in extra time, and in the end the Bruins could not overcome the absence of two of their best defensemen to injury, not to mention their number two center David Krejci, who played only three games in the series while he was not fully healthy, and was unable to play in yesterday's game six at all.
Tuukka Rask can't be blamed. If not for his heroics in net in the double overtime thriller in game five, for instance, this series would never have made it back to Boston. And we did get a glimpse into the future of 19-year old defenseman Charlie McAvoy, thrown into the teeth of a playoff series in his first ever NHL games, and he acquitted himself brilliantly. I would have liked the Bruins chances in this series had they been at full strength, but injuries are an NHL reality in the post-season. The Senators were carried by their all star defenseman Erik Karlsson, and he's been playing with heel fractures. The Sens move on to face the NY Rangers in the next round after the Blueshirts knocked out the Montreal Canadiens in six games, and I can't see the Senators getting past Henrik Lundvist or the Rangers speed and firepower up front. New York in five, and it's too bad that a Bruins-Canadiens series couldn't have come about instead. It would have been a much more compelling one.
In Toronto last night, the clock struck midnight for the Cinderella Maple Leafs, but even after losing 2-1 in overtime to the Washington Capitals to be ousted in six games, Leafs fans must be ecstatic about their team's play in this series, and more importantly, for the future. The Leafs exceeded all expectations this year and five of the six games in this series against the team that won more games than any other in the regular season were decided in overtime. The Leafs are young, hungry, fast, and will be brimming with confidence next year. There is hope in hockey-mad Toronto, where the Leafs haven't won a Stanley Cup since 1967.
But the Caps do move on. Marcus Johansson scored twice for Washington, once to tie the game after a goal by Toronto's amazing rookie Auston Matthews, and then again in extra time to prevent a game seven back in D.C. But the Caps now have Sidney Crosby and the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins waiting. These two teams have developed quite the ugly rivalry over the years, and superstars Crosby and Alex Ovechkin for Washington don't much care for each other. Should be a great series, and the Caps will likely raise their game against Pittsburgh whereas they may have taken the Leafs too lightly. The Caps should have the edge in goaltending but the Penguins are more rested, find ways to win while the Caps always seem to discover new ways to lose in the playoffs. Penguins in seven.
To the NBA playoffs, and as he has throughout the year, Isaiah Thomas came to the rescue of the Boston Celtics last night, pouring in 33 points and doing that thing where he takes over in the fourth quarter to give the Celtics a critical 104-95 win over the Bulls in Chicago, a win that ties the series at two games apiece heading back to Boston.
The Celtics were in control early, building up a 20 point lead in the second quarter and still ahead by 11 at the half when Chicago came storming back, taking the lead at one juncture before Thomas hit back to back lay-ups and then went on a tear, leading Boston to a 12-0 run that put the game away. This series is getting ugly. Technical fouls were handed out to Thomas for jawing with Michael Carter-Williams and Marcus Smart of the Celtics and Jimmy Butler were each flagged for nearly coming to blows in the first half. Butler led the Bulls with 33 points of his own and game five is back in Boston Wednesday as the series comes down to a best of three. Thomas has acknowledged that the games themselves are a respite from his emotional state, as he's still grieving over the loss of his 22-year old sister, who died in a car accident one day before the series began.
Another series that got ugly did so in Baltimore over the weekend, where the Orioles' Manny Machado broke up a double play on Friday by getting his spikes up and plunging them into the back of Dustin Pedroia's knee. The Red Sox all-star second baseman has been out of the line-up since, and yesterday watched from the dugout as Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes threw a high fastball behind Machado's head and was ejected from the game, which the Red Sox won 6-2. Mookie Betts and Hanley Ramirez hit back to back home runs in the first inning, a three run blast for Mookie followed by Hanely's solo shot, his first home run of the year, and Eduardo Rodriguez got the win, but these two teams play again next Monday in Boston and he situation could well get out of hand. Pedroia for his part tried to play diplomat, seen from the dugout telling Machado that he did not approve of Barnes throwing in the vicinity of Macahdo's head. He also told reporters after the game that he doesn't believe Machado intentionally tried to go Ty Cobb on him in Friday night's game. But don't be surprised if a Red Sox hitter gets thrown at next. Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail.
The NY Yankees got beat by one of their former pitchers, who's now in Pittsburgh. Ivan Nova gave up just four hits over seven innings for the Pirates in their 2-1 win over the Yankees yesterday, out-dueling rookie Jordan Montgomery.
And speaking of players putting the hurt on the ex-teammates, Daniel Murphy of the Washington Nationals hit a grand slam in the first inning against his his former team the NY Mets in Washington's 6-3 win at Citi Field in Queens.