If you're a fan of the New England Patriots, still stinging from the upset Super Bowl loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, turning your attention to hockey and the Boston Bruins just might provide a soothing balm.
The Bruins pummeled the NY Rangers 6-1 at Madison Square Garden last night, a team the Bruins had lost seven straight to before that rout, but the Bruins are beating just about everybody these days, now winners of 18 of their last 23 games overall, and their success is not predicated on any one player, any one line, or any one facet of the game.
Despite the final score, the first period last night started out great for the Rangers, who jumped out to a 1-0 lead on Rick Nash's 16th goal of the season, and if not for the excellent goaltending of back-up netminder Anton Khudobin, that lead may well have grown for the Blueshirts.
But the Bruins tied the game at one with a Nash of their own, Riley Nash, picking up a pass from rookie Danton Heinen in the slot and getting it by Henrik Lundqvist. The Bruins took the lead for good with less than four minutes to go in the opening frame when 40-year old defenseman Zdeno Chara wristed a puck through a screen and into the net, and in the second period, the Bruins just took over the game, scoring three goals and chasing Lundqvist when Tim Schaller scored a beauty to make it 4-1.
Schaller is a fourth line grinder, his value primarily as a tenacious fore-checker and with physical play along the boards, but on this goal he swept into the Rangers zone, pulled an inside out move, putting the puck through the legs of his Ranger defender, and was falling backwards with a hook from behind when he got up close and personal with Lundqvist who was deep in the net, and somehow was able to lift the puck from those close quarters top shelf for his 8th goal of the year. I mean, you could easily mistake Schaller for Sidney Crosby on this one. Check it out:
Patrice Bergeon added two goals of his own, now with 24 on the season and the team lead in that category, and the Bruins are taking on the look of the biggest surprise in the league this year, if not for the expansion Las Vegas Golden Knights sitting in first place in the western conference.
The Bruins are now just one point shy of Tampa Bay for first place in the east and it's important to remember that when the season began Boston was pegged as a team that maybe could sneak into the playoffs as a wild card, the assessment being that their young players would need at least another season to learn the ropes, and that aging veterans like Chara and Bergeron and David Krejci wouldn't be able to keep up with the elites of the conference.
But the balance and depth of this team, the no-fear, dive-in and learn as you go contributions from the youngsters, the superb goaltending from starter Tuukka Rash and back-up Khudobin, and the up-tempo philosophy of coach Bruce Cassidy has given Boston the look of a team no one wants to draw come playoff time, and the biggest decision facing the front office now will be whether to add some veteran depth at the trade deadline to protect against injury to the rank and file and make the bench even deeper.
In fact, one of two players on the Rangers, who have now lost seven of eight and will likely be sellers at the deadline, could be intriguing for Boston, and one of them is the Rangers goal-scorer last night, Rick Nash. The other could be defenseman and respected shot-blocking specialist Ryan McDonagh, who would come with a salary-cap friendly contract and is still just 28 years old.
Elsewhere, folks in Toronto are seeing their beloved Maple Leafs return to winning ways as well, now winners of seven of their last ten games following a 3-2 overtime shootout win against the Nashville Predators last night.
James van Riemsdyk scored in regulation and netted the winning goal in the shootout as well, but the Leafs also needed Frederik Andersen to hold the fort against a very good Predators offense that put 46 shots on net. Andersen turned away 44 of them.
Finally, you can bet a year's worth of cheesesteaks that the Rocky theme will be blaring when the Philadelphia Eagles super bowl parade winds up near the steps of the Museum of Art in Philly today, and a star football quarterback with aspirations to become a star baseball player will get that chance with, who else?, the NY Yankees.
The Yankees have traded for Russell Wilson, best known as the 2013 super bowl winning quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks, but he can also throw a baseball pretty well, and has been with the Texas Rangers organization, though he's never pitched for Texas in the bigs. Now the Yankees have traded for Wilson and he will join their minor league system with a chance to make the team out of spring training.
As a concerned Red Sox fan, I'd much rather be reporting that Aaron Judge has decided to become a tight end in football and has been traded from the Yankees to the Seahawks, but that's just not the case.