I spent considerable time the last few days watching and listening to hockey games emanating from Boston.
The University of Maine Black Bears were quite inspiring in their pursuit of a Hockey East championship, first with their semifinal win over Boston University and then by battling Boston College into overtime of their championship match.
But ultimately the best team won, with BC securing the Hockey East crown and the league’s automatic berth to the NCAA Division I tournament.
As for Maine, second place in the tournament wasn’t good enough. While New Hampshire and Vermont earned at-large bids to the NCAAs, Maine came up empty — a victim of its inconsistency throughout the winter.
Yet their play in Boston over the weekend seemingly deserved a better reward — which may come next season.
Then there are the Boston Bruins, who would earn the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff berth if the NHL postseason began today.
But you wouldn’t know it by their effort in one of their most anticipated games of the regular season against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
That game was 11 days removed from their previous meeting, when Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke blindsided Boston’s Marc Savard with a shoulder to the head that gave the Bruins standout a concussion that will sideline him for the rest of the season.
The Bruins did not retaliate during that game, so expectations were great that they would come up with an inspired performance in honor of their fallen star the next time these teams met.
Sure enough, five seconds into Cooke’s first shift of the rematch, Boston’s Shawn Thornton found him and punched him to the TD Garden ice surface.
That was about the last sign of life from the Bruins in a thoroughly lackluster 3-0 home-ice loss.
After the match the Bruins had the excuses ready, that several players had flu-like symptoms, and that once Thornton had extracted revenge much of the night’s emotion vanished.
Neither excuse was good enough, particularly for a team many believed at the start of the season could contend for the Stanley Cup.
Maybe the Bruins should watch a few University of Maine tapes.
— Ernie Clark
Patriots will not let issues linger for long
Another offseason, another Super Bowl victory party being planned by overzealous fans of the J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets…
Yes, the green-and-white delusions of grandeur were inflamed before the offseason even began after New England lost big in a lackluster and listless effort against Baltimore and a New York Jets victory in the first round of the playoffs.
The easily excitable Jets fanatics had their irrational division title dreams further sparked by the signing of talented-but-troubled cornerback Antonio Cromartie and fading star tailback LaDainian Tomlinson.
Meanwhile, Patriots fans had to content themselves with less flashier re-signings of regulars like Vince Wilfork, albeit one of the best defensive tackles in the game, linebacker Tully Banta-Cain, corner Leigh Bodden, offensive lineman Stephen Neal, and all-purpose back Kevin Faulk.
“Where’s the marquee free agent signing?” Pats fans ask.
Well, as much reason as there is against any overt Patriots pessimism, there’s just as much for the restraint of Jets jubilation.
Cromartie is a gamble as a potential character problem at worst or distraction at best, and not only is Tomlinson’s tank running on empty, he’s not an upgrade over departed starter Thomas Jones. Even if Cromartie plays to his potential and gives New York what may arguably be the league’s best cornerback combo, the trading of safety Kerry Rhodes is a loss. Also, Leon Washington has reportedly not signed a tender contract offer, further thinning New York’s offensive backfield.
At the same time, the guys the Patriots have re-upped are proven commodities, not just in the NFL but also in the Patriots’ complex defensive system.
That being said, this doesn’t mean the Patriots are any kind of a shoo-in. They haven’t done anything about Adalius Thomas, a former big splash free agent languishing in coach Bill Belichick’s doghouse. They’re also extremely thin at tight end even if they do sign prospective Weight Watchers spokesman Alge Crumpler, Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins is unhappy and sitting out New England’s offseason voluntary workout, and Tom Brady has not yet been signed to a contract extension.
Although the “In Bill We Trust” mantra will be tested in the coming weeks with the NFL Draft a month away, reports of the Patriots’ imminent demise are greatly exaggerated, as most of these issues will likely be resolved well before preseason starts.