One man's guess at five headlines you'll be reading over the next week ...
1. Bergeron (two goals) powers Bruins past Flyers and into Eastern Conference finals
If the Bruins get past Philly, the season is a success. Can't be argued. And it doesn't matter if they get outscored 40-0 in a four-game sweep at the hands of the Penguins or Canadiens. They would have done enough.
(OK, maybe if Montreal wins they'll have to take a game to save face. But the Penguins are winning in six, so it don't worry about it. Book it.)
Let's be fair. This is a Bruins team that A) about four people thought had a chance to maybe win a round in the playoffs six weeks ago and B) was basically slapped with the "No Heart Seal of Disapproval" by all for not giving Matt Cooke the "William Wallace in the last 10 minutes of 'Braveheart' " treatment after the Savard hit.
This Bruins team has managed to transform its public image without kissing babies or filming a PSA. No small feat. The idea that this team lacks heart is now laughable. And guess what? For the first time in years the Bruins matter.
Now, this love song will be erased from the mix tape if the 2010-11 Bruins start out 3-8-1, but for now the B's have a comfortable seat at the table.
And Krejci and Strum are out and they don't have enough firepower get past the Penguins. Pittsburgh is just too talented and has the experience plus the best player in the NHL. To ask the Bruins to figure out a way to win four out of seven vs. the Penguins is simply unfair.
All true. But if both teams get to the ECF you kind of think the Bruins are going to win, don't you? And you're not sure why, except for this:
You believe in them.
And that says it all.
2. Pedroia, Youkilis homer, Sox win two out of three vs. Blue Jays
I'm sorry, but knocking A.J. Burnett around to avoid a sweep isn't quite enough for me to get the limbs loose and attempt a jump on the Red Sox bandwagon. First, I don't trust Burnett at all. Yes, I know he's been great so far in 2010 and he had his moments in the postseason last year (though his ERA was 5.27), but every time I see Burnett pitch he seems to be auditioning for the lead role in The John Wasdin Story. I had the folks at Elias work the numbers and figured out that Burnett's career WHIP in games that I've watched him pitch is 11.88. I'm just not rational when it comes to Burnett, for some reason I see him and I channel Joe Morgan.
I'll bet all the money in my pockets against all the money in your pockets that if you gave Joe Girardi truth serum and asked if he could sleep the night before a Game 7 with A.J. Burnett as his starting pitcher he would still give you a non-answer. The guy is good. But you and I know the truth. Burnett fails the Game 7 test.
One guy that passes that test is Josh Beckett, of course, but to me he is has been Problem Numero Uno so far for the Sox in 2010. I'm not sure if Beckett is going to need Jason Varitek to survive (that's been debated enough, God knows) but I do know that a 7.46 ERA nearing the middle of May is more than just working through the kinks.
Beckett has made 129 starts with the Red Sox. His ERA in those starts? 4.21. WHIP? 1.227. Not terrible, but would you call that great bang for the buck? Hey, at least they didn't give up a future Hall of Famer for him or anything. This is his fifth season in Boston. I'd call just one (2007) of those seasons a clear-cut "ace" kind of year. So maybe it's time to give up the ghost on Beckett being one of the five or six year-in, year-out best pitchers and baseball and embrace the 16-8, ERA in the high 3s guy that he has been. Every Sox fan would sign for that from Beckett this season in a Micheal Ray Richardson heartbeat.
Beckett, not David Ortiz, or Mike Lowell, or Tim Wakefield, or Varitek, is the story for the Red Sox. The team needs him to perform to a high level right now. Not really true of the other guys. And there is the little matter of the $68 million owed to Beckett. How big a story would Beckett's struggles be had he not yet signed that extension?
The Red Sox overall? Eh. Who knows? Until they step up and beat the Yankees or the Rays in a series it's kind of hard to buy into them, right? But they better start winning, and fast. Because I see nothing (other than Dallas Braden) that suggests the Yankees or Rays will finish the season south of 95 wins.
3. Tiger Woods' MRI shows "damage" in neck, status for US Open in doubt
This was supposed to be the year that Tiger made a real push for the Grand Slam. Couldn't have lined up better. Augusta, Pebble Beach and St. Andrews? What could go wrong?
That tricky sexting always gets in the way of history.
I had two thoughts as I watched Tiger leave the course after withdrawing on Sunday at Sawgrass. One was that I had never seen Tiger look so feeble, including during the phony press conference in February.
The other thought?
For the first time since 1997 I began to question if Tiger Woods was going to break Jack Nicklaus' record.
Gun to my head I still think he does it, but I think there is a solid case to be made for the other side. And that seemed impossible to me nine months ago. If you had asked me a year ago today if it were more likely that Tiger Woods would win 25 majors or not break Jack's record I would have answered the former without a pause.
This is the end of Act II in the Tiger Woods "E! True Hollywood Story." Personal life shattered, golf game a mess, now a banged-up neck to match a knee that has been operated on three times. Can't get any lower. And Tiger, ironically, has never been a master of the comeback. Always a great front-runner. But it'll take an all-time rally to get even close to where he was on the course (his image is forever toast, unless he figures out a way to land a crashing plane full of children safely on the Hudson River or gets Tim McCarver fired.)
4. John Calipari, Kentucky agree on extension
Come on. We all know Cal. This flirting with the Bulls is just another way to get a year (and another couple of million bucks) tacked on to his contract. And who can blame him? You wouldn't do the same thing if you could?
In a perfect world, though, wouldn't you love the Powers That Be at Kentucky to tell Calipari that they'll give him a 30-year deal that guarantees he'll always make at least one dollar more than any other in coach in college basketball.
And all he would need to do to make that happen is to agree that he would A) graduate at least 80 percent of his seniors every year, B) never violate an NCAA rule, no matter how small or insignificant, C) never recruit a player under the age of 14 and D) never coach an NCAA game again if he breaks any of the first three rules. Shouldn't be a problem if we are all on the up and up.
But none of that would ever happen, because this is the world and that really isn't. Nope, Kentucky will panic and give Cal what he wants. And he will reward the school with 30-win seasons and No. 1 seeds and maybe even a national title. But a couple of years from now Cal will bolt. Could be for the NBA, or Michigan, or TV. Doesn't matter. And the NCAA will, as always, show up about 15 minutes behind Calipari, find some violations, and take away every banner that was won during his era at Kentucky. And that will be as toothless as it sounds -- just ask any UMass fan if they still count the Final Four run as "real." And by the time the smoke clears Calipari will be 26-4 and beloved at some new school that is only too happy to trade whatever dignity they might have left for a couple of extra games on ESPN and a new arena.
5. LeBron's triple-double carries Cavs to Game 7 win over Celtics
There are two players in Celtics history capable of putting up a 29-18-13 line in a playoff game. Larry Bird and Rajon Rondo. The only candidates.
LeBron James is the best basketball player on the planet, I think, by a pretty wide margin. And he's had a solid series even by his standard. And yet he hasn't even been in Rondo's league over the first four games. The best point guard effort I've ever seen by a Celtics player, and Game 4 was the best non-Bird postseason performance in my lifetime.
I'm comfortable writing that if Rajon Rondo had an injury and was unable to play in this series the Cavs would have wrapped up the sweep on Sunday.
And I'll write this again: Best contract in the league. Rondo is now a max player with a reasonable contract. Signing Rondo to that deal is the best move Danny Ainge has made since 2008.
I wanted to pick the Celtics to win this series, I really did. But I just don't trust them. How can you? The notion that the Celtics could win a Game 7 in Cleveland is about as realistic as the Celtics losing Game 7 by 30 points. No idea which team is going to show up.
And last time the two teams played a Game 7 Paul Pierce was every bit as good as LeBron James. That's not going to happen again. LeBron is better than he was in 2008 and Pierce has lost a step or three. Admit it, you kind of wanted Tony Allen to stay in the game on Sunday in place of Pierce. That's the hoops equal of being OK with David Ortiz not pinch-hitting for Darnell McDonald. But that's the reality right now. And there is zero chance that Pierce opts out of his $21.5 million for 2010-11 and gives free agency a twirl. Would you give him four years and $60 million?