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NHL in debt to the Bruins and Blackhawks

We have a smattering of notes, observations, wisecracks, and unanswerable questions to offer on “this” and “that” while awaiting the dénouement of the annual Stanley Cup odyssey...  
 
… Beginning with a nod to the ratings these playoffs are racking up. Impressive early on, interest even among the casual should rise notably as the brilliant Bruins-Blackhawks clash roars to an inevitably lusty conclusion. Who would have anticipated this pleasing spectacle only months ago when the league was dragging itself through that pitiful labor dispute?

That we have two such colorful and traditional adversaries is a big part of the surge. Historically, the Bruins epitomize hockey in this country and the Hawks can claim near as much distinction. It’s a big league match-up between true hockey towns, a package the NHL has often lacked in recent years. Most important, though, is the quality of play between these honest, rugged, and perfectly matched teams, one of which will depart, in the end, on its shield. You don’t get that every day – in any sport!

When all is said and done in this slugfest, the National Hockey League will be much in debt to the Bruins and Hawks. Desperately needed to redeem the idiocy of the labor fiasco was an epic Stanley Cup Festival. And they got it, thanks not entirely but mainly to these two ancient and honorable members of the so-called Original Six.

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What, you wonder, is going on with the Celtics and the apparent falling out with their highly regarded coach, Doc Rivers. You’d have to be plugged in to have much of a clue, and one admittedly lacks a sense of this team’s inner-workings nowadays. But where are the explanations from those who are plugged in, or should be? From a distance, this story, which is getting increasingly testy, is also mystifying.

What’s clear is that Rivers wants out. But why? Has he grown disenchanted with his owners? No longer on the same dance card with his GM? Do his players offend him? Or is it all of the above?
Most likely, it’s the team. Perhaps he sees a long, thankless, struggle to restore a fading collection of the aged and uncertain to the stature demanded of the Celtics. The LA Clippers, whom he allegedly yearns to jump to, are doubtless closer to eminence.

Maybe it’s that simple. And yet wouldn’t such an attitude be out of character for the properly esteemed and classy Rivers. He enjoys huge respect here. No coach since Red Himself has been treated with such reverence. Would it now be reasonable of him to dixie them when they’re down? There’s also the matter of his contract. He’s bound three more years to Boston and it just happens to be the NBA’s richest coaching deal.

Moreover, Danny Ainge has in the course of Rivers’s own reign demonstrated he can turn this team around swiftly and profoundly. Would it be fair for Doc to now assume Danny can’t do that again? There are many questions, one of the better being: Why is Ainge making it so tough for Rivers to leave given that if that’s the only way he can keep him, their relationship isn’t likely to be cozy?

There’s more than meets the eye here, as Poirot would say. A heckuvalot more!

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 For various reasons, Bill Belichick isn’t the easiest sporting character to warm to, but his disdain for conformity and contempt for the conventional wisdom have always been his most engaging qualities. Belichick is his own man. And don’t you ever forget it, Buster.
As further proof that age has not dulled his imagination nor has success diminished his need to be different – sometimes (but not this time) to the point of utter arrogance – we have the Boss importing Tim Tebow in a move that he certainly didn’t have to make, one that very few of his fellow eminent-divines in the football coaching dodge would have willingly messed with.

Did he do it to some degree out of compassion? Did he, like a few others in the game, strongly disagree with the lousy treatment the thoroughly decent Tebow has been obliged to endure along the way? Maybe, although he would, of course, never admit to that. What he does not only believe but also proclaim is that Tebow is a special talent who, under the right circumstances, could blossom.

Belichick being Belichick, we should allow him a willing suspension of disbelief here no matter how much snickering rises from the ranks of the alleged savants. This much is for sure: It’s a lucky day for Tebow and one he deserves.  

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 At his present pace, the Orioles’ hefty young slugger, Chris Davis ,will hit 54 homers this season (as many as Mickey Mantle ever did) and knock in 139 runs. And here’s the best part. It will have nothing to do with steroids.

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 Voters for the NHL’s prized annual awards were wrong in awarding the Selke trophy for defensive excellence to Chicago’s Jonathan Toews over Boston’s Patrice Bergeron. Toews is a nice two-way player, but if he went up against Bergeron every night he’d be no more acclaimed than Chris Kelly.

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In their wisdom, Pittsburgh’s Penguins rewarded Evgeni Malkin with a hideous eight-year, $76 million contract to ease his pain in having been clearly out-performed in the recent semi-finals in which his play was not only inadequate but dumb.

This means the Pens have tied up $181 million in the dashing alliance of the Russian hot dog and his precocious pal, Sid (The Kid) Crosby, chaining them until 2020 during which time the Pens should remain the NHL’s flashiest act and foremost under-achievers.  

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 Alfonzo Dennard’s recent, nearly ruinous, brush with the law back home in Nebraska remains worth pondering. Or more precisely, it’s how the promising Patriots’ defensive back who had flashes of unfinished brilliance in his rookie season beat the rap that remains astounding.

Dennard was charged with assault and battery on a police officer and resisting arrest – heavy stuff – for taking a swing at a Lincoln, Nebraska, cop trying to quell a street melee in which the hotheaded jock is alleged to have been prominently involved. Convicted as charged, Dennard faced a five-year prison sentence. But after an oddly long delay, he was finally sentenced to but 30 days to be served next March well after the football season.

Pray tell, might some long arms from elsewhere have intervened during that delay? One might have been from Foxborough. Or one might have been from the state university where Dennard formerly excelled for the illustrious “Big Red,” which, in Nebraska, covers a lot of sins
You’re free to wonder if he’d now be sitting in Nebraska’s Big House pondering his indiscretions were he not a jock with influential friends. Instead he’ll be taking up residence in the Patriots’ secondary and most welcome, too.

As well as being another interesting comment on our justice system, this little anecdote further testifies to Bill Belichick’s quality of mercy. It’s hardly confined to the odd Goody Two-Shoes.
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 Lastly, it’s not too early to rank Kevin Youkilis among the Yankees disastrous financial misfortunes in a season glutted with them. For $12 million, the Yankees have squeezed 105 at bats from the erstwhile Red Sox star, good for a .219 batting average, a lusty  eight RBIs, and, most significantly, three dreary trips to the disabled list mainly with lower back pain issues that more and more look chronic. The last couple of times he has come back, he has lasted only a couple of games. A hard sneeze can ground him for a week

Among the many woes that have buried them, the fragility of Youk has been one of the Yanks’ unkinder cuts. He was loved while here, but such denizens of Red Sox Nation as had no hesitation booing Johnny Damon, Derek Lowe, and Jonathan Papelbon should not be expected to weep.