Vin Sylvia: Enigmatic B's, promising Sea Dogs
This is a maddening Bruins team - likable in so many ways, and yet frustrating in its inability or unwillingness to sustain its intensity, its focus.
As they prepare for Game 6 tonight in Toronto, it isn't so much a matter of whether the B's will show up but when. First period? Second? Perhaps, say, 3:27 of the third? It's impossible to predict.
You'd think that after Boston Marathon bombing victim/hero Jeff Bauman took to the TD Garden ice before Game 2 - gamely waving a giant spoked-B flag while seated in his wheelchair, his amputated legs clearly visible - the Bruins would come out flying. Instead, they came out flat and, instead of putting the Maple Leafs in an 0-2 hole, allowed the visitors to skate back to Toronto with a 4-2 victory and a split in Boston.
You'd think that after putting forth their best performance of the series in a 5-2 victory in Game 3 and turning it on during the second period of Game 2 to come back from a 2-0 deficit and eventually pull out a 4-3 overtime win in Game 4, the B's would put the Leafs away with the series back in Boston for Game 5. Nope. Heavy-legged and occasionally careless for more than two periods, they again fell behind 2-0 Friday night and this time elevated their games too late. The result: 2-1, Toronto, which now has the series back on its home ice with a chance to force a Game 7.
I look at this Bruins team and I see tough but turnover-prone defensemen, forward lines that have shown stretches of brilliance then disappeared, a goaltender who for the most part has been sensational but has yet to shake the baggage of the 2010 collapse against the Flyers.
For one game, Game 3, we've seen the Bruins consistently be their better selves. Think we'll see that team again this year? I haven't a clue.
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THE FISHER CATS' season opens Tuesday.
OK, it only feels that way, with the Portland Sea Dogs set to make their first visit of the season to Manchester this week.
While the Fishers (16-20 through Friday) have been sputtering through the first quarter of the season, the Sea Dogs have been the best team in the Eastern League, thanks mainly to the best crop of pitching prospects since the 2005-06 Portland staffs that featured such future big-leaguers as Jonathan Papelbon, Jon Lester, Anibal Sanchez and Clay Buchholz.
The Sea Dogs are scheduled for 6:35 p.m. games at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium on Tuesday and Wednesday and a 7:05 start Thursday night.
Matt Barnes, Anthony Ranaudo, Brandon Workman and Drake Britton might not attain the major-league success those Sea Dogs predecessors have enjoyed, but all project to be members of major-league staffs.
Visitors to the NEDD won't get to see the best of that bunch, Barnes (3-1, 5.19 ERA entering Saturday's start) and Ranaudo (4-1, 1.64), this week, but they will get to see Workman (4-1, 3.54) and Britton (3-2, 4.46), with journeyman knuckleballer Charlie Haeger likely to get Wednesday's start.
Portland's everyday lineup includes the Red Sox' top overall prospect, shortstop Xander Bogaerts (.294 avg., 2 HR, .828 OPS), suddenly promising third baseman Michael Almanzar (.304, 5, .884) and rifle-armed catcher Christian Vazquez (.250, 2, .729).
After this week, the Sea Dogs' next series in Manchester will be June 27-30.
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LOST among the coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings and their aftermath was this bit of good news: Concord resident David Audet completed the race for the 26th consecutive year. Audet, 48, covered the course in 3 hours 1 minute 20 seconds. He has complete more than 130 marathons in all, including at least one in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
New Hampshire native Mike Beeman, a former teacher at Londonderry High and Derry's Pinkerton Academy who now lives in Georgia, was among the runners stopped just short of the finish line after the bombings. He had completed 35 straight Boston Marathons.
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SPECULATION regarding David Ortiz and performance-enhancing drugs, and the question of whether players can undergo a career resurgence in their mid- to late-30s, led me to look up Carl Yastrzemski's career stats.
In the five seasons from 1971, which he started at age 31, through 1975, Yaz averaged 15 home runs, with a high of 19 in 1973. Over the next four seasons, he averaged 22 homers, with a high of 28 at age 37 in 1977. His cumulative batting averages during those two periods were remarkably similar: .277 during the former, .278 during the latter. My research didn't turn up any speculation about Yaz using PED's.
Is Ortiz (listed age: 37) using them? I don't think he is, though I can't say for certain. I do know there's precedent for a Red Sox player improving his performance in his mid- to late-30s, sans illegal drugs.
Vin Sylvia is a New Hampshire Union Leader deputy managing editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @vinsylvia.