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Mitch's Sports Report: Bruins Should Say 'Merci' To Their Canadien Rivals Today

It might be hard to do. It might go against your nature. The words may stick in your throat. But if you're a fan of the Boston Bruins, you should be saying "thank you", or more appropriately "merci", to the Montreal Canadiens today.

The Bruins have now dropped six out of their last seven games, and by losing 2-1 against the Devils in New Jersey last night , Boston failed to gain even a single point in the standings at a time when that solitary point could mean the difference between making the playoffs and trading in their hockey sticks for golf clubs.

While that latest disappointment was happening at the Meadowlands, up at the Bell Centre the Detroit Red Wings, the team just one point behind Boston for third place in the Atlantic division, had a golden opportunity to pass the slumping Bruins and get themselves into the playoff picture. It looked early on like the Canadiens had control, taking a 2-0 lead on goals by Max Pacioretty and Paul Byron, and that prompted an early exit for Wings goalie Petr Mrazek, who let in those goals on just seven shots, giving way to Jimmy Howard. But the Red Wings scored three unanswered after that, converting on three power plays, and took a 3-2 lead into the third period. The Habs could have folded then and there, given that they've been eliminated from the playoff race but there's a lot of pride that goes with being a member of Les Habitants, especially playing before the home crowd, and they rallied instead, with Sven Andrighetto tying the game at three, and then Max Pacioretty scored the game winner on his second goal of the night to give Montreal a 4-3 win and a gift to the Bruins, who should be at turns relieved, thankful, and motivated to take advantage of the gift.

What's happening with the Bruins right now is in equal measure bewildering and infuriating for the fan base. After ripping off  a series of wins against some of the league's best teams just a couple of weeks ago, the Bruins have gone into a tailspin, going winless on a west coast road trip, and dropping three more games since with only a win against Toronto in the interim. Last night they had a number of chances to blow open a game they tied up at one on a goal by Brad Marchand, his first in nine games, and the Bruins outshot the Devils by a whopping forty to fifteen overall. But it doesn't matter how many shots you put on net, it's only the ones that go in that count, and the Bruins simply couldn't finish when they needed to. The Devils, who are still mathematically alive for a playoff spot, although it's a long shot, converted on their two power play chances, the game-winner coming in the third period after Zdeno Chara took a boarding penalty, and the Bruins are looking at the reality of having five games left in the regular season to either get busy winning or get busy making tee times.  The Red Wings also have five games left, including one against Boston in the final game of the season, and both clubs should be worried about the Philadelphia Flyers, who also sit just a point behind Boston and have seven games to go instead of just five. But the pressure really is on the Bruins, who are in danger of repeating last season's late season homestretch debacle, and have no excuses if they can't make the post-season again this year.

And since I'm wading deep in the familiar waters of pessimism I'll add that as the Boston Red Sox get ready for the start of the 2016 season on April fourth in Cleveland, the team has essentially decided that their $72 Million acquisition of Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo was a mistake. Manager John Farrell said yesterday that Castillo will not be a starting center, left, or even right fielder, but will serve mainly as a back-up for Jackie Bradley, Jr., with a platoon situation rotating between the newly acquired Chris Young and super-utility player Brock Holt getting the nod to play along side JBJ and Mookie Betts first. This news, combined with Rick Porcello's spring training earned run average hovering near double digits, and injuries to Eduardo Rodriguez and Carson Smith to start the year, has me thinking that talk of the Sox going from worst to first is about as realistic as convincing Superman to sprinkle kryptonite on his corn flakes.

One other note, the U.S. mens' national soccer team took a big step toward qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia by defeating Guatemala 4-0 yesterday in a qualifying match. This was some much-needed good news for the mens' team after a defeat to Colombia earlier meant they would left out of the Olympic tournament in Brazil.

A graduate of NYU with a Master's Degree in journalism, Mitch has more than 20 years experience in radio news. He got his start as news director at NYU's college station, and moved on to a news director (and part-time DJ position) for commercial radio station WMVY on Martha's Vineyard. But public radio was where Mitch wanted to be and he eventually moved on to Boston where he worked for six years in a number of different capacities at member station a Senior Producer, Editor, and fill-in co-host of the nationally distributed Here and Now. Mitch has been a guest host of the national NPR sports program "Only A Game". He's also worked as an editor and producer for international news coverage with Monitor Radio in Boston.
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