Mitch's Sports Report: Montreal Native Crawford Backstops Chicago To Win Over His Hometown Habs
In the NHL the Boston Bruins face the hottest team in the league right now and an old friend when they skate against the Flames in Calgary tonight. Former Bruins defenseman Dougie Hamilton is part of the blue line corps for the team that's won ten games in a row heading and has vaulted itself into the upper regions of the playoff bubble when just a month ago they looked like a lock for a no-show.
The Bruins will be trying to feed off the momentum from a win in the first of their three-game road trip when they beat the Vancouver Canucks 6-3. The playoff race in the eastern conference is fairly calm at the top with the Montreal Canadiens leading the Atlantic division, but they lost 4-2 to the Chicago Blackhawks last night at the Bell Centre, and with the Ottawa Senators picking up one point for an overtime loss to Tampa Bay, the Senators are now just one point behind Montreal for that division lead.
Chicago goalie Corey Crawford is a Montreal native, and clearly loves playing in front of the home town fans, even if he's wearing an enemy sweater. Crawford has never lost in regulation playing against the Canadiens in nine starts against them, and made 40 saves last night, with only two third period goals by Paul Byrion and Shea Weber getting behind him after Chicago had built up a 4-0 lead. Patrick Kane finished with a goal and two assist for the Hawks, who have taken over the lead in the central division with the victory.
The really tight race in the east is for the final wild card berth and last night the NY Islanders picked up what might be their biggest win of the season in the hunt for that spot. Trailing the Carolina Hurricanes 2-0 with just over a minute left in regulation the Islanders scored twice on goals by Joshua Ho-Sang and Jason Chimera to tie it, and then their captain John Tavares won it in overtime for a 3-2 final. Had the Isles lost they would have slipped out of the final wild card spot due to the Tampa Bay win over Ottawa. The Isles and Lightning are now tied with 77 points each, with the Isles keeping the spot due to a head to head tiebreaker, but this underscores how critical every game is until now and the end of the season, and the Bruins can't feel safe sitting in third place in the Atlantic with 80 points, just three ahead of the Islanders and Lightning. The Toronto Maple Leafs are also fighting tooth and claw to get there, and their loss 7-2 to the Florida Panthers last night had to hurt, allowing both the Islanders and Lightning to vault ahead of them for the time being.
In the World Baseball Classic the Dominican Republic had been on an eleven game winning streak, finally cooled off yesterday when they were beaten 3-1 by Puerto Rico. Yadier Molina of the St. Louis Cardinals homered and had an RBI single for Puerto Rico in the win.
One note from the NFL, in an off season when the Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots have been unusually aggressive in the free agency and trading markets, having already signed star wide receiver Brandin Cooks away from the New Orleans Saints, for example, the Pats have inked Cincinnati Bengals running back Rex Burkhead to a deal, terms not disclosed. Burkhead had 74 carries for 344 yards and two touchdowns and 17 receptions for 145 yards with the Bengals last season, a team he's been with for the past four years. With backs LaGarrette Blount and Brandon Bolden both unrestricted free agents, the Pats may be expecting both to leave for richer contracts and signing Burkhead is a move to counter those potential losses.
Assuming it stops snowing at some point today and everyone can get there, Barre Auditorium will be the site tonight for the division two semi-final in girl's high school basketball, with number two Lyndon taking on 3rd-seeded Fair Haven at 8:15. The girl's division four semi-final is the first game of the evening with number two West Rutland tipping off against number three Craftsbury at 6:30.