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Mitch's Sports Report: Bruins Earn First Playoff Berth Since 2014; World Cup Returns To Killington

Vermont's largest ski resort is setting its sights on a three-peat. After hosting some of the world's best alpine skiers last November as a stop on the World Cup circuit, Killington resort officials say they're in talks with the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association to have the event return to the slopes in November 2017 and again in 2018. The international body meets to decide upcoming schedules next month.

The Killington stop set U.S. ski attendance records last Thanksgiving weekend with nearly 30,000 spectators over two days.

The Boston Bruins missed the NHL playoffs the past two years by just one game, but last night made sure there would be no third straight season of disappointment, beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-0 to clinch a playoff spot before a grateful sold out home town crowd.

Drew Stafford got the scoring started for the Bruins, putting home a backhand for the only goal Tuukka Rask would need, ending the night with 28 saves and his career high eighth shut-out of the season. David Pastrnak pushed the lead to 2-0 on the power play, taking a beautiful cross ice feed from Riley Nash who threaded the puck through the legs of a Tampa defender to find Pastrnak camped out off the left post for a one-timer. Zdeno Chara made it 3-0 in the third on a laser slap shot off a pass from Torey Krug, and Pastrnak added an empty netter for an exclamation point.

The Bruins played most of the game without their leading goal scorer Brad Marchand, who was ejected after spearing Tampa's Jake Dotchin in what we'll call a sensitive area, a return to the kind of dirty play that earned Marchand the nickname "Little Ball of Hate" before morphing into one of the best skill players in the game. Not only were the Bruins forced to kill off a five minute major penalty for Marchand's actions, and to the great credit of the penalty kill units, they did, but the spearing incident will be reviewed by the league, and that could cost Marchand a suspension at just the wrong time. There are two games left in the regular season for Boston but if the league feels the spearing was especially egregious, Marchand could be suspended for one or more playoff games as well, and that would be a devastating blow to the Bruins post season hopes. Dumb and dirty move by Marchand.  

Still, this is a win the Bruins should savor, and I'll eat some humble pie here after railing against this team when it appeared the four game losing skid would be just a repeat of the kind of late season collapses that marred the last two seasons. I was convinced the Bruins would falter again and instead they rallied and are now on a season best six-game winning streak, and while I was skeptical as well that the firing of Claude Julien would make any difference, there is a large enough sample size under interim coach Bruce Cassidy to say that the move was the right one. The Bruins are 18-7 since Cassidy took over, playing a much more up-tempo game on offense, while for the most part keeping intact the kind of tight, layered defensive play that Julien was known for. And speaking of the former Bruins coach, he's thriving in Montreal, where the Canadiens have already clinched first place in the Atlantic division, and if the ghost of Lord Stanley has any flair for the dramatic, the stars will align at some point this post-season for yet another Bruins-Habs playoff series. The two teams have met more times in the post-season than any other two franchises in any sport, but with the coaching swap drama this season, the rivalry would have yet another great storyline to charge the atmosphere in both cities, for both Original Six teams, and their fans.

As to where the Bruins can finish, it could be as high as second place, or they may finish as low as the second wild card, but no matter what happens over the next two games, they're in the playoffs, and after two consecutive years of no-shows, that's a welcome step forward.

To Major League Baseball, and the NY Yankees got their fist win of the season, beating the Tampa Bay Rays 5-0 in St. Petersburg. CC Sabathia was in control giving up just three hits, all singles, over five innings of work, and the Yankees homered twice off the bats of Chase Headley and Ronald Torreyes. Aroldis Chapman pitched a perfect ninth to mail down the save.

Tonight at Fenway Park, newly acquired lefty ace Chris Sale will make his first start as a member of the Boston Red Sox when they take on the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Moving to the hardwood, history was made in Oklahoma City last night as Russell Westbrook recorded his 41st career triple double, finishing with 12 points, 13 rebounds and 13 assists in a 110-79 rout of the Milwaukee Bucks. That triple double moves Westbrook into a tie for all-time triple doubles with one of the greatest basketball players ever, Oscar Robertson.

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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