Mitch's Sports: Tuukka Terrific As Bruins Even Series With Jackets; Why Pro Women Will Boycott NWHL
It's tied two-two, thanks to Tuukka.
All alliteration aside, the Boston Bruins evened their eastern conference second round playoff against the Columbus Blue Jackets last night with a critical 4-1 victory backed by the backstop who earlier this season climbed into second place on the franchise's all-time goalie wins list, second only to Hall of Famer Gerry Cheevers.
When the netminder from Finland is on his game, he looks calm and poised, making saves by being in the right position before the puck is upon him, anticipating the shot rather than reacting to it, and last night he stopped 39 of those pucks, and the only one that got by him shouldn't even have counted.
The Bruins were nursing a 2-0 lead thanks to scores by two players who were overdue to get it going, David Pastrnak and Patrice Bergeron, when the Jackets got a gift goal on a blown call.
A puck got deflected high in the air behind the Bruins net and barely tickled the mesh above the glass, which is out of bounds and should leads to a stoppage in play. And it does when the referees see it happen. In this case, they didn't, and the puck had floated so high that most of the players on the ice didn't know where it had gone, either, including Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy, who was looking around like someone who can't find his keys when the puck dropped a couple of feet from him and then onto the stick of Artemi Panarin, who popped it into a practically wide open net.
Video replays clearly showed the puck had hit the netting and the play should have been stopped there, but it was not reviewable because Panarin was not the first player to touch the puck when it dropped back to the ice. That's a dumb rule the NHL should really change, but because Rask didn't let it rattle him and was so good the rest of the way, it didn't change the game's outcome.
What did was the "it's about time" emergence of the top three trio of Pastrnak, Bergeron, and Brad Marchand, looking a bit more like the players who carried the lion's share of the offense all season.
Pastrnak squeaked one by Sergei Bobrovsky, who's been outstanding himself in net for Columbus and was again last night, making 41 saves. But he also showed some signs of vulnerability and on the Pastrnak goal, a one-timer off a feed from Marchand near the left face off circle, Bobrovsky seemed to have moved over in time to block the shot, but it trickled through his pads and just barely over the goal line. Bergeron made it 2-0 on a wrist shot top shelf before the Panarin's gift goal and then there was a long stretch of typically frenzied playoff hockey with multiple chances on both ends turned away by both netminders, and that included a penalty shot granted to Boone Jenner that Rask turned away.
Columbus native Sean Kuraly gave the Bruins some needed breathing room late in the third period and Bergeron dashed any hopes of a Jackets comeback when he scored his second of the game on the power play, putting back a rebound in the crease.
So the Bruins regain home ice advantage when they return to Boston for game five tomorrow night.
Out west, the San Jose Sharks and Colorado Avalanche are also knotted up at two games apiece after a 3-0 shut-out win at home in Denver last night. Philipp Grubauer made 32 saves for his first playoff career goose egg and Nathan McKinnon scored one of the three Colorado goals, giving him points now in eight straight playoff games.
To Major League baseball, and the Boston Red Sox were oh-so-close to their fourth win in a row, taking a 4-3 lead into the bottom of the 9th against the White Sox in Chicago last night when the bottom fell out.
Chicago's Nicky Delmonico blasted a three-run homer off Ryan Brasier that gave the White Sox a walk-off 6-4 win.
It looked like there were only about 15 people in the ball park to witness that drama, as the rebuilding White Sox seem as attractive to Chicagoans these days as a mealy apple, which is too bad because they have some intriguing players including James McCann, who went yard against starter David Price for a two run homer earlier in the game. Andrew Benintendi homered for Boston and this was a game the Red Sox probably would have won last year when everything seemed to go right for them.
But third baseman Rafael Devers, who had made a fine play earlier in the game when he snagged a hot shot down the line on his backhand and made a strong accurate throw to first for the out instead threw one away on an error on a slow roller in the ninth with one out that sparked the White Sox rally. Devers defense, or lack thereof, is really the part of his game that needs the most work, and he's only 22 years old so it's understandable, but it's also tough to learn on the job when errors like that lead to home runs like Delmonico's. Brasier also knows he left one out over the plate on the walk-off homer, so it's not all on the young'un Devers.
Tonight the unbelievably still winless on the season Chris Sale takes his I can't believe I'm saying this 0-5 record to the hill against his old team and maybe that dynamic will inspire Sale to finally record his first win of the year.
The NY Yankees were off. They host the red hot and central division leading Minnesota Twins tonight.
Noah Syndergaard beat the Cincinnati Reds at Citi Field in Queens last night and if you think I'm exaggerating his role in the NY Mets 1-0 win, consider that Syndergaard not only went a full nine innings, striking out ten, he also produced the only run of the game by hitting a homer in the bottom of the third. The player affectionately known as Thor becomes the first pitcher in 36 years to throw a complete game and go yard in the same contest. No word yet on whether he can also summon the power of thunder and lightning to go along with his fastball.
The LA Angels completed a three game sweep of the Toronto Blue Jays with a 6-2 win in Anaheim last night behind Mike Trout and Kole Calhoun.
In the NBA playoffs Joel Embiid thrilled the home town Philadelphia crowd by pouring in 33 points to go with 10 rebounds, leading the 76ers to a 116-95 blow-out win over the Toronto Raptors as the Sixers take a two games to one lead in that second round series.
Finally, a remarkable story of sacrifice and solidarity by more than 200 women hockey players who say they will not be playing in a professional league next season. Why? Because the players make as little as $2,000 a season and have no health insurance playing in the only women's league in North America, the NWHL. Now more than 200 of these players are boycotting the season in an effort to get the NHL to start up a women's league that can pay a living wage and allow these extraordinary athletes to show great the game of women's hockey is, and you only have to watch past Olympic play to see that that's true. We can only hope the NHL gets the message and acts accordingly.