Let’s find a way the Boston Bruins might lose in the playoffs, if there is one

If they were going to lose, how might it happen?

While Gary Bettman might not think there’s anything wrong with the current playoff system (he’s wrong!), it is pretty clear that this set-up has robbed March and the first half of April of most of its drama. We’re basically down to seeing whether a wheezing Penguins team (whoops!) can keep their lunch down just long enough to hold off a thoroughly unimpressive Panthers team out of the wildcard spots, and some seeding issues between the Devils and Canes and the Pacific Division. To be fair, if the NHL were using a conference-based system it wouldn’t look too much different than it does now, it would just feel better and make more sense.

Whatever. Hockey has always been focused on its playoffs, and so shall we be. And the main question this spring will be can anyone derail the unholy force that the Boston Bruins have been? Some would like to focus on the wobble the Bs had at the end of February when they lost three of four, and since then they’ve gone… 15-3-0. So yeah, that wasn’t really a thing.

The Bruins would have to remain pretty scorching to match the record of 132 points in a season (1976-1977 Habs), and may turn off the jets for a rest to fall short of the Lighting’s 128 points from four years ago. But it remains that no team will enter the NHL playoffs as big of a favorite and feeling like Godzilla roaming the countryside since that Lightning team as the Bruins will in three weeks’ time.

That said, that Lightning team proceeded to perform one of the biggest full-body dry heaves in playoff history when they were swept out of the first round by Columbus. It’s hockey, nothing is ever certain and the end is always near. So what might take the Bruins down?

William Regal would say, “Man in the mask”

(I miss my weekly Regal-Excalibur exchanges)

When the Lightning spit up a planet-sized hairball to the Jackets in 2019, the biggest reason was Andrei Vasilevskiy putting up a .856 save percentage. Nothing sinks a great team quicker than a goalie who turns into Stop Making Sense-era David Byrne in net.

Linus Ullmark is probably going to take home the Vezina Trophy, and rightly so. He also has two games worth of experience in the playoffs, which came last year, and they didn’t go well. Ullmark wouldn’t be the first goalie to follow his first dominant season with something of a whiff in the playoffs. Especially if the Bruins draw the Islanders in the first round, who will sport a possible Vezina runner-up in Ilya Sorokin and the margins might be tight.

Even if Ullmark were to falter, the Bruins have Jeremy Swayman in reserve who has started 30 games and has a .920 save percentage. Swayman played five of the Bruins’ seven games in the first round last season against Carolina and was mostly fine with a .911. They’re about as buffered as can be against a goalie hiccup, but when things go wrong it’s always the first point of investigation in the post-mortem.

The thin small blue line

We’re already stretching here, which is an indication of just how solid the Bruins are built. The Bs’ success is built on the fleetness and dexterity of their blue-liners, given that they can sport four or five d-men who can really move and are good with the puck since the acquisition of Dmitry Orlov. Most teams might have two, but the Bruins can have a player on the ice for all 60 minutes that can skate themselves and the team out of trouble.

Still, it’s not the biggest crew around. So if the Bruins were to come up against, say, a pretty conservative team that was only too happy to continually dump the puck into the Bruins zone and then paste the Bruins defense up against the boards shift after shift for a whole series (hi there, Islanders), that could get wearisome after five or six games. If nothing else, that would keep the margins in games pretty tight, and when that happens HOCKEY! can turn games over to the underdog for no good reason at all.

Still, it’s hard to see this approach working against a team as deep at defense as the Bruins are. Maybe an opponent can make Charlie McAvoy annoyed or hesitant. Maybe even Hampus Lindholm. But the Bs still sport Matt Grzelcyk and Orlov. They almost always will be able to evade third and fourth liners they face and beat them back up the ice to open up things for the forwards. It’s a possibility that this could work for portions of games, but not all that likely for a whole series.

Statler and Waldorf are their #1 and #2 centers

Again, this is another real stretch, given how good Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci have been this season. Boston has backed Bergeron’s minutes off this season a touch, he’s averaging 11:35 of even-strength time as opposed to being over at least 12 minutes per game for the previous 12 seasons (he’s been around a bit!). Krejci’s use is also a touch down from most of his career, though he’s averaging more time at even-strength than Bergeron, but he doesn’t kill penalties anymore.

But hey, they’re 37 and 36 respectively, and four rounds and two months of playoff games can be a lot for players far younger. Both of these guys are proven playoff performers, Krejci has somehow managed to lead the playoffs in scoring twice in his career without winning a Conn Smythe Trophy. It was four years ago they were the top two centers for another Bruins team making it to Game 7 of the Final. But four years can be a long time in hockey, and these old bones will have to contend with some combination of Stamkos-Point, Matthews-Tavares/O’Reilly even to just get out of the division, and then Zibenajad-Trocheck of the Rangers, or Hughes-Hischier, or Aho-Staal of Carolina. One does not simply walk out of the Eastern Conference this year.

That doesn’t mean Bergeron and Krejci aren’t capable of managing it, and there is no better supporting cast. But you’d be hard-pressed to find another team with their top two centers with this much mileage on the odometers going all the way.

Even this weak case could be easily swatted aside when you consider that the Bs might just as well draw the Penguins or Panthers in the first round, each of whom they’d absolutely muller. That would leave whatever’s left of whoever crawls out of another death match between the Lightning and Leafs. They could be fresh as a daisy before whoever is left out of the Atlantic Division.

But should it go balls-up, there’s the roadmap, kinda.

For more inane hockey thoughts or just anti-Olczyk rants, follow Sam Fels on Twitter @Felsgate

NHL continues to coddle the bigots

Meet James Reimer, who will wear a sweater with a cartoon shark on it, but not a rainbow.

Yet another NHL team had to have an ado about their Pride Night and warmup jerseys this past weekend. This time it was the San Jose Sharks and goalie James Reimer. It was the same bullshit we’ve heard from others, though the Sharks put him on his own island to explain himself, which is half the battle, as they went ahead with the rest of their plans for Pride Night and every other player wore the jerseys. They still allowed Reimer to make his own statement, which made the night more about him than the gestures the Sharks organization were making. And they still let him off the hook with the tame and predictable, “Respecting everyone’s beliefs” cop-out that other teams have reached for. That’s only true when someone’s beliefs are worth respecting, when bigotry never is.

But it’s probably best to just let an openly gay hockey player say it best, as Luke Prokop, a player in the Predators system, did last night:

What needs to be amplified are hockey’s attempts, however ham-handed and halfway they may be, to try to be welcoming. Merely sending Reimer home without comment while the Sharks released a statement that his views do not reflect the organization’s would have done that. Players like Reimer don’t deserve a platform of any kind. That at least would put the focus where it needs to be.

But hockey’s fetish of putting the team over all would probably never allow for that, which is why some teams have eschewed wearing Pride jerseys at all, so as to cover for teammates who do not want to wear them (and it should be stated that some Russian players have declined fearing reprisal for them or their families back home in Russia). Even if Reimer was alone, he still got to try to save enough face to not feel ostracized by his team. Which is what he deserved.

Meaningless baseball continues to thrill millions

Shohei Ohtani celebrates after hitting a 9th-inning double

I think maybe what I might take most out of the World Baseball Classic is its insistence on portraying the entire scope of the best moments, what makes baseball the most artful game.

Sure, there are plenty of shots like this during the MLB regular season, but they don’t get this dramatic until October, and it’s a nice reminder. In other sports, the biggest moments are focused on one point. The last shot, the big goal, the touchdown. The action all crescendos to one spot. In baseball, there’s so much happening everywhere at once in a spot like this. There’s the initial thunderous contact at the plate, and then following the ball in its arc toward the outfield wall. There’s the centerfielder chasing down the ball off the wall. There’s Ohtani and Ukyo Shuto rounding the bases, as Munetaka Murakami rounds first while Mexico sets up for the relay across the whole length of the field, even as futile as this one was. The entire Japanese roster spilling out of the dugout and all turning into third-base coaches. The Mexican players already slowly walking off who are separate from the failing relay throws. It’s a mural of the best of baseball, the inverse actions of each team and yet all in harmony and rhythm, spread across a wide tableau.

There’s also this still image:

Image for article titled Meaningless baseball continues to thrill millions

Before all that action, the frantic last moments that combine to form one last piece from a memorable game, there’s this. Giovanny Gallegos knows it’s over, which is why the feeling goes out of his knees. There’s still much to be done, and things that could go wrong on either side, and yet Gallegos knows none of that is coming. His fate was decided with that decisive crack off Murakami’s bat. Nothing can be more decisive than that sound, cutting through the brief pause of the raucous crowd as a pitch is delivered.

None of this is complete without the Japanese call:

Boy, that sure sounds like it matters.

With the final being Japan-USA tonight, there’s little question it will be the most-watched baseball game, worldwide, in history. It has the potential to include Ohtani marching out of the bullpen like the Reaper to face Mike Trout in the late innings, but even should it not include that the drama will be pretty high, at least one hopes.

As more people tune in there are more people beseeching MLB to do this every year. But the rarity and desperation of it are what makes it so fun. The players care more because they don’t know how many more shots they’ll get at this, whether it’s the semi-pros (if that) of the Czechia or the stars or Japan or the US. Three years can be a long time in baseball. Even for them, the stars have to align.

I’m no less guilty than most others who spend baseball seasons lamenting what’s wrong with baseball. It has been so much fun to remember what’s so right, especially with the bonus of the baseball season beginning right after this. There is good in the sport, Mr. Frodo. It’s worth fighting for.

Go to the source

Yet another NHL team had to have an ado about their Pride Night and warmup jerseys this past weekend. This time it was the San Jose Sharks and goalie James Reimer. It was the same bullshit we’ve heard from others, though the Sharks put him on his own island to explain himself. Which is half the battle as they went ahead with the rest of their plans for Pride Night and every other player wore the jerseys. They still allowed Reimer to make his own statement which made the night more about him than the gestures the Sharks organization was making. And they still let him off the hook with the tame and predictable, “Respecting everyone’s beliefs” cop-out that other teams have reached for. That’s only true when someone’s beliefs are worth respecting, when bigotry never is.

But it’s probably best to just let an openly gay hockey player say it best, as Luke Prokop, a player in the Predators system, did last night:

What needs to be amplified are hockey’s attempts, however ham-handed and halfway they may be, to try to be welcoming. Merely sending Reimer home without comment while the Sharks released a statement that his views do not reflect the organization’s would have done that. Players like Reimer don’t deserve a platform of any kind. That at least would put the focus where it needs to be.

But hockey’s fetish of putting the team over all would probably never allow for that, which is why some teams have eschewed wearing Pride jerseys at all so as to cover for teammates who do not want to wear them (and it should be stated that some Russian players have declined fearing reprisal for them or their families back home in Russia). Even if Reimer was alone, he still got to try to save enough face to not feel ostracized by his team. Which is what he deserved.

Stop bitching about the World Baseball Classic

A fan runs on the field during the World Baseball Classic Semifinals between Team Cuba and Team USA at loanDepot park on March 19, 2023 in Miami, Florida.

We tend not to appreciate things that don’t matter as much to us as it does others. If there’s anything more American than “I got mine,” I don’t know what that would be. That seems to be the trouble with the World Baseball Classic, even though with every iteration it seems to pick up more steam. There are just those who will not care about the sights and sounds of fans and ex–pats and residents and players from other countries, who all seem to value this pretty highly. Maybe it’s because there are still a fair few American players who waved off the invitation. Or it could be that there’s this perception that the US should always stroll to the trophy, so winning brings no joy. So there is no happy outcome for the only fanbase that matters.

I don’t know, this looks like a guy and team that would be pretty damn happy to win the WBC. Same with those fans leaping with joy in the background:

The attention span of both fans and the news cycle don’t really let something like the WBC breathe. It needs to have edition after edition to matter (and for MLB to place it in the middle of the season when it would really matter, but we’ve had that talk). You know what else was thought of as a joke when it first started? The World Cup. Not so much anymore.

But the injuries

Do guys get hurt in spring training? All the time. Jose Altuve could have been facing some amped up kid trying to break camp with the big club for the first time, wearing #84, who rode a fastball in too high and tight. Altuve is lucky that he plays for the Astros, in a division like the AL West, where they’re still likely to absorb his loss and, at worst, mosey into the expanded playoffs even with him out for two months. Other players who teams’ fortunes hang on their presence alone would have been more greatly damaged.

But no one forced these guys. They all want to be here, and they all seem to be loving it. So are the fans. It’s still new, it’s still different, and it strikes during a time on the calendar when NBA and NHL playoff chases aren’t really a thing anymore and as the NCAA Tournament continues to serve up basketball that looks like it was belched up by some swamp creature that suddenly has a hole in it.

And again, it’s not for us, or us entirely. There’s a thrill that we probably can’t fully understand if you’re Dominican or Venezuelan and seeing your national team play. That it happens every four years keeps it rare but valuable.

The next time they roll this out, in 2027, more players will want to play, having watched even just USA-Venezuela and seeing those moments like Turner’s grand slam. Who wouldn’t want to be part of that? To call it fake or made-up or worthless is to be a curmudgeon for the sake of it. The thought of Shohei Ohtani rolling out in the final out of the pen to perhaps preserve the tournament for the Japanese? How metal is that? Why does anyone feel the need to keep moments like that exclusive to just what we’ve always known before?

If anything it’s proven how fun baseball can be if we stop treating it like we always have. If we allow others to enjoy it in their way. Players get hurt for all sorts of reasons, and if one player missing a couple weeks or even months means you miss out on the pretty wide target of a wildcard berth these days…build a fucking better team. That must mean you aimed for 87 wins. Get outta here with that. No one should feel sorry for you.

It might not be for you, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be for someone else.

The best of the rest

Gonna rip through a few things here:

  • I could watch the slo-mo of this Thiago Almada freekick all day with some mood lighting and just the right “spice.”

You should probably catch Almada now while you can, because some European team might lavish Atlanta with some $30-35 million to take him off their hands this summer.

  • Mom, you’re supposed to be the bedrock of the family:
  • Carlos Alcaraz is back to eat the world.

After missing the Australian Open due to injury, Alcaraz strutted into Indian Wells–perhaps the tour’s leading tournament beneath the four majors–and won it without dropping a set to reclaim the #1 ranking in the world. He pretty much regurgitated Daniel Medvedev, who had won 20 straight matches on hardcourt and is considered the leading hardcourt player in the world. At least he was until Alcaraz turned him into foodstuffs, 6-3 6-2.

There is nothing Alcaraz can’t do on the court, and this point in the semifinal against Jannik Sinner shows you why at the age of 20, he has the tennis world thudding various floors with its jaw:

What shot didn’t he hit in that point? If it were anything but sport we would say no child should be given such power, for it is too heavy to wield. Alcaraz is taking it and dunking on everyone again.

Coyotes sign Shane Doan’s son to entry-level contract

TEMPE, Ariz. — Josh Doan is following his father’s footsteps into professional hockey.

The Arizona Coyotes signed the 21-year-old forward to a three-year entry-level contract, beginning with the 2023-24 NHL season. He will report to the Tucson Roadrunners of the AHL and play his first game against the Calgary Wranglers.

Doan’s father, Shane, played 21 seasons with the franchise, many of those as captain, and followed it from Winnipeg to the desert in 1996. Shane Doan now serves as Arizona’s chief hockey development officer.

The Coyotes drafted Josh Doan in the second round of the 2021, but he opted to play for the hometown Arizona State Sun Devils.

Josh Doan set school records for goals (12) and assists (25) as a freshman last season. He had 16 goals and 22 assists in 39 games with Arizona State this season.

The 6-foot-1, 183-pounder also played two seasons for the Chicago Steel of the USHL.

Blackhawks forward Cole Guttman has shoulder surgery

CHICAGO — Chicago Blackhawks forward Cole Guttman had surgery on his right shoulder.

The team said the operation was performed in Los Angeles. Team physician Michael Terry said the 23-year-old Guttman is expected “to be out of hockey activities for approximately four months.”

Guttman had been a pleasant surprise for rebuilding Chicago. He made his NHL debut last month and finished the season with four goals and two assists in 14 games.

Guttman was selected by Tampa Bay in the 2017 draft. He agreed to a two-year contract with Chicago in August 2022 that had a $950,000 salary cap hit.

Fighting in hockey is taking its last breath

Nathan Ouellet of the Rimouski Oceanic and Thomas Caron of the Quebec Remparts fight during their QMJHL hockey game.

The debate about fighting in hockey has always been overly loud for what was actually being debated, if debate ever even took place. One side of it always tended to be pretty shrill. The natural evolution of the game to a speed and skill one has lessened fighting to a rarer and rarer occurrence on its own. Teams are simply unable to carry a knuckle-dragging drooler on the fourth line to skate four minutes a night until it’s time to beat up the other team’s drooler for no discernible purpose other than to entertain some shaved apes in the stands, who are dying off anyway.

But fighting has gotten a nudge, if not an outright spear to the chest, with the news today that the QMJHL, one of the three junior leagues in Canada, will ban fighting starting next season. When the WHL and the OHL, the other two leagues that constitute juniors are unknown, but it probably won’t be too long. The quirk of this push from the Q is that it was spearheaded by Enrico Ciccone, a former NHL goon who is now a member of Quebec’s assembly. Ciccone has been open about the toll being an enforcer has taken on him and many players he played with, the impetus to introduce a bill in the Quebec legislature to ban fighting.

There was always something barbaric and truly sick about a culture and society that not only allowed children to fight each other in any forum, but actively reveled in it. While the WHL still likes to think of itself as harkening back to the wild west somehow, and middle Canada is still filled with Don Cherry devotees, the Q going this route starts the clock on when they will. It’s quite a look to still allow children in your league to pummel each other when others elsewhere aren’t and everyone can see the benefits that will ensue from not allowing them to do so.

Is the NHL next?

Which means before too long, the NHL will be staffed with players who were not allowed to fight at all throughout their journey through the hockey world. At some point soon, all of junior hockey will join college hockey in not allowing it, so players will have never fought at any point in their development. Which makes it less and less likely that they will fight when they get to the pros. It won’t really be natural to them. Though the AHL might still be the O.K. Corral on some nights, given that coaches and scouts can still be wowed by a plug’s willingness to fight and use that as a basis to promote that player to the NHL. But that will eventually wane as well as more coaches and scouts see the game in a more modern way. I know, it’s hockey, but it could happen!

Fights have been declining

But as stated, fighting has been declining for years. So far this season, there have been 271 fights. And as Sean Gentille and Michael Russo of The Athletic documented today, a quarter of those are the completely stupid and pointless scraps that follow a clean hit. Which GMs are looking to eradicate as is, with an emphasis on stronger use of the instigator penalty for those types of fights. Should those fights go away or even be greatly reduced, there will be hardly any fighting at all.

It’s been clear to teams for a while that fights, despite the lore and mystique, didn’t actually help anyone win. It’s been proven that it doesn’t, whatever cliche some seventh-grade educated doofus spouts about energy or momentum or protection or whatever. It doesn’t exist. It doesn’t dissuade from the more egregious acts that it supposedly deters (hi Brad Marchand!). It doesn’t help a team win. Fighting has basically been preserved to keep a certain section of the fanbase happy, the one that the NHL has always been terrified of pissing off no matter how much they hold the sport and culture back. And pretty soon, there just won’t be any players around that have any experience doing it, and will be less and less likely to engage in it at all. 

The most Mets thing ever?

It could only happen to the Mets, couldn’t it?

If I asked you, before the WBC, which team might have a player seriously injured not just during the World Baseball Classic, but doing something non-play involved during the WBC that feels like the baseball gods got loaded and said, “Hey watch this!”, there would only be one answer, right? You couldn’t possibly think of anyone else but the obvious response. It’s like asking who on Popeye is most likely to eat a cheeseburger, or who on Three’s Company had the wheelbarrow of cocaine in their trailer (OK, that actually might be tough). Sometimes the question is the answer.

Ladies and gentlemen, the New York Mets:

This almost certainly will start a very annoying thread of why the WBC shouldn’t exist, but this could have happened to Edwin Diaz getting out of the car, and in fact, it’s surprising that a Mets player may have suffered a devastating injury in March while doing something on a baseball field at all. True Mets fashion would have had getting accidentally clipped by the guy mowing the outfield or a valet driver. It could have happened in a spring training game. Certainly the tournament meant a bunch to Diaz himself, otherwise, why would he be in these celebrations? It really sucks that this came at the end of one of the most raucous games to ever take place in this tournament, a win-or-go-home between teams with the most passionate fanbases that actually brought life to whatever the fuck they call the place the Marlins play in now. But we shouldn’t lose sight of that because of some horrible luck. Which is all it is, even if the METS aspect of it sits on it like a cartoon ape.

Secondly, the Mets might be OK? As historically dominant as Diaz was last season, he’s still a relief pitcher. Sure, maybe leaning on his slider far more than he ever had turned him into Hulk Eckersley permanently, but he also had a career season. One of the Mets’ problems last year was a bridge to Diaz, and they didn’t exactly solve all of that in the offseason, But it’s not unfeasible that David Robertson and Adam Ottavino can at least cobble enough together for a couple of months before the Mets find something via trade. No one’s going to be Diaz ‘22, but no one has to be exactly either.

But on the other hand…METS. José Quintana is out until the All-Star break if they’re lucky after his rib grew a gremlin (benign, thankfully). Brooks Raley had to pull out of the WBC with hamstring issues. Kodai Senga missed a start in Florida. For as much money as Steve Cohen has thrown around, for as much as he’s warped the game and broken the brains of some of his fellow owners, three-fifths of this rotation is over 35, and their season kind of hinges on that rotation. There is no amount of money that can cancel out the METS factor. You can’t buy love, you can’t buy happiness, and you can’t buy an escape from METS.

This only could have gotten more Queens Baseball if Vince Coleman threw a firecracker at Diaz during that celebration. Or if David Cone exposed himself while he was warming up in the pen and he was so shocked he tripped over the rosin bag and blew out his knee while Mr. Met failed to protect him because he was too busy flipping off a young girl in the bleachers. That’s just about the only more Mets moment possible.

The sad part is there will be more than a few owners and GMs who will use this as an excuse to hamstring the WBC in the future, preventing their players from appearing or severely limiting what they can do. When what the tournament really needs is to be taken even more seriously and moved into the middle of the summer. Other sports have always dealt with the threat that players will get hurt playing for national teams or in offseason workouts or whatever else. Baseball isn’t special.

On the flip side of the coin…METS. No one at Citi Field can outrun their nature.

If you absolutely need a fake tough guy, Jordan Binnington in your man

You haven’t thought about the St. Louis Blues much this year, and that’s how it should be. There’s never a point in your life where it would be a good thing to remember that they exist. But just to provide a quick update, they’ve had one of the better comedy acts in the NHL this year, and his name is Jordan Binnington.

Binnington hasn’t been able to stop a balloon this season, but that hasn’t stopped him from acting like a complete horse’s ass for most of the campaign (a St. Louis tradition!). Ol’ Bins has at various times tried to blindside opponents from the net or thrown temper tantrums after getting lit up repeatedly. Binnington is no stranger to being an asshat off the ice either. Any way you look at it, this guy is a complete douche canoe, to the point where even his own coach was calling him out in the press to stop being such a tool.

He was at it again last night:

There’s really no better look than trying to fight a guy after he’s just scored on you and you’ve given up five goals in 33 minutes. Which has been a continuing theme in Binnington’s season. Then again it’s Blues tradition to always worry about the things that don’t actually matter, and so maybe much like Diaz and the Mets, Binnington is the perfect representation of what the term “St. Louis Blues” really means. Down there, being a pissbaby is more important than wins and losses. They worship Yadier Molina after all. 

Cup-hungry Boston Bruins shrug off shot at NHL records

BOSTON – In a season full of extreme numbers, the Boston Bruins know exactly what value they put on winning the most games in NHL history.

“Zero,” defenseman Charlie McAvoy said last week, a day before Boston became the fastest team in history to 50 wins. “Bottom of anything I care about.”

The Bruins have been cruising through the regular season, and racking up milestones along the way. But even though they could amass the most wins ever – and most points, too — the players and brass insist they don’t have any interest in the biggest regular-season records of all.

“We play for the Stanley Cup,” Bruins President Cam Neely said flatly. “I tell everybody, ‘Enjoy the ride, but it’s all about the Stanley Cup.’”

The Bruins were coming off back-to-back 100-point seasons – and three straight early playoff exits – when they fired coach Bruce Cassidy last summer and hired Jim Montgomery to replace him. Key players like McAvoy, a Norris Trophy contender, and Brad Marchand, the team’s No. 2 scorer, were recovering from surgery, but the Bruins didn’t wait until they were at full strength.

They won six of seven games before Marchand got back on the ice, moving to the top of the Eastern Conference in the second week of the season; McAvoy’s return helped boost them to the league’s No. 1 overall seed, where they have remained since Veteran’s Day. They didn’t lose at home in regulation until January.

They were the fastest team in NHL history to 100 points and 50 wins, and the first one to clinch a playoff berth this year. Still, after winning their 50th game, which also turned out to be the playoff clincher, goalie Linus Ullmark couldn’t be less enthusiastic.

“Congrats to us, then,” he said. “I guess.”

Boston has a chance to post the most wins in NHL history, surpassing the 62 by the 1995-96 Red Wings and tied by the 2018-19 Lightning. It also has a chance to surpass the record 132 points amassed by the 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens.

But for a team that has already won the Presidents’ Trophy twice since 2004 – and failed to win the Cup both times – a league-leading third top finish doesn’t hold much allure.

“To me, the regular season (record), it is nice,” captain Patrice Bergeron said. “But you’re working hard to get into the playoffs. And that’s where the main focus is.”

Montgomery said the team hasn’t talked about the records, instead concentrating on getting in shape for the playoffs. If the Bruins have only the records to play for in the final days or weeks, he said, they will instead try to make sure everyone is rested and healthy for what they hope will be a two-month postseason slog.

“Us preparing for the Stanley Cup playoffs is more important than anything in the regular season,” he said.

Defenseman Matt Grzelcyk allowed that the regular-season record “would be quite an accomplishment,” but one that is “pretty low on the list.” It hasn’t escaped his notice that neither the ’96 Red Wings nor the ’19 Lightning won the Cup.

“We’ve seen that it’s kind of bit teams in the past,” Grzelcyk said. “We’ll just go out there and compete and let the chips fall where they may.”

Similar fates befell the 2001 Seattle Mariners, who won 116 games but didn’t even make the World Series; the ’16 Golden State Warriors, who broke the NBA record with 73 wins but lost in the finals; and the ’07 New England Patriots, who won all 18 games in the regular season and playoffs before losing in the Super Bowl.

“It was an unbelievable season, ’18-19, but I think it was almost too easy for us to play great,” said former Lightning winger Ondrej Palat, whose team was swept by Columbus in the first playoff round.

“It was very frustrating after a year like that,” Palat said. “But I’m not saying it’s like the Bruins. The Bruins are playing unbelievable hockey, and they have a big chance in the playoffs.”

Of course, Tampa Bay won the Stanley Cup in each of the next two seasons.

Neely never played his way to the trophy, losing in the finals to the Edmonton Oilers in 1988 and again two years later; he did get his name on the Cup when he helped build the Bruins team that won it all in 2011. That was their last championship, a drought this year’s team is looking to end.

“It’s been a pleasure to watch this team, there’s no question,” the Hockey Hall of Famer said. “Records are great, they’re nice to have — and especially team records. But it’s really about who wins the last game of the year.”

As Diamond Sports Group files for bankruptcy, its RSNs are left scrambling

Diamond Sports Group, the largest owner of regional sports networks, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Tuesday, March 14, 2023.

A huge portion of local sports broadcasting is in jeopardy after Diamond Sports Group, responsible for nearly half of local MLB, NHL, and NBA games under the Bally Sports brand, filed for bankruptcy protection on Tuesday in Texas. The conglomerates’ financial troubles stem from expensive broadcast rights agreements and the cord-cutting habits of sports fans.

Diamond Sports is a subsidiary of Sinclair Broadcast Group and listed its assets and liabilities as “between $1 billion and $10 billion each” in its Chapter 11 petition, per Reuters. Diamond’s CEO, David Preschlack, said the series of networks will continue to broadcast games while the company goes through the bankruptcy process. The company’s finances stand at $425 million in cash readily available, but it owes $9 billion to lenders. Diamond could pay back less than five percent at that value. By entering Chapter 11 bankruptcy, Diamond agreed to transfer ownership of the company from Sinclair to the lenders in exchange for eliminating $8 billion of their debt. Diamond broadcasts games for 42 professional teams in the big four sports leagues.

What happens to regional sports network employees?

Now what happens to the employees of those regional sports networks who broadcast the games of those 42 franchises? Getting absorbed by another national sports broadcaster with local ties and taking the financial slack off of Diamond is the easiest option, but who is readily available to take on that huge of a load? Every Bally Sports brand likely has hundreds of staff members and if they don’t get paid, why would they work? For now, broadcasts won’t be in jeopardy, but that’s a temporary band-aid for a much larger problem. Broadcasting rights for local sports and streaming services have become a viable path for networks to make money. Late last year, MSG announced the launch of a streaming service for $20-25 bucks a month as a cord-cutting way to watch the Knicks and Rangers. And it’s still in development. As for Bally Sports, it looks like a rough period will be on the horizon.

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