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Time Out For Sports Talk: May Madness Kicks Off with some Garden Parties on a Winning Wednesday

TOST Question of the Week: Which of last night’s wins was most impressive—Bruins, Celtics, or Red Sox?

Todd: I could easily make a case for all three.  The Sox rebounded nicely after losing the first game of their series in Toronto when both Jon Lester and the bullpen pitched their first really poor game this season (and yet still finished April with a franchise-tying record 18 wins). On Wednesday night, Clay Buchholz became MLB’s first six-game winner, and whenever a pitcher’s ERA goes up after allowing just one run in six innings you know he’s been having an unbelievable season.  There’s also no question that Rogers Centre brings out the best in Boston’s power-hitting bats (while keeping the hotel patrons on their toes), as the Sox have now hit an astonishing 16 home runs in five games there this season (they’ve gone deep only 15 times in their other 22 games).

Certainly the Celtics have a strong case too.  Given up for summer vacationing just five days ago, they are now beginning to resemble a certain baseball team that ‘cowboyed up’ against another New York team back in 2004.  It was one thing to stave off a sweep in Game 4 when the Knicks’ second-best scorer J.R. Smith was serving a one-game suspension (even then it took overtime after the C’s blew a 20-point lead in the third quarter).  But to spot Carmelo and company the first 11 points of Game 5 at Madison Square Garden and then flip that into a 15-point lead by early in the fourth quarter, and accomplishing the feat using just seven players?  Regardless of what happens going forward—even if fatigue and age finally catch up with PP and KG—Celtic pride has been on full display this week.

But I was most impressed with the Bruins’ dominant 4-1 Game 1 victory over the Maple Leafs at TD Garden.  Sure, the B’s have raked against the Leafs (pun totally intended) going 8-1-1 the last two seasons, and Phil Kessel continues to be a no-show against his former team scoring just three goals in 23 career games.  But the Black and Gold definitely struggled down the stretch, losing seven of nine to close the regular season while looking deficient in many facets of their game.

But with the fresh start of the playoffs has come the return of the B’s trademark aggressiveness.  Throwing their muscle all over the ice last night, the Bruins doubled up on the Leafs in shots and even scored a power play goal.  The top line of David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton returned to form, accounting for two goals and four assists.  The recent stumbles that cost the Bruins the Northeast Division and dropped them down to the fourth seed might prove to be a blessing in disguise (at least for now), as the Maple Leafs appear to present a very favorable matchup.

Mike: Wednesday night certainly gave my TV remote a workout! Thankfully, DirecTV had all three games on consecutive stations, so it was just a matter of using the up and down arrows to keep up with all of the action!

I was very impressed with the Bruins’ win as you were Todd, I think the team had come into the playoffs not playing their best hockey, and to see them “flip the switch” and just dominate Toronto was good to see. The Leafs were never in this one, as the Bruins took the game to them almost from the get go (ignoring an early Toronto goal).

The Red Sox was the least impressive win for me. Now, I am one of the biggest Sox fans around, but for some reason I couldn’t get excited Wednesday. Sure, they pounded a division rival one game after a tough loss, and Buchholz was dominant once again, but there was just no excitement there.

I think a lot of that comes from the opponent. When the Jays started the season, they were World Series favorites, but then they started playing, and needless to say, it’s been a struggle north of the border. And that was reflected in SkyDome (nope, I won’t call it by its corporate name) this week. That place was D-E-A-D, dead. A lot of that probably had to do with the Leafs playing that night as well, but when it seems like you can hear the air conditioning units blowing in the dome through the TV, there is a problem. It was like the Jays and their fans had given up on the season already, and it was hard to switch from the bedlam at the Garden to the silence in Toronto and stay interested for any length of time.

That leaves the Celtics, and to me that was the most impressive win of the night. I still don’t think they’re going to complete this comeback, but winning on the road to stave off elimination has given me pause. It is truly the mark of a veteran squad when you can, (to paraphrase Curt Schilling) “make 18,000 (or so) Knicks fans shut up.”

The Cs have the right attitude, they’re not getting ahead of themselves, and I think the Knicks are feeling the pressure. It would be sweet to complete this comeback, it’s always sweet when a New York team chokes!

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