OK, now it’s about to get really good. With the calendar flipping to June, the always-interesting Boston sports scene gets an extra jolt of intrigue, with stakes rising and crucial decisions imminent. Here’s an anticipatory look at what the new month will or could have in store …
What June will bring: The greatest quest in sports
I’ve always thought luck was factored into hockey’s geometry in a way that it isn’t with other sports. So much can be determined by an odd bounce of the puck, an unpredictable ricochet, or, say, a harmless-looking pass hitting a skate and sending an opponent off on a breakaway to overtime victory.
Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy described Jeremy Lauzon’s pass, which hit off teammate Charlie Coyle’s skate and was scooped up by the Islanders’ Casey Cizikas for a winning breakaway goal in overtime of Game 2 Monday night, as “ill-advised.” The coach was correct in his candor, but he also knows that’s the kind of thing that makes the Stanley Cup playoffs the best take in sports year after year.
Plot twists come out of nowhere, especially when teams are as evenly matched as the Bruins and Islanders happen to be in this second-round series. The games ebb and flow, but the tension never wanes. We should have known better to think that the Bruins, after winning Game 1 in front of an overjoyed Garden crowd, 5-2, were going to cruise in this series. The Stanley Cup playoffs are a marathon. It’s not supposed to be easy.
Sure, that was a tough one to take Monday night. But the best teams recover from the bad bounces and self-inflicted troubles. The Bruins are a tremendous team. I look forward to them continuing to prove it over the next few weeks, and perhaps getting a few bounces of their own along the way.
What will June bring? Further confirmation that they’re for real
Two months, 32 wins, and 21 losses into the season, we’ve finally hit the portion of the schedule the prove-it-to-me skeptics have been awaiting. Sure, they’ve started well, but wait until they play the good teams.
The Red Sox began a four-game set with the Astros rather ignominiously Monday, with presumed ace Eduardo Rodriguez getting knocked around in an 11-2 loss. They have three more in Houston, then their first three games of the season against the Yankees. It’s a chance to prove they’re for real, at least to those who don’t already believe.
The Yankees, with true ace Gerrit Cole and their lineup of thick-armed exit-velocity heroes, were supposed to be the pace-setters in the American League East. But injuries and the underperformance of players such as D.J. LeMahieu, Gleyber Torres, and Gary Sanchez have resulted in a Bronx Bummer offense that averages just 3.74 runs per game, fourth-fewest in the majors. (The Sox average the third most at 5.08 per game, behind the Astros and Dodgers.)
When the Yankees started the season slowly, it was easy to lament around here that the Red Sox were missing out on a chance to take advantage while they could. Turns out there’s still a chance to take advantage, and to prove to the skeptics that this superb third of the season is for real. Seems to me, though, that we’re getting to the point where it’s actually the Yankees that have more to prove. The Sox are legit. You’ll see, if you haven’t yet.
What June will bring: The merciful end
Is it weird that with the Celtics on the verge of being vanquished by the most unlikable NBA team since the Bad Boy Pistons, with one water-bottle-chucking knucklehead validating Kyrie Irving’s vague and disingenuous criticisms of Boston, with Irving about to have a last word he absolutely does not deserve, with all of that to ponder at the pending conclusion of a truly annoying season … well, I ask you, is it weird that I feel better about the Celtics than I have since they started the season 8-3?
All right, yeah, it’s probably weird, and I don’t expect much company over here. I know it’s disheartening given the Celtics’ legitimate championship aspirations just two seasons ago, before Irving quit while still wearing green, that there’s such a wide talent disparity between them and a true contender like the Nets.
Just to hold in Game 3, the Celtics required a 50-point masterpiece from Jayson Tatum and arguably the best performances of the season from Marcus Smart and Evan Fournier. Game 4 started well before they were swamped by the Nets’ relentlessly exceptional shooting in a 141-126 loss. The Nets can hit heights that the Celtics can only look up to in awe.
The Celtics are down three starters, but the outcome probably wouldn’t be a whole lot more suspenseful if Jaylen Brown, Kemba Walker, and Robert Williams were healthy.
The small solace? They’re putting up the best fight they can. There’s no quit in Tatum, Smart, or even Tristan Thompson, who has had his best moments as a Celtic in this series. That should dispel the notion that Brad Stevens has lost the room. But the end is inevitable, and the real drama will follow: who stays and who goes.
What June will bring: A great catch?
I’m not a big believer in designating one city as a “baseball town” and another as a “football town” or whatnot; fans tend to get behind whichever team is the most compelling and successful at a given moment. But it remains remarkable that the Celtics and Bruins can be in the playoffs, the Red Sox in first place, and yet the hottest discussion topic last week in Boston sports was how rookie quarterback Mac Jones looked in organized team activities, three whole months before the regular season begins.
This insatiable appetite for Patriots minutiae would have seemed unfathomable to those of us who grew up watching the deeply talented but overlooked teams of the late ’70s. Then again, one Super Bowl victory, let alone six, would have seemed even more unfathomable.
We might get some real news to get hyped about soon. Speculation that aging but still formidable Falcons receiver Julio Jones could be traded to the Patriots could become reality now that we’ve arrived at the June 1 date at which it becomes more palatable for salary-cap reasons to trade or cut a high-priced player. If the Falcons are going to move on from Jones, it’s never made more sense than to do it now.
There are real concerns about whether Jones is worth the cost — in salary and trade capital — at age 32, and whether he’d be the right fit with the Patriots offense, but I really hope they do it. Receiver remains the one area of dubious quality and depth on the roster.
Bill Belichick has gone all-in this offseason at virtually every other spot on the depth chart. Might as well do it once more, and give us something truly irresistible to talk about.