Sports Opinion: Bruins or Celtics?

Ryan Thomas

Three months ago, this would have been a preposterous question to pose to the masses. The decision would have been unanimous. Who has a better shot at winning a Championship this season: The Celtics or the Bruins?Everybody knows that fans were still riding the coattails of Banner 17 coming into the 2008-09 NBA season, expecting a repeat of last season. When it came to the Bruins however, expectations were reasonable, but the terms “Stanley Cup” and “Boston Bruins” were not uttered together on airwaves or in print in the New England area. We had all become accustomed to paltry Bruins teams idling along in second gear headed nowhere. The B’s-Habs playoff series last season shined a small ray of hope on the team, but a Stanley Cup seemed out of the question – until the season started playing out. The Bruins put themselves on the map this season by winning and by doing it for long stretches (14-game home win streak, 10-game overall win streak). Yes, injuries have crept up on them, and the Celtics looked human for a short stretch, but the questions still loom: Who is the best professional sports team in Boston right now? (very debatable) and who has a better chance at going to the Promised Land?The pros and cons of each team will be battered around and a winner will come out in the end. Let’s start with the Celtics.What’s going for them is that they climbed the mountain last year, the Big Three are still intact and Rondo is improved.? Experience can mean so much for a team, no matter the sport. If you’ve been there and seen the chaos and physicality, you’ll know what to expect when the stakes get raised once again. ? Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are all a year older, but their minutes haven’t increased very much and major injuries haven’t been an issue. The Ubuntu chemistry may be exaggerated slightly, but their teamwork and unselfishness is unmatched.? Rondo is the catalyst for this team. His detractors knock his inability to drill jumpers while others douse him for his wild passes from underneath the basket, but as he goes, this team goes. They’re 17-3 when he collects 10 or more points and 6 or more assists. When those numbers climb to 14 and 7, the team is 10-0. His quickness is unmatched in the league and other than a push against Chris Paul recently, Rondo has emerged victorious in every head-to-head matchup with the top point guards the NBA has to offer.What’s not going for them is Kendrick Perkins’ recurring shoulder issue, the hole that James Posey left and the black hole that is a true backup point guard.? Perkins is like The Hulk. Perk Smash! Perk Rebound! Perk Block Shot! Perk Defend! Unfortunately, his body is not nearly as reliable as The Hulk’s. After off-season shoulder surgery, Perk re-aggravated the same shoulder in a loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Celts need Perk inside banging, rebounding, defending and being an imposing S.O.B. if they’re going to repeat. The big man might be fragile like a porcelain doll.? Posey is missed most when the Celtics match up against teams like Cleveland (LeBron) and Los Angeles (Kobe), where a bigger, bulkier yet quick defender is needed to contain these physical anomalies. Tony Allen isn’t the guy Celtics Brass puffed him up to be. Throw him to the wolves. Posey’s presence also allowed the Celtics to play big or small, something they did better than everyone else last year. They’re not as flexible this season with him gone.? The Sam Cassell experiment didn’t really work last season. He hit one big shot against San Antonio on the road, but that was about it. He mostly just layed on the side lines with heat packs on his lower back doing a great Bea Arthur impression. Will Marbury work? Even if he gets out of his Knicks contract, who knows. KG says he endorses the acquisition, but big deal. The point is, Eddie House is no point guard and Gabe Pruitt isn’t nearly ready to do that job. That may be the second biggest hole on the team.Onto the Bruins…What’s going for them is that their goaltending is superb, the defense is very good and their young players have grown exponentially.? The duo of Tim Thomas and Manny Fernandez is by far the best in the NHL. They are top three in save percentage and one and five, respectively, in goals against average. Thomas has gotten more work, but being able to slide Fernandez in and not lose a step will be huge come playoff time. The rest Thomas will get now will pay off in the end because goaltending wins in the playoffs.? The Bruins have allowed the fewest goals in the NHL (98 in 43 games), thanks to Claude Julien’s hard-nosed strategies and his “boring” 1-2-2 defense. Call it boring, but it works. The intensity he breeds into his players has as much to do with their success as anything.? Phil Kessel, Milan Lucic, David Krejci, Blake Wheeler and Co. have been giving the B’s everything they could have dreamed of – and more. The Bruins are starting to look like the Red Sox in this regard: Providence is stocked full of very good young talent, ready to fill in holes left by some of the major injuries to guys like Patrice Bergeron and Marco Sturm.What’s not so going for them is their rash of injuries, a lack of playoff-proven players and – believe it or not – the number-one seed in the conference.? It’s amazing the Black and Gold are still plugging away with the amount of injuries they have encountered this season. Bergeron looks more and more like Eric Lindros light (read: overly concussed); Kessel has been hit with mono, which can reek havoc on your body and conditioning; Sturm has been lost for the season with a serious knee injury; Andrew Ference’s broken tibia is taking longer than expected to heal. There have been a bevy of other small injuries like Lucic’s “upper body” mystery and Aaron Ward’s ever-lasting Charlie horse. If they don’t heal up at least partially, a nose dive could ensue.? Sturm’s loss proves costly in regards to a potential playoff run. He potted a few big goals in last season’s Habs-Bruins playoff series last year. The young guys are good now, but what about when the beards thicken and the intensity and physicality get cranked up come playoff time? Will they be able to adjust accordingly? History says probably not. ? Top-seeds in the NHL almost seem like a bad thing. In 2002, the Bruins held the top seed and lost to the Canadians in the first round. It just seems like a set up. What would be good for the B’s would be a skid to send them back to the pack, making them battle during the regular season. Some grueling regular season games would prime them for a run at The Cup and maybe show some of the kids what playoff hockey is like.The Bruins may have injuries right now, but the majority of those should be healed up come playoff time. Their goaltending should carry most of the weight. The Celtics just can’t seem to stop King James in the East. The loss of Posey and no P.J. Brown in the playoffs will likely spell their demise. Either way, this winter in Boston sports has been one to remember so far.