Tuesday Ramblin’

With no games for the locals last night, and a couple of appointments this morning, I’m falling back on delivering a few random thoughts, news items and observations from recent days.

I’ve had three separate sources, all very solid, tell me of a New England sportswriter recently fired for plagiarism. The sports editor of the newspaper in question referred me to the HR department, which has not responded to multiple attempts for a confirmation. The material in question was apparently taken from one or more NFL draft publications and used without attribution in NFL draft previews focused on the Patriots.

Neither side in the NFL labor battle is doing themselves any favors. The best hope for a 2011 season at this point seems to rest in the courts forcing the league to conduct business while an antitrust lawsuit moves forward. As each day goes by, I sense the anger (not “panic” as some reporters have termed it) of fans growing as neither side but particularly the owners, seem motivated to come to an agreement.

I heard a radio host this week make the suggestion that Patriots fans aren’t excited for this week’s draft in part because they know Bill Belichick will likely move around in the draft, and that the team probably won’t make both first-round selections. That’s ridiculous. Is it that, or is it because of the aforementioned labor unrest? While some might feel frustrated at the Patriots inclination towards moving around in the draft to maximize the value of their selections and stockpile future picks, the recent results have been solid.

I’ll fully cop to being a casual Bruins fan at best. But the adage that playoff hockey is a different animal than the regular season is 100% true. The last three Bruins games have been compelling, and impossible to turn away from. Jack Edwards takes heat from some corners for his outlandish scripted calls, but I enjoy his enthusiasm during the games. Tim Thomas might be the most underappreciated athlete in this town. The guy is an incredible story, and to emerge as he has late in his career to win a Vezina trophy and seemingly a lock for a second, he’s without a doubt one of the best at his position in the sport. Despite of that, his unorthodox style and uneven playoff record have caused some to downplay his success. However, his performance in game five at the Garden, especially in the overtime periods, is one I will not forget anytime soon. I’m rooting for him to be successful as much as I am the Bruins.

I’m enjoying how the goalposts are being moved for the Celtics and their playoff success. Prior to this first round series, I heard a lot of talk in the media about how the Knicks were the “most dangerous lower seed” in the playoffs, and how they would push the Celtics to six or seven games and tired them out while the Bulls and Heat breezed through their first round series and rested up for the second round. Now, after the Celtics executed a four-game sweep of the Knicks, talk is about how the first two games were too close, and that they gave up a run in the second half of game four, and how the Knicks were just a bad team. Certainly, the injuries to Chauncey Billups and Amar’e Stoudemire of the Knicks must be noted, but I feel the Celtics would’ve still prevailed in four even with those two on the floor for New York. Now, the Celtics have at least a full week of rest and practice on tap before beginning the second round. While many still want to pick at the Celtics and find negatives, I’m feeling pretty good about their chances going forward.

There was a mild media uproar in some corners over the fact that Bill Belichick did not schedule a session with the local media prior to the draft. Instead, the Patriots had Nick Caserio hold a session, which from all accounts was a success in terms of information and interest. Yet, there was still some rumbling over Belichick not being available. In the last week however, the head coach made time for personal sessions with Tom E. Curran, (CSNNE) Ian Rapoport, (Boston Herald) Shalise Manza Young (Boston Globe) and Mike Reiss (ESPN Boston).  So while he may not have had a full group media session (which are mostly useless anyway) Belichick did provide access to himself for reporters who made the effort to contact him directly.

I enjoyed Peter Abraham’s feature on Jason Varitek this morning (Catcher was receptive) but it felt like it belonged more on the society pages than the sports section.

Do Dennis and Callahan have any clue how insecure their rants about ratings and media reporters last week made them seem? I doubt it.

Speaking of sports radio, I still have not settled on a preferred rotation between WEEI and 98.5. I suspect I’m not alone. In the mornings, I’m generally swapping between the two stations hoping to hear a good guest. If the hosts are just bantering between themselves, I’m inclined to click away. Mid-day’s I’ve been on Mut and Merloni quite a bit more than Gresh and Zo. I really don’t have anything against the latter, their show is good at times, especially if they have someone like Sean McAdam on the show. The bombastic, reactionary style sometimes turns me off though. The WEEI offering is still developing, but getting better. I find it ironic that in Scott Zolak and Lou Merloni, you’ve got two former local professional athletes, both backups, who were close friends to the star of the team in their era (Drew Bledsoe, Nomar Garciaparra) and who were popular among the fans, and turned that popularity into a media gig.

Both are also naturally much better at analyzing the sport they played than they are the other sports. I enjoy when either can bring their own experience as a professional athlete to bear on a certain current situation.  Zolak perplexes me at times. I think he’s very good as a football analyst. On Patriots All Access, his segments are very good. On the radio at times, he’s completely different and nonsensical. Merloni seems to have a better rounded knowledge of sports along with the advantage of having grown up around here, following these teams. Still, I find myself cringing at times when he attempts to talk about a subject you can clearly tell he isn’t up on. Those moments need to be eliminated.

In the afternoons, recently I’ve had days where I couldn’t listen to either show. Both at times seem intent on killing the winter sports team they held the broadcast rights to. Glenn Ordway still cannot get over the trade of his binky, Kendrick Perkins, and firmly believes it will lead to the Celtics doom. Felger loves to knock Tim Thomas (though he lets up a little bit today on CSNNE.com) and pound on the Bruins failures. However, I can handle that, because the hockey talk seems the most genuine of any topic they discuss on that program. They hate basketball, so the talk on that subject is limited, Patriots talk is absurd, usually sometime solely aimed at pissing people off, and the baseball talk is uneven, seemingly focused mostly on Josh Beckett. I swear, every time I turn them on and the Red Sox are the topic, they’re talking about Josh Beckett. On WEEI, Michael Holley is getting more comfortable, but the addition of Mike Adams has almost pushed me away from that show completely. I find myself, at least for the hockey playoffs, going to Felger and Mazz more than the Big Show as of late.

Anyone else think it was odd that with the Bruins and Celtics in the middle of playoff series, the Boston Globe decided to send Dan Shaughnessy out West with the Red Sox for an April road trip?

Celtics, Red Sox Finish Off Sweeps

What a difference a week makes. After seeing the Red Sox flop out of the gate, the Celtics fizzle down the stretch of the regular season, and the Bruins fall 0-2 to the hated Montreal Canadiens, things were pretty grim around here. Now the Celtics have finished off a four-game sweep of the (non)rival New York Knicks, the Red Sox are coming off of a 5-1 road trip, including a four-game sweep of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and the Bruins have won three straight games, including two straight in overtime, to lead the Canadiens 3-2 in their first round series. Not a bad few days.  Not bad at all.

The ratings reflect this. Ken Fang over at FangsBites on BSMW, looks at how NESN and WCVB fared this weekend:

Stunning Ratings for Canadiens-Bruins & Celtics-Knicks

The Celtics ran out to a big third quarter lead yesterday, then lost a bit of an edge and let the Knicks get back into the game before closing things out for a 101-89 series-clinching win yesterday in New York. Get all the coverage at CelticsLinks.com.

Sweep stands as lesson for Celtics – Steve Bulpett says the Celtics can go away from this series knowing they’re going to need to be better in the second round.

Celtics on their game again – Jackie MacMullan says that the Celtics have flipped the switch.

Bench play bears fruit — a rest period – Bob Ryan gives props to the Celtics reserves.

Anybody else want to question Rajon Rondo? – Paul Flannery has the Celtics point guard destroying another detractor. Chris Forsberg has Rondo answering all challenges the Knicks threw his way.

Sweep Dreams – Natural cynic Michael Muldoon is wondering if the Celtics can beat the Heat.

Jermaine O’Neal does part – The stats are not overwhelming, but Mark Murphy’s notebook has the veteran center as a big part of the Celtics right now. The Globe notebook from Julian Benbow has Rondo making a huge statement with his play. The ProJo Celtics Journal has more on the bench finally contributing.

The Red Sox got eight shutout innings from former Angel John Lackey, as they rolled to a series sweep with a 7-0 win yesterday. Get all the news at RedSoxLinks.com.

John Lackey takes ire out on Angels – Gordon Edes has the Red sox righty pitching with an edge.

Momentous mound men – John Tomase examines the tremendous run the Red Sox starting pitchers are on. Sean McAdam has the staff digging the team out of the hole it dug itself at the start of the season.

Trying to uncover the reason it took so long for Carl Crawford to be Carl Crawford – Rob Bradford examines possible reasons for the outfielder’s slow start, which may be coming to an end.

Tasting Salty success – Scott Lauber’s notebook has Lackey giving credit to the young catcher, who is starting to feel more comfortable with the staff. The Globe notebook from Peter Abraham has Crawford hitting his first home run as a member of the Red Sox. Tim Britton’s Red Sox Journal has more on Crawford.

Bruins hope Game 5 winner signals better days ahead for their top line – Mike Loftus has the Bruins top line showing encouraging signs of life in game five.

Hard to stomach dull Habs – Stephen Harris isn’t a fan of the Canadiens style of play.

Pressure brought out their best – Fluto Shinzawa says that game five brought out the best in the Bruins stars.

Dennis Seidenberg wins endurance race – Rich Thompson’s notebook says that “Dennis Seidenberg is a German with the stamina of a Kenyan.” The Globe notebook from Nancy Marrapese-Burrell has more on Seidenberg. The Gatehouse notebook from Mike Loftus has the Bruins still working on that power play.

Patriots are in position – Bill Belichick talked with Shalise Manza Young over the weekend about this week’s draft.

The question remains: Will Pats run with Mark Ingram? – Christopher Price wonders if the Alabama running back is on the Patriots draft board.

Patriots have needs as annual NFL draft approaches – Glen Farley looks at what areas the Patriots are likely to address.

Kraft on ESPN Boston Radio today at 1:15 – Jonathan Kraft is a guest on ESPN Boston Radio with Adam Jones today.

Bruins, Sox Go Extra For Big Wins

Both the Bruins and Red Sox needed some extra time last night, but they both managed to pull out road wins. The Bruins evened up their first round series with Montreal at 2 games apiece with a 5-4 OT win. The Red Sox beat the Angels 4-2 in 11 innings.

This is a little late, but there is some really good material today, and I tried to look at some different sources as well.

Get all the coverage at Bruinslinks.com and RedSoxLinks.com.

Ryder’s goal in overtime squares series – Fluto Shinzawa has the story of the Bruins epic overtime win in Montreal to square the best of seven series at two. Get more on the game from Douglas Flynn | DJ Bean | Steve Conroy | Joe McDonald

When playoffs arrive, Bruins’ Ryder’s not just along for the ride – Matt Kalman notes that “no Bruins’ player has become more synonymous with the team’s failures over the last few seasons than Michael Ryder, yet no player has exceeded his regular-season performances with playoff brilliance more than Ryder.” More on Ryder from Joe Haggerty |Stephen Harris | Dan Hickling | James Murphy | Mick Colageo | Amanda Bruno

Julien’s timeout may prove to be of the season-saving variety – Jesse Connolly of New England Hockey Journal says that the Bruins coach may have saved his season (his job perhaps) with a timeout last night.

Somehow, getting it done – Kevin Paul Dupont examines “how crazy things have begun for the Bruins as they try to win their first Cup since 1972.”

Ference could pay a big price for gesture – Shinzawa’s notebook says that the Bruins defenseman could be looking at league punishment for his one-fingered gesture to the Montreal crowd. The Bruins Notebook from Steve Conroy has Chris Kelly leading a third-line charge that lifted the Bruins.

Extra effort lifts Red Sox over Angels – Scott Lauber has the gamer on the Red Sox win over the Angels.

The catching conundrum: What options do Sox have? – Alex Speier looks at what the Red Sox can do about their catching situation. Nick Cafardo says that now is not the time to make a change.

Sox’ littlest man comes up big – Sean McAdam has Dustin Pedroia coming up big in the win. John Tomase has more on Pedroia’s contributions.

Josh Beckett’s success is Sox’ good four-tune – John Tomase says that “last night Beckett provided some of the most compelling evidence yet that he is back, and in a big way.” Gordon Edes has the Sox leaning on Beckett for 125 pitches last night.

Lowrie making up for lost time – Peter Abraham’s notebook has the shortstop proving himself all over again. The Herald notebook from Scott Lauber has Kevin Youkilis having to leave the game early after taking a foul ball off his shin. The CSNNE notes from Sean McAdam have more on the strong start from Beckett.

Iglesias has winning attitude – Michael Vega’s minor league notebook has a look at the shortstop phenom’s start at Pawtucket.

Where history has roots – Amalie Benjamin has a look at Madison Square Garden, and the historic basketball battles that have been held there. Chris Forsberg has Doc Rivers hoping to erase some bitter memories of the place. Steve Bulpett revisits some of the classic battles between the Celtics and Knicks.

Game 3 Keys: Get a rebound – Paul Flannery with a simple gameplan for the Celtics.

Rondo is on the attack for Celts – Scott Souza has the Celtics point guard with the series in his hands.

NBA player, Epsom teen share a loss and a game – Jim Fennell tells the touching story of a NH teen who caught the attention of NBA star Chris Paul.

Belichick says ’11 defensive line class is benchmark group – The Patriots coach tells Tom E Curran that this draft class is stocked at defensive linemen. Wait, I thought I was told repeatedly that Bill Belichick was not speaking to the local media before the draft?

Doing homework sets up Bill Belichick’s board – Hang on, he spoke with Ian Rapoport as well?

Cervasio at home back in New York – Chad (or is it Thad?) Finn checks in with the former NESN reporter, and looks at the latest radio ratings, which caused so much rancor yesterday.