You’ve probably heard a lot of coaches utter the old expression “Offense sells tickets, but defense wins games” over the years.
While that is certainly true to a degree, if both don’t exist collectively, you’re going to be in trouble.
If you followed the University of Maine men’s hockey team last season, you observed a team that struggled to score goals. It was going to be an offensively challenged year after All-Americans Devin Shore and Ben Hutton departed Orono to sign with the Dallas Stars and Vancouver Canucks, respectively. UMaine struggled to an eight-win regular season while averaging 2.0 goals per contest.
Coach Red Gendron and his staff have clearly addressed that with the Black Bears’ nine-member recruiting class, which includes three players who have been drafted by NHL organizations.
Maine fans should be excited about this group, which includes forwards Chase Pearson, Jake Pappalardo, Ryan Smith, Pat Shea, Mitch Fossier and Tim Doherty, defenseman Pat Holway and goaltenders Tyler Johnson and Stephen Mundinger.
Pearson and Holway were both drafted by the Detroit Red Wings and Shea is a Florida Panthers prospect. Pappalardo was one of the top prep players in the country, earning All-USA Boys Hockey second-team honors by tallying 31 goals and 47 assists for Proctor Academy out of New Hampshire.
There is a lot for Maine fans to be excited about with this group, especially offensively. There will certainly be less pressure on guys such as Nolan Vesey and Blaine Byron to carry the load offensively. The Black Bears should be more skilled up front in 2016-17. Fans have expressed particular excitement in Pearson and Pappalardo, who could very well step into key offensive roles right away.
So long as Maine’s defensemen and goaltenders improve, the Black Bears should win more games next season. I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that playoff hockey will return to Alfond Arena next March.
DAVID PRICE PULLS AN AARON RODGERS
If you’re a Green Bay Packers fan, you likely recall quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ infamous press conference in which he urged cheeseheads to R-E-L-A-X.
Boston Red Sox ace David Price essentially pulled a Rodgers last week after being roughed up by the Tampa Bay Rays, when he tweeted “Tough day yesterday but I WILL get better!! Stick with me #soxnation I’m determined to make all of you love me!!”
Translation: Red Sox nation: RELAX!
Yes, Price has a 7.06 earned run average in four starts. But it’s April. Red Sox fans are known for panicking in April when the team gets off to somewhat of a slow start. I just continue to scratch my head every time I see “Why didn’t they re-sign Jon Lester” comments. That ship has sailed and has been docked in Chicago for the last year-plus.
Price will be fine. I don’t see any team running away with the American League East, so the Red Sox should be right in the thick of things throughout the season. Red Sox Nation just needs to trust in their new ace, and let him settle in.
CELTICS-HAWKS SERIES A THROWBACK
Growing up in the 1990’s, my introduction to the NBA was Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls. Playoff games back in those days were always riveting, physical, and in my case, staying up way later than my parents would normally allow.
The first-round series pitting the Boston Celtics and the Atlanta Hawks has that same flair.
These two franchises have postseason history. Celtic fans everywhere remember the duel between Larry Bird and Dominique Wilkins in 1988. Yes, Dominique could do much more than throw down highlight-reel dunks. An eighth-seeded Atlanta team that finished below .500 pushed the New Big Three of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to the brink in 2008 en route to Banner 17.
Two games into this series, Atlanta was in firm control. The Celtics needed to defend their home court in Games 3 and 4 and held serve. Isaiah Thomas, not to be confused with the former Detroit Pistons’ Bad Boy, erupted for a game-high 42 points in a Game 3 win on Friday. Boston followed that up by rallying for a thrilling overtime victory on Sunday night.
Before Friday, a lot of Celtics fans were content to just not get swept. This is a series again. And the Celtics are getting it done with Avery Bradley out with a hamstring injury.
The Celtics may not be annexing Banner 18 this season, but this series takes me back to some of the old Bulls-Knicks battles of the mid-90’s. And who thought we would be cheering for a guy named Isaiah Thomas, given that other Isiah was a Celtic villain in the late 1980’s?