Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Tour of Boston...

First stop, the Fens.
It was announced this past week that Dustin Pedroia won the AL MVP award (by a surprisingly large margin I might add). Certainly did not see this coming... even doubted my girlfriend when she proclaimed he would win it all the way back in July, saying medium-power balding midget two-baggers don't win MVPs. Looks like I was proved wrong and I have never been so glad!
Going into the vote, I was concerned that he and Youkilis would split the vote and allow someone to sneak in and steal it from them. However, I soon realized that Minnesota fans were battling the same concern with the Morneau/Mauer ticket and the fact that we made the playoffs all but ensured the win for Pedey. As TATB said, I still find it hard to believe that little Dustin Pedroia now has an MVP while past and current Red Sox greats like Manny, Pedro, Ortiz and Nomar have none.

There is even the question of whether Youkilis was the more deserving Sox for this award and he certainly had a strong case (though it only earned him third). My view on the matter is that Pedrioa and Youkilis were equally valuable to this team... it could not have succeeded without both players, from both a performance and leadership standpoint. With that in mind, I am glad that Pedroia took home the hardware in this instance seeing as the more powerful Youkilis is more likely to get another crack at this award. After all, table setting second basemen who bat second in the order rarely outshine cleanup-hitting first basemen. I just hope that Youk is able to take home some hardware of his own in the future.

Next stop, Foxboro(ugh)
With the sudden development of Matt Cassel as a NFL-level quarterback (thanks to that 400yd exclamation mark Thursday), there have been questions regarding his future. Some people advocate keeping him over Tom Brady while others think he needs to be re-signed and then traded once Brady's healthy. Frankly, these people make no sense and I question just how much football knowledge they actually possess. There is no way Cassel takes the paycut with NE to serve as a backup another year nor would he sign only to be traded... it just makes no sense. If you were Cassel, wouldn't you rather choose your employer and get a fresh-start with your new team rather than get sent to whoever gives NE the best haul? I know I certainly would. As for relieving Brady of his services, that is just daft... he is far too good a QB and it would wreak havoc on the salary cap (10.3M hit in '09)... it is just out of the question.

Last stop, the Causeway Vault
Still can't come to believe that the Bruins lead the Northeast division, and essentially the Eastern Conference (2 game deficit to NYR with 3 to play... you do the math). I mean, I saw them improving on last year's surprising playoff position but I was figuring we would get a 4-6 seed at best, not a top-three! Granted, it is still early but they have been playing so well lately that nothing seems to faze them... I mean, how many teams win handily after giving up 3 goals inside of five minutes to a divisional foe? Just unreal.

For those who still don't believe they are real, consider the following stats:
3.21 goals per game, 6th in NHL (Detroit leads at 3.65)
2.16 goals allowed per game, 2nd in NHL (Minnesota leads at 1.94)
+1.05 goal differential, 2nd in NHL (San Jose leads at 1.10)
21.3% PP efficiency, 6th in NHL (Detroit leads at 32.4%)
81.3% PK efficiency, 16th in NHL (Minnesota leads at 93.8%)
3-0-2 when opponent scores first

Clearly, by those stats, Boston is a top-5 team if not top-2 (behind SJ). Two things really jump out at me though... first, the penalty kill has really rebounded from an atrocious start. A few weeks into the season Boston was mired at the bottom of the league with a PK efficiency hovering just over 70%. Now it is at a respectable 81% which is a profound improvement over such a short time and I can see it steadily improving from here on out into the 85-86 range. The second surprise is our record when opponents score first... not only the fact that we have been very successful in that situation but that it has happened so rarely. We have scored first in 14 of 19 games thus far which goes a long way to dispel any questions about this team's performance and skill level. The fact that we have managed 8 of a possible 10 points when scored upon first is even more telling, as it shows the type of heart, determination and leadership this team has on a nightly basis. It doesn't matter if the Bruins are scored upon first, they never look at themselves as being out of any game and that is an amazing quality to have and will lead to considerable success. Hell, with that record, maybe we should always let them score first on us and end up with a 49-0-33 record and 131 points... or maybe not and we can just stick with what is working!

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