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Now that Spring Training is thoroughly underway, it’s high time for a status report.

Pitchers and catchers had physicals on February 11 and their first official team workout the following day.  Naturally, Buchholz just had to strain his right hamstring about ten minutes into the first pitchers’ fielding practice of the spring, but it turned out to be minor and he was back out there that Wednesday and had proceeded to long toss by that Friday and a forty-five-pitch side session that Monday.  Lackey lost a whopping seventeen pounds and is looking lean.  Don’t expect to see fireworks right away from Breslow or Doubront, who have been assigned to a more cautious training program.  Tim Wakefield was back at camp basically tutoring Steven Wright, the knuckleball’s next generation, and as we knew they would be, Pedro Martinez and Tek are also using their veteran skill to help out.  Mike Lowell is another surprise veteran guest.  And for some bizarre reason, when Aceves started throwing live batting practice, he insisted on lobbing the ball; I don’t really know what that was about.  Needless to say, he cleaned up his act.  Nieves and Farrell didn’t seem to know what was going on either, but Farrell sure was annoyed; as were we all.

The rest of the team reported on February 14.  Look for Victorino and Ellsbury to get a lot of practice in this spring.  Fenway’s right field is probably the most formidable in all of baseball, so it’ll be good for the two of them to nail down a routine.  Also look for Farrell to exercise considerable caution with Napoli, who started defensive drills at first on February 17; his hip MRI had come back clean, so he was given the green light.  Papi is not baserunning or conditioning with the team; he’s on his own specific running program that will slowly but steadily increase in intensity.  Middlebrooks’s broken wrist is officially history, as is Drew’s fractured ankle.  We acquired Mike Carp from Seattle for either a player to be named later or cash considerations.

We played our first exhibition on January 21; it was a double-header, first against Northeastern and then against Boston College, and we won, 3-0 and 11-1.  Only the relievers pitched; each got one inning, and Hanrahan debuted, successfully getting around two baserunners.  The regulars batted in the first game, while the minor leaguers got a turn in the second.

Grapefruit League play officially began on Saturday against the Rays.  We lost by one, and Lackey pitched only one inning, giving up a walk, a hit, a strikeout, and a run, but he looked pretty comfortable.  We played the Cards next, winning by two; Lester pitched two solid innings, Nava and Gomez both had multi-hit games, and Ciriaco batted in two runs.  Then we had a double-header with the Rays and Jays, splitting the day.  Aceves gave up two runs, two hits, and two walks over two innings, but Bard issued a walk and a strikeout in his scoreless inning, and Pedroia hit a solo shot.  The staff issued a solid performance in the afternoon, with a good amount of the offensive support not coming from the regulars.  Our following game against the Cards ended in the worst way: with a 15-4 loss.  Dempster pitched two solid innings, but the same can not be said of the remainder of the staff; Mortensen took the loss.  Ciriaco went two for two, and Iglesias hit a double.  We lost to Baltimore by two after that; Morales pitched his inning well, Hanrahan struck out two but walked one and allowed a run, and Tazawa was awarded a blown save as well as the loss.  Gomes hit a solo shot, and Ciriaco had himself another two hits, including a triple.  Middlebrooks had to leave the game with soreness in his wrist, but it turned out to be nothing, and he feels fine and returned.  Thank goodness, because I don’t know what we’d do if he were down for the count.  We’re not exactly deep at the corner there.  For his part, Gomes got personal with a wall and had to get stitches in his left knee as a result; this game really was not good to us.

On Thursday against the Bucs, Lackey upped the ante with two innings of work.  He gave up three runs with a walk, a strikeout, and a homer, but it seems like the more he goes out there, the more comfortable he seems.  And there’s no question about the fact that he’s throwing the ball well.  It was a 16-6 win, so the offense was also a highlight; the regulars were pretty quiet, and there were no extra-base hits, but we made a strong showing nonetheless.  It’s nice to know that the next generation can play some strong small ball.  Lester took a turn on Friday, pitching three innings of one-hit ball against the Orioles.  Pedroia went two for two and Drew hit a double en route to the win.  We eked out a victory against the Twins next; during 1.1 innings, Buchholz walked two, struck out two, and gave up one hit.  Aceves was awarded both a blown save and a win, and Sweeney went two for four.

Last but not least, we played the Evil Empire yesterday, losing, 5-2.  But hey, it’s Spring Training; the final score is never as important as the baseball being played.  Dempster pitched three one-hit innings with two strikeouts; Hanrahan blew his save and took the loss.  No one had a multi-hit game, but Salty doubled and Napoli hit a solo shot, which was quite the sight to see.  He cleared the sign in right center field 420 feet away.  It was huge.  I saw that, and it was so nice to really observe the reason why he’s here.

Bard will throw twenty or so pitches in a simulated game on Monday.  Papi has been running the bases a little bit but has felt sore.  Finally, Lucchino thinks our sellout streak will end soon; he cites April 10 as a possible end date.  I know there’s always a debate surrounding what the sellout streak has meant and whether it really means anything at all, but for a franchise like this with a fan base like ours, such a streak really shouldn’t be ending anytime soon.  That’s all I have to say about it.  And I’ll end with the beginning: Farrell’s opening address on February 15.  This was basically his opportunity to introduce himself and his philosophy to the team.  Even though many on the team know him and are familiar with the way he works, the gesture shows humility, collaboration, and the kind of professionalism that he urged members of the team to adopt.  The great thing is that, in many ways, Farrell is a product and holdover from the Francona era, but he’s still a fresh perspective, much-needed indeed after the debacle that was last season.  Farrell was compelling and inspiring.  He’s the man we should have had at the helm all along.  It just feels right, and it’s going to be a good year.

In other news, the Bruins beat the Jets, Bolts, Panthers, Isles, Sens, and Bolts again! Sadly, our winning streak came to an end with a 4-3 loss to the Habs.

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Tek officially retired on Thursday; we all knew this was coming, so I’ve already written the tribute, although there are a few things I’d like to add.  First, after initially doing so, he has since come to regret autographing photos of the A-Rod fight because he doesn’t want to condone that kind of behavior, which speaks volumes about his sportsmanship, professionalism, and awareness of his status as a role model.  Second, Scott Boras reportedly did not allow other teams to make formal offers to Tek due to his knowledge of Tek’s allegiance to us; I’d expect that, for Boras, this must be some kind of first.  Third, here’s a neat article containing the comments of some of New England’s who’s-who of sports journalism when we first picked up Tek; boy, does it take you back.  Fourth, Tek was very thankful in his retirement announcement; he thanked everyone.  He thanked his coaches, teammates, and fans as well as the brass and his family.  Here’s a quote:

As I walk away from this game, I can look at the man in the mirror and be proud I gave everything I could to this game, this organization, my teammates.  Once again, I just want to say thank you.

But he won’t be leaving the game completely; he’ll be taking up a position within the organization, which I think is an excellent move.  To be a good catcher, one must inherently possess the ability to maintain a working knowledge of all aspects of the game, not just his own position.  This plus the fact that he was a captain for seven of the fifteen seasons he played here make him an obvious choice for hire.

What’s funny is that a fan took a video during a clubhouse tour on Truck Day and saw that Tek’s nameplate had already been taken down.  Lucchino’s explanation for this was weak, and so the fan already knew what would happen.  What I liked best about this story is that the fan specifically didn’t post the video until after Tek made his decision.

Bobby V. has banned alcohol in the clubhouse and on charter flights returning to Boston.  Tito then claimed that this was a PR move, which it isn’t since Bobby V. is known for having similarly banned beer in his previous managerial stints.  First of all, it’s very unlike Tito to get involved in drama.  Secondly, why are we still talking about this? Last season is last season; it’s done and over.  Can’t we just move on already?

Maybe that’s what Bobby V. was trying to do when he put down Derek Jeter and praised Tek for the A-Rod fight this week.  It certainly did draw attention.  Obviously I agree with what he said; it’s just a little unusual to hear it coming from a manager.  There’s a reason why there are fans and managers and why fans are usually not managers and managers are usually not fans.  I’ll be the first to admit that I’m one of the biggest Yankee-haters out there, but I still want a manager who focuses less on the TV cameras and more on the baseball.

In the interest of not discussing drama anymore, let’s move to the Spring Training schedule, which officially started yesterday when we played Northeastern and Boston College in a doubleheader.  Today, the Major League action begins with the start of a two-game series against the Twins.  We’ve got the O’s on Tuesday, the Jays on Wednesday, and the Cards on Thursday.  Then the Pirates and Rays, and we’re done for the week.

Here are some highlights from the results.  We swept the college doubleheader as well as the two games against the Twins with scores of 8-3 and 10-2.  Lester pitched two shutout innings against Northeastern.  Beckett pitched two scoreless innings; he walked two, struck out none, and was caught by Salty, yet another indicator of the end of an era.  In the 10-2 win, Buccholz pitched two scoreless innings; he walked two and hit one but struck out two and extricated himself from two sticky situations.  Of his thirty-six pitches, twenty were strikes.  He looks healthy and says he feels healthy.  Ryan Sweeney picked up and RBI, and Papi hit his first homer of Spring Training, a solo shot.

Major League Baseball and the Player’s Association have agreed to expand the playoffs, effective this season.  Each league will not send not one but two Wild Card teams to the playoffs; the two teams will have to go at it in a single elimination game.  This is the first playoff expansion since 1994, and it creates the largest playoffs in the history of the Majors.  It’ll certainly boost ratings and nail-biting, that’s for sure.  It presents a double-edged sword.  If this system had been in place earlier, we would have made the playoffs in the last two years.  On the other hand, I don’t want to make the playoffs because the bar is continually set lower by a policy of increased inclusivity, and there’s always the chance that that other team is going to beat you before you get anywhere.

In other news, the B’s lost to the Sens, Isles, and Rangers but beat the Devils and signed Marty Turco.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch Photo/Chris Lee

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Wow.  Just, wow.  Hugeness this week.  Trust me, there is epicness to discuss.

Beltre and Felipe Lopez both declined arbitration, but there is still hope for the former.  We all know that the A’s are offering Beltre a sweet deal, but he’s taking his equally sweet time in signing it.  He stated publicly that he wants to return to Boston, so he’s waiting to see what Theo’s got.

It turns out that what Theo’s got is a seriously awesome replacement.  Adrian Gonzalez, welcome to Boston! Finally! He went to Boston yesterday for a physical to make sure his right shoulder is on track after his surgery, and he passed.  We’ll be sending Anthony Rizzo, Casey Kelly, outfielder Reymond Fuentes, and a player to be named later to the Padres, which fortunately shouldn’t hurt our farm system too much because last year’s draft was so successful.  Although it’ll be rough to see them all go.  The important thing to keep in mind about prospects is that you never know.  They could be awesome like Hanley Ramirez.  Or they could be terrible like Craig Hansen.  We already know what Adrian Gonzalez is capable of at the Major League level.

There’s room for a contract extension; Gonzalez is entering the last year of his current deal and we already acquired permission from Major League Baseball to hammer out a new one by this afternoon.  That didn’t happen, so Theo might wait to watch his shoulder in the spring, and of course there are the luxury tax implications.  But he won’t be giving up all those top prospects if he weren’t assured that an extension could be worked out, which would give us stability at all three bags.  Given Gonzalez’s age, anything from five to eight years can be considered feasible.  We offered six, but he wanted eight.  So there you go.

But one thing’s for sure: celebration is indeed in order.  Gonzalez will succeed in Boston.  His lefty swing was practically built exclusively for Fenway Park, and he was able to excel in a quintessential pitcher’s park.  Seriously.  Most of his fly balls in Petco would’ve been out in Fenway.  That’s why I’m convinced that he’ll get over his National League-ness in a hurry.  By the way, he’s got two Gold Gloves at first.  And he started almost every single game for about the last five years.  Without DHing once.  So here’s to you, Theo.  Two years later, you finally closed the deal.  And the fact that the Padres’ general manager and assistant general manager of scouting and player development both used to work with Theo is the icing on the cake that didn’t necessarily work to our advantage since they basically knew our farm system inside-out.  Gonzalez will play first and replace V-Mart’s bat, we’ll move Youk to third, and Beltre, who’s older anyway, will now probably sign with the A’s.  The deal is done on principle.  All they need to do is announce it on Monday at Fenway and that’s it.  The Adrian Gonzalez Era in Boston has begun!

One more thing.  Fundamentally this deal was not about New York; it’s about us, our team, our organization, and our hunger.  But while we’re on the subject, I would just like to point out that, not only is Adrian Gonzalez the answer to Mark Teixeira, but we now have a young infield that’s locked and entering its prime while the Yanks have guys on the downward slope of their careers.  I’m just saying.  I would advise New York to be afraid.  Very afraid.

Tek signed a one-year deal with two million dollars plus incentives; those rumors about him going to the Dodgers couldn’t have been more wrong.  They started circulating because the Dodgers had to decide whether to tender Russell Martin, who’s awesome except for injuries.  We didn’t tender Okajima, given his poor performance last season, but we already tendered Paps and will be making offers to Ellsbury and Taylor Buchholz.  Rumor has it that we made an offer to Mariano Rivera before he signed a two-year deal with the Yanks.  The Yanks seem to be avenging this action by showing interest in Carl Crawford to drive up his price.  I honestly don’t think the offer to Rivera was serious.  And I honestly don’t think New York’s interest in Crawford is serious.  Unless they don’t get Cliff Lee.  If Lee stays in Texas, New York might seriously start looking at Crawford because they could always deal Brett Gardner for a starter.

Pedroia’s foot is almost at one hundred percent.  He’s been cleared to jog and will be ready for Spring Training.  We have officially met with both Crawford and Werth, who, according to Dwight Evans, is the best right fielder in baseball and similar to himself.  This is Dwight Evans, people.  That’s seriously high praise.

Not that that’s going to help anyone.  Not even Werth himself.  Werth is now officially out of the picture and off the deep end.  He signed a deal for seven years and 126 million dollars.  With the Washington Nationals.  I’m not kidding.  That tells me two things: one, he’s not hungry, and two, he’s essentially a fool.  He’s not going to win a ring with the Nats, and seven years from now, when his contract is up, he won’t be starter material, which is obviously something that the Nationals don’t care about.  So his ring with the Phillies will be the last of his career as a starter.  If he wanted security, he sure got it.  He knows where he’ll be for the majority of the next decade, and he’s getting a whole heap of money for it.  To be honest with you, he would have been great in a Boston uniform, but I wouldn’t want someone only interested in money and years to play for us.  Especially not someone who would ever seriously consider both money and years with the Nationals.  I mean, they’re the Nationals.  Not only are they National League, they’re the worst in the National League; in fact, they’re the worst in the Major Leagues.

But wait; it gets better.  He says he’s been considering signing with the Nats since hiring Scott Boras as his agent last season.  Let me get this straight: he hired Scott Boras to get him a deal with the Washington Nationals.  That’s ridiculous.  Why would you hire Scott Boras to cut a deal with the Nationals? Jayson Werth doesn’t need an agent to negotiate a deal with the Washington Nationals; Jayson Werth can walk up to the Washington Nationals, write down a year amount and a dollar amount on a piece of paper, hand it to whoever is spearheading the process, and receive a “yes” to everything in five seconds flat.  He says he’s impressed with the Nats’ acquisition of young talent? Give me a break.  Nobody expects all that young talent to stay there; as soon as they’re able, they’re writing one-way tickets into free agency and out of town.  And then he went on this tangent in which he basically implied that he only signed with the Nationals because they assured him that they’d continue to acquire the talent necessary to compete and win, because that is very important to him.  Oh, sure.  If it’s that important to him, he would not have signed with the Nationals.  So they present their future plans to him and he asks questions about the team.  Great.  Now let’s see the Nationals follow that plan, the young talent stay put, and Werth stay in shape long enough to merit his salary at the end of his contract.  I don’t think so.

We signed starter Brandon Duckworth to a minor league deal.  He was part of the Billy Wagner trade.  We are supposedly interested in reliever Matt Guerrier.

Oh, and I fully expect Mike Cameron to morph into some sort of hitting specialist against lefties, being that many of the AL East’s elite pitchers are lefties and some of our middle bats struggled against lefties last season.  The only potential hindrance to that expectation is playing time.  Cameron has the potential to get rolling, but he can’t get rolling if he never gets going.

The Spring Training schedule is out.  We’re opening with an exhibition doubleheader with Boston College followed by Northeastern.  March features competition with Minnesota, Atlanta, Philly, both New York teams, Florida, Baltimore, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Toronto, and Houston.

On Saturday, Sox Pax and tickets for twenty-one games in April and May will go on sale.

Get psyched.  The Winter Meetings are starting on Monday, and they’re going to be very interesting.  And by interesting I also mean hectic, since most of the important offseason deadlines have moved up.  Theo has his work cut out for him; we have a bat to replace V-Mart, but we’ll need another, preferably a righty, to replace Beltre since he’ll sign elsewhere, and relievers.  Good ones.  We’ve already made a splash; the key is to fill the club’s needs without removing all of our flexibility for next year.

In other news, the Bruins dropped Sunday’s game to the Thrashers, 1-4.  But then we shut out the Flyers, three-zip, and completely decimated the Lightning, 8-1.  Krejci and Ryder each racked up three points.  It was awesome.  If this were baseball, that would be considered a slugfest.  Then we lost in a shootout to the Leafs, but at least we get a point.  The Pats take on the Jets tomorrow.

NESN.com

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Okay.  Now Spring Training is really underway.  And you know what that means: baseball.  It’s pretty obvious, but when you actually reflect on the fact that live baseball is happening as we speak, it’s such a relief.

The countdown to Opening Day continues: exactly four weeks.  We can make it.

Meanwhile, this week in Fort Myers was all about the pitchers.  Everybody debuted this week.  (Except Dice-K, who threw a promising session off the mound on Monday and side session on Friday but who, according to Tito, will not be ready for Opening Day.  Shocker.)

Although, before I get into that, I’ll say this about Spring Training: it produces a lot of unnecessary worry when you focus on the scores.  Keep in mind that Spring Training is experimentation central.  Lineups get changed around, starters become relievers, relievers become starters, and starters rarely stay in for more than half the game.  The score means a lot less than the story behind it.  Take, for example, our game against Minnesota on Thursday, during which Beckett made his debut.  We won, 2-1.  Am I going to worry because we didn’t clobber them like we should have? Absolutely not, because it’s Spring Training.  I’m more interested in how sharp Beckett looked, how many pitches he threw, whether he was comfortable on the mound, and how well he accomplished his goal of keeping his fastball down in the zone.

And now, without further ado: on Wednesday, we saw Bonser and Kelly in the college double-header, which we obviously swept.  Kelly threw ten pitches against Northeastern, seven of which were strikes.  Two of his outs were Ks on changeups.  By the way, he’s only twenty years old.  Bonser threw a nine-pitch inning and got the win over Boston College.  Not bad, considering he didn’t set foot on a mound once last year.

We kicked off Grapefruit ball on Thursday against Minnesota, as I said.  Beckett pitched two frames, allowed two hits and one run, and struck out one.  Nineteen of his twenty-seven pitches were strikes.  He did indeed his fastball down, and if he continues to do that successfully, our infield is going to have its work cut out for it, with the difference between last season and this season being that now it can handle it.  Scutaro especially was ranging and flashing some nice leather.  It’s so good to have a solid defensive shortstop again.  Paps enjoyed a one-two-three inning; hopefully that’s an indication of what’s to come.

Friday’s performance against Minnesota wasn’t great.  Jon Lester’s first five batters singled, walked, walked, doubled, and singled, in that order.  Yeah.  Not the way you want to start Spring Training.  He couldn’t even stay in the game to repair the damage because he’d thrown thirty-three pitches.  Wake, on the other hand, coasted through two innings of two-hit ball; sixteen of his twenty-two pitches were strikes.  He looks ready to go.

And yesterday, we had the debut we’d all been waiting for.  John Lackey, ladies and gentlemen! Six Twins stepped up, and six Twins went down in just twenty pitches.  He was fast, he was sharp, and he was on.  No mercy.  This is going to be a sweet season.  And let’s give some points to DeMarlo Hale, our new bench coach, for managing that victory while Tito was managing the away squad in Port Charlotte.

Mike Cameron was injured this week.  Adrian Gonzalez wants $180 million for eight years.  Why does that sound so familiar.

A great week, I’d say.  We’ve seen promising performances from all but one of our starters, and I’m not worried about that one.  It’s very early yet, but the future of the 2010 season looks bright.  And that’s what Spring Training is all about, isn’t it? Optimistic speculation.  We’re going to have some fun this year.

Don’t look now, but the Bruins have won five of their last six.  (That loss was a contest with the Habs that ended in a score of 4-1.  I’d rather not talk about it.) And we’ve got a subpar schedule coming up; our next six games are on the road.  The coming weeks are going to be crucial.  Our sixty-nine points have seeded us seventh in the conference, a mere point behind the Habs.  We need to make sure we stay in the top eight; otherwise, our season is done in the middle of next month.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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Nothing groundbreaking to report this week.  The pitchers and catchers have started their regimens in Fort Myers, and everything seems to be proceeding according to plan.  Brad Penny had a great bullpen session on Wednesday, and Tek is psyched to be back.  He even says he wants to retire in a Boston uniform, and I believe it, unlike a similar claim made by a certain currently unemployed left fielder who shall remain nameless.  I mean we’re the only Major League team he’s ever played for.  He’s our captain.  And he knows what that means:

I’m going to work my tail off for this pitching staff.  I’m going to work my tail off with other catchers and other position players…This is where my heart is and this is where I wanted to be.

If Scott Boras hadn’t epically failed, Tek would’ve inked a deal with us sooner.  We all knew he was coming back.  And, despite his waning offense, I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say we’re pretty happy about it.  With all the new pitchers coming in, we’ll need him more than ever, and he can be a sort of mentor to the younger catchers and get them ready to fill his role when he does retire.

The point is, we’re in a pretty good place right now.  The trick will be staying there.  Big Papi, Mikey Lowell, Josh Beckett, JD Drew, Rocco Baldelli, John Smoltz, and Mark Kotsay are all more or less injured in some capacity.  Smoltz and Kotsay won’t even be starting the season on the active roster.  So we’re going to have to make sure all of them take their time with rehab.  But if anything does happen, we can rest assured that we have the depth to cover it.

I’d like to state here that Jed Lowrie should start at shortstop.  His batting average with the bases loaded is ridiculous, and he’s excellent defensively.  And he’s young and fast and versatile.  So yeah.  He should start.

Anyway, our future is bright.  2009 should be a great season.  The Baseball Prospectus projects a Major League-leading 98 wins for us.  And I think that’s definitely within our reach.  Maybe we’ll even win 100 games this season.  Our pitching is very strong, especially with the return to dominance of Beckett and the consistency of Lester.  And I have no doubt that the offense will light it up as usual.  Ortiz’s wrist has improved, Drew found his stroke, Jay Bay is a natural, and Youk is locked up for a good amount of time.  Not to mention Dustin Pedroia the Destroyah and Jacoby Ellsbury who, according to Dustin, has had a phenomenal offseason workout.  So I’m really looking forward to it.

Kevin Millar signed a minor league contract with the Blue Jays, and Miguel Tejada admitted to lying to Congressional investigators who were inquiring about Rafael Palmeiro’s possible use of steroids.  I mean after the whole A-Rod story, this is sort of anticlimactic.  It’s a sad, sad day in baseball when you find yourself accustomed to hearing that every other big name is juiced.  Speaking of A-Rod, though, I hope he gets an asterisk.  I really do.  His attempt at explaining himself was just pathetic, and his apology couldn’t have been more ineffectual.  I’ll tell you something: the Yankees are livid right now.  They’re stuck with him for the next nine years, and they could be paying as much as $300 million.  And I don’t even want to talk about how that deal came about.  It was thanks to that stunt Scott Boras pulled right after we won the World Series in ’07, when he turned on his own little spotlight by claiming that A-Rod was done with New York before anyone in a Boston uniform had time to put on their champagne goggles.  Anyway, the Yankees are stuck with him, and that’s fine with me.  A-Rod and the Yankees deserve each other.

In other news, congratulations to Boston University for defeating Northeastern to win this year’s Beanpot Tournament.  The final score was 5-2, pretty lopsided for a contest between the number one and number three teams in the country.  On the other hand, a significant portion of BU’s roster has already been drafted by the NHL, so I guess it’s somewhat understandable.  As for the Bruins, we’ve hit a rough patch recently.  We’re currently riding a four-game losing streak, consisting of an overtime loss to the Flyers, a 5-2 roughing by the Sharks, a 0-1 loss to the Devils, and a shootout loss to the Predators.  All pretty hard to bear, but I’d say the results of our contest with the Sharks is the most concerning.  They beat us by three goals even though they’ve been struggling lately.  We and the Sharks have been battling all season long for supremacy over the league, and I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of racing them in the Stanley Cup final.  So we need to figure out how to match them, and fast, because it’s already the middle of February.  On the bright side, we’ve got 86 points.  That’s first in the league, three more than the Sharks and twenty more than the Habs, who by the way have lost ten of their last fifteen games.  Always something to smile about.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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