It is April of 2021 and the pandemic is reluctant to loosen its grip, but things are looking better for three local sports teams who are in season.
Bruins. Celtics. Red Sox.
So good. So good. So good.
Where it began, I can’t begin to knowing … but it happened in the first week of this proverbially cruelest month.
Look it up.
Just a few weeks ago, the Bruins were stumbling along, unable to beat the Islanders and getting shut out by the Devils on Boston Garden ice. David Pastrnak couldn’t score, and there was noise about perhaps being sellers at the NHL trade deadline.
Then, general manager Don Sweeney made deals for Taylor Hall, Curtis Lazar, and Mike Reilly. The B’s are 4-0 since those trades, and 7-2-1 since April 2. They handled the nasty and formidable Washington Capitals at the Garden on Sunday and are 6 points behind the division leaders with three games in hand.
Tuukka Rask is back between the pipes, though rookie goalie Jeremy Swayman has been Drydenesque in Rask’s absence, and it feels like the Bruins could be in for a long playoff run.
Meanwhile, the (deservedly) much-maligned Celtics have won a season-high six consecutive games and eight of nine entering Monday’s game with Chicago. The streak comes after months of uneven play, lowlighted by a beatdown at home against the Pelicans when fans first returned to the Garden and had no choice but to boo the locals.
Things got so bad that Kendrick Perkins called out Jayson Tatum on Twitter after a home loss to the Sixers. Tatum was motivated to call Perk for advice and responded with his best play of the season, including a Larry Bird-like Western trip.
While Tatum picked up his pace, Brad Stevens wasn’t interested in a reported $70 million offer to coach Indiana University, Kemba Walker finally played like the player he was in Charlotte, and the C’s suddenly are in strong position to secure the coveted No. 4 seed in the playoffs. They play a relatively easy schedule the final month of the regular season. Fans like them again.
Finally, we have the division-leading Red Sox, who won nine straight games after an 0-3 start and Monday erupted for six first-inning runs against White Sox ace Lucas Giolito en route to an 11-4 victory. The blowout gave the Sox a four-game split with Tony La Russa’s much-touted Pale Hose and put the Red Sox a full five games ahead of the (5-10) Yankees, who are off to their worst start in 24 years.
The surprising Red Sox have been the feel-good story of our sports spring thus far. With more than 10 percent of their schedule played, there is hope they can contend into the summer, which is all we ask out of any baseball season. The Red Sox are 11-3 since April 5.
Collectively, that makes the three Boston teams 26-6-1 since the first week of April. Good karma for everybody. It makes me think the Patriots have a chance to come away with a real quarterback in the NFL Draft on April 29. The 7-9 Patriots at this hour are the only sub-.500 team in our midst.
Predicting the next championship from our four major teams is a popular New England parlor game, and the debate is wide open again. Tom Brady and the Patriots inspired our last duck boat parade in February 2019, but the music died that June when Brad Marchand skated off the ice too soon at the end of period one of Game 7 against the Blues in the Garden.
This means Boston is working on a championship “drought” of 26 months — not much, when you consider that the region went from June 1986 (Celtics) to February 2002 (Patriots) in the “Loserville” days of Victor Kiam, Butch Hobson, Rick Pitino, and Steve Kasper benching Cam Neely.
The Bruins should be able to continue their winning ways with three games against the pathetic Sabres this week. The Celtics have tough games with Phoenix and Brooklyn on Thursday and Friday. The Red Sox will be home all week against the (7-9) Blue Jays and Mariners, who went 95-127 the last two years.
It adds up to so … much … winning. Almost as if there’s nothing to complain about. I think it has me a little off my game.