Celtics Notes: Jayson Tatum On Brink Of History With 10th 30-Point Game

Jayson Tatum is a star (despite what Nick Wright may think), and he continued to prove that Tuesday night.
The Celtics forward dropped 36 points on 14-of-22 shooting (8-of-12 from deep) in Boston’s 118-106 win over the Portland Trail Blazers at Moda Center. He hasn’t missed a beat since appearing in his first All-Star Game, and it’s hard to argue with head coach Brad Stevens when he said the “best part” of Tatum’s game is that he’s only gotten better since the event.
Tatum’s performance Tuesday put him one step closer to entering Celtics history (again) this season. The 36 points marked his 10th game with at least 30. Only Antoine Walker has more with 11 at age 21, per ESPN Stats & Info.

Jayson Tatum now has his 10th 30-point game of the season.
Only Antoine Walker (11 in 1997-98) had more 30-point games by a Celtics player in his age-21 season (or younger) in team history. pic.twitter.com/ibBPP8hKy4
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 26, 2020

“I’m just trying to play free,” Tatum told Abby Chin on NBC Sports Boston’s postgame coverage. “Go out there and do what I love. I love coming here and playing basketball with my guys and trying to win. Hopefully we keep winning.”

0⃣is on pic.twitter.com/P4Ne8FIGVb
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) February 26, 2020

Tatum’s eight 3-pointers also marked a career-high for the forward, and had 26 of his points in the second half. So, what was his secret to his strong third and fourth quarters?
“Just trying to be patient,” he told Chin. “Try to get good looks. I can’t thank (Daniel) Theis enough. Theis does a great job getting myself and other guys open for easy looks.”
Kemba Walker is the only other Celtic on the 2019-20 squad that has 10 games with 30 or more points.
Here are some other notes from Tuesday’s Celtics-Trail Blazers game:
— Tatum did not attempt a free throw in Tuesday’s contest. According to Celtics Stats, he’s just the second NBA player to notch at least 36 points without doing so.
The other? Marcus Smart on Jan. 18 against the Phoenix Suns.
— Jaylen Brown had the second-most points for Boston with 24. Stevens praised the chemistry of Brown and Tatum after the game.
“They’re really great complements. They really are,” he said, per the team. “They’ve done a great job playing off of one another.”
— The Celtics finished their first half shooting 11-for-22 from 3-point range.
— Brad Wanamaker had a bounce-back game after an ugly performance against the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday. He finished with 13 points, five rebounds and four assists. Wanamaker had just two points at Staples Center.
— Tatum credited Theis in getting him and his teammates open, something Stevens called “unselfish.”
“He’s been great,” the head coach said on NBC Sports Boston’s postgame coverage. “His screening angles … very unselfish, he does a lot of unselfish things. … We appreciate all that stuff as much as everyone appreciates the stats.”
Theis finished the game with 10 points to go with nine rebounds.
— Boston gets right back to it Wednesday night when it travels to Utah to take on the Jazz. Tip-off from Vivint Smart Home Arena is set for 10:30 p.m. ET.

Bruce Cassidy, Nick Ritchie Patient As New Bruins Winger Gets Acclimated

Recently acquired forward Nick Ritchie arrived in Boston on Wednesday night. On Thursday, he debuted for his new team at TD Garden.
The result wasn’t ideal, with the Boston Bruins dropping a 5-2 result to the Calgary Flames for their second-straight loss, but coach Bruce Cassidy wasn’t about to blame the new guy.
“I thought he was fine, I’m not going to judge him on a — he flew in here yesterday,” Cassidy said when asked about his impressions of Ritchie postgame.
“He’s trying to get acclimated. There has to be a decent amount of period before we see what we got, and then go from there … I’d rather watch some tape and see if, did he finish checks, did he get inside? Some of the details he’s going to bring to us. Rather look at the whole group, and we just did not have our — the guys we rely on to play, play well, had a tougher time tonight. And it kind of showed up in the end.”
Ritchie was traded from the Anaheim Ducks on Monday in exchange for Danton Heinen.
His excitement to show-out for a first-place team was evident, with a big hit on Milan Lucic early on and six more before the game’s conclusion. Aside from that, Ritchie was quiet in each of the lines Cassidy played around with.
Based on his first postgame interview with Boston media after his debut, Ritchie is taking the same patient approach to his new environment despite the performance.
“Playing with the new guys, I think it’s a little more challenging than it looks,” Ritchie admitted. “From playing with the same guys for years and you come right over in one day and start playing with different guys, it is challenging. Change is good but it also takes a bit longer.
“I think the game the best time to improve and get to know every body so obviously I’ll watch some film probably on Thursday morning and then get right back at it Thursday night.”
With the team off on Wednesday, Ritchie will be thrown into another game to get better acclimated.
The Bruins host the Dallas Stars on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Bruce Cassidy Candidly Assesses Bruins’ Effort In Loss To Flames

BOSTON — You wouldn’t know the Boston Bruins are the NHL’s best team if you watched them for the first time Tuesday night.
A largely lackluster effort from the Bruins resulted in a 5-2 loss to the Calgary Flames at TD Garden. Too often the Bruins were too cute with the puck or careless in the defensive zone, and they paid the price accordingly.
Chalk some of it up to the fact that they just returned from a long road trip that had them journeying across Western Canada. But seeing as they got their doors blown off by the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday in the finale of the road trip, one would think the Bruins’ might’ve come out a bit more inspired in their return to Boston.
Not so.
And following the game, Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy wasn’t exactly doing cartwheels about his team’s overall effort.
“Clearly not good enough,” Cassidy said. “I thought some guys came to play and some guys didn’t. Didn’t break a sweat, some of them it looked like. I’m sure there was effort, they were trying, they were just in between, couldn’t execute or whatever. But at the end of the day, it wasn’t good enough.”
Despite losing their last two games, the Bruins still are five points clear atop the NHL standings. They’ll have a chance to get back on track Thursday at home against the Dallas Stars.

Notes, Thoughts And Observations From Nick Ritchie’s Bruins Debut

BOSTON — The Boston Bruins now have their first post-trade deadline game under their belt.
It could have gone better.
Boston dropped a 5-2 decision to the Calgary Flames on Tuesday at TD Garden. The B’s made a pair of acquisitions ahead of the trade deadline, acquiring Nick Ritchie and Ondrej Kase from the Anaheim Ducks. Kase currently is on injured reserve but might return somewhat soon, while Ritchie made his Bruins debut against the Flames.
The 24-year-old winger was on the ice for two of Calgary’s goals, and finished his night with a team-high seven hits (the next closest Bruin in hit totals was Brad Marchand with three). He logged 19 shifts and ultimately played 14:17.
Here are some notes, observations and thoughts on his performance.
— Ritchie started on the third line left wing with Anders Bjork on the right and Charlie Coyle between them. That line pretty much was stagnant, especially offensively, until Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy changed things up and put him with David Krejci and Karson Kuhlman during the second period.
Just how bad was that Ritchie-Coyle Bjork line? Well…

Ritchie-Coyle-Bjork TOI — 4:57Corsi For — 1Corsi Against — 5Goals For — 0Goals Against — 1
Ritchie-Krejci-KuhlmanTOI — 1:52Corsi For — 3Corsi Against — 0Goals For — 0Goals Against — 0 https://t.co/6bqmvny0HX
— Logan Mullen (@ByLoganMullen) February 26, 2020

That was through just two periods.
Ultimately, the Ritchie-Krejci-Kuhlman line posted fives in Corsi for and against (with no goals for or against) in 5:45 ice time.
— It’ll be interesting to see where Cassidy puts Ritchie next. Ondrej Kase likely will get a shot on the second line with Krejci and Jake DeBrusk, so a lot of this is riding on Ritchie working out with Coyle and Bjork (or whoever the other winger is).
Ritchie deserves the benefit of the doubt considering he got to Boston about 24 hours before he made his debut and was thrown right into a new system, so he’ll probably need a little bit of time to settle in.
— It seemed like Cassidy was pulling off a nice gesture by having Ritchie’s line start the game. As a result, Ritchie was introduced with the starting lineups and got a nice reception.
After the game, Cassidy revealed it actually was in part because Milan Lucic and Matthew Tkachuk were starting the game for Calgary that he decided to put Ritchie and his linemates out there.
“Listen, you give him a chance to start. He’s going to get on the ice eventually anyway,” Cassidy said. “That was, they just had Tkachuk and Lucic, so you put him out there in case if they want — I think Looch is more about being a body, playing here than anything. But if they want to play that type of game early, then we want to be prepared for it and have (Zdeno Chara) back there as well and be ready to bang. But that was the thinking there, certain matchups you’re looking for throughout the game. To be honest with you, I don’t know that we ever truly got them tonight where they were in our favor.”
Of course, Ritchie wasn’t brought into Boston to be a complete goon — he hasn’t had a fighting major since 2018. But it’s notable that Cassidy right off the jump felt he could turn to Ritchie in the event the Flames wanted to play that type of game.
— Speaking of Lucic, Ritchie’s first real impact on the game was a collision with the former Bruins winger.
It didn’t seem like Ritchie necessarily made a deliberate hit on Lucic, but the two did bang bodies at the top of Boston’s offensive zone. And while Ritchie, who was the one stepping into the hit, didn’t go down, Lucic did after wobbling for a second.
— Ritchie had said in a post-morning skate interview with Bruins.com’s Eric Russo that he liked getting to the net, and he’s not kidding.
The 6-foot-2, 230 pound winger camped out in front of David Rittich, spending quite a bit of time in the light blue paint or just above it. He also indicated he has a penchant for driving the net, something he also made sure to do in his debut.
At one point, Ritchie darted to the net from the corner boards, but was dispossessed before he could get a shot off.
— Given Ritchie’s size, he’s not too bad of a skater. However, it seems like it takes him a little bit of time to accelerate and really get going, which might play a role in Cassidy deciding what line he ultimately finds a home on.
— Overall, it wasn’t a head-turning effort from Ritchie, but it seems like Cassidy is going to go back and watch film before judging the newcomer.
“I thought he was fine,” Cassidy said. “I’m not going to judge him on a — he flew in here yesterday. He’s trying to get acclimated. There has to be a decent amount of period before we see what we got, and then go from there. I’d rather not, I’d rather watch some tape and see if, did he finish checks, did he get inside? Some of the details he’s going to bring to us. Rather look at the whole group, and we just did not have our — the guys we rely on to play, play well, had a tougher time tonight. And it kind of showed up in the end.”

Brock Holt Pokes Fun At Eduardo Rodriguez In Pitcher’s Latest Instagram

There’s clearly no love lost between Eduardo Rodriguez and Brock Holt.
Holt signed a one-year deal with the Milwaukee Brewers after seven seasons with the Boston Red Sox, but that didn’t stop him from having a little fun at his former teammates’ expense.
Rodriguez took to Instagram to express his excitement for the upcoming 2020 season (which begins March 26, by the way).
Check out his post:

View this post on Instagram

it 2020 we are coming @redsox #redsoxnation #letsgo
A post shared by Eduardo Rodriguez (@eduardorjose) on Feb 25, 2020 at 1:50pm PST

And Holt couldn’t help but comment.

The Red Sox welcome the Brewers to Fenway Park in June, so we’re sure the two will have plenty of catching up to do then.

Tuukka Rask’s 20-Game Home Point Streak Ends As Bruins Lose To Flames

BOSTON — All good things must come to an end.
That was true for Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask on Tuesday night, as his team fell 5-2 to the Calgary Flames, snapping his 20-game point streak at TD Garden.
Rask’s 14-0-6 start to the 2019-20 campaign was tied for the NHL’s fourth-longest home point streak by a goalie in a single season, according to NHL Public Relations. Despite his 26 saves Tuesday, including a robbed breakaway in the first period, the netminder dropped his first regulation home game all year. He owns the franchises’ record for such a run.
“I think (Calgary) got the power play and scored after that,” Rask said postgame when asked about the shift in momentum after the Flames regained a 2-1 lead in the second period.
“The second period wasn’t really our strongest. The third I think we picked it up and really played with our pace and structure and got some chances but I guess when they got that second power-play goal.”
Despite a late tally from Chris Wagner in the third to make it 3-2, Boston was unable to get Rask more support. The Bruins gave up two goals in the closing minutes, including an empty netter.
Rask’s streak may have come to an end, but it won’t take away from the season he’s putting together. His goals against average (2.17) and save percentage (.928) were first and second in the league, respectively, entering the Bruins’ tilt against the Flames.
If the 32-year-old can continue at this level, he could be looking at his second Vezina Trophy when this year is all said and done.

Brad Marchand, Mikael Backlund Respond To Testy Interaction After Bruins’ First Goal

BOSTON — Given the disdain the Boston Bruins and Calgary Flames appeared to share for one another Friday night, one might’ve thought some more bad blood could’ve spilled over into Tuesday’s meeting between the two at TD Garden.
But alas it was somewhat tame, save for a little contentiousness between Brad Marchand and Mikael Backlund in the first period.
Just beyond the midway point of the opening frame, Marchand scored a shorthanded goal, burning Noah Hanifin in the neutral zone before fighting off the defensemen’s attempt at prying the puck away from the winger before beating Calgary goaltender David Rittich.
Marchand’s response to the goal was to skate toward a few Flames, namely Backlund, and stare them down. Mind you, this was at the boards opposite the benches, so it wasn’t exactly a subtle move by Marchand. In other words, he knew what he was doing.
Well, Backlund took exception to it and seemed to challenge Marchand, and the referee stepped in and guided Backlund to the bench while Jeremy Lauzon tried to take the center up on the challenge.

After the game, Marchand was asked about the interaction.
“Yeah we were just having a chat,” the winger said.
Backlund didn’t go into too much more detail.
“He didn’t say anything,” Backlund remarked. “He just did his classic smile, so it always feels good to give it right back to him by winning and scoring.”
The Flames did ultimately win 5-2, so Calgary does indeed get the last laugh.

Wayne Gretzky Thinks Alex Ovechkin Will Be NHL’s All-Time Leading Scorer

On Saturday, Alex Ovechkin became the eighth player in NHL history to record 700 career goals.
Now, some are wondering if the Washington Capitals superstar will break the record set by Wayne Gretzky in 1999 — even “The Great One” himself.
But don’t worry. He seems totally cool with it, although the conversation (somehow) took him by surprise.
“I think that he’s got a legitimate chance,” Gretzky said Tuesday on Sportsnet, via the NHL. “I think it’s great for hockey. I was teasing my kids the other day, I said the funny thing about it is, if you talk to hockey people, nobody would say, ‘Well, Wayne Gretzky was a good goal scorer.’ They always put me in, ‘He’s a passer. He was a playmaker.’ So this is giving me a little attention that I’m not used to!
“But listen, I think it’s great,” he continued. “If he does get there and he does break my record, I said I’d be the first guy there to shake his hand.”
Gretzky was in Ovechkin’s position 31 years ago, so he knows a thing or two about what it’s like to surpass a legend. And back then, Gretzky’s father gave him a quality piece of advice.
“I remember when Gordie was following me around and I was breaking his record, I said to my dad one night, I said, ‘You know, I feel in some ways kind of bad. It’s Gordie Howe.’ And my dad said, ‘You know what? Somebody’s going to break your record. And when he does, make sure you’re as much a gentleman to him as Gordie Howe was to you. Smile, shake his hand, and you’re proud of what you’ve accomplished. And it’s better for the game,’ And that’s what I always think of.”

"If he does break my record, I'd be the first guy there to shake his hand."
Wayne Gretzky, always a class act. ( @Sportsnet) pic.twitter.com/P7z1iplceX
— NHL (@NHL) February 25, 2020

701 down, 193 to go.

Bruins Notes: Why Bruce Cassidy Changed Up Second, Third Lines In Loss To Flames

BOSTON — Bruce Cassidy didn’t like what he was seeing out of his middle six Tuesday night.
During the second period of their eventual 5-2 loss to the Calgary Flames at TD Garden, the Boston Bruins head coach revamped his second in third lines in hopes of finding some sort of jump.
He started with Jake DeBrusk, David Krejci and Karson Kuhlman as the second unit, with newcomer Nick Ritchie, Charlie Coyle and Anders Bjork forming the third. Upon changing things, he rolled with Coyle, Bjork and DeBrusk together, with Ritchie bumping up (or down, depending on how you want to look at it) to Krejci and Kuhlman’s line.
Cassidy indicated he felt there were a lot of passengers in the loss, and ultimately shared why he elected to turn on the blender.
“I didn’t see much energy, much offense, much willingness to recover pucks,” Cassidy said. “The Coyle line had a rare off night. They were just fighting it, so you try to kind of mix it up a little bit. Krejci and DeBrusk haven’t produced a whole lot lately, so it’s just get a guy away from a guy for a while, see if it loosens them up. Sometimes it works; tonight, it did not.
The Ritchie-Coyle-Bjork line was a disaster, with a Corsi for of one and Corsi against of five in just 4:57 ice time. Once Ritchie moved to Krejci’s line things got a little better, with that trio posting fives in both Corsi for and against.
It’s going to take Ritchie some time to find his way in the Bruins’ lineup, so he can be forgiven for some missteps. But with Ondrej Kase likely to begin with DeBrusk and Krejci, something is going to have to give with Ritchie on the Coyle line.
Here are some other notes from Tuesday’s Bruins-Flames game:
— For the second time this season, Chris Wagner has scored goals in consecutive games.
The fourth line right winger gave the Bruins some life late in the third period. With the Flames mostly controlling play and the arena library quiet, a nice net drive from Sean Kuraly resulted in a scramble in front of the net and ultimately Wagner, from his belly, swatting in a puck past a sprawled out David Rittich.
It was a textbook greasy, fourth line goal, but one Wagner certainly will take.
“I don’t know what (Rittich) was trying to do,” Wagner said. “I think he fell over and was just hanging on for dear life. But that happens in front of the net, people are flying everywhere and just want to try to whack the puck.”
— While the middle six was getting mixed up, the fourth line, for a change, was stable.
With Wagner and Sean Kuraly on the wings and Par Lindholm between them, the fourth line arguably was Boston’s best all night, even before Wagner’s goal.
Lindholm, playing in his 100th NHL game, did a nice job of driving the line, especially for a guy that hadn’t gotten into a game since Feb. 9.
“I thought tonight we played pretty well,” Wagner said. “We started a lot of shifts in the D-zone but got into the offensive zone a good amount too. We had some good spacing, some good puck possession. But yeah we’ve had different guys in there at certain times, so we’re just trying to find the right line and try to be consistent every night.”
Over the last few weeks there has been some variation of Wagner, Kuraly, Lindholm, Anton Blidh and Joakim Nordstrom on that fourth line. That unit hasn’t had a similar impact to what it was able to provide last season, so for the time being the Kuraly-Lindholm-Wagner group probably deserves an extended look.
— Brad Marchand is on a seven-game point streak (2-8-10), and extended a club record of his Tuesday.
The top-line winger had a shorthanded goal in the first period, good for his 27th shorty of his career. Since he already holds the franchise record in PK goals, he’s simply extending his record.
— The Bruins owe some thanks to the Toronto Maple Leafs, who held on to a 4-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday.
As a result, Boston still is five points clear atop the NHL standings, though the Bolts do have a game in hand.

Bruins Offense Sputters Once Again As Squad Falls To Flames On Tuesday

The Boston Bruins’s failed to gain much traction Tuesday.
Boston fell for the second straight game as the B’s were defeated by the Calgary Flames, 5-2 at TD Garden. The Bruins’ offense looked sluggish at points throughout the night and after falling behind early never really was able to gain a proper footing on the contest.
Brad Marchand and Chris Wagner were the two goal-scorers for Boston on the night. David Pastrnak entered the game on an offensive tear with six points over the last three games (three goals, three assists), but was unable to record a point Tuesday.
For more on the contest, check out the video above from “Bruins Postgame Final,” presented by Rodenhiser Home Services.