For the past decade, the Boston sports debate has been over which of the two summer/fall sports teams is more popular. Was Boston obsessed with baseball or football? It was a great 10-year run for both the Red Sox and Patriots, who won five championships between them.
Now, there seems to be a shift going on before our eyes. Can you remember the last time there was this much anticipation for the two teams that call TD Garden home?
Thursday night, the Bruins skate on home ice for the first time this season when they host the Washington Capitals on Causeway Street. It’s the back end of the proverbial home-and-home series, a rematch of Tuesday night’s impressive 3-1 win over the Caps to wrap up a 8,600-mile road trip to start the year.
It was a dominating performance for the B’s against the Caps. Alex Ovechkin had more shots blocked (six) than he got on net (five.) The Bruins have given up just seven goals in four games to start the season, winning three of the four. The 2010-11 version of Tim Thomas is looking like the guy who won the Vezina Trophy two years ago, riding his surgically repaired hip to a 3-0-0 start with a 0.67 goals-against average and a .979 save percentage.
And he wasn’t supposed to be the starting goalie this year.
Nathan Horton looks like the steal of the offseason with six points in four games. He has combined with David Krejci and Milan Lucic to form one of the league’s best lines in the first two weeks of the season, scoring seven goals and 17 points in four games.
And they’re doing all of this without Marc Savard, who is hoping to return to action from post-concussion syndrome soon.
Meanwhile, the Celtics wrapped up their preseason with an easy 107-92 win over the Nets at home Wednesday night. Five of Doc Rivers‘ players scored in double figures, and Rajon Rondo added 12 assists. Locals have been excited about the Celtics since Danny Ainge rebuilt them three years ago, but that excitement has reached a crescendo this season.
First, it was the Big Three. Then it was the Big Three plus Rondo. Now, Shaquille O’Neal has come in and overshadowed them all, figuratively and literally.
Shaq may be past his prime, but he is still an A-list celeb in every sense of the word. He has caused pandemonium in movie theaters and malls around Greater Boston since moving to town and has delighted everyone with his off-the-court demeanor.
Next Tuesday night, he will try to show us all he can still dazzle on the court. The most anticipated Celtics season in years opens up against the Greatest Team Money Can Buy, the Miami Heat. Despite the presence of Shaq, and the return of a lineup that won the Eastern Conference last spring, the Heat are the prohibitive favorites after bringing LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade together.
The Celts and Heat, the beasts of the East, opening up at the Garden. What a way to start the season.
It’s hard to imagine a 4-1 Patriots team playing in anyone’s shadow. The Pats still own Sunday afternoon and will post TV ratings that dwarf other sporting events (including the MLB postseason.) Yet, the two teams over in the North End are taking over the headlines, and winning over our hearts. One hasn’t won it all in 38 years. The other won it three years ago, came close last year and reloaded for another run this season.
It promises to be an exciting winter.