These are strange times for the Celtics and Bruins.
Just weeks before the playoffs, both teams are dealing with serious injuries. The likes of which, you can’t possibly prepare for. Yet, both teams are still very much able to make things interesting the next few months, when their respective playoffs actually begin.
The Celtics are without Kyrie Irving, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, and Daniel Theis. I guess I should also mention Gordon Hayward, who, as you know, has been out all season and most likely won’t be returning at all this year.
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I don’t have a large enough word count to list every injury the Bruins are currently dealing with, but just know that they’ve been without Patrice Bergeron, Charlie McAvoy, and Zdeno Chara, while seeing David Backes, Rick Nash, and Jake DeBrusk miss time recently.
Both the Bruins and Celtics have the fifth-best odds to win their respective championship. Those odds could improve if their star players return soon.
I’m no doctor. And I’m not going to pretend to be one. But you don’t need to be a doctor to know that if those star players don’t return, then the odds that either team wins it all this year are not going to be good.
I think we can all agree that, when both teams are fully healthy, they stand just as good a chance as anyone to get to the Finals. I’m not just talking Conference Finals. I’m talking NBA Finals and Stanley Cup Finals.
Unfortunately, I can’t sit here and expect the Bruins or Celtics to return to full health, given the unknown with some of the more devastating injuries, like Bergeron’s fractured foot, McAvoy’s sprained MCL, Smart’s torn thumb ligament, and most importantly, Irving’s sore knee that he now needs a second opinion on. So the only thing I can do right now is project what each team’s capabilities are in the playoffs without some of their star players.
Begging the question, which banged-up Boston team has a better chance of making a championship run this spring?
Again, strange times. On one hand, I feel great about their chances. On the other, I have no idea who’s going to be playing and who’s going to be on the injury report.
But what I can tell you is — and perhaps this is leading to a more specific column in the very near future — there’s one guy I haven’t mentioned yet who will have the opportunity to save his team from any injury that might not be fully healed by the time the playoffs begin. And that’s Tuukka Rask.
Maybe it says more about the difference between the two sports. Regardless, a hot goaltender in the Stanley Cup playoffs can lead to borderline magical things for teams that, all things considered, don’t have any business being in the conversation for who’s going to hoist la Coupe in June.
In the NBA playoffs, a team without its biggest star will have little to no chance of even winning multiple series.
So to answer the question, as things are currently constituted, the Bruins have a much better chance to win a championship this year than the Celtics do. Because not only is Rask a good enough goaltender to go on another — yes, I said another — serious playoff run, but he’s also one of the best goaltender’s in the entire NHL.
Even if Irving, Smart, and Brown return for the Celtics, you could make the argument that Rask alone still gives the Bruins a better chance to win it all, also because there are players like LeBron James and teams like the Golden State Warriors who will be in the C’s way.
In the NBA, you need your stars, and you need them to be healthy. In the NHL, it would be nice and ideal to have your best players available in the playoffs, but we’ve seen hot goaltenders do more with less, and still be the last one standing.
Strange times, indeed, with all the uncertainties. But if Rask brings his A-game for the next few months, then the Bruins will still have a chance to do something that the Celtics most likely won’t be able to.
Listen to “The Danny Picard Show” at dannypicard.com. Follow him on Twitter @DannyPicard.