Boston sports fans are used to expecting a high level of performance from their sports teams, and the teams have certainly lived up to these expectations, as the Boston Celtics and Boston Bruins are arguably both the favorites to win the championship in their leagues.
As of March 21, the Celtics are 50-23, sitting 2.0 games behind the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference despite a recent slump. The Celtics, fresh off an appearance in the 2022 NBA Finals, are just behind the Bucks as the betting favorites to win the 2023 NBA Finals, thanks to their stellar regular season play.
The Celtics are led by forward Jayson Tatum, who is a candidate for the NBA’s Most Valuable Player Award, as well as guard Jaylen Brown, who along with Tatum was recently named to the Eastern Conference All-Star team.
The deep supporting cast includes reigning Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart, veteran big man Al Horford, athletic center Robert Williams, and two dynamic guards in Malcolm Brogdon and Derrick White, the former of whom is the favorite for the Sixth Man of the Year Award.
“Having guards like Derrick White and Malcolm Brogdon, who would be starters on most teams, come off the bench is a big luxury,” said English teacher Mr Daniel Joseph, an avid Celtics fan. “Having these additional playmakers will prove to be huge in a tough playoff series against a team like the Milwaukee Bucks.”
But this season has not been without adversity. Ime Udoka, who coached the Celtics to the Finals last season, was suspended by the team for the entire season after ‘multiple violations of team policy’, which was later revealed to be for inappropriate conduct towards a female employee. As a result, assistant coach Joe Mazzulla was named the interim head coach, now the NBA’s youngest head coach at 34 years old.
Under Mazzulla, the Celtics’ offense has thrived, scoring the 4th most points per game and the second most three-pointers per game in the NBA. The interim tag was removed from Mazzulla’s job title on February 16, officially ensuring he will be the head coach for the near future.
“I think Mazzulla has done a fantastic job this season,” said Joseph. “Being a first year NBA head coach, he is still learning things like when to call a timeout to stop a run or how to solidify the rotations, but I have a lot of confidence in him as the coach of the future.”
Meanwhile, the Bruins are 54-11-5 as of March 22, and have the most points in the NHL with 113. For comparison, the Carolina Hurricanes are second in the NHL with 100 points. As such, it’s not hard to see why the Bruins are also the betting favorites to win the Stanley Cup.
The Bruins made a controversial coaching change this offseason by firing head coach Bruce Cassidy, who previously led the team to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2019, and hiring Jim Montgomery, the former head coach of the Dallas Stars. But under Montgomery, the Bruins have the best record in the league.
“Montgomery has been awesome,” said Matt Baldinger ʼ23. “We’re the fastest team to 100 points in NHL history. That says it all. He holds players accountable, and is a very likable guy.”
The Bruins are led by superstar right winger David ‘Pasta’ Pastrnak, arguably the most talented player in Boston sports right now. Pastrank has scored 44 goals this season, trailing only Connor McDavid in that mark. The 26 year old recently agreed to a monumental eight year, 92 million dollar extension that should keep him with the Bruins for a long time.
Another integral piece of the Bruins success is goalie Linus Ullmark; the 29 year old Sweden native leads the NHL with a 93.8 percent goals saved percentage. He also set a record by achieving 25 wins faster than any goalie in NHL history.
Like the Celtics, the Bruins boast a deep roster: a talented offense led by Pastrnak, veteran stalwarts Patrice Begeron and Brad Marchand, and recent additions like Pavel Zacha and Taylor Hall. The defense is also very strong, with Charlie McAvoy, Hampus Lindholm, and Brandon Carlo leading the way.
Despite already being the best team in the league record-wise, the Bruins were aggressive at the March 3 trade deadline. They acquired defenseman Dmitry Orlov and forward Garnet Hathaway from the Washington Capitals, and added forward Tyler Bertuzzi from the Detroit Red Wings, giving up a future first round draft selection in both trades. This win-now approach is not without risk, but it shows how committed Boston is to going all-in in pursuit of a championship.
“Their depth is their greatest strength,” said Baldinger. “The addition of Hathway, Orlov, and Bertuzzi was huge for the success of a team that has really good players already.”
Ultimately, the playoffs will determine how we remember these teams, and not the regular season. But if all goes well, it’s possible that Boston could have a joint Duck Boat championship parade this summer.