Saturday, May 25, 2013
By TOM CARON
BOSTON — For New England sports fans, there has never been a time quite like this.
All four major sports teams are in a position to contend for a deep playoff run, the continuation of a decade of dominance that we have never seen in these parts.
There has been plenty of debate over the order of popularity the four teams share in Boston right now, but we'll leave that to the sports talk yakkers.
Instead, we've listed the four teams in order of the likelihood they will win a championship in the next season they play.
BRUINS: The defending Stanley Cup champs haven't been this good in a very long time. 2011 was the year of the Bruins in Boston, as a long moribund team stirred the passions of a hockey town that had gone dormant. Now, the black and gold has a very real chance to become the first team since the 1997-98 Red Wings to repeat.
Could this be the best Bruins team ever? In Boston, where the statue of Bobby Orr casts both a figurative and literal shadow on hockey, such a question was once blasphemy. Now, it's something to consider.
Claude Julien's team is as good defensively as any team in the game. They've got the best goaltending and plenty of offense to get the job done. The biggest change heading into the second half of the season is that the Bruins now have the playoff experience to back up their talent.
Without a doubt, the Bruins are Boston's best chance to win a championship.
PATRIOTS: The boys in Foxborough are back on top of their game. After Sunday's win over the Bills, the Pats enter the playoffs with the top seed in the AFC.
There are plenty of questions to be sure, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
As long as Tom Brady is calling signals, the window of opportunity to win it all is still open. This is a very good offense, certainly good enough to win the AFC title.
The concern, of course, is how the Pats would stop a high-octane offense like the ones in Green Bay and New Orleans. That's a long way off.
New England certainly has what it takes to go deep into the playoffs, but it's tough to pick them as a favorite to win the Super Bowl next month.
RED SOX: The Red Sox would like you to forget about 2011 and the historic September collapse that sent them home without a playoff appearance.
They'd do well to not let the players forget about it. This team was the pick of many experts to win it all last season, and still has enough talent to make the postseason.
The biggest hope here is that returning players remember the feeling of that horrible final month and are embarrassed enough to correct the mistakes in 2012.
Bobby Valentine is a charismatic leader and brings new energy to a team that desperately needed it.
Ben Cherington has already impressed as GM with his rebuilding of the bullpen.
The Sox will be back in the playoffs, and how far they go will rest on the shoulders of Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz.
CELTICS: The lockout is over, and the condensed NBA season is under way.
With a tightened schedule, the Celts suddenly look like they have aged dramatically since we last saw them.
The return of Paul Pierce makes them a legitimate Eastern Conference power, but it's hard to imagine them contending with the likes of the Heat or the Bulls.
It would be a shock if they didn't win a playoff round but it would be equally as shocking if they made it to the Conference Finals.
All in all, it's a pretty good time to be a sports fan in these parts. We have four teams that expect to go deep into the playoffs, and a fan base that has gotten spoiled by all this success.
Tom Caron is the studio host for Red Sox broadcasts on the New England Sports Network. His column appears in the Press Herald on Tuesdays.