The only consistent element of the seasons for either the Bruins or the Celtics has been their inconsistency.
The Bruins and the Celtics have been tougher to figure out this season than the federal tax codes. Just when you're ready to write them off they respond and reel you back in. Just when you're ready to expect a return on your emotional investment in their ability to fulfill the expectations they engendered back in October they let you down.
Watching these teams play is like taking a Rorschach test every game. One gets a massive migraine trying to figure out the eventual form of the Garden denizens.
Anything goes in this Jekyll and Hyde hoops and hockey season.
Case in point: the Bruins' 5-3 home loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning last night. The Bruins had finally engendered some goodwill after incensing and alienating their fans base with cause celebre Matt Cooke by picking up a pair of pivotal playoff-positioning wins over the Rangers and Atlanta Thrashers. Then they catch a collective skate edge on home ice against Tampa Bay in a game in which they outshot the Lightning, 50-18, and forced us to remember why they're a maddening and middling team.
The Celtics, winners of five of six, are playing arguably their best basketball of the season right now -- tight defense, crisp ball movement and some actual rebounding -- but would anyone really be that shocked if they lost tonight to a Sacramento Kings team that is without its best player, Tyreke Evans? This is a team that lost to the lowly Nets at home and has had more dead spots in play this season than the parquet floor of the old Garden.
How can you know which version of the Bruins or Celtics will show up when they don't know which of their players will on any given night?
For the Bruins, you don't know if you're going to get David Krejci, circa 2009 and the Winter Olympics, or the Blank Czech that has skated through a good portion of this season. Ditto for Milan Lucic, who has lost some of his punch, both pugilistically and offensively after looking like Cam Neely Lite late last season.
It's not a coincidence that in the three highest-scoring games the Bruins have had this month -- a 5-1 win over the Flyers on the road, a 5-2 win over the Hurricanes on the road and a 4-0 thrashing of the Thrashers -- Krejci had a goal and an assist in each.
Krejci is a prime example of the Bruins' split-personality play. Playing away from the Garden, Krejci has been at home with 12 goals and 17 assists and is a plus-15. But playing at home he's looked lost like the rest of the Bruins, whose win over the Rangers last Sunday was their first in regulation on Garden ice this decade, with a 3-12, minus-12 next to his name. Same guy, two completely different players.
With Paul Pierce regaining his form the Celtics have once again looked like a formidable team, but you just don't know which version of Pierce or Kevin Garnett you're going to get on a night-to-night basis. One night KG goes for 10 points and three boards in a loss to the Jazz and looks like a ticket to nowhere. Two nights later, he drops 20 points and pulls down 10 boards against the Denver Nuggets, his first 20-10 game since December, and resembles the Big Ticket of old.
Pierce has been a consistent scorer his entire career, but the only thing consistent for him this season has been his attempts to overcome nagging injuries. With complete convalescence his consistency seems to be returning (he is averaging 24.4 points per game in his last five games), but excitement about Pierce and the Celtics could fade fast with San Antonio in town Sunday and Kevin Durant and Oklahoma City at the Garden Wednesday.
Plus, to paraphrase the counterculture catchphrase, don't trust a team that relies on three superstars over the age of 30, especially when two of those three, Garnett and Pierce, can't rely on their bodies to respond game in and game out.
It would be nice to have some semblance of reason, order or logic to the way our winter sports teams play, but that might be too much to ask this year.
These schizophrenic franchises will probably continue to drive us mad, as the emotional roller-coaster continues to corkscrew on Causeway Street. Break away from the Garden parties if you can for your own sanity, but chances are you can't.
Like a boyfriend or a girlfriend that keeps you hanging on, the Bruins and Celtics know exactly what to do to keep you interested, even if you know it's probably not going to work out well in the end.
...That's what the Patriots have when it comes to picks in the 2013 NFL Draft, which starts Thursday. After all those years of stockpiling picks the way a survivalist does non-perishables the Patriots have just five picks in this year's draft, thanks to Band-aid trades for Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco and Aqib Talib. Five picks would be the fewest draft picks in franchise history. (Part of that is attributable to the trimming of the draft to just seven rounds in 1994). Further complicating matters is that two of the Patriots' greatest needs are at wide receiver and cornerback, positions where they have sustained draft droughts. With that in mind, I'm convinced the Patriots are going trade back out of the first round of a quanity-over-quality draft where you're just as likely to pick a Pro Bowl player in the second and third round as you are in the first round.