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While you were shopping ...

Posted by Gary Dzen, Boston.com Staff  December 21, 2011 10:01 AM

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Catching up on the little things while pointing out that precisely one year remains on the Mayan calendar...

We have become indisputably spoiled here during the Golden Age of Boston sports, but let's give the Patriots credit for currently possessing the best record in the AFC. New England has deficiencies, to be sure, but the Patriots almost never lose a game they should win. Meanwhile, the Baltimore Ravens have dropped games to Seattle, Jacksonville, Tennessee and San Diego, none of which possesses a winning record.

But I still wouldn't want to play the Ravens in the playoffs.

-- Don't look now, but the Bruins have killed off 36 of their opponents' last 37 power plays and 44 of the last 46. The Bruins rank second in the league in goals per game while having allowed the fewest, and they rank third on the penalty kill, an improving 11th on the power play. About the only thing the Bruins have not done this season is score a shorthanded goal, leaving them as the only team in the NHL without such a tally.

So much for that Cup hangover, eh?

-- Celtics coach Doc Rivers recently acknowledged that the Celtics' window of opportunity is "closing," but let's not kid ourselves. The window is closed. The Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat now rule the Eastern Conference -- not necessarily in that order -- and the only question now is how much worse things are going to get before they get better.

And for how long.

-- This is some very rough math, but when adding in the estimated salaries for their arbitration players, including David Ortiz, the Red Sox' currently have a luxury tax payroll in the areas of $175 million. The luxury tax is at $178 million. While that still leaves some room for the Sox to pick up some low-risk, high-reward pitching, a greater question remains.

Are the Sox going to have any flexibility to add during the season, specifically at the trading deadline?

Or are they destined for another list of midseason options that includes dollar-menu buys like Erik Bedard?

-- For those getting amped up about the Patriots' latest run of victories, just remember: in the two previous seasons in which Tom Brady has thrown 35 or more touchdown passes, the Patriots have not won the Super Bowl thanks largely to deficiencies on the other side of the ball.

Which is to say that the Patriots were not balanced enough then and they may not be balanced enough now.

-- Can someone please explain what the Montreal Canadiens saw in Tomas Kaberle?

And for the sake of the close-minded Canadians following, please put the explanation in French.

When the NBA owners locked out the players, did it occur to league owners that the league's collective bargaining agreement needed serious reform and not just a redistribution of revenues? So Chris Paul ended up with the Los Angeles Clippers instead of the Los Angeles Lakers. Fine. But what the NBA needs is a real, honest-to-goodness salary cap free of exceptions and loopholes.

Simply put, the star players in that league have way too much power.

In the NFL, on the other hand, the players don't have enough.

-- Of the pitchers that have come to the major leagues from Japan, how many have been legitimately worth the money? With that in mind, why would the Texas Rangers or Toronto Blue Jays (or anyone else) bid $50 million or more for the right to merely negotiate with Yu Darvish?

And if people suggest that those of us in Boston are tainted (or scarred) by the entire Daisuke Matsuzaka affair, they would be right.

We are.

-- The Baltimore Orioles' pursuit of Prince Fielder is interesting, if for no other reason than Fielder possesses the same "body type" as Mo Vaughn, whom Dan Duquette ushered from Boston 13 years ago. Under new general manager Duquette, the Orioles are in a far different position now than the Red Sox were under Duquette then, but Baltimore is going nowhere unless the Orioles significantly upgrade their pitching in the coming years.

In the interim, Fielder would certainly help ticket sales and boost television ratings. And for what it's worth, Duquette's last two major free agent signings with the Red Sox worked out quite well, bringing Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon to Boston.

-- Hall of Fame ballot came in the mail last week. Could reveal which names were checked, but would then have to kill you.

-- First it was Penn State. Then it was Syracuse. Now it's Bill Conlin, the former sportswriter for the Philadelphia Daily News. Anyone else get the feeling that this is all merely the tip of the iceberg in an exploding national scandal?

-- Hey look! Chad Ochocinco caught a touchdown!

-- Since being pulled following the second period of the Bruins' eventual 5-3 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets, Tim Thomas is 3-0 with a 1.33 goals against average and a .965 save percentage. Meanwhile, Tuukka Rask did not allow a goal in four periods.

Shouldn't Claude Julien get some of the credit for that?

-- At this time of year, it is always worth remembering that we live in the greatest sports town in America, that we are truly among the most privileged sports followers in the world, and that the bad times here are never as bad as the bad times in many other places.

Like Cleveland, for example.

Tony's Top 5

Favorite blog entries

The final chapter on Teixeira and How Red Sox pitchers work the strike zone Jan. 7, 2009 and July 17, 2009. Some actual reporting – an obsession with Mark Teixeira and the art of pitching.
For 2011 Red Sox, there was plenty of blame to go around Oct. 1, 2011. The disgraceful collapse of the Red Sox stoked the fire in all of us.
Behind Garnett and James, Celtics and Heat are digging in June 4, 2012. Improbably, the Celtics pushed the Heat to the limit.
Thrill is back for Patriots Jan. 30, 2012. Another Super Bowl has even Bill Belichick musing.
You’ve got to believe June 15, 2011. On the morning of Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals, we all had reason to believe.
Updated: Mar 1, 07:24 AM

About Mazz

Tony Massarotti is a Globe sportswriter and has been writing about sports in Boston for the last 19 years. A lifelong Bostonian, Massarotti graduated from Waltham High School and Tufts University. He was voted the Massachusetts Sportswriter of the Year by his peers in 2000 and 2008 and has been a finalist for the award on several other occasions. This blog won a 2008 EPpy award for "Best Sports Blog".

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