By Joey Giragos and Mitchell Lookner
Graphic by Denise Chan
Losing to the Golden State Warriors in the National Basketball Association (NBA) Finals in six games, the Boston Celtics ended last season in heartbreaking fashion.
Entering the 2022-23 season, the Celtics started off hot, at one point having an 18-4 record. Superstar Jayson Tatum averaged 30.3 points per game while his counterpart Jaylen Brown averaged 26.6 — both were seemingly destined for an All-NBA selection, a recognition of a top player in the game.
However, the season hasn’t been smooth sailing the whole way. Tatum has not been his true self since the All-Star break, and his teammates haven’t been quick to pick up the slack. These recurring lapses have been a disturbing theme, but the team always seems to put the pieces together to get themselves out of a slump.
A dictator of their play, head coach Joe Mazzulla was selected to the All-Star team in February as one of the two coaches chosen. Yet, when asked about the selection, Mazzulla did not seem attached to the glory of this accomplishment and instead remained focused on the big picture of championship back to Boston. The Celtics are a win-now team — a refreshing change after falling short in recent years.
Witness to these struggles, Marcus Smart has been a key contributor on the court. His impact on the game may not always show on the stat sheet, but as the former defensive player of the year and always the first on the ground diving after a loose ball, his hustle earns the love of his fans.
Despite heavy competition, the Celtics have been atop the Eastern Conference for the majority of the season. While shooting the most threes out of any team, the Celtics are seventh in three-point percentage as the three-ball has been a key to their success.
This upcoming playoffs, the strong Eastern Conference will not provide an easy path for the Celtics. Mazzulla and his squad must resolve these problems quickly in order to knock on the door of a championship. As expectations rise each year, completing their journey with an eighteenth banner in the rafters is the ultimate goal.
The Boston Bruins are similar to the Celtics in that they have bounced back after a disappointing loss in last season’s playoffs. However, unlike their brothers in green, they are making history in doing so.
The Bruins reached 50 wins faster than any team in National Hockey League (NHL) history this season, reaching the milestone in just 64 games. The Bruins have fallen short in years past: despite making the playoffs nine out of the last 11 seasons, they’ve lost in the Stanley Cup Final twice.
Their success in 2023 is mainly due to impact players such as David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron, who have 52, 20 and 27 goals this season respectively.
Their goalkeeping has been immaculate as well— their best goalie, Linus Ullmark, is leading the NHL in save percentage. In addition to his excellent work behind the net, Ullmark became the 13th goalkeeper to score a goalie goal, one of the rarest feats in NHL history.
Their second goalie hasn’t missed a beat either. Jeremy Swayman, a 24-year-old from Arkansas, is seventh in save percentage and has been a pleasant surprise on a team full of skillful individuals.
A fun tradition the Bruins have started is the goalie hug. After each win, Ullmark and Swayman raise their hands up and bear hug each other in celebration.
Five players on the Bruins are among the top 10 in holding “plus minus”, a stat that determines how well your team does when you’re on the ice. Similarly, just like the Celtics’ Mazzulla, Bruins head coach Jim Motgomery was selected to coach the All-Star team. They’re the second-best in the league at putting the puck in the net, scoring 3.68 goals per game.
The Celtics and Bruins have combined for a record of 102-34 in their seasons. As for the losses, both teams have found ways to overcome their cold streaks. This success in a sports town, especially in a single arena, is astonishing, and will surely leave Boston sports fans excited for the teams’ upcoming postseasons.