It's been a great winter so far in Boston, with not one, but two teams at the top of their sports. The Bruins and Celtics have kept me so interested, I almost haven't had the time to count the days until baseball season starts. (It's 60.)
The Celtics have the best record in the NBA and the Bruins have the most points in the NHL. And now, in the next six days, each will host a rival in one of the biggest games of their respective regular seasons.
Tomorrow the dreaded Los Angeles Lakers come into the TD Banknorth Garden to play the Celtics. The Lakers are the best in the West, tied with Cleveland for the second best record in the NBA.
Five days later (on 2/10), in an amazing show of symmetry, the San Jose Sharks come into the Garden for a game against the Bruins. The Sharks are the best in the West in the NHL, with the second-most points in the NHL (though, in fewer games than the B's).
With a lot of the season left to be played, neither of these games is going to make or break these teams, but for both, winning could send a strong message.
What's at Stake for the Celtics
The Celtics lost to the Lakers in December, in their biggest game this season, to end a 19-game winning streak. Once again, the Celtics have a double-digit streak going and don't want the Lakers to end it again. More importantly, losing this game (at home) and going 0-2 vs. the Lakers would give Los Angeles a huge mental edge if they met again in the NBA Finals. Winning easily would be a strong reminder of last year's finals and return the mental edge to the Celtics.
And despite the great (41-9) start by the Celtics, they only lead the Cavaliers by one game for the all-important home-court advantage in the playoffs, so every loss is huge.
What's Not at Stake for the Celtics
The Celts have nothing to prove. They are the defending NBA Champions and look even stronger this year. The first loss to the Lakers put them in a bit of a tailspin, but they've turned themselves around and put together the second-longest win streak in the NBA this season. So a loss to LA would probably be only a small bump in the march to the playoffs.
What's at Stake for the Bruins
Nobody expected the Bruins to be this good. No longer surprising anyone because they've been doing it for the entire season, the Bruins still could use a strong win over the Sharks to establish themselves as the clear front-runners for the Stanley Cup. And just as with the Celtics, it wouldn't hurt for the playoffs to have the memory of a win in the bank if they should meet the Sharks in the Finals.
What's Not at Stake for the Bruins
Playoff positioning. With a 10-point lead over the East's next-best team, the Capitals, Boston doesn't need every win like the Celtics. Even with a loss to the Sharks next week, the Bruins are still the clear favorites for home-ice advantage throughout the Eastern Conference tournament.
So, if you have to pick one team to root for, go with the Celtics. The win would mean more to them. But, let's hope both the teams will win, because after all, Spring Training starts the following week and Boston fans won't be paying too much attention to basketball and hockey after that.