Point/Counterpoint: Which Boston team has the best chance of winning a championship this year?

Boston Bruins' Brad Marchand, right, celebrates his game-winning goal with teammates during overtime NHL hockey action against the Calgary Flames in Calgary, Monday, Feb. 19, 2018. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press via AP)

The New England Patriots might have blown their chance to win their sixth Super Bowl earlier this month, but Boston fans have two solid consolations. The Celtics are currently second in the Eastern Conference, two games behind Toronto, and the Bruins have the third most points in the entire league, behind only Vegas and Tampa Bay.

Staff Writers Bryan Lambert and Matt Barresi debate which of the two teams has the best chance of bringing another banner to Boston this spring.

Bryan: As good as the Celtics are, the Bruins are the team most likely to be riding duck boats in June.

Making a run to the Stanley Cup is all about who gets hot at the right time and the play of the goalie in net. The Bruins should be fine in both regards. Boston is one the best teams top to bottom in the league. Combine one of the defensive groups in the league with a dangerous top-line and the Bruins are built for success top to bottom. A 15-3-2 record in the new year has established the Bruins as one of teams no one wants to see in the playoffs.

Goaltender Tuukka Rask has overcome his shaky start to the season to establish himself as a dark horse, Vezina Trophy candidate as the league’s top goaltender. In his last 23 games, he has a 19-2-2 record with a .933 save percentage.

Once again the Bruins are one of the teams best built to go deep into the playoffs.

Matt: The adage is “defense wins championships” and nobody has a better defensive rating in the NBA than the Boston Celtics. Sure, they have struggled recently, but Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are young and needed the All Star break. Kyrie Irving has been sensational, Al Horford is ole reliable and Marcus Smart will be back soon. This Celtics team is young, but has proven winners. They’re flexible, but can impart their will when they need to.  They may even be regaining superstar Gordon Hayward to close out the season.

Everyone in the NBA says to watch out for the Golden State Warriors, but the Celtics have already split with them while faring well in both games. Elsewhere in the East, the Wizards may have chemistry problems, the Cavs are a superstar short and the Raptors are proven postseason chokers. This team is a legit title threat. Although I’ll hope for the best, I think the B’s are just a year too soon.

Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown (7) drives past Washington Wizards center Marcin Gortat (13), from Poland, and Bradley Beal (3) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Bryan: As much fun as the Celtics are to watch, we all know that Golden State is going to raising the Larry O’Brien trophy. This team is largely the same as the one that lost only one total playoff game last season. They have the best shooter of all time; one of the best pure scorers of all time and another two All-Stars to back them up.  Is it any wonder head coach Steve Kerr has to resort to letting the players coach themselves to keep them engaged? That team knows it’s winning the championship.

Besides, to get to Golden State, the Celtics would have to get through Cleveland first and as we saw on Feb. 11, that might be easier said than done. After a trade deadline overhaul, the Cavs are a brand new team. They have athletic wing players, a new starting point guard and a whole new lease on life. Once again, the Cavs are the team to beat in the East.
   
Even if the Bruins weren’t one of the top teams in the league, I think they would have better chance of winning the Cup than the Celtics do of beating both Golden State and Cleveland. Upsets run wild in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Any team can win any given series. Which is both good and bad news for the Bruins but is at least better than the formality these NBA Playoffs will be.

Matt: In the playoffs, rotations get smaller and individual impacts get bigger. I’m not nearly as worried about Boston’s young core and how they will hold up. The bench guys are going to play less and Kyrie will do more.

I am slightly worried about the Bruins’ young guys. Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo are stalwarts with bright futures. They haven't done much, if anything, in the postseason and they’re going to asked for a lot. Zdeno Chara is still solid, but undoubtedly older, more tired and less adroit than before. Despite the run, I can’t say that I am overly impressed with Torey Krug and Adam McQuaid. Nick Holden? Big deal. The fact is Rask has been shaky before, and the defense really has the potential to fall apart as well.

Offensive guys like Jake Debrusk and Danton Heinen have been strong, but can they keep it going deep in the postseason? Time will tell. In my eyes, the Celtics’ defense and Brad Stevens’ savvy has a genuine chance to disrupt a Warriors juggernaut. I’m also not scared of Cleveland yet; it’s been two games. A very raw Boston Bruins Stanley Cup just seems far less tenable to me.

Either way, as Boston sports fans, we’re still living a life of luxury. Both of these teams have been impressive this season and are true contenders. They both have some potentially fatal flaws or firm roadblocks ahead as well. The ability to overcome that is what will determine whether they are champions or not. The margin between them appears razor thin and intriguing postseasons are on the horizon.


Matt Barresi is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at matthew.barresi@uconn.edu.
 

Bryan Lambert is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at bryan.lambert@uconn.edu.