This was supposed to be a big week for New Englanders. We’re supposed to be counting down the days and examining the matchups as the Patriots go through the final days of preparation for Super Bowl 50.

Instead, we’re still wondering how Peyton Manning made it to Santa Clara, California, while Tom Brady begins another offseason of leafy diets and age-defying workouts.

While the rest of the country celebrates the coming of Super Sunday, we’re trying to find diversions to keep us from wondering what could have been.

As a public service, here are a few suggested activities to keep you, the New England sports fan, busy in the days and weeks ahead:

n The Boston Bruins get back to work Tuesday night when they host the Toronto Maple Leafs at TD Garden. They’ll play three of the next four games on Causeway Street before embarking on a grueling six-game, 10-day trip. In all, it’s a critical three-week stretch that could determine Boston’s hopes of returning to the playoffs after missing out last spring.

The Bruins will emerge from the NHL All-Star break holding onto sixth place in the Eastern Conference, with a two-point margin between themselves and ninth place (and out of the playoffs). That’s not much breathing room in a conference that promises to be a tooth-and-nail battle down the stretch. If you’re an optimist, you’re likely to note that Boston is also just two points out of fourth place (and home-ice advantage for the first round of the playoffs).


The conference race promises to take a few unpredictable turns between now and the end of the regular season, so buckle in for what could be a wild ride.

n The Boston Celtics are also flirting with home-court advantage for the first round of the NBA playoffs – or missing out on them entirely.

On Sunday evening, Boston held a 14-point lead over the hapless Orlando Magic and seemed well on their way to a sixth straight win. Closing out the game would’ve put the Celts in third place in the Eastern Conference, ahead of the Bulls, Heat and Hawks. Instead, the Celtics gave up 38 points in the fourth quarter to a team that had lost eight straight and fell back into sixth place in the East. For now, Boston has a healthy 31/2-game margin over the playoff cutoff line.

This is a critical stretch for the Celts, who will play seven of their next 10 games against teams currently out of the playoffs. This is the time for Brad Stevens’ team to make a move and solidify its hopes of getting a first-round win. It’s important the young Celtics learn how to win. We’ve talked a lot about the plethora of draft picks Danny Ainge is sitting on, but the current roster has to build experience if Ainge hopes to speed up the process of building a contender.

n For those of you ready to move on to summer, pitchers and catchers report to Fort Myers, Florida, in just two weeks, with the first Boston Red Sox workout on Feb. 19. There’s a lot of enthusiasm emanating from Yawkey Way, but Manager John Farrell knows his team will only be as good as its starting rotation. David Price makes that rotation better, but Rick Porcello will have to improve and Clay Buchholz will have to stay healthy if this team expects to play deep into October.

n There are plenty of other things to keep us busy in the weeks ahead. The 64th Beanpot Tournament began Monday night, with the championship game next Monday. High school basketball and hockey tournaments start soon, and March Madness isn’t too far away.

So stay busy, my friends. The alternative is to think about everything that went wrong for the Pats over the last few weeks. In this Golden Age of Boston sports, we’ve learned to move on quickly in the hopes that another title run isn’t too far away.

Tom Caron is a studio host for the Red Sox broadcast on NESN. His column appears in the Portland Press Herald on Tuesdays.

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