Bruins win in Shootout 3-2

The Bruins edged out a win in Chicago against the Blackhawks, winning in a shootout 3-2. Tyler Seguin continues to show the brilliance that made him the #2 overall pick last year, as he now leads the team with 5 points on the season. Tim Thomas was great again for the Bruins, and is showing no signs of a setback like he experienced in 2009-2010. That was a year removed from winning the Vezina trophy, and leading the Bruins to the best record in the Eastern Conference. The Bruins were again without David Kreci, as well as Adam McQuaid, who was out with a head injury suffered in Carolina. McQuaid was replaced by Matt Bartowski. Bartowski was actually traded to the Bruins along with Dennis Seidenberg from the Florida Panthers in 2009-2010. In his first season in the AHL, Bartowski had 23 points in 69 games and was -18 on the year. Not very impressive stats, and I don’t look for him to be a long-term replacement for McQuaid. Expect Steven Kampfer to play for McQuaid if he’s out for significant time, as soon as Kampfer is off the Injured Reserved though. The Bruins are off until Tuesday night, and they have a much-needed win as they head home to face the Carolina Hurricanes.

Tim Thomas leads the Bruins to a Shootout win in Chicago, 3-2

1st Period

The Bruins came out hot, with Tyler Seguin creating chances again on the 1st line. He made a cross ice pass to a wide open Lucic in the near circle. Lucic had Crawford lunging from post-to-post, but missed his shot high. The 1st line for Chicago brought the pressure right back though, forcing the Bruins back on their heels. Patrick Kane worked a give-and-go with Stalberg, and got behind the Bruins defense. He entered the slot, deked to the backhand, but Thomas made a spectacular glove save. Off a face-off in the offensive zone, Gregory Campbell and Jamal Mayers decided to go at it right after the puck was dropped. It was nothing spectacular, but Campbell was hoping to create a spark for this Bruins team. Both players received 5 minute majors for fighting at 7:48. Johnny Boychuk started a breakout for the Bruins. He sent the puck up ice to Lucic, who found Seguin skating through the center slot. Seguin veered off to the far circle to draw the defenders attention, and centered a pass for an open Nathan Horton right on the doorstep. Patrick Sharp just tipped the puck, and did not allow a proper tip for Nathan Horton as the puck skipped wide. Chicago brought the puck back into the Bruins zone. Johnny Boychuk went down to the near corner to get a loose puck, and would be tripped up by Stalberg. The Bruins had a powerplay at 9:17 to try to take the lead now. Boston was able to get 3 shots on goal, with great chances coming from Patrice Bergeron. But again no goal to speak of from the Bruins powerplay. They had good puck movement, and looked better to start then they had all night against Carolina. The Blackhawks would come back with another chance by Patrick Kane. A long pass through center ice set Kane up 1-on-1 with Joe Corvo. He had outside position on Corvo, stopped and spun around to get himself all alone in the center slot and launched a backhand. Tim Thomas showed his quickness, getting himself right in front of Kane as his shot went into Thomas’s gut. The Bruins were attempting to come up ice, but the Blackhawks did a good job of clogging up the neutral zone. Ference tried making a pass across ice, but it was tipped and picked off by Bryan Bickell. Bickel now had a breakaway, and beat Thomas. Chicago had a 1-0 lead 16:21 into the 1st period. Another great chance for the Blackhawks just seconds later with a 2-on-1. A cross-ice pass had Kane set up with an open net on the near side. But Tim Thomas made a ridiculous left-to-right pad save. The period would end with the Bruins down 1-0

2nd Period

The 2nd period started with a Boston penalty. Nathan Horton was called for goaltender interference 24 seconds into the period. Brent Seabrook took a bad angle shot that missed the net, and took a funny bounce off the sideboards. Rich Peverley picked the puck up, and the Bruins had a 2-on-1 up ice. Peverley held the puck into the far circle, drew the defender, passed across ice to Chris Kelly who buried it in the back of the net. Boston had tied the game on a shorthanded goal at 1:33. The powerplay ended for the Blackhawks with the game now tied at 1, but the Blackhawks kept the pressure on the Bruins. Great puck movement by the Blackhawks had the Boston defense reeling. Kane found himself all alone in the far circle, and beat Thomas 5-hole. Just as quickly as Boston had tied the game, the Blackhawks had taken the lead back 2-1 at 2:51. Chris Kelly created another chance for Boston. He took a shot from the near boards, beat Crawford low to the blocker side, but the puck hit the post and stayed out. Patrick Sharp came into the Bruins zone with speed, and ripped a one-timer to the glove of Tim Thomas. Thomas just got his glove there in time, as the puck deflected up and over the goal. Chris Kelly was trying to create more opportunities for the Bruins when he went into the near corner in the attacking zone. He was leveled from behind though by Michael Frolik, and he remained on the ice for a moment but was able to skate back to the bench under his own power. The Bruins would have a powerplay to work with now, as Frolik was called for boarding at 14:29. A very important powerplay now for the Bruins, as they had a chance to tie the game and get their powerplay out of this funk. In the closing seconds of the powerplay, Peverley found Bergeron across ice in the near slot with a wide open net to shoot at. But Brent Seabrook hit the ice to block the shot, and the Bruins powerplay was over without a goal. The Bruins kept the pressure on with the 1st line getting plenty of shots towards goal. The 2nd period would come to a close though, with the Blackhawks up 2-1.

3rd Period

The 3rd period started with another penalty for the Bruins, as Patrice Bergeron nailed Frolik from behind into the curved glass at the Blackhawks bench. Bergeron would receive a boarding call 9 seconds into the period. Kane was again creating trouble, making a cross ice pass to Patrick Sharp for a one-timer from the near slot. Tim Thomas made a terrific save though to keep Chicago off the board. Boston created chances again on the penalty kill, with Marchand, Ference, and Paille getting a 3-on-2 up ice. Marchand held far side, passed across ice to Paille, but his shot was blocked into the crowd by Crawford. The Blackhawks powerplay was ineffective, as the game stayed at 2-1. Boston had a great chance to get on the board, with Bergeron setting up Tyler Seguin from behind the net to the slot. Seguin made a nice backhand shot, but Crawford made the save, and was able to cover up even with Lucic jamming in front. The Bruins kept the pressure on, with Johnny Boychuk all the way down to the near corner and behind the net to get the puck. Boychuk found Horton in the near slot, and he buried the puck in the back of the net. Horton had his 1st goal of the year, and it tied the game 2-2 at 7:56. The Bruins had new life, and this offense started to get pressure on the Chicago defense. Benoit Puliout and Brent Seabrook went down to the near corner in the offensive zone. The puck rode up the sideboards, and Puliout turned around to get it, but his stick inadvertently whacked Seabrook in the back of his helmet. The Bruins would have a crucial penalty to kill of now, as Puliout was in the box for high-sticking at 16:25. The Bruins did a good job clearing the puck, and did not allow any shots on goal when Patrick Sharp would be called for holding the stick at 17:33. They skated 4-on-4 for 52 seconds before the Bruins would have a powerplay to work with. Andrew Ference lost his stick right as the 4-on-4 started, and the Blackhawks offense took advantage. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Towes created gerat scoring chanced, but the Blackhawks could not get shots on Thomas. Puliout would come out of the box, and it was a shortened powerplay for the Bruins. Seidenberg would beat Crawford cleanly over the glove side, but he rang the post. The powerplay would come to an end, as would the period. The Bruins were headed to overtime tied at 2 in Chicago.

OT

Seguin created a chance for Horton in overtime, centering a pass from the near corner. Horton had to fight through the Chicago defense, shielding the puck, but could not get a shot on net. Milan Lucic forced a turnover on the near boards in Bruins defensive zone. He passed the puck ahead for Rich Peverely, who had a clean breakaway now. Peverley had the entire rink to himself, as he skated through center ice. He came into the slot, deked to the backhand, got Crawford down spread-eagle, but his shot went wide. With under a minute left, Brent Seabrook took a slap-shot from the far slot that deflected off of Thomas and through the crease. Chicago would get one last point shot by Seabrook, but it would not go. Still tied after OT, this game would be decided in a shootout.

Shootout

Jonathan Towes was 1st up for the Blackhawks. He deked to the forehand, got Thomas down on his belly, but the spread-eagle by Thomas allowed him to make a right pad save. Tyler Seguin led off for the Bruins. He came in with a burst of speed, and whipped a shot right by Crawford 5-hole. Boston was up 1-0 in the Shootout. Patrick Kane came up next, skating methodically in. He just fired a shot 5-hole, but Thomas stopped him, and then stopped the rebound attempt with his left pad (even though you’re only allowed 1 shot in a shootout). Patrice Bergeron was up 2nd for the Bruins. He skated in with speed, deked, but lost the puck off his stick and never made a shot. It was all up to Patrick Sharp now, with the Bruins up 1-0 in the Shootout. Sharp skated in, fired a shot from the high slot, and Tim Thomas made the left pad save. Thomas was perfect in the Shootout, and the Bruins had an important 2 points to end their mini losing streak.

Post-Game Breakdown

A good win for the Bruins, after suffering 2 tough losses to Colorado and Carolina. Boston’s offense had been struggling, but was able to come up with key goals when they needed them. The Bruins never led in this game, but they kept working hard all night. Nathan Horton grabbed his 1st goal of the year to tie things in the 3rd period, and hopefully that can get him going offensively. Seguin continues to impress early in this season. He has a goal and 4 assists after this game, and is now leading the team with 5 points. The Bruins haven’t lost a step with Seguin replacing Kreci on the 1st line. Lucic and Horton have been given plenty of chances to score, but just have not finished. Horton finally did, but Lucic is having a very hard time finding the back of the net. He’s a guy the Bruins need to get going if they want to win these close games. Johnny Boychuk had a tremendous performance in this game as well, both offensively and defensively. In 5 games against the Blackhawks, Boychuk has 2 goals and 2 assists, and is +5. Very impressive stats in limited action against 1 team. Boychuk is helping to solidify the Bruins defense, by pairing up with Chara. This allows Claude Julien to separate his 2 best defenders in Chara and Seidenberg, thus providing a stiff defense no matter what line he rolls out. The Bruins won’t play again until Tuesday night, when they host the Carolina Hurricanes. I see the Bruins winning this rematch from a few nights ago, and after that it’s 4 straight games of rivalry. The Bruins will play the Maple Leafs, Sharks, and then a home-and-home with the Canadians in the upcoming week and a half. Boston has to win at least 2 of those games to stay afloat early in this season.

Bruins drop 2nd straight, losing 3-2 in Carolina

Boston has lost their 2nd straight game now, losing to the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 Wednesday night. This after being shut out Tuesday afternoon to the Colorado Avalanche. The offense is off to a slow start. Tim Thomas has been stellar, and Tukkaa Rask was phenomenal in his game Tuesday, but the goal scorers have been missing. With David Kreci out with a lower body injury he suffered during practice on Tuesday, Tyler Seguin was given the chance to center the Bruins top line. A huge opportunity for the 19-year-old to prove just what talent he has, and did he ever. Seguin centered the top line beautifully, creating chances all night for Lucic and Horton. Marchand showed the grit that made him an icon in the Boston area last year again in this game, scoring a late goal to pull the Bruins to within 1 in the 3rd. While the goal ended up not affecting the final outcome, it’s the type of determination we need to see more of from the rest of the goal scorers on this club going forward.

picture courtesy http://scores.espn.go.com/nhl/photos?gameId=400046950&photoId=1615809

Cam Ward stonewalls Milan Lucic and the Bruins, as Boston loses 3-2 Wednesday night

1st Period

The game started with a huge chance for the Hurricanes, when a bouncing puck found its way right in front of Tim Thomas. Tlusty picked the puck up, Thomas came out to challenge him, and made a spectacular blocker save. The 1st line of Boston came back with great chances of their own. Seguin, Lucic, and Horton were all jamming at the front of the net off a Johnny Boychuk point shot. Milan Lucic just missed a chance in the crease at a wide open net, hitting the side of the net. The Bruins would go on the powerplay right after. The Hurricanes sent the puck down the ice and made a change, but would be called for too-many-men on the ice at 4:23. Boston had an early chance to get on the board, and to get their powerplay working. The Bruins offense was working hard in front of the net, getting shots on net and rebound chances. They could not find the back of the net though. As soon as the powerplay ended for Boston, they would get another with which to work with. Jeff Skinner snapped the stick of Gregory Campbell, and was called for slashing at 6:54. Seguin came flying into the offensive zone, but had a shot blocked down. Besides that, it was more of the same for the Bruins powerplay, with the opposing PK getting better chances on net. They were back to 5-on-5 hockey as we approached midway in this 1st period. The 1st line for Boston again had great chances on Cam Ward. Seguin had a shot turned away, and then Ward stonewalled Milan Lucic with an open chance in the slot. The rebound came out for Carolina, and they now had numbers up ice. Johnny Boychuk leveled Eric Stall at center ice to free the puck up. Both men hit the ice in the big collision. Jeff Skinner just missed a chance to get his team on the board, hitting the crossbar near side. Thomas made another spectacular save off the rush, but was left out of position for the rebound attempt. Chara at the far side blocked the wide open net shot by Jokinave with his stick. Skinner came skating through center ice, and was hooked down by Chris Kelly. Carolina had a chance now with the delayed penalty. Skinner tried jamming the puck in the near side, Where McQuaid tangled with him and the 2 fell to the ice. After the whistle, there was a pileup centered around Skinner and McQuaid. Skinner gave some weak jabs to McQuaid on the ice, and when McQuaid got up he shoved Skinner into the boards like he was a child. The Canes had a late powerplay now, which has been terrific to start the year. Skinner came in with speed through the far circle, made a terrific feed to Stall at the near slot who had a wide open net to shoot at, but the puck did not sit for him. The 1st period would end tied at 0, and the Bruins had 48 seconds left on the penalty kill to open up the 2nd.

2nd Period

The Canes came out with a powerplay to work with, and made it count. A shot from the near circle by Pitkanen, and with Stall jamming in front made it by Tim Thomas. Thomas got a piece of it, but never had a good look at the shot. And of course, Tomas Kaberle (who was not resigned in the offseason by the Bruins) had an assist on the powerplay goal. Thomas came back with back-to-back terrific saves on Teluchnian. Another penalty came against the Hurricanes, Tulusty being called for high-sticking at 3:18. Just another atrocious powerplay by the Bruins though, with 2 shots on net. The Bruins 4th line came back with a strong shift to try to get some momentum going. Joe Corvo just missed a chance in the slot when a centering pass by Campbell was blocked away. Yet again, the Bruins would have a powerplay to work with as the Hurricanes were called for too-many-men at 8:23. Seguin gave a nice feed to Bergeron at the near post, but Ward held strong on the post. Bergeron then had another chance from the center slot, but Ward made the save. A juicy rebound came out for Seguin and Bergeron, but the puck was cleared to end the powerplay. The Bruins would go right back on the powerplay at 11:05, when Chad LaRose was called for hooking. Seguin created his own chance, but Ward made a terrific blocker save near post. Rich Peverly passed down low to Bergeron at the near side, and he passed to a streaking Johnny Boychuk at the far slot. The puck was knocked away, and Boychuk never had a chance to make a shot. The follow through by Johnny Boychuk drove him into the goal, and he would receive a goaltender interference minor at 12:58. 7 seconds of 4-on-4, and then it was a powerplay for the Hurricanes. Jeff Skiner fought through all 4 Bruin penalty killers to get the puck out to Tomas Kaberle all alone in the high slot. His one-timer was stopped by Tim Thomas though, and the game stayed at 1-0. The powerplay came to a close with great play by the Bruins penalty killers. The Bruins came back with 2 great chances on Cam Ward. Lucic knocked the puck away from a couple of Hurricanes at center ice, and he took a shot on net. A pad stop by Ward allowed for a juicy rebound attempt by Nathan Horton, but again Ward made a great save. The period would come to a close, with Carolina up 1-0.

3rd Period

The 1st line for Boston came out firing, with a great chance by Milan Lucic in the slot. He skated right in front of Cam Ward, but ha his stick bumped by Gleason prevent the shot. Terrific forechecking by the Carolina Hurricanes gave them another chance to score. Anthony Stewart brought the from behind the net to the near circle, and just laid a shot on Tim Thomas that squirted right by his right skate. Carolina was up 2-0 now, 3:42 into the 3rd period. Tyler Seguin brought it upon himself to get the Bruins back into this game. Seguin came flying up through the near circle off a touch pass by Horton from center ice. Seguin created space, and made a ridiculous shot to beat Cam Ward high glove side. Suddenly it was 2-1 Carolina at 4:07. The Bruins offense came alive, with great chances by Marchand and Peverley to try to tie the game. But a tripping call against Rich Peverley at 6:08 would kill that momentum. Thomas was the best penalty killer for the Bruins, with the Hurricanes skating circles around the Boston defense. Thomas was finally able to cover the puck up just as the penalty ended. McQuaid would awkwardly hit the boards late in the penalty, and would be sent down to the locker room after the whistle. Seguin was back on the ice, and almost created another chance for the Bruins. He came with a full head of steam through center ice, but had the puck knocked away in the slot. The Bruins had a hop in their step, feeling the sense of urgency to score. The Hurricanes brought the puck back into the Bruins zone, again with tremendous forechecking. Jordan Caron had a chance to clear the puck, but just whiffed on the attempt. That allowed for a chance in the slot by Tlusty, and he buried it in the back of the net. It was 3-1 Carolina at 13:32, seemingly ending this game. The Bruins did not give up though, with a great scoring chance coming from Benoit Puliot, but he missed the net wide. Joe Corvo picked the puck up and passed to Patrice Bergeron along the side boards. Bergeron found Brad Marchand in the near circle, and he buried a one-timer in the back of the net, and it was 3-2 now Carolina at 16:35. The Bruins brought the pressure back offensively, and Carolina iced the puck. Canes head coach Paul Maurice used his timeout to give his guys an extra breather. The face-off was won back by Campbell. Boychuk drew 2 defenders, passed to Seidenberg who got a quick point shot off that was saved by the right pad of Ward. The Bruins emptied their net now with just over a minute left to play. Milan Lucic took a shot from the far circle, but another pad save by Ward kept Boston off the board. Carolina would clear the puck, and Patrice Bergeron knocked down Eric Stall to receive a tripping call at 19:57 that would effectively end the game. Boston had dropped their 2nd straight, losing to Carolina 3-2 and is just 1-3 to start the season.

Post-Game Breakdown

A tough loss for the Bruins, who now drop to 1-3 on the year. The defense has played well, the goaltending has been there, but the goal scorers have been missing. Seguin showed off what a wicked shot he has, when he beat Cam Ward high glove side early in the 3rd period. He has the kind of shot that just can’t be stopped, and I look for him to have a big year here in 2011-2012. To his line mates Lucic and Horton, they were just pathetic tonight. Lucic especially, could not bury his opportunities. Lucic had a wide open shot early in the 1st, and hit the side of the net. He has got to start burying those opportunities if he’s going to be the 30 goal scorer he was a year ago. The powerplay again for Boston just looks pathetic. It’s beyond ridiculous now, going 0-5 against Carolina, and is now a measly 1-18 on the young season. They did a better job getting shots on goal in this game, but the fact remains they can not score. The Hurricane penalty killers were aggressive, and did not allow many opportunities for the Bruins to score. Any chances were turned away by Ward. It’s too early to tell what the problem is at this point, but hopefully coach Julien is able to figure it out before it becomes a problem. Boston now has 2 days off before they face off with the preceding cup winners, the Chicago Blackhawks in Chicago. A tough matchup, as this is a young team with plenty of skill. I just can’t see the Bruins dropping to 1-4 to start this season, so I look for the Bruins and their goal scorers to bounce back and pick up a win Saturday night.

Bruins down the Lightning 4-1 to get their 1st win of the year

The Bruins got in the win column this season, beating their Eastern Conference Finals opponent from a year ago, the Tampa Bay Lightning. The game wasn’t all that close, with the Bruins dominating the entire game. One bad play by the Bruins allowed the Lightning right back into the game with the Martin St. Louis breakaway goal. Besides that play, the Bruins out-shot, out-chanced, and out-played the Lightning in every way. It was a great game from the Bruins. 2nd year pros Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin have looked great in these 1st 2 games thus far. Marchand has a goal and 2 assists, and Seguin has 3 assists and is +2. These young players are making a huge impact for this team, and I look for them to continue this production throughout the year. Boston is in good shape, if they can have this type of output on a consistent basis from the team.

picture courtesy bruins.nhl.com

Bruins celebrate their 2nd goal of the night, on their way to a 4-1 win vs. the Lightning

1st Period

The game started with some physical play by both teams. The Bruins would get the advantage early, when Matt Gilroy was called for holding at 4:21. The Bruins powerplay looked dismal as usual. They couldn’t set anything up, and were back to 5-on-5 hockey. Right as the powerplay ended, Shawn Thornton set up behind the Tampa net, and found Benoit Puloit in the slot. Puliot wheeled around and got a backhand shot on net, but right into the gut of Mathieu Garon. Peverley took a bad angle shot from the far side of the net, and got the puck on goal. There was a pileup at the far side, and Marhand started mixing it up with 2 Lightning. The facewashing resulted in offsetting roughing minors for Marchand and Steve Downie at 9:13. So they skated 4-on-4 for 2 minutes. The Bruins had a huge scare, as the puck was taken from the far slot, and shot intentionally wide by St. Louis. Malone had the puck with a wide open net at the near slot now. Tim Thomas dove to get back to the other side, and the puck hit the heel of his paddle. The puck sat just inches away from the goal line in the crease, but was cleared out by Kreci. The Bruins would be facing a penalty though, when Johnny Boychuk was called for slashing at 10:28. So it was 4-on-3 for 45 seconds, before the Lightning would get a 5-on-4 powerplay. Lecavialer made a cross ice pass to Stamkos, who had his one-timer stopped by Thomas. Just 1 more shot for the Lightning on the powerplay, as the Bruins had killed the penalty off. The Bruins would go on the powerplay shortly after, as Seguin was clearly tripped up by Connolly at 13:40. Boston had good puck control throughout the powerplay, but again could not get a goal. Just 1 shot on that powerplay, which tells the story. Too much passing by the Bruins man advantage, not enough shooting. Then the Lightning would go back on the powerplay. Milan Lucic was called for slashing at 16:31. As the penalty came to an end, Steve Downie decided to get into the crease, and started shoving Chara. Chara didn’t like it, so he took a swipe back. Downie then turned to the refs, as if pleading for a penalty. No call from the refs, and the Bruins would kill off another penalty. With just over 30 seconds remaining, Chris Kelly and Benoit Puloit created another chance in the slot, but a great right pad save by Garon kept Boston off the board. So they would go into the 2nd period scoreless.

2nd Period

The period started with a great chance by the 1st line for Boston, with Kreci going through center ice and Horton to the far side. Kreci’s pass to Horton though would not stay put, and it bounced off to the corner. But the Bruins would come right back with pressure from the 2nd line. Marchand again was creating chances, taking the puck through the offensive zone. He would go behind the net and around to the near circle, wheel, and fire a snap shot. The puck just hit the post though, and rebounded to the opposite side where Rich Peverley was waiting in the crease. Peverley did not miss, as he put the puck in the back of the net. Boston took the 1-0 lead 2:04 into the period. Boston would give it right back, as Malone poked the puck away from Nathan Horton as he entered the offensive zone. The puck was picked up by Lecaviler, who passed ahead to Martin St. Louis who had a breakaway now. St. Louis made a quick head fake, and beat Tin Thomas blocker side. Very quickly, this game was tied at 1 at 3:20. Boston would come back with a 2-on-1 with Peverley and Marchancd. Peverley had the pack far side, and centered a pass for Marchand. Marchand had a semi-breakaway now, but his shot went just wide. With Tampa now on its heels, Tyler Seguin created a chance, skating through the center slot, and passing back to McQuaid at the far point. McQuaid took a point shot, that apparently was tipped in front by Daniel Pialle and went into the back of the net. Boston was back on top, 2-1 at 4:58. Gregory Campbell then just missed a chance to extend the lead, as he fanned on a backhand attempt near post, and then shot a forehander over the net. The Bruins brought the puck back into the offensive zone, and Lucic made a nice move to step by Eric Brewer who stuck his leg out to knock Lucic down. Brewer would be called for tripping at 10:24. On the powerplay, Dominc Moore took the puck from the sideboards, and skated down the ice. Behind the play though, Tyler Seguin would be called for holding at 10:59. So they skated 4-on-4 for 1:25. The teams would be kept off the board, and the Lightning had 36 seconds of powerplay now. The Bruins penalty killers did a good job of keeping the puck out of their own zone. As the penalty ended, Adam McQuaid was coming up ice when he had the puck hit a linesman and Boston was ruled offsides. Dominac Moore and Brad Marchand tangled after the whistle, and both player would receive offsetting minors for roughing at 13:21. So they skated 4-on-4 for 2 minutes. The Bruins would get the man advantage again shortly after though, as Brett Connolly was called for hooking on Andrew Ference at 13:40. So Boston had their 4th powerplay with which to work with. The Bruins again could not score on the powerplay, and this is already getting ridiculous. Very solid defense by the Bruins as the period went on, and it contributed to their offensive control of the puck. But a late turnover by Boston gave Tampa a 3-on-2 up ice. Stamkos took the puck at the center slot, skated forward, and passed near side to Lecavialer. Thomas dove across to make a stop, but Lecaviler made a cross ice pass instead. Johnny Boychuk made the smart play, and just took out. Boychuk would be called for tripping at 19:52. The period would come to a close, with Boston up 2-1 and having to kill off 1:52 of the Boychuk penalty.

3rd Period

The 3rd period started with a huge chance for the Bruins, with Marchand intercepting a pass at the point by Malone. Marchand had a breakaway now, deked, and just missed a backhand shot high. Tampa came back with a great chance setting up a triangle in the slot. Teddy Purcell received a cross ice pass at the near side, and had a wide open net to shoot at. But Tim Thomas showed off his athleticism, stretching all the way over to make a tremendous blocker save. The Lightning were kept off the board on the powerplay, and the Bruins offense came back down the ice. Seguin sent the puck ahead to Lucic, who came down through to the far side protecting the puck. Lucic took a bad angle shot that was stopped by Garon. The rebound came right to an open Kreci in the high slot, and he wristed one up and into the back of the net. Kreci had his 1st goal of the year after leading the postseason, and it gave the Bruins the ever important 2 goal lead. 3-1 now for Boston at 3:07 in the 3rd period.Tampa came back with a one-time opportunity from Pyatt to Hall, but Thomas made the save. The Bruins started taking control of this game, with the defense forcing turnovers and the offense controlling the puck in the attacking zone. Great puck movement by the offense, wheeling the puck around in the offensive zone. Campbell was fighting along the boards, and was able to get the puck out to the point. Seidenberg made a cross ice pass to Joe Corvo, who took a shot on net. The puck was stopped by the pads of Garon, and Shawn Thornton picked the puck up right in the slot. His backhand was sent into Garons left pad though, and Boston was kept off the board this time. Patrice Bergeron intercepted a pass back at the Boston goal-line. He brought the puck up ice, and into the offensive zone. Bergeron wheeled around in the slot, passed across ice to Marchand. The puck kicked off a skate, was picked up by Peverley, and he buried it in the back of the net. Peverley had his 2nd goal of the night, and it put Boston up 4-1 at 8:43. Tampa Bays woes would continue, as they were then called for having too many men on the ice at 10:19. The Bruins had their 5th powerplay of the night, and were looking to put this game out of reach just midway through the 3rd period. A very good-looking powerplay from Boston, getting some good looks at net. But again, no goal to speak of. They went back to 5-on-5 hockey, but not for long. Dominc Moore tried mixing it up with Nathan Horton at center ice, and both players would receive off setting minors for slashing and cross-checking respectively at 15:32. So they skated 4-on-4 for 2 minutes. The Bruins had a couple breakout opportunities, but were not trying too hard to get more offense going. They were back to 5-on-5, when Tyler Seguin would be called for tripping on Steve Downie at 17:37. This penalty kill played shutdown defense, not allowing Tampa to get good opportunities. The powerplay would end with under a minute left to go in the game. The Bruins had numbers up ice, with Seguin coming out of the box for a 3-on-2. Seguin had the puck dropped off for him in the near slot, but just fanned on a snap shot. Tampa sent the puck back down they ice, but it wouldn’t matter. Boston had their 1st win of the year, beating the Tampa Bay Lightning, 4-1.

Post-Game Breakdown

The Bruins looked great in this game, dominating the whole way save for the breakaway goal by St. Louis. Offensively, defensively, Boston controlled this game. The play by Seguin and Marchand has been tremendous thus far, and both looked exceptional in this game. The defense was shut down all night, especially the penalty kill. They kept the very dangerous Lightning powerplay off the board, going 0-5 on the night. The Bruins didn’t fair any better though, going 0-5 on the powerplay as well. The Bruins are 1-10 on the powerplay to start the season, which is not a good sign. The Bruins have the weapons to have a decent powerplay, but for some reason have not been able to put the pieces together. We’ll have to see how things progress throughout the season, but it is something the Bruins will need to fix somehow. The Bruins next game is Monday afternoon against the Colorado Avalanche, where they should easily handle the Avalanche at the TD Garden.

Bruins lose season opener as they raise their 1st banner in 39 years

What a sight the opening ceremony was. Great job by the Bruins video staff to put together a great playoff montage. The whole thing was very emotional, and it was great to re-live the majesty that was, the Bruins 2010-2011 Stanley Cup run. Raising the banner, getting to see Mark Recchi raise the cup again, it was all quite a wonderful spectacle at the TD Garden Thursday night. Among all of this Stanley Cup hoopla, we actually had a game to play. Sadly, the Bruins dropped their season opener to the Philadelphia Flyers, 2-1. It ended up being an impressive performance by both goaltenders, with Bryzgalov stopping 21 of 22 shots, and Thomas stopping 27 of 29 shots. The Bruins had the better scoring chances, and had a lot of shots go wide, with a post hit or two in there. There is much room for improvement for the Bruins, and I think they have a very good-looking team as this season starts.

The Bruins hang up their Stanley Cup banner, but lose 2011-2012 home opener.

1st Period

The Bruins came out ready to play, and controlled the puck in the offensive zone from the get go. Good chances by the 1st line and the 2nd line, with Rich Peverley looking good taking over for the now retired Mark Recchi. It was a fast paced start by both teams. A huge rush attempt made by the Bruins, with Jordan Coran making a play on the puck in the defensive zone. He was able to get the puck up ahead to Chris Kelly, and the Bruins had a 2-on-1 with Kelly and Seguin. Kelly passed near side to Seguin, who skated into the slot before passing back across ice to Kelly for the tip in attempt, but it went just wide. Just around midway through the 1st period, we would have the 1st penalty of the 2011 NHL season. Zac Rinaldo would be called for holding the stick at 9:00, and the Bruins dismal powerplay was on the ice. The Bruins got to work quick, with new defenseman Joe Corvo picking the puck up in the defensive zone. He passed to Seguin still in the defensive zone, who made a terrific long ice pass to Brad Marchand. Marchand used his speed to get behind the Flyers defense, he set the edge skating into the slot, deked, and scored. A backhand shot sneaked low by the blocker of Bryzgalov, and Boston was up 1-0, 9:42 into the game, on a powerplay goal nonetheless. Seguin came right back with a terrific shot from the near circle, and he just rang the post. The Bruins 1st overall pick last year was off to an impressive start for the 2011 season. The 1st line for Philly started to come alive though, with great play by the 18 year veteran Jamir Jagar. The Flyers offense wasn’t getting good scoring chances against Thomas, even though they were now out shooting the B’s 9-6. There hard work down low would pay off, as they would draw a slashing penalty from Nathan Horton at 18:43. The Flyers made quick work on their powerplay, as Jaromir Jager found Claude Giroux on a pass up center ice. He skated through center ice, deked right past Zdeno Chara, and deked Tim Thomas in the slot putting the puck in the back of the net. Both powerplays were working tonight, as Philadelphia had tied the game 1-1 at 19:10. The Flyers weren’t done, as they came back with more pressure on Thomas. The puck was sent around the Bruins netminder, and to the high circle far side. A snap shot taken by Jakub Voracek made it through the screen of Tim Thomas. Philadelphia went up 2-1 with just 3 seconds left in the period. The Flyers didn’t score a goal in the final minute at all last year, and they had done it twice already tonight. A stunning turn of events in Boston, as the Bruins went into the 1st intermission down 2-1, after dominating for most of the period.

2nd Period

Boston came out fast to start again, with a great chance by Marchand in the high slot. His shot went into the pads of Bryzgalov. Marchand created another spectacular chance, by taking the puck at center ice. He deked Chris Pronger right out of his skates, dragged the puck into the slot, and tried to drag it across for the back hand shot. Bryzgalov made a tremendous poke check though, denying Marchand of even getting a chance on net. The Bruins were doing a good job of getting shots, but none of them were getting on net. Philly was out shooting Boston 7-1, nearing the midway point in the period. Philly dumped the puck into the Bruins defensive zone, and Chara laid a big hit on Claude Giroux in the Boston corner. Giroux appeared to back into Chara, bracing himself for the hit, and Chara used his big body to push him into the boards. It didn’t look like an illegal hit, as Chara did not drive him into the boards. James van Riemsdyk took it upon himself to start shoving Chara. The big man didn’t like that, and the two grappled briefly. Both players would receive offsetting minors for roughing at 7:26, and they skated 4-on-4 for 2 minutes. It was an uneventful 4-on-4, and they were right back to 5-on-5 hockey. Boston was being outshot 20-7 midway through the 2nd period, and Marchand again tried to get Boston some momentum. A nice feed from Kreci at the point to Marchand in the far slot, allowed Marchand to get off a great backhand shot. But Bryzgalov made a terrific glove save to keep Marchand and the B’s off the board. The Bruins would kill any momentum Marchand might have created, when Dennis Seidenberg would be called for holding on Wade Simmons at 13:11. The Giroux-Jagar combination almost scored again on the Bruins, as Jagar had a tip in the slot that just went wide near side. Good defense by Boston though didn’t allow for another good chance, and Boston would go back on the powerplay right as their penalty ended. Danny Briere would be called for tripping on Rich Peverley at 15:29. This is the powerplay we’re used to seeing, as Philly had better chances on the Bruins powerplay then the B’s did themselves. The penalty was up, with a very weak performance by the Bruins powerplay. Another penalty would follow at 18:41, as Wade Simmons was called for holding on David Kreci. So the Bruins had a chance to strike in the final minute of the 2nd period, just as the Flyers had done in the 1st. Again though, we saw the Flyers getting better scoring chances on the penalty kill then the Bruins could on the powerplay. The 2nd period came to a close, with the game still 2-1 Flyers.

3rd Period

The Bruins began the 3rd period with 41 seconds left on the powerplay. They would not be able to muster anything though, as Philly would come back with good pressure on Thomas. Then a blatant holding of the stick by a Flyer grabbing onto Ference’s stick and would not let go of it near the Boston crease. There then was a big pileup at the net, as Hartnall drove hard to the net for a tip in. Tim Thomas made a great save 5-hole though, as there was no penalty against Philadelphia. The Bruins were having a tough time getting anything going, nearing the midway point of the 3rd period. They would be helped out by another Philly penalty, as Coburn was called for slashing on Marchand at 7:24. Bergeron had a great chance on the powerplay, as he intercepted a Flyers pass in the high slot, and got a wrist shot off on Bryzgalov. But a blocker save by Bryzgalov kept Boston down by 1. The penalty ended without a goal, and we were now midway through the 3rd period with the Bruins still down 2-1. Seconds later, Wade Simmons would again be called for a penalty, this time it was hooking at 10:13. So the Bruins had their 5th powerplay of the night, and a must score at this point. Great set up by Kreci in the far slot, as he found Horton across ice. Bryzgalov couldn’t see anything on a screen by Lucic, and Horton had a wide open net to shoot at. Timonen spun around in the crease, and stopped the puck with his stick to keep it out of the net. Then, Tyler Seguin had a wide open chance to score, but the puck was knocked away by the Flyers defense. A great looking powerplay for the Bruins, which would have had 2 goals if not for the great play by the Flyers defense. The Flyers came back with a chance of their own, as Giroux passed the puck from behind the Boston net to the slot for van Riemsdyk. Thomas made a spectacular left pad save on van Riemsdyk. With under 5 minutes to play, Chris Pronger lost the puck in his own zone to Milan Lucic. He made a quick pass to Kreci into the slot, who took a snap shot on Bryzgalov. The puck hit off the glove of Bryzgalov, and trickled into the crease. Kreci couldn’t reach it though, as Bryzgalov sprang to cover the puck, The Flyers would take the puck back up ice, with Jagr skating up the far side. Johnny Boychuck tried to get in his way, and would be called for holding at 15:39 . A good Bruins penalty kill though would keep the Flyers out of the net, and the game was still 2-1, with 2 minutes to play now. Boston couldn’t get good possession of the puck until the final minute of play, when Thomas would empty the net for the extra attacker. Chara had the puck behind the Flyers net, but had too much pressure and tried to pass it to the slot for a shot attempt. The puck was picked off by Philly, and Brad Marchand made an obvious slash at 19:40, trying to get the puck away. So the Bruins would go on the penalty kill with just 19.9 seconds left in the game, down 2-1. The Bruins were battling hard on the boards to get the puck, when Claude Giroux stepped right in front of Tyler Seguin and reached out with his arm to knock him to the ice. So an interference call with 2.7 seconds left, gave the Bruins one last hope for a goal in a 4-on-4 situation. A pileup on the faceoff, and the puck was somehow shot down the ice by a Flyer as time expired. The Bruins dropped the 1st game of the year to the Philadelphia Flyers, 2-1.

Post-Game Breakdown

Well, let’s all just hope that this season ends up just like last year did. An opening night loss with Ilya Bryzgalov in net for the opponents to start the year, and a Stanley Cup Championship to end it. That would be quite the coincidence. As for the game that was, the Bruins suffered a tough loss to the Flyers Thursday night. They got on the board 1st, with the goal by Marchand midway through the 1st period. But some defensive breakdowns late in the 1st allowed the Flyers to take a 2-1 lead. The rest of the game the Bruins looked a little sluggish. They weren’t getting shots on net, even though they were out-chancing the Flyers. The Bruins powerplay was also terrible, as usual. They were just 1-5 on the night, although they should have scored a 2nd powerplay goal in the 3rd period. Alas though, they didn’t get many shots on net, and couldn’t sustain any pressure. Besides the powerplay, (which may never be fixed, and they won the Stanley Cup without one), I think those missed opportunities will be fixed as the year goes on. It’s tough to evaluate a team after just 1 game, but I think this Bruins team will have another great season.

Red Sox Dream Team suffers epic collapse, now face turmoil in the offseason

What was thought to be World Series favorites, has turned out to be a team of frauds. After missing the postseason for just the 2nd time in 7 years, and with doubts about the heart of their order, Sox General Manager Theo Epstein went out and acquired left-handed slugger Adrian Gonzalez from the San Diego Padres. Then, in a stunning move, he acquired hot Free Agent commodity Carl Crawford. It looked like the Sox would have a dominant lineup in 2011, and they would have arguably the best pitching staff in the AL with Lester, Beckett, Buchholz, Lackey, Daisuke, Bard, and Papelbon. The team was poised to make the postseason, having a half game lead over the Yankees for the division, and a 9 game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays for the Wild Card on September 1st. No team in Major League history has ever blown a 9 game lead with just the final month left to play. That was until, this Boston Red Sox team hit the field.

http://espn.go.com/blog/boston/red-sox/index/_/count/16

This Boston Red Sox team did the impossible, they whittled away a 9 game lead from September 1st, all the way down to a tie for the Wild Card lead on September 28. On the last game of the year though, it looked like the Sox would make up for everything that happened. The Red Sox entered the 7th inning with a 3-2 lead over the Baltimore Orioles. A rain delay though would force the game to come to a pause. While the Sox watched the Tampa Bay Rays battle the Yankees in their clubhouse, they saw the un-probable happening. Entering the 8th inning, the Yankees had a 7-0 lead over the Rays. Things started going south from here for the Sox. Tampa Bay miraculously pulled the game to within 1, and in the bottom of the 9th inning, with 2 outs and 2 strikes, pinch hitter Dan Johnson pulled a ball down the right field wall, and out of the ballpark. It was a tie game out in Tampa. The Red Sox went back to work just moments before this, and worked their way to the 9th inning. And with 2 outs, and 2 strikes of their own, closer Jonathan Papelbon allowed the game tying RBI double to Mark Reynolds. It was just his 3rd blown save in 34 opportunities this season. The very next batter was Robert Andino. With a 1-1 count, Andino hit a fastball down the middle of the plate on a line into left field. Carl Crawford came rushing in, went to the slide, and the ball hit the very tip of his glove but stayed out. Reynolds scored from 2nd on the play, and the Red Sox, in stunning fashion, had just lost to the Baltimore Orioles, 4-3. Not even 5 minutes later, Evan Longoria would hit a walk off homerun down the left field line, to give his Tampa Bay Rays an 8-7 win, and the Wild Card. Thus ended the greatest collapse in MLB regular season history. This puts the Sox, and their record payroll, in a bit of a bind now.

Ortiz, Papelbon, J.D. Drew, Scutaro, Varitek, Bedard, and Wakefield are all free agents going into this offseason. The big question becomes, who do you keep, and who do you let go? Ortiz, Varitek, and Wakefield all need to be let go. These 3 guys have done great things for the franchise in their time here, but they don’t have anything left to contribute. What it would cost to retain these players just wouldn’t be worth the money, or the years that they most likely will want. I think it also will help give the franchise a new look, and let them start fresh with some younger talent. Drew appears as if he’ll retire, and that’s besides the fact that there is no way the Sox bring him back when they have Ryan Kalish and Josh Redick they can put out in Right. Papelbon, Scutaro, and Bedard I think all have to come back. Papelbon is still an elite closer, and he showed that this year. He came back from a bad 2010 performance, and had just 3 blown saves all year. While he did blow the most important game of the year, he’s one of the only guys you can say that truly helped them get to that point with his consistency. Scutaro is another guy who provided consistent output throughout the season. Also, there is no one who the Sox can really bring in or call up that will replace him. Bedard is a question mark this offseason. He’s very injury prone, and a guy who has to be limited when he pitches. But who can the Sox go out and get to replace him? Roy Oswalt, C.J. Wilson even C.C Sabathia perhaps? While all will be free agents, I really don’t see any of them leaving their current teams. Bedard is a solid starter, and if monitored will produce for the Sox. There is already one person though we all know won’t be returning next season.

Heartbreakingly, Terry Francona has not had his option picked up by Red Sox management. Sad to see Francona go, especially with the way it happened. Sounds like he was tired of this team though, and wanted to go just as much as management wanted to get rid of him. These players let him down, and there needs to be a big change with the environment. According to reports by the likes of Sean McAdams and Dan Shaughnessy, the players weren’t listening to Tito anymore. There were cliques in the clubhouse, players were drinking beer in the middle of games. They flat-out didn’t care, and didn’t want to hear his message anymore. Terry can’t make them care if they don’t want to, and it showed on the field when the going got tough. This team showed their true colors as Francona said in his press conference on Friday. He didn’t like what he saw, and neither did I. You could say it’s his fault because he lost the clubhouse, but the collapse is all about how the players performed down the stretch. It’s all on the players. Epstein made some bad moves in Free Agency, but he also put together a team that was on pace for 100 wins at the beginning of September. And because of the way the players acted in this final month, Terry Francona has to lose his job.

He leaves Boston with a 744-552 record, 2nd most wins among Red Sox managers. He was 28-17 in the postseason, having a .622 winning percentage. That is the 2nd best all time in Major League history, with a minimum of 25 starts. He also became just the 2nd Red Sox manager ever to win 2 World Series. His greatest feat by far, was amounting the greatest comeback in Baseball history, by coming back from a 0-3 deficit in the 2004 ALCS against the rival Yankees. The Sox became the only team in Baseball history to come back down 0-3 to win a series 4-3. That led Boston to its first World Series appearance since 1986, and their first World Series Championship since 1918 after sweeping the best team in the Major Leagues that year, the St. Louis Cardinals. He was the best manager in Red Sox history. I don’t think anybody can really say otherwise. Now the question becomes, who are you going to find that can replace Terry Francona? Big shoes to fill for whoever it is, and they will be expected to take this team to the World Series.

Pats blow a 21 point lead in Buffalo, look ahead to Oakland

Bills comeback from 21 down and win with last second field goal

For the first time since 2002, the Buffalo Bills have beaten the New England Patriots. It was a streak of 15 straight losses for the Bills, and the 4th worst losing streak to one team. The Bills hold the record, with 20 straight losses to the Miami Dolphins from 1970-79. It was quite an epic defeat for the Patriots, who were up 21-0 with less than 6 minutes in 2nd quarter. Buffalo finally got on the board with a Steive Johnson touchdown. The Patriots though went back to work, just picking apart the Bills defense. They worked their way into the red zone, and were primed to go up by at least 17 points with under 2 minutes to play in the half. It was then the Brady made a pass to Danny Woodhead in the flat. The pass was a little bit behind him, and Woodhead just got a hand on the pass. The ball deflected up into the air, and was picked off by Buffalo. Fitzpatrick was able to bring his team back down the field and get field goal as the half came to an end. Then came the 2nd half, which was a storm of turnovers by Brady, and it started quick. Brady was picked off on the first possession, not even 2 minutes into the 3rd quarter. From his own 44, Brady just tried to force a pass to the clearly covered Chad Ochocinco. The Bills took the ball back down the field for another touchdown, to pull with 4 points. Brady and company were able to move the ball though on their next possession, getting the ball all the way down to the Bills 6 yard line. Unable to punch it in though, New England would have to settle for a field goal to go up 24-17. The Patriots were poised to tack back control of the game, as early into the 4th quarter, Brady had moved his team to the Buffalo 23 yard line. But again the turnover bug struck, when he clearly under-threw his tight end Rob Gronkowski and was intercepted again by the Bills. Buffalo took the ball down the field for another touchdown to tie the game at 24, all be it with some help from the New England defense. Fitzpatrick was able to move the Bills 95 yards in just 51 seconds. It took 2 plays, but was aided by 2 New England penalties. 1 penalty was for pass interference in the endzone, which negated a Pats interception. On the very next drive for New England, Brady’s string of bad luck continued, as the very first play was a pass the hit a Bills players helmet. The ball deflected into the air, and was intercepted by Buffalo for a touchdown. From down 21-0, the Bills had taken a 31-24 lead. To reiterate, the Bills were outscored in the 1st quarter and early 2nd quarter 21-0, but then outscored the Pats 31-3. That is just a mind boggling number. Brady brought New England back down the field though, and completed two 4th down conversions to Wes Welker, the latter for a touchdown catch. Fitzpatrick now had just 3:25 left to get the Bills into field goal distance. They did it with ease, as the 1st play from scrimmage was a 29 yard pass to Donald Jones. The next play was a screen pass to Fred Jackson, and he went down to the New England 40. After the 2 minute warning, Fitzpatrick hit Jackson again on a short crossing route. Jackson went all the way into the endzone, but after a booth review would be ruled down at the 1 yard line. This worked against New England, as it allowed Buffalo to milk the clock now to set up the game winning field goal attempt. After a couple of kneel downs by Fitzpatrick, with some penalties in between by both teams, Ryan Lindell was set up with a yard field goal to win it. From down 21-0, the Bills came back by outscoring the Pats 34-10, and winning for the first time since 2002, 34-31. Now do you all see what I was talking about when I said that San Diego easily could have won their week 2 matchup if not for those red zone turnovers? Even though the Pats intercepted Fitzpatrick 2 times, Brady had an uncharacteristic day, matching his interception total from last year with 4 in this one game. And the Patriots defense should just how shaky they can be. When you combine the team that is leading the NFL in scoring (Buffalo), with the team allowing the most Points Per Game (New England), bad things are going to happen to that defense. If you attribute this loss to the fact that the likes of Pat Chung or Albert Hanyesworth were out, then you clearly aren’t looking at the big picture. Even when those 2 are on the field, New England is still giving up the most Points Per Game! This game shows the very real problems the Patriots have, centered around their defense, and unbalanced offense. The way this team is set up now, they can not win if Brady has a bad day. Well that doesn’t happen but once or twice a year you might say, except for the fact that the last 3 playoff games (the Giants, Ravens, and Jets) Brady hasn’t played well, and his team has lost to the more balanced team. What is the one thing all three of those teams have in common? Great defense with a great run game to complement an average quarterback. Brady has neither, and he’s one of the best quarterbacks of all time, let alone in the league right now.

New England just can not run the ball, and their defense can not stop anybody. This is not something new either, this has been going on since 2006. That was when we really saw this league convert to a passing oriented league. But before 2006, how many quarterbacks won a Super Bowl purely because they could chuck the ball better than the other guy? Trent Dilfer in 2000 won by managing games, and letting the Ravens defense suffocate opponents. 2001 was Brady, who was very mediocre in that game. How can that be when he won Super Bowl MVP you might ask. Well that comes down to his clutch factor, and what he did on the final drive. Brady threw the ball just 27 times, completing 16 for 145 yards and 1 TD. Brady was helped out by a ground game, which saw Antowain Smith run for 92 yards on 18 carries, and a defense, which held the “Greatest Show on Turf” to just 17 points. St. Louis in fact scored just 3 points in the first 3 quarters of play. This was an offense that had league MVP Kurt Warner (who threw for over 4800 yards that year), Issac Bruce, Tory Holt, and Marshal Falk. 2002 was Brad Johnson and the Tampa Bay defense, which was #1 that year, with Michael Pitman rushing for 124 yards. 2003 and 2004 was Brady again, with the Patriot defense and a balanced ground attack. And last in 2005 we saw Ben Roethlisberger win with Willy Parker and Jerome Bettis running the ball, and the Pittsburgh defense. Even after that 2005 Super Bowl, we saw Addai running the ball for Indy and they had the best run defense that year, and then Jacobs/Bradshaw/Ward in New York with that ferocious pass rush, and Willy Parker/Mewelde Moore in Pittsburgh again with that solid defense, and Pierre Thomas in New Orleans with a defense that led in takeaways, and James Starks in Green Bay with a top 5 defense last year. Even as the league converted to being more pass oriented, it came down to the team with the more balanced attack, and better defense succeeding in the postseason. This is where New England just doesn’t fit in.

A great comparison I heard whilst listening to the radio one day, was that this Patriot team has become like the Dolphins of the 80’s and early 90’s, with Marino at the helm. Neither team ran the ball, or had a defense that could stop you. It came down to just outscoring your opponent. Marino could put up all the stats, and he set all the modern-day records. But none of that mattered when it came playoff time. He lost Super Bowl XIX to the 49ers, because the defense locked down on the passing game, and they couldn’t run the ball to begin with. Add in how Montana and Rice took apart that defense, and you have a blowout. He lost playoff and division games to the Buffalo Bills, because of the balanced attack of Jim Kelley, Andre Reed, and Thurman Thomas along with a stifling defense. This is exactly where Brady finds himself right now. He is no longer called upon to just manage games, and use his talent when they need it. He is called upon to be the entire offense, because their run game and defense are not good enough to back him up. Until those problems are fixed, there is no way this team will be able to win another Super Bowl. It doesn’t matter how many yards Brady is throwing for, if the opponent is matching him. In the case of the 2007 Super Bowl, it doesn’t matter how many touchdowns he’s throwing for. If he can’t hand the ball off to a reliable back to take the heat off, eventually teams will key in against him. That Super Bowl is 100% comparable to the one the Patriots won in 2001 against the Rams. High powered offense, meets a good defense and a balanced offense. Of course there was a little luck involved, with the Samules dropped pick and the Tyree catch. But after all, if you’re the better team, then those mistakes shouldn’t matter. The Patriots still had chances to win that game, and their defense couldn’t seal the deal.

The Patriots will just try to outscore you. They are not a team that can play the ball possession game. This season alone, the league is averaging a 55-45 pass to run ratio. The Patriots are at 65-35 pass to run ratio. We no longer see Brady managing games like he did when he was winning Super Bowls. It used to be that the Patriots would win a game 20-17 with Brady getting them the lead, handing the ball off to grind down the clock, and the defense keeping teams out of the endzone. We no longer see this, and I don’t know why. Winning Super Bowls with a balanced attack, or winning regular season games because you can outscore everybody, which seems more appealing to you?

Now then, on to the next game of the season. The Patriots fly out to Oakland to face the Raiders, who are coming off a come from behind win of their own against the New York Jets. This is a very important game for the Pats, to try to right the ship, and get a win over a team that just beat a division rival. The Raiders are a team centered around the run, and have no names at the wide receiver. So I think this is a much more favorable matchup for New England then the Buffalo game was. Oakland is going to try to beat you by running Darren McFadden down your throat, and the Pats have a banged up secondary that is giving up the most passing yards a game. Compare that to rushing, where they are ranked 10th. Unless this is a result of teams constantly being behind, and not having a chance to run the ball, then I think New England is in good shape. If not, it could be a slice and dice operation by McFadden. The Pats offense should fair much better against the Oakland defense, as I imagine Brady is going to be working overtime so as not to make the same mistakes he did last week against Buffalo. No Nnamdi Asomugha in the Raiders secondary either, just spells trouble for that Raiders team. I’m looking for a blowout, 38-10 New England.

Patriots prove opportunistic in win against San Diego, look ahead to Buffalo

New England is off to a good start, beating division rival Miami, and now possible playoff opponent San Diego. It was a close game, that San Diego just whittled away. The Chargers easily could have won that game last week, but they self-destructed in the red-zone, along with big plays by the New England defense. On 4th and goal in the 2nd quarter, San Diego elected to go for it on the Pats 1 yard line, down by 3. This was the equivalent to Miami last week, down 7, when they took the field goal. The Chargers said, well Brady’s gonna score anyways, why not score and take the lead instead of tying the game. Mike Tolbert was stuffed trying to go off the right tackle, and Brady took the Patriots right down the field 99 yards for a touchdown. A Vince Wilfork interception in the red zone resulted in another Patriots score, and a late fumble by Mike Tolbert sealed their fate. So while the game never really was in jeopardy, it was a few mistakes away from being a loss for New England. It was definitely closer than the final score indicates, and closer than I thought the game would be. Now we look ahead to the Buffalo Bills, for another big division matchup, over in Buffalo.

Vince WIlfork rumbles his way down the field on his first career interception

Buffalo is a new team this year, now 2-0, and will not be an easy win anymore. Remember back to 2009. Brady was back from his knee injury, and everyone was looking forward to another 2007. Week 1 against Buffalo, in New England, the Bills took an 11 point lead into the final 5:25 of the game. After an 82 yard drive by Brady, the ensuing kickoff was taken out of the endzone and fumbled by Ledois McKelvin. Pats went on to score, and win the game 25-24.

So here we are, 2 years later, and the Bills are a much better team. They have a great threat at Wide Receiver in Stevie Johnson, Fred Jackson is one of the most productive and underrated players in the NFL, and Ryan Fitzpatrick can win games. While the team on paper isn’t that frightening, they will compete each and every week. It really comes down to whether or not the Pats defense can make stops like they did in weeks 1 and 2. The answer I think, is no they can’t. This game will be a shootout, with the Bills going to Stevie Johnson at least a dozen times. So look for McCourtey to get a lot of work on Sunday. The Pats defense did a great job coming up with clutch stops against San Diego last week, and this week will be a better test of that defense. A road game, in a very hostile environment, against a team that is literally dying to beat you. Brady and the Pats offense will do their thing, but we’ve seen the past 2 weeks that they can be stopped. Aaron Hernandez will be out for this week, and possibly the next 5 weeks with an MCL sprain. This could prove to be a huge loss, as he takes up a good portion of the field while corners are too small and linebackers to slow to cover him. Just 1 or 2 crucial stops by the Bills defense should help them get past New England this week, in a 38-34 victory.