The Bruins have extended their win streak to 5 games now, in another blowout victory. This time, the Bruins beat up on division rival Buffalo, winning 6-2. Tyler Seguin extended his point streak to 6 games now, scoring 2 goals and an assist in the game. Seguin has now matched his goal total from a year ago with 11. However, it’s only taken him 15 games to amas that total, whereas it took him 74 games last year. Seguin should easily reach 20 goals this season, and I think he will easily reach 30 goals as well. How much he’ll have at the end of the year, I don’t know, but I can tell you that it will be the most on the Bruins and tops in the league, if he can stay healthy. Andrew Ference missed the game, and is day-to-day with a lower body injury he suffered last game out against Edmonton.
Before any festivities could commence Saturday night, there was a very touching ceremony at center ice to honor the veterans. The puck was dropped by the mother and father of a National Guardsman over in Afghanistan. The Bruins surprised the parents though, having their son walk out of the Zamboni tunnel, being on leave from Afghanistan. It was a great moment for all, and must have been quite a moment for that family. On to the hockey game we go. Buffalo got things started, creating a chance off a face-off in the Boston zone. Cody McCormick took the puck off the draw, and skated right through the slot. Thomas with his aggressive style though was able to close the angle, and McCormick shot the puck wide. Boston took the puck down the ice into the attacking zone, where the puck was sent behind the Buffalo net. Johnny Boychuk went down to get the puck, and made a behind the back blind pass to the slot. It was picked off by Jason Pomenville, who passed ahead to Thomas Vanek. Vanek came up ice with speed, and skated into the far slot. He shot the puck off the goal apron, but it came right back to Vanek who was able to bank the puck into the net off of Tim Thomas’s skate. Vanek did this last year, bouncing a goal off of Thomas’s back. Buffalo was up 1-0 at 5:38. But the Sabers would go on the penalty kill just moments later, when Tyler Myers would be called for tripping at 6:56. The Boston powerplay couldn’t get the breaks it has been getting recently, and the B’s remained down 1-0. A bad break for Vanek minutes later, as the puck would take a funny bounce off his stick at the Boston point. Milan Lucic jumped up, and had a breakaway now. The puck was a bit out of his reach as he entered the attacking zone, and Ryan Miller came out to clear the puck. Lucic had built up speed down the ice, and he decided to absolutely destroy Miller, leveling him with the shoulder. The hit actually jarred the helmet off of Miller. 3 Sabers came over to say ‘hello’, but no one so much as challenged Lucic. Lucic received 2 minutes for charging at 13:12. The Bruins penalty killers were all over the ice, not allowing the Sabers to get a shot on net. The Sabers would then kill off their own penalty, when Drew Stafford was called for tripping at 14:50. So we had 23 seconds of 4-on-4 before the Bruins would get a powerplay to work with. Again though, the Bruins powerplay was ineffective. The Sabers would go right back on the penalty kill, when Ville Leino was called for hooking at 19:08. The 1st period came to a close with the Sabers up 1-0, and the Bruins would have powerplay time extend over to the 2nd period.
Boston had 1 minute of powerplay to open up the period. Tyler Seguin set up a great chance for Marchand far slot, but his pass was blocked by the Sabers defenders. The powerplay was over, with Boston only able to get 1 shot through the Sabers defense. Seguin created another chance for the Bruins, flying up ice with Bergeron. Seguin passed back to Bergeron, but his shot was blocked down. A Buffalo bounce led to a 2-on-1 coming back up ice, but Chara deflected a cross-ice pass with his stick. Rich Peverley intercepted a pass at center ice, and he tried making a cross ice pass to Campbell. The puck defelcted off Sabers defenseman Tyler Myers, and Peverly, following his pass, picked up the loose puck. Peverley was now behind the Buffalo defense, he skated through the slot, deked, and beat Miller 5-hole. Boston had tied the game at 1, at 7:40. Next up Marchand picked off a pass, and with Seguin charging late had a 2-on-1. Marchand had the entire near side to work with, and he methodically skated in. Seguin came into the slot, Marchand centered a pass for him, and Seguin buried it in the back of the net. Boston had taken the lead 2-1 at 13:29. Next in line was Nathan Horton, as he skated behind the Buffalo defense, and received a chip pass from Boychuk into the neutral zone. Horton cam up ice with David Kreci, and decided to rifle a shot high blocker side on Ryan Miller. The Bruins had just scored 2 goals in 16 seconds to take the 3-1 lead. That marks the 9th time this year the Bruins have scored 2 goals in less than 1 minute. Koleta tried bringing the fight back to Boston, as he hammered Adam McQuaid behind the Boston net. McQuaid didn’t like that, and started pushing and hitting Koleta back. Things were percolating in the TD Garden. Koleta would be called for charging, and McQuaid for roughing at 14:05. So they skated 4-on-4 for 2 minutes. The 4-on-4 went without any good chances, and McQuaid would go right back into the box after he got out. McQuaid was called for hooking at 18:01. The Bruins now had an important penalty to kill off at the end of the period. If the Sabers did not score, they would end up with 1 second of powerplay time to open up the 3rd period. Ville Leino would have a great chance late, as he rifled a one-timer from the near circle on Thomas. Thomas kicked out with his left pad to make the save, and a juicy rebound was kicked away by Seidenberg. The Bruins had a 3-1 lead heading into the 3rd and final period, and a 4 game win streak on the line.
Jonas Enroth was in-goal to start the 3rd period. An interesting move by Sabers coach Lindy Ruff. Unless the team felt Miller wasn’t in good enough physical condition to continue after the Lucic hit, then it makes no sense to me. The Sabers opened up the 3rd period with a powerplay, and it was over 1 second later. David Kreci was working magic behind the Buffalo net, and he found Milan Lucic who rang the crossbar. But Boston would make it count just moments later. Another bad pass by the Sabers defense, with Christian Ernhoff giving the puck up to Rich Peverley in the far circle. Peverley passed across ice to Chris Kelly, who sneaked the puck into the back of the net. Boston was suddenly up 4-1 now at 5:28. Then it was the Bergeron line creating chances again for Boston. Patrice Bergeron skated up ice with speed, and passed across ice to Brad Marchand. Marchand dropped the pass back off for Bergeron in the high slot, and he carried it to the near slot. He centered a pass for Tyler Seguin, and Seguin buried the puck in the back of the net. Boston was up 5-1, just 1:43 after the Chris Kelly goal. The Bergeron line wasn’t done their, as Brad Marchand came back with an amazing backhand goal in the near slot. Boston was up 6-1 now at 9:52. Kaleta was trying to cause more trouble, this time with Johnny Boychuk. Boychuk checked Koleta hard in the far corner in the Buffalo zone. Koleta then took a run at Boychuk as he went for a change. Zach Hamill, who is by no means a fighter, took a solid jab at Koleta. He would get 2 minutes for roughing at 11:50, but given the circumstances, it was a good penalty to take. A face-off win by Luke Adam was sent back to Ehrhoff. Ehrhoff passed across ice to Marc-Andre Gragnani at the near point, and he would rifle a shot that rang off the post and in. Buffalo was back on the board finally at 13:20. Boston would go back on the penalty kill at 14:22, when Nathan Horton was called for slashing. No goal this time for the Sabers, and Horton fresh out of the box was back with his linemates. Nathan Horton had an amazing chance in the near slot, as he deked out Enroth and passed back across ice to Milan Lucic. Lucic had a wide open net to shoot at, but the puck was in on his skates, and he couldn’t get a shot off. Koleta was again trying to mix it up with somebody, this time it was Shawn Thornton. Koleta checked Thornton at the penalty benches, and Thornton didn’t like the hit. Thronton gave Koleta a shove, Koleta shoved back, and the referees decided to send both players down the tunnel. Thornton and Koleta received offsetting minors for roughing at 18:20, as well as game misconducts. The final 1:40 would be played 4-on-4. The Bruins just kept clearing the puck and clearing the puck as the clock wound down. The Bruins had won their 5th straight game now, winning 6-2.
Boston dominated again on the ice Saturday night. They have now scored 6 goals in the last 3 games, and 30 in this 5 game win streak. The offense is hot, no doubt about it, but the defense is also playing solid hockey. It’s just like with any sport, when your offense is scoring at will, it allows you to play more comfortably on defense. Brad Marchand is starting to find the scoring touch again, scoring 3 goals, 2 assists, and +4 over the last 2 games. Lucic and Horton, whom I talked about last game out against Edmonton, continue to produce during this 5 game win streak. Lucic has 4 goals, 2 assists, for a +5 rating, and Horton has 3 goals, an assist, and a +2 rating. With the offense this hot, it will take a lot to beat the Bruins in the next week to 2 weeks. The Bruins play the New Jersey Devils Tuesday night, in what should be an easy win. The Devils are 8-6-1, 1 game better than the Bruins at 8-7-0. Which should put the Bruins 5 game win streak into perspective. Boston is on a hot streak, and are a much better team than the Devils. Unless they suddenly cool off, I expect another dominating performance.
Ryan Miller has been diagnosed as having suffered a concussion from the hit by Milan Lucic. This would explain why Miller did not return for the 3rd period of the game Saturday night. My question is, how was he able to continue play for 26:48 after the injury? There are a couple of answers to that; either A: Miller showed no signs of an injury until the 2nd period intermission, or B: Miller talked the training staff into letting him play/the training staff allowed him to play even though they knew he was hurt. If it was the later, then how negligent of that training staff. It’s their job to take care of their players, especially their superstar franchise goaltender. If Miller was showing any signs of a concussion, then he should have been sent to the quiet room for 15 minutes. Now, I don’t think this is what happened. In all likelihood, Miller just did not have any symptoms and felt fine until the 2nd intermission. But, it’s something to think about.
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.
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.
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.