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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A November To Remember: Bruins Complete First Month Without Regulation Loss Since 1969

By virtue of tonight's 6-3 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre, the Boston Bruins officially wrapped up one of the best months (12-0-1) in franchise history.

The B's (15-7-1) were in dead last in the Eastern Conference when November rolled around but now they lead the Northeast Division thanks to their third straight win over the Maple Leafs (14-9-2). Boston picked up 25 out of a possible 26 points in November, vaulting them to second in the Eastern Conference (one point behind Pittsburgh). Overall, it was their best month since January of 1969.

The Bruins have recorded points in their last 13 straight games, their longest streak since 17 in a row back in 1983.

It is fair to say that so far this season, Boston has owned Toronto in their three meetings. To the tune of 19-5, including 8-2 in the third period. The teams meet again, on Saturday night at TD Garden in the second part of this home-and-home series.

11 Bruins had points tonight but the real story was the reemergence of the first line. David Krejci (1 goal, 2 assists), Milan Lucic (2 goals) and Nathan Horton (2 assists) all came off a milk carton after virtually disappearing for a while.

Tim Thomas (34 saves) was busy as he improved to 9-0-0 in November and 12-4-0 overall. His best stop was a breakaway attempt by former B's forward Phil Kessel. As I said on Twitter, it's hard to believe there are any goaltenders that are better on breakaways than Thomas.

The Leafs got out to a 1-0 lead as Mikhail Grabovski (6th of the season) scored a power-play goal 7:29 into the first period. Clarke MacArthur found him with a nice pass and Thomas didn't have enough time to react.

Lucic (9th of the season) tied it at 15:08 with a power-play strike of his own. Tyler Seguin and Zdeno Chara assisted. Seguin found Lucic close to Toronto goaltender Jonas Gustavsson (34 saves) and he roofed it with a strong forehand shot. It was Looch's first goal in his last eight games.

Boston started to take control after a hectic back and forth first with two goals in the second. Krejci (4th of the season) potted his first goal in 10 games at 3:33 from Horton and Dennis Seidenberg.

Kessel (-3) combined with Joffrey Lupul (12th of the season) for a pretty goal on a 2-on-1 at 7:00 which tied it at two.

At 15:30, Chara (5th of the season) scored a strange goal that nobody, including the goal light operator, seemed to notice went in. It was a low, hard snap shot assisted by Krejci and Horton.

Benoit Pouliot (3rd of the season) scored at 3:03 of the third and would you believe it was his third game-winning goal of the season? Weird. The most unknown clutch player for the B's made use of his sneaky good shooting ability, with help from Joe Corvo and Gregory Campbell.

Matt Frattin (2nd of the season) gave Toronto life as he banked one in off Thomas' leg pads at 6:00, cutting it to 4-3.

However, Lucic scored his second of the game at 15:21 after a nice cross-ice feed from Krejci and Brad Marchand's (9th of the season) empty-net goal ended it with 52 seconds left.

This is a quiet week with only the two games against Toronto but Boston deserves the rest after all the outstanding work they put in during November to erase their terrible start.

Bruins Win November, Beat Leafs 6-3

The Bruins made history last night, as they finished a calendar month without a regulation loss for the first time since 1969. It was all thanks to a great effort from Milan Lucic, David Krejci and once again Tim Thomas.

The Bruins beat the Leafs 6-3 last night yet again in dominant fashion. The win was the Bruins 12th in 13 games and third straight this season over the resurgent Leafs.

The first period started out relatively sluggish, however Nathan Horton had a prime scoring chance on a sweet feed from Krejci early on. The scoring chance could have been a nice boost for the struggling pair, as neither Krejci or Horton had a plus rating in their last nine games.

Toronto opened up the scoring on a power-play goal after Rich Peverley was called for a high sticking minor. On the man advantage it was Mikhail Grabovski scored his sixth of the year on a nice centering pass from MacArthur, who took a feed from Gunnarson inside the blue line before flipping it to Grabovski for the go-ahead goal.

The Bruins then found themselves down a man before killing that penalty and drawing two more, eventually capitalizing on the two-man advantage with a power-play goal from Milan Lucic. Setting up in a perfect triangle with Chara manning the point, Lucic and Tyler Seguin traded passes with the 7-footer, essentially playing catch with one another until they caught Gustavvson out of position. Lucic found open space and wristed the puck top shelf to knot the game at one.

Tim Thomas, who hasn't allowed more than three goals this season, made a monster stop shortly after, stoning Phil Kessel on a breakaway to keep the game tied.

The streaky first line kept it going in the second, as Krejci scored his fourth goal of the year, thanks in large part to the aggressive skating of Horton. Horton attacked the net after skating behind the Toronto defense, throwing the puck on net. After a save by Gustavvson, Krejci was right there to tap home the loose puck to give the Bruins a 2-1 lead.

After Lupul buried Kessel's feed on a two on one, the Leafs were right back into the game. Well, for a few minutes anyway. Chara, who is on a scoring tear took a pass from Krejci (bounce back game anyone) and snapped a wrister that fooled the goal judge, Jack Edwards, the fans and me. The goal lamp was not lit and the puck was stuck in the net giving the appearance that Gustavvson made the save. I guess the man with the world's hardest slapper has the hardest wrist shot too.

After a cheap goal from Matt Frattin, the Bruins fought back once again. The suddenly dangerous Benoit Pouliot scored the game-winning goal on a wrist shot from the slot. It was a nice shot but the play was made by Joe Corvo, who carried the puck alone into the Toronto zone and controlled the puck behind the net long enough to find the open Pouliot to make it 4-3.

Krejci then set up Lucic once again to make it 5-3. Brad Marchand added a empty netter for good measure.

All in all, it was a dominant effort, especially in the second and third period. The Bruins also picked up two big points against a division leader, with another chance to embarrass the Leafs at the Garden on Saturday night.

Game Notes

*This game seemed to take a step away from the whole "Kessel vs. Seguin" thing that seems to permeate through each amd every Leafs-Bruins game. Honestly, it's starting to get a little exhausting that these two are destined to be forever linked. I can only imagine how hard it must be for the two players, who field the same questions each time they play one another.

*Just like the Buffalo game, the pregame talk was mostly about how big this game was for Toronto. Tons of Canadian media thought that due to the Bruins absolutely housing the Leafs in the last two meetings, that they would somehow want this game more than the Bruins. Or that the Bruins might be content with winning only 11 out of 12. Newsflash idiots, first place was on the line! I don't give a shit how young, skilled and determined the Leafs are, they're still going to be the same team they've always been when the spotlight shines the brightest (frauds).

*Jack Edwards line of the night came on an open ice collision between Adam McQuaid and Fratten, when he dropped his "executive desk toy" line. Google it.

*Just when everyone start doubting the front line, they show up. Sure, they are very streaky at times, however when one has a good game the other two tend to follow suit, and we saw that last night. Are they inconsistent? Wildly. But that is who they are, deal with it.

* Pouliot has improved quite a bit since November 1st, ending the month with two game-winning goals out of his three total goals. He has played well enough in the last few games to momentarily quiet the "bust" talk.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Does This Look Like The Goofy Face Of The Next Manager Of The Boston Red Sox?

Well our long regional nightmare is over. It appears that after two months, the Boston Red Sox have finally chosen its next manager: Bobby Valentine.

After taking forever to make a decision and interviewing a pool of completely underwhelming choices: Dale Sveum, Pete Mackanin, Sandy Alomar Jr. and Torey Luvullo, it came down to Valentine or Gene Lamont.

Lamont was last seen as Detroit's third base coach so a Little League coach from Southie might have been a better candidate than him. He last managed in 2000! Sure Bobby V hasn't managed in MLB since 2002 (when he was fired from the Mets) but he's honed his skills in Japan and more recently, on Sunday Night Baseball.

After all, everyone knows baseball announcers make great managers. Honestly though, with as long as this dragged out (and let's not even mention that the Red Sox still haven't received compensation from the Cubs for Theo Epstein), fans just wanted Boston to come to a conclusion. We weren't into any of these guys but at the end of the day, does it really matter?

Managers in MLB are by far the least important head coaching position in the four major spots. They fill out lineup cards, make bullpen moves and what else exactly? Break up a few fights in the clubhouse, make some cringe worthy public appearances and that's about it. You know the Boston baseball writers will be eating out of Valentine's hand by Spring Training. They love him since he's quotable and a character so there's no doubt they'll go out of their way to state their unrequited love for him.

Who cares? Now that this is settled, can the front office focus on more important things like who's going to close next season for the Red Sox? Not to mention resigning David Ortiz, figuring out who will play right field and adding to the shaky rotation.

Free agency has begun and besides resigning Marco Scutaro, this team hasn't done anything to ensure it won't finish in third place in the AL East for the third consecutive year. Boston finally has a manager, time for more important tasks such as rebuilding this fractured squad.

UPDATE 12/1: I just watched the nauseating introductory press conference and while it wasn't mentioned, various reports said earlier today that Valentine got a two-year deal (with team options for 2014 and 2015) at slightly less than $3 million per season. It is interesting to note since that is rather short for a guy just starting out in a new place.

Phillip Adams Gets Released By The Patriots, Expect Him Back Soon

One of the cornerbacks in the Patriots no-name secondary has been released: Philip Adams was let go today which means that Devin McCourty must be on the mend.

A seventh-round pick of the San Francisco 49ers in 2010, Adams has already had three stints in Foxborough so far this season. I would place a fair sized bet that will only increase in the coming days or weeks. Keep that playbook Philip!

Adams played in six games with the Pats and he's been a slot corner. He played a season-high 51 snaps against the Eagles on Sunday but Julian Edelman replaced him at one point after he got beaten two plays in a row. Something to keep in mind with this move today.

Overall, Adams has played 180 snaps in the last five games. He also saw time on special teams. McCourty has missed the last two contests after injuring his shoulder against the Jets a few weeks ago on Sunday Night Football.

With Adams gone, the Patriots have an open spot on the 53-man roster. Clearly McCourty hasn't been himself (we think) this season but if he's healthy, you always prefer to have him over Adams. He'll probably be bunking up with Ross Ventrone under Bill Belichick's desk for the rest of the season.

UPDATE 11/30: The Patriots signed free agent cornerback Nate Jones today. A seventh-round draft by the Cowboys in 2004, he's a Rutgers product like McCourty and Tiquan Underwood. He's played four years in Dallas, three in Miami and one in Denver. He can play safety and special teams. For his career, he has 179 solo tackles, 34 assists, six sacks, three forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and 16 passes defended.

After spending training camp in Denver this season, he was resigned by the Dolphins and played two games for them before he was released on Oct. 5. Hey, at least he was drafted. Progress!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The First 4-7 Dream Team In The History Of The World Falls 38-20 To The Patriots

It's hard to remember an NFL game that completely changed faster (not involving an injury) than today's Patriots-Eagles game at Lincoln Financial Field.

The Eagles (4-7) jumped out to a 10-0 lead less than seven minutes into the game but the Patriots (8-3) responded with a UConn women's basketball style 38-3 scoring run in an eventual 38-20 victory.

New England is now tied atop the AFC with Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Houston for the best record in the AFC.

Tom Brady (24 of 34, 361 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs and 27 yards rushing-his most in 5 years!) tied Peyton Manning with his eighth career 350+ yard, 3 TD, 0 INT performance in New England's third straight win. Embattled Pats offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien had one of his finest hours as Brady found Deion Branch (6 catches, 125 yards) and Wes Welker (8 catches, 115 yards, 2 TDs) early and often.

Aaron Hernandez (6 catches, 62 yards) and Rob Gronkowski (4 catches, 59 yards, TD) also had nice games. For anyone that missed Chad Johnson (nobody), who was home nursing a "hamstring injury," recently signed Tiquan Underwood (known mostly for his flat top) did his best Ochocinco impression by dropping a sure TD on his only target.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis (14 carries, 44 yards) didn't churn up the yards but he scored two rushing touchdowns to give New England's offense some balance.

Philadelphia is nothing short of a train wreck and by the third quarter, the loyal Birds fans were chanting "fire Andy (Reid)!" so loud that viewers could hear it on CBS' broadcast.

If it is possible to have a quiet 400-yard passing game, Eagles backup quarterback Vince Young (26 of 48, 400 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) submitted it. VY was the poor soul who dubbed this low rent version of the 2011 Red Sox the "Dream Team" in the preseason so I guess it was only fitting he was at the helm for a game that featured some of Philly's favorite type of miscues: throwing it unsuccessfully from the 1 on 4th and 1 and numerous drops by DeSean Jackson (4 catches, 73 yards).

Eagles running back LeSean McCoy (10 carries, 31 yards; 4 catches, 30 yards) is one of the premier players in the NFL at his position but I guess nobody told the Eagles that since he didn't get the ball nearly enough when this game was still somewhat competitive.

Jason Avant (8 catches, 110 yards, TD) was the Eagles best receiver which is never good news for Philly, even with Jeremy Maclin sidelined.

Defensive standouts for the Patriots included Antwaun Molden (first interception with New England), Kyle Arrington (10 solo tackles) and Rob Ninkovich (3 solo tackles, sack and 2 tackles for loss).

McCoy's 2-yard touchdown run and a 42-yard field goal by Alex Henery gave Philadelphia a 10-0 lead at 8:19 in the first quarter. New England responded with a long drive, punctuated by Green-Ellis' 4-yard touchdown run.

A 2-yard TD run by Green-Ellis early in the second quarter gave the Pats a 14-10 lead, one that they would never relinquish. The Eagles were fooled badly on a play action fake and Welker got loose for a 41-yard TD catch.

Henery's 22-yard field goal cut it to 21-13 but Stephen Gostkowski atoned for an earlier miss from 39 yards with a 45-yard kick before halftime. The Patriots led 24-13.

After Welker's 9-yard catch and run, diving just inside the pylon, made it 31-13 to start the third quarter, it was over.

Gronk added a 24-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter before Avant scored on a 1-yard catch with 32 seconds left and most of the crowd long gone.

I don't normally give the Pats an automatic win a week before kickoff but they are facing the 0-11 Indianapolis Colts next Sunday (1 p.m.) at Gillette Stadium. With Curtis Painter still under center, Indy is doing everything in its power to ensure a winless season and the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft (Stanford QB Andrew Luck) next April. New England will roll and Brian Hoyer should see even more playing time than he did today.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Bruins Spot The Jets An Early 2-0 Lead But Eventually Rally For A 4-2 Win

After their 10-game winning streak was snapped yesterday afternoon against the Detroit Red Wings, it was predictable that the Boston Bruins would suffer a bit of an emotional letdown as the Winnipeg Jets made their first visit since the franchise moved from Atlanta.

It was a homecoming of sorts as former B's Blake Wheeler and Mark Stuart returned to TD Garden after getting shipped out before last season's trade deadline. The Jets (9-10-4) scored two goals halfway through the first period for a 2-0 lead but the Bruins (14-7-1) woke up in time to notch a 4-2 win thanks to four unanswered goals.

Boston has now picked up points in 12 straight games, their longest streak since 2004.

Chris Kelly was the first star thanks to two goals and nearly the hat trick on an empty netter. Tim Thomas (11-4-0) shook off the rough start to record 40 saves.

Evander Kane (10th of the season) gave the Jets a 1-0 lead at 9:31 by driving to the net and tucking a pretty backhander past Thomas. Dustin Byfuglien and Wheeler had the assists.

39 seconds later, Byfuglien (5th of the season) made it 2-0 with a seemingly harmless shot from the point. The problem for Thomas was that he was screened and probably never saw the puck until it was too late. Jim Slater (great name) and Jason Jaffrey had the assists.

At that point, Bruins head coach Claude Julien smartly took a timeout to settle his team down. They had completely sleepwalked through the first 10 minutes and paid dearly for it. Thankfully, the B's woke up after that.

Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec (32) is one of the worst starters in the NHL so it wasn't a shock that Boston eventually found some holes in his pads. Winnipeg actually outshot Boston 42-36 but after that early flurry, it felt like the Bruins had way more chances.

Zdeno Chara (4th of the season) cut it to 2-1 at 16:38 with a power-play goal from David Krejci and Dennis Seidenberg. In live action and when I saw the replay, I thought Milan Lucic tipped it but regardless, he got in Pavelec's way which was good enough. It was big for Boston to get a goal before the period ended so they didn't have to stare at a 2-0 deficit any longer.

The B's went ahead with a pair of goals in a great second period. Another special teams tally, this time shorthanded at 7:28 tied it up as Chris Kelly (8th of the season) was the beneficiary of some great individual work by Rich Peverley. Peverley worked around a Jets defenseman, went to the net and while his shot was saved, the rebound popped right out to Kelly. All he had to do was tap it in.

Kelly scored the game-winner at 16:26 thanks to a one-timer. Benoit Pouliot had the main assist, finding Kelly with a cross-ice feed that he slammed in. Peverley notched the second assist.

In the third, Thomas kept his team in the lead with a couple outstanding kick saves before Brad Marchand (8th of the season) ended it with an empty netter at 18:51.

Boston closes out November (crazy right?) on Wednesday with a game in Toronto. Then the Maple Leafs come to the Garden on Saturday night. In their two previous meetings so far this season, the Bruins are 2-0 and have outscored the Leafs 13-2. We can only hope they keep that insane pace up against Phil Kessel and Co.

Friday, November 25, 2011

My Dream Of A Perfect November Crumbles At The Hands Of The Detroit Red Wings

When I am commissioner of the NHL, I will create the rule that the Boston Bruins must have a home-and-home series with the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks, every season. These Original 6 matchups (to go with the normal Bruins-Rangers, Bruins-Canadiens and Bruins-Maple Leafs) are too juicy to pass up, the fans of these storied franchises deserve those games.

Rant aside, I knew that Boston's (13-7-1) 10-game winning streak would come to an end at some point but since it finally happened, I can't complain much about this afternoon's 3-2 shootout loss to Detroit (13-7-1) at TD Garden.

Todd Bertuzzi had the winning goal in the shootout after teammate Pavel Datsyuk scored earlier and Nathan Horton tied it with Boston's last shot.

It was a hell of a game, really entertaining with superior puck movement, physical play and top notch goaltending, what more can you ask for? Unfortunately, unlike last season where they played twice, this was the only meeting between the B's and Wings in the regular season. You know what that means, they'll just have to meet in June for the Stanley Cup Finals.

Boston outshot Detroit 43-31 and that wasn't misleading as the Bruins dominated play for long stretches of time. The problem was that Red Wings goaltender and former UMaine star Jimmy Howard (41 saves) was on for most of the game and Detroit had leads of 1-0 and 2-1 that Boston had to rally from.

Tuukka Rask (29 saves; 3-3-1) made somewhat of a surprise start but as usual, he acquitted himself well.

After some significant pressure on Howard in the first period, Detroit skated against the tilted ice and Valtteri Filppula (5th of the season) gave them a 1-0 lead at 12:43 after some nice passing from Henrik Zetterberg and Ian White. Filppula tipped in Zetterberg's centering pass from the half boards, Rask didn't have much of a chance to stop it from in close.

Daniel Paille (3rd of the season) tied it at 4:05 of the second period after some great forechecking and a pass from behind the net that came from Horton.

Loyal NHL fans know that Datsyuk is a magician with the puck and he lived up to that moniker with a silly goal just 35 seconds after Paille scored. It was so fast, that the Bruins PA guy hadn't finished announcing Paille's goal. Datsyuk's sixth of the season was assisted by his linemates Bertuzzi and Johan Franzen.

Thanks to a bad giveaway by Zetterberg in his own zone, Patrice Bergeron (5th of the season) pounced on a loose puck and whipped it by Howard at 7:52 in the third period.

Both teams had chances to win it later in the third period and a crazy overtime session. Filppula put a shot over from like a foot outside Boston's net while Zdeno Chara blasted a slap shot that skittered inches wide and Howard stuffed Horton from in close.

With points in 11 straight games, Boston will look to start another winning streak tomorrow night as they host the Winnipeg Jets. I will be in attendance (my first game of 2011-12) and I expect Tim Thomas to get the start. Additionally, I think the B's will get back in the win column and score some more goals against one of the Eastern Conference's worst squads.

Patriots-Eagles Injury Report

With Thanksgiving and Black Friday, the last few days have been a turkey-induced haze but I'm really looking forward to the Patriots-Eagles game on Sunday.

At 4-6, Philadelphia basically has to win the rest of its games and that begins at 4:15 p.m. on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field against the Patriots (7-3). The so called Dream Team-copyright Vince Young-has struggled in the NFC East and even more so when it comes to protecting fourth quarter leads.

With a bunch of college friends from Philly and South Jersey, I know my share of Eagles fans and I have to say as an outsider, they are one of the more interesting teams in the NFL to watch. The city is obsessed with the team and that makes their games exciting. The fans are passionate and extremely knowledgeable.

For the Pats, linebackers Brandon Spikes (knee) and Dane Fletcher (thumb) have already been ruled out. Wide receivers Deion Branch (hip), Taylor Price (hamstring), Matthew Slater (shoulder) and Chad Ochocinco (hamstring) are all questionable. Safeties Patrick Chung (foot) and James Ihedigbo (shoulder) are questionable. Center Dan Connolly (groin), tackles Matt Light (ankle) and Sebastian Vollmer (back) are questionable. Cornerback Devin McCourty (shoulder) is the 11th Patriot that is questionable.

Speaking of VY, he's expected to start his second straight game after Michael Vick (broken ribs) didn't practice this week. Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin (hamstring, shoulder) is doubtful while cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha (knee) and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (ankle) along Vick are all questionable. Offensive lineman King Dunlap (concussion) is out.

With running back LeSean McCoy, arguably the NFL's most complete back, and wide receiver DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia possesses two of the more explosive players in the league. The Patriots defense will be challenged, regardless if Young starts and Maclin doesn't play.

UPDATE 11/26: New England has ruled Chung, McCourty, Connolly and Ochocinco out for tomorrow. James Ihedigbo and Sterling Moore figure to start at safety for the third straight week, Antwaun Molden will make his second consecutive start, Ryan Wendell will be the center while Price, Julian Edelman and Slater figure to see more time at wide receiver with Ochocinco out.

I also saw a report on NESN tonight that Vick has been ruled out and I saw on Twitter that Maclin is out too, no surprises there.

UPDATE 11/27: Wow, reports are filtering out now that Asomugha will play. I'm shocked, it sounded like he got seriously hurt in practice on Thursday. Rodgers-Cromartie is inactive for the Birds while Ryan Mallett is the final Patriot that will be inactive.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Sabres Pretend To Be Tough, Eventually Crumble As Bruins Win 10th Straight

When you haven't lost in the month of November and you extend a winning streak to 10 games, you are bound to have some victories that you basically pull out of your ass-for the lack of a better term.

Tonight in Buffalo at the First Niagara Center (when did that name change happen?) was one of those occasions when the Bruins (13-7-0) dug themselves a big hole: a pair of two-goal deficits (2-0 and 3-1) but they were able to weather the emotional storm from the Sabres (13-7-0) and move to the front of the Northeast Division with a thrilling 4-3 shootout win.

Benoit Pouliot of all people provided the winner in overtime as Buffalo goaltender Jhonas Enroth (36 saves) and Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas (31 saves, 10-4-0) stopped every other shot before that deciding one in the fifth round.

Believe it or not, it has only been two years (2009-10) since the Bruins won 10 in a row. They last did the deed in December 2009. We all have short memories huh?

Coming 11 days after Millergate, everyone knew that Buffalo would be gunning for Milan Lucic. Credit to them, I guess, since Paul Gaustad stood up to him right away as the two fought 1:23 into the contest. However by nature the Sabres are simply not a physical or tough team so their actions felt scripted whereas the Bruins naturally play with an edge to their game. Oh and Lucic won the fight, so nice try.

The Sabres benefited from two shaky hometown calls to cash in with a pair of power-play goals in the first period. After a huge scrum which included Zdeno Chara mauling Robyn Regehr, the refs decided to tack on an extra two minutes for roughing on Adam McQuaid.

Former Canucks defenseman Christian Ehrhoff (2nd of the season) made the B's pay with a howitzer from the point at 11:56.

A suspect hooking call on Dennis Seidenberg resulted in the obligatory Thomas Vanek goal (his 12th of the season) against Boston which made it 2-0 at 15:22.

Boston started to settle down in the second period and they took advantage of a hooking call as Tyler Seguin (12th of the season, topping his rookie total of 11) one-timed a pass from Patrice Bergeron (2 assists) to cut it to 2-1 at 3:37. Rich Peverley had the second assist.

The Bruins dominated the second (outshooting the Sabres 13-6) but Buffalo got another one, this time against the run of play. It took a lucky bounce off a Bruins skate but credit to Sabres rookie T.J. Brennan who was in the right spot to get his first career NHL goal at 11:02.

Heading into the third down two goals would have been a very tall order but luckily the B's didn't have to face such a scenario. Brad Marchand (7th of the season) roofed a shot over Enroth's glove following a rebound at 16:00. Bergeron and Seguin had the assists.

Chara (3rd of the season) tied it at 3:35 into the third with his patended bomb from the point. Lucic and David Krejci assisted on the captain's tally. Much like his team which had a shot advantage in the third as well (12-8), Thomas got stronger as the game went on. Boston was able to survive a hooking penalty to Krejci with 1:03 left in regulation.

Vanek, Nathan Gerbe (the former BC midget who had a great game), Jason Pominville, Derek Roy and Drew Stafford all came up empty in the shootout for the home team. Before Pouliot's success, Seguin, Peverley, Krejci and Bergeron were all stoned by Enroth.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody. The Bruins come back to Boston to celebrate the holiday with their families and then they get to face the Detroit Red Wings on Friday afternoon in a marquee game which kicks off NBC's coverage for 2011-12. We all remember what happened in the two games the teams played last season-the Wings rolled-so it'll be interesting to see if the B's can improve on that forgettable home-and-home set.

Edelman Named AFC Special Teams Player Of The Week

Julian Edelman turned in one of the best games of his NFL career on Monday night as he had a 72-yard punt return for a touchdown in New England's 34-3 whitewashing of Kansas City.

For that play, his second career punt return that he took back for a score, he was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week. Let's not forget that Edelman also played a bunch of snaps on defense (at cornerback/safety) as well, making a tackle in the win.

I wish I could be a honk and say that I knew Edelman had this type of performance in him but I can't. He's a marginal player that frankly is lucky to have a spot on this team. Especially considering his ahem legal troubles on Halloween.

Moving on, I don't know why I even bother keep track of this shit but safety Ross Ventrone was released last night (his 17th transaction this season, for all those living in your mom's basement). Today, offensive lineman Donald Thomas (who was released on Monday to make room for Ventrone) was resigned to the 53-man roster and cornerback Josh Victorian was resigned to the practice squad (taking Ventrone's place).

I'm pretty sure that Ventrone lives in Belichick's office, under his desk or something. It's the only possible explanation.

The most important news of the day was that left tackle Matt Light was seen walking around the Patriots locker room today without a boot or crutches. That comes after he left Monday's game with what looked like a serious ankle injury. He was in a boot afterwards when he talked to reporters.

If Light can't play on Sunday against the Eagles, expect man mountain rookie Nate Solder to take his starting spot.

UPDATE 11/24 Happy Thanksgiving!: Some Patriots-Eagles injury news happened today since both teams practiced on the holiday. Pats rookie linebacker Jeff Tarpinian went on IR with a shady illness/head injury. Niko Koutouvides figures to take Tarpinian's role on special teams and the occasional start.

With the roster spot open, New England resigned wide receiver Tiquan Underwood while cornerback Josh Victorian was released from the practice squad. You know who took Victorian's place? Well Ross Ventrone of course.

Without question, the biggest news of the day was that Eagles cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha was carted off from practice with a possibly serious knee injury. Philadelphia is already missing cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (ankle injury) so if Asomugha is also out, that means that Tom Brady and the Pats passing game could shred them on Sunday.

The Bruins Go For Their Tenth Win In A Row Tonight/Reunite With The Sabres

The Bruins have done it again.

Like Zdeno Chara's hit on Montreal's Max Pacioretty last season, the Bruins are now once again being looked at as big bad bullies thanks to Milan Lucic railroading Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller 11 days ago at TD Garden (a game Boston won 6-2).

The hit sent the former Team USA Goalie sprawling to the ice. Several Buffalo players then jumped Lucic and made him pay for leveling their star goalie. Oh wait, that never happened. They just pushed him around a bit while their head coach Lindy Ruff cryed from his perch behind the bench.

After predictable outrage from North of the border via Canadian newspapers as well as a profanity laced tirade from Miller himself, the B's were once again public enemy number one. No one seemed to mention Miller swinging his stick at Lucic's shins though.

Millergate is clearly the top storyline going into tonight's game, as you have to think that the Sabres will stick up for Miller, especially at their home arena. Look for a guy like Paul Gaustad to step up to Lucic early, especially if Lucic plays his physical game. Bruins Vice President Cam Neely said on Felger and Mazz yesterday that they prefer when other teams adjust their play to the Bruins style, not the other way around.

I don't expect tonight to be a bloodbath, but I do expect the Sabres to at least make up for their lack of balls after the initial hit.

With regards to the actual hockey game, first place in the Northeast Division is on the line. The Bruins have won nine in a row after starting the season 3-7-0-0. The Sabres are 6-4 in their last ten games and are 12-8-0-0 overall. Both teams typically play a low scoring, defensive minded contest, leaning on their respective all-world netminders to keep games close. Tim Thomas predictably will start for the Bruins, he's coming off two consecutive shutouts of the Islanders and Canadiens.

That's not to say that both squads can't light the lamp whenever they want. Thomas Vanek leads the team in goals with 11 and Drew Stafford has shown he can be a Bruins killer. Miller has been out for the last four games and the Sabres are 2-2 in his absence with Jhonas Enroth elevated to the starting role. Buffalo defenseman Tyler Myers is also out with a broken wrist and is expected to miss 4-6 weeks.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Patriots Open Up Two-Game Lead In The AFC East With Easy 34-3 Win Vs. Chiefs On MNF

It's rare that an NFL game follows a script that everybody expects, that's what makes the league the best of the four major American sports and so exciting. It is usually so unpredictable from week to week.

Well once Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel went down with a hand injury last week and it was announced that he'd sit out, with backup Tyler Palko taking his place (for his first career start), the stars began to align for the rare 2011 New England Patriots blowout. That's exactly what happened as the Pats (7-3) took advantage on Monday Night Football with a 34-3 win that didn't even seem that close.

The poor Chiefs (4-6) have seen their season slip away due to major injuries to some key players: tight end Tony Moeaki, safety Eric Berry, running back Jamaal Charles, etc. Yes I know that every team in the NFL has injuries but it's impossible to top that list (Cassel was placed on IR today).

The MNF crew tried to sell the audience on Palko's (25 of 38, 236 yards, 0 TDs, 3 INTs) limited abilities and for a spell, it kind of worked as Kansas City led 3-0 after the first quarter thanks to a 26-yard field goal by Ryan Succop.

It took a while for Tom Brady (15 of 27, 234 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs) to get going but once New England's offense was in gear and Palko started to give the ball away like it was on fire, this one was over quick.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis had his best game in weeks as New England racked up 157 yards rushing as a team. He had 20 carries for 81 yards and added a 25-yard catch.

Rob Gronkowski (4 catches, 96 yards, 2 TDs) woke up his team and the Gillette Stadium crowd from their collective slumber with a 52-yard catch and run touchdown with 4:18 left in the first half. Stephen Gostkowski's PAT made it 7-3 and he added a 21-yard kick with 10 seconds left in the half after Brady and Co. couldn't punch it in.

Things started to get silly in third quarter as Gronk scored a 19-yard touchdown which ended with him hurdling a guy and then falling right on his neck. No worries though, the cyborg was fine. I'd worry about a concussion with him but could you really tell if he had one or not?

Gronk set a record by getting to 20 career touchdowns (in 26 games) faster than any tight end in NFL history. Also, Bill Belichick jumped ahead of former Patriots head coach Bill Parcells for ninth all-time on the NFL win list with 118 career victories.

It was time for nearly every player on the roster to make a contribution as Kyle Arrington picked off two passes (he leads the NFL with 7); along with extensive time on defense in the secondary, Julian Edelman returned a punt 72 yards for a score (his second career punt return TD); Philip Adams had his first career interception while Mark Anderson (1.5 sacks) and Andre Carter (.5 sack) continued to wreak havoc on mediocre quarterbacks (hi Sanchez!).

Gostkowski's 19-yard field goal closed out the third quarter and then even rookie running back Shane Vereen (8 carries, 39 yards) made a cameo appearance in the fourth. Vereen scored his first career touchdown with a four-yard jaunt. Those were the first carries of the regular season for the mysterious 2011 second-round draft pick out of Cal.

It kind of felt like 2008 (old times) as no doubt the national media will be whining about the Patriots running up the score.

New England started off slow tonight but nobody will remember that since they woke up in time to pummel an awful team. With the Jets and Bills tied at 5-5 and meeting next Sunday, the Patriots are sitting pretty with their two-game advantage. In addition, New England is tied with Houston and Pittsburgh for the best record in the AFC.

The Pats will travel to Philadelphia (4-6) on Sunday to meet the desperate Eagles. Philly pretty much has to win out to have a shot at the playoffs and we shall see if Vince Young or Mike Vick gets the start at quarterback for a team which is loaded with talent but has really struggled to find consistency and/or close out wins in the fourth.

Matt Light left late in the game after getting rolled up on by Tamba Hali. Rookie Marcus Cannon got his first snaps as a pro at right tackle. That situation will be something to monitor as this short week goes on.

Bruins Return To Where They Hit Rock Bottom & Show How Much They Have Changed

I will never say it is easy being a Boston sports fan. On nights such as this one, we have to come up with a gameplan so that we can fully enjoy a Bruins-Canadiens game and the Patriots on Monday Night Football.

By watching the first period of the Bruins and then catching up on DVR at halftime, during commercials and after MNF had ended, I was able to glean some of the essence of Boston's (12-7-0) 1-0 win at the Bell Centre over Montreal (9-9-3).

Sure I could complain about not being able to fully appreciate another classic performance by B's goaltender Tim Thomas (9-4-0, 33 saves) who posted his second straight shutout, but when your favorite team has won nine in a row, does all that noise really matter?

This victory was particularly significant, winning streak aside, because the Bell Centre is where the B's truly hit rock bottom: on October 29 to be exact. After losing that night, the second of a home and home with the Habs, the Bruins fell to 3-7-0. They turned the calendar to November and they have yet to lose since then.

Most impressively, after falling to last in the Eastern Conference and the Northeast Division, Boston pulled themselves to the top of their division tonight along with third in the Eastern Conference. Not bad work for 21 days (when the streak began).

By all accounts, Thomas stole this game as Montreal outshot Boston 33-18, including 15-5 in the third period. The Canadiens had a power-play to end it as Rich Peverley picked up a cross-checking penalty but they couldn't convert (0-for-4 on the night).

Montreal goaltender Carey Price (17 saves) wasn't tested nearly as much but he failed to stop the one shot that turned out to be the difference.

B's defenseman Andrew Ference (2nd of the season) was the unlikely offensive star as he scored the game-winner at 15:41 of the first period. Sadly, there were no unintentional birds to be had. Montreal was about to be called for a penalty when Peverley found Ference jumping up from the blueline. He roofed/sniped it over Price's shoulder. Chris Kelly had the second assist.

The Bruins will look to extend this win streak to double-digits on Wednesday as they also wrap up this three-game road trip in Buffalo. You remember what happened the last time these division rivals met?

That was when Milan Lucic knocked Ryan Miller over. I'd say expect retaliation on the Sabres' part but they didn't do anything that night to stand up to Looch so who knows? It's hard to predict what that fraud Lindy Ruff and his charges will do.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Patriots-Chiefs Injury Report For Monday Night Football

The New England Patriots (6-3) will be making their second appearance of the season on Monday Night Football, they opened 2011 in Miami on MNF, as they host the Kansas City Chiefs (4-5) at Gillette Stadium.

The injury report came out today and at least for the Pats, there were few surprises. Since we don't know much about the Chiefs' day to day news, I felt like their injuries were more interesting (if that makes sense).

New England cornerback Devin McCourty is doubtful with a shoulder injury; I'd be shocked if he played, there is no possible way he's healthy enough. Plus, why push him to return against Tyler Palko?

Also, predictably Patriots linebackers Brandon Spikes (knee) and Dane Fletcher (thumb) were both declared out. Is Fletcher dead? That has to be the only explanation. What type of thumb injury could keep a football player out this long?

Finally, linebacker Jeff Tarpinian (illness) and safety James Ihedigbo (shoulder) are both questionable. This would have made me laugh in August or September but sadly they both started last week against the Jets.

For Kansas City, quarterback Matt Cassel (aka Cameron from Ferris Bueller's Day Off) and linebacker Demorrio Williams are out. Cornerbacks Brandon Carr (ankle) and Brandon Flowers (back) along with defensive end Glenn Dorsey (knee) and safety Jon McGraw (shoulder) are all questionable.

I couldn't tell you if Carr is good or not but I know that Flowers is one of the best young defensive backs in the NFL. Dorsey was a beast at LSU but he hasn't made much of an impact for the Chiefs and McGraw is a scrub.

Stay tuned tomorrow and/or Monday as more information will come out.

UPDATE 11/20: Patriots safety Pat Chung (foot), cornerback Kyle Arrington (foot), running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis (toe), center Dan Connolly (groin), defensive end Shaun Ellis (rib), running back Kevin Faulk (knee), linebacker Gary Guyton (shoulder), wide receiver Taylor Price (hamstring), wide receiver Matthew Slater (shoulder), offensive lineman Nate Solder (concussion) and offensive lineman Sebastian Vollmer (back) are all questionable for tomorrow night.

UPDATE 11/21: You're not going to believe this but Ray Ventrone was added to the 53-man roster! Offensive lineman Thomas Clayton was released. Don't be shocked if rookie offensive lineman Marcus Cannon makes his NFL debut tonight. Also, McCourty was ruled out which if you've been reading this blog is not news at all.

The inactives for New England are: Chung, McCourty, Faulk, Tarpinian, Ryan Mallett, Fletcher and Spikes. For Kansas City, Dorsey and McGraw are the most notable guys that are out. Cassel was placed on IR today so UMass-Amerst wide receiver Jeremy Horne was called up off the practice squad.

Bruins Make It Eight In A Row With A 6-0 Beating Thrown To The Lowly Islanders

The Boston Bruins steamroller shows no signs of slowing down in November of 2011.

With a 6-0 blowout of the Islanders (5-9-3) tonight at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, the B's (11-7-0) won their eighth straight game. During this perfect November (8-0-0), Boston has scored 6+ goals in five of the contests. In total, they've outscored their opponents 42-14 during this stretch.

This means that Boston is on its longest winning streak since three years ago (10 in a row). Tim Thomas (23 saves; 8-4-0) posted his second shutout of the season and 28th of his career, putting him third on the Bruins all-time list.

In picking up their second win in less than two weeks against New York (12-2 combined scores), the Bruins are now officially the NHL's hottest team as the Rangers lost 4-0 to Montreal this evening, snapping an eight-game winning streak of their own.

This was all about two periods: the first and the third. Boston quickly took control with three goals in the first then they ran up the score with three goals in the last 10 minutes.

Neither Rick DiPietro (10 saves), the pride of Winthrop, MA nor Anders Nilsson (14 saves) stood much of a chance in goal for the Islanders as 10 Bruins recorded points. DiPietro didn't get hurt which is a miracle for him but he only lasted one period; Nilsson was called on for his first NHL duty in the second and third.

Patrice Bergeron began the barrage with a goal (his fourth of the season) at 7:08 from Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand. Can we agree that is one of the best lines in the NHL right now? Good. Seguin laid out a sweet backhand feed that Bergeron slammed in from close to the New York goal.

Nathan Horton's power play goal (his sixth of the season) at 12:24 was officially unassisted but DiPietro deserves some credit for giving it right to him with a pathetic Martin Brodeur clearing attempt impression.

Chris Kelly (sixth of the season) ended the first with an unassisted snipe at 18:45.

If you slept through the second period, you didn't miss anything. The third period was when the action continued. At 10:25, Andrew Ference picked up his first goal of the season with a screened shot from the point, Joe Corvo and Kelly had the assists.

Kelly got his second of the night at 12:54 with a classic Chris Kelly goal. He was parked right in front of the goal and his first shot was stuffed on the line but he stuck with it and was rewarded. Milan Lucic and Horton assisted on that one.

Zdeno Chara (second of the season) had the final goal and it was probably my favorite as the Captain roofed it over Nilsson at 18:15 with assists to Marchand and Gregory Campbell.

Tonight was the start of a three-game road trip for the Bruins and it figures to get much tougher with stops in Montreal (Monday) and Buffalo (Wednesday) remaining, the other two real contenders in the Northeast Division (sorry Toronto and Ottawa). Losing 2-1 and 4-2 against the Canadiens at the end of October served as the kick in the ass that Boston desperately needed, they haven't lost since then.

The B's have found their game and it's time to go to the Bell Centre to throttle their most intense rival.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The No Fun League Is At It Again

Not much to report yet about the Patriots-Chiefs game mostly because it's on Monday night so the injury reports don't get released until Saturday (it's Friday for Sunday games).

Still, there was one nugget of information to come out today: the NFL fined Rob Gronkowski $7500 for unsportsmanlike conduct vs. the Jets last Sunday. That is undoubtedly chump change for Rob although it might cut down on his personalized jerseys that he can carry around for girls and porn stars that he randomly meets (sorry Bibi!).

After he caught a 5-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady in the third quarter, Gronk spiked it near a helpless New York defender, thus drawing a 15-yard penalty that was enforced on the ensuing kickoff.

Earlier this week when he was asked about it, Gronkowski said the penalty wouldn't defer him from his trademark celebration. To that I say good for him; NFL commissioner Roger Goddell is worrying way too much about stupid stuff like this that basically saps all the creativity out of the game.

Fining players for celebrations and what color cleats they wear seems like something you would find in a Communist or heavily censored culture. The NFL is the gold standard of American sports and as such, they can relax a little more and loosen their collars a bit. Otherwise, sooner or later we'll just have robots playing football and who the hell wants that?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Bruins Top Blue Jackets 2-1 In Shootout For Seven Game Winning Streak

Tonight was exhibit A proving why I don't gamble on sports-excluding Fantasy, March Madness pools and trips to Vegas of course. You'll be hard-pressed to find another game this season where the Boston Bruins will be more heavily favored.

However, this was what gamblers term a reverse lock. The Columbus Blue Jackets came in to the TD Garden as the worst team in the NHL and they used a goalie-Curtis Sanford-who was making his first start of the season. They give up the most goals and the B's have climbed the charts to No. 2 in scoring per game. So of course, Boston (10-7-0) had to grit its collective truth through a 2-1 shootout win over the Blue Jackets (3-13-2).

Oh and by the way, Boston picked up their seventh straight win mostly thanks to goaltender Tuukka Rask (30 saves) who improved to 3-3-0 with his best effort of the young season. And please, don't tell me he's getting traded. Rask is the future whenever Tim Thomas decides to retire or loses his ability. Backup goalies, that have starting experience, that are as good as Rask don't come around often.

After a boring and scoreless first period, Columbus actually took the lead 1-0 at 2:49 as something called Derek MacKenzie (3rd of the season) tipped in a shot from the point on the power-play. Gregory Campbell was one second away from getting out of the penalty box.

Adam McQuaid, who was drafted by the Blue Jackets, tied it 1:35 later when his screened shot found its way in. On the replay, it appeared that Rich Peverley tipped it but the honk Garden scorers probably felt bad for McQuaid who rarely gets points and gave him his first tally of the season.

The only other real action of the frame was when Shawn Thornton (5th fighting major in 17 games) took on Jared Boll in a fight that wasn't exactly the Rumble in the Jungle. Still, their was some obvious venom as both guys screamed at each other after the dustup and as they were escorted to their respective boxes.

Sanford (26 saves) played way better than everyone but his family and close friends could have ever dreamed. Neither team could put the puck in the net despite some great opportunities for both sides.

Overtime was similarly full of chances but nobody could end it so it went to Boston's second shootout (win in Chicago) to decide it. Tyler Seguin and Rick Nash went first but both were stuffed. Peverley gave the B's a 1-0 advantage but Mark Letestu tied it.

After David Krejci scored, Rask stoned Antoine Vermette to seal the win.

It wasn't pretty by any stretch of the imagination but Boston got the two points and that's all that matters. Along with the Rangers, who have somehow won seven in a row, the Bruins are unquestionably one of the NHL's hottest teams.

This was the close of a resounding success of a homestand: five wins in five games. Boston is 7-0-0 in November. The Bruins will now head out on a three-game road trip (Long Island, Montreal and Buffalo) that kicks off on Saturday night against the Islanders. Boston began the homestand with a 6-2 win over the Isles on November 7.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Don't Worry Red Sox Fans, Don Orsillo Is Here Through 2015

The Boston Red Sox don't have a manager, they lack a closer and they haven't even finalized the stupid compensation for Theo Epstein going to the Cubs after what seems like years.

Never fear though because I have good news: NESN's Don Orsillo will be back through 2015 as he just signed a contract extension to stay with the home of the Red Sox.

It's easy to make fun of this move since the team and front office is nothing short of a mess right now, coming off one of the biggest disasters in franchise history. Still, I'm totally in favor of this move to bring back Orsillo, the more than capable announcer.

It took the Rhode Island native and current resident some time to get his feet wet but by now, his chemistry with the sometimes insufferable (and miserable) Jerry Remy is outstanding. These two guys help to make the usually long and mostly boring games much more bearable with their affability, sense of humor and at least in Orsillo's case, he doesn't appear to take himself too seriously.

In other NESN rumors, there's been talk of "reporter" Heidi Watney taking her um talents elsewhere since her contract expires at the end of November but so far, no real news on that front. Let's hope that Heidi stays with NESN since she's easily one of the highlights of the broadcasts every night, no matter who the Red Sox are playing or in some cases, how they're doing.

In other Red Sox related news, it has been reported today by multiple outlets that Terry Francona won't manage in 2012. Instead, look for him to be an announcer or analyst on Fox, ESPN or MLB Network. Good for Tito, take a step back from the grind of being an MLB manager and this gives him time to catch his breath.

Update: I was wrong, Heidi is gone. She's going back to Cali (get it?) to be the Lakers sideline reporter in 2012-13. That's a worthy job and probably one of the few sideline gigs that's even more renown than the Red Sox. Bye Heidi, we'll miss you!

Lil' Wayne Presents: The (Andre) Carter 4.5

Something beautiful happened today that I think most Patriots fans never dreamed would occur this season.

Defensive end Andre Carter picked up the AFC's defensive player of the week award after his stellar performance (4.5 sacks, 3 knockdowns, hurry) against the Jets on Sunday night. Not only did he set a Patriots record for sacks in a single game but he also showed why he is the key for the defense the rest of the season.

With nine sacks and 38 tackles this season, Carter reminded Patriots fans how much a pass rush can help to cover up other weaknesses on a defense, namely a terrible secondary that's riddled with injuries and bums.

The 8.5 quarterback pressures that Carter alone had in the vital win against the Jets topped his previous high of 7.5 the week before against the Giants. At this point, it's not hyperbole to say that he's been New England's best defensive player (granted that's analogous to being Summa Cum Laude at Florida State).

The last Patriots defender to receive player of the week honors was former safety James Sanders from last season, Week 10 against the Colts (remember his interception that sealed it?).

Carter also won the award, in his rookie year (2001) with the San Francisco 49ers in Week 17.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Underrated Great Story For The Patriots Plus A Cameo By Ross Ventrone

Today at 4 p.m. was the deadline for players to be activated off the reserve/non-football injury list. The Patriots made a corresponding move by activating rookie offensive lineman Marcus Cannon.

You might have forgotten his story but the 2011 fifth-round draft choice out of TCU is in full remission after being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. He returned to practice last month and his three-week window expired today.

New England had the choice to either put him on the 53-man roster or place him on season-ending IR. To make room for him on the roster, safety Ross Ventrone was cut for the 10 millionth time in the past month. Also, rookie cornerback Malcolm Williams was added to the practice squad. He takes Ventrone's place after the safety was added to the roster for Sunday's game against the Jets.

When you are reading the tenth sappy story about Cannon in the next week, remember where you were first reminded about his amazing journey: here. He's certainly an easy guy to root for and since he's healthy enough to contribute, he could see playing time at any point in the rest of the season.

UPDATE 11/17: Ventrone is back on the practice squad while cornerback Josh Victorian was released off the practice squad to make room for the envy of NFL scrubs everywhere.

Bruins' Productive 3rd and 4th Line Helps Them Beat Devils 4-3 In 6th Straight Win

On Military Appreciation Night, the Bruins and Devils threw down like two prizefighters, going back and forth until Benoit Pouliot (2nd of the season) scored the game-winner with three minutes and change left in the game for Boston's (9-7-0) sixth win in a row.

Leading the way for the Bruins was the third and fourth line, as those players combined for seven points. Pouliot, Chris Kelly (5th of the season) and Shawn Thornton (1st of the season) all scored, while Gregory Campbell added two assists. Ten different B's had points.

The first period was relatively quiet, save for a couple of quality scoring chances (by David Krejci and Brad Marchand) for the B's even though they got outshot 12-8 by the Devils.

New Jersey (8-7-1) backup goalie Johan Hedberg (33 saves) made a few nifty stops, especially near the end of the period, when most of the play was in the Devils' zone. The Devils also stood toe to toe with the Bruins physically, as Cam Jannsen absolutely crushed Zdeno Chara in the corner. Milan Lucic and Marchand had a few checks as well and helped the Bruins finish with 16 hits in the period.

The Devils got on the board midway through the second as David Clarkson (5th of the season) scored on the power play, snapping an 0-for-22 skid. Most of the period saw New Jersey control the action thanks to lax defense by the Bruins. The one-timer came right after an insane save by B's goaltender Tim Thomas (7-4-0; 27 saves) off a redirection. Marchand's ill-advised roughing penalty is what gave the Devils the man advantage and after a timeout they were able to break the scoreless tie.

The Bruins responded quickly, as Campbell's forecheck behind the Devils net produced a wide open chance for Kelly, who buried the loose puck. The tying goal woke up the Garden crowd, which had been rather quiet early on.

The first two periods didn't create tons of excitement but the third period turned the game into a barnburner.

Just six seconds into the third, Marchand finished a breakaway, taking a gorgeous two-line pass from Chara and atoning for his silly penalty in the second. The designed play right off the face-off worked like a charm, as Marchand got behind the defense to set up the breakaway. It was similar to the play that Lucic scored on last week I think.

The lead didn't last long, as just two minutes later Nick Palmeiri (2nd of the season) tapped in a one-timer to Thomas' glove side to knot the game at two.

Never quitting, it was Campbell once again, setting up Thornton on the doorstep, backhanding the loose puck past Hedberg. Just four minutes into the third and both teams had combined for three goals.

Showing some testicular fortitude themselves, the Devils once again evened the score when Palmeiri scored his second of the night. The play started off of on a Bruins turnover and thanks to some nasty stickhandling by Adam Henrique. He tore Kampfer up and took it to the net, where Palmeiri was there to clean up the loose puck and bang home the rebound.

Pouliot then poked the game-winner by Hedberg to put the Bruins on top for good at 16:59. Joe Corvo and Rich Peverley assisted on the goal. Pouliot didn't get much on it but it went in so who cares.

Boston wraps up its five-game homestand (six out of its last seven) by facing the NHL's worst team on Thursday: the Columbus Blue Jackets. It'll be funny to see the line on this game, the B's could be one of the heaviest favorites of the entire season.

*Game Notes*

*It looked like Claude Julien benched Marchand towards the end of the second after his careless roughing penalty. It certainly makes him look good when Marchand ended up scoring in the third.

*The Bruins are undefeated when scoring three or more goals.

*Nathan Horton was snakebitten tonight, hitting a crossbar and getting absolutely stoned by Hedberg, both in the third. He also had a few chances in the first as well. Easily more scoring chances than anyone on the ice.

*Wait, so Ernie Boch is putting a concert together on Sunday? And tickets are still available? I'm stunned.

*Tyler Seguin is maturing as more than just a pure scorer this season. His play without the puck has improved exponentially. Perhaps it's because of his new linemate (and future Selke Winner) Patrice Bergeron. Whatever the inspiration, his newfound aggressive skating is helping the star winger create opportunities for himself and others.

*For example, Seguin carried the puck over the Devils blueline in the first and was met by Devils defenseman (and Former Friar) Mark Fayne. Clearly undersized, Seguin used his body and was able to maintain control of the puck through the zone, helping the B's get another scoring chance. That was a turnover 10 out of 10 times last year.

*Most hilarious moment occurred in the second when Jack Edwards alluded to "wrasslin" at the Garden last night as a possible cause of the wobbly ice conditions. Come on Jack, the place is still recovering from "The Most Electrifying Man In Sports Entertainment" being there last night.

*Lucic has to be healthy by now right? I mean the change in his game over the past two weeks couldnt be any clearer. He's hitting more, skating harder and helping others create opportunities. Some people think he is overrated, I just think that he has motivation issues at times. Whatever the ailment may be, I like this Lucic way better than sluggish, invisible Lucic.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Tyler Seguin Receives First NHL Honor: Named First Star Of The Week

The most satisfying part by far of the Boston Bruins' season so far has been the incredible leap Tyler Seguin has made from his rookie year to this his second year.

The Seguinistas will be happy to know that Ty Ty (as my buddy @twolinepass has dubbed him) received the NHL's first star of the week. Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard (a University of Maine product) was the second star and Blackhawks forward Jonathan Toews was named third star of the week.

Last week, Seguin had four goals, two assists and was +4 in three Boston wins over the Islanders, Oilers and Sabres.

If I know pink hats, Seguin will be one of their favorite Boston athletes by the end of this season. Next thing you know, there will be pink Bruins Seguin jerseys and shirts around the city and at the games (barf!).

It's not hyperbole to say that Seguin (who's already played at center and right wing in 2011-12) is Boston's most talented forward. He's putting the numbers to back it up too. His 11 goals and 20 points both lead the B's. In fact, he's tied for second in the NHL for goals and has the highest plus/minus (+14) in the league.

The B's are back in action tomorrow night against the New Jersey Devils at TD Garden. They wrap up their five-game homestand on Thursday as the NHL's worst team, the Columbus Blue Jackets, make a rare visit.

It's hard to find a team much hotter than the Bruins-winners of their last five games-or a player that's on more of a roll than Seguin. Let's hope they can both keep it up.

Devin McCourty Separated His Shoulder Last Night, Expected To Miss 2-3 Weeks

Well if you watched the Patriots-Jets game last night, and if you're reading this I'm going to guess that you did, you saw that Patriots cornerback Devin McCourty left in the second quarter with an injury.

I feared it was a broken collarbone but WBZ in Boston reported last night that he suffered a separated right shoulder when rookie safety Sterling Moore (in his first NFL start) ran into his teammate while they both attempted to tackle Jets wide receiver Plaxico Burress.

McCourty didn't return to the game and it is feared that he'll miss 2-3 weeks (Kansas City, at Philadelphia, Indianapolis). He's having a terrible season after an incredible rookie campaign but McCourty is still the Patriots most talented cornerback (sorry Kyle Arrington). We'll see if he ever regains his surprising performance from 2010 but regardless, it's going to be tough to see the likes of Philip Adams and Antwaun Molden trying to replace him.

On the bright side for New England, Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel is expected to miss next Monday's night game at Gillette (his first meeting with his former team). That means Tyler Palko (former Pitt scrub) will take the reins for Kansas City which is a huge break for the Pats. Likewise, the Eagles are pretty much guaranteed now of missing the playoffs and we know that the Colts won't win a game this season so maybe this injury came an opportune time (as much as they ever can be).

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Patriots Take A Time Machine Back To The Glory Days, Demolish Jets 37-16

There wasn't a Jets-Patriots game in recent memory that had such a lack of hype. Riding a two-game losing streak, looking extremely vulnerable and fatally flawed in so many ways, the Pats were becoming as irrelevant as I can ever remember in the last decade.

Well thankfully for us, a funny thing happened on the way to morphing into also-rans of the AFC East and the NFL, New England (6-3) showed their still the team to beat in the division with a 37-16 win tonight at MetLife Stadium on Sunday Night Football.

With the loss, the Jets (5-4) not only fall to second-place but they also drop the season series (2-0) to the Patriots which could be a factor in playoff tiebreakers.

Tom Brady (26 of 39, 329 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs) and head coach Bill Belichick became the winningest QB/Head Coach duo in NFL history with their 117th win (sorry Dan Marino/Don Shula).

Another interesting stat that was highlighted on NBC's typically superb broadcast: New England hasn't lost three straight games since 2002-the fourth longest streak in NFL history.

The way that this one played one was shocking since New England's secondary suffered another injury (separated shoulder to Devin McCourty) with guys like Sterling Moore, Philip Adams, Antwaun Molden, Ross Ventrone (he exists!), Sergio Brown and James Ihedigbo all getting playing time. Oh and Patrick Chung didn't even suit up.

The reason the Patriots defense played so well was mostly because of two incredible performances: Andre Carter set a team-record with 4.5 sacks while Rob Ninkovich had two interceptions including his first career interception.

Did I mention that Jeff Tarpinian got his first career start (at linebacker) along with Moore (at safety)? Yup, this is real life.

It is amazing though what a pass rush can do. The Patriots had 15 sacks in their first eight games of 2011; they got a third of that total tonight alone. Mark Anderson had half a sack and he added some pressure from the defensive end position as well. Of course, facing Mark Sanchez (20 of 39, 306 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs) and the plodding Jets offense is a big help too. Still, New York had been playing great coming into this pivotal matchup, winners of its last three games.

I can't believe it took me this long to mention him but Rob Gronkowski (8 catches, 113 yards, 2 TDs) was the best skill position player on the field. With Wes Welker (6 catches, 46 yards) held in check by the incomparable Darrelle Revis, Gronk stepped up as he usually does.

Hell, even Chad Johnson (2 catches, 65 yards) made a couple plays, including a 53-yard catch on a blown coverage by Kyle Wilson. Deion Branch (5 catches, 58 yards) made it four consecutive games with a score against the J E T S.

Santonio Holmes (6 catches, 93 yards) was the only Jets receiver or running back to really stand out. Shonn Greene (13 carries, 61 yards) had a decent game but as the deficit piled up, New York was forced to abandon the run-something they're loathe to do.

New England lead 6-0 after the first quarter thanks to a pair of field goals (50-yard and 36-yard) by Stephen Gostkowski. Nick Folk missed a 24-yard chip shot on New York's opening drive, an omen of ineptitude to come by his mouthy teammates.

It looked like a replay of last weekend's loss to the Giants as the Patriots defense slowly started to crumble. It wasn't there fault that New York got on the board by forcing an intentional grounding by Brady in the end zone, which was a safety.

Sanchez gave the Jets their only lead of the game as he took a quarterback draw two yards for a touchdown. New York led 9-6 with 1:20 left in the first half but they left Brady and Co. too much time on the clock.

Looking much more precise than he did earlier in the half (when he could have had three interceptions), Brady hit Gronkowski for a momentum turning 18-yard touchdown pass with eight seconds left in the half.

Unlike the Giants game or any other contest this season, New England's defense got better in the second half while the offense worked in conjunction with it. What a concept!

After a 27-yard field goal by Gostkowski in the third quarter (thanks to Niko Koutouvides' fumble recovery on a muffed punt), Ninkovich made his first pick of Sanchez on what Cris Collinsworth termed a "triple tip." Somewhere Bibi Jones drools to death. Speaking of everyone's favorite porn star, her boy Gronk caught a 5-yard touchdown on the ensuing drive to give New England a commanding 23-9 lead. A two score lead against Sanchez and the Jets is analogous to a 30-point lead against most normal teams.

Plaxico Burress gave temporarily hope to Fireman Ed and his many friends (haha yeah right) with a 7-yard touchdown catch to begin the fourth quarter.

From there, Branch (8-yard TD) and Ninkovich (12-yard interception return) clinched it with a pair of scores in the span of three plays.

What this win gives Patriots fans more than anything is hope which is something that has been lacking with this team for longer than we care to admit. The Bills (5-4) got embarrassed today by the Cowboys, 44-7, so they're quickly coming back to Earth. Most promising, as Al Michaels pointed out late in the broadcast, the Pats have statistically the easiest remaining schedule in the NFL.

We all know that nothing really matters until this team proves it can win in the postseason. Making the playoffs is still basically a forgone conclusion. When the 2011 playoffs roll around, it will be four years since the last Patriots playoff win.

The road to respectability for this defense continues next week in another primetime game: Monday night at Gillette vs. the Kansas City Chiefs (4-5) and Matt Cassel.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Bruins Continue To Put Up Video Game Numbers In The Month Of November

Lately, watching Bruins games has felt like playing a game of NHL '12 for Playstation 3 on rookie difficulty level.

Boston continues to pile up video game numbers offensively as they won their fifth straight game, 6-2 tonight at TD Garden over the Buffalo Sabres (10-6-0).

The victory put the B's (8-7-0) over the .500 mark for the first time this season. They've also scored 30 goals in their last five games (first time since 1986 that they've put up 5+ goals in 5 consecutive games).

Five (what's with that number) Bruins had multiple points: Tyler Seguin (2 goals, 1 assist), Brad Marchand (1 goal, 2 assists), Zdeno Chara (2 assists), Chris Kelly (1 goal, 1 assist) and Rich Peverley (1 goal, 1 assist) all got on the scoresheet more than once.

The matchup of 2010 U.S. Olympic teammates Tim Thomas (21 saves) and Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller (19 saves) sounded good on paper but it failed to live up to expectations. Miller departed after two periods because Lucic had the audacity to run into Miller when he was way out of his crease in the first period. Lucic was rightfully called for charging but that wasn't good enough for Miller, who called Lucic "gutless" after the game. OK tough guy.

No doubt, Thomas (6-4-0) wouldn't have put up with that crap. Then again, somebody (Shawn Thornton, Adam McQuaid, Gregory Campbell, etc.) on the Bruins also would have stepped up if an opponent took a run at Thomas. On Buffalo, Miller's teammates couldn't be bothered to challenge Lucic to anything more than pushing and shoving in the corner.

Buffalo actually had the lone goal of the first as Thomas Vanek (11th of the season) banked one off Thomas from behind the goal. Side note, Vanek is a nice player but what is it about Boston that makes him become Mario Lemieux?

The B's erupted for three goals in the second period to take control of this Northeast Division tilt, the first of six between these teams.

Rich Peverley tied it up with his fourth of the season at 7:40. Showing no rust after missing the last two games, Peverley made a nice move to get by the defense and deke past Miller. Kelly assisted on Peverley's goal.

Tyler Seguin (10th of the season) put Boston ahead 2-1 at 13:29 thanks to Brad Marchand's takeaway in the neutral zone. For the eighth time in the past five games (and ninth overall), the Bruins potted a pair of goals in under a minute. Nathan Horton (5th of the season) scored on a wrist shot at 13:45 from Johnny Boychuk and Chara; it happened so fast, the B's PA announcer hadn't even said the Seguin goal.

Boston poured it on in the third, putting three goals past poor Jhonas Enroth (10 saves). Chris Kelly (4th of the season) scored on a close snap shot at 5:28 from Peverley, Seguin's (11th of the season) more long range snap shot matched his rookie goal total at 7:11 from Patrice Bergeron and Marchand then Marchand (5th of the season) finished it with a backhander that he roofed from in tight, Seguin and Chara assisted.

Lindy Ruff's boys packed it in after Miller left but you can't fault Marc-Andre Gragnani who recorded his first goal of the season at 13:20. The power-play goal beat Thomas glove side (which is almost impossible to do), went off the post and in.

The New Jersey Devils and the ghost of Martin Brodeur come to the Garden on Tuesday for their first matchup with the B's this season. We'll see if their defensive style can hold down the hottest offense (can't believe I just typed that) in the NHL.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Jonathan Papelbon Ships Off To The Philadelphia Phillies

It was common knowledge that Jonathan Papelbon would enter free agency after the 2011 season and see what the market dictated for the best closer in Boston Red Sox history.

Well the offseason has only just begun but Papelbon agreed to a four-year, $50 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. Including vesting options, it is the biggest contract ever bestowed on a reliever in MLB history.

I'm not delusional enough of a honk to say that he's the best closer in baseball, Mariano Rivera is still alive as far as I know, but you have to admit that Pap had an incredible seven-year run (six years as the closer) in Boston.

A 2003 Red Sox draft pick that went to Mississippi State and a four-time American League all-star (2006-09), Papelbon was the rare guy that didn't shy away from the big spot and most importantly, stepped up in the most important games. He had 35+ saves from 2006-10 and over 30 saves every season (2006-11) that he was the closer.

He leaves Boston with 219 saves, a 2.33 career ERA with 1.018 WHIP. He notched seven saves in the playoffs, including four during the 2007 World Series championship season. He wasn't the same guy after 2009 and suffered his worst season in 2010 (3.90 ERA, 1.269 WHIP). Credit to him though for bouncing back nicely in 2011 (2.90 ERA, 0.933 WHIP).

You can't blame him for wanting to cash in and see what a change of scenery brings. I respect that he went to the Phillies, the best team in MLB last season before they choked in the playoffs. It shows that he does truly care about winning too, not just grabbing every last cent.

Papelbon was one of the few players on the 2011 Red Sox that actually stood up and took his medicine while the September collapse went on. Unlike some who hid behind chicken and beer (Lackey, Beckett, Lester) or blamed God's will (Adrian Gonzalez), Papelbon said he was the only one to bash after he blew a key game to the Orioles at Fenway.

This leaves a huge hole in the back of the bullpen for the Red Sox. Daniel Bard proved last season that he's not ready to be an elite setup man let alone a closer. They'll have to look outside the orginazation and sign a free agent. It better be Heath Bell and not some scrub like Ryan Madson, Joe Nathan, Francisco Cordero, etc.

His Shipping Up to Boston entrance was certainly played out, despite what the pink hats will tell you. The stare into home plate was lame and when he tried to be too clever or funny during interviews, it never worked. At heart, Pap is just a simple country boy but most importantly, he is a damn good closer that got it done in one of baseball's toughest markets for years.

Good luck Papelbon, we know you'll do well in Philly.