Tuesday, December 29, 2015
For a Tuesday night game in late December, you couldn't have asked for much more entertainment (that is if you support the home team) than Boston's (20-12-4) insane 7-3 victory over Ottawa (18-13-6) at TD Garden. Jimmy Hayes scored his first career NHL hat trick while Patrice Bergeron and Matt Beleskey each added two goals apiece. What's more, near the end of the contest there were five (count them five!) legitimate fights. It was a taste of Old Time Bruins Hockey as the B's can now fully turn their attention to Friday's (1, NBC) much-anticipated Winter Classic at Gillette Stadium vs. Montreal (21-15-3).
The Senators were coming off a 3-1 win against the Bruins on Sunday night in Ottawa but they looked nothing like that club as Boston scored a season-high four power play goals (their most since 4 on Oct. 3, 2009 vs. Carolina). Improbably, the B's top-ranked power play continues to chug along (they are 30 for 102 on the season = 29.4%) while their usually strong penalty kill is finally starting to catch up (4-for-4 tonight) and they began the game 13th in the league. The two points were important since it allowed Boston to go up two on Ottawa (with a game in hand). The Bruins are also one point ahead of Detroit, one behind Montreal and two behind first-place Florida. The top six teams in the Atlantic Division are only separated by six points.
It was the exact same goaltender matchup from Sunday as once again Craig Anderson (30 saves) took on Tuukka Rask (29). I guess that Ottawa really didn't want to play backup Andrew Hammond at all since Anderson was hung out to dry and kept in for the entire beating. Hayes fittingly opened the scoring at 8:01 when a good bounce allowed him to tap the puck in from close range. Kevan Miller assisted on Hayes' sixth goal of the season. One of the few things more improbable than a Hayes goal was Senators tough guy Chris Neil tying it at one but that's what he did at 12:31. Rask left him a juicy rebound and he deposited it for his second goal of the season with assists to Shane Prince (Tayshaun's little brother?) and Max McCormick. Bergeron got his first goal of the contest (and first on the power play) at 16:25 when he put in a shot from the slot. Torey Krug (back after missing one game with an undisclosed injury) and Ryan Spooner had the assists on Bergeron's 13th goal of the season.
Unlike Hayes, Beleskey created many chances earlier this season but similarly couldn't find the back of the net with much regularity. Hopefully that'll change as well as he scored a power play tally at 1:21 from Brett Connolly (1st point in 12 games!) and Brad Marchand (who could be suspended after a low bridge hit in the first period). Beleskey's sixth goal of the season was followed by Mika Zibanejad who cut it to 3-2 late in the second (17:51). Neil and Prince assisted on Zibanejad's seventh goal of the season.
Bergeron's second power play goal came at 2:38 of the third period and it gave Boston another two-goal lead (4-2). Krug picked up his second helper while Seth Griffith (called up today with David Krejci on IR) got his first point of the season. Mike Hoffman's shot went off Dennis Seidenberg's skate which confused Rask and trimmed Boston's advantage to 4-3 at 4:22. Hoffman has 18 goals (who knew?) while Eric Karlsson (32 assists) leads the NHL in assists with Marc Methot getting credit for the other apple. Hayes finished a 2-on-1 with Max Talbot at 15:49 then 51 seconds later, Beleskey smoked a one-timer from Spooner. Loui Eriksson sneakily got assists on both of those as he became the third Bruin to reach 20 assists this season (joining Krejci who has 22 and Bergeron who has 21). The hat trick came with 0.2 seconds left in regulation aka garbage time (haha also on a power play) but Hayes will certainly take it. Frank Vatrano and Dennis Seidenberg assisted on the goal that set off a steady stream of hats (ironically the team had given away winter hats today) onto the ice.
Bruins-Canadiens doesn't need an introduction and in case you need a little review on their storied history, turn on NESN, NBCSN or the NHL Network for the next few days. Friday's game is always the showcase event for the league on New Year's Day and with the College Football Playoff the night before, I predict this edition gets its best rating yet (if you're into that kind of thing, which you're probably not). A little snow would be nice but with temperatures expected to be in the low 40s, it should be a virtually perfect atmosphere for the best rivalry in the NHL and one of the greatest in professional sports.
Saturday, December 26, 2015
In case you didn't know, blowing a two-goal lead in the third period of any type of hockey game is very bad. What about one of the worst teams in the NHL closing out said contest with five unanswered goals you say? The Bruins (19-11-4) were up 3-1 on the Sabres (15-16-4) tonight at TD Garden, with dreams of jumping into first-place in the Atlantic Division as Montreal lost 3-1 in Washington but then the home team completely fell apart in a stunning 6-3 loss. Buffalo's last two goals were empty-netters but you get the picture. North Chelmsford MA native and BU alum (can you say that after 1 year on campus?) Jack Eichel had a decent pro debut in Boston: two goals and two assists.
Coming back from the Christmas break, the Bruins were in control most of the way that is after Evander Kane put in a rebound at 5:13 of the second period to make it 1-0 Sabres. The enigmatic Kane's eighth goal of the season was assisted by Tyler Ennis and Eichel. Jonas Gustavsson (23 saves) got the start against former Bruin Chad Johnson (30 saves) and for a while, it looked like he'd pick up his seventh win of the season, no sweat. Matt Beleskey answered 36 seconds later, tipping in Kevan Miller's shot for his fifth goal of the season. Loui Eriksson had the second helper on Beleskey's tally. Patrice Bergeron gave Boston its first lead at 2-1 when he beat Johnson five-hole (more like 10-hole on that one) at 7:05 of the second. Brad Marchand and Zdeno Chara assisted on Bergeron's 12th goal of the season.
David Krejci's beautiful individual effort-he batted his third shot in a row out of mid-air-extended the Bruins' lead to 3-1 at 6:59 of the third period and all seemed well in the Hub. Eriksson picked up his second assist of the night on Krejci's 10th goal of the season. Krejci became the fourth Bruin to reach double-figures in goals this campaign: Marchand (15), Eriksson (13) and Bergeron. Ryan Spooner is the next closest to that mark with eight goals.
All hell started to break loose in the final 10 minutes of regulation as Ryan O'Reilly cut it to 3-2 at 10:21. A rebound off the end-boards caromed right to him and he deposited the puck for his 13th goal of the season. Mike Weber and Cody Franson had the assists on the pricey free agent's innocuous goal. Fate was on Buffalo's side (has that ever been said before?) when Eichel's shot went in the net off of a Bruin skate just 39 seconds later. Jake McCabe had the lone assist on Eichel's 10th goal of the season.
Good old Jamie McGinn had what turned out to be the game-winner at 14:24, a backhander from O'Reilly and Zach Bogosian that was his eighth goal of the season. The No. 1 star of the night-Eichel-and No. 3-O'Reilly boosted their point totals with the empty-netters and the Sabres were on their merry way (sorry about that).
With the loss, Boston also dropped below .500 at the Garden (8-9-2). The good news for them is that they are right back at it tomorrow night (5, NESN) in Ottawa (17-12-6). The Bruins are 11-2-2 on the road and Tuukka Rask will be in net. Haha plus Max Talbot returns from his two-game suspension, game-changer! The Senators have been off since Wednesday and a win tomorrow against the B's would pull them into a tie. From the Things Can Always Be Worse Department: Montreal has lost six games in a row and they remain one point ahead of Boston (who has 3 games in hand).
Tuesday, December 22, 2015
The playoffs are a different story but for now at least, you can reasonably conclude that the Blues (21-11-4) are one of the best teams in the NHL. St. Louis came to Boston for the second night of a back-to-back (they choked away a 3-goal lead in a 4-3 loss in Philly) and they impressively beat the Bruins (19-10-4) 2-0 at TD Garden. It was Boston's first regulation loss since December 7 (3-2 vs. Nashville) and it cost them a chance at first place in the Atlantic Division after Montreal (20-13-3) lost 2-1 to Minnesota. Still, the B's are only one point back of the Habs with a game in hand. Who would have predicted that after their respective starts?
Goaltender Jake Allen made 32 saves for his fifth shutout of the season (tying him with Corey Crawford for the league lead) and 10th of his NHL career. Budding superstar right wing Vladimir Tarasenko tied Dallas' Jamie Benn for the NHL lead with his 22nd goal of the season and rookie Robby Fabbri added the insurance tally.
This was the first time that Boston was blanked in 2015-16 so it shouldn't come as a surprise that it was also the first instance where they didn't have a single power play. When you have the top-ranked power play in the NHL, not giving them at least one chance figures to be an issue. Additionally, they didn't crash the net with their typical fervor, meaning that Allen's shutout could not have been the hardest one of his life.
It was 0-0 after the first period and the only power play of the game occurred late in the second period when Brett Connolly stuck his leg own and tripped a Blues player. St. Louis' power play couldn't take advantage and it was 0-0 after two. There were some chances in that frame as Alexander Steen had hit the post, the Blues bungled a 2-on-1 and Allen stuffed Marchand's backhander following a juicy rebound.
Tyler Randell and Ryan Reaves had a heavyweight bout early in the third that got the crowd into it. A defensive breakdown by Boston led to a breakaway for Tarasenko at 7:35 and the MVP candidate did what he does. Magnus Paajarvi and David Backes (USA, USA, USA!) had the assists. Fabbri's goal at 12:50 was an absolute snipe over Tuukka Rask's (27 saves) shoulder. Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester had the helpers on Fabbri's seventh goal of the season. Truthfully there was nothing that Rask could have done better on either tally, they were simply outstanding plays by talented players.
The B's used their timeout with 2:38 left in regulation and they pulled Rask shortly after that but it wasn't to be. St. Louis earned a big two points that propelled them to second-place in the stacked Central Division and second-place in the Western Conference. The entire NHL is off for the next three days and Boston returns with a back-to-back on Saturday (7, NESN) vs. Buffalo (14-16-4) and Sunday (5, NESN) at Ottawa (17-12-5). It is surprising but they have yet to play either of those Atlantic Division foes so far this campaign, which makes those two particular games mighty important in the old Eastern Conference standings.
Happy Holidays everybody!
Wednesday, December 16, 2015
There were only two games in the NHL tonight so that meant much of the hockey world got to see two teams on national TV (NBCSN) that are headed in opposite directions. Boston (17-9-4) beat Pittsburgh (15-12-3) 3-0 at TD Garden behind 34 saves by goaltender Tuukka Rask for his fourth shutout of the season (tied for NHL lead) and 30th of his career. Seven different Bruins had points, led by Jimmy Hayes and Ryan Spooner who each put up a goal and an assist. These same teams will be back at it on Friday (7, NESN) at Consol Energy Center.
Boston is 6-1-3 in its last 10 games and this win vaulted them into second-place in the Atlantic Division (tied with Detroit, with 1 game in hand) and fifth-place in the Eastern Conference. Conversely, Pittsburgh is stuck in fifth-place in the Metropolitan Division and 11th-place in the East. The Penguins have suffered an epic bout of injuries, terrible luck and general poor karma that tends to permeate around bad teams. Still, with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel in the fold, it's hard to believe that the Penguins could be tied with the Maple Leafs for the third fewest goals scored (68) so far this season in the league.
Even early on, you had a feeling that it was the Bruins' night when Max Talbot of all people scored his first ever goal for Boston (in his 29th game) at 9:52 of the first period. Adam McQuaid and Hayes assisted on Talbot's goal that was a snipe (haha for him at least) over poor Jeff Zatkoff's (26 saves) glove. Boston doubled its lead at 4:00 of the second period when Spooner's pass bounced in ever so slightly off of Hayes who drove to the net just as Bruins head coach Claude Julien had told him to. New Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan (formerly of the Bruins, BU and Marshfield MA) challenged it to see if Hayes interfered with Zatkoff but he didn't so it held up. Colin Miller had the second assist on Hayes' fifth goal of the season (the former BC star had just 1 assist in his last 14 games).
Pittsburgh dominated the second period, outshooting Boston 18-4, but they had nothing to show for it. That had to be extremely frustrating for the Penguins and each club seemed to basically go through the motions in the third period. Spooner clinched it with the ultra-rare power play/empty-net combo platter goal at 17:17. Patrice Bergeron (6-game point streak) and Loui Eriksson assisted on Spooner's eighth goal of the season.
Adam McQuaid escaped serious injury in the second after he took a wayward puck to his face. He skated off quickly with his hand over his mouth and headed straight to the dressing room for some repairs. There were some chippy plays on both sides but only four penalties were called on Pittsburgh and three on Boston with no fights (maybe since Zac Rinaldo went on IR yesterday). Expect that to change on Friday, especially if Pittsburgh is losing again and in desperate need of a spark.
Rask has been on fire lately, he is 7-0-2 in his last nine games with a 1.36 goals against average, .955 save percentage and three shutouts. He's playing his best hockey of the season along with most of his teammates. It only took nearly 2.5 months but Boston is finally .500 at home (7-7-2) this season, haha progress! They remain one of the best road teams (10-2-2) in the NHL while Pittsburgh is 8-5-2 at home. It's hard to say with a straight face that any game before Christmas is a must-win in the NHL but if the Penguins have any pride, Friday is basically that.
Monday, December 14, 2015
Most people outside of Edmonton probably aren't aware of this but believe it or not, the Oilers (14-15-2) are the hottest team in the NHL. They picked up their sixth straight win tonight, a 3-2 overtime victory at TD Garden against the Bruins (16-9-4). Edmonton jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period then Boston eventually tied it with a goal in the second and a goal in the third before defenseman Andrej Sekera won it 41 seconds into overtime. This was a bitter loss for the Bruins since they fired a season-high 49 shots on Cam Talbot (47 saves).
This was the third straight time that Boston and Edmonton have gone to overtime and the Oilers improved to 2-0 against the Bruins this season after winning in a shootout at home a few weeks back. The B's fell to 1-3 in overtime this season and 1-1 in shootouts. Jordan Eberle (1 goal, 2 assists) and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (1 goal, 1 assist) showed off some of their immense talents in the win. Eberle scored at 8:29 of the first period after the puck bounced off the back boards to him and he was able to beat Jonas Gustavsson (21 saves) from a tight angle. Eberle's seventh goal of the season was assisted by BU's Eric Gryba and Brandon Davidson.
After Zdeno Chara fell, Eberle fed Nugent-Hopkins for an easy goal at 13:58 of the first. Nikita Nikitin had the other assist on Nugent-Hopkins' eighth goal of the season. Some puck luck finally went Boston's way at 13:29 of the second period as Matt Beleskey's stuff shot went in off Talbot after the goaltender kicked it back with his leg pad. Beleskey has been snake-bitten most of the way in his first season with the Black and Gold so he probably deserved this after playing well for weeks. David Krejci and Chara assisted on Beleskey's fourth goal of the season.
Brad Marchand is starting to put together an All-Star type resume in 2015-16 so predictably he was the Bruin that tied it up with 4:38 left in regulation. The play actually looked offside and was reviewed but stood up for his team-leading 15th goal of the season. Landon Ferraro and Patrice Bergeron assisted on Marchand's shot that went up under the bar over Talbot's blocker (with a defenseman possibly screening him as well).
As noted in the records, overtime still doesn't seem to agree with Boston. In fact, after losing the opening faceoff in the extra session, the Oilers had the puck in the Bruins' end the entire time. Sekera's initial shot went off of Torey Krug (who was tied up in front) then with all the extra space he was able to collect the rebound and put it in for his third goal of the season. Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins assisted on the overtime game-winner that had to make former Bruins GM/current Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli smile.
Up next, the Bruins have a home-and-home with the Penguins (15-11-3) who lost head coach Mike Sullivan's debut 4-1 tonight against Washington. Pittsburgh is in ninth place in the Eastern Conference and 3-4-3 in their last 10 games. Wednesday (8, NBCSN) at the Garden will be the first matchup of the season.
Saturday, December 12, 2015
If you enjoy free money (and who doesn't?), throw down a bet on the Bruins the next time that they play the Panthers, particularly if it's at TD Garden. Boston (16-9-3) coasted to a simple 3-1 victory against Florida (14-12-4) this afternoon at TD Garden. With the two points, the B's have won their last nine games in a row at home vs. the Panthers (Florida's last win here was Dec. 8, 2011).
Ryan Spooner scored two goals for the third time in his short NHL career and Tuukka Rask (26 saves) continued his recent wonderful play (6-0-2 in last 8 games with 1.52 goals against average & .948 save percentage). Boston improved to 7-1-2 in its last 10 games and they moved to three points ahead of Florida in the Atlantic Division with two games in hand. It was good to see that the B's didn't suffer a letdown after Wednesday's huge road win in Montreal. They are clearly starting to make progress this season after such a rough start.
Spooner made it 1-0 at 11:35 of the first period when he tipped in Torey Krug's shot from the point. It was Spooner's sixth goal of the season and Krug's 14th assist. Boston's top-ranked power-play did what it does as Spooner cashed in on their first chance in the second period at 8:00. Truthfully, Roberto Luongo (22 saves) should have made the save on a shot that went through his five-hole but nobody on the Bruins or in the crowd was complaining. Patrice Bergeron picked up his 18th assist (he's tied with Patrick Kane for the NHL lead with 15 power play points) and David Krejci notched his team-leading 19th assist on Spooner's second tally of the game.
Old friend Reilly Smith cut it to 2-1 at 13:56 when his shot from distanced trickled through Rask's legs. It was a shot that Tuukka no doubt would want back but he's been so good lately that what could you objectively say about it? Aaron Ekblad had the lone assist on Smith's eighth goal of the season. Brad Marchand wrapped it up with an empty-netter at 18:37, his team-leading 14th goal of the season. Bergeron picked up the assist (he has a 4-game point streak and 17 points in his last 16 games).
This was the start of an important stretch for the Black and Gold since seven of their next nine games are all at the Garden. They'll need their rest the next few days since they host Edmonton (13-15-2)-who has won five straight games-on Monday (7, NESN) which is the beginning of a four-game week. They have a home-and-home with the reeling Penguins (15-10-3) on Wednesday and Friday-who just fired head coach Mike Johnston this morning and replaced him with former Bruins assistant Mike Sullivan-then they host the Devils (15-10-4) on Sunday (5, NESN).
Thursday, December 10, 2015
In recent seasons, the NHL's undisputed best rivalry-Bruins vs. Canadiens-had been downgraded since frankly it became extremely one-sided. That's what made tonight so sweet: Boston (15-9-3) went into the Bell Centre and knocked off Montreal (19-7-3) 3-1. The Canadiens still lead the season series 2-1 with two more games left to play (both in 2016) but at least for once, the B's didn't get psyched out by the Habs.
If it felt like it had been a while since Boston beat Montreal, you were correct. This win for the Bruins snapped a seven-game losing streak (0-6-1) to the Habs. The best element of this for them was that goaltender Tuukka Rask (32 saves) was great as he earned the No. 1 star of the game.
It was a very slow start for Boston as they gave up a stupid fluke goal at 8:49 of the first period. Defenseman Paul Byron threw the puck in front of Rask and it deflected in the net off of Zach Trotman. After the goal initially went to Tomas Plekanec, Byron was correctly credited with his fourth goal of the season and Plekanec (a noted Bruins killer) picked up the lone assist.
Montreal outshot Boston 14-7 in the first period and 12-7 in the second period but Rask kept them in it. Also, it helped that they weren't suckered into dumb penalties like usual when they face the Canadiens (hi Milan Lucic). Brad Marchand and P.K. Subban got matching slashing penalties late in the first while Montreal had two penalties in the second (interference on Tomas Fleischmann and roughing on Christian Thomas) and Trotman was called for hooking but none of the power plays cashed in.
Belmont Hill alum and Needham native Mike Condon (20 saves) is Montreal's No. 1 goaltender for a while with Carey Price on the shelf (lower-body injury). He has been fine although this turned out to be their third loss in a row. In fact, Boston is only eight points behind Montreal in the Atlantic Division now with two games in hand. Haha I know, I know. Just saying. To call the Bruins' third period comeback unexpected is quite an understatement.
The B's tied it at 7:53 on a beautiful shorthanded goal by Loui Eriksson (to quote Rounders: "Pay the man his money"). Zdeno Chara started the play by batting the puck out of mid-air right to a streaking (easy ladies) Eriksson who fought off a check to finish with a nice shot down low on Condon. It was Eriksson's 11th goal of the season. Just 42 seconds later, cult hero Landon Ferraro (with his dad Ray faithfully in the stands) scored the go-ahead goal. He roofed it blocker side on a screened Condon after a nifty backhand assist by Ryan Spooner. Torey Krug had the second assist on Ferraro's third goal in a Bruins uniform (talk about a timely waiver wire pickup by GM Don Sweeney a few weeks ago).
It was only fitting that Patrice Bergeron put it on ice with a pretty insurance tally at 13:42 from who else but Brad Marchand. Matt Beleskey had the second assist on Bergy's ninth goal of the season where he received the puck close to Condon and was able to deke around him to tuck it in.
This is one game basically a third of the way through the 2015-16 campaign but it was a most vital victory for the B's. They had to prove to themselves and the world at large that they could still beat the Canadiens every once in a while. The timing couldn't have worked out better with the Winter Classic only a few weeks away at Gillette Stadium. Boston can go into that confident and without that long losing streak hanging over their collective heads.
The Bruins' next game is on Saturday afternoon (1, NESN) against the Panthers (13-11-4). That contest will be important in a different fashion since Boston is only up three points on Florida (with a game in hand) in the Atlantic Division. Nevertheless, the B's are playing some quality hockey (7-1-2 in last 10 games) while Florida has dropped its last two games heading into Thursday's meeting with red-hot Washington (19-5-2).
Monday, December 7, 2015
It is no use to complain about the rigors of an NHL schedule; there are countless tough stretches for every club and the Bruins (14-9-3) are currently going through that as they just returned from a Western Canada road trip (3 games in 4 days) and had to play Nashville (14-8-5) tonight at TD Garden. Boston made it more competitive than it probably deserved to be before falling 3-2, snapping their season-high eight-game point streak (6-0-2). Then again, the Predators outshot them 33-17 so perhaps Jonas Gustavsson (30 saves) should get most of the credit for keeping it close.
Boston actually led 1-0 in the first period and 2-1 in the second period but they couldn't sustain it and actually went over 34 minutes during the game between shots on goal (even-strength). It was a penalty-filled rare Monday night game with 10 penalties called on Boston and six on Nashville. There were also two fights as Brad Marchand grappled with Roman Josi and rookie Tyler Randell took on Eric Nystrom, both in the second period. Nashville power play went 2 for 7 while Boston's was 1 for 3, one of the key differences in the final result.
Fittingly for such a strange contest, it was a battle of backup goaltenders as Gustavsson took on UMass Lowell product Carter Hutton (15 saves). Kevan Miller gave the B's an early 1-0 lead at 4:13 of the first when his shot deflected in the Nashville goal off of Colton Sissons' skate. David Krejci and Matt Beleskey assisted on Miller's second goal of the season (1st since Oct. 14). Nashville took advantage of a 4-on-3 late in the frame as Josi scored his first of two goals, from scummy Mike Ribeiro and Shea Weber at 19:35.
Boston's power play answered midway through the second when Loui Eriksson tipped in a beautiful cross-ice pass from Ryan Spooner at 10:53. Patrice Bergeron assisted on Eriksson's 10th goal of the season (9th time in his career). Josi showed some more of his offensive skills on the power play 27 seconds later as he went to the net and beat Gustavsson to tie the game at two with his seventh goal of the season.
The Predators continued to dominate possession-wise in the third period so it was only a matter of time before they went ahead for good. The unlikely hero was Viktor Arvidsson who deked around Gustavsson and put the puck in the net, after Miller had fallen over retreating in his own zone. Arvidsson's third goal of the season was assisted by former Sabre Cody Hodgson and Weber (who has 3 goals & 5 assists in his last 4 games).
For Rivalry Night, Boston travels to Montreal (19-6-3) on Wednesday (7:30, NBCSN)-their last meeting before the Winter Classic at Gillette Stadium on New Year's Day. With Carey Price out again with a lower-body injury, Tuukka Rask and the B's are due to play well for once up North. After that, they return to the Garden to host Florida (13-10-4) on Saturday afternoon (1, NESN).
Friday, November 27, 2015
Boston (13-8-1) is finally playing good hockey, even at TD Garden and you could make a solid argument that this afternoon's 4-3 come-from-behind win against the Rangers (16-5-2) was their best victory of the young season. Mostly because New York is one of the NHL's truly elite clubs and they had two different leads (2-1 and 3-2) that they couldn't maintain. It extended the Bruins' win-streak to a season-high five games, the 15th time that they have won five games or more in a row under head coach Claude Julien.
It was a great way to celebrate Black Friday without fighting for your life at the mall looking for a stupid toy that's not worth the time or effort it takes to get it. Boston's next game isn't until Wednesday (9:30, NESN) when they start a three-game road trip in Western Canada: Edmonton (7-14-1), Calgary (8-13-1) and Vancouver (9-8-6) in four nights.
Usually matinees are sleepy affairs but not today since this contest had the feel of a playoff game, seriously. Patrice Bergeron opened the scoring at 14:15 when his quick release beat Henrik Lundqvist (30 saves). Torey Krug assisted on Bergeron's eighth goal of the season. New York answered early in the second period when rookie Oscar Lindberg skated around Dennis Seidenberg like he wasn't even there and shot around Tuukka Rask (24 saves) at 2:10. J.T. Miller and Jasper Fast assisted on Lindberg's eighth goal of the season (tied for most in the NHL by a rookie).
Boston's defense once again was caught napping when Brett Connolly's clearing attempt didn't work out so well and Ryan McDonagh was able to pass to a wide open Rick Nash. He went from backhand to forehand (that's how much time and space that he had) for his eighth goal of the season at 5:15. Things got chippy as Matt Beleskey hit Derek Stepan late, causing him to fly into the boards and break some ribs. Immediately like a good teammate, defenseman Dylan McIlrath dropped the gloves with Beleskey and pounded him into submission.
The Bruins' top-ranked power play struck twice in the game, beginning with Connolly's tying goal at 9:34. He made up for his earlier gaffe with his fifth goal of the season, assisted by Colin Miller and Jimmy Hayes (getting some rare power play ice time). King Henrik bought a shaky goaltender interference call on Brad Marchand midway through the third period that was more deserving on an Oscar than a penalty. New York took advantage as Miller tipped Keith Yandle's shot and the puck went off the post, bounced back off Rask then in the net. Kevin Klein had the second assist on Miller's fourth goal of the season.
In a scenario more likely to be found in the NBA, Boston benefited from a makeup call as Fast was whistled for a shady holding penalty late in the third. Wouldn't you know that Boston's power play came through again as David Krejci's simple shot from the point took a wicked deflection off Klein and past Lundqvist. Krejci's ninth goal of the season was unassisted. Stepan will be out indefinitely but it doesn't sound like Beleskey will receive a suspension for his dangerous hit.
Given how well the Bruins have played on the road in 2015-16 (8-2-0, 2nd best road mark in the league) and the fact that the Oilers and Flames are the two worst teams in the West, Boston has a good chance to pick up some points on their upcoming trip. Granted a back-to-back in Calgary on Friday (9, NESN) and Vancouver (10, NESN) on Saturday is tough but all of those teams are .500 or worse at home: Edmonton is 4-5-1 at Rexall Place, Calgary is 5-5-0 at Scotiabank Saddledome and Vancouver is 3-4-3 at Rogers Arena. In other words, the B's should take advantage of playing these garbage teams.
Saturday, November 21, 2015
It only took almost a month and a half into the 2015-16 regular season but the Bruins (10-8-1) finally picked up back-to-back wins on their home ice (4-6-1). Tonight, they held off Toronto (7-10-4) 2-0 at TD Garden, on the shoulders of 22 timely saves for Tuukka Rask (2nd shutout of the season; 28th of his career) and a clutch goal by captain Zdeno Chara.
Laugh if you will but the Maple Leafs appear to be much improved under new head coach Mike Babcock, they were 6-2-2 in their last 10 games. Even though they had played a shootout in Carolina last night, they competed hard this evening and it translated to a playoff-like atmosphere.
Boston outshot Toronto 37-22 but in terms of quality scoring chances, it was much closer than that. In fact, Toronto center Shawn Matthias had a breakaway in the first period and another in the second period that were both stopped by Rask. Boston's NHL-worst penalty kill only had to kill off one penalty (and they did successfully): roughing on Brad Marchand in the first period. Likewise, the Bruins' top-ranked power-play only had one opportunity-in the third period after a high-sticking penalty on Nazem Kadri-but they couldn't convert on it.
Right wing Michael Grabner of the Maple Leafs had a shot deflect off the crossbar in the second period and birthday boy Jimmy Hayes' shot that stuffed on the goal-line by former Bruins defenseman Matt Hunwick and Reimer was reviewed but remained no goal early in the third period. It looked like these teams were headed to overtime but Chara prevented that when he was given way too much time and space at 16:17 of the third. He cranked a low slap shot through traffic that went between Reimer's leg pads. Zach Trotman and Matt Beleskey assisted on Chara's third goal of the season.
Reimer was pulled for an extra attacker but the Maple Leafs couldn't find the tying goal. Marchand clinched it with an empty-netter at 19:53 from Loui Eriksson (4-game point streak) and Patrice Bergeron (7-game point streak). Rask has to love seeing the Maple Leafs since tonight's victory improved his all-time record vs. Toronto to 12-3-1.
These same clubs meet again on Monday (7:30, NESN) in Toronto. Boston then travels to Detroit (10-8-2) on Wednesday (7:30, NESN), the night before Thanksgiving. Their next home game is on Black Friday afternoon against the Rangers (15-3-2)-arguably the best team in the league at this moment.
Thursday, November 19, 2015
In his third year in Boston and most importantly, with a clean bill of health, Loui Eriksson has been the Bruins' most consistent player so far this season. Tonight, he was rewarded with his third career hat trick (1st for the Bruins) as the B's (9-8-1) beat the Wild (10-5-3) 4-2 at TD Garden. Boston is 2-2 on its longest homestand of the season with the finale on Saturday night (7, NESN) vs. Toronto (6-9-4). This victory improved their wretched home record to 3-6-1.
Jonas Gustavsson (4-1-0) made his first start as a Bruin at the Garden and it was a good one since he had 24 saves to earn the third star of the game. Given how bad Tuukka Rask has been and the fact that Gustavsson hadn't played in nearly two weeks (11/7 at Montreal was his last outing) created an easy decision for Bruins head coach Claude Julien. I have no doubt that Rask will be back in between the pipes on Saturday but Gustavsson should be in action again on Monday when Boston travels to Toronto.
The Bruins still have the worst penalty kill in the NHL but it took a step forward tonight. They killed a Minnesota power play that started less than a minute into the game and went 3-for-3 for the duration of the contest. Brad Marchand made it 1-0 Boston at 5:30 when he wrapped around the net and beat Devan Dubnyk (34 saves) after Brett Connolly's shot from the slot had missed the net. It was Marchand's seventh goal of the season.
Boston showed some toughness (something which has been rare for them this season) as Matt Beleskey fought Brett Bulmer four seconds after Marchand's goal. Apparently it was a spur of the moment thing because Bulmer is a nobody who was just playing in his second NHL game of the year. Ryan Spooner had a great chance on a 2-on-1 late in the frame but his shot hit the crossbar.
The Bruins had a two-man advantage for 1:16 but they weren't able to convert as Dubnyk made a couple great saves. Jason Zucker tied it at 5:12 of the second period after Gustavsson gave him a juicy rebound. Mikko Koivu and Nino Niederreiter assisted on Zucker's sixth goal of the season. Rookie Frank Vatrano got crushed along the boards by Minnesota defenseman Nate Prosser, he went to the dressing room and never returned because of he suffered a concussion (no word on the severity).
Loui's hat trick was the first for a Bruin since David Krejci's in 2014 (March 4, 2014 vs. Tim Thomas and Florida) and the fastest since Brad Boyes in 2006 (March 18 vs. Carolina). The Swede got it started when his centering pass to Connolly at 7:37 went off a Wild skate and in the net. Krejci and McQuaid assisted on Eriksson's seventh goal of the season. For a guy that's not particularly big or strong, Eriksson does a nice job of going to the net and using his hands to score many goals. He struck on the power play (Boston's PP remains No. 1 in the NHL) in that fashion at 11:21, assisted by Patrice Bergeron and Torey Krug.
The Wild were playing in the final game of a four-game road trip without their star Zach Parise but they showed some heart by cutting it to 3-2 at 13:37 of the second. Jordan Schroeder tipped Ryan Suter's wrist shot from the point with the other assist going to Ryan Carter. One crazy note on Suter: he leads the NHL in ice time and he played 32:36 (32 shifts!) tonight. He must be a cyborg, that's not human.
Eriksson finished the hat trick at 4:14 of the third period with a one-timer from Krejci and Beleskey. Ironically, he and Tyler Seguin have the same amount of hat tricks at the Garden in 2015-16. For two teams that rarely see each other, there was some nastiness particularly at the end when Colin Miller got a game misconduct after a large scrum. After the final whistle, Zucker had to be helped off following a seemingly innocent tap by Beleskey behind his knee. I have no idea if he typically embellishes stuff but you would have thought that he broke his leg or something, very strange scene.
Not that it should matter since the Maple Leafs are still one of the worst teams in the league but Toronto is at Carolina (6-10-2) tomorrow night before coming to Boston. I've said it before and it hasn't happened thus far but this little stretch here before Thanksgiving is a perfect time for the B's to put a win streak together. We shall see, the first part is to win back-to-back games at home-a simple task which they haven't successfully completed yet this season.
Tuesday, November 17, 2015
At a certain point after watching a team win a game then lose the next one almost every time in the same season, you start to think that maybe said team isn't particularly good. Rather than focusing on what they could or should be, maybe you have to conclude that as currently constructed, that's who they are. Enter your 2015-16 Boston Bruins. Coming off a nice win over the Red Wings on Saturday, the B's (8-8-1) were their own worst enemy in a 5-4 loss to the Sharks (10-8-0) tonight at TD Garden.
It was 2-2 after the first period and Boston even led 3-2 early in the second before they allowed three straight goals by San Jose (including 2 on the power play) to take control. Patrice Bergeron gave the Bruins and their fans some hope in the third with Boston's second power-play goal of the game (his 7th goal of the season) cut it to 5-4 at 6:28 but they couldn't complete the comeback against Martin Jones (25 saves) who was a Bruin for five days over the summer before being traded to the Sharks.
Boston's top-ranked power-play can't mask the fact that their penalty kill is atrocious (No. 30 in the NHL). San Jose's power play was No. 28 entering this contest but you wouldn't know it by the way that they took advantage of the Bruins' stupid mistakes and sloppy all-around play. Tuukka Rask (23 saves) still can't figure things out at the Garden this season and the Sharks jumped ahead 42 seconds into the game. Joe Pavelski put in a rebound from Melker Karlsson and Thornton for his team-leading 10th goal of the season.
The Bruins tied it less than nine minutes later as Tyler Randell tipped in Dennis Seidenberg's shot from the point at 9:20 for his third goal of the season. Boston's first power-play was successful as Brad Marchand banked a backhander off one of Jones' leg pads at 11:50. Marchand's sixth goal of the season was assisted by Zdeno Chara and Brett Connolly. My man Joonas Donskoi had Paul Martin's harmless shot from the sideboards bounce off him and in at 15:18 to tie it at two apiece.
The B's had one last lead, 3-2 at 1:53 of the second period thanks to Loui Eriksson's one-timer (his sixth goal of the season) from David Krejci and Seidenberg. Karlsson's one-timer at 5:56 (his 2nd goal of the season) from Thornton and Pavelski tied it at three then San Jose's power-play took advantage of a too many men on the ice penalty on Boston and tripping on Ryan Spooner. Patrick Marleau notched his 999th career NHL point with a power-play tally at 8:56 when he knocked in a rebound for his sixth goal of the season, assisted by Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Brent Burns. The wheels started to fall off for Boston when Thornton (who's not exactly known for his shooting ability) hammered in a one-timer at 9:21 from Pavelski and Burns for his third goal of the season.
There are two more chances for the Black and Gold to get things straightened out on home ice this week where they are 2-6-1 this season. They host the Wild (10-4-3) on Thursday (7, NESN) and Maple Leafs (6-9-4) on Saturday (7, NESN). Minnesota is a good team but with star center Zach Parise out with a knee injury, they predictably aren't the same. Toronto is still a dumpster fire so there is no excuse to ever lose to that clownshow franchise.
Saturday, November 14, 2015
The Bruins were long overdue for another win at TD Garden, since their only one of the season came back on October 27 vs. Arizona (a 6-0 blowout). Detroit (8-8-1) had lost to San Jose 3-2 on Friday night in Motown then flew here late last night. They played like a team that was in the second half of a back-to-back as Boston (8-7-1) built a 3-0 lead in the second period and held on for a satisfying 3-1 victory.
The Red Wings only managed five shots on goal in the first period and eight in the second before Justin Abdelkader's power-play goal at 6:37 of the third period breathed some life into them. See, he was totally worth that insane seven-year deal! Tuukka Rask (22 saves) earned the No. 1 star of the game and he looked like himself, something which has rarely been this case so far this season at the Garden. Boston dominated in the first period with nothing to show for it but the second was their best frame at home this season and possibly overall as well.
It was the first time in nine games that Boston's top-ranked power-play didn't score a goal but that's not a bad thing since they'll need to be stronger 5-on-5 to get anywhere notable. Patrice Bergeron made it 1-0 at 7:18 of the first period by following up his own rebound and tapping it in. Red Wings goaltender Petr Mrazek (28 saves) stopped the inital shot but lost track of the puck which hilariously looped over him. Bergeron's sixth goal of the season was assisted by Matt Beleskey and Zdeno Chara.
David Krejci had slowed down a bit from his torrid start but he reminded us of how great he is with a slick move to cut around Detroit defenseman Jakub Kindl then shoot against the grain while Mrazek slid the other way at 11:10. His team-leading eighth goal of the season (he has points in 12 of 16 games) was assisted by Loui Eriksson and Zach Trotman (1st assist of the season).
Torey Krug surprisingly hadn't scored a goal in 2015-16, that is until tonight. You know that had to be extra enjoyable for the Michigan State alum and Michigan native. He was the recipient of a pretty backhand feed by Brad Marchand, that came on a 2-on-1 at 17:00 with Kevan Miller picking up the second assist. Detroit has made the playoffs in 24 straight seasons which is incredible but this might be the year that it finally ends because they are very average (for them).
Boston has three more games left on the this season-high five-game homestand so performances like this are just what Dr. Claude ordered. They host the Sharks (9-8-0) on Tuesday (7, NESN) as Joe Thornton returns to Boston for the millionth time. Patrick Marleau is reportedly on the trade block so the B's could get an up close look at a very good veteran winger who would certainly help their offense (when it inevitably slows down from this overachieving pace).
Thursday, November 12, 2015
I wish I had an explanation for Boston's mind-numbing woes at TD Garden this season (1-5-1) while they have looked like a really good team on the road (6-2-0). Their puzzling play continued tonight as they began a crucial five-game homestand (their longest of the 2015-16) against Colorado (6-9-1) who has been one of the worst teams in the NHL. Boston (7-7-1) jumped out to a 2-0 lead just 5:51 into the contest then proceeded to cough that up then never come back as they lost 3-2.
This was supposed to be a positive night for the B's as veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg made his unexpected debut and actually looked like himself (15:34, game-high 6 hits, 2 blocked shots) for the most part. Tyler Randell stood up for his new teammate after Cody McLeod took a run at Seidenberg, they fought at 7:34 of the first period. There was no excuse for Boston to lose, given the two-goal lead and the fact that the Avalanche lost arguably their best player-captain Gabriel Landeskog at 5:46 of the second period after an illegal hit to the head (of Brad Marchand) that resulted in a match penalty (it'll be reviewed by the NHL's player safety committee). For someone that had a concussion earlier this season, Marchand was lucky to have escaped seemingly alright (granted, who knows).
Zdeno Chara gave the Bruins a 1-0 lead at 1:12 as Reto Berra (25 saves) was flopping in his crease and Boston's captain was able to blast a shot from the point for his second goal of the season. It was called a goal on the ice and stood up to a review, Matt Beleskey and Brett Connolly had the assists and the former was judged not to have interfered with Berra. It looked like it'd be an easy night for the home team as Ryan Spooner scored a power-play goal at 5:51, Boston's top-ranked power-play came through for the eighth straight game (their longest streak since Dec. 2006). Patrice Bergeron assisted on Spooner's fourth goal of the season, a simple tap in with Berra down and out of position yet again.
Former Bruin Carl Soderberg cashed in this summer with a crazy deal from the Avalanche and while he predictably hasn't lived up to that so far, he cut it to 2-1 Bruins at 12:08 with one of the best shots that I can ever remember him taking. He went top shelf on Tuukka Rask (27 saves) for his second goal of the season, assisted by Blake Comeau and Jarome Iginla (another former Bruin that they miss). A lucky bounce went Colorado's way late in the first period as Francois Beauchemin's shot from the point took a huge deflection off Joonas Kemppainen that changed it from a fastball to a knuckleball. Rask couldn't glove it and Beauchemin's second goal of the season tied the game, assisted by Erik Johnson and Matt Duchene.
Boston didn't do much offensively the rest of the way to test Berra. Duchene was the subject of trade rumors on the interweb today but he didn't seem to be affected at all by them. He scored the go-ahead goal at 6:49 of the third period. His seventh tally of the season was assisted by Mikhail Grigorenko but it might as well have been credited to Kevan Miller who gave the puck away in his own end (that seems to happen to him every game in Boston). He has played in all 15 games this season so it is time for him to take a seat especially since Zach Trotman and Joe Morrow were both healthy scratches this evening.
Detroit (8-6-1) hosts San Jose (7-8-0) tomorrow night before the Red Wings travel to Boston for Saturday night's game (7, NESN), meaning they should get in late tomorrow night. The Original Six and Atlantic Division rivals are right on the same level and only two points apart so even though it is still early, that game will mean more than most in mid-November. Regardless of the opponent, the B's have to find a way to play better at the Garden more consistently or else they'll be no better than .500 this season and potentially out of the playoffs for the second year in a row.
Tuesday, November 3, 2015
For the way that the breakup went down and how he's thrived since then in Dallas, Tyler Seguin will always be that special ex you inevitably think about from time to time. It's doubtful given Boston's system that he would be the MVP candidate here that he's been with the Stars but then again, with that much talent you have to think that he would have figured it out at some point with the Bruins. Giving up on him after two years in the NHL was a big risk that didn't pay off for Boston. Of course, this is all a moot point since he's long gone and former GM Peter Chiarelli who pulled the trigger on that fateful deal is now in Edmonton.
Bruins fans got their yearly reminder of what they are missing as Seguin scored a hat trick (7th of his career, 6th with Dallas) as the Stars (10-3-0) beat the Bruins (6-4-1) 5-3 tonight at TD Garden. Boston's seven-game point streak (6-0-1) and four-game win streak was snapped as they continue to play hideous hockey (1-4-1) at home. They have the third worst home record in the NHL, tied with Colorado and only better than Calgary (1-5-0) and Columbus (0-5-0). Similarly, goaltender Tuukka Rask (3-4-1) continues to be a puddle here. Seguin (8 goals, 12 assists) is now tied with his linemate Jamie Benn (10 goals, 10 assists) for the NHL points lead. Backup goaltender Kari Lehtonen (4-1-0) made 36 saves as Boston outshot Dallas 39-19.
The game began on a grim note as Boston center Chris Kelly broke his femur on a fluke play (3 seconds into his first shift of the night) when his skate got stuck in the ice and his leg got twisted awkwardly. He went straight to Mass General Hospital and will have surgery tomorrow, he's expected to miss six-to-eight months which likely signals the end of his Bruins career (he's a free agent next summer). He's been bashed for years since his contract from Chiarelli was way too much money but he's been a solid player and a really good leader. His veteran presence will be missed by the B's along with all the little things that he does (kill penalties, win faceoffs, block shots, etc.).
Seguin opened the scoring at 5:46 with a sick shot through helpless Kevan Miller's legs. Jason Spezza and Jamie Benn assisted on Seguin's sixth goal of the season (also his 300th career NHL point). Bruins rookie defenseman Colin Miller recorded his own milestone with his first career NHL goal at 7:14. A blast from the point, assisted by Torey Krug and Jimmy Hayes. Boston's top-ranked power play gave them their only lead late in the first period. Loui Eriksson (part of the Seguin deal on July 4, 2013) put in a rebound at 19:35. Torey Krug and Patrice Bergeron assisted on his third goal of the season. You wish that Boston had gotten way more in that trade but at least now, we can agree that Eriksson is a dependable contributer.
Brad Marchand (the NHL's first star of the week) was stopped on a shorthanded breakaway early in the second then Dallas cashed in on a subsequent power play. Seguin scored on a one-timer from John Klingberg and Jamie Benn at 4:37, six seconds after the hooking call on Brett Connolly. The Stars took the lead at 17:18 on rookie defenseman Jyrki Jokipakka's first career NHL goal. His shot from the point through traffic beat Rask, assisted by Valeri Nichushkin and Jordie Benn.
Seguin finished the hat trick at 1:18 on another power play. Krug put the puck over the glass in his own end and 12 seconds later, his former teammate buried another one-timer from the slot. Spezza and Klingberg had the assists. The Stars put it out of reach at 9:13 with their third power play goal (most allowed by Boston since Jan. 4, 2014 vs. Anaheim). Defenseman Alex Goligoski skated in unimpeded for a backhander top-shelf on Rask. Mattias Janmark and Colton Sceviour had the helpers on his first goal of the season.
For window dressing, Eriksson added his second goal in garbage time. Ryan Spooner hit him with a pretty cross-ice feed at 17:45 that cut it to 5-3 Dallas. The Bruins pulled Rask for the extra skater and used their timeout but it didn't matter. They hadn't played since Saturday and they lost to a team that was at Toronto last night (and lost). Ugh. Things won't get any easier for the B's as they are away for three games in four nights later this week: at Washington (8-3-0) on Thursday (7, NESN), at Montreal (11-2-1) on Saturday (7, NESN) and at the Islanders (7-3-3) on Sunday (5, NESN). It's hard to imagine that Boston's spotless road record (5-0-0) will survive that gauntlet of a road trip through the Eastern Conference's iron.
Tuesday, October 27, 2015
There are times in every professional sports regular season where one team has a distinct advantage in terms of rest and travel against their opponent. The key is to use those to your advantage and make the most out of them since everyone faces an impossible schedule at some point. Arizona (5-4-1) is an up-and-coming young team that is off to a surprisingly decent start to the 2015-16. However, they limped into TD Garden tonight at the tail-end (no pun intended) of a five-game road trip with their third game in four nights. Boston (4-3-1) had been off since Friday so you can guess the result: a 6-0 Bruins victory that was competitive for almost two periods before the Coyotes completely folded.
The win was extra meaningful for the B's for a couple notable reasons: first of all, they finally got their first win at home out of the way after starting 0-3-1 here. Additionally, Tuukka Rask (2-3-1; 24 saves) picked up his first shutout of the season and 27th of his career. David Krejci (2 goals) extended his NHL points lead and also built upon his point-streak to eight games, the most for a Bruin since 1992-93 (when Joe Juneau and Dmitri Kvartalnov went 14 games with a point to start the year).
Boston continued to get help from some unlikely sources: five different players had goals and 11 notched points. Jimmy Hayes led the way with three points (1 goal, 2 assists) while Loui Eriksson (2 assists), Matt Beleskey (2 assists) and Brad Marchand (1 goal, 1 assists) all had multiple points. Krejci started the fun with a beautiful goal at 17:22 of the first period. He skated in with Connolly on a 2-on-1 and you expected him to pass it but at the last second he instead chose to roof it over Mike Smith's (21 saves) shoulder. Eriksson and Krug assisted on his six goal of the season.
Hayes doubled Boston's lead at 6:51 of the second period when he knocked in a rebound. Beleskey and Ryan Spooner assisted on the Dorchester native's third goal of the season. You felt like the Bruins had this one in their skate bag when Joe Morrow of all people walked over the blue line and beat Smith with a beautiful shot. It was only his second career NHL goal, assisted by Beleskey at 17:29.
Connolly scored a goal for the third straight game at 10:22, a pea to the far corner on Smith's blocker side. Marchand and Bergeron assisted on his third goal of the season. Bozos John Scott (how the hell is he still in the NHL?) and Steve Downie had seen enough so they both got game-misconducts with 8:48 left in regulation. Boston's top-ranked power-play was able to cash in for its first power-play goal of the night (they were 1-for-4) as Brad Marchand put one by Smith who didn't seem to even know where it was headed. Colin Miller and Hayes assisted on Marchand's second goal of the season. Krejci fittingly put the bow on top with a garbage time tally with 38 seconds left in this laugher. Smith was still in there for some reason while Hayes and Eriksson padded their stats with another helper.
The B's get another break as they don't play again until Friday (7:30, NESN) in Florida (4-3-1). They are at Tampa Bay (5-3-2) the next night (7, NESN) on Halloween against one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. That Florida trip used to be an automatic six points but not so much anymore since the Panthers are a legit playoff contender now too. Jaromir Jagr left Florida's game tonight with a lower-body injury so let's hope the league's oldest player is healthy enough to return by then against one of his countless former teams.
Saturday, October 24, 2015
If you are trying to make sense of the Bruins through the first seven games of this season, don't bother because it'll only give you an ice cream headache. Boston (3-3-1) won 5-3 tonight at Barclays Center against the Islanders (4-2-1) who are supposed to be one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. The B's improved to 3-0 on the road while backup goaltender Jonas Gustavsson (23 saves) earned his second win in as many starts. Haha trade Tuukka! (Just kidding of course).
What's more strange is that head coach Claude Julien shuffled up the forward lines for once and they paid immediate dividends as Ryan Spooner (1 goal, 1 assist) and rookie Joonas Kemppainen (1 goal, 1 assist) each had two points on the rejiggered fourth line. Another good sign for Boston is that they rallied from down 2-1 in the first period (when it could have been worse since they were outshot 18-8) but recovered to go ahead in the second period and then continued to build on that in the third period before New York scored in garbage time.
Brett Connolly opened the scoring with his second goal of the season and in as many contests. He actually beat Islanders superstar John Tavares to a loose puck and slammed in the rebound at 9:51 of the first. Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron had the assists on their temporary linemate's tally (Matt Beleskey remained out with an upper-body injury). Marchand took a needless hooking penalty and New York cashed in on the power-play as Josh Bailey put in a rebound of his own at 14:08. Tavares and Ryan Strome had the assists on Bailey's third goal of the season.
A crazy sequence began at 15:27 when Casey Cizikas tipped in Johnny Boychuk's pass by Gustavsson for what turned out to be New York's only lead, 2-1. Matt Martin had the other assist on Cizikas' goal and after the play, he dropped the gloves with Adam McQuaid. This is where I'm supposed to bitch about fighting having no place in today's NHL but I'd say that it at least settled down the frazzled Bruins who had allowed two goals in 1:19.
Kemppainen fittingly was rewarded with his first NHL goal after some excellent backchecking caused a Bruins-style turnover in New York's end. Jaroslav Halak (21 saves) stopped Spooner's initial shot but the big Finn was there to score on the second chance at 16:13 of the second period. That turned things in Boston's favor as David Pastrnak made it 3-2 Bruins 2:03 after it. He showed off his creativity and impressive skills by kicking the puck with his skate to his stick where he shot it into the corner through traffic. Loui Eriksson had the lone assist on Pastrnak's second goal of the season (his 1st since Opening Night).
Spooner has often been in Julien's doghouse the last two seasons so it was nice to see him get a bounce to go his way rather than the opposite unintended consequence. He had a clear lane at Halak with his backhand but he chose to pass it to a trailing Kemppainen. The puck went off an Islanders' skate and into the net at 8:09 of the third period. Halak was pulled for an extra attacker with nearly three minutes left in regulation (why not?) but Krejci potted an empty-netter for his league-leading 12th point (5 goals, 7 assists). He has a point in every game so far in 2015-16. Eriksson and McQuaid had the helpers.
The Bruins get a couple days to relax in Boston before they host Arizona (3-3-1) on Tuesday (7, NESN) at TD Garden. The B's beat the Coyotes 5-3 last Saturday in Glendale, AZ. Since winning their first three games of the season, Arizona has predictably dropped its last four. Additionally, they are in Ottawa (3-2-2) tomorrow night and Toronto (1-3-2) on Monday so Boston is the last stop on a six-game road trip. In other words, they should be exhausted and the Bruins have no excuse but to beat them and pick up their first long overdue home win.
Wednesday, October 21, 2015
After dropping their first three games of the season-all at TD Garden-in humiliating fashion, the Bruins found some life on the road with a pair of wins in Colorado and Arizona last week. Boston (2-3-1) returned home to face the Flyers (3-2-1) who lost 2-1 to Dallas (5-1-0) in Philadelphia last night. For whatever reason, the B's continue to struggle at the Garden as they choked away another two-goal lead (this time in the third period) and fell 5-4 in overtime on Claude Giroux's power-play strike.
Once again, Boston's defense was a mess and Tuukka Rask (32 saves) didn't exactly help matters as he gave up another soft goal. He's allowed 19 goals in his first four starts at the Garden this season. Former Flyer Zac Rinaldo is likely headed for a suspension as he predictably took a run at an old teammate-Sean Couturier-and was called for charging with a game misconduct at the end of the first period. You could argue that it was a clean hit (something that he kept repeating in the dressing room after the game like he was Marshawn Lynch) but this seems to be a case of a bad reputation catching up to a dirty player. I'll never understand why the Bruins traded a third-round pick for this clown and actually thought that he'd change (he's been suspended three times in his NHL career).
The Flyers jumped ahead 1-0 at 9:28 as Canadiens wannabe Pierre-Edouard Bellemare poked in a rebound that Rask dropped right at his skates. Michal Neuvirth returned the favor as he allowed a rebound right to Brett Connolly at 13:28 for a goal after Patrice Bergeron took the initial shot. Connolly's first goal of the season was also assisted by Brad Marchand. Sam Gagner caught Boston on a bad line change and he used Kevan Miller's screen to beat Rask at 15:04. Believe it or not, the Bruins currently have the best power play in the NHL and once again, it came through as Bergeron batted a puck out of mid-air at 17:24 on the man-advantage. Loui Eriksson and David Krejci (who leads the NHL with 11 points) had the assists on Papa Bergeron's fourth goal of the season (his wife had their first child, a boy named Zack earlier in the day).
Neuvirth must have tweaked something on Bergeron's goal because Steve Mason replaced him to start the second period. Mason initially looked like a goaltender who had started last night and expected to have tonight off. Boston killed Rinaldo's five-minute penalty and also scored another special teams goal, this time a shorthanded goal that went off Chris Kelly's skate at 4:31. His second goal of the season was assisted by Eriksson and Zdeno Chara. The Bruins doubled the lead at 8:49 as BC's Jimmy Hayes scored his first goal on his new home ice (2nd of the season). He beat Mason shortside on a shot that many good high schoolers would have stopped, Krejci had the lone assist.
Everything was lined up for Boston to pick up its first home win and ditto for Rask. Instead, they suffered another terrible meltdown. David Pastrnak appeared to make it 5-2 with a one-timer but Mason stopped him with one of the best saves that you'll see all year (his glove snagged it right before it went totally over the line, or so said the replay officials). Giroux cut it to 4-3 at 7:48 after Kevan Miller coughed the puck up behind his net and Jakub Voracek fed him in front for an easy goal. Wayne Simmonds tied it less than three minutes later with a laser over Rask's shoulder into the far corner.
Ryan Spooner was called for hooking in overtime and even before that, you had a feeling that this wouldn't end well for Boston. Sure enough, Philadelphia's stars got it done as Giroux one-timed a pass from Mark Streit (3 assists) and Voracek. A loss is a loss and Boston got the cheap point out of it but make no mistake, this was extremely bitter for the Black and Gold. There is no reason that they should have fallen apart like that to an overmatched opponent like the Flyers (given their injuries and that they had played a good team the night before).
The B's head out on the road again, three of their last four games in October are all away from the Garden which is probably a good thing. They make their first trip to see the Barclays Center on Friday (7:30, NESN) to play the Islanders (4-1-1) who look like one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. Boston returns home to meet the Coyotes (3-2-1) on Tuesday (7, NESN) before they spend Halloween weekend in Florida: at Panthers (3-2-1) on October 30 (7:30, NESN) and at Lightning (4-2-1) on Halloween (7, NESN).
Thursday, October 15, 2015
It is only one game so while I'm not quite ready to get the Duck Boats ready for the Bruins next summer, you have to admit that facing a must-win in game 4 of 2015-16, they responded just how you'd want them to: with a resounding 6-2 blowout victory tonight at Pepsi Center vs. Colorado (1-2-0). Boston (1-3-0) had six different goal-scorers (including Tyler Randell in his NHL debut) while former BC star Tommy Cross also made his first appearance in the NHL. It'll take some time to erase their pitiful start to this campaign and conveniently this started at 10 pm here so probably many fans didn't catch all that much of it. Regardless, this was a huge step in the right direction for the Black and Gold.
Speaking of the Heights, Cross' old college roommate Jimmy Hayes (1 goal, 3 assists) finally showed up in a big way with a career-high four points. Also, backup goaltender Jonas Gustavsson (20 saves) won his first start as a Bruin. The Avalanche looked like the Bruins of last week: disorganized, uninspired and full of mistakes. This was never really that competitive as Boston got out to a 2-0 lead in the first and 5-0 advantage in the second before Colorado scored the first of two shaky goals. No matter, the B's played so well for the first two frames that for a change, nobody will remember those brief lapses (aside from the coaches of course).
The Bruins jumped out to a 2-0 lead on the Lightning on Monday and we all know how that turned out. This was a change for the better since they basically put the Avs away before they could have a chance to respond. Kevan Miller made it 1-0 (his 1st goal of the season) at 5:49 of the first period with a blast from the point that went bar down on Semyon Varlamov. Brett Connolly had missed the net on a gorgeous feed from David Krejci but at least he tracked down the puck and gave it to Zdeno Chara who passed to Miller. Just 2:22 after that, Hayes was on the doorstep to put in a rebound. His first goal as a Bruin was assisted by Chara and Colin Miller.
The second period had been a major issue (like so many other aspects of their whole operation) in the first three games but Boston at least temporarily cleaned that up this evening. Randell tipped in Adam McQuaid's shot from the point at 3:46. The third line continued to gel as Chris Kelly finished a passing sequence with his linemates Ryan Spooner and Hayes after the latter had picked off the puck on a poor clearing attempt by Tyson Barrie. You know that things are going well when Kelly is scoring highlight-reel backhander goals. Spooner turned it into a laugher at 15:32 with a one-timer that beat Varlamov high and forced him to get pulled in favor of the immortal Reto Berra.
David Pastrnak got nabbed for a high-sticking double-minor and the Avalanche received another gift as Chara accidentally poked the puck in at 18:31 when he tried to take it away from Gabriel Landeskog. One of Colorado's fine young players (he's only 22), that was Landeskog's fourth goal of the season (not that he had to do much to get it). Gustavsson wasn't tested much besides an Avalanche power-play right at the beginning of the game but their second goal represented his only real mistake. He let a weak shot by John Mitchell (his 3rd goal of the season) beat him at 11:20 of the third period but no matter. Head coach Patrick Roy took Berra out with over three minutes left in regulation (as he likes to do) and Hayes assisted on Krejci's empty-netter at 18:31.
Normally I would completely dismiss the Coyotes (3-0-0), Boston's next opponent on Saturday night (10, NESN), but they have gotten off to a surprisingly great start to the season. Tonight, they blanked the Ducks (0-2-1) 4-0 thanks to rookie Anthony Duclair's 1st NHL hat trick. It's only a two-game road trip so the Bruins would like nothing more than to return home that much stronger with a pair of wins. Tuukka Rask will be back in net and hopefully his teammates can use the confidence they must have gained tonight as a springboard to put that awful start behind them as soon as possible.
Monday, October 12, 2015
The week to forget continued for the Bruins as they welcomed another top club to TD Garden this afternoon and limped away with an eerily similar loss. Tampa Bay (3-0) looked the part of defending Eastern Conference champions as they rallied from an early 2-0 deficit and fought off three power-play goals by Boston (0-3) to post a 6-3 victory on Columbus Day. This is the worst start for the Bruins since 1999-2000 and the 16 goals allowed in these three defeats is their most in 50 years.
It all started so well too as David Krejci (1 goals, 2 assists) scored on a power-play at 2:59 from Torey Krug (3 assists) and Patrice Bergeron. Loui Eriksson doubled Boston's lead after a tap-in at 11:02, another power-play strike that was preceded by slick passing from Krug and Krejci. Former BC star and Hingham native Brian Boyle cut it to 2-1 at 15:42 after the big man was somehow allowed to skate in the slot unimpeded than rip a wrist shot over Tuukka Rask (17 saves). It's been a shaky start for Rask and you can't blame all his troubles on the crappy defensemen in front of him. Ondrej Palat tied it at 16:52 with a weak shot that squeaked through Rask's pads.
David Pastrnak has been one of Boston's lone bright spots to this dark period but he looked like a child when Boyle came barreling through the neutral zone and bounced off him without breaking his slow stride. Boyle went in on a breakaway and scored on a backhander, four seconds after Tampa Bay had killed a Bruins power-play. Ben Bishop (27 saves) is another top goaltender in the NHL and he had an uneven performance although his acting ability led to a pair of goaltender interference penalties called on the B's. Eriksson added another power-play tally at 12:20 by deftly tipping in Krejci's shot with Krug getting another helper.
Tampa Bay ended Boston's 10-game winning streak vs. Lightning at TD Garden, this was their first road win here since March 25, 2010. Steven Stamkos was able to exorcise some personal demons as well since this was the rink where he gruesomely broke his leg two years ago. He picked up his 500th career point with his patented one-timer rocket at 15:17. Zdeno Chara returned today (Matt Irwin was rightfully sent to Providence after he cleared waivers) while Brad Marchand was out with a concussion but Boston couldn't muster another comeback in the third period. As good teams usually do, some fluky goals went the Lightning's way as Rask gave up a horrible goal to Jonathan Drouin at 5:38 and Valtteri Filppula sent most of the fans home early with a goal off his skate at 15:58 (it looked like he kicked it but it stood after a review).
For a team with so many problems, perhaps the best thing for the Bruins to do is get out of the area for awhile and try to regroup. They are at Colorado (1-1-0) on Wednesday (10, NESN) and Arizona (2-0) on Saturday (10, NESN). Their next home game isn't until a week from Wednesday against equally terrible Philly (0-1-1). Needless to say, for head coach Claude Julien's job security and numerous players, the B's need points starting as soon as possible.
Saturday, October 10, 2015
Another game and another humbling defeat by the Bruins. All we can hope is that this isn't an omen for how things are going to go for the bulk of the 2015-16 season. Montreal (2-0) came to TD Garden on Saturday night and topped the B's (0-2) 4-2 in a contest that truthfully wasn't that close since Boston scored with 31 seconds left to make the final score appear a little less grotesque. Boston has started 0-2 just 13 times in their 91 years of existence, most recently in 2005-06. 0-3 is certainly a distinct possibility since the defending Eastern Conference champs-the Lightning (2-0)-pay them a visit on Monday afternoon (1, NESN).
First things first, the best rivalry in hockey has become very one-sided over the last few years. Montreal has won seven games in a row in Boston (dating back to Jan. 12, 2012) and six overall in the series that has seen the most meetings (730) of any NHL matchup. Tonight was more of the same as the Canadiens used their spectacular team speed and skill to draw six power-plays. They only cashed in on one of them (the first) but for whatever reason, the B's under head coach Claude Julien never seem to have an answer for this style for the most part. Boston's plodding and lack of creativity never looks as bad as it does when they face the Habs, every time it sticks out like a sore thumb.
It didn't take long for Montreal to jump ahead as they drew a bogus illegal check to the head penalty on Matt Beleskey at 1:14 then 11 seconds later, David Desharnais had an easy tap-in from Andrei Markov and Alex Galchenyuk. Boston should have had at least a goal or two later in the first as Torey Krug hit the post, Carey Price (20 saves) robbed David Pastrnak not once but twice on the doorstep and Brad Marchand hit the crossbar.
Lars Eller scored a pair of goals early in the second period, sandwiched around what should have been a goal by Joe Morrow that cut it to 2-1. Instead, the Canadiens basically clinched it by going up 3-0. With Boston's lack of goal-scoring against Price-the Vezina Trophy winner-that is an insurmountable lead in most instances. Morrow's goal was off a rebound but it was ruled no goal since Patrice Bergeron slightly bumped Price (because he was pushed by a Canadien). Julien used the new coach's challenge but still lost (thereby forgoing the timeout) even though it appeared to be an easy correction.
A bounce finally went the Bruins' way as Matt Beleskey's centering pass went off a Montreal skate past Price at 14:26 of the second to make it 3-1. The first goal of his Boston career was assisted by David Krejci and Pastrnak. Mild-mannered Ryan Spooner received a boarding and game misconduct penalty for a hit from behind at 3:30 of the third. Boston was able to kill a two-man advantage for Montreal that lasted 1:05. Dale Weiss hit the post but more importantly to Boston's season, Marchand jumped into his elbow (this is how it happened) and ended up very woozy (he went right to the dressing room and never returned). Tomas Plekanec scored an empty-net goal for his 500th career NHL point and Bergeron scored a power play goal in garbage time after Torrey Mitchell got a match penalty.
Julien made two lineup changes coming into this contest with Max Talbot and Colin Miller (playing in his first NHL game) taking the place of Joonas Kemppainen and Zach Trotman. Talbot's only stat was one hit in 12:18 of ice time so it's hard to quantify any contributions he might have made. Miller had a shot on goal and blocked a shot in 16:13. Claude was happy with his performance so I see no reason why he would be switched out on Monday, why not take Matt Irwin (-2) out and replace him with Trotman? I know that messes up the whole left shot/right shot thing but at this point, do the B's really have to worry about secondary stuff like that? How about the best players play while the scrubs take a seat or better yet, go to Providence or get waived.
Call me crazy but at some point, things will click for the Bruins this season and they will look like the playoff contender that most thought they could be, right? We knew it would be bumpy with Zdeno Chara (still no need to rush him back) and Dennis Seidenberg but these first two games have been downright ugly. Julien is probably coaching for his job and you'd like to see him get a fair shake with a legitimate defensive corps, not this slop. Nobody looks good when your team has this many holes already, Tuukka Rask (34 saves) says hello. One of their major downfalls last season, Boston lacked a real identity and they sure don't have a positive one so far this young season.
Thursday, October 8, 2015
With their top two defensemen (Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg) sidelined for the start of the season, the Bruins' most glaring weakness became even more bleak. Their 6-2 loss to Winnipeg tonight at TD Garden will only increase the panic for Boston fans with high-octane Montreal (on Saturday night) and Tampa Bay (on Monday afternoon) coming to town this Columbus Day long weekend. Would you believe that the B's actually led 1-0 after a pretty decent first period?
Yeah, it was all downhill from there as the Jets outscored them 3-0 and scored three more in the third after Boston briefly cut it to 3-2. Tuukka Rask (26 saves) wasn't at fault so much as his awful defense which time and again let him down. Conversely, Boston generated plenty of scoring chances but couldn't finish (a huge problem last season) and therefore made Ondrej Pavelec (29 saves) look like a quality NHL goaltender which is not the easiest thing in the world to do.
Things began on a good note for the home team as David Krejci scored just 5:36 into the first. David Pastrnak stole the puck behind Winnipeg's net then passed to Krejci (with the help of a Jets' skate) and he calmly finished on his backhand. The goal was determined to be unassisted but I thought Pastrnak should have gotten credit for his hard work, oh well. The Jets tied it at 5:26 of the second period on a one-timer by Mark Scheifele from Dustin Byfuglien. Matt Irwin did not have a good debut for the Bruins as he was stripped of the puck leading directly to Winnipeg's second goal by Blake Wheeler (his one-timer was assisted by Andrew Ladd) at 9:17. The Jets punctuated a strong frame with tic-tac-toe passing that ended with a goal by former Sabre Drew Stafford, assisted by Adam Lowry and Ben Chiarot at 17:39.
To Boston's credit they came out with some energy to start the third and were quickly rewarded as David Pastrnak scored on a sweet wrist shot that beat Pavelec up high from a tight angle. Matt Beleskey (his 1st point as a Bruin) and Kevan Miller had the helpers on what was the first of hopefully many goals by the young Czech winger. As fast as you could say we miss Johnny Boychuk, the Jets put it away with a pair of goals. Irwin got caught up ice leading to a 2-on-1 break for Winnipeg and Chris Thorburn's shot went in Boston's net off of Krejci's stick (similar to an own goal in soccer) at 5:17. If that wasn't ugly enough, rookie Nicolas Petan scored in his first career game when fellow rookie Andrew Copp's pass bounced in off the heel of his skate at 9:51. Burmistrov's empty-netter with 3:38 left in regulation sent the disappointed Bruins fans streaming for the exits.
Montreal kicked off its campaign with a 3-1 win at Toronto last night. They will be well rested and ready to go on Saturday against their bitter rivals that they have owned for the last couple years. If we're being positive, things can't get much worse for the Bruins than they were this evening. Then again, the Canadiens are expected to be one of if not the top team in the Eastern Conference yet again so it could very well be another blowout on Causeway Street on Saturday (7, NESN). Just in case, you better start drinking early this weekend to ease the possible pain.
Monday, September 21, 2015
If the Bills are the biggest threat in the AFC East to the Patriots in 2015, it should be another cakewalk to a meaningless division title. Poor Buffalo (1-1 overall, 1-1 home) was all geared up for the annual Rex Ryan (who is now 4-10 against the Patriots in his career as a head coach) Week 2 Super Bowl vs. New England (2-0 overall, 1-0 away). In fact, the Bills looked the part of a true contender for the opening drive of the game and then in the fourth quarter which was mostly garbage time until they made it interesting in an eventual 40-32 loss at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Tom Brady (38 of 59, 466 yards, 3 TDs), Julian Edelman (11 catches, 97 yards, 2 TDs), Rob Gronkowski (7 catches, 113 yards, 1 TD) and Dion Lewis (98 yards receiving, 40 yards rushing, 1 TD) shredded what is supposedly one of the top defenses in the NFL. Other than Rex Ryan's crazy lack of discipline (14 penalties, 140 yards) and attention to detail, the biggest tangible question surrounding the Bills is whether Tyrod Taylor (23 of 30, 242 yards, 3 TDs, 3 INTs; 43 yards rushing) can be a starting quarterback on a playoff contender. Throwing mostly short yardage passes might work in the regular season against garbage defenses (hi Indy) but that's not how you get to the postseason.
Buffalo received the opening drive and went 80 yards in 10 plays: rookie Karlos Williams capped off the 5-minute drive with a 2-yard touchdown run. New England bounced back with an 8-yard touchdown catch by Edelman. The Pats then took advantage of two very short fields to go ahead 21-7 on Lewis' 6-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter and Gronk's 2-yard touchdown catch early in the second quarter. Former Dolphin Charles Clay's 9-yard touchdown catch cut it to 21-13 but Dan Carpenter missed the extra point. Those were Buffalo's last points until the fourth quarter when the Patriots had expanded their lead to 37-13.
New England's defense combined for eight sacks (their most since 2003) and three interceptions (by Duron Harmon, Logan Ryan and Malcolm Butler). The Bills have much higher paid defensive players like Marcell Dareus and Mario Williams but there was no question that Chandler Jones (6 tackles, 3 sacks) and Jamie Collins (11 tackles, 2.5 sacks) were the most dangerous guys on that side of the ball at least on Sunday. Stephen Gostkowski's 46-yard field goal made it 24-13 heading into halftime for the visitors. LeSean McCoy (89 yards rushing, 27 yards receiving) doesn't seem to be Rex's favored type of physical running back despite his superior talent.
Gostkowski opened the scoring in the third quarter with a 21-yard field goal followed by a 22-yard touchdown catch by Edelman and a 50-yard field goal. After getting blanked in the third, the Bills showed some fight in the fourth on Robert Woods' 32-yard touchdown catch (that went right over Butler's hands). New England outsmarted themselves trying to run up the score when they just could have burned the clock and gotten out of Buffalo smoothly. Instead, they turned it over on downs and the Bills inched closer on Taylor's 7-yard touchdown run then truly made things interesting on a 24-yard touchdown catch by Sammy Watkins (who had burned Bradley Fletcher) following a fumble by Brady.
New England drove 72 yards in seven plays (3:01) and made it 40-32 on Gostkowski's 25-yard field goal with 1:15 remaining. Ryan iced it with his game-ending interception on an overthrow by Taylor. In the first two games this season, Lewis has been a revelation that looks like he'll be a very useful weapon if he can just hang onto the ball (he fumbled for the second week in a row). Today, the pleasant surprise was provided by Aaron Dobson (7 catches, 87 yards) who actually looked like an NFL player. New England only dressed three wide receivers and while Edelman can come close (tying his career-high with 19 targets), they need other guys to turn to once in a while. Danny Amendola had his customary one catch but at least it was a great one: a sweet diving 29-yard grab on the final drive.
So much changes from week to week in the NFL that is really silly to draw any type of conclusions from results between other teams, particularly this early in the season. With that said, the fact that Miami struggled so much in their Week 1 victory at Washington then followed that up with a 23-20 loss at Jacksonville (1-1) this afternoon shows that they seem to be their usual mediocre selves. How is Joe Philbin still employed there? If the Jets (1-0) lose tomorrow night in Indy (0-1) as expected, the Patriots will be up one game already on the rest of the soft AFC East.
New England's Week 3 meeting with the Jaguars next Sunday (1, CBS) has all the makings of a trap game: they are going into a bye week after that and they know that they can sleepwalk and still beat lowly (but improving!) Jacksonville. That's why I can picture the Pats looking terrible but still beating the Jags by a few scores. They always have a game like this, especially early in the regular season when they are getting the kinks out and some useless team (think Oakland last season) comes to Gillette for their beating. Prepare to be frustrated since I know that the Patriots will be double-digit favorites at home.