PBruins Weekend Preview, March 31

A LOOK AHEAD

The Bruins have a great opportunity to collect important points this weekend, taking on three struggling teams – two on home ice.

Friday will see the Albany Devils make their last regular season trip to the Dunkin’ Donuts Center. Albany is a team that has dropped six straight (0-3-1-2), and a team that has failed to score more than one goal in any of those six games.

The Devils haven’t played since losing 5-0 on home ice last Saturday night at the hands of the Bruins. In the thick of the North Division playoff race, expect Albany to come into Providence desperate on Friday night.

On Saturday the Bruins will travel to Springfield to take on the Thunderbirds before returning home to host the Hartford Wolf Pack on Sunday.

WEEK IN REVIEW

Providence took care of business last weekend, sweeping a three-in-three, winning all three games by a combined score of 13-3.

Peter Mueller delivered the game-winning goal on Friday night against the Hartford Wolf Pack, scoring early in the second period to break a 1-1 tie. The Bruins went on to win 3-1, outshooting Hartford 49-24 in the process.

On Saturday, in the team’s last visit to Albany’s Times Union Center, the Bruins exploded for four goals in the second period as part of a 5-0 win over the Devils.  Daniel Vladar earned his first pro shutout, and the team saw five different goal scorers contribute to a dominating effort.  Six players registered two points apiece, and Vladar ultimately turned aside 34 shots to improve his AHL record to 4-0-2.

Sunday’s return to Hartford saw the Bruins erase another early 1-0 deficit, scoring five more goals en route to a 5-2 win over the lowly Wolf Pack. Alex Grant scored a pair, increasing his career high total to 16 goals through 62 games played. He now has 42 points this season, matching his career high total from a year ago.

COACHES CORNER – JAY LEACH

On last weekend: “My takeaway from [last] weekend was how consistently hard we played for each game, which was encouraging. On the road, playing teams that, on paper, you should win against. It was up to us to bring it every game, and we did.”

On having a crowded D corps: “It’s a ‘moving target’ as Kevin Dean would say. You’ve got nine guys and obviously our guys who have played all year will have a good opportunity. And we’ve got some kids who are well regarded in the organization, and they’re going to have to play too.  Hopefully each guy is playing enough to get tuned up for what we hope will be a good playoff run.”

On this weekend: “We’ve got to take Albany.  They’re going to be hungry, they’ve lost some games – their last game was us – and so they’ve been sitting all week on that and it will be a tough one.”

PLAYERS PERSPECTIVE – TOMMY CROSS

On the team’s balance between veterans and rookies: “I think both those groups have guys that play important roles. On any given weekend – on a Friday night it’s the young guys that are pushing us and the rest of the weekend maybe it’s the older guys. We have some bridge guys too, guys who have been here for two or three years, who are carrying their weight too. We’ve been doing it by committee and I think it’s going to continue.”

On avoiding a letdown this weekend: “I think you just look at the standings and realize how tight it is and if you do that, the thought of taking a step backwards shouldn’t even cross your mind. I think all the teams [in the playoff race] are going to keep winning, so the first team to start losing is going to be the team that’s not going to make it. We don’t want that to be us so I think we’ve just got to keep grinding and collecting points.”

Puck drop is at 7:05 on Friday night at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.

===

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PBruins Weekend Preview 3/24

A LOOK AHEAD

The Bruins embark on a rapid-fire road trip this weekend, playing three games in three days, beginning Friday night at 7:15pm at the XL Center in Hartford, CT. The Hartford Wolf Pack have dropped eight straight, and will also host the Bruins Sunday evening at 5:00pm.

Between games in Hartford, the Bruins will square off with the Albany Devils on Saturday at 5:00pm in what will be the last regular season visit to Times Union Center.

WEEK IN REVIEW

Despite a disappointing defeat on Sunday, 5-2 to the Utica Comets, the Bruins still took home four of a possible six points last weekend.

Friday’s 3-0 win over Bridgeport stopped the team’s three game losing streak and also stopped a personal three game skid for Goaltender Zane McIntyre, who notched his second shutout of the season. Jake DeBrusk opened the scoring in the first, registering what would be the first of five points (1-4-5) for the rookie over the course of the weekend.

Saturday’s 4-2 win over Springfield proved to be enough to keep the Bruins on the right side of the playoff line in the Atlantic Division heading into the season’s final 12 games. Malcolm Subban turned in a solid performance in net, and the team scored three unanswered goals, erasing what was a 2-1 deficit late in the second period.

DeBrusk led all scorers over the weekend with his five points. Alex Grant registered three assists and finished the weekend with a +4 rating. Austin Czarnik had a goal and an assist in just his second three-in-three weekend with the PBruins this season.

PLAYOFF PICTURE

The Hershey Bears have won six straight, dropping the Bruins into fourth place.  Providence and Bridgeport are tied with 81 points, but Providence has a game in hand.

PLAYER’S PERSPECTIVE

While noting the disappointment with Sunday’s loss, Center Colby Cave seemed ready to turn the page. “We got four out of six points and now it’s a new weekend, you’ve got to just put one foot in front of the other and keep going.”

On the reintegration of Austin Czarnik and Peter Cehlarik into the lineup last weekend, Cave said it was just more of the same from a team that has seen a number of roster moves throughout the year. “If guys go down with injury, or there are call ups to Boston, guys step into the job and really do their part. It’s a full team effort.”

COACHES CORNER

Assistant Coach Trent Whitfield didn’t mince words when discussing Sunday’s loss to Utica. “I think our execution Sunday, clearly, wasn’t good enough. We weren’t able to put together two or three passes; we were getting picked off, and it was one of those games where our execution lacked and therefore we weren’t able to produce any offense.”

On Hartford: “Playing against a team – they’re out of the playoffs, and they don’t have a lot to play for in that regard – might be a little bit harder [to prepare for], maybe they’re a little bit looser. We’ve just got to worry about ourselves and play our game, and really focus on our forecheck and our execution.”

On the crowded Atlantic Division standings: “It’s a tight race; it’s going to come down to the last weekend, as we knew it would. We’ve got five really good teams in our division fighting for those four spots and we’ve got to win our games just to keep pace. We’ll watch that [the scoreboard] as close as we can, but we’ve got to take care of our business, and if we do that I think we’ll be fine.”

SCOUTING REPORT

The Hartford Wolf Pack return to the XL Center for the first time since March 5, having gone 0-5-1 over the course of a six game road trip. Hartford’s lone win in the month of March came on March 1, a 4-3 overtime victory at home against Springfield. The team has allowed at least five goals in six of the last eight games, and has not allowed fewer than three goals in any game this month.

The Wolf Pack will be home all weekend, hosting the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on Saturday night between dates with the Bruins.

TUNE IN

Coverage of Friday’s 7:15pm contest in Hartford begins at 7:00pm on ahllive.com.

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PBruins Weekend Preview, March 10

A LOOK AHEAD

The PBruins hit the road for a pair of Atlantic Division matchups in Pennsylvania this weekend, beginning Saturday night against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. The suddenly pedestrian Penguins have lost six of eight, including a 3-2 defeat in Providence in the last head-to-head meeting on February 19.

On Sunday, the Bruins return to Hershey for just the second time this season. Providence won 4-1 at the Giant Center on New Years Eve, and have since taken two of three from the Bears at the Dunk.

WEEK IN REVIEW           

Providence dropped a hard fought battle with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on Tuesday night in Bridgeport, falling by a final score of 5-3. A game that featured the top two goaltenders in the AHL in terms of GAA – Zane McIntyre and Jaroslav Halak – stuck to the script through two periods, with Bridgeport taking a 2-0 lead into the final 20 minutes.

However, each team would tally three goals in a wild third period. The Sound Tigers scored early to build a 3-0 advantage, but then the Bruins special teams provided a spark. Rob O’Gara got the Bruins on the board, going to the backhand to score a shorthanded goal, and Jordan Szwarz followed with a power play tally to cut the deficit to one at 3-2 with 12:18 left to play.   Providence, flying around the ice, had all the momentum when a questionable icing call – it looked like Szwarz had position on a pair of Sound Tigers defensemen – led to a Bridgeport goal off the ensuing faceoff. The Sound Tigers didn’t look back.

Halak, who shut out the Bruins in two straight earlier this year and backstopped a comeback in a relief effort on February 11, improved to 4-1 against Providence this season.

McIntyre, meanwhile, dropped his second straight in regulation after beginning the season 15-0-1. Tuesday marked the first time this season that the second-year netminder allowed more than four goals in a game.

Last weekend, the Bruins split of pair of games on home ice. The team lost 4-3 to the Albany Devils on Friday night. It was the first game all season that the Bruins lost in regulation when leading after two periods.

They responded in a big way, notching a raucous 7-3 victory on Sunday over the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.

TEAM’S TAKE

Despite expressing disappointment with Tuesday’s loss in Bridgeport, rookie forward Jake DeBrusk shifted the focus to some positives in the effort. “I thought our second period was one of the best periods we’ve had all year. We were all over them and their goaltender really stood on his head.”

Speaking more broadly, DeBrusk turned an eye to the weekend ahead. “It’s kind of intense, it’s playoff hockey a month outside of playoffs. These two games are big.”

As far as his own game is concerned, the winger is looking forward to getting out there against two of the most potent offensive teams in the Eastern Conference. “I like playing against these teams, it’s not necessarily meat and potatoes, they’ve got some skill and they like to fly a little bit, and that’s what I like to do too.”

COACHES CORNER

Speaking following Thursday’s practice at RI Sports Center in North Smithfield, Head Coach Kevin Dean said he was “disappointed, but not discouraged,” with Tuesday’s game in Bridgeport. “[Bridgeport] got some good breaks, three pucks that they scored on were deflected by the time they got to [Zane McIntyre], and that’s tough on him, and it’s no fault of his own.”

And while admitting that the icing call against Szwarz was a “tough” call, the coach said he didn’t even discuss the play with the team. “I think we have to kind of overcome that. It’s an icing, it’s not a penalty; you’ve got to win the draw and get it out, at the end of the day.”

On the weekend ahead, Dean said the focus has been on defensive zone coverage. “We’re playing two good offensive teams, so we have to take away time and space in the [defensive] zone and make it difficult for them to create chances.”

SCOUTING REPORT

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins remain atop the Atlantic Division standings, despite banking just four of a possible 16 points since February 17. 38-year-old Captain Tom Kostopoulos leads the team in scoring with 44 points (20-24-44), while former PBruin David Warsofsky is second among the team’s active players with 41 points (14-27-41) in just 44 games played. The blueliner is second in the AHL with a +27 rating.

The goaltending tandem of Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith remains one of the league’s best, ranking ninth (2.29) and tenth (2.36), respectively in GAA. Jarry was between the pipes for the Penguins last game, a 3-0 loss on home ice to the Phantoms on Wednesday. The team remains home to face the Hartford Wolf Pack on Friday night. No telling who will be in net against the Bruins on Saturday.

The Bruins have taken two in a row from the Penguins, and are 2-1-1-0 on the year against the club, the lone regulation defeat coming on November 12 in Wilkes-Barre.

The Hershey Bears, meanwhile, are on the upswing, having won three in a row and five of six to further crowd the Atlantic Division standings. Despite a .619 points percentage – which would be good enough for first place in the North Division – the Bears are currently outside the playoff picture, sitting in fifth in the Atlantic.

Hershey will begin the weekend with back-to-back road games against the Phantoms and Binghamton Senators before returning home to host the Bruins on Sunday.

Providence (16) is the only team in the Eastern Conference with fewer regulation losses than Hershey (17), but the Bears have dropped 11 games in OT and shootouts, and have five fewer wins than fourth place Bridgeport. The Bears have also struggled against the Bruins – Providence owns a 3-1-0-0 record against Hershey this season.

TUNING IN

Coverage of Saturday’s 7:05PM contest in Wilkes-Barre begins at 6:45PM on ahllive.com, while Sunday’s coverage will begin at 4:40PM ahead of a 5:00PM puck drop.

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February 25, 2015 · 12:23 am

A Patriot on Parades

Must be nice

Must be nice

28 years old.  0 Parades.

I’m jealous of sign kid.

It dawned on me, after telling everyone in Ontario who would listen to me about this unique tradition that has been born in Boston, that I’ve never actually been to a parade.

I’ve only been in the greater Boston area for two of the nine; so it has largely been a matter of circumstance. But I’ve never actually experienced the sweaty, salty, sweet, cold taste of victory.

Unbelievable.

How did I blow it those other two times?  Well for Patriots I, I wasn’t allowed to miss school.  For Patriots II, I got there a little late.  I saw the aftermath.  Not a good feeling.

But since those first two, I’ve been gone.  Boulder for the next three – Sox Parades I and II, and Pats Parade III – though during that stretch I was lucky enough to see the Sox win it at Coors Field in 2007 and hadn’t yet fully grasped what I was missing at home.

Four to go.  Man there have been a lot of parades.

VI.. Hmmm.. Celtics? OK I was in the Commonwealth.  But working and living on the Cape. Had an awesome time watching the win at the Woodshed in Brewster.  Didn’t feel bad about missing that one.

VII.. Bruins.  What a Cup. Was in the Tampa Bay area. Saw two great games in person that run, both losses in Tampa, however. Didn’t need a parade though, got a champagne shower. Good enough.

VIII.. Sox III. In Australia.  Got to see the Ortiz ALCS grand slam in person.  An unforgettable night.

But ya. No Boston Strong Parade for me.  That one hurt.

Incidentally, I experienced the 2013 Marathon from Montgomery, Alabama. Talk about a tough 72 hours to be away from the greatest city on the planet.

So ya, missed all that.

And then Pats IV.  I missed this parade too.  And man did this one look awesome.

Gronk humping everything that moves.  Drinking and spiking everything that’s handed to him.  Edelman stripping. Ending up with the wrong tinder girls. Taking other girls right from the parade back to his hotel.  Giving others champagne.

Just complete public debauchery with impunity.

Gronk was wearing a 69 jersey for Christ’s sake.

These guys have transcended humanity.  They are literally above the law.  And the whole city shuts down and plows for them.  So cool.

Anyway, I got to experience this one – the win and the parade – from Canada.  And now I’ve got Parade FOMO.

So circumstance be damned.  I will be at Parade X.

Let’s just hope the Karma gods can forgive us for this last one.  Especially the Lynch and Sherman posters.  Didn’t need that.  Things definitely got a little out of hand.

But what’s done is done.  Boston is officially still the most decorated and spoiled sports city in the entire world.  The Patriots just wanted to make sure everyone in the galaxy knew what they were missing.  Boston wins harder than anyone else on the planet.  It looks like a blast.

The Patriots just threw the parade to end all parades.

Let’s hope it doesn’t turn out to be just that.

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An Apology

Really?

Really?

It was the fall of 1999. I was in 8th grade, playing my first season of football at Brown Middle School, and the day came to select our uniform numbers. I went in wanting 3, my dad’s number throughout his football career. Our other, returning quarterback, however, already wore the number three.

It was ok though, I had a pretty good backup plan. I asked for 10. I wanted to wear the number of my favorite quarterback, Tom Brady, captain of my favorite college football team, the Michigan Wolverines.

Jump ahead about 15 and a half years. Tom Brady has won three Super Bowls for my favorite pro football team, the New England Patriots. He has set records that may never be broken. He is, simply, one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. He has provided me with more thrills, more wins and more pure sports induced bliss than any single athlete in my lifetime.

And I go and call him a liar.

At a moment when my quarterback needed my support more than ever, I turned my back on him, questioned his integrity, and called into question the legitimacy of everything he and his Patriots teammates have accomplished over the past decade and a half.

Pathetic.

Why did I do it?

Because I profess to be a “sports journalist”, and that’s what sports journalists were doing in the wake of one of his greatest wins, the 45-7 steamrolling of the Colts. With all the noise, I assumed, there had to be something foul afoot. And I had to join the conversation.

I temporarily forgot all the things I hate about sports journalism, and the media in general, in my effort to be one of “them”.

Shame on me.

I let my friends down, I let my team down and I let my New England sports family down.

However, with what I’ve learned in the week since I published that pitiful, wretched piece, two things have become clearer to me than ever.

One, my love for the Patriots is at an all time high.

Two, I would rather fail as a journalist than ever work for ESPN – the biggest bullshit factory on the planet. I simply hate what they stand for, and how they go about their business.

You have no idea how hard it is, as an aspiring sports media personality, to reconcile this hatred with a genuine love for getting behind a microphone, or on camera, and talking about sports.

I love what I do, but I hate the monster the industry has become.

What happened to reporting on actual sports?   What happened to X’s and O’s?

Today is the 11th day that we’ve had to talk about the perfect football game. The two best teams on the biggest stage. Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski and Darelle Revis. Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch and Richard Sherman. Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll.

Match-ups on both sides of the ball that deserve a week’s worth of chatter. Will the Seahawks be able to keep the Patriots running game in check? Will the Patriots have an answer for Beastmode? Will Russell Wilson improve to 11-0 in the playoffs against the “best” QB’s of our time? How has he been so successful in his first 10 attempts? Show me highlights, show me stats, show me something other than Bill Belichick talking about finger puppets and Julian Edelman taking selfies! For the love of god, talk sports, not nonsense!

It’s all too bizarre.

I can’t take it anymore.

The past twelve days have been the greatest failure in the history of sports journalism. And if the public doesn’t take a stand, then I’m afraid that there’s really no hope that it will ever change.

Consider this, the message the media has sent to young people this week. If you are the best, you probably cheated. If you win, then you must be dishonest. And if you didn’t win, then the best use of your time is to do whatever you can to discredit those that have.

We live in a world full of people looking to make excuses, myself included, and it’s dragging us down.

The Patriots, meanwhile, have provided a lesson that everyone, especially young people, need to hear. They have provided a model for success that should be celebrated, preached and glorified. The Patriot Way is nothing to be ashamed of, and it is agonizingly simple.

If you work harder than everyone else, if you are better prepared, and if you make no excuses, then you can achieve greatness on a level that simply cannot be matched.

Why aren’t we talking about that?

Talk about a missed opportunity for the sports world to do some actual good.

While we should have spent Super Bowl week celebrating a simple mantra for success, we’ve been trying to make excuses for greatness.

But make no mistake, the story of the 2014 Patriots – and really the entire dynasty – is clear.   Greatness is attainable to everyone. All you have to do is throw away your excuses, be accountable for your actions, support your teammates, tune out all the noise, show up on time, and, simply, do your job.

I’m sorry that I lost sight of that for even a day. And I apologize, on behalf of the entire industry, if you have as well.

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A Soft, Sinking Feeling

super bowl vidLast Sunday night was to be my last night in New England for a while. What better way to spend it than by watching my favorite team do what it does best. Win.

It all went perfectly according to plan.

The Patriots didn’t just win, they won big. They turned in a playoff performance for the ages.

Unable to sleep and wanting more, I turned to the ‘Deep Throat’ of Patriots porn, the 2001 Super Bowl video. Yes a video, as in VHS. It’s easy to forget that the legend of Belichick and Brady was born all the way back before DVDs ruled the world.  But it was. That’s how long they’ve been this good.

As I melted into the couch, the familiar story played out as beautifully as it always does. Pats are supposed to be a last place team. Franchise QB goes down and they start 0-2. Scrawny kid from Michigan and the bottom of the depth chart steps in and things start changing. Big wins over the Colts and Chargers. Big wins over the Bills and Saints.

An offense led by the powerful running of Antowain Smith. The big plays of Troy Brown and David Patten. And Brady introducing the world to Brady.

I’m in heaven reliving this regular season, and then it’s time for the Snow Bowl.

A magical night that changed the football world forever. Storybook stuff. A wildest dream come true.

Follow that up with the win in Pittsburgh, and you can’t help but think that this is the greatest single season in the history of Patriots football (sorry 2007, but, ya know…). Bledsoe comes back to save the day, Troy Brown returns a punt. Big play after big play. It was an incredible win, and as I watch it unfold, 13 years later, I’m shaking with the anticipation of the big game in New Orleans.

Keep in mind I’ve seen this video dozens of times. It’s that good. The story is that amazing.

The bulbs flash, Vinatieri kicks it off, and suddenly, something unexpected happened within me.   I encountered a hitch in my joy.

The Patriots came to play, and it shows. They are beating the Rams up, chipping receivers at the line of scrimmage, blitzing at all the right times, and the looks on the faces of the Rams players tell a story of frustration and disbelief.   Their eyes seem to show a helpless feeling. It’s almost as if the Patriots knew what was coming.

And that’s when it hit me.

The Patriots might have known exactly what was coming.

Some have said and many still believe that they videotaped the Rams in the Superdome in the days leading up to the Super Bowl. I refuse to believe this actually happened, but, I will concede that at the very least somebody might have seen the walkthrough and talked about it.   They sure as hell looked like a team that was playing with an unfair advantage.

Not sure why, eight years after Spygate, it finally sunk in, but it did. Maybe there was something to all these allegations after all. Maybe BB was fined a half a million dollars for a reason.

And as I watched the befuddled Rams retreat to the locker room, my Patriots up 14-3 at the half, for the first time ever I felt bad for Kurt Warner and company.

I watched the Rams come back in the second half – almost all the way back – and I couldn’t help but wonder how the game would have turned out if Matt Walsh hadn’t been on the Patriots staff in 2001. I hated myself for thinking these thoughts, but I thought them all the same.

However, in the end, the Masshole in me prevailed and I relished the victory as always. I got choked up when Vinatieri made the kick. I grinned like an idiot when Mr. Kraft reminded me that we are all Patriots. And I went to bed on that oh so familiar Sunday night cloud of superiority that Patriots fans know better than anyone else.

I was ready to once again bury the truth of the trickery and deceit like I have for the past eight years. Ready to win the Super Bowl yet again. Because hey, if we win a fourth fair and square who cares if we cheated a little for the first one, right?

===

The next morning I was filling a glass of water, my car packed, about to say my goodbyes to New England for a few months.

“Have you heard some Indy media guys are accusing the Patriots of deflating their balls last night?” my dad asked. I hadn’t heard that, but I didn’t really think much of it. Those poor poor loser Colts, I thought. They must be looking for anything they can to justify that spanking.

Then I listened to Brady laughing off the allegations. That was all I needed to hear.

On to Seattle. Let the haters say whatever they want. This is will be the one that silences them all.

But it didn’t go away.

Deflategate became a word. And now it seems that that’s because it happened. Somehow, some way, the Patriots manipulated their footballs.

Brady must have known, as he sat there laughing, that the allegations that were 100% true.

The Patriots, it seems, found another way to push the limits of fair play. And they got busted. Again.

So now whenever I watch the 2001 Super Bowl video, I will feel just a little bit sorry for the Rams.

When I celebrate the fourth Super Bowl title 10 days from now, it won’t be perfect.

From now on, for the rest of my life, whenever I’m forced to defend the honor of my franchise, my coach and my quarterback – I will, but without the certainty that what I’m saying is just and true.

It will always be just a little bit off.

No one will ever be able to deny that this dynasty, in terms of wins and losses, is the greatest of all time. In any sport. But, at the same time, no one will ever be able to successfully argue that it was built on a foundation of integrity.

That, my friends, is a horrible, sobering thought. And one that we, as Patriots fans, all better come to grips with pretty soon.

We can rationalize and deny it all we want, but the facts are the facts.

As the greatest coach in NFL history has reminded us time and time again, sadly, it is what it is.

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