Team Chara tops Team Alfredson one more time

Same captains, different teams, same result. Last night at the TD Garden, the Bruins kicked off the unofficial second half of the NHL season welcoming in division rival Ottawa for the two teams’ first game post-all star break. The two All Star game captains squared off once again, and much like Sunday, Chara and his squad got the better of Alfredson’s team, riding a late three goal rally to take a 4-3 victory over the Sens.

For a game stuck right in the middle of the regular season, it held a lot more importance than some might think. The last couple weeks for the Bruins leading up to the all-star break were a real mixed bag of performances and results, with the recurring theme being inconsistency. The Senators, who are probably the biggest surprise in the league in terms of what they’ve done and where they sit in the standings to this point (6th in the Eastern Conference), and at one point just prior to the break had gotten to within just one point of the division leading Boston Bruins. Coming into last night, the Senators sat just 4 points back in the standings, so the result of last nights game would make a pretty big impact on the division lead one way or another.

WIth the win, the Bruins stretched their divisional lead to 6 points over Ottawa and kept pace with the 1st place New York Rangers, who have just one more point than the B’s. It was just a little bit alarming to see inconsistency once again plague Boston during last night’s game as they basically disappeared during almost the entire 2nd period while the Senators built a 3-1 lead and outshot the B’s 20-5. Thankfully the Bruins displayed why they’ve been the best 3rd period team in the league all year-long though, and were able to mount a comeback and escape with the win.

Like I’ve done for games in the past, I will go through some of my thoughts and observations from last night, in random order.

– Strike first. Something that became common during the Bruins slumping play just prior to the break was falling behind early in games. It’s never good to be playing from behind right off the bat, so it was nice last night to see them weather Ottawa’s early pressure and then get on the board first with Chara’s PP bomb. Of course allowing that late first period goal to tie the game up hurt and I think lent to the Sens 2nd period dominance a bit.

– Inconsistent again. I have hated the way that recently the Bruins will fluctuate between being that dominant team capable of controlling play and really taking it to teams, and that team that lacks in compete level, loses battles, lazes in the defensive zone and allows other teams to dictate the pace of play. During November and December you always knew you would at least get a top-notch effort from the black and gold, this has gone by the wayside a bit lately though and is certainly not a recipe for success as we get closer to the playoffs.

– Never count them out. It’s been the case all year-long, and the numbers certainly don’t lie. The Bruins are the BEST 3rd period team in the entire NHL. They have scored 71 goals in the third period so far this season while only allowing 33, which is a pretty monstrous differential. To add to that, the Bruins have yet to lose when taking a lead into the third period, going 21-0-0 so far this season. They also have far and away the best record when trailing after two periods, going 6-8-1 in that scenario. Not amazing, but almost .500 in that situation definitely speaks to their resiliency and never-say-die attitude.

– Bergeron, Marchand and Seguin. This line was by far the Bruins most effective and most dynamic line during last night’s game. Even during the second period where the B’s struggled to get much of anything going, this trio continued to push the tempo and create scoring chances for the home team. When they are on, they are clearly one of the tougher lines in the league for opposing teams to defend. The blazing speed on the wings with Marchand and Seguin, coupled with the smarts of Bergeron in the middle make them extremely dynamic. The two young wingers, too, have shown they have elite finishing ability as well. It was good to see these three reclaim their chemistry last night, and if they continue that play the Bruins will be more than alright moving forward.

– I really like Rich Peverley. Look, it’s obvious that the Bruins do miss Nathan Horton slotting in at his familiar position on the wing with Milan Lucic and David Krejci. When healthy and at the top of the game, that is one of the better lines in the league, and I am in no way debating that fact. I’m simply saying that Rich Peverley is once again proving to be an invaluable member of the Boston Bruins with his versatility and ability to really slot into any position up front and be effective. He made a beautiful pass to Lucic in the slot last night on the B’s 2nd goal of the game, showing poise and patience with the puck before dishing to the hulking left winger. He brings speed, creativity and smarts to the lineup and whether he’s being asked to take on a more defensive role with Chris Kelly on the 3rd line, or provide some offensive punch up with Krejci and Lucic, he always seems to do his job perfectly. This has turned out to be a brilliant trade and signing from GM Peter Chiarelli at last year’s deadline.

– Tim Thomas looks shaky. I know he’s proven himself time and time again in Boston, and I’ll never forget what he’s done for this organization and city. I’ve always been a big Tim Thomas supporter, and for most of this season he has once again been stellar in goal for the B’s. However, I do think that down the stretch coming into the all-star break, when the B’s were mired in their slump, Thomas looked extremely average in net and certainly didn’t help the team in front of him much. He’s seen his GAA jump up and his save percentage dip. He’s struggled at times, letting in some uncharacteristically soft goals rather than providing his team with those big saves when they’ve needed them the most. And while I don’t want to bring this up again, I’ll just say that I really didn’t appreciate the stunt he pulled in skipping the Bruins’ visit to the White House last week. Again last night he just didn’t look great. The Bruins struggled in the 2nd period, and when they needed their goalie to back them up the most, he let in 2 consecutive goals short side, being beat cleanly by both shooters and putting the Bruins in a hole. I hope he can find his game again because there’s no doubt the B’s will need him, but I’ll be honest, lately I think Tuukka has looked more like the #1 goalie than Timmy.

That’s all I’ve got for you today. It was good to see the Bruins get right back to work with their 32nd win of the season. Tomorrow night they welcome back the Carolina Hurricanes, whom they have yet to beat this season despite the Canes low position in the Eastern Conference standings. Hopefully they can get this monkey off their back and take win #33 at home tomorrow night.

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Gronk Ditches The Walking Boot

Gronk showed up to media day today without the walking boot that he has been wearing since the AFC Title game. This is great news for Patriot fans. We need Gronk to be at leaast 85% for the game. Once adrenaline and the pain killers kick in, he should be ready to dominate on Sunday. I hope he shoves his size 16 shoe right up Antrel Rolle’s Ass on Sunday. That dude has been doing a lot of talking, and Gronk is just the guy to shut him up. Right now Gronk is considered day to day, but I don’t have any doubt that he will play and be the beast we have come to expect. Only 5 more days until Superbowl Sunday!!!

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SB Positional Breakdown – Running Back

In this edition of the Superbowl positional breakdown, I am going to take a look at both teams running games. Both teams have QB’s that can air it out, but it is the running game for both teams that keeps opposing defenses off balance. Let’s take a look at what where are working with here.

Patriots – The Patriots running attack was ranked 20th this season, averaging  a respectable 110 yards per game. The running attack is lead by ‘The Law Firm’ Ben Jarvis Green Ellis, who is a tough as nails down hill runner. The undrafted free agent hasn’t fumbled in over 550 carries. That is amazing, and a major reason Coach Bill trusts the law firm as his lead back. Belichick HATES when his running backs fumble. Steven Ridley fumbled twice at the end of the season, and was subsequently benched for the AFC Championship game. After the Law Firm, Danny Woodhead is the Pats third down back. Although diminutive in size, Woodhead gets the job done. He is great at quickly finding the hole and squeezing through the smallest of creases. This is a very solid 1-2 punch. I’d like to see Tommy use these guys in the passing game more like they did with Kevin Faulk. They haven’t used the RB out of the backfield much this year. It could be a good wrinkle to keep the Giants off balanced.

Ben Jarvis Green Ellis (181 attempts – 667 yards – 3.7 YPA – 11 TD)

Danny Woodhead (77 attempts – 351 yards – 4.6 YPA – 1 TD

The Patriots are really going to need to run the ball effectively to neutralize the Giants top notch pass rush. Hopefully Sebastian Volmer’s presence will help that cause.

Giants – The Giants have a dangerous 1-2 punch of Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs. Neither guy had an overly impressive regular season, as the Giants rushing attack was dead last in the league this year, averaging a mere 89.2 yards per game. Bradshaw is a mix of speed, agility, and some power. He is the perfect compliment to Brandon Jacobs punishing style of run. I like the match-up against Jacobs, as the Pats front is great against bigger contact type running backs. Bradshaw could be the one that really gives us trouble. His ability to get to the edges, could expose the Patriots outside linebackers. Bradshaw didn’t play in the regular season match-up against the Patriots. I really wish our D could have seen his running style up close and personal. Look for Bradshaw to have a solid superbowl.

Ahmad Bradshaw (171 attempts – 659 yards – 3.9 YPA – 9 TD)

Brandon Jacobs (152 attempts – 571 yards – 3.8 YPA – 7 TD)

Advantage – I’m going to give the Giants a slight edge in this department because of how well both running backs have performed in the post season. They have combined for 330 yards in three playoff games. However, the Patriots backs are more important in this game. If they can run the ball in between the tackles effectively, they will help neutralize the Giants aggressive pass rush, and hopefully set up the play action pass.

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Blake Griffin Dunks On Kendrick Perkins

 

Old friend Kendrick Perkins gets posterized by Blake Griffin.

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Welker Wants to Remain a Patriot

If Wes Welker has his way he will remain a New England Patriot for next year and beyond.  Welker is in the last year of the 5 year, 18 million dollar deal he signed when leaving the Miami Dolphins for the Pats.  “I plan on being back.  I am not really too worried about that right now. I am fully concentrated on this game and what we have to do, but I plan on being back”, said Welker.

I have to admit I am skeptical that Wes will be back after this season though it’s great to hear he wants to be.  There is no doubting his value to the team and he has been probably the biggest bargain in the league under his current contract.  However, I just don’t see the Patriots giving him number one wide receiver money, approximately 10 million per year.  Now that the Pats have not one but two world class weapons at tight end in Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez it would seem to be less of a priority to have a high priced, slot receiver.  Ideally this money would be spent on an outside, down the field receiver though those guys are very difficult to come by.

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