Five thoughts: Bruins get best of Rangers, 3-1

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Five thoughts: Bruins get best of Rangers, 3-1

Here are five thoughts from the first period with the Bruins leading the Rangers by a 1-0 score after the first 20 minutes of the season-opener at TD Garden.
 
1)    So much for Milan Lucic having a tough time catching up to everybody else. Lucic missed on a golden rebound chance when Henrik Lundqvist left a juicy rebound of a Nathan Horton shot earlier in the period, but he didnt miss the second time around. David Krejci fired a puck that Lundqvist kicked to his right, and Lucic drove to the post instead of right down the middle and was waiting for the rebound to come right at him. Its only fitting that No. 17 scored the goal after he was the subject of much scrutiny for staying away from the ice for much of November and December.

2)    Henrik Lundqvist looking very rusty in his first game back with the Rangers, and has left some rebounds directly in front of the net for Bruins players in the right spot. The Bruins have also put the New York goalie under some heavy pressure by outshooting the Rangers by a 14-7 total in the first 20 minutes, but the reigning Vezina Trophy winner looks a little rusty.
 
3)    It appears the refs are going to be calling the obstruction interference call much more closely this year. All four penalty calls in the first period were interference calls with one of the called against Brian Boyle for goalie interference and the last call against Andrew Ference was clearly something that wouldnt have been called in the past. He was discussing it with the ref as he skated toward the penalty box, but it looks like theyre no longer tolerate any tying up the skaters on soft dumps into the corner.
 
4)    Nothing from Rick Nash in his Bruins debut during the first period. One shot and one hit in 6:08 of ice time, but no discernible impact on the game aside from looking kind of funny skating around in a No. 61 Rangers sweater.
 
5)    A couple of close calls in the first period but the Bruins walked away okay: Patrice Bergeron took a puck off the chin that forced him off the ice during the Bs first power play, and it looked like Johnny Boychuk wrenched his right leg in a collision with Brian Boyle in front of the Boston net. But both players returned to the ice and looked no worse for the wear.

SECOND PERIOD

Here are five thoughts from the second period with the Bruins leading the Rangers by a 2-1 score after the first 40 minutes of the season-opener at a sold out, jubilant TD Garden.
 
1)    Plenty of talk over the last few days about the importance of the fourth line really bouncing back from a down year, and they did just that in the second period. First they kicked in a goal when Daniel Paille tipped a long range shot from Gregory Campbell that bounced off the post and then ricocheted off Henrik Lundqvists back into the back of the net. Then when New York halved the lead with a Brad Richards goal, Shawn Thornton dropped the gloves with Mike Rupp and ended the fight with an overhand right to the Rangers tough guys face that drew blood. Then Campbell followed immediately with a bout against the bigger Stu Bickel and he managed to get off a few shots before both skaters tumbled to the ice. In the middle 20 minutes they provided opportunistic and plenty of emotion at the right time, and thats the energy line at its level-best.
 
2)    A few promising looks for the Bruins power play tonight, but nothing from a production standpoint quite yet while going 0-for-4 on the PP. At one point Tyler Seguin found Zdeno Chara crashing backdoor for a one-timer chance that Henrik Lundqvist was able to smother, but thats the kind of movement and creativity the Bruins have lacked on the man advantage. Later Seguin got the puck back for a one-timer and he went way wide right, but those are the kind of chances No. 19 is going to get from the right face-off circle. They need to battle harder to keep the puck in the offensive zone during the PP and get bodies to the net, but the early signs are there for marked improvement.
 
3)    The Bruins seemed to calm down quite a bit in the second period. There was more flow to the breakout and plenty of emotion, and it seemed like their familiar systems are beginning to kick in as the game goes along. Surprising as I expected things would deteriorate the longer the game went along given the quick camp, but that hasnt happened quite yet.
 
4)    Brad Richards is one of the few Rangers players that has fully showed up for work tonight, and was rewarded with a goal from the high slot with Carl Hagelin screening in front of the net. The Bruins are outshooting the Rangers by a 25-15 margin otherwise, and have really controlled the game throughout the first 40 minutes.
 
5)    Rangers really taking the body to Tyler Seguin tonight as a point of emphasis and have managed to neutralize him aside from his chances on the power play. Everybody expected that BergeronSeguin combo to do the damage for the Bruins in the early going after their European exploits, but credit the Blueshirts for holding them down.
 
6)    Chris Kelly and Patrice Bergeron are a combined 14-for-20 in face-offs in the first two periods. Some things never change.

THIRD PERIOD

Here are five thoughts from the third period with the Bruins taking down the Rangers by a 3-1 score after the 60 minutes season-opening hockey at a sold out, jubilant TD Garden.
 
1)    Good birthday present for Johnny Boychuk on his 29th birthday on a twisted wrister from the right face-off circle after an  offensive zone faceoff win by Patrice Bergeron. The Bs center then hopped in front to screen on the Boychuk shot that appeared to bounce off Brad Richards on the way to the back of the net.
 
2)    Not a good game at all for Rick Nash in his Rangers debut. Had a couple of shots on net, but no real impact in the game for a New York team that appeared just as offensively feeble as ever. He also took a bad hooking call on Andrew Ference while the Rangers were on the power play in the third period that wiped out their man advantage in a one-goal game. Hell find out quickly how different things are than Columbus after such a lackluster debut.
 
3)    The Bruins poured plenty of offense on in a game they controlled from very early on, but Tuukka Rask was solid in an important game for him and for Boston. Now he just needs to maintain it.
 
4)    For anybody that had questions about Adam McQuaids health, he answered them when he dumped Ryan Callahan in front of the Boston net during the pivotal penalty kill in the third period. The hit immediately preceded the Rick Nash penalty.
 
5)    Good, quiet first game for Dougie Hamilton. He looked a little nervous and tentative offensively, but made a big defensive play in the third period when he knocked away a backdoor pass from Derek Stepan to a wide open Marian Gaborik by the right post. Could have been an easy tap-in for the game-tying goal if Hamilton hadnt been battling with Ryan Callahan in front of the net.

Friday Bag: What’s the Patriots' future at running back look like?

Friday Bag: What’s the Patriots' future at running back look like?

Every Friday Tom E. Curran, Mike Giardi and Phil Perry will take your Patriots questions (Curran is sitting this one out) on Twitter and answer them as a joint mailbag -- or a Friday Bag, as they call it. 

Got questions? Tweet the guys using the hashtag #FridayBag.

MG: Q leading off my portion of the always popular, always exciting, always (occasionally?) informative #FridayBag. I think it would be easy to think that way from the outside looking in, or knowing how callous some organizations can be, but I just don’t believe that to be the case here. Players talk. Agents talk. Hell, coaches talk. If the Pats were to operate that way, it would get around the league in a heartbeat. Then why would someone want to play here knowing they’ll be treated even more like a disposable commodity then normal? The flip side to this is actually protecting the player from himself. Guys in the last year of a deal sometimes feel compelled to play through every damn thing so they can at least say “look at me, I’m a warrior!” And on that note, I’d sit Marty Bennett next week in Denver and probably the following week against the Jets if that will help the ankle and whatever else is ailing him heal to the point where he’s a hell of a lot more effective than what we just saw versus the Rams (He was awful). Bennett’s too valuable going forward. 

MG: Lisa, my understanding is teams nominate their player and then it goes to a panel (one that includes the NFL Commish) to decide who wins for the league (It was Anquan Boldin in 2015). Can’t quibble with Rob Gronkowski being the team’s nominee this year. People have no idea how much he does for the community. Heck, we don’t even know the extent of it, but the great Don Rodman of Rodman Car Dealer fame and one of the most incredibly charitable individuals to ever grace this area said that there are few if any athletes who devote more time and effort to charitable works/foundations. I hope he wins. It would mean a lot to Gronk.

MG: You never figured you’d have to worry about the offense, did you Steve? But the season-ending injury to Gronk and now the injury to Danny Amendola does concern me. Both of those guys are incredibly reliable 3rd down targets, and in Gronk’s case, he’s usually the first or second option on 3rd down. Bennett hasn’t been able to pick up the slack because he’s clearly not healthy either. That means the Pats and Josh McDaniels will be going through a trial and error period here to best determine how to improve that number and become more efficient. I suspect more will fall on Julian Edelman, but also look for the continued evolution of the two back set with James White and Dion Lewis.

MG: Ambrose, the Pats have remained incredibly committed to the run because they don’t want to find themselves in the same spot they were a year ago, when the run game was so pathetic that neither Miami in the regular season finale nor Denver in the AFC title game paid it one mind. That means rushers pinning their ears back and smashing into Tom Brady at rates no one is comfortable with. So while I won’t be surprise if Brady throws it 45 times, I don’t think they shelve the ground game, at least in the first half. 

MG: Ok Bunk, I stole a comment of yours for the mailbag. Trying to make you famous…yes, I stand by my tweet in which I stated the Ravens and Broncos are bigger threats than the Chiefs or Raiders. Oakland’s defense would give up 40 to Brady. 45 if the Pats needed it. Or 50. I’m dead serious. As for the Chiefs, Alex Smith is not coming into Foxboro and beating this team, even with some of it’s defensive issues. And Belichick will make damn sure that rookie Hill doesn’t get many cracks at touching the football in the return game. Oh, and now the Chiefs best linebacker, Johnson, is out for the year with an Achilles. Should I continue???

MG: History tells us no, David. Brady would throw a fit and argue that he needs to play to remain sharp or iron out this problem or that problem. There’s also the possibility of a bye week looming, meaning he’d go 3 weeks without actually playing in a game. Seems like a good idea in the sense that you don’t risk a 39-year old to a blindside shot, but neither he nor Belichick would ever go for it.

PP: The running back position might be the toughest to project moving forward because there are so many injuries there and there are so many backs who come from nowhere to earn significant roles. I'll say this though: The backs they have on the roster -- not including Brandon Bolden, who has turned into strictly a special teamer after having a difficult time holding onto the football this year -- don't seem to be slowing down. LeGarrette Blount just turned 30 but is in the middle of his best season. Dion Lewis looks strong after two surgeries. James White has taken his game to a new level in his third season. I could see the same group coming back next season, but given the volatility of the position, you know the Patriots will always be scouring for talent there. 

PP: Tom E. touched on this yesterday, Big Wally. Brandon Pettigrew, who was released by the Lions on Friday, might make sense. Otherwise, there's not a whole lot out there. Zach Sudfeld? He's available. Would be an unlikely reunion, but desperate times . . . I think the Patriots will continue to roll out Martellus Bennett at less than 100 percent. I think Matt Lengel could see more work as a blocking tight end as he becomes more familiar with the system. I think we'll see more Cameron Fleming, and we could see more two-back sets with no tight ends. In my opinion, Bennett could use a rest, but I don't think it's coming any time soon. As far as Sarge's question about the hurry-up, I'm not sure we'll start to see more that. It's possible, but one of the benefits with the hurry-up is to keep a defense from substituting to shift matchups in its favor. With Gronkowski or Bennett on the field in a hurry-up situation would have even further highlighted the matchup issues they present. If either one found himself with a slow linebacker on him, the Patriots could have rushed to the line and continued...to exploit...that matchup. Without Gronkowski and without Bennett at full strength, the advantage of the no-huddle is somewhat sapped.  

PP: It's so late into the season, I'm not sure there's much in the way of opportunity for a breakout game this week, Paul. I guess the obvious choice would be Griff Whalen. If he can give the Patriots a pair of sure hands as a punt-returner, that would be a significant enough add that I might qualify it as a "breakout." Bill Belichick made it clear this morning that the team views him as more than just a returner, though, so he could see some offensive snaps in four-receiver sets and provide the Patriots with a presence in the slot. I'd deem a four-catch, 50-yard performance as a "breakout" as well. To me, that's the range of his ceiling for this week. One other name as a potential "breakout" candidate? Justin Coleman. He could be used defensively after being inactive for the last three weeks due to Eric Rowe's hamstring injury. If he's able to help slow down the combination of Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman and Steve Smith, that'd be a breakout in my book. 

PP: The combined record of opponents they've beaten is actually 26-57-1, including the Browns 0-12 mark twice, but now it's out there. 'Preciate you, Dave!

PP:  There's still so much up for grabs in the AFC West that it's hard to determine the likelihood of Patriots playoff matchups and where those games will be. However, without getting into the nitty gritty details, I'll just point out that it's still possible that the Patriots end up on the road in either of these cities in the postseason. On the road, Denver is the tougher matchup. Always has been a brutal place for the Patriots to play, and Denver's defense is still good enough to cause them problems. At home? I'd say, of these two teams, Kansas City would be the one that would provide the Patriots with a slightly tougher test. In my mind, they're a little more balanced and I have more faith in Alex Smith to make plays than I do Trevor Siemien.

Friday's Patriots-Ravens practice report: Richards returns to the field

Friday's Patriots-Ravens practice report: Richards returns to the field

Friday's practice participation/injury report for Monday night's Patriots-Ravens game:

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
WR Danny Amendola (ankle)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
TE Martellus Bennett (ankle/shoulder)
DB Jordan Richards (knee)
LB Elandon Roberts (hamstring)
DB Eric Rowe (hamstring)
WR/SpT Matthew Slater (foot)

BALTIMORE RAVENS

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
TE Crockett Gilmore (thigh)
LB Terrell Suggs (not injury related)
RB Lorenzo Taliaferro (thigh)
C Jeremy Zuttah (not injury related)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
G Alex Lewis (ankle)

FULL PARTICIPATION
G Marshal Yanda (shoulder)