Haggerty: Bruins looked much better than expected in opener

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Haggerty: Bruins looked much better than expected in opener

Well, so much for the Into the Great Wide Open theme for the NHLs 48-game shortened schedule.

With an extensive number of players doing little more than playing glorified shinny over the last four months, a brief week-long training camp and skaters in varying degrees of physical condition as the NHL season opened this weekend, many around the game werent quite sure what the first few weeks of hockey games would entail.

Words like sloppy and rag tag were thrown around Boston Bruins camp to brace for the worst, particularly after a Tuesday night scrimmage against the Providence Bruins proved more than a little messy.

But interestingly enough that scrimmage might have been exactly the wakeup call that the Bruins required to wake them up to the season.

Because the team that took a 3-1 season-opening victory over the Rangers on Saturday night appeared much closer to the Bruins club everybody is accustomed to over the last five seasons under Claude Julien. The offensive and defensive systems were more organized and cohesive, and the battle level up and down the roster seemed to trump any lingering rustiness.

I think that Tuesday scrimmage was probably the best thing for us because we talked about a lot of things that we werent doing well, and things that kind of carried over from last season that we didnt like, said Milan Lucic. We addressed that in this week of training camp practice, and it was good to see that we came out and played the way that we did against the Rangers.

Players like Lucic, Nathan Horton and Brad Marchand were probably the biggest surprises in the game: none of those three opted to play in Europe during the lockout but still played big roles in the one-sided victory over the Rangers.

Shawn Thornton and Gregory Campbell had more than enough energy in the second period to seize back momentum with a pair of emotional bouts after the Rangers scored their lone goal.

Lucic potted the games first goal and was a snarling, fire-spitting presence on the ice throughout the game. Horton played upwards of 16 minutes and didnt shy away from body contact or heavy traffic areas while putting up a pair of shots and registered hits in the victory. Marchand logged the third-most ice time of Bruins forwards in the game and didnt find himself constantly playing catch-up with linemates Patrice Bergeron and Tyler Seguin, who both played the last three months in Switzerland.

Milan had his mean face on and thats what makes him such a good player, said Claude Julien. With Nathan, he was going in the corners battling and he didnt fear anything. For a guy that hasnt played in a year because of a concussion those are good signs. Conditioning-wise I think he did a very good job keeping up with the pace.

None of the areas that could have been troublesome for a collection of rusty hockey players became an issue: the defensive zone breakouts were good, the packed-in defensive zone coverage was stalwart and the special teams were a strength when the Bruins killed a 5-on-3 NY power play in the third period with Johnny Boychuk, Dennis Seidenberg and Patrice Bergeron.

Not to mention the Bruins outshot the Rangers by a 9-6 margin in the third period and closed them in textbook Black and Gold fashion.

The question becomes how much was Saturdays effort the base line for judging the Bruins over the next few weeks, and how much of it was simply adrenaline pushing them through against a vaunted opponent. Horton acknowledged that adrenaline certainly played a role for everybody in a home opener theyd waited four months to play, but there was something left in the tank beyond that.

I know I was a little nervous, but just being back was so nice, said Horton. I think its going to be pretty easy to keep it going. We have such a good team and our fans are great. Especially at home its nice. Id play again today if I could because we had so much fun.

All of our guys are in good shape. I think everybody played really well Saturday, we worked really hard and didnt make many mistakes at all. We were getting the puck deep, and were going to have a really good year if we keep playing like that.

The adrenaline theory will be put to the test on Monday afternoon as the Bruins get ready to host the Winnipeg Jets in a Dr. Martin Luther King Day special at TD Garden. Its exactly the kind of sleepy follow-up game to the tilt against the Rangers that could allow the Bruins to relax and perhaps show some of the slippage many expected to see in their game to start things out this season.

"It's about focusing on the little things for us," said Chris Kelly. "Usually around this time of year we're in the middle of the season and it's second nature, but those things will help us keep getting better."

If the Bruins push the soreness and fatigue out of their bodies and minds while putting together a second straight winning effort against Winnipeg, that will a be clear indicator Boston is in a very good place to start the season.

Patriots players got a refresher on NFL social media policy because of Brown

Patriots players got a refresher on NFL social media policy because of Brown

FOXBORO -- Antonio Brown's live stream of coach Mike Tomlin's postgame speech on Sunday had a ripple effect that traveled all the way to New England: Just in case Patriots players weren't familiar with the league's social-media policy, they were reminded of it this week. 

"We were reminded of that," receiver Chris Hogan said. "I’m not sure what the timing is, but obviously, I don’t think we’ll see guys doing that in the locker room."

Players are prohibited from using social media in the locker room until media outlets have been given an opportunity to talk to players following games. Brown's Facebook Live video, which garnered national attention almost as soon as it went online, was shot well before the visitor's locker room at Arrowhead Stadium opened following Pittsburgh's win over Kansas City.

"We have a team policy on that," special teams captain Matthew Slater said. "Strictly enforced. We go from there."

Of course part of the reason the video became as widely disseminated as it did was because it caught Tomlin calling the Patriots "a--holes."

"I have a lot of respect for Coach Tomlin," Slater said when asked about Tomlin's speech. "I appreciate the way he prepares his team. I’ve had a good working relationship with him over the years, and it will continue to be that way."

Both Slater and Hogan insisted that their focus will be trained solely on preparing for what Tomlin and his players will do when they arrive to Gillette Stadium Sunday night -- not what they say leading up to kickoff.

"You come in here, you're automatically bought into what we preach here, what coach [Bill] Belichick preaches," Hogan said. "It's football. We're 100 percent football here. It's not about anything outside. Between the media or whatever it is outside of football, whatever we're doing. When we come here, it's 100 percent football. That's all we're focused on is the opponent we're playing that week."

Bradley (Achilles) 'felt good' during return to Celtics lineup

Bradley (Achilles) 'felt good' during return to Celtics lineup

WALTHAM, Mass. – As the final horn blew in Boston’s 108-98 win over Charlotte on Monday night, the game was a win-win kind of night for Avery Bradley.

The Celtics (26-15) continue rolling over opponents at the TD Garden, and he played a relatively pain-free 33 minutes in the win.

It was Bradley’s first game back after missing the previous four with a strained right Achilles injury.

And the fact that he was back on the practice floor on Tuesday (be it a light practice, mind you), bodes well for his injury being a thing of the past now.

“I felt good. It wasn’t sore at all in the game,” Bradley said. “I felt I was moving good. After the game I was a little sore and this morning, but otherwise I felt good.”

Despite Boston being 4-1 this season when Bradley doesn’t play, he has immense value to this Celtics team at both ends of the floor.

Offensively he has been Boston’s second-leading scorer most of this season and currently averages a career-high 17.7 points per game along with 6.9 rebounds which is also a career high.

And defensively, Bradley is coming off a season in which he was named to the NBA’s all-Defensive First Team for the first time.

Any questions or concerns about the Achilles affecting his play defensively were put to rest Monday night when he put the defensive clamps on Nicolas Batum who missed nine of his 11 shots from the field while primarily being guarded by Bradley.

Now his offense, that’s another story.

Bradley failed to reach double digits scoring for the first time this season as he missed seven of his nine shots on Monday to finish with just five points.

But part of that had to do with Bradley passing up shots he normally takes, as well as him missing some he normally knocks down.

Considering his lay-off and the rhythm his teammates have been in shooting the ball in his absence, Bradley wisely decided to get his defensive bearings on track and gradually bring his offensive game around. 

“I have to get my (shooting) rhythm back,” said Bradley who is making a career-best 40.9 percent of his 3-pointers this season. “I’m fine. I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s game.”