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.

Brady: Preseason reps help you adapt to the speed of the game

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Brady: Preseason reps help you adapt to the speed of the game

FOXBORO -- It's clear that Tom Brady wants to play at some point this preseason. What's a little less clear is what he thinks he stands to gain from preseason game reps in August when he won't be playing meaningful snaps until October. 

After explaining why he missed Thursday's preseason game with the Bears, which he was scheduled to start, Brady was asked on Tuesday if he feels as though he needs game reps before matching up with the Browns in Week 5.

"I don’t think any of them hurt," he said. "I think just do the best you can do. We’re preparing a lot of guys to get ready to play. I fit into that, but so do a lot of other guys. I’m just taking the advice of coach [Bill Belichick], and whatever he wants to do. I’m going to do everything I can to be ready to go when I am called upon. That’s what my responsibility is so that’s what I’m preparing to do."

If the only benefit of having Brady play against the Panthers in the third preseason game amounts to, "Well, couldn't hurt..." then it would come as some surprise if Belichick opted to play Brady anyway. Because it could hurt. It could hurt quite a bit should something flukey happen and Brady ends up worse off than he was after his recent run-in with a pair of scissors. 

Former assistant to the Patriots coaching staff Mike Lombardi, told WEEI recently that Brady needs to work in a preseason game before serving his four-game suspension. Why? 

"The speed of the game changes," Lombardi said. "You have practices against the Bears, but it’s kind of simulated and controlled. I think Tom wants to get the flow of the game . . . Because it’s the third preseason game, Jimmy [Garoppolo] is probably going to play as much into the third quarter as possible, and then you don’t want to put Tom out there with a lot of other guys that perhaps won’t make the team. The second game was kind of a game where he should have played a little bit to get his feet wet. He’s not going to play the fourth game against the New York Giants. That’s going to be Jacoby Brissett’s game. 

"I think [the Bears game] was the time, and that’s why [Brady] was going to play. Obviously something happened with the injury and that’s why he didn’t play . . . I know Tom needs to play in the preseason. He’s not just going to go waltz onto the field and feel the game is going to come right to him."

It feels as though Brady, after 16 years in the NFL, would be able to adapt to the speed of the game relatively quickly with or without preseason reps. But Brady expressed an opinion similar to that of Lombardi when asked about the difference between preseason snaps and practice snaps. He's seen plenty of the latter against the Bears, Saints and his own teammates.

"Well, I think you’re getting hit so just the space awareness, guys around you and ball security and things like that," Brady said. "For whatever, the last 30 practices, quarterbacks aren’t touched. Just standing there in the pocket, holding the ball knowing that they’re coming to get the ball and knock it out of your hands, hitting the ground, those types of things and so forth are important.

"You just have to feel things out, and the game is really the only place to get it because it’s regular speed. You don’t know what’s coming. We prepare, but we don’t obviously get to walk through the looks that we’re going to get. When you get out there you just have to make good decisions and go play quarterback the way that I’ve always tried to do."

Maybe it's to adapt to the pace of the game. Maybe it's to be faced with the real threat of contact. Maybe it's just because he can't stand not to be on the field when the Patriots are playing. Either way, Brady obviously hopes that he'll play on Friday night in Carolina. 

The question now is are the benefits great enough that Belichick will allow him to?

McAdam: Will this be Clay Buchholz's last start?

McAdam: Will this be Clay Buchholz's last start?

With Wright and Rodriguez set to return, Sean McAdam joins SNC to discuss whether Tuesday’s game against the Rays will be the last start for Clay Buchholz.