Haggerty: This Bruins team is different


Haggerty: This Bruins team is different

By JoeHaggerty

BOSTON It shouldnt be difficult to believe that this Bruins team is vastly different this time around, should it?

Armed with a 2-0 lead in the series and heading to their home ice for a pair of hockey dates that could theoretically see the Bs close out the Philadelphia Flyers in Boston, the Black and Gold could have very easily bounded out of the gate lacking urgency.

Last years Bruins team couldnt or wouldnt show that ability to close things out when up against the very talented Flyers team, and stumbled badly after building up a 3-0 lead in the series while losing David Krejci to a dislocated right wrist in Game Three.

Perhaps it had something to do with a Game Seven Bs lineup against the Flyers that included Steve Begin, Trent Whitfield and Miroslav Satan three players that suited up for a grand total of two NHL games this season and was missing David Krejci, Marco Sturm, Dennis Seidenberg and Tim Thomas among others.

There are some mornings that guys have more jump and they are more chatty, said Chara. There are mornings that you can see the excitement and focus is there. I think thats what it was this morning.

We are glad that we are in the position that we are. But still there is one more win we have to accomplish to move on, and that is where our focus is right now.

It seemed eerily familair a year ago with the Black and Gold in the same position, but the Bruins proved that was then and this is now by pounding the Philadelphia Flyers early and often in a 5-1 shellacking featuring dominant performances in every phase of the hockey game at TD Garden.

One could simply say that no team has come back from a 3-0 deficit during the playoffs in consecutive seasons as assurance that the Bruins wont be frittering anything away to Philly this time around. But a team full of proud players that have heard jokes about collapses and being chokers all summer isnt going to leave anything to the hockey history books that slapped them upside the head last year.

Last year we had a good chance to play in the Conference Final and who knows what could happen, said Krejci. So this year we just really want to beat these guys and get to the Conference Final and go from there.

First of all, we have about half the guys werent here last year. Its a deeper, we have bigger depth in our lineup, and we felt good in the first round. So hopefully thats going to help us in the second round, too.

Even better than that the Bruins sailed through the Game Three victory with complete health and momentum still squarely in their corner and the Flyers have yanked their starting goaltender in each of the three games while also dearly missing big blueliner Chris Pronger.

Both teams are vastly different hockey entities going in different directions a year later on the hockey calendar, and one doesnt have to peer all that deeply into the score sheet to see just how different the Bruins are. Of course theres the old steady standbys like Zdeno Chara (2 goals, a plus-4 and a team-high five shots on net) and Patrice Bergeron (17-of-19 face-off wins, an assist and a plus) have been performing like champs in the first couple of games, but nearly all of the new faces are making a difference for a determined Bs bunch.

Rookie Brad Marchand wasnt good enough to crack the playoff roster last year when Whitfield played in his place, but this time around Marchand set up Zdeno Charas first goal while bouncing like a pinball all over the ice for a game-high seven hits. New Bruins winger Nathan Horton capped off one of his finest playoff performances with a Gordie Howe hat trick that included an assist on David Krejcis first period goal, a second period goal on his own and a second period scrap with veteran defenseman Sean ODonnell when things got testy in front of the Flyers net.

That doesnt even mention a healthy Krejci with eight points (4 goals, 4 assists) in three playoff games against the Flyers this season while he battles through scraps with fellow feisty skill players like Ville Leino and Kris Versteeg. The Bruins are 11-0-1 in the last 12 games played against the Flyers with Krejci in the lineup and Krejci has 18 points and a plus-10 against Philadelphia during that time period. Krejci finished with three points and a plus-2 in the victory, and helped dust the Flyers with his crisp one-timer off a Milan Lucic pass 63 seconds into the game

Going into the series I was hoping for the Flyers to drop behind in the series, said Tim Thomas. It is what it is. Its a different year. Its totally different.

I am focused on this year. I am focused on what we as a team want to accomplish this year and what I as a player want to try to accomplish this year.

That doesnt even count the biggest difference-maker in the entire series: Tim Thomas was outstanding against with 37 saves on a night when his defense managed to keep the actual scoring chances to a minimum. Thomas ripped off a stretch of 68 straight saves between Game Two and Three, and the Bruins goaltender is starting to taste what could be an incredibly fulfilling postseason for the man behind the mask. The Bs goaltender has put together a .967 in the last two games against the high octane Flyers, and all of their skaters have gone away frustrated knowing its going to be nearly impossible to beat the Vezina Trophy favorite with the roll hes currently residing in.

Thats not even mentioning Dennis Seidenberg with another solid 28 minutes skating alongside Chara in a top pairing, or guys like Rich Peverley, Chris Kelly and Tomas Kaberle that have added to the depth and the overall talent level in Boston.

The Bruins will continue to hear the questions about last season now that theyre up 3-0 in the series against a Flyers team that shocked them last spring, but things couldnt be any different.

The Bruins have come through on the other side of the heartache, skittishness and bitterness that signified last seasons hockey meltdown, and theyre a much better, stronger, more lethal team for it.

Its wont be a long now for a fractured Flyers team that simply isnt good enough to take down a much different Bruins team this time around.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Quotes, notes and stars: Hill snaps tie and 0-for-20 skid with one swing


Quotes, notes and stars: Hill snaps tie and 0-for-20 skid with one swing

BOSTON - Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 8-6 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday afternoon at Fenway Park:


"After we got him an inning (Tuesday) night because he hadn't pitched in six days, we were not going to with the quick turnaround and get four outs from him,'' - John Farrell on whether Craig Kimbrel was available for the eighth inning.

"Taking three weeks off in the middle of the season is not easy for anybody. And the biggest thing with my shoulder is just trusting that it's strong and healthy.'' - Steven Wright on his struggles since coming off the DL.

"In a situation like that, you know they're going to try to get you to roll over on a double play. That's his job. For me, (my job) is to see the ball deep and put a good swing on it.'' - Aaron Hill, who had been 0-for-20 before singling home the go-ahead run in the eighth.



* The win was the Red Sox' 29th come-from-behind win of the year.

* The Sox improved to 13-3 against left-handed starters

* Hanley Ramirez became just the third Red Sox hitter since 1930 to erase a three-run deficit with a two-out grand slam

* Ramirez has knocked in 33 runs in his last 28 Fenway games.

* Dustin Pedroia enjoyed his fourth game with three or more hits in his last five games.

* Pedroia is 18 for his last 24 at Fenway.

* Jackie Bradley has a .941 OPS at home this season.

* Mookie Betts has reached safely in each of his last 19 games.

* Betts has 11 outfield assists this year and three have come against Tampa Bay

* Each one of Xander Bogaerts' last nine homers have come with two strikes.



1) Hanley Ramirez

Trailing 4-1, the Red Sox got a grand slam from Ramirez to give them their first lead of the game in the fifth. He later walked and scored the go-ahead run in the eighth.

2) Jackie Bradley Jr.

Bradley had been scuffling and dropped back down to the No. 9 spot in the lineup, but broke out with a single, homer, double and two RBI.

3) Aaron Hill

Hill played a fine game at third defensively, and snapped an 0-for-20 skid with an opposite-field, run-scoring single to snap a 6-6 tie.


Celtics waive guard/forward John Holland


Celtics waive guard/forward John Holland

BOSTON –  The Boston Celtics moved one step closer towards trimming down its overcrowded roster with the waiving of John Holland.

The 27-year-old would have gone into training camp with a very slim shot at making the roster. He signed a two-year deal that would have been worth $874,636 for the 2016-2017 season.

However, the contract was non-guaranteed and would have more than likely been used as part of a potential trade.

But no such deal materialized.

So rather than have the 6-foot-5 guard/forward in training camp with the odds heavily stacked against him making the team, Boston waived him now so that he has enough time to either go to training camp with another NBA team or sign with a team overseas.

Holland, who starred at Boston University, has already played overseas in France, Spain and Turkey in addition to having played with the Development League’s Canton Charge last season.

He played in one game for the Boston Celtics.

The Celtics now have 18 players in training camp, 16 of which have guaranteed contracts.

LeBlanc's ability to play the football could help him earn spot with Patriots


LeBlanc's ability to play the football could help him earn spot with Patriots

FOXBORO -- Not long after Cre'Von LeBlanc made a hard-to-fathom, one-handed interception in New England's preseason opener against the Saints, Patriots coach Bill Belichick labeled the play "special." Then he delved a little more deeply into LeBlanc's practice performances with the team to that point.

"Day in and day out, he's been pretty consistent for us going all the way back to the spring," Belichick said at the time. "I'd say his instinctiveness, his ability to be around the ball, his anticipation and ability to recognize routes maybe offset some of the testing numbers that aren't elite . . . Knowing how to play -- he has got some of that. He finds the ball. Or the ball finds him. However you want to look at it."

LeBlanc has seen more preseason targets (20) than any other corner in the NFL thus far, according to Pro Football Focus, and he's allowed nine receptions for 95 yards. His percentage of targets caught (45 percent) is the third-best of any corner with at least 15 targets, and he's allowed a quarterback rating of 38.5 when targeted.

The undrafted rookie out of Florida Atlantic has one pass breakup to go along with his eye-popping pick, and his ability to make plays on the football -- something he flashed in one-on-one drills throughout training camp -- is something that may allow him to earn a spot on the team's 53-man roster.

When asked to explain the value of a player who seems to have a knack for finding the football, Belichick said it can be a difficult skill to assess. It may seem, at times, like a player is fortunate to make those kinds of plays at first. But if they happen again, and again, you might just have something.

"It's a valuable skill," Belichick said. "Logan Ryan is another guy that did it in college. He has done it here. Some guys have a real knack for that, other guys not as much. Sometimes it's a little bit acquired, sometimes it's just instinctive.

"The best example I ever had was [former Giants corner] Everson Walls. He didn't technically do hardly anything right from a fundamental standpoint. You would never take another player and say, 'Look, do it the way Everson's doing it. This is the way you would want to do it.' But in the end [he had], I don't know, whatever it was, 56 career interceptions. It was a lot. It was over 50. He did things, but he could find the ball and he had a great instinct for quarterbacks, routes, pattern combinations and so forth. Certainly it wasn't a speed and measurable thing. You would have released him on those measurable. That's whyhe wasn't drafted. But as a football player he's productive.

"When I was in Detroit, Lem Barney . . . same kind of thing. Lem probably had better measurable skills coming out, but at that point he made a lot of plays and he made them on his instinctiveness, ball skills, awareness, etc.

"Ty [Law], I mean Ty was a first-round pick, but Ty had that too. There are a lot of first-round picks that don't have that and he had that.

"It's definitely an important skill, and it really probably separates good from great players or average to good players. It's not the easiest thing to evaluate, and sometimes some of those plays are circumstantial more than they are great instinctive plays. They're fortunate the way they happen. But when a guy starts making enough of them then you know it's something a little special."

Time will tell as to whether or not the Patriots believe LeBlanc has that something special. Final roster cuts are due on Sept. 3. He's been included in our latest 53-man roster projection, but he's competing in what appears to be a deep positional group that includes second-year players Justin Coleman and Darryl Roberts as well as fellow undrafted rookie Jonathan Jones.