Lucic shapes up his point against Rangers

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Lucic shapes up his point against Rangers

The beaming, wide, knowing grin on Milan Lucics face said it all on Saturday night. It was the only fitting reaction after he potted the Bruins first goal of the season with a little less than six minutes to go in the first period.

It lit a raging fire of emotion under the posteriors his Bs teammates and lifted them up amid what had been a scoreless first which Boston largely dominated while out-shooting the Rangers by a 14-7 margin. It also resoundingly answered all of the critics that reasoned the 24-year-old Bruins power forward was woefully out of shape while idling in Boston during the four-month lockout.

The doubters expected the worst out of Lucic to start the season, and the doubters got it wrong.

Instead the wide mark of happiness on Lucics visage was about the first thought that popped into his head after snapping home the rebound: his newborn eight pound, one ounce baby girl Valentina Lucic born just two days prior after 18 hours of labor.

Thats what was really important amid so much sound and fury with the NHL season cranking up this week.

It was a whirlwind last week for Lucic with the start of a week-long training, the birth of his first child and Saturday nights 3-1 win over the New York Rangers in impressive fashion. So youll forgive No. 17 if he didnt have enough energy or care for a round of I told you so sound bytes to everyone that doubted him after Boston's big win.

It is what it is. I dont want to make too big of a deal about it. I feel good; Im just going to go out there and play my game, said Lucic. You guys get to watch from upstairs, and you guys can make your own judgments and opinions about it.

Whether it was answering the naysayers or simply missing the game of hockey while the NHL was away for the last four months, Lucic was playing with the snarling edge that makes him one of the league's most fearsome forces. He actually could have had a goal even earlier in the period when Henrik Lundqvist kicked the rebound of a Nathan Horton shot toward the post.

But Lucic instead chose to crash the straight down the middle of the ice and wasnt in position to slam home the loose puck.

Instead Lucic took a mental note for later in the period, and crashed the far post the second time around. That's where the rebound of a David Krejci shot bounced right onto his stick for the put-back score, and the Bruins were off and running while following Lucic's lead.

The goal seemingly announced that Lucic wouldnt be suffering from the slow start to the hockey season many predicted. It also made it difficult to discern which players had or hadnt played in Europe during the lockout as everybody looked pretty close to equal in effort, output and energy levels through 60 minutes.

I give credit to the guys that went over to Europe and played were playing at a high level and doing a good job, but I also give credit to the guys who didnt, said Andrew Ference. I think a lot of guys out there tonight didnt look out of place and I thought the game was good, professional. The guys were acting like professionals even during the frustrating time of not playing.

Lucic was a professional force around the net with his big body on rebounds, he led the team with four registered hits that served notice to the Rangers he meant business for the evening and he ended up cutting his night short early after a late dust-up with Mike Rupp and Ryan McDonagh. The altercation earned him a 10-minute misconduct late in the third period when Lucic didn't leave the area once the refs told him it was time to head back to the bench.

Claude Julien loved what he saw out of Lucic after he was among many players that struggled badly in Tuesday nights scrimmage against Providence.

Lucic was very good. The microscope was on him for a long time because he didnt play in Europe and people thought that maybe he wasnt in the best of shape, said Julien. There were a lot of question marks on him, but I thought he played a solid game.

Not only did he score that goal from driving the net, but physically and everything else he was good. I dont really have any complaints about anyone on our team tonight, because I thought from top to bottom we were a pretty good hockey club.

While key forwards like Nathan Horton and Brad Marchand also didnt play in Europe during the 113 days of the NHL lockout, it was Lucic alone that bore the brunt of unfair criticism that he hadnt worked hard enough to prepare for a shortened campaign. It was always true that he hadnt been on the ice much in November or December and because of that he wasnt in game shape.

But anybody with eyes could also see Lucic hadnt gained any bad weight or suddenly fallen into terrible shape that was going to hamper his ability to at least work himself back into game shape" over the first few weeks.

Instead people ran with the narrative and tweeted out pictures of Lucic sucking wind and down on one knee when the Bruins players first got together at Boston University prior to organized training camp. That raised questions and, to be truthful, aggravated some of Lucics teammates.

Looch has been in shape this whole time, and it was great for him to go out and score proved that he hasnt missed a beat. He was physical out there as well, said Johnny Boychuk. Thats the way he wants to play and thats the way hes going to play. For him to go out and get that goal to show that hes not slacking really means a lot to everybody.

The challenge now for Lucic is to tap into that same motivational force time and time again this season once the adrenaline fades away, and the grind of the 48-game sprint begins to weight him down.

Lucic goes from tough-to-play-against to impossible-to-stop beast when hes got something to prove, and that was definitely the case while passing his personal fitness test against the Rangers.

Quotes, notes and stars: Pomeranz has been a "mixed bag" so far

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Quotes, notes and stars: Pomeranz has been a "mixed bag" so far

Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 5-2 loss to the Angels:

 

QUOTES

 

* “Missed opportunities -- that’s the story of this one. We did a fantastic job of, once again, putting guys on. But to cash in and complete the inning -- that base hit has been elusive . . . It’s been all or nothing it seems like this stretch that we’re through offensively.” Farrell said on Boston’s offensive play of late.

 

* “The first one wasn’t me. I had a lot of time off -- had a lot of things going on. The last one was more myself -- I fell like. Tonight, I made a bad pitch too (Albert) Pujols, walked a couple guys. But overall, I feel like I did a decent job.” Pomeranz on his first three starts in Boston

 

* “I’m just trying to put a good swing on a good pitch and fortunately I got one and it went over.” Mookie Betts said on his leadoff homerun.

 

* “It’s been a mixed bag.” Farrell on Pomeranz to trough his first threw starts for the Red Sox.

 

* “Overall he probably wasn’t as sharp as his last time out. And when they created damage against him it was early in counts . . . So it wasn’t like he got into too many deep innings.” John Farrell said Drew Pomeranz’s start.

 

* “It happens – it’s baseball. They capitalized on some chances and we didn’t.” Betts on the offense not taking advantage of early opportunities.

 

NOTES

 

* Mookie Betts’ leadoff homerun was his 21st long ball of the year, sixth to start off the game. He passed Dwight Evans (5 in 1985) and now only trails Nomar Garciaparra’s seven in 1997.

 

* Albert Pujols launched his 20th home run of the season, reaching that total for the 15th time in his career. He joins Frank Robinson, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron as the only players to do so through at least 16 seasons.

 

* Dustin Pedroia has reached base safely in 33 straight games for the Red Sox after walking twice and finishing 1-for-2 in the loss.

 

* Xander Bogaerts extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a single in his second at-bat, finishing 1-for-3 with a walk.

 

* The Red Sox are now two games out of first place with Toronto finally moving into first place after defeating the Orioles 9-1 on Saturday.

 

 

STARS

 

1) Hector Santiago

Somehow, the lefty managed to scatter six walks and four hits -- including a leadoff homerun -- only giving up two runs in five innings of work against Boston.

 

2) Albert Pujols

Pujols’ two-run homerun gave the Angels the advantage after falling behind early, and proved to be enough for their pitching staff.

 

3) Dustin Pedroia

As much as Mookie Betts had the big fly, Pedroia reached base three times in four chances, finishing 1-for-2 with two walks.

First impressions: Red Sox miss out on free opportunities

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First impressions: Red Sox miss out on free opportunities

First impressions of the Red Sox 5-2 loss to Los Angeles:

 

Far too many missed opportunities for the Red Sox.

Hector Santiago somehow worked his way through five innings and only gave up two runs -- despite walking six batters and giving up six hits.

Somehow he’s flipped a switch in July after a rough start to the season. But Saturday night was not one of those nights.

Although the pitching wasn’t at it’s best, Santiago gave the Red Sox offense several easy chances at runs that they didn’t capitalize on -- including two instances where Bryce Brentz was punched-out.

 

Joe Kelly not the best guy to bring in with runners on.

The righty gave up a crucial double to start his appearance -- which would’ve been an amazing catch by Brock Holt.

Next leadoff batter he got out, but his last one reach on a line drive single up the middle.

So 67 percent of the leadoff batters got a hit off of Kelly.

A small sample size? Yes.

But when you’ve got a track record like Kelly’s, assessments like that are going to be made.

 

The return out west didn’t go as planned for Drew Pomeranz.

While Saturday was a Pacific Coast homecoming for the lefty starter, he wasn’t able to find his form.

It seemed like things would go well at first, but Pomeranz made some crucial mistakes in his second trip through the order.

Walking Yunel Escobar isn’t an option when Mike Trout and Albert Pujols follow him.

Furthermore, the cutter Pujols launched to left field was down the heart of the plate -- simply unacceptable.

 

Mookie Betts is making might be more valuable than Xander Bogaerts.

It became clear pretty early that Betts had the superior power.

While Bogaerts’ hands give bail him out constantly, they never move as quickly as those of the Boston leadoff hitter.

And while Bogaerts seemed to be the superior hitter for average, Betts is narrowing that gap, too.

The only case for Bogaerts being more valuable is that he’s a shortstop.

Other than that, Betts has shown he could easily be the face of the franchise when David Ortiz retires -- which is great for Boston, since he’s the one of the two who isn’t a Scott Boras client.

 

Red Sox fail to secure another series win against a bad team.

The Angels have no pitching. In fact, the Red Sox haven’t even faced their best pitcher.

And with the exception of Friday’s game, they’ve scored three runs in two LA games.

And the pitching was good until Saturday night -- so the offense has to get things going for Sunday.

Thuney stands out in first day of one-on-one work

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Thuney stands out in first day of one-on-one work

FOXBORO -- With the introduction of fully-padded practices typically comes the opportunity for linemen on both sides of the football to shine. Unfortunately for the Patriots offensive line, Saturday was sort of a rough day.

Guard Jonathan Cooper, who has been playing as the right guard on the first offensive line unit through the early portion of camp, had to be carted off the field with a foot injury. Center Bryan Stork left practice in the middle of the workout for an undisclosed reason. Guard Shaq Mason took off for some conditioning on a lower field soon after practice began. And, while healthy enough to be on the field, Marcus Cannon had difficulty trying to keep defensive ends Rob Ninkovich and Jabaal Sheard in check. 

One of the bright spots for offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia's group was rookie third-round pick Joe Thuney. The North Carolina State product has served as the left guard for the first-team offensive line thus far, and he more than held his own when the hitting commenced. 

He never appeared out of sorts next to left tackle Nate Solder, he blocked up to and through the echo of the whistle on a play-to-play basis, and he was one of the most impressive Patriots -- rookie or otherwise -- during the first one-on-one period for linemen during this year's camp. 

On his first snap, he was matched up across from last year's first-round pick Malcom Brown and held his ground against the team's top defensive tackle. Later, Thuney handled veteran free-agent pickup Frank Kearse. And on his final rep, he walled off second-year player Trey Flowers. 

For Thuney's part, those few minutes, encouraging as they might have been, had to be flushed from his memory quickly. 

"You can't think too much into one specific drill," he said. "You just gotta try and take it one play at a time and not put too much stock in one drill or one rep. If you have a bad one, just move past it. If you have a good one, move past that too and just go to the next play."

Thuney's aggressiveness and his understanding of the playbook to this point have to be as encouraging to the Patriots coaching staff as -- what appears to be, at least -- his sound technique.  

Mild-mannered in his interactions with reporters, Thuney was touted as a versatile and intelligent player coming out of college. He gushed about his college teammate Jacoby Brissett's leadership qualities soon after Brissett was drafted by the Patriots in May, and he's gone viral for his ability to slay the Rubik's Cube in a blink. 

He has some nasty to him, though. 

"I think inside every offensive lineman there's an inherent desire to play through the whistle," he said. "Obviously we don't want to play dirty or anything, but we try and play as hard as we can from whistle-to-whistle. And yeah...I do take pride in that." 

Thuney wasn't the only rookie lineman to play well on Saturday. When Cooper went down, it was sixth-rounder Ted Karras who began to see more work. 

Together, they caught the eye of at least one veteran defensive lineman. 

"They're physical," said defensive tackle Terrance Knighton. "That's a good start. Obviously they'll have to work on different techniques. Coming from college you have different terminology, a different playbook, a different style of game probably. 

"I try to help them out as much as I can even though we go at it. After the play if I feel something, I'll definitely share with them, whether [to] help them going up against myself or help them in the long run because we're all on the same team at the end of the day."

Whatever lessons Thuney's received thus far -- whether they're from coaches or from teammates on the other side of the line of scrimmage -- it looks like he's taken them to heart.