By Tom E. CurranFOXBORO -On Friday night, Tom Brady took the bullet for a first quarter strip sack in Tampa, even though right tackle Marcus Cannon's effort on the play was embarrassing. Monday morning, Brady took the blame again. And Monday afternoon in the Patriots locker room, Brady assured me the offensive and the offensive line would be just fine. That's an assertion one will have to take on faith. Because, while the run blocking has been very good at times, the pass protection on the right edge behind Cannon has been scary for three games. On the left side behind Nate Solder, there's been one "good" performance. There's reason to believe they'll be better in the regular season. The middle-of-the-line shuffling will end. Tight ends may stay in longer to afford extra protection. Brady knows how to get rid of the ball quickly and fight another play. But until they're better...they're not better. It is what it is. Bill Belichick was asked during his Monday press conference whether he felt Brady's been getting hit too often. "You never want to see your quarterback get hit but its a function of a lot of things: not getting rid of the ball, protection, routes, so theres a lot of things come into play," said Belichick. "It needs to be better all the way around. I mean, we havent played very well offensively in any game, with anybody, for any length of time so weve got a lot of work to do."Belichick bristled a bit when asked when he'd settle on a clear-cut group of five linemen. "I would say were probably doing the best we can given the circumstances that we have," he stated. "I dont think all of our offensive linemen have been available. Weve had some guys on the roster that have been in different degrees ofhave worked in different ranges or stages and they havent been totally available for one reason or another. It is what it is."What it's beenwith Cannon is a disappointment. He's been fundamentally weak on someplays and - despite being athletic - his lack of fundamentals has put him in places that leave him looking awkward. There's not a lot of insight forthcoming when Cannon's asked how things are going. "We're all bonding together pretty good," he said." Working together and getting everything figured out.We're just out there doing our jobs to the best of our ability, um...there's uhhh, ya know...ummm...that's it." Yup. That about puts a bow on it.
BRIGHTON, MASS -- It didn’t take last season’s embarrassing Winter Classic result to figure out something has been missing from the storied, legendary Bruins-Canadiens rivalry over the last few years.
The last traces of the latest, great incarnation of the B’s-Habs rivalry were clearly still there a couple of seasons ago when the two hockey clubs met in the second round of the playoffs. After falling short the last few times the teams met in the postseason, Boston was summarily dismissed by Montreal in Game 7 on their own home ice during that series. The following season the B’s simply had so many of their own players struggling to put out a consistent effort, so the games against the Habs didn’t really register highly on the importance scale, and last season both Boston and Montreal suffered through subpar seasons that saw them each fall short of the playoffs.
Since the second round loss to the Habs in the 2013-14 playoffs, the Bruins are 2-7 while being outscored by a 31-18 margin in nine regular season meetings over the last two seasons in an incredibly one-sided chapter in the two teams’ shared history. The real lack of competitiveness has been a noticeable lack of deep emotion or ill will on the ice between the two hockey clubs, and that is very different from the recent past when signature players like Milan Lucic, P.K. Subban and Shawn Thornton were card-carrying members of healthy hate that regularly spilled out on the ice between the two rival NHL organizations.
Instead it will probably be new blood that breathes glorious, hard-edged life into the history between the two Original Six teams, and new personalities like David Backes, Shea Weber and Andrew Shaw are likely to do just that. Certainly the Canadiens wanted to be much more difficult to play against in recruiting players like Shaw and Weber, and, their presence along with the offensively explosive Alex Radulov, could make it a tough matchup for the Black and Gold.
Either way, the Bruins are curious to see what the matchup looks like this season with the electric P.K. Subban removed from the mix as one of the classic Habs villain-type characters from a Boston perspective.
“It’s always fun to play Montreal at home, or in Montreal. This will be our second time counting the preseason, and our first time at the Garden. It’s going to be pretty cool,” said David Krejci. “When you say any NHL team there are a few names that pop out for that team, and [P.K. Subban] was definitely one of them [for Montreal]. But P.K. is gone, and now it’s Shea Weber. So it’s going to be a little different, but he’s a hell of a player as well so it isn’t going to be any easier.
“It’s a big game. It’s a division game. We don’t want to take any game lightly within the 82 games because you don’t know what can happen at the end. When those games against [Montreal] are done you always feel like you’ve played two games, and not just one. It’s high intensity, and it’s obviously a rivalry that you get up for.”
As Bruins head coach Claude Julien would say it, things are a bit too civilized between the two enemy teams when thinking back to the days of Georges Laraque chasing Milan Lucic around the ice challenging him a fight on the Bell Centre ice, or the awful epoch in B’s-Habs history when Zdeno Chara clobbered Max Pacioretty with a dangerous, injury-inducing hit into the stanchion area.
Nobody is looking for players to get hurt on borderline plays when the two teams suit up on Saturday night, but something to introduce a new chapter into the Boston-Montreal rivalry would be a good thing for both teams, a good thing for the fans and a potentially great thing for an NHL that prides itself on good, old-fashioned rivalries.
“We need to make sure that we’re ready to play [on Saturday]. I like the way that we’ve played so far, and except for Toronto we’ve managed to compete with all of the teams that we’ve played against,” said Julien. “I don’t know if it’s going to stay that way, but I’m going to use the word that [the rivalry] has been more civilized for the last few years. There hasn’t been as much of the sideshow as there has been [in the past].
“I think there’s still a lot of hatred between the two organizations when they meet, but I think the way the game is trending, and how costly that penalties can be in a game, both teams are a little cautious in that way. I still think there is great intensity and both teams get up for the games, so hopefully that happens tomorrow, and the fans get to see a good game.”
One thing that should ensure a good, familiar showdown with plenty of hard-hitting and honest-to-goodness rivalry-like behavior: both the Canadiens and Bruins are off to strong starts at the top of the Atlantic Division in the first couple of weeks this season, and there are some new faces that are undoubtedly going to want to announce their presence for these Bruins-Habs tilts with authority.
Let’s hope this happens because last season’s Bruins-Habs games needed a pair of jumper cables and 1.21 jigowatts of electricity to shock them back into their elevated level of intensity, and that’s when hockey is served best after all.
Jay Heaps joins Brad Feldman to discuss the team’s 2-1 loss to the Fire.