Patriots defense gaining confidence in recent weeks

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Patriots defense gaining confidence in recent weeks

FOXBORO -- In the Patriots' last three games, they've allowed 19 points to the Jets, 16 points to the Dolphins, and 14 points to the Texans -- all wins.

With each week, the scores have dropped, and with each week the defense is gaining more self-assuredness. Vince Wilfork said on Thursday that the Patriots defense has been on a roll that has turned out to be a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy: The better the defense plays, the more fun it has, and the more fun it has, the better it plays.

"One thing I see is confidence," Wilfork said. "Guys playing and having fun. That's the one thing, when you play with confidence, you can have fun. When you play stuck up, it's not fun because you scared to make a mistake. You're not sure if you're doing the right things or not."

After Monday night's game, Wilfork credited cornerback Aqib Talib with bringing a certain swagger to the defense that may contribute to its playing more loosely.

"He's brought an attitude," Wilfork said. "He don't say much, he just practice his tail off. He fit right in with everybody else. He's a physical player. Big, strong, physical player. I don't know if he brought anything to the secondary or not, but I can tell you what he bring on the practice field and what he bring in the game. He's a special player, and I'm glad we got him."

As the defense has gelled as a unit in the last month since Talib's arrival, positions in the secondary have solidified as well -- Talib and Alfonzo Dennard man the corners, with Kyle Arrington in the slot, and Steve Gregory and Devin McCourty at the safety positions. Whether that has helped contribute to an air of confidence or not, Wilfork says that he hasn't seen teammates getting disappointed after allowing big plays during this recent stretch of success.

"Other teams, they get paid, too," he said. "They play good football, too. Every once in a while they make plays, and it's not the end of the world. I think the guys do a really good job of understanding that, not getting down on themselves, trying to go out and make another play. It's gonna be like that again this week."

Rask: Last season 'something to rebound from' personally

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Rask: Last season 'something to rebound from' personally

BRIGHTON, Mass. – While David Pastrnak, Tuukka Rask and David Backes are back from competing in the World Cup of Hockey in Toronto, that doesn’t mean you’ll see those players on the ice over the next couple of days. Perhaps the trio will practice on Monday in the fourth on-ice session at main training camp, but Bruins GM Don Sweeney confirmed that none of those returning players will suit up against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the B’s preseason debut at TD Garden on Monday night.

“Yeah…absolutely,” said Sweeney when asked if those three players have been ruled out for Monday night. “They’re going to get through the weekend here. Next week, we’ll evaluate [them] when they get on the ice. But, all those guys will not be on the ice until next week.

“It might be case-by-case for each guy. Those guys have been playing for a while at a high level. It’s unique for David Backes coming into the organization, so he’d like to integrate himself. I talked yesterday with all three of them just to get a read of where they’re at. But, sometime first of next week, they’ll be on [the ice].”

Both Pastrnak and Rask have checked in with the Bruins media over the last couple of days after returning from Toronto, and the Bruins goaltender, in particular, has plenty of motivation coming off a down statistical season. The 2.56 goals against average and .915 save percentage were well below his career numbers, and people like B’s President Cam Neely have pointed to Rask as somebody that needs to have a better season for Boston to rebound back into the playoffs this year.

“There were a couple of years where the standards pretty high, so obviously when they go down there’s something to rebound from. You kind of know where you can be. That’s where I try to be every year and I’m working on being there this year, and taking us to the playoffs and moving forward,” said Rask. “But every year is a new year where you’ve got to work hard, and set your goals to be at your best. More often than not you hope [being at your best] is going to happen, and I hope this year is going to be a great year for us.”

Clearly Rask wasn’t alone in his struggles last season behind a mistake-prone defense that allowed plenty of Grade chances, and that could be a repeating phenomenon again this season for the Bruins unless the defense is substantially upgraded along the way.

As far as the other three B’s players still taking part in the World Cup, it could be a while for Patrice and Brad Marchand as Team Canada has advanced to the final best-of-three series that could also feature Zdeno Chara if Team Europe is victorious.