PatsTexans Stat Pack

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PatsTexans Stat Pack

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I love numbers. Random numbers. Stupid numbers. And in anticipation of Sunday's game, the ESPN STATS & INFO blog has posted a collection of PatsTexans playoff tidbits that are right up my alley. "Literally."

Here are the aforementioned fun facts, complete with SRO commentary:

The Patriots beat the Texans 42-14 in Week 14 but, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, teams that lost to a team by at least 28 points in the regular season are 11-11 when playing that team in the playoffs. That list of losers includes the Patriots, who beat the Jets 45-3 in a regular season meeting but lost to them a few weeks later in the playoffs.

SRO: This is unbelievable, and certainly hammers home just how insignificant last month's victory was. To be honest, I would have been impressed if even six of the 22 teams had bounced back to win. But 50 percent? How is that even possible.

Tom Brady is 16-6 in 22 playoff starts (tied with Joe Montana for most wins by starting QB in playoff history). He is 6-6 in his past 12 playoff starts after starting 10-0 in his first 10 playoff starts.

SRO: The 6-6 record is scary, and makes the days of "10-0" feel like a lifetime ago. That being said, it's pretty cool that Brady has a chance to break the all-time wins record on Sunday. Also, in looking at his 16-6 lifetime playoff record, let's take a second to remember that Peyton Manning will take the field on Saturday with a career playoff record of 9-10.

Bill Belichick is 17-7 in the playoffs (tied for third-most wins by a head coach).

SRO: Tom Landry is the all-time leader with 20, so Belichick can tie him if the Pats win the Super Bowl. If the Pats merely make the Super Bowl, Belichick's two wins will be enough to tie Don Shula (19) for second place.

This is the fourth time the Patriots are a No. 2 seed. They won Super Bowl XXXIX in 2004, won Super Bowl XXXVI in 2001 and lost Super Bowl XXXI in 1996.

SRO: I wasn't aware of this but I like it when the Pats get the second seed, they get to the Super Bowl. Guaranteed. 100 percent. Like a Shaughnessy column.

The Texans lost their only other appearance in the divisional playoffs (2011 at Ravens).

SRO: Houston went down 17-0 in the first quarter of that game, and never recovered eventually losing 20-13. If the Pats can jump out to anywhere close to that kind of early lead, it will be lights out for the Texans. There are a few reasons why . . .

Texans running back Arian Foster has 425 rushing yards in three postseason games, the most ever by a player in his first three playoff games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

SRO: The first is Foster. The Pats held him to 46 yards on 15 carries back in Week 13. That was his fourth lowest yardage of the season. If New England can jump to a quick lead on Sunday, the Texans won't be able to focus as much on establishing Foster. And then . . .

Texans quarterback Matt Schaub has no touchdowns and three interceptions in his past 3 games. It's the first time he's gone three straight games without a touchdown pass since 2007.

SRO: They'll have to rely on Matt Schaub. And if you're the Patriots, that's exactly who you want to have the ball in his hands. I was shocked by how shaky and uncomfortable Schaub looked in the huddle on Saturday. And that was at home, in the first round, against an inferior opponent.

The Texans have lost two straight road games following a 6-game road winning streak to start the season.

SRO: And signs certainly point to them going home with No. 3.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Acciari glad to be back with B's after missing a month

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Acciari glad to be back with B's after missing a month

BOSTON -- Noel Acciari missed a month of game action with a lower body injury, so it would have been perfectly acceptable to show plenty of rust in his game upon returning to the Boston lineup.

But the former Providence College standout didn’t look rusty, a step behind or out of place in any way as he played the fourth line energy forward role to a perfect fit after missing the last 13 games. Acciari did get in one game with the Providence Bruins prior to suiting back up for the Black and Gold on Saturday, and perhaps that helped him manufacture a couple of shots on net to go along with three thumping hits against the Maple Leafs.

The 25-year-old Acciari didn’t factor into the scoring at all for the Bruins, but that’s just as well given that his focus should be on killing penalties, being hard to play against and taking the body whenever the chance presents itself. Claude Julien reformed the B’s energy line that had so much success earlier in the season with Acciari, Dominic Moore and Tim Schaller, and didn’t hesitate tossing them back into the mix together while looking for energy and a spark for an offensively stunted team.

“It’s good to be back with my linemates, and you know, I think we kind of picked up where we left off, but there’s definitely things we need to work on. That’ll come with a couple more practices and games together,” said Acciari, who finished theSaturday loss with three registered hits packed into 11:35 of ice time. “Kind of getting back to our familiarity and kind of get back to where we were before I got injured.

“It was a good start tonight, but we definitely just weren’t clicking like we used to, but that’ll come. I think that will come. Like I said, a couple practices and just kind of getting some games in [are good things]. I thought we were pretty good tonight, but, you know, should get more pucks to score [goals].”

Clearly there is room for improvement for everybody including Acciari, but it was encouraging to see the fearless competitor again flying around on the TD Garden ice playing high intensity hockey for a fourth line that could use every little bit of that. 

Backes: "Offensive frustration is warranted at this point"

Backes: "Offensive frustration is warranted at this point"

BOSTON -- This may not come as a surprise, but the Boston Bruins are having some trouble putting the puck in the net.

Despite outshooting the Maple Leafs by an 11-2 margin in the first period and outshooting them by a 32-21 margin over the balance of the 60 minute game, the Bruins scratched for just a single goal in a frustrating, constipated 4-1 loss to Toronto at TD Garden. Clearly some of the offensive difficulty was caused by a solid Frederik Andersen, who improved to 6-0-0 in a career against Boston that’s beginning to take on Bruins Killer proportions.

But a great deal of the B’s struggles to finish scoring chances on Saturday night is a malady that’s dogged the Bruins all season, and marked the 20th time in 29 games this year that Boston has scored two goals or less. In most of these games the Bruins have dominated puck possession and outshot their opponents, but still have come away mostly empty handed in the goals scored department while dropping deep in the bottom third of NHL offenses this season.

“It seems like every game we’re out-chancing teams, but we don’t outscore teams. That’s where the biggest issue is right now. Our scoring is not there and if you don’t score goals you don’t win hockey games,” said Claude Julien. “Because of that we criticize everything else in our game, but our game isn’t that bad.

“If we were scoring goals people would love our game right now, but that’s the biggest part. There’s not much more I can say here except for the fact that if we don’t score goals it’s going to be hard to win hockey games.”

But the Bruins aren’t scoring goals consistently, their power play is below average while trending in the wrong direction and the team has been forced to watch steady offensive players like Patrice Bergeron suddenly slump in a concerning way. Clearly David Pastrnak is doing his part with 18 goals scored this season in 24 games, and others like Brad Marchand and Dominic Moore have also performed above, or beyond, their acceptable level of play.

But there are other players failing with the chance to make an offensive dent: Austin Czarnik has been on the roster for nearly two months, and has zero goals and two points in his last 15 games as the offense is again dried up on the third line. He missed wide on a shorthanded chance in the third period after a Moore centering pass set up him all alone in front, and was critiquing himself for fanning on a perfect dish to him in the slot.

Moments later the Leafs had an insurance score from James van Riemsdyk to make it a 3-1 game, and it was all over for the Black and Gold at that point.

Czarnik is an easy target because he’s young and inexperienced, but there is more than enough struggle and frustration to go around with a bunch of offensive players that can’t seem to get out of their own way. David Backes admitted it’s reached a point where the Bruins are frustrated when they can’t score enough to beat a team like Toronto, and that it falls squarely on the lead guys in the Black and Gold dressing room that are underperforming.

“I think offensive frustration is warranted at this point; we just haven’t done a good enough job scoring goals. We played a heck of a first period. We limited them to two shots and we had an opportunity to have a team that’s coming in here that’s a younger team, to really put them behind the eight ball,” said Backes. “Instead, they think they got a second lease on life and they were able to capitalize. All of the sudden, they were up 2-0 and we’re fighting an uphill battle again rather than -- we have that opportunity to play a heck of a first period and we don’t find a way – it’s easy to talk about, but it’s going out there and doing the job and putting it past or through the goalie, or however it needs to happen. “You’ve seen our goals; you want to do a study on it unless you’re Pasta [David Pastrnak] with the one-timer on the side, it’s been ugly, it’s been rebounds, it’s been greasy goals and that’s our equation and we need more of it, and we didn’t do it. They did a good job of being in front of their net and boxing out, eliminating those second chances. But, we’ve got good players in here that need to create more and find those second chances and win those battles, find those loose pucks, and throw them in the net.”

The Bruins have been talking seemingly all season about the need to get to the “dirty areas in the offensive zone”, and for players to jump all over the second and third chance opportunities currently going by the board unchallenged on goalie rebounds.

Now it’s about speaking with action for the B’s, and more specifically speaking volumes with goals and offensive finish instead of “chances” that aren’t doing much of anything if they’re not being snapped into the back of the net.