Bruins can clinch playoff berth with win over Caps

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Bruins can clinch playoff berth with win over Caps

With only six games left on the NHL schedule the Bruins get their first chance to officially lock up a playoff spot with a victory Thursday night against the Washington Capitals.

The Bruins hold a five-point lead over the Ottawa Senators in their own division, but wont be wrapping that up against a Washington Capitals team that faces elimination with one more loss. The Rangers, Penguins and Flyers have already wrapped up playoff berths, so the Bruins would be the fourth conference team to cross that particular finish line.

Boston also cant come anywhere close to locking in the No. 2 spot in the Eastern Conference with the Florida Panthers only four points behind them, but punching a stamp into the Stanley Cup dance is the first step for a Bs team with high aspirations.

Thats the first step, right? Going in the right direction . . . clinching a spot is the right thing and youre playing a team thats really battling hard to get themselves into the playoffs. We all know that here, said Claude Julien. We can say it and pretend its just smoke coming out of my mouth, but this team here is going to be tough to play against tonight.

The desperation makes it tough. I like those kinds of challenges. Those are the challenges you need to finish the season with and bring the best out of your hockey club. Were going to have to be at our best if we expect to win tonight.

With the Bruins winning five of their last six games it appears they are very much back on course, and that theyre aiming to keep a few streaks moving strong along with the postseason-clinching final result. The Bruins would move to four consecutive wins with a triumph over the Capitals and there is little doubting Bostons motivation to make it their seventh straight game allowing two goals or less as theyve put the defensive clamps on as of late.

There is so much for us to play for right now. Were battling for home ice advantage and being No. 2 in our conference, said Krejci. As a team our game is coming along in the last five or six games, but we cant sit back. We cant take any games lightly and its time to build some good momentum with six games left. Were getting there . . . close to playing the way we want to play.

As has been the case lately there will be plenty on the line for both teams when the Bruins and Capitals take the ice Thursday night at TD Garden.

Brady allows himself to enjoy win: '[Bleep], you've got to be happy now'

Brady allows himself to enjoy win: '[Bleep], you've got to be happy now'

FOXBORO -- Tom Brady can be his own worst critic. That's why last week, after beating the Texans in the Divisional Round to move on to the AFC title game, he wasn't thrilled. He didn't play up to his standards. The offense struggled at points. He wore his frustration like a five o'clock shadow.

Winning is not everything for Brady, most weeks. He has an idea of how he should perform, how the Patriots offense should perform, and when those ideals aren't met, he's generally displeased. 

PATRIOTS 36, STEELERS 17

On Sunday, after beating up on the Steelers, 36-17, that wasn't the case. It was a sound performance, but it wasn't perfect. It was explosive at times, but it shined a light on areas where the Patriots will need to continue to improve. 

Despite its imperfections, Sunday was no time to brood about plays missed or lessons learned the hard way. Screw it, Brady seemed to say. They were going to the Super Bowl. It was OK to smile.  

"It was a good day," Brady said. "I mean, we're going to the Super Bowl, man. [Expletive], you've got to be happy now."

The Super Bowl berth is the ninth in franchise history -- more than any other club -- and the seventh with Brady and coach Bill Belichick. By throwing for 384 yards and three touchdowns on 32-of-42 passing, Brady tied Joe Montana for the most postseason games (nine) with three touchdown passes. 

Brady will also claim the record for Super Bowls played when he and the Patriots head to Houston. And if they win, he'll tie Charles Haley for most Super Bowl wins for a player (five).

Those are lofty numbers made even more significant, perhaps, due to the fact that Brady wasn't allowed to start this season as his team's quarterback. He was asked during Sunday's postgame press conference if it was personally satisfying to get back to the Super Bowl despite having to serve a four-game suspension due to Deflategate.

"Well, that's because of the hard work of a lot of people from my coaches to my teammates to our families that support us," he said. "It takes a lot of people, a lot of hard work and a lot of effort over the course of many months. This didn't start at 6:40 tonight.

"This thing started in April. It really started before that in free-agency when we were picking up guys like [Chris] Hogan and drafting guys like Malcolm Mitchell and guy who were in rehab like [LeGarrette Blount] and [Dion Lewis] and [James Develin] and Nate [Solder]. It's a lot of hard work. There are only two teams left standing, and I'm happy we're one of them."

They're going to the Super Bowl. He has to be happy now.