Haggerty: Bruins have fallen, and they can't get up

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Haggerty: Bruins have fallen, and they can't get up

SUNRISE, FL As one might expect after another discouraging loss, it wasnt a pretty postgame picture in the Bruins' dressing room Thursday night at the BankAtlantic Center.

The Bruins once again buckled under the first signs of adversity. A bad cross-checking call against Shawn Thornton led to a Florida power-play goal, and then the roof caved in. The Bs sound defense and elite goaltending, once their bedrock, again deserted them at the worst time.

The final score was 6-2 in favor of the Panthers, who have quietly crept to within two points of the Bs for the No. 2 spot in the Eastern Conference. And the game was just as hopelessly one-sided as the scoreboard suggested.

Tim Thomas let in four goals on the first 17 shots he faced, and was betrayed by a defense that couldnt get out of its own way against an onslaught of Florida attackers.
Zdeno Chara snapped far too many breakout passes straight down the middle of the ice that turned into offensive chances for Florida.
There were far too many breakdowns from old reliables like Dennis Seidenberg and Andrew Ference.

All the Bs defensemen look exhausted, injured or perhaps a little bit of both. That, and the inability to stick to the team's once-airtight defensive system, has led to 36 goals allowed in nine games during the month of March, including 12 in back-to-back losses in the state of Florida (6-1 to the Lightning on Tuesday, 6-2 to the Panthers on Thursday).

The Bruins look nothing like a Claude Julien-coached team, and thats a very bad thing indeed.

It was basically a whole team collapse tonight, said Julien in a sentence that could sum up the last two months. We do have some guys that are tired, and we have some guys that arent playing up to par. Weve got lots of games and we have to fight our way through it. You cant throw your arms up in the air. Youve got to fight through it.

So now the Bruins are one point ahead of the hard-charging Ottawa Senators in the division, two points ahead of the Panthers, and theyve won exactly five regulation games since the beginning of February.

The Bruins emotion, so necessary to their success, is gone. Theyve become the hunted rather than the hunter in the physicality portion of the game, and they look like a team thats been skating Herbies (named in honor of coach Herb Brooks for the suicide skating sprints he put the 1980 US Miracle Team through in practice) for days.

In many ways Thomas has become the fall guy for the Bruins nosedive, based on his decision to skip the White House visit, but the problems -- both with Thomas himself and the team -- had already begun prior to Jan. 23.
Those problems have come to a head during this winless road trip, and Thomas looked like a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders after Thursday's defeat. After yet another horrid outing -- his own, and the team's -- he finally agreed that fatigue was a factor.

It has a lot to do with it . . . yes, said Thomas, who just days ago defiantly insisted that neither he nor his teammates were tired. You can see it in peoples faces.

Thomas has seen a ton of hockey over his 14 years as a professional athlete, and that means hes experienced nearly everything. But the soon-to-be 38-year-old had zero answers on how the Bruins can get out of their 12-16-2 rut of the last 30 games.

Weve done a good job of staying positive and supporting each other, but I dont know what to do. Weve got to figure out something, said Thomas. I dont know if Ive ever been in quite a part of a run like this. Generally you just put it behind you and move on to the next one, but weve done that for a few games in a row. Were stuck in the same place. I dont have any answers.

Chara similarly had no answers and few words. Chara was the captain at the helm when the Bruins hit their high water mark last season in June, and he appears to be the captain on the NHL version of the Titanic this year.

Its tough to describe," he said. "Its tough to find the words for the way were playing. Its everything: offensively and defensively. Were not finding a way to be more creative and effective. The only way we can get out of it is to find the answers in this room and move on to the next one.

We have the tools. We have the talent. We are capable of doing great things. Weve proven it and done it before. Right now we just cant find a way to be effective.

Around the room, the Bruins players dressed quickly and quietly without smiles or conversation. They made no eye contact; indeed, they did little more than study the floor tiles. David Krejci sat in front of his locker stall with his head buried in his hands.

Chara mentioned that the Bruins werent being creative enough when talking about the teams shortcomings, and that spoke to a Bs coaching staff freely admitting they must find a different path to success this time around. Julien said he and his assistants realize the challenge is on them as well as the players to figure something out.

Our team is tired and theyre not playing well, but youve got to fix it somehow said Julien. Theres a lot of thinking to be done. Thats what we do for a living. We have to step up and find a solution as a coaching staff. Thats what we have to do. When you give up 12 goals in two games you need everybody on board.
It better happen quickly, because even the playoffs arent a guarantee if they continue their free-fall.
The Bruins have a chance to use this adversity as fuel to snap them out of their malaise. Or they could become another Stanley Cup champion that fails to make the playoffs the following year.

Nobody knows any more which path the Bruins will eventually, and thats the scary part.

Felger on Ortiz: ‘He keeps passing the tests’

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Felger on Ortiz: ‘He keeps passing the tests’

Major League Baseball is reportedly set to release more PED testing results, but Mike Felger is growing increasingly more confident in the fact that David Ortiz is clean. He's passing all the tests, isn't he?

Secretary of Navy: Cardona 'may have to leave the Patriots' to serve

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Secretary of Navy: Cardona 'may have to leave the Patriots' to serve

United States Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus joined the Dan Patrick Show on Thursday to discuss new Ravens draftee Keenan Reynolds, a record-setting quarterback during his career at the Naval Academy. In so doing, Mabus hit on the uncertain status of Patriots long-snapper Joe Cardona. 

"Right now we do have a process," Mabus said. "It hasn't got up to me yet to [decide on whether or not Reynolds will be eligible to play], but there are a lot of paths to both play and to serve. 

"We've got Joe Cardona, long snapper for the Patriots. He played . . . last year for the Patriots while he was on active duty because he was able to work them both out. Now he's been assigned to a ship, and he's going to report to that ship. He may have to leave the Patriots for a year or so to go fulfill that roll."

The playing status for individuals like Reynolds and Cardona is always somewhat uncertain given their commitment. Last season, Cardona was able to serve by working at the Naval Preparatory Academy during his time away from the Patriots facilities. Once his rookie season ended, he headed back to the Newport, Rhode Island-based school to work full-time and help mentor students there. 

Cardona was scheduled to make his way to Norfolk, Virginia later in the offseason and live there for about two months to participate in the Navy's Basic Division Officer Course, or "BDOC," which was required before he could report to his ship as a Surface Warfare Officer. From there, he was scheduled to travel to Bath, Maine, to work on the USS Zumwalt. 

"I'll get to work there and figure out a schedule that doesn't interfere with either of my jobs," Cardona said back in January following New England's loss to Denver in the AFC title game, "and hopefully be back on the field next year."

Cardona has long maintained that his job as an active member of the Navy is his top priority. Should his duties on the USS Zumwalt interfere with his long-snapping work with the Patriots, he could realistically sit out for the season. 

The Patriots signed veteran long-snapper Christian Yount earlier this offseason in a move that reminded those following the team that Cardona is not guaranteed to be available for 2016. Patriots defensive end Rob Ninkovich has long-snapped in the past and typically serves as the team's emergency snapper. 

Cardona was selected in the fifth round of the 2015 draft and played in all 16 regular-season games and two postseason games for the Patriots last season. 

Caserio: Wasn't the plan to aquire 2017 4th-rounder for Deflategate

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Caserio: Wasn't the plan to aquire 2017 4th-rounder for Deflategate

When the Patriots walked away from last weekend's draft, they did so with an extra fourth round pick to be used in 2017. That was especially noteworthy given that the Patriots will be docked a fourth-rounder next year as part of the Deflategate punishment handed down to the team by the league. 

But when Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio joined Sirius XM's "Move the Chains" program this week, he said they weren't dead-set on grabbing an extra fourth-rounder for next year. 

"Not necessarily," Caserio explained. "When you get into the draft, you're not really sure how it's going to unfold. You go into the process, you get yourselves prepared to pick whenever you're going to pick."

The Patriots traded down twice and up once during the three-day draft process. On Day 2, they traded the No. 61 overall pick to the Saints in exchange for picks No. 78 and No. 112, which turned into North Carolina State guard Joe Thuney and Georgia receiver Malcolm Mitchell, respectively.

On Day 3, Caserio and Bill Belichick made two more deals. First, they dealt two sixth-rounders (No. 196 and No. 204) and a seventh-rounder (No. 250) to Miami for the Dolphins' fifth-rounder (No. 147). Then the No. 147 overall selection was flipped to the Seahawks, along with No. 243, in exchange for No. 225 and a fourth-rounder in 2017. The Patriots eventually spent No. 225 on Arizona State receiver Devin Lucien.

"I don't think anybody had a master plan, like, 'This is how it's going to go,' " Caserio said. "I think you look at the draft, and you kind of assess where you are relative to the players you're going to pick. If you feel it makes sense to make a trade, then you go ahead and do it. If you don't, then you go ahead and pick.

"Like, we were prepared to pick there with that fifth-round pick [at No. 147] that we ended up moving. But the way it worked out, like, I don't any of us would've said going to the draft, like, 'This is how we think it's going to go.' "

The league's punishment for Deflategate states that the Patriots will lose the higher of their two selections in the fourth round for next year so it's unclear as to whether it will be their own fourth-rounder or Seattle's that will be erased. Either way, at least now they are scheduled to pick in the fourth round in 2017, whereas before the Seahawks deal they were not.