Haggerty: Bruins need to start putting up a fight

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Haggerty: Bruins need to start putting up a fight

BUFFALO The Bruins remain Boston's best hope for another pro sports championship in this calendar year, but not if the players arent diligent enough at keeping the competitive fires burning.

Those fires appeared to be extinguished in Wednesday's 6-0 embarrassment at the hands of the also-ran Sabres at the First Niagara Center.

Their disappointment in Wednesday's effort (or lack thereof) was evident when one player let loose with an extremely loud F-bomb from the shower area while Milan Lucic quietly answered a series of somber questions during postgame. It seemed to accurately depict the team's mindset while continuing to stumble their way through games at a .500 clipsince losing an emotional decision to the Vancouver Canucks in their electric rematch in early January.But Shawn Thornton thinks talk, even of the purple variety, is cheap.

You have to battle through it and there wasnt enough of that tonight, said Thornton, who held his second highly critical postgame press conference within the last two weeks. "Everybody could have been better.

I dont know what to say except it wasnt good enough. Regardless of when goals when or werent scored, we werent close to good in the last 40 minutes.If the Bruins have been stupor for the better part of six weeks that's seen them go a truly mediocre4-5-1 in their last nine games, then Wednesday night'spatheticdefeat - the worst in four years dating back to a thrashing at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs - should act as the rock-bottom wake-up call. The Thursday aftermath to the Buffalo debacleshould be akin to walking up after a benderto seethe car parked across the front lawn. It's a warning sign of a hockey team spinning out of control that might just need strong outsidemeasures to right itself if theplayers and coaches can't find answers within the room.

It went from good to bad to worse. Thats basically what happened to us tonight, said coach Claude Julien, whose team suffered its worst loss of the season (and who himself suffered the worst loss of his Boston coaching tenure since an 8-2 drubbing at the hands of the Maple Leafs on March 11, 2008, his first year here). Guys just started getting away from the game plan and it just got worse.

"These kinds of things youre not used to seeing from our hockey club, and it kind of does open your eyes to what happens when you do lose your focus. Maybe we can use this as a really good wakeup call and hopefully we can play better.

The warning signs were everywhere Wednesday night:

Zdeno Chara finished with a minus-3 rating in his worst game of the season, and made mental errors, physical mistakes and failures in judgment while getting sucked into Patrick Kaleta's world of hockey punkdom.

David Krejci looked disinterested, uninspired and completely lacking in urgency, desire and work ethic. He played indifferent defense, was on the ice for a pair of Buffalo goals, and lost 8 of 10 faceoffs. For a guy who vehemently vowed to remain professional no matter what line he was skating on, Krejci appeared unwilling to make a difference against Buffalo. His play all season as a minus defensive player and the great lengths to motivate him are warning signs with the Czech Republic center.

Tuukka Rask was every bit as bad as the skaters in front of him. Sure, the first two goals scored against him in the first period were the results of, respectively, a friendly-fire tipped puck from Gregory Campbell and a defensive breakdown led by Johnny Boychuk. But Rask was having trouble tracking pucks all evening and gave up a bevy of bad rebounds around his net. Julien had seen enough when Rask coughed up another goal on a Tyler Ennis backhander, and replaced him with Tim Thomas. Rask has lost four games in a row in his worst stretch of the season, and couldnt hold things together when the Bruins truly needed him.

And in perhaps the biggest red flag of all, the Bruins seemed to fold their tents at the first sign of adversity. They were the victims of a screwball call by referee Rob Martell, who waved off a Lucic goal that would have tied the score at 1-1 because of what he ruled was goaltender interference by Rich Peverley. Replays showed that Peverley made no significant contact with Sabres goalie Ryan Miller, who was far outside the crease. But instead of continuing to fight, they offered little resistance the rest of the way.

That bothered Thornton.

You cant just shut her down because something doesnt go our way, he said.

Only a handful of Bruins gave anything resembling satisfactory performances, and just Thornton went above and beyond with a pair of fights. The second occured with the game already decided but was the mark of a true NHL enforcer: He defended Benoit Pouliot after Mike Weber attempted to make a run at him in front of the Boston bench.

It was one of those games, said Lucic, who had a sure goal wiped away by the bogus goalie interference call on Peverley. Were not a team that will make excuses or whine about stuff. Its definitely been a while since we had a loss like this.

"Maybe its for the best and maybe its a wakeup call. It shows we need to be much better and we cant take anybody lightly, no matter who they are.

But they've talked like that before; in fact, they were saying the same things Wednesday morning before the game. The Bruins are at one of those turning point times in the season when they'll decide whether they're again championship-worthy, or simply reveal that the flaws are too great to overcome this around with essentially the same case of characters.

Talking the talk is one thing. The question now, after getting humiliated by the NHL's biggest group of underachievers: Can they start walking the walk againbefore more drastic measure need to be taken?

Stars, studs and duds: Celtics put on defensive clinic in second half

Stars, studs and duds: Celtics put on defensive clinic in second half

This season the Boston Celtics have shown flashes for a few minutes here and there that they were an elite team defensively. 
 
But what they did in the second half to the Orlando?
 
Boston (13-9) put on a defensive clinic that overwhelmed the Magic on every level imaginable as the Celtics cruised to a 117-87 thumping of Orlando.
 
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens has been even-keeled when it comes to discussing his team’s play, win or lose. 
 
But even he couldn’t contain how pleased he was to see the way his players defended in the third and fourth quarters. 
 
“On defense, the second half was as good as we’ve guarded all year,” Stevens told reporters afterwards. “Really focused, really urgent. I felt good about that.”
 
Setting the tone for the Celtics was Avery Bradley who certainly was impressive with his scoring. 
 
But as much as he knew the team would need a boost offensively with Isaiah Thomas (right groin) out, that wasn’t his approach to the game. 
 
“I had a defensive mindset coming into tonight’s game,” Bradley told CSN’s Abby Chin following the win. “Just trying to get my teammates to playing the right way so we could come out and get the ‘W’ tonight. I’m happy with how all the guys played. We all played hard, and we played as a team.”
 
Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Wednesday night’s game.
 

STARS
 
Avery Bradley

Bradley picked up the scoring with Isaiah Thomas (right groin) out for Wednesday, leading the team with a game-high 23 points to go with four rebounds and three assists.
 
 
STUDS

Jaylen Brown

Arguably the biggest spark off the bench for Boston, Brown had one of his best games as a Celtic. He finished with 13 points which included a dunk over Nikola Vucevic that quieted the Amway Center crowd and just as important, provided a nice energy boost for Boston.
 
D.J. Augustin

He had the hot hand at the end of the second quarter, but was a non-factor in the second half as Augustin finished with 15 points – all of which came in the first half. 
 
Terry Rozier

This was a great confidence-booster for Rozier as well as his teammates to see him have a big game and make the most of his increased opportunity to play. He finished with a career-high 16 points off the Celtics bench on 6-for-13 shooting with five rebounds.
 
Nikola Vucevic

It doesn’t matter if he starts or comes off the bench. Vucevic is always a double-double threat on the floor. He finished with 12 points off the bench along with 10 rebounds for his 13th double-double this season. 
 

DUDS
 
Orlando second half defense

The Celtics got pretty much whatever they wanted, when they wanted it in the second half against the Magic defense which pulled a major disappearing act. Boston shot 61 percent from the field in the second half, and 45.4 percent from 3-point range. 
 

Belichick on Long's sack: One of the best defensive plays of the year

Belichick on Long's sack: One of the best defensive plays of the year

It came against a rookie quarterback. It came against an offense that averages a league-worst 15.0 points per game. It came against an offense that has fewer yards than any other. 

Still there are signs that Bill Belichick is pretty pleased with where his defense is after beating the Rams 26-10 on Sunday. One came on Wednesday when Patriots.com published its "Belichick Breakdown" for a closer look at a handful of plays from the team's most recent win.

Belichick called his team's third-and-eight stop with about 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter "probably one of the best good, team defensive plays we've had all year."

The Patriots show a five-man front, but linebacker Kyle Van Noy feigns a rush only to drop into coverage.

"Van Noy in here does a good job on the rush," Belichick said, "and also on the coverage on the back. Just good team defense. Good pass coverage down the field. The quarterback really doesn't end up having a lot of time, but there's no one to throw it to right away."

Belichick noted that all four rushers -- Chris Long, Trey Flowers, Dont'a Hightower and Rob Ninkovich -- all are able to pressure Jared Goff on the play. Combined with strong coverage in the secondary, the Rams nver really had a chance.

Belichick said it looked like a "tidal wave" of defenders bearing down on the quarterback.

"Long wins here . . . on the inside spin," Belichick said, "and Trey Flowers and Hightower both win on the little twist game inside. Then that's Rob with good speed-to-power on [Rams tackle Rob] Havenstein on the outside. Four good rushers. Plus a fifth guy...Van Noy getting that two-for-one on the guard and the back.

"Good team defense. That's great to see. A lot of hard work an execution on the practice field to make that happen."