Haggerty: Bruins showing lineups, methods for playoff run

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Haggerty: Bruins showing lineups, methods for playoff run

The Bruins said they were aiming toward playoff mode with a dozen games left in the regular season, and they werent punking anybody.

The Bs have won two games in a row and started rounding the playoff version of their hockey team into shape with plenty of moving parts.

If the Saturday afternoon matinee win over the Flyers represented the first few baby steps for a sleeping Bs giant, the Black and Gold machine was firing its pistons with strength and ferocity during the 8-0 shellacking of the Toronto Maple Leafs at TD Garden.

Its something we know we have to stay focused on. Not to get carried away by the result tonight we want to have a strong finish of the season and establish our game going into the playoffs on the right note, said Bs captain Zdeno Chara. So tomorrow is a new day and new preparation is on the way.

The resounding victory finished off a perfect 6-0 season series against an overmatched Toronto club headed for their respective golf courses next month. The victory also supplied a window into what everybody will see out of the Bruins come April.

First and most obviously was the offensive involvement from every member of the Bs roster against a Leafs team destined for the glue factory: points for 13 different players and at least one goal from each of the forward lines for Boston.

We tried to focus. We had some good contributions from Chris Kellys line again tonight -- some great added help from that line, because it just gives us, again, that little bit of more breathing room when it comes to guys that are producing offensively, said Claude Julien. It doesnt put all the pressure on the same people all the time.

It involves defensive domination in their own end and responsibility in front of their own net, and that starts with Joe Corvo serving as a healthy scratch.

It continues with Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg paired together as a shutdown duo that made Phil Kessel break out into a cold sweat.

While this is taking it to an extreme with some help from a group of Toronto skaters completely unwilling to pay the price, there are all kinds of things going right for the Boston defenders if its taken the Leafs 50 minutes of hockey to squeeze off 10 shots at the net.

The Bruins are playing air-tight defense around their own slot area and avoiding the defensive breakdowns that caused headaches for stretches this season. Theyre also facing down the demons that thoroughly destroyed them on a three-game road trip through Pittsburgh and Florida.

I think we all played well at both ends of the ice and thats when you tend to have success. I think if youre cheating on the offensive side of the puck those things come back to bite you, said Chris Kelly. Like I said, itd be easy to not play the game properly, the proper way, when youre up by a bunch.

Even Greg Zanon, the newcomer, has mixed in with the collective group and is forcing the opposition to pay a price around Bostons net.

It was Zanon that stood up Colby Armstrong around the Bs cage and started a heated sequence that broke up into a solid Gregory CampbellLuke Schenn tilt that sparked some emotion.

Campbell lit the match on fire, but the powder keg finally exploded when longtime adversaries Milan Lucic and Mike Komisarek dropped the gloves for another chapter in their history of hatred.

Once again it was Lucic familiarly gaining the upper hand while landing upper-cut bombs to Komisareks chin that repeatedly snapped the Toronto defensemans head back.

We didnt want them to come in here and try to bully us or play harder than us, said Benoit Pouliot. We just outplayed them the whole game and came out with a big win.

New Toronto head coach Randy Carlyle seemed to be lamenting the kind of abuse awaiting Bostons playoff opponents once the final 10 games of the regular season have played themselves out.

They have a tough team. You point to their hockey club and they have four guys, big strong guys. You look at Milan Lucic, you look at Adam McQuaid, you look at Zdeno Chara and you look at Shawn Thornton, said Carlyle. The rest of them guys, they follow behind. Theyre solid hockey players, but theyre, you know.

Those are the four guys, the big guys that I would say, just off the top of my head. The intimidation factor is they worked harder on the one on one battles, the puck battles than we did.

The playoff role for Brian Rolston is gaining clarity with the Bruins as well as the versatile forward regains his game conditioning. The 39-year-old is playing a role on all of the special teams, and hes orchestrating a Bs third line that produced nine points and a plus-10 in the blowout victory over Toronto.

Those are the kinds of numbers Bostons third line put up during last springs postseason march, and its once again what the Bruins will need from some of the depth players theyll be touting in the postseason.

Then there is perhaps the single most important individual to Bostons playoff hopes: goaltender Tim Thomas. Thomas has stopped 40 out of 42 shots in his last two games both victories for the Bruins, of course and has finally begun to again resemble the goaltender that dominated his crease prior to January.

Thomas wasnt challenged in the 13-save shutout against Toronto, but has shown plenty in stopping 94 percent of the shots he faced over the course of two important games used to prime the playoff pump.

Injuries, suddenly available players and adversity are all problems facing the Bruins as they do their last minute cramming prior to the playoffs, and send an unmistakable message that nobody is pushing the Bruins around.

Belichick convinces UDFA to sign, tells him to be in shape

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Belichick convinces UDFA to sign, tells him to be in shape

The moments following the final round of the NFL draft are always a whirlwind because the work done by those in their respective war rooms isn't finished. Every year, coaches and personnel staffers work their phones calling undrafted free-agents in order to round out their rosters with passed-over talent.

Arizona State receiver and running back D.J. Foster was one of those fielding calls on Saturday, giving his cell battery a workout. The Cardinals, Texans and Patriots all came calling, and he was leaning toward what he considered his hometown team in Arizona.

Then the Patriots deployed their top recruiting weapon: coach Bill Belichick.

You can watch Foster's draft day ordeal here with this video put together by 12News.com in Phoenix.

When he's made his decision he gets a call from one team employee telling him how "fired up" they are to have him on board. Then Belichick calls again, his mission accomplished, to first congratulate Foster and then order him to be in shape for rookie minicamp.

Foster was barely in elementary school when Belichick and Tom Brady helped the Patriots win their  first Super Bowl. Ever since, they've been one of the most consistently successful teams in football.

That track record couldn't have hurt Foster in his decision-making process, but it seems as though he was proposed the best financial deal by the Patriots. They're also a team that won't be afraid to try players at multiple positions. The fact that Foster considers himself both a running back and a receiver could be seen as beneficial in regards to him making the team. Being labeled a "'tweener" isn't always a detriment.

In the Patriots offense, there is room for a player with Foster's skill set. Perhaps he will work alongside Dion Lewis and James White as a "sub back," who specializes in the passing game and poses a threat either lined up in the backfield or out wide like a receiver. The other option would be for Foster to serve as a full-time receiver -- something he focused on last season -- who might be best suited for the slot. As an undrafted rookie, he'll also likely be expected to contribute in the kicking game in some way shape or form.

Patriots named Super Bowl LI favorites despite Brady suspension

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Patriots named Super Bowl LI favorites despite Brady suspension

Is the Patriots roster so loaded that Tom Brady can be suspended for four games, and they're still the favorites to win it all? 

Apparently so, according to odds released by the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.

Not long after the completion of this year's draft, the Patriots were favored at 6-1 to win their fifth Lombardi Trophy even though their quarterback is scheduled to miss the first month of the season after his Deflategate punishment was recently reinstated by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Brady plans to appeal that ruling. 

Next on the list of favorites are the Seahawks, Steelers and Packers, all of whom are tied at 8-1. The Panthers, who fell in Super Bowl 50 to the Broncos, have 9-1 odds to redeem themselves after last season's defeat and walk away winners. 

The Patriots are, of course, favored to win the AFC (3-1) and the AFC East (4-9), and their season win total projection has been set at 10.5.

Felger: Is the praise for Jacoby Brissett too good to be true?

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Felger: Is the praise for Jacoby Brissett too good to be true?

Three mid-week thoughts for your perusal . . . 

-- I was 100 percent behind the drafting of quarterback Jacoby Brissett. And then I read comments about the kid from Charlie Weis and Bill Parcells in Karen Guregian's excellent story in the Boston Herald on Tuesday.

Now I'm down to about 80 percent.

"He's a Curtis Martin-, Willie McGinest-, Troy Brown-type of player,'' said Parcells. "That's the kind of guy he is. That's what New England is getting. Those kind, those Tedy Bruschi types, those players who've been successful -- he's very similar in his personal life to those kinds of guys.''

"Let me tell you,'' added Weis, "this kid, from the time he was in high school, is the Pied Piper . . . He was definitely the leader of the pack. In the quarterback position, I think that's a critical factor. And that's what he was.''

Added Parcells: "He has zero personal issues.''

So why would glowing reports cause me to like the pick less? File under: Too good to be true.

I read those quotes and get the feeling I'm being sold something, which shakes my confidence a bit. Plus, it's a little too much on the intangible element. Character is certainly important at the position. In fact, it's crucial. But if intangibles were the only thing that mattered, Tim Tebow would have been an NFL QB. And we all know how that turned out.

Bottom line: I still like the pick. I still want the Pats drafting and developing quarterbacks. I just smell a bit of bull crap.

-- Chris Mannix nailed it regarding what it would take for the Celtics to lure Kevin Durant to Boston.

"Boston's ability to lure him is going to come down to who else they can get. You can't walk into a meeting with Kevin Durant and say, 'We've got Isiah Thomas and 97 draft picks; we're going to be good in a few years','' he told Toucher and Rich Tuesday morning. "Kevin doesn't want to hear that . . . What he wants to hear is that we're ready to win now . . . They have to come to the table with a Jimmy Butler, with a Bradley Beal, with an Al Horford. They can't just come with Brad Stevens, Danny Ainge and a bunch of draft picks.''

In other words, the pieces on the current roster aren't nearly as good as they looked in the regular season. And, no, Thomas is not a franchise player. And, finally, don't get too attached to those picks, no matter where the ping pong balls land.

-- I wonder if the Bruins look at the current landscape in net across the NHL playoffs and consider how wise it is to pay their goalie, Tuukka Rask, $7 million a year.

Still alive are guys like the Islanders' Thomas Greiss ($1.5 million cap hit), the Blues' Brian Ellliott ($2.5 million), the Sharks' Martin Jones ($3 million) and Penguins rookie Matt Murray ($620,000). Out are 8 of the top 10 highest-paid goalies in the league, a list including Henri Lundqvist, Carey Price, Cory Schneider, Ryan Miller and, of course, Rask.

Please note: No one is saying you can get away with shoddy goaltending in the playoffs. It's an unassailable fact that you need elite play in net to contend for Stanley Cups. The question is what you have to pay for it. 

And in that regard, this year is no aberration. Sometimes you have to pay through the nose for it, and sometimes it just falls in your lap.

Can the Bruins get away with trying to survive in that second camp? Good question. This much I know: Paying Rask $7 million a year to miss the playoffs two straight years isn't doing anyone any good.

Email Felger at mfelger@comcastsportsnet.com. Listen to Felger and Mazz weekdays, 2-6 p.m. on 98.5 FM. The simulcast runs daily on CSN.