Haggerty: Deja vu for Bruins as they head to Washington

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Haggerty: Deja vu for Bruins as they head to Washington

WASHINGTON -- Pardon the Bruins if theyre feeling something akin to dj vu as they travel to the nations capital for a pair of road playoff games.

With their series against the Capitals tied 1-1, and facing two games in Washington D.C., the Bs find themselves in a remarkably similar situation to last years first round against the Montreal Canadiens. Granted, Boston was down 0-2 to the hated Habs a year ago and there will be no two-day retreat to Lake Placid like last spring. But many of the same phrases and ideas are being put forth by the Bruins now as a year ago.

Back then, the Bruins were lamenting the lack of quality scoring chances generated by their top forwards, were showing hints of frustration about their substandard offense, and were grudgingly paying homage to the opposing goaltender in that case it was Carey Price -- while knowing in their hearts they hadnt challenged him enough. Their third line was the heartbeat of the offense last year, and the more heralded front-end players were saying they had to start getting in gear.

Sound familiar?

I think it is similar. We let Carey Price see a lot of pucks last year and maybe thats our focus is to get in front of Caps goalie Braden Holtbys face a little bit more, said Rich Peverley, who has three points in 10 games since coming back from a sprained knee. But last year was last year, and maybe we can take from that experience. But nothing stays the same and we need to find a way this year.

I think we definitely need to create more Grade A scoring opportunities. Holtby's definitely played unbelievably, but I think we can challenge him a little bit more. I think we can hold onto the puck a little more and be a little more creative than weve been. Weve got the skill players.

Exchange Price and the Habs for Holtby and the Capitals, and it could be 2011. The Caps have blocked 42 shots and done a magnificent job of clogging up the slot area, which has helped hold the Bruins to two goals in the first two games.

Hal Gill and P.K. Subban are gone, and in their place have come John Carlson and Karl Azner blocking shots for Washington. (Perhaps its the influence of Roman Hamrlik, who was on both squads, but somehow we think not.)

Milan Lucic remembers struggling mightily during those first two games against the Habs last year, and once again hes scoreless after two playoff games this season.He said the reigning Cup champs need to gear it up and find a way to cut through Washingtons packed-in 1-4 neutral zone trap defense.

It feels a little bit like last season for myself, said Lucic. Looking back at that series, I wasnt really able to get anything going in the first two games and I feel like I havent really gotten anything going here in the first two games. Its not like I'm trying not to do anything, but in saying that youve got to put pressure on yourself to want to be better. I want to be better and Im going to do everything I can to help this team win.

While the Bruins are clearly perplexed by their inability to gain the offensive zone with speed or get bodies to the front of the net, theres one big difference between last year and this year.

The Bruins go to enemy territory with the best-of-seven series even, and only need one win to regain their home -ce advantage. Both games have been gone into overtime, so the Bruins know theyre not that far off the winning offensive formula.

They just need a little spark emotionally and offensively to get some of their big name forwards like Lucic, Peverley, Tyler Seguin and David Krejci back spinning in the right direction.

Take a look at the hate thats flowing in the PenguinsFlyers and SenatorsRangers series thus far, and its bringing the best out of three of those four teams (sorry Pittsburgh!). Its been a veritable game of croquet on grandmas front lawn for the Capitals and Bruins aside from Alex Ovechkin cross-checking Dennis Seidenberg in the face without any repercussions.

The Bruins need to be the aggressors and start making things nasty to loosen everything up, and the sooner they do it the better. Players like Lucic and Brad Marchand know thats when the Bruins are at their best, and they need to start finding the hate in their hearts.

There is no doubt I think our battle can be better," said coach Claude Julien. "When you look at this series, I think both teams are pretty even in determination thats why its tied at 1-1 and thats why both games have gone into overtime. Somewhere along the way youve got to find a way to get a little bit more of that edge than the other team.

Theyre probably hoping to do the same thing. But theres also some tactical things that I think we have to be better at and we can adjust to what were trying to do.

Clearly the Bruins could generate more speed coming into the offensive zone and execute more precise dump-and-chase entries against the Capitals' 1-4 trap defense.

But its about winning the one-on-one battles as much as anything else for the Bruins. Its about finding the air of intimidation that goes along with being the Stanley Cup champs, and finding a pathway through a Washington defense thats more playing-over-its-heads mirage than grinding reality.

As with any playoff series, those are the areas that will separate the winner from the loser no matter how eerily similar this series is to last seasons tilt with the Canadiens. The Bruins have been here before, and they know exactly what must be done if they want to prevail.

Brady: Preseason reps help you adapt to the speed of the game

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Brady: Preseason reps help you adapt to the speed of the game

FOXBORO -- It's clear that Tom Brady wants to play at some point this preseason. What's a little less clear is what he thinks he stands to gain from preseason game reps in August when he won't be playing meaningful snaps until October. 

After explaining why he missed Thursday's preseason game with the Bears, which he was scheduled to start, Brady was asked on Tuesday if he feels as though he needs game reps before matching up with the Browns in Week 5.

"I don’t think any of them hurt," he said. "I think just do the best you can do. We’re preparing a lot of guys to get ready to play. I fit into that, but so do a lot of other guys. I’m just taking the advice of coach [Bill Belichick], and whatever he wants to do. I’m going to do everything I can to be ready to go when I am called upon. That’s what my responsibility is so that’s what I’m preparing to do."

If the only benefit of having Brady play against the Panthers in the third preseason game amounts to, "Well, couldn't hurt..." then it would come as some surprise if Belichick opted to play Brady anyway. Because it could hurt. It could hurt quite a bit should something flukey happen and Brady ends up worse off than he was after his recent run-in with a pair of scissors. 

Former assistant to the Patriots coaching staff Mike Lombardi, told WEEI recently that Brady needs to work in a preseason game before serving his four-game suspension. Why? 

"The speed of the game changes," Lombardi said. "You have practices against the Bears, but it’s kind of simulated and controlled. I think Tom wants to get the flow of the game . . . Because it’s the third preseason game, Jimmy [Garoppolo] is probably going to play as much into the third quarter as possible, and then you don’t want to put Tom out there with a lot of other guys that perhaps won’t make the team. The second game was kind of a game where he should have played a little bit to get his feet wet. He’s not going to play the fourth game against the New York Giants. That’s going to be Jacoby Brissett’s game. 

"I think [the Bears game] was the time, and that’s why [Brady] was going to play. Obviously something happened with the injury and that’s why he didn’t play . . . I know Tom needs to play in the preseason. He’s not just going to go waltz onto the field and feel the game is going to come right to him."

It feels as though Brady, after 16 years in the NFL, would be able to adapt to the speed of the game relatively quickly with or without preseason reps. But Brady expressed an opinion similar to that of Lombardi when asked about the difference between preseason snaps and practice snaps. He's seen plenty of the latter against the Bears, Saints and his own teammates.

"Well, I think you’re getting hit so just the space awareness, guys around you and ball security and things like that," Brady said. "For whatever, the last 30 practices, quarterbacks aren’t touched. Just standing there in the pocket, holding the ball knowing that they’re coming to get the ball and knock it out of your hands, hitting the ground, those types of things and so forth are important.

"You just have to feel things out, and the game is really the only place to get it because it’s regular speed. You don’t know what’s coming. We prepare, but we don’t obviously get to walk through the looks that we’re going to get. When you get out there you just have to make good decisions and go play quarterback the way that I’ve always tried to do."

Maybe it's to adapt to the pace of the game. Maybe it's to be faced with the real threat of contact. Maybe it's just because he can't stand not to be on the field when the Patriots are playing. Either way, Brady obviously hopes that he'll play on Friday night in Carolina. 

The question now is are the benefits great enough that Belichick will allow him to?

McAdam: Will this be Clay Buchholz's last start?

McAdam: Will this be Clay Buchholz's last start?

With Wright and Rodriguez set to return, Sean McAdam joins SNC to discuss whether Tuesday’s game against the Rays will be the last start for Clay Buchholz.