Haggerty: Deja vu for Bruins as they head to Washington


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.

Randy Moss: Roger Goodell is 'biggest reason' for NFL's problems

Randy Moss: Roger Goodell is 'biggest reason' for NFL's problems

With the NFL facing more PR issues by the day, Randy Moss has identified what he feels is wrong with a league that can’t seem to stay out of trouble.

In wake of the Josh Brown situation, which saw the NFL blame the King County (Wash.) Sheriff’s Office for the lack of initial punishment given to the Giants kicker for domestic violence, Moss said on ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown that commissioner Roger Goodell is the league’s biggest problem. 

“[This is] a bad time to show up now, breast cancer awareness month where we’re supporting the women, and then you come up with this Josh Brown, where it doesn’t seem like we are supporting women,” Moss said. “I think the NFL needs to take a deep look. I think the owners are mad, and Roger Goodell, he is the biggest reason to all of this stuff that’s fallen downhill with the NFL. I have to agree with that.”

Brown was initially given a one-game suspension for violating the league’s conduct policy stemming from his 2015 fourth-degree domestic violence charge. On Friday, the 37-year-old was placed on the commissioner’s exempt list. 

Steelers know they'll have their hands full with Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett


Steelers know they'll have their hands full with Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett

PITTSBURGH – So far this season, Martellus Bennett and Rob Gronkowski have combined for 39 catches, 644 yards and five touchdowns. Making the numbers that much more impressive is the fact the numbers were rolled up with Gronk inactive for two games and fairly useless in another thanks to his hamstring injury.

Will the Steelers slow the roll of Robellus Grennetski?

Hard to imagine. As Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette points out, Gronk alone has tuned up the Steelers with 26 receptions for 403 yards and seven touchdowns in six meetings.

Fittipaldo explored the strategies the Steelers defense may unveil Sunday afternoon when the Patriots and Steelers get going. He also pointed out that the return of linebacker Ryan Shazier after a three week layoff and injuries for safeties Mike Mitchell and Robert Golden may put Pittsburgh at a disadvantage.

Said Shazier: “They have the tandem they want at tight end. Now they can use tight ends the way they want. You have to respect everyone on the field. Both of them are good blockers, good pass threats and great at running after the catch.”

Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler said Pittsburgh will alter its approaches.

“We have to be able to play more than one defense,” Butler said. “They’re very good and they’ll pick you apart if they can figure out what you’re doing. We just have to execute the defense more than anything else. If we can do that … that’s been our problem for the most part. Some of the things that went on last week, we missed some things we should have made mentally.”

What “went on last week” was a 30-15 loss to the Dolphins.

Pittsburgh hasn’t been a big-play group so far -- eight sacks and three picks -- nor have they seen a gauntlet of great quarterbacks in the first six games. 

Interestingly, their losses have been to Ryan Tannehill and rookie Carson Wentz, probably the two quarterbacks one would figure Pittsburgh would do best against.
Between a smoking hot Brady and a can’t-be-stopped tight end tandem, there’s probably not a lot Pittsburgh can do aside from hoping for an off day.

Said linebacker Arthur Moats hopefully: “You have to continue to mix it up against (Gronkowski). You can’t give him the same look over and over. He has success on guys like that. If we disrupt him, and rush Brady and speed up his clock, I definitely think that will help out.”

In theory, perhaps. In practice? We’ll see.