Haggerty's Bruins-Sharks preview

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Haggerty's Bruins-Sharks preview

SAN JOSE, Calif. The Bruins have harkened back to their hard-earned defensive way of life, and its shown results.

Claude Julien called it protecting the house in front of the net, and the Bruins are starting to chase the burglars and the brigands away after letting the oppositions have their way in the slot for far too long. The Bruins allowed 4.00 goals per game during the first nine games of March and were gashed for six goals against both the Lightning and the Panthers and that was the breaking point Boston needed.

They woke up last weekend, saw they were the seventh place Boston Bruins and all of a sudden played with the urgency that had been missing for far too long. That meant the Bs goaltender stopping 95 percent of the shots hes facing, that meant a staunch Bruins defense holding the Leafs to only 13 shots on net in a 60-minute hockey game and that meant allowing only two goals to accomplished offenses like the Flyers and the Leafs.

After meandering far too far away from their defensive principles, everything is back in line with the way the Bs coaching staff prefers it.

Obviously a lot of teams are playing desperate hockey fighting for the playoffs and fighting for home ice advantage. Its about playing like theres no tomorrow and playing with a lot of desperation. Thats playoff hockey and thats what were doing right now, said Tyler Seguin. I think we are playing more Bruins style hockey. Were playing with a bit of a chip on our shoulders competing and winning battles.

Thats when we start playing well: when were competing, winning battles and doing all of the little things while paying attention to detail. We like winning more than losing and thats what makes us happy.

The Bruins were able to do all of that in the friendly confines of the TD Garden after theyd caught their breath and exhaled from a disastrous road trip through Florida. Now the Bruins must get in touch with their inner road warrior and carry on the competitiveness and defensive awareness after a six-hour plane ride plopped them in California for the next five days.

With only 10 games left in the regular season the Bruins shouldnt have any more speed bumps along the way, and they know they cant afford it with the Senators and Panthers still well within striking distance.

PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRED PUMPED: With the B's on a two-game winning streak, Marty Turco might be the player that needs his tires pumped the most. The 36-year-old netminder hasnt seen the light of day since his disastrous outing against the Tampa Bay Lighting, but he does have some obscenely bright yellow goaltending pads hes ready to rock when he does get the call. If the Bruins are able to win the first couple of games of their swing through California, then perhaps theres a shot Turco will get his redemption chance against the Ducks. But it wont be against the Sharks.

DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: You could tell in our game against Toronto and also on Saturday afternoon against Philadelphia that we really wanted to turn things around, and maybe it was a blessing in disguise that Ottawa did pass us because maybe there was that fire that needed to be re-lit. Milan Lucic talking about the wakeup call provided by the Ottawa Senators that should last them for the rest of the season.

KEY MATCHUP: The Bruins need to find a way to match Brian Rolston and the Bs third line up against Joe Thorntons line in San Jose, and perhaps create a flashback effect when he sees Rolstons No. 12 in Black and Gold. Perhaps even fool him into making a bad pass or when Rolston calls for the puck like he was still one of his teammates as they were for five years in Boston. One would expect the Zdeno CharaDennis Seidenberg combo would get the draw to neutralize Jumbo Joe and his linemates and that could be a challenge given the urgency they should be skating with after dropping out of the top eight in the Western Conference.

STAT TO WATCH: .952 the save percentage for Tim Thomas in the Bs last two wins while stopping 40-of-42 shots, which is much closer to normal for the 37-year-old netminder.

INJURIES: Tuukka Rask (groin strainabdomen strain) and Nathan Horton (mild concussion) are long term injuries for the Bruins. Peverley skated with the team on Thursday and is closing in on a return from a sprained knee. San Jose forwards Michal Handzus (undisclosed), Tommy Wingels (upper body) and TJ Galiardi (upper body) are all questionable for Thursday's game against Boston.

GOALTENDING MATCHUP: Tim Thomas will get the call for the Bruins, and hell be appearing in his 14th straight game for the Black and Gold including a pair of relief appearances. Thomas is 5-5 with a 3.36 goals against average and an .863 save percentage during the month of March, but looks like hes on the upswing. Antti Niemi will make his 13th straight start in net for the Sharks. Hes 4-0 with a 1.96 goals-against average and .930 save percentage in four career games against Boston, and got the win in San Joses 4-2 win over the Bruins back in October.

Patriots-Rams notes: Brady and the defense have record-setting days

Patriots-Rams notes: Brady and the defense have record-setting days

FOXBORO -- Notes from the Patriots' 26-10 win over the Rams Sunday, courtesy of the Pats' P.R. department:

TEAM NOTES

A DEFENSIVE FIRST : The Patriots allowed just 25 total first-half yards to the Rams, the lowest total in a half in team history. The previous low was 28 yards by the Jets in the first half on Dec. 26, 2005 in a 31-25 New England win.

A DEFENSIVE SECOND: The Patriots yielded just 36 yards rushing to the Rams, the second time this season New England has held its opponent to fewer than 40 rushing yards. Cleveland rushed for only 27 yards in Week 5.

BY THE NUMBERS DEFENSIVELY: The Patriots have now held the opposition to less than 20 points in 8 of their 12 games this year, and are allowing just 17.3 ppg.

PATS HIT 10-VICTORY MARK FOR 14TH CONSECUTIVE SEASON: The Patriots are now 10-2 and have won 10 or more games for 14 consecutive season, the second-longest streak in NFL history. The 1983-98 49ers had a 16-year streak

RECORD-SETTING PERFORMANCE: Tom Brady did not throw an interception Sunday and Patriots QBs have been picked off just once in the first 12 games of the season, an NFL record. The previous record for fewest interceptions thrown in the first 12 games was three, held jointly by the 2016 Vikings, 2015 Chiefs, 1993 Cowboys and 190 Chiefs. The NFL record for fewest interceptions in a season is five.

INDIVIDUAL NOTES

THE GOAT: As noted elsewhere, Brady became the winningest QB in NFL history with his 201st career victory.

HOME BODY: Since 2007, Brady is 62-6 overall at home in the regular season. That is more wins than five teams (home and away) have combined during that span. (60 by the Bucs, 57 by the Raiders, 52 by the Jaguars, 47 by the Browns and 46 by the Rams).

GETTING CLOSER: LeGarrette Blount scored on a 43-yard run in the first quarter and is now one rushing TD away from the tying the franchise record for rushing touchdowns in a season. He has 13, one behind Curtis Martin (who scored 14 in both 1995 and 1996).

SOME FIRSTS:
-- CB Logan Ryan sacked Rams QB Jared Goff for a loss of 12½ yards in the second quarter for his first sack since 2013.
-- LB Kyle Van Noy recorded his first NFL interception when he picked off a QB Jared Goff pass in the third quarter.
-- WR Julian Edelman finished with 8 receptions for 101 yards, his first 100-yard game of the 2016 season. (He now has eight 100-yard games in the regular season and two in the postseason.)

Sources: Bruins engaged in trade talks involving Ryan Spooner

Sources: Bruins engaged in trade talks involving Ryan Spooner

This probably won’t come as a complete shock to those watching the way things have played out with him this season, but the Bruins have engaged in discussions with multiple teams about a Ryan Spooner trade, per multiple sources with knowledge of the situation. 

The 23-year-old Spooner was mentioned casually a few months ago as possible fodder in a Jacob Trouba deal with the Winnipeg Jets, but that deal never really materialized prior to the Jets signing their young, frontline D-man to a two-year deal. The Carolina Hurricanes, New York Islanders and San Jose Sharks have all expressed interest in Spooner, per one hockey source, as it appears that things simply aren’t going to work out for him in Boston. 

It’s been a challenging year for Spooner with pedestrian numbers of three goals and eight points in 24 games, but there are plenty of mitigating circumstances behind the slow start. Spooner has been pushed into playing left wing for the bulk of the season rather than his natural, preferred center position, and he’s been dropped to the fourth line by Claude Julien over the last few weeks. At times he’s also been pulled from the Bruins power play where he racked up six goals and 17 points working off the half-wall last season.  

Julien talked about the former second round pick in frank terms after this week’s win over the Carolina Hurricanes, which featured a Spooner snipe to the top corner during a successful shootout for the Black and Gold. 

“I think at times that [David Krejci] line goes quiet, other times it’s better. We’ve tried different guys on the left side right now and one [Spooner] might give them speed but doesn’t win as many battles,” said Julien of his search for stability at left wing alongside Krejci and David Backes. “The other way [with Tim Schaller] guys are a little harder right now, and they spend more time in the O-zone. So we’re really trying hard to find the right balance there.”

Trade talks have increased the past few weeks because A) the situation has worsened recently with Spooner’s prolonged stint as a miscast fourth line winger and B) the speedy, skilled forward will most likely be a man without a spot when 22-year-old left winger Frank Vatrano returns sometime around the mid-December range. 

According to one source, the Bruins are asking for a “top six forward” in exchange for a package including Spooner, and it’s a lead pipe certainty they’re looking for some goal-scoring given their 24th ranked offense this season. That represents a bit of an organizational sea change after the Bruins searched low and high for a top-4 defenseman in trade over the summer. The emergence of 20-year-old Brandon Carlo, and the Boston defense’s performance across the board, has lowered the Black and Gold’s priority list need to trade for a D-man. 

The Bruins have scored two goals or fewer in 18 of their 25 games this season and badly need somebody that can put the puck in the net from one of the wing positions. Unfortunately for the Bruins, there aren’t a lot of top-6 forwards readily available that could make an immediate impact. It’s highly doubtful any team is going to fork one over for an asset like Spooner that’s been downgraded due to the way he’s been utilized by the Bruins this season. He hasn't played with the same creativity or confidence this season after posting 13 goals and 49 points as their third line center last season. 

So it remains to be seen what the Bruins will get for Spooner after they offered him and a draft pick to Buffalo for rental forward Chris Stewart a couple of years ago. That was a deal Sabres GM Tim Murray turned down before trading Stewart for considerably less at the trade deadline.

The bottom line: the Bruins are working the phones discussing possible Spooner deals, and it feels like there is some motivation from B’s management to move a player that doesn’t seem like he'll ever be a proper fit in Julien’s system.