Kelly: Bruins should beware of the Senators

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Kelly: Bruins should beware of the Senators

WILMINGTON, Mass. Who better to understand the domination of the Ottawa Senators over the last four years at the hands of the Boston Bruins than Chris Kelly?
Kelly was a member of the Senators for 6 12 years prior to his acquisition by the Bruins at the trade deadline in 2011, so he's seen life from both sides. The B's are 18-5 over Ottawa in the last four years, and Kelly will tell you it's better being the hammer than the nail.
But he'll also tell you that assuming the B's will roll over the Sens in the playoffs -- the two are likely first-round foes -- just because they've beaten them consistently in the regular season these last few years is pure folly.
If we take the approach to the playoffs that teams will roll over then wed be in some big trouble," said Kelly. "The regular season is the regular season, and the playoffs are a whole different beast. Youve seen it in the past where a team has done extremely well against a team during the regular season, and then it goes the other way during the playoffs. The regular season gets thrown out the window after Saturday.
Its all but assured the Bruins and Senators will open up as first-round opponents when Bostons playoff Cup defense begins, probably on April 12 at TD Garden, and those teams meet for the final time this season Thursday night at Scotiabank Place. It wont have the feel of a potential playoff preview, of course, as Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara and Tim Thomas were all left back in Boston to get some rest with the playoffs around the corner.
But that didnt stop Kelly from remembering the ill-at-ease feeling he had when he knew Thomas was going to start against them during his Ottawa days.
Thomas has lost only 5 of the 16 games hes played at Scotiabank Place over his highly decorated career, and he has a current nine-game winning streak in Ottawas home building. Kelly joked that whenever Boston was coming to town it got to the point where the Senators hoped Thomas would get the night off for any reason under the sun.
I was always hoping hed get the flu and miss the game, said a laughing Kelly. But once you saw that gold on the mask, you knew you were in for it.
In his career at Scotiabank Place, Thomas has 1.99 goals-against average and a .940 save percentage in 16 games. He even wins exhibition games in Ottawas building, as he took the victory in Team Charas win at the NHL All-Star game in January.
But none of that matters much to the young Senators, who are readying for a surprise playoff bid. They're a group of largely young, unproven players hungry for a taste of the postseason. Only a handful remain from Kelly's days with the team.
While most NHL prognosticators picked the Senators to finish last in the Northeast Division and out of the playoffs Chara said hes not surprised Ottawa could be Bostons first-round foe. Both he and Kelly give credit to Sens head coach Paul MacLean bringing a new attitude after Cory Clouston couldnt provide the answers Ottawa was looking for.
The biggest difference we see from last year with Ottawa is that theyre really committed to the system and the structure this season, said Chara. They seem to really be paying attention to details, and the new coaching staff seems to have a lot to do with that.
Whats a little more relevant to this seasons potential playoff matchup?
The Bruins are 4-1 against the Sens this season, with the lone Ottawa victory coming in their last game in Boston, and all the Sens defensemen aside from Filip Kuba and Erik Karlsson were minus players against the Bs this year. But Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson also combined for 11 points in nine games against the Bruins this season, and give the Senators their biggest wealth of postseason experience heading into the first-round match.
Alfredsson and Spezza led the playoffs in scoring the year we went to the Cup Finals (2006-07), along with Dany Heatley, so its kind of rare that all three guys would have 26 or 27 points each, said Kelly. Youve got to know where they are on the ice. Theyve been in the postseason before, but there are also a lot of new faces with postseason experience because they all won the Calder Cup with Binghamton last year. There is no shortage of playoff experience on that team.
The AHL playoff experience is obviously much different than the Stanley Cup playoffs, but Kellys point is well-taken.
The bottom line with the Ottawa Senators: Theyre a young, talented team that did well to force themselves back into the playoff picture this season, but the Bruins should have little problem picking them off in an ideal first-round challenge.
Hockey history has shown that the Bruins have been the superior hockey club for a long, long time, and hockey history doesnt lie.

Curran: Pats already winning the mind game

Curran: Pats already winning the mind game

FOXBORO -- There’s this book called “The Obstacle is the Way,” written by an author named Ryan Holiday.

PATRIOTS-STEELERS PREGAME

Therein, the 29-year-old author explains how many highly successful people use adversity as a springboard. Holiday explains that dwelling on impediments to success -- whether they be personal shortcomings, daily challenges that confront us or just bad luck -- hinders our ability to accept them and move on undeterred . . . which is critical to success.  

It’s a book I first became aware of when reading a feature on John Schneider, the Seahawks GM. Schneider said he was told about the book by Bill Belichick confidante and former Patriots executive Mike Lombardi in 2015.

“[Lombardi] said, 'That's really where you would get a great vibe for what [Belichick] is like and what his philosophy is and how he approaches life and his football culture and all. I went out and purchased it right away, and it was awesome.”

The book came to mind last week when Mike Tomlin, in his postgame address to his team, lamented that the Patriots were “a day-and-a-half” ahead of Pittsburgh in prep time and that the Steelers wouldn’t be back in Pennsylvania until 4 a.m.

Already there was that “I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’ . . . ” woe-is-me approach that gave not just Tomlin an issue to fixate upon, but his players as well. Kind of like the idle intimation Tomlin made after the 2015 opener that the Steelers headsets gave them issues.

Of course, by Monday morning, the Steelers had more to deal with, as Antonio Brown broadcast live 17 minutes of locker-room footage. The Steelers fixated on that through Wednesday. Then the flu descended on their locker room and reportedly affected 15 players. Early Sunday morning, the Steelers had the fire alarm pulled at their hotel and -- even though they didn’t evacuate -- it’s shaping up as something the Steelers will be muttering about for weeks.

Or even years. They still think they got jobbed out of a Super Bowl by “Spygate” even though the 2001 Patriots beat them because of two special-teams touchdowns more than anything having to do with alleged taped signals.

Contrast that with the Patriots. After they sat on the tarmac in Providence for three hours on New Year’s Eve waiting to take off for the finale in Miami, Tom Brady talked about the opportunity the delay afforded the team to catch up on rest or preparation.

It’s just the way the Patriots have been hard-wired since Belichick took over. Screw the mottos, like “Do Your Job” or the hokey “One More”. (Can someone tell me that if “One More” occurs, what's next year’s saying? “One More One More?”) If there’s been a mantra for success that underpins everything the Patriots have been about it would be: “It is what it is.”

Quarterbacks coach passes away? (Dick Rehbein in 2001.) Very sad. But it is what it is. Starting quarterback has artery sheared? (Drew Bledsoe in 2001.) Is what it is. A league-sponsored witch hunt is carried out prior to the Super Bowl with the starting quarterback in the crosshairs? (Deflategate/Tom Brady in 2015.) It is what it is. That quarterback’s ultimately yanked off the field for four games? (Brady's suspension, 2016.) Is what it is.

Bill Parcells once said, “If you give a team an excuse they will take it every time.”

So it was with that in mind when the Patriots in 2003 boarded a plane for Miami and Belichick told them they were going down there to win and that he “didn’t want to hear about the heat or the plane ride or the f****** orange juice.” The Patriots got the point and extracted a 19-13 overtime win -- the first time they’d won there under Belichick.

The Patriots have had plenty of fire alarms pulled on them over the years -- three times during their week in Indy prior to Super Bowl 46, at least once in Arizona prior to SB49 -- and never did those cause the outcry that this minor disturbance caused.

That has to do with the mythology around the Patriots and Belichick that’s grown and festered for a decade-and-a-half.  The rest of the paranoid NFL imagines a KGB-style intelligence agency and wound up more concerned with the Patriots than readying a great team tto unseat them. Which is handy when explaining to your owner why the Patriots routinely win at the rate that they do. They cheat. What better way to cover your ass?

It can work for a while, right Ryan Grigson?

Another pro sports dynasty that enjoyed the kind of long-term dominance New England's in the midst of also won a lot of games because opponents got spooked by dead spots in the floor, hot locker rooms and cold showers in the original Boston Garden.

In other words, this mental tenderness exhibited by teams that choose to rage at the unfairness of it all rather than laugh and soldier on is nothing new.

Today, the ill-feeling, sleep-deprived, Steelers -- who had to cram their preparation around the distraction caused by a great player -- will play their most important game in six years.

God willing, the headsets work.