Marchand's wait is almost over

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Marchand's wait is almost over

TAMPA Brad Marchands waiting game is almost over.

The Bruins agitator will serve out the final game of his five-game suspension Tuesday night at the Tampa Times Forum as his teammates suit up to take on the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Once the game in Tampa is over Marchand will officially be out of the leagues doghouse.

Its been a bit of a lonely existence for Marchand practicing long after his teammates have left the rink and getting run through bag skates all by his lonesome. Marchand went through the suspended guy routine one final time on Tuesday following morning skate, and now hes ready to rejoin his teammates for both regular practice and games starting tomorrow. One positive: The games have so been bunched up for the Bruins that Marchand said the time on the sidelines actually felt shorter than the five games hes missed.

But theres no mistaking his enthusiasm to jump back into meaningful hockey with the boys after a forced vacation.

Its been a long week-and-a-half and its always tough to watch the team play, so itll be nice to get back in there, said Marchand. Its more mentally frustrating with watching. Sometimes things arent going the right way and you think that you could help.

When youre watching the games you really cant do anything. Its also a grind because they put you through a tough bag skate workout in the morning and then another one at night. Itll be nice to get back out and feel like youre a part of the team.

What wasn't nice was the 150,000 taken out of Marchands wallet for clipping Sami Salo during Bostons loss to the Vancouver Canucks nearly two weeks ago.

You dont like to lose that kind of money, but Im still making out okay. At the end of the day you learn from it. You realize you might have to change your game if you dont want it to happen again, said Marchand. It was a little frustrating to lose that kind of money . . . especially at my age. It sucks. But life goes on.

With all of that in the rear view, Marchand is revved up to jump back into the lineup Thursday night against the New Jersey Devils. The left wing hopes to put the incident behind him and feels hes got a pretty good grasp on when hell be able to duck an onrushing attacker next.

The way Brendan Shanahan explained it during my meeting was that if were not going at each other physically then its a little more acceptable, said Marchand, who was a little surprised at the suspension's length after thinking he might get hit with a two-game penalty. Maybe its okay if a guy is trying to blindside me or something, but for the most part Im going to try and stay away from the clipping hits.

Marchand's penalty handed the Canucks a pair of power play goals that ultimately provided the difference between the two hockey teams. When Marchand puts together the consequences of the five-minute major in that specific game and the five games missed due to suspension, he still has some lingering issues with the harshness of Shanahans decision.

But something Marchand knows very well is that anytime you fight the law, the law is going to win.

I can understand that thered be a bit of punishment, but not to the extent of what was given. One or two games would have been more than enough especially given that I lost the team our game against Vancouver, said Marchand. That would have been acceptable. I still dont think it should have been five games.

Whatever the amount of games, Benoit Pouliot has done a solid job standing in for Marchand during the last four games with Patrice Bergeron and Tyler Seguin. Pouliot has posted a pair of points and a plus-2 in the first four games of substitute work, and has one game to go against the Lightning.

But theres no replacing the kind of chemistry Marchand has with Bergeron and Seguin, and the team wont have to miss it anymore when Marchand returns to the mix Thursday night against the Devils.

Brady-Ryan marks rare case of NFL's top two quarterbacks meeting in Super Bowl

Brady-Ryan marks rare case of NFL's top two quarterbacks meeting in Super Bowl

For all the flack that Matt Ryan got heading into this season, he’s been a damn good quarterback. Is his career on the same level as Tom Brady’s? Of course not, but this regular season saw him stand as Brady’s peer, making him an MVP favorite.

One of Ryan’s biggest challengers for that hardware is the same man who stands in the way of him winning his first Super Bowl. Though he missed the first four games of the season due to suspension, Brady finished second in the league in passing yards per game and threw just two picks in 12 games while tossing 28 touchdowns.  

So Super Bowl LI will pin the quarterback with the best numbers overall (Ryan finished two touchdowns behind Aaron Rodgers for the league lead but threw for 516 more yards and had a higher completion percentage) against the quarterback with the best touchdown/interception ratio ever for a single season. 

In other words, this is a Super Bowl that puts what one could argue are the season’s two best quarterbacks each other. That’s pretty rare. 

Going back the last 25 years, there are four candidates for such meetings: Manning vs. Brees in Super Bowl XLIV, Favre and Elway in Super Bowl XXXII (this one is a stretch), Favre and Bledsoe in Super Bowl XXXI and Kelly and Rypien in Super Bowl XXVI.. 

Why haven’t the two best quarterbacks squared off in the Super Bowl more often? Because Brady and Peyton Manning played their entire careers in the same conference, silly. It’s taken other players entering their echelon to even set up such a scenario, and that’s why Brees’ Saints beating Manning’s Colts serves as the only example during Manning or Brady’s career. 

The strong performances of those who dominated the regular season have often carried over into their Super Bowl meetings, but not always. Drew Bledsoe and Jim Kelly (both throwing two touchdowns and four picks in Super Bowl losses) are examples of the wheels falling off in the final game. 

Here’s a breakdown of past occurrences. Note that all four of them saw the winning team score at least 30 points, something the Pats have done just once in Brady's four Super Bowl wins: 

Super Bowl XLIV: Brees vs. Manning

Brees led NFL with 34 touchdowns in regular season; Manning finished tied for second with 33

Final score: Saints 31, Colts 17

Brees: 32/39, 288 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Manning: 31/45, 333 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

Brees completed a postseason in which he had no turnovers and did so in a nearly exactly average game for him that season, as e averaged 292.5 yards, 2.26 touchdowns and less than one interception per game in the regular season. The two quarterbacks also combined for just one sack. 
 
Super Bowl XXXII: Favre vs. Elway

Favre led NFL with 35 TDs in regular season, Elway finished second in TD/interception ratio

Final score: Broncos 31, Packers 24

Favre: 25/42, 256 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT, fumble lost 
Elway: 12/22, 123 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT

Again, this is the forced one because Jeff George (3,917 passing yards, 29 touchdowns, nine interceptions) had the better regular season than Elway (3,635 passing yards, 27 touchdowns, 11 picks). Elway may have been the winning quarterback, but he didn’t have anything to do with the win. Terrell Davis carried the Broncos, playing through a migraine and rushing for 157 yards with three touchdowns en route to Super Bowl MVP honors. 

Super Bowl XXXI: Favre vs. Bledsoe

Favre led NFL with 39 TDs, Bledsoe third with 27

Final Score: Packers 35, Patriots 21

Favre: 14/27, 246 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Bledsoe: 25/48, 253 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT

Both quarterbacks took five sacks in this game. For Bledsoe, it was the most he took all season. The game was the third four-pick performance of his NFL career. 

Super Bowl XXVI: Kelly vs. Rypien

Kelly led NFL with 33 TDs, Rypien second with 28

Final score: Redskins 37, Bills 24

Rypien: 18/33, 292 yards, 2 TD, INT
Kelly: 28/58, 275 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT, fumble lost

Turns out five turnovers (and being sacked four times) is not a recipe for winning the Super Bowl. Kelly’s 58 passes thrown set a Super Bowl record.
 

Dimitroff, Pioli the first Belichick defectors to lead new team to Super Bowl

Dimitroff, Pioli the first Belichick defectors to lead new team to Super Bowl

Working for the Patriots makes you attractive to other teams. Many have left, but Thomas Dimitroff and Scott Pioli are finally showing that major success can be attained in the process. 

Dimitroff and Pioli have built a team in Atlanta that will play for the franchise’s first Super Bowl title on Feb. 5. While many have been hired away from Bill Belichick's Patriots to lead other organizations, Dimitroff is the first of the defectors to get to the Super Bowl on his own. Adding an old friend in Pioli has played a part in that. 

Dimitroff served as New England’s director of college scouting from 2003 through 2007 before becoming Atlanta’s general manager in 2008. He hired Pioli in 2014 as an assistant GM after the longtime Patriots director and vice president of player personnel had a messy stint as the Chiefs’ GM. 

Executives and coaches (even Field Yates; yes, the fair-haired boy from the television) leaving the Patriots for better positions with other organizations has been common, but with the new positions have often come diminished success compared to New England. 

Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Bill O’Brien, Charlie Weis (in his brief return to the NFL in 2010) and Josh McDaniels make up the list of coordinators who have left winning with the Patriots to experience a dropoff without Brady and Belichick. John Robinson (Titans), Jason Licht (Buccaneers) and Bob Quinn (Lions) currently serve as GMs elsewhere, while former Pats secondary coach Joe Collier works with Dimitroff and Pioli as the Falcons’ director of pro personnel. 

It’s only fitting that Dimitroff and Pioli will have to go through Belichick in order to secure a title on their own. Winning without Belichick has proven hard enough for his former colleagues; winning against him will be even harder.