New beginning for the Bruins


New beginning for the Bruins

It wouldn't be a day here on Standing Room Only without some commentary on the Bruins, and today will be no different. After all, today the B's Stanley Cup defense officially begins.

Not to take anything away from the last six months, but all that's out the window. The slow start. The red hot November. The dominant December, flakey February and mediocre March. Tim Thomas skipping the White House? Tyler Seguin sleeping with more girls than you even spoke to? Old news.

It's all about now, and the only question on anyone's mind:

Can the Bruins do it again?

Answer: Of course they can. All things considered, the Bruins are more prepared to win the Cup this season than theyve been at any point in the last 30 years. Why? Because they already have.

Wasn't that always the biggest problem with the B's?

The culture of losing?

The fact that no matter how well they played in the regular season, there was always the expectation that when it came down to winning time, when the season was on the line, that the Bruins would come up short?

After all, it's not like the team was horrible for the entire 39-year Stanley Cup drought. Hell, in those 39 years they only missed the playoffs five times. They won 13 division crowns. They weren't the Los Angeles Clippers. They were just a solid franchise with no backbone.

But last year delivered a transplant. And now, with this core starting with the man in net, regardless of how you feel about his politics you do have faith. You don't look back on the regular season and think: "Eh, it doesn't matter, because they're going to blow it anyway." It's more, "Eh, it doesn't matter, because this team is built for the playoffs. They've shown us that already, and there's no reason to think they can't show us that again!"

Actually, OK. Maybe there are a few reasons to believe it won't happen. Namely, that only two teams have won back-to-back Cups in the last 20 years and the Bruins don't have Mario Lemieux or Steve Yzerman. On top of that, there are obviously injury concerns, especially on defense. Not to mention some pretty stiff competition in the Eastern Conference and beyond. Still, there's no doubt that the Bruins have a chance. A great chance.

Of course, at the end of the day, like in any NHL playoffs, the Bruins fate may still come down to how many games Tim Thomas can steal, how many times they can sneak in the first goal of an overtime, how many times there's a make or break moment and for one reason or another, the Bruins make it happen.

But for the first time in a long time, you're not crazy to think that the Bruins do have what it takes, and they will make it happen.

Either way, the story starts to unfold tonight.

The title defense begins now.

Rich can be reached at Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

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.

Game notes: Patriots vs. Steelers


Game notes: Patriots vs. Steelers

A quick look at the information you need to know about today's Patriots-Steelers game:

TEAM RECORDS: Patriots 5-1, Steelers 4- 2

GAME TIME: 4:25 p.m. EST


TV ANNOUNCERS: Jim Nantz, Phil Simms and Tracy Wolfson


NATIONAL RADIO ANNOUNCERS: Larry Kahn, Mark Carrier and Troy West

LOCAL RADIO NETWORK: Anchored by WBZ-FM (98.5 The Sports Hub)

LOCAL RADIO ANNOUNCERS: Bob Socci and Scott Zolak


LAST MEETING: Patriots 28, Steelers 21 on Sept. 10, 2015 at Gillette Stadium

* * * *
-- The Patriots are 8-11 against the Steelers in Pittsburgh in their history, but are 4-2 at Heinz Field. Included in those four Heinz Field victories are two in AFC Championship Games (in the 2001 and 2004 seasons).

-- Tom Brady is 8-2 against the Steelers in his career.

-- The last time Brady played the Steelers, in 2015, he set a Patriots franchise record with 19 consecutive pass completions.

-- The Patriots are 108-70 (.607) in road games since 1994, the best record in the NFL over that span. The Steelers (97- 82, .542) are second.

-- The Patriots have yet to throw an interception in 2016, setting a team record for consecutive games without an interception at the start of a season (6). The NFL record for consecutive games at the start of a season without a pick is 9, set by the 1960 Browns. The Patriots' franchise record for overall consecutive games with no interceptions is 8, set in 2010.

* * * *
-- Rob Gronkowski has 67 overall touchdowns and needs one to tie Stanley Morgan (68) for the franchise record.

-- Gronkowski has 66 receiving touchdowns and needs one to tie Morgan (67) for the franchise record.

-- Gronkowski has 22 100-yard receiving games, including two in 2016, and is tied with Jackie Smith for the third-most among all NFL tight ends. The only TEs who have more are Kellen Winslow (24) and Tony Gonzalez (31).