Nothing beats overtime playoff hockey

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Nothing beats overtime playoff hockey

Yesterday in Washington, for the fifth time in the last two seasons, the Bruins stared elimination in the eyes and smacked it upside the head.

Thanks to their 4-3 victory, Boston will live to see another day. And while theyre still on the brink of elimination, the game has changed. Yesterday, the Bs had their back against the wall, and a knife to their throat. On Wednesday, the knife will be in Bostons hands, with more than 17,000 fans there ready to help deliver the Capitals a deathblow.

But before we move on to Game 7, I think we need to come down from Game 6. Because holy crap playoff hockey.

Overtime playoff hockey. Elimination overtime playoff hockey!

Is there anything like it in sports?

Id say the closest thing we have is extra innings of an MLB playoff game something like Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS.

You know that feeling you get in the bottom half of every inning? When you know that each pitch could be the last; that one swing can end it all and turn an entire region of capable human beings into an army of angry zombies?

That was every second of yesterdays overtime. Only worse.

In baseball, at least they take turns. In the bottom half of the 10th, the home fans sit on the edge of their seats, eagerly anticipating every pitch. Meanwhile, the away fans watch through their fingers, curled up in a ball on the couch. The home team is the only one that can win, the away team the only that can lose. Its insanely one-sided. Or maybe the away team is up by a run, and the home team has a rally going in the bottom of inning? In that sense, there's something on the line for both sides. But the pace is different. It's somehow so much calmer.

In hockey, things move so fast that its a dual possession. You can never step back and think: Phew. Were safe for now. No ones safe! Youre at all times on top of the world and six feet under. You're like one of those crazy (and annoying) guests at the hotel pool who keeps jumping back and forth between the hot tub and the regular water. Your body doesn't know what to do with itself.

The only way baseball could ever recreate that kind of drama would be to have two mounds, two plates and two sets of fielders out their at the same time. OK, guys. First run wins. Go! (By the way, Bud Selig should have this passed by 2015.)

In football, every playoff game is an elimination game, but its not the same. While there are examples (Tebow vs. the Steelers, Hasselbeck vs. the Packers) where theres one big play that sneaks up and decides the game (and for the losing team, the season), its far more methodical than hockey. The teams generally spend as much time setting up for field goals as they do going for the jugular. (Also, overtime games are pretty rare in football. We may have had two this past postseason, but they were only the 28th and 29th playoff overtimes since 1958.)

The NBA is probably the closest thing we have in terms of changing possessions and a constant back and forth, but the lack of a sudden death element limits the drama to a certain extent. Plus, between fouls, timeouts, reviews and everything else, it's just so drawn out. Even if more can happen in a shorter time in basketball, it's so regimented. Theres still so much build up and anticipation before every play; time to brace yourself for whatever might happen next.

In hockey, there's nothing. No commercials, very few whistles. You just sit there, straddling the fence between victory and defeat, waiting for the fate to be decided.

Next thing you know, Krejci intercepts the puck. Before you can even process it, hes flipped it to Lucic, whos already found Seguin, who just juked Braden Holtby out of his skates and catapulted the Bruins from the edge of disaster back into the driver's seat.

And there's nothing like it.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Valentine will be plunked down in heart of D-line

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Valentine will be plunked down in heart of D-line

FOXBORO – The Patriots used the 96th overall pick – a compensatory pick that came to the Patriots after losing Darrelle Revis – on a very large man. Vincent Valentine, a 6-3, 329-pound defensive tackle from Nebraska who is more space-eater than penetrator.

Though Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio said Valentine has played all over the defensive line including 5-technique (outside shoulder of the tackle), he’ll likely be an early-down, middle of the defensive line player for the Patriots at the outset. How does the team go about getting him on the field?

Currently, they are pretty well-stocked with big bodies. Last year’s first rounder, Malcom Brown, is going to play a lot for a long time. Terrance Knighton, added as a free agent, figures to be a major component of the defensive line. And aging Alan Branch showed in 2015 that he’s still got plenty of plays left in him.

The other 300-plus pound linemen in the mix are Marcus Kuhn, a free agent brought over from the Giants, and Joe Vellano, who’s been with the team for four seasons as an end of the roster player.

Valentine had an injury-plagued final season with the Cornhuskers and will need to tune up his body and conditioning for the NFL. He’s not a project but neither is he a plug-and-play type who can be expected to walk in and make immediate contributions. With the 31-year-old Branch nearing the end, it’s reasonable to expect Valentine to be the successor to him in the Patriots interior rotation when they go heavy on early downs and in short-yardage and goal-line.

Examining possible Patriots fits going into Day 3

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Examining possible Patriots fits going into Day 3

The Patriots have eight picks remaining on the final day of the draft. While they may not use all of those selections -- they currently have 80 players on the roster, leaving them with only two slots for undrafted free agents if they use all of their picks -- they still have plenty of opportunities to take chances on talented athletes Saturday. 

Here's a quick look at some of the best players available after they spent their first four selections on a corner (Cyrus Jones, Alabama, pick No. 60), an offensive lineman (Joe Thuney, North Carolina State, No. 78), a quarterback (Jacoby Brissett, North Carolina State, No. 91) and a defensive tackle (Vincent Valentine, Nebraska, No. 96). 

The Patriots have one fourth-round pick, five sixth-round picks and two seventh-rounders remaining.

RUNNING BACK: KENNETH DIXON, LOUISIANA TECH

Listed as one of our top players available after Day 1, Dixon is still hanging around after nearly 100 picks have gone off the board. Perhaps his level of competition at Louisiana Tech has worked against him. Perhaps his fumbling issues have come back to bite him. Perhaps this is simply an indication of how the rest of the league considers this position. Only four backs have been drafted through the first three rounds. 

Other top running backs available: Jordan Howard, Indiana; Devontae Booker, Utah; Paul Perkins, UCLA; Jonathan Williams, Arkansas; Alex Collins, Arkansas. 

RECEIVER: DANIEL BRAVERMAN, WESTERN MICHIGAN

If ever there was a player who stood out as a potential Patriots pick, it would be Braverman. At 5-foot-10, 177 pounds, he is a prototypical slot receiver whose skill set resembles that of Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola or Troy Brown. He's very shifty in and out of his breaks, he does a great deal of his work while risking big hits over the middle of the field, he catches just about everything thrown his way, and he churns out yards after the catch with speed and good vision. 

Other top receivers available: Malcolm Mitchell, Georgia; Rashard Higgins, Colorado State; Devon Cajuste, Stanford; Keyarris Garrett, Tulsa; Keenan Reynolds, Navy.

LINEBACKER: JOSH PERRY, OHIO STATE

This Buckeye seems to fit the size profile the Patriots typically like in their receivers at 6-foot-4, 254 pounds. He runs well enough to be able to track ball-carriers from sideline-to-sideline, and he has a ton of experience coming downhill to make big hits in the running game. Perry will need some work before he's a reliable defender in coverage, but on first and second downs he could be a force. 

Other top linebackers available: Scooby Wright III, Arizona; Kentrell Brothers, Missouri; Stephen Weatherly, Vanderbilt; Blake Martinez, Stanford; De'Vondre Campbell, Minnesota. 

DEFENSIVE TACKLE: HASSAN RIDGEWAY, TEXAS

A college teammate of Patriots defensive tackle Malcom Brown, Ridgeway is considered by many to be more physically talented than Brown was when he declared for the draft. Injuries hurt Ridgeway's productivity last season, and there are some who question his conditioning, but he understands how to be a disruptive force on the interior, both in the running game and in the passing game. If he's in shape and can maintain the level of fitness that will be expected of him as a pro, he could turn into an immediate contributor.

Other top defensive tackles available: Andrew Billings, Baylor; Sheldon Day, Notre Dame; DJ Reader, Clemson; Dean Lowry, Northwestern; Justin Zimmer, Ferris State.

Patriots hatch latest backup plan at QB

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Patriots hatch latest backup plan at QB

Tom Brady needs a Hail Mary at this point to get himself on the field for the first four games of 2016. The Patriots are more aware of that than anyone, so Friday night they grabbed a little security, using a third-round pick on North Carolina State quarterback Jacoby Brissett.

The 6-4, 235-pound Brissett was a two-year starter for the Wolfpack and had 23 touchdowns and five picks in his senior season. He’s lauded for his leadership, has outstanding physical skills and is a tireless worker.

All that said, he’s not going to beat out Jimmy Garoppolo. Brissett isn’t in Foxboro to be the long-term No. 2 in 2016. But if he shows a high level of competency between now and the end of August, the Patriots will likely go into the four-game Brady-less stretch with Garoppolo as the temp starter and Brissett as the temp backup.

When Brady returns, everybody moves back down the ladder again.

But a look at the contracts of Garoppolo and Brady shows that, after 2016, Garoppolo may become expendable. Brady is signed through 2019 and isn’t going anywhere. Garoppolo is up after 2017 and will be a free agent. If Garoppolo plays well enough to impress the rest of the league in his four-game audition, the Patriots could look to deal him prior to the 2017 season.

The return on the former second-rounder isn’t relevant right now. What is relevant is that the Patriots are going to have to carry three quarterbacks on their 53-man roster in 2016: Brady, Garoppolo and Brissett. For a team that’s always churning the end of its roster to get the best players ready for every week’s matchup, the team will have one less roster spot to deal with than it’s had in past seasons.

The only way around carrying Brissett all year on the 53 would be to release him, hope he passes unclaimed through waivers and then sign him to the practice squad. It’s likely someone would claim him. So the Patriots will be working with three quarterbacks on their 53 for 2016. Forecasting, it’s not likely they’d do that two years in a row.

The addition of Brissett is a signal that the team isn’t preparing for life after Brady, but life after Jimmy G.