Signs were there for Bruins letdown

642404.jpg

Signs were there for Bruins letdown

RALEIGH, N.C. Claude Julien and several of the Bruins players had been sounding off the warning sirens and caution alarms over the last two weeks.

Bad habits are creeping into the Bruins overall game and pulling them away from near perfection.

Breakout passes are getting sloppy, the action is getting a little too chaotic in their own zone and battles are being lost directly in front of their own net. Its been pretty difficult to miss.

Things have been creeping in the last three or four games, and tonight they bit us, said Patrice Bergeron. It hurt us. Were aware of it. I guess thats the good thing. But weve got to open our eyes and realize we need to play for 60 minutes and be consistent if we want to win.

Worst of all the ever-consistent Bruins arent putting together carbon copy efforts for the 60 full minutes in games, and instead theyre a hockey club overly reliant on an uncanny ability to pull things out in the third period.

Those final period triumphs were allowing the Bs to bank the two points in games they were winning ugly, and so the danger signs went unheeded and unattended. The Bs strolled into Carolina squaring off against an Eastern Conference cellar dweller, and leave Canes Country wondering what happened.

Instead of getting away once again with all of the inconsistencies and gaffes in execution it all came crashing down on the Bruins in a 4-2 loss at the RBC Center.

The Bruins dropped to 0-3 on the season against the Canes, and limped through one of the few lackluster third periods of the entire season. There wasnt much surprise or tremendous anger in the Bs dressing room after the defeat, but instead a resolve that issues need to be ironed out.

Weve talked about that since the Christmas break we havent really put together full 60 minute efforts when you take the Calgary game out of it, said Milan Lucic. It was eventually going to catch up to us. The goal to tie it had eyes before it went in.

But its unfortunate that we had to give up six points this season to the Hurricanes. Weve got to be better no matter who the opponent is.

There was little speed or extra burst to Bostons game, and the contest finished with the Bs on the short end of the registered hits battle, 18-14, in a rare sign of indifference to the physical game. The Hurricanes allowed the Bs to fire off 35 shots on net with everything coming from the perimeter. Normally staunch defenders like Dennis Seidenberg and Gregory Campbell were getting pushed all over the ice, and both finished minus-2 for the night.

As Claude Julien so aptly put it, the Bruins were getting beat at their own game by a team with little to lose.

Weve talked about finding ways to win when things are going well, but tonight we found a way to lose, said Julien. We had control of the gamenot that it was our best game. But we still felt we had a certain control and we had the lead. But we got knocked off the puck too much tonight.

They got it back and they made sure they knew that to do with it. I give them a lot of credit because I thought they played a really good game. They played with a lot of energy and they certainly had more than we did. We didnt seem to have the energy that we normally have. Weve got to get used to this kind of schedule.

On paper the first game of a four-game road trip against a team way out of playoff contention should have had trap written all over it. The Bruins stepped way too predictably into the pitfall.

Oddly enough things seemed like they were going to work out once again for the Black and Gold when Milan Lucic grabbed a loose puck and snapped a high wrister over Cam Wards shoulder for the go-ahead goal to start the third period.

But Cam Ward was able to turn aside a Daniel Paille scoring bid on the shift following Lucics goal, and the Bs domain the third period suddenly became winning time for the hungry, hungry Hurricanes.

A knuckling Justin Faulk shot managed to skip by Seidenbergs head before escaping Tim Thomas, and the Bs netminder never saw Jay Harrisons game-winning goal from the left point through heavy traffic. An empty-netter followed almost immediately and that was that.

It was nearly impossible for the Bruins to heed the ominous signs of a hockey club slipping into inconsistency seriously when the wins were still rolling through the zamboni door. But perhaps now that theyve been humbled by a Canes team that simply wanted it more and a team that seems to have their number the lessons will be accepted with a little more gravity.

The Bruins are viewed by the rest of the NHL as the Stanley Cup champs and the hottest team in hockey over the last three months. Saturday night was just a sample of the wallop that every teams best punch has cocked and ready to deliver. The Bruins need to match that emotion rather than lament the quality of the ice or the puck bounces enjoyed by the opposition.

Excuses are for losers and the Bruins are definitely not in that category. Its just been a long time since they were so clearly the lesser team as they were in Carolina when it came to winning or losing time in the final period.

Garoppolo: Get the little things corrected, or they'll bite us in the butt

patriots_jimmy_garoppolo_2_082616.jpg

Garoppolo: Get the little things corrected, or they'll bite us in the butt

 

This felt like a step backward for Jimmy Garoppolo. 

The preseason had been shaping up so nicely for him, too. He'd be able to ride the wave of momentum following his strong performance last week against the Bears, and carry that into Carolina, where he would take on a very good defense on the road. What better way to simulate what he'll see in Week 1 of the regular season in Arizona?

Then something happened. Garoppolo, who looked cool last week at Gillette Stadium, seemed rattled by the Panthers defense. The quarterback who hadn't turned the ball over all preseason very nearly gave it away twice. Whereas he made calculated risks in the red zone last week, this week there were head-scratchers in the same area. 

"Ups and downs," said Garoppolo, who beat the Panthers, 19-17, and finished the game 9-for-15 for 57 yards. "Just little things here and there we need to get corrected. We’ll take care of it."

Garoppolo's first third-down throw foreshadowed what was to come for the Patriots on third down Friday night. He threw what should have been an easy interception for linebacker Luke Kuechly when there was a miscommunication between him and receiver Julian Edelman. 

Edelman stopped and turned for a pass a few yards off the line of scrimmage. Garoppolo targeted him as though he was still moving, hitting Kuechly between the numbers at the Carolina 12-yard line.

The team started the night 0-for-7 on third down.

"It’s my fault. I can’t put it in the linebacker’s hands like that," said Garoppolo, who insisted splitting reps in practice wasn't to his detriment. "It’s just bottom line. Just got to be smart. It’s tight windows, tight throws. Just got to finish with touchdowns."

Later in the game, Garoppolo didn't recognize a Panthers pressure, he took a glancing blow from a defender and escaped the pocket. Rather than throw the football away, he tried to make a positive play and was stripped from behind by linebacker Thomas Davis. 

Patriots running back James White was there to pounce on the ball, and Garoppolo was fortunate to escape with his turnover column clean.  

Still, Garoppolo knows there are adjustments to make. In order to give the Patriots a chance to beat the Cardinals in Week 1, he'll probably have to play better than he did on Friday. 

“We’ll do our best to get in there,” Garoppolo said. “We have two weeks until then and we’ll work. There’s little things here and there. Overall, there’s some good things that we did tonight. 

"We just have to get the little things corrected or they’re going to bite us in the butt. We’re going to work our tails off to get to that point. We’ll get there.”

Running back D.J. Foster making a late push for Patriots roster spot

patriots_dj_foster_082616.jpg

Running back D.J. Foster making a late push for Patriots roster spot

CHARLOTTE – D.J. Foster began making his case to stick on the Patriots’ 53-man roster Friday night against the Panthers.

An undrafted pass-catching back from Arizona State who’d missed almost all of training camp with an unknown injury was pretty persuasive. He caught three passes for 33 yards, showing nice burst, carried twice for 9 and returned a punt for 16. He saw his action late in the third with fellow rookie Jacoby Brissett in at quarterback.

Foster punctuated his first reception – an 11-yard screen that Brissett (9-for-9 for 85 yards and a touchdown) – by lowering his shoulder and delivering a blow that Foster said he wanted to “get that adrenaline going.”

“It felt great,” said Foster. “It had been a long time. I was telling some guys, that was the first time I’d gotten hit since college. It felt good to get back out there. The coaches gave me a chance to get out there and show what I could do.”

James White will be the Patriots sub-back (or third down back or pass-catching back or whatever you want to call him) until Dion Lewis returns from his knee malady. But Foster showed the acceleration and quickness that made him such a productive player for the Sun Devils. With 222 receptions for 2,458 yards and another 2,355 on the ground, Foster would fit nicely in an offense like the Patriots that uses the short and intermediate passing game so well.  

He hasn’t had much chance to make a case to stick and the Patriots – with White, LeGarrette Blount, Tyler Gaffney, Brandon Bolden and Joey Iosefa all in the mix – may have to take their chances with releasing Foster and hoping he goes unclaimed so New England can bring him back for their practice squad. It’s a risk, but other teams are encountering the same issues at cutdown time. Do they pluck a player they passed on in the draft and put him on their roster ahead of players they’ve been working with since the spring?

Bill Belichick wasn’t effusive in his praise for Foster but did indicate it was a good opportunity to at least see him in game action.

“We played a couple of guys that haven’t gotten much playing time so we got a chance to look at them,” he explained. “D.J. is one of those so we wanted to give him a few opportunities to handle the ball because he hasn’t done it this year. I thought he did some good things. There are a couple of things that he could do a little better but we’ll look at the film and see how it goes. He did a couple of things with his chances out there.”

To make the most of those chances, Foster said he avoided getting too hyped before getting on the field.  
 
“Just keeping my calm and hearing the playcall and just doing the mechanics and all the fundamentals of being in the backfield (was the focus),” said Foster. "Coach Ivan (Fears, running backs coach) did a great job of keeping me mellow. I felt healthy, I felt really good. I got some punt returns, some kick returns, some special teams. I was seeking contact to get that adrenaline going.

“It’s a long process,” he acknowledged. “Talking to the veteran guys, they said it’s a long process. I knew battling my injury and come back healthy, I came back strong and I felt ready.”

We’ll see if it’s enough to carve out a niche on the roster. The cutdown to 75 players comes Tuesday.