FOXBORO - No Patriot had a greater hand in the building of the New England dynasty than Troy Brown. And no player more regularly elevated his play to an even greaterlevel when games of import came around. As a proud Patriots alumni, Brown's seen the Patriotscrack under pressure in2009 and 2010. But this year, he seesa change. "I think this team is different this year," said Brown. "Some guys like (linebacker Jerod) Mayo who've been around three or four years, I think they've matured some. They understand that you can't play in the shadow of(the great teams)anymore but can learn from what they did and how they carried themselves."Brown will be one of four honorary captains for the Patriots on Sunday in the AFC Championship against Baltimore. The Patriots haven't yet announced the other three. The fact Brown played in 19 postseason games for New England starting in 1994 (he didn't play in the 2007 postseason) and was a central figure in some of the biggest moments of the 2001 Super Bowl run made him a natural. He explained that he still gets a weird feeling when the NFL postseason comes. "I was talking to Deion Branch just now and talking about the way players should feel this time of year," said Brown. "I didn't get that feeling from this football team a couple of years ago that they had really pushed that button to go to the next level. "They should all be feeling different right now, there should be a sense of urgency, a different type of feeling in the locker room," said Brown. "I told (Deion) that, 'I still get those feelings today. When the playoffs start, for whatever reason I feel different. I feel like I've pushed a button myself.' " And you do. This is the time of year when I feel like, 'If I had one more game...' This is the time of year I want to play in."The 2009 team had some malignant personalities on it and rolled over against the Ravens. The 2010 team seemed a little wide-eyed in their loss to the Jets. "I don't think in the past they were pushing that button and going to the next level," Brown explained. "This is a whole 'nother season. The excitement of the game, the focus on the game. There's three types of tempo. There's preseason tempo, there's regular season tempo and there's postseason tempo. Then you have Super Bowl tempo too. But there's all different levels and everybody can't hit that switch. And they all have to be on that page when they do that."Given the 45-10 win over Denver Saturday night, it's hard to arguethat Brown's off-base. It was the team's most complete performance of the season in its biggest game. But the next game - and the one after - willdetermine whether this team is simply different from 2009 and 2010or quite similar to the 2001, 2003 and 2004 teams.
BOSTON – It’s not really ever a banner day for any red-blooded, red-light hating goalie when he surrenders four goals in a game.
But perhaps that bottom line is softened a little bit considering when it’s also the first game of the preseason. It may also be drastically mitigated by the fact, in this case, that it was the first time Malcolm Subban guarded the space between the pipes since taking a puck to the throat that fractured his larynx last February.
That traumatic injury left Subban unable to speak for days and gasping for air while being rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery.
It was a tiny victory simply for the Bruins goalie prospect to be back on the ice at all and a much bigger one once Subban had made 31 saves while largely under siege in a 5-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings at TD Garden on Wednesday night.
The 22-year-old admitted a little rush in net while the Red Wings were buzzing all around him for 35 shots on net through his two periods of work, but there was also happiness at simply being to back and building up for another season in the Bruins organization.
“It was great to finally get back out. Obviously, [I was] really rusty. To be honest, I felt – not so much the goals even, but just shots in general, especially in the first, obviously nerves had a little bit to do with it,” said Subban, who was 14-8-5 with a .911 save percentage and 2.46 goals-against average last season in Providence. “But it was the first time in a long time I could say that I felt not up to speed. I feel like usually I’m overplaying stuff, too fast. But, I felt today like practice is a lot different than a game.
“In the first, I thought I was a little behind the play. That starts to open up holes like my post coverage and stuff. A little rusty there, especially on the third goal, I’ve got to clean that stuff up. Other than that, I thought I played pretty well in terms of straight shots. We practice all that stuff. I’ve just got to keep working on that end. Hopefully, I can move forward and build on that. I think it’s a great game to build off, for sure, for myself and the team.”
The goals allowed showed some on defense, but also some of the rust in their goalie: Subban lost sight of the puck behind the net on the second goal and Steve Ott was able to fire a quick shot past him on the short side before he could recover his bearings.
The third goal was also a post coverage issue with Luke Glendening scoring on a late-reacting Subban, which is usually one of his real strengths. So, there is work to be done, but Subban also shut down a number of breakaways in the second period behind a leaky defense and stopped over 30 pucks before he gave way to young goalie Dan Vladar.
That’s considered more than an honest night’s work in the first preseason appearance for any goaltender, and surely for one playing his first game in seven months.
“I think it was [a good outing for Subban]. He faced some quality scoring chances out there, and the ones that went in probably he’d like to have back, you know,” said Bruins assistant coach Joe Sacco. “But overall, I think when you look at his overall performance for the two periods he played pretty solid for us. He made some big saves, some timely saves and moved well in there. I think for Malcolm, you know, despite the score, I think he had a good night.”
Perhaps most encouraging: the middle Subban brother made a key save at the end of the first period with a puck off his helmet after Detroit had scored twice in a span of 19 seconds.
The stop with Subban’s head gear was probably the best sign of the night that he’s over last year’s traumatic injury and there isn’t going to be any shell-shocked goaltender situation with him.
So, did the injury cross his mind even once during his 40 minutes of work?
“To be honest, no. I owe a lot of credit to my players and these guys on the team in practice and stuff. I really haven’t had to worry about [taking another puck to the throat], getting hit,” said Subban, who now wears a neck guard after eschewing that particular piece of equipment prior to the injury. You’ve got some pretty good shooters in here; pretty accurate shooters. But, yeah, to be honest, I never really thought of [the fractured larynx], it never came across my mind.”
One thing that’s definitely been on Subban’s mind in camp is his contract situation and knowing full well he’s in the last season of his entry-level deal with the Bruins as a former first-round pick. He now has both Anton Khudobin and Tuukka Rask in front of him in the NHL and he’s looking at a fourth straight season in the AHL with the P-Bruins.
It might have been a different story for the talented goalie prospect if he’d finished last season in the same hot streak he was enjoying at the time of his injury. Perhaps he’d be the guy prepping to be Rask’s understudy this season. Instead, the ill-timed larynx injury pushed the Bruins to opt for an established backup in Khudobin and sign him to a two-year deal that could conceivably lock Subban in Providence for a couple more seasons.
So, now Subban is playing for his future, whether it’s with the Bruins, or with another team looking for a young No. 1 goaltending prospect just now entering his prime after refining his technique and going through some character-building adversity.
“I had a hard summer of workouts and skating, so I feel good. I’m not going to hold myself short. I understand that this is my contract year and the last year of my contract, so I’ve got to have a good year regardless of where I am. I’ve just got to play awesome,” said Subban. “Obviously you want to sign again, and you want to be a part of the organization. You want to be a huge part of it and a valued asset.
“So, what I’m looking forward to proving right now is that the last three years helped me, and that I’ve improved since my first year, and that I want to be here [in Boston].”
It will certainly be interesting to see what happens with Subban within the B’s organization over the next season.
The Bruins regime that initially drafted him 24th overall back in 2012 is now gone. Subban still has value to an NHL team, particularly a Canadian one, scouring the market for a blue-chip goalie prospect. The organization is also going to be forced to expose a quality goaltender or two in the Las Vegas franchise expansion draft after this season. That could mean a new work address, or a new spot opened up within the B’s goalie depth chart, for Subban.
All of these could be possibilities for Subban, but it all starts with him pouring everything he’s learned over the past three years and dominating the AHL before he pushes for his first extended look at the highest level of hockey.
FOXBORO -- The first three weeks of the season really couldn't have gone any better for LeGarrette Blount.
He leads the NFL in rushing with 298 yards, and he's scored four times in three games as the Patriots have relied more on the running game in Tom Brady's absence. For his efforts, he's been named the AFC's Offensive Player of the Month. It's the first time he's earned an Offensive Player of the Month award, and it's the first time a Patriots player has been given the honor since Brady won it in September of last year.
Blount was one of the keys to victory for the Patriots in their Thursday night win over the Texans as he ran for 105 yards and two scores. Patriots coach Bill Belichick lauded Blount for his performance -- especially his performance in the fourth quarter -- in the postgame locker room celebration. With that performance, the Patriots have called more running plays than any other club in the league (108), and Blount leads the NFL in carries with 75, one more than Houston's Lamar Miller.
Blount is averaging 25 carries per game, which is 9.5 more than his previous career-high, which he recorded back when he was a rookie for the Buccaneers in 2010, and it's 11.2 carries more than his average last year. He could be in line to be a significant part of the game plan yet again during the final game of Brady's suspension Sunday against the Bills.
"Just a big, mean, physical back," Bills coach Rex Ryan said on Wednesday. "That’s how he runs, that’s how he’s always run."