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.
BUFFALO -- With it appearing that Loui Eriksson is all but gone from the Bruins with the July 1 opening of free agency around the corner, B’s general manager Don Sweeney must find a way to replace the second-leading point man from last year’s hockey club. With or without a suitable Eriksson replacement at right wing via trade or free agency, the Bruins will also need greater production from their returning wingers on the right side.
That means 20-year-old David Pastrnak needs to have a breakthrough season after the Bruins knocked away attempts to extract him in trade discussions for a top-4 defenseman, and Jimmy Hayes needs to rebound from a streaky, disappointing first season in Boston. The 6-foot-6 Hayes slumped to 13 goals and 29 points in 75 games, and was a team-worst minus-12 while going through long stretches where it was hard to even notice him on the ice.
His GM said that needs to change next season with the Bruins counting on him to play more consistently, and be willing to play the big man’s game.
“We have internal candidates that might have to step up, and David is a player like that…Jimmy is a player like that. There’s no question we’re not a complete team right now,” said Sweeney. “So we’ll go to work now, and that could be through free agency, or through potential trade stuff. It could also be about the excitement if somebody pops from the development side of things. I think Jimmy had a pretty start to the year, but he really tailed off when the team needed him most. He should take some responsibility for that. We had a pretty frank discussion about that to challenge him to take his game to another level, and be able to help out a younger player.
“He played a lot with Ryan Spooner. I have to put ownership on Jimmy in terms of saying ‘Hey, I have to take more responsibility. It’s not just about finishing and scoring goals.’ He has the capacity to do that. He gets power play time and net-front time, and he needs to get to the hard areas of the ice with more consistency. It’s an area that he needs to continue to improve upon. We as an organization feel that we need to have players that are driven to get better.”
As far as the free agent options mentioned by Sweeney, Kyle Okposo and Troy Brouwer would be names to watch closely as they both fight the Black and Gold mold of winger with size, strength and finishing ability.
Clearly there’s no choice but for the 26-year-old Hayes to have a bounce-back season given that he’s signed for two years in Boston at $2.3 million per season, and that they need him with the right side of their forward group in flux.
Bruins Hall of Fame defenseman Ray Bourque was arrested in Andover this weekend, and charged with operating under the influence of alcohol according to multiple reports.
Andover Police told CBS Boston that the former Bruins and Avalanche defenseman was taken into custody around 11:30 p.m. Friday night on Lowell Street. The Bruins legend has lived on the North Shore with his family since retiring from the NHL, and has been a constant presence in the community at charitable events and Bruins functions.
Bourque was released on bail. No additional information was immediately available
Knuckleballer Steven Wright will try to stay on a roll, as will the Red Sox, as they continue their three-game series tonight (9:20) against the Rangers in Arlington, Texas.
Wright (8-4, American League-leading 2.01 ERA) faces Rangers right-hander A.J. Griffin (3-0, 2.94), in his first start since coming off the 15-day disabled list.
The Red Sox rallied to win the series opener 8-7 with a four-run ninth inning.
Mookie Betts RF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Hanley Ramirez 1B
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Travis Shaw 3B
Bryce Brentz LF
Christian Vazquez C
Steven Wright RHP
Shin-Soo Choo RF
Ian Desmond CF
Nomar Mazara LF
Adrian Beltre 3B
Prince Fielder DH
Roughned Odor 2B
Elvis Andrus SS
Mitch Moreland 1B
Robinson Chirinos C
A.J. Griffin RHP