B's score impressive rebound win over Preds

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B's score impressive rebound win over Preds

Every hockey team has a handful of gut-check games throughout the season when their mettle is tested.

For the Bruins Saturday afternoons showdown with the Nashville Predators was one of those kinds of games. Two teams playing a heavy brand of hockey with playoff quality rosters went head-to-head.

The Bs were coming off their most humbling hockey game in nearly four years so to say they were motivated would have been fair, and to say that the Bs were a little pissed off would have been deadly accurate. So they charged into Saturdays challenge against Pekka Rinne and the Predators with vigor and came away with an impressive rebound 4-3 shootout win over Nashville at TD Garden.

It wasnt easy as Rinne dominated much of the game with 38 saves and the Bruins found themselves losing with only a few minutes on the clock in the third period. But the Bruins stayed within their game plan, refused to lose their composure and relied on each player to do his job on the 20-man game roster.

We thought we deserved better: we played well, we had a lot of chances, and we had to find a way. I think thats what we talked about before the game, it was to play for 60 minutes and to not let up. We did that, said Patrice Bergeron, who scored the teams first goal and capped off the shootout scoring to clinch the game. They scored on their chances, their opportunities, but we came back and we found the big goals.

It was Bergeron and Brad Marchand that set the tone early for the Bs when it appeared things were about to go off the tracks with a too many men on the ice penalty in the first period. Marchand hunted down the puck like a hound until he was attacking the heart of the Preds defense shorthanded.

He beat both Shea Weber and Ryan Suter to the puck in the corner of the offensive zone, curled back toward the middle of the ice and dropped a perfect pass for Bergeron. The center stepped into the puck and fired off an overpowering one-timer that got the Bruins on the board first, and served notice that the Bs meant business.

While Bergeron finished the play, it was Marchands energy and refusal to be denied that set the dogged tone for Bostons afternoon.

That was a prime example of what we were looking for in Saturdays game. We talked about after the first that we needed to put the puck behind their Ds, said Claude Julien. Working through, getting it back, and dropping it off to Bergie, it was the kind of effort that our team looks for and needs if it wants to be one of the better teams in the league.

The game ended Bostons two-game losing streak on home, erased the bitter taste of the blowout loss to the Sabres and saw nearly every single key player for the Black and Gold come through with a big performance. Bergeron, Marchand, Johnny Boychuk, Rich Peverley and Tyler Seguin were again outstanding, Milan Lucic was the best player on the ice for either team and Zdeno Chara was solid despite suffering a right hand injury during the third period that caused him some discomfort.

As a team, the Bruins saw a 60-minute effort finally materialize, and Julien could only pick apart a short five minute lull at the end of the second period. Other than that the Bruins dominated a game where they out-shot the Predators by a 41-22 margin through sixty minutes of regulation, overtime and the shootout.

It appears the back to basics message in hard-working practices over the previous two days did the trick for a scuffling Bruins bunch.

What we told our players before the game, that it would be a shame if we wasted all that good effort in the last two days and not come out with the same thing this afternoon. I liked our game, said Julien. Not what the score was, the game was a good one from our end. I thought our work ethic, our commitment, maybe for, Id say, maybe for four or five minutes in the second period, near the end, they kind of seemed to pick up the momentum . . . but other than that, I thought we played a real solid 60-minute game.

Now the challenge for the Bruins is to build on that effort and recreate it at least a few more times to get another winning streak going.

It was the same challenge that faced the Bs after their solid win in Washington last week, and will remain until they can break out of their win one, lose one mediocre run of the last six weeks.

NFL combine preview: Tight ends

NFL combine preview: Tight ends

With the NFL combine about to begin -- and the NFL Draft just about two months away -- we'll take a daily look at the collegiate talent available at positions where the Patriots might be looking for help. We start today with: Tight ends.

On Tuesday, players will arrive in Indianapolis for the NFL scouting combine, with on-field workouts beginning Friday. 

The second group to take the field is the tight end group, which should be worth watching for a number of reasons. For starters, Todd McShay says that this is “a good year to need a tight end” given that there could be three first-rounders in O.J. Howard, David Njoku and Jake Butt.

Furthermore, Martellus Bennett’s potential departure and Rob Gronkowski’s durability questions make tight end a position the Patriots could target early come April 27. 

Here’s a quick look at each of the 19 tight ends invited to the combine: 

O.J. Howard, Alabama, 6-foot-6, 249 pounds

- NFL.com describes him as an “exceptionally gifted athlete” and says that his “play speed resembles a wide receiver’s when the ball is in the air.” They add he “appears passive” as a blocker and “need more muscle and mass to be an in-line blocker as a pro.”

David Njoku, Miami, 6-foot-4, 245 pounds

- Not the biggest guy in the world at 6-foot-4 and 245 pounds, but is considered a top-end athlete. NFL.com says he “should annihilate the combine with monster numbers in speed and explosion.”

Jake Butt, Michigan, 6-foot-6, 250 pounds 

- Does everything well, but could stand to fill out his frame a bit more. 

Jordan Leggett, Clemson, 6-foot-5, 250 pounds

- Not considered a great blocker and has admitted that he’s played lazily. Could the Pats fix his motor? 

Gerald Everett, South Alabama, 6-foot-3, 227 pounds

- Very interesting prospect. Primarily a basketball player in high school who played just one year of football (insert Antonio Gates basketball reference), Everett played at Alabama-Birmingham before the school cut its football program. Upon transferring to South Alabama, Everett showed his skills as a pass-catching tight end. 

Evan Engram, Mississippi, 6-foot-3, 236 pounds

- Itty bitty for a tight end, and he doesn’t have the greatest hands either. Described as a “move tight end only who lacks dependability as a blocker.”   

He was one of five who for second in the nation among tight ends with eight touchdowns last season. Other guys in that group were Njoku, Hayden Plinke,  Cole Hikutini and UMass’ Adam Breneman.

Bucky Hodges, Virginia Tech, 6-foot-7, 245 pounds

- Just your average quarterback-turned-tight-end. The lanky Hodges would be a good fit for the Patriots simply because it would give Julian Edelman a break from the constant mention during broadcasts that he used to be a QB. 

Cole Hikutini, Louisville, 6-foot-5, 248 pounds

- A good athlete who isn’t much of a blocker.

Adam Shaheen, Ashland, 6-foot-6, 277 pounds

- Former college basketball player transferred from Pittsburgh-Johnstown to Ashland to focus on football and eventually established himself as a dominant player at the Division II level. He’s certainly got the size and strength, but questions will persist about just how similarly he holds up going from Division II to the NFL. 

Jeremy Sprinkle, Arkansas, 6-foot-5, 265 pounds

- Big, physical tight end with a solid stiff arm. Sprinkle was suspended by Arkansas for the Belk Bowl because he stole from a Belk department store after each player had been given $450 to spend there. He was arrested for the incident, as he stole $260 worth of extra items.

Pharoh Brown, Oregon, 6-foot-6, 245 pounds

- Not considered the athlete he was prior to a 2014 injury that nearly resulted in his leg being amputated. 

Michael Roberts, Toledo, 6-foot-4, 261 pounds

- Huge hands, which he uses to catch better than block. He led all FBS tight ends with 16 touchdowns last season. 

Jonnu Smith, Florida International, 6-foot-3, 245 pounds

- College career was ended prematurely when his pregnant girlfriend poured boiling water on him, resulting in severe burns throughout his upper body, including his head. He has good speed, but drops were an issue in college. 

Scott Orndoff, Pittsburgh, 6-foot-5, 256 pounds

- Figures to be a solid blocking tight end, but he also had five receiving touchdowns as a senior. 

Eric Saubert, Drake, 6-foot-5, 251 pounds

- Every draft pick is a gamble, but Saubert might be more so than others. An AFC regional scout says that Saubert is “body beautiful but he can’t catch. I don’t think it’s correctable, either.”

Cethan Carter, Nebraska, 6-foot-4, 240 pounds

- Elbow injuries figure to be a topic at the combine, and he had various injuries throughout his college career. 

Darrell Daniels, Washington, 6-foot-4, 246 pounds

- A scout told NFL.com that Daniels is "going to test through the roof and he's going to get overdrafted on the traits.” The Patriots don’t typically fall into such traps. 

George Kittle, Iowa, 6-foot-4, 250 pounds

- Only had one drop as a senior, but then again being believed to have had no drops in college doesn’t make a guy an NFL stud. 

Hayden Plinke, UTEP, 6-foot-4, 265 pounds

- Transferred twice in his college career, starting at Boise State, then Portland State and finally UTEP. Is considered a good blocker who grabbed eight touchdowns as a senior. 
 

Haggerty's Morning Skate: Two AHL teams recreate Slap Shot on the movie's anniversary

Haggerty's Morning Skate: Two AHL teams recreate Slap Shot on the movie's anniversary

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while so glad to see Dave Strader getting the play-by-play call in this afternoon’s national NBC broadcast of Stars and Bruins from Dallas.
 
-- Jeremy Roenick weighs in with some trade possibilities involving Avalanche and Blues players in what could be a blockbuster at the deadline.
 
-- Antoine Vermette acknowledges his wrongdoing in making a statement about his 10-game suspension for slashing an official, but feels like the punishment was too severe.
 
-- Don Cherry wishes a happy 40th anniversary to Slap Shot while wearing a Charleston Chiefs jersey as he hosts Coaches Corner.
 
-- Speaking of Slap Shot, what an Old Time Hockey fight between the AHL's Iowa Wild and Chicago Wolves. It spilled into the hallway afterward . . . that’s when things get real.

-- I've been asked multiple times about the white Boston hat David Pastrnak is always wearing in the Bruins dressing room, so here it is.

 -- Here’s all the Dallas Stars info you need ahead of this afternoon’s 11:30 a.m. local start in Dallas for the Stars and Bruins.

-- PHT writer Cam Tucker has Vancouver Canucks GM Jim Benning indicating that the mumps outbreak for his team won’t impact the trade deadline.
 
-- For something completely different: the headline seems a little click baity to me, but I’ll read about anything involving Homer Simpson and the Baseball Hall of Fame.