Haggerty: Bruins need to start putting up a fight

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Haggerty: Bruins need to start putting up a fight

BUFFALO The Bruins remain Boston's best hope for another pro sports championship in this calendar year, but not if the players arent diligent enough at keeping the competitive fires burning.

Those fires appeared to be extinguished in Wednesday's 6-0 embarrassment at the hands of the also-ran Sabres at the First Niagara Center.

Their disappointment in Wednesday's effort (or lack thereof) was evident when one player let loose with an extremely loud F-bomb from the shower area while Milan Lucic quietly answered a series of somber questions during postgame. It seemed to accurately depict the team's mindset while continuing to stumble their way through games at a .500 clipsince losing an emotional decision to the Vancouver Canucks in their electric rematch in early January.But Shawn Thornton thinks talk, even of the purple variety, is cheap.

You have to battle through it and there wasnt enough of that tonight, said Thornton, who held his second highly critical postgame press conference within the last two weeks. "Everybody could have been better.

I dont know what to say except it wasnt good enough. Regardless of when goals when or werent scored, we werent close to good in the last 40 minutes.If the Bruins have been stupor for the better part of six weeks that's seen them go a truly mediocre4-5-1 in their last nine games, then Wednesday night'spatheticdefeat - the worst in four years dating back to a thrashing at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs - should act as the rock-bottom wake-up call. The Thursday aftermath to the Buffalo debacleshould be akin to walking up after a benderto seethe car parked across the front lawn. It's a warning sign of a hockey team spinning out of control that might just need strong outsidemeasures to right itself if theplayers and coaches can't find answers within the room.

It went from good to bad to worse. Thats basically what happened to us tonight, said coach Claude Julien, whose team suffered its worst loss of the season (and who himself suffered the worst loss of his Boston coaching tenure since an 8-2 drubbing at the hands of the Maple Leafs on March 11, 2008, his first year here). Guys just started getting away from the game plan and it just got worse.

"These kinds of things youre not used to seeing from our hockey club, and it kind of does open your eyes to what happens when you do lose your focus. Maybe we can use this as a really good wakeup call and hopefully we can play better.

The warning signs were everywhere Wednesday night:

Zdeno Chara finished with a minus-3 rating in his worst game of the season, and made mental errors, physical mistakes and failures in judgment while getting sucked into Patrick Kaleta's world of hockey punkdom.

David Krejci looked disinterested, uninspired and completely lacking in urgency, desire and work ethic. He played indifferent defense, was on the ice for a pair of Buffalo goals, and lost 8 of 10 faceoffs. For a guy who vehemently vowed to remain professional no matter what line he was skating on, Krejci appeared unwilling to make a difference against Buffalo. His play all season as a minus defensive player and the great lengths to motivate him are warning signs with the Czech Republic center.

Tuukka Rask was every bit as bad as the skaters in front of him. Sure, the first two goals scored against him in the first period were the results of, respectively, a friendly-fire tipped puck from Gregory Campbell and a defensive breakdown led by Johnny Boychuk. But Rask was having trouble tracking pucks all evening and gave up a bevy of bad rebounds around his net. Julien had seen enough when Rask coughed up another goal on a Tyler Ennis backhander, and replaced him with Tim Thomas. Rask has lost four games in a row in his worst stretch of the season, and couldnt hold things together when the Bruins truly needed him.

And in perhaps the biggest red flag of all, the Bruins seemed to fold their tents at the first sign of adversity. They were the victims of a screwball call by referee Rob Martell, who waved off a Lucic goal that would have tied the score at 1-1 because of what he ruled was goaltender interference by Rich Peverley. Replays showed that Peverley made no significant contact with Sabres goalie Ryan Miller, who was far outside the crease. But instead of continuing to fight, they offered little resistance the rest of the way.

That bothered Thornton.

You cant just shut her down because something doesnt go our way, he said.

Only a handful of Bruins gave anything resembling satisfactory performances, and just Thornton went above and beyond with a pair of fights. The second occured with the game already decided but was the mark of a true NHL enforcer: He defended Benoit Pouliot after Mike Weber attempted to make a run at him in front of the Boston bench.

It was one of those games, said Lucic, who had a sure goal wiped away by the bogus goalie interference call on Peverley. Were not a team that will make excuses or whine about stuff. Its definitely been a while since we had a loss like this.

"Maybe its for the best and maybe its a wakeup call. It shows we need to be much better and we cant take anybody lightly, no matter who they are.

But they've talked like that before; in fact, they were saying the same things Wednesday morning before the game. The Bruins are at one of those turning point times in the season when they'll decide whether they're again championship-worthy, or simply reveal that the flaws are too great to overcome this around with essentially the same case of characters.

Talking the talk is one thing. The question now, after getting humiliated by the NHL's biggest group of underachievers: Can they start walking the walk againbefore more drastic measure need to be taken?

Five things to look for from the NFL annual meetings this week

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Five things to look for from the NFL annual meetings this week

PHOENIX -- Bill Belichick may not be speaking with the media here this week, but there will be plenty for us to examine at the annual league meetings. 

Reporters were informed via a team spokesperson that the Patriots coach would not be in attendance at the AFC coaches breakfast Tuesday morning -- where in the past orange juice has been sipped and tape recorders have been bulldozed -- due to a scouting conflict. 

The breakfast is not mandatory for coaches so for Belichick to use his time at a college pro day (Florida, Texas and Iowa State all have theirs scheduled for Tuesday) or a private workout comes as little surprise. He's been busy on the Trail of Due Diligence in recent weeks, making visits to Vanderbilt, Ohio State and Michigan in order to get a closer look at prospects.

Five weeks behind, remember? No days off. 

Patriots owner Robert Kraft is planning to meet with reporters on Monday so we'll have an opportunity to hear from him on a variety of topics when that comes to pass. 

Here are some of the other Patriots-related stories we'll be doing some digging on this week as we keep you updated with blog posts, occasional television hits, tweets (@PhilAPerry), Instagram shots (@PhilAPerry), and maybe even a podcast or two.

* What does the rest of the league think when it sees the way the Patriots have attacked this offseason? How will the new pieces fit? Do other coaches and executives see it as Belichick going all in on 2017? Or is this just a case of a team adhering to its motto of doing "what's best for the football team" -- both in the short and long-term?

* What's next for the Patriots? They're not done building the roster so where might they turn next? Will they add other lower-level free agents? Will they be looking to trade back into the first and second rounds? Which positions seem to be of interest to them in the draft, and how might that signal the direction this roster is headed?

* What is the feeling on the future at the quarterback position in New England? We know the Patriots aren't looking to give away Jimmy Garoppolo, but do people around the league really feel as though a haul of draft picks really won't get the Patriots to think twice about trading him? Is it possible that in this rare scenario -- where the franchise quarterback is playing at an MVP-level but headed into his 40-year-old season -- people could see the Patriots paying two passers a starter's salary?

* Will anything happen with Malcolm Butler before the meetings are out? Some have speculated that if his status as a restricted free agent (with an unsigned first-round tender) is to change anytime soon, it could happen here, where presumably his agent will be able to hear offers from one or more clubs in person. Will Butler find a team willing to give him an offer sheet and relinquish its first-round pick to the Patriots? Or will he sign his tender -- whether it's with the intent to play for the Patriots in 2017, or to be traded?

* Rules changes are coming. We just don't know which ones. Will the linebacker leap (executed by Jamie Collins and Shea McClellin under Belichick) be eliminated? Will Stephen Gostkowski soon be looking to blast kickoffs through the uprights due to the passing of a rule that would place the ball at the 20 as opposed to the 25 for such a feat? Will real-time replay decisions suddenly shift from the officials on the field to the NFL offices at 345 Park Avenue? We'll let you know which proposals are held up, which fall flat, and how the Patriots might be impacted. Belichick and his staff did not submit any proposals for the second consecutive year.

Morning Skate: Old friend Warsofsky called up by Penguins

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Morning Skate: Old friend Warsofsky called up by Penguins

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while waiting for the next wave of announcements that the Bruins have signed college players out of the NCAA tournament.
 
-- Former Wild goaltender Josh Harding is finding his way after his MS diagnosis forced him out of the NHL prematurely.

-- Young D-man Seth Jones is becoming the “hoss” defenseman that the Blue Jackets will need come playoff time.

-- PHT writer Cam Tucker has Wild coach Bruce Boudreau calling a loss to the Canucks “embarrassing” as the hard times continue for Minnesota.  

-- Backup goalie Curtis McElhinney is ready to step up for the Leafs after they lost Frederik Andersen to injury.
 
-- Old friend David Warsofsky has been recalled from the AHL and will be with the Penguins as crunch time hits ahead of the playoffs.

-- USA Hockey is now reportedly reaching out to rec league and former Division III women’s hockey players to find a replacement roster for the world championships as the USA women continues their boycott.
 
-- For something completely different: We have an honest-to-goodness think piece about pulling the “Irish Exit.” Well, okay then.