Krejci moved to right wing to spark struggling B's

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Krejci moved to right wing to spark struggling B's

ST. PAUL, MN Claude Julien is searching for answers to his hockey teams recent offensive woes, and that meant doing some big league tinkering in the third period of Sundays shutout loss to the Minnesota Wild.

The Bs coach did something hes never really done before in Boston, sliding the struggling David Krejci over to the right wing on a line with Milan Lucic and center Chris Kelly. That meant the maddeningly inconsistent Benoit Pouliot was sitting on the pine as Julien shortened his bench, but Julien may have stumbled onto something he liked.

Its clear Bruins need something as theyve averaged 1.8 goals per game in the 11 games since Nathan Horton went down with a concussion, and now theyre missing the versatile Rich Peverley with a knee injury.

You try different things for the reasons that were missing some players. Were trying to find combinations that will give us some offense, said Julien. I thought Kelly has done pretty well with some guys that can score this year. I told Krejci to move to the right side and I thought they responded well. They did some good things.

Theres a good chance we may go back with that. Weve got a couple of days to look at things here, but its good to have some options here. The fourth line I put back together because youve got to find some consistency in your lineup. If you can find more lines that will give you consistent showings like that then youve got to stick with it.

The Bruins showed some offensive jump and more than a little urgency in piling up 22 shots in the final period of hockey, but still couldnt get a puck past Niklas Backstrom. Krejci snapped out of his scoreless February with a goal in Bostons shootout win over the Canadiens, but the pivot was certainly open to the change after managing just one point and a minus-8 in nine games this month.

Krejci was also struggling mightily with five face-off wins in 16 tries against the Wild, so shifting Kelly to center allowed the Czech Republic playmaker to concentrate a little more on the offensive side of the puck.

We had some chances. Kelly is a great player and he does a lot of the little things right. I dont usually play the right wing, but I thought we played in their zone a lot, said Krejci. We had some good chances, but we need to find a way to score.

Its tough, but youve just got to keep going and believe in yourself and your teammates. Things will go my way again, you know? Both me and the team, were going through some tough times right now, but were going to make it work again. Its just a tough time right now. Our effort is there lately, but we cant find a way to get the puck in the net.

Whether Krejci stays on the right wing or Julien ultimately goes in a different direction (while Peter Chiarelli works diligently to find help via trades), its clear theyre turning over rocks looking for offensive answers.

The Black and Gold havent found them yet, but its encouraging that they keep searching as the losses and frustration levels continue to rise.

Curran: Texans perfectly positioned to slow down Brady and the Patriots

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Curran: Texans perfectly positioned to slow down Brady and the Patriots

FOXBORO -- Tom Brady’s completed less than 50 percent of his passes in 14 of the 273 games he started and finished. The Patriots are 6-8 in those games. Among the 14 are three games against Rex Ryan’s Jets, including two in 2013 and the second game of the season in 2009. There’s also the 2015 AFC Championship against Denver, the playoff win over the Texans last year, and the season-opening loss to the Chiefs this year.

The common denominator in those six games? Outstanding defenses with coordinators and personnel that new Brady well and -- in all but the win over the Texans last January -- a dearth of wide receivers.

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Every year there’s a search for the BLUEPRINT!!! for slowing down the Patriots offense and making Brady look mortal. Google “blueprint for beating the Patriots” and you get 370,000 results. Many of those say the 2007 Giants crafted it first. Few of those mention praying for dropped interceptions and helmet catches in the final two minutes.

The most sure way to slow down the Patriots offense is to have really good defensive players who can bring pressure and (this is the key) hoping the Patriots are banged up at wideout and can’t do their usual damage in the middle of the field.

That’s your blueprint. And it’s in place this week. This isn’t saying the Patriots will lose to Houston, who I’ll wager won’t produce more than 10 offensive points. But I’ll also bet you straight up that Brady completes fewer than half of his passes against Houston.

No Edelman, Gronk with a groin, Danny Amendola coming back from concussion and Brandin Cooks still getting adjusted will leave the Texans knowing their key to success is jamming the middle and making Brady work outside.  

The Texans were fourth in the NFL in yards per attempt last season (5.83), second in passing yards allowed per game (201), first in first downs allowed per game (17) and second in completion percentage against (58.68).

Brady knows what’s coming. He talked about it earlier this week on WEEI with Kirk and Callahan, saying, “They were the No. 1-ranked defense in the league last year. I don’t think I completed many passes in that game, either. I think I was below 50 percent. They just did a good job of putting pressure and when you put pressure, the ball has to come out quick and they had a lot of guys in coverage, too. It was just tough to get rid of it quick. The one positive we took out of that game was we made a lot of big plays. Some teams are going to decide to take away some shorter throws, and they give up longer plays. I think we had seven plays over 20 yards in that game. We moved the ball pretty well. It just didn’t look super rhythmic."

The Texans were able to get pressure and drop a lot of guys in coverage because they have exceptional talent up front.

Brady broke down the Texans’ front on Wednesday, starting with J.J. Watt, saying, “Earlier in his career you used to kind of get a bead on where he’d be, [which] could help you out a little bit. But now they move him so much he’s going to really face every guy that you have up front. [He’ll] be on both sides, be inside, be outside. They run a lot of games. They’ve got a lot of scheme stuff that they use to try to get their guys free in the front, but all of those guys are exceptional athletes. J.J. is an incredible player. He’s been Defensive Player of the Year (three times). He’s got speed, quickness, power, he’s got all the moves, got all the counters. He’s just a tough guy to block.

“Then you pair him with Whitney Mercilus, who’s one of the most underrated players, I think, in the league in terms of rushing the passer to everything that he does to help that team. I know practicing against that guy how good he is. And then with Jadeveon [Clowney], he’s one of the most athletic guys in the league. He does some things that other people can’t do. He’s just size, speed, explosiveness. So all those guys on the same field at one time is a big problem for any offense. You don’t want to be holding the ball too long because you know that they’re going to get home at some point and I think that means we’ve got to really stay on track. We can’t have many negative plays. We’ve just got to play a really consistent kind of football for the entire game.”

The Texans are in a little bit of trouble at corner this week. One starter, Kevin Johnson, is down with an MCL and Johnathan Joseph will be playing with a shoulder injury that forced him from last week’s game against the Bengals.  

The Patriots made it look easy last week against the Saints, which caused people who’d been pointing out Brady was BORN IN 1977!!!! stare at their shoelaces for a few days. But they’re just resting because they’ll be back Sunday evening and into Monday with the same “old” song, ignoring the facts of the case.

The facts are that Brady -- with a full complement in the playoffs last year and the Texans missing J.J. Watt -- had his hands full to the tune of a 47.37 completion percentage, the lowest completion percentage in 34 career playoff games. Without Edelman in this season's opener (and losing Amendola midway through), he completed 44.44 percent of his passes -- fourth-worst among games he started and finished.

The key in this one could be Cooks. As Brady pointed out, the Texans yielded some chunk plays. Cooks, who’s got speed to spare on the outside, will likely be looking at press coverage that -- if he can be beat it -- will give him a chance to run under some Brady duck-and-chucks. And there will be some of those.

Texans head coach Bill O’Brien -- whose defense is run by former Patriots defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel and former Pats linebacker Mike Vrabel -- isn’t looking at the KC game as a blueprint. He’s looking instead at the 27 points scored and the points left on the field by New England.

“When I look at their offense, obviously they didn’t win the game, but there were several things that they did in the game that were very good,” said O’Brien. “They’re a very dangerous team on offense. They play fast. They play with great efficiency. They have a different game plan every week, different personnel that they’re using and so, it’s difficult. You don’t really know what to expect. The combination of Tom and Josh [McDaniels], the brains behind that offense, it’s hard. It’s hard to deal with that and we’re just going to have to see what it is when the game starts and do the best we can to keep up with what they’re trying to do and go from there.”

The Patriots offense knows generally what’s coming from Houston and vice versa. The Patriots won’t be “rhythmic” and there will be balls skipping in the general vicinity of where Brady hoped a receiver would be when he let it go with Watt or Mercilus bearing down on him. Bet on it.

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