Mankins expects a challenge from Texans' Watt

961127.jpg

Mankins expects a challenge from Texans' Watt

FOXBORO -- Though Texans star defensive lineman JJ Watt frequently lined up against the right side of the Patriots offensive line in New England's Week 14 win, 42-14, all Patriots will be on alert to make sure he's kept out of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's face on Sunday.

That includes Patriots left guard Logan Mankins.

"Well, its going to be really tough," Mankins said. "You have probably the best D-lineman in the league in J.J. Watt and then youve got Antonio Smith, another very good defensive lineman. So those two together are very tough and then you put all four of them out there at one time and theyre a tough matchup for anyone.

"You see the problems they give teams every week. Cincinnati scored six points on offense in Houston's Wild Card Round win so that says a lot right there, to hold a team to six points in the playoffs."

Watt will likely see a lot of Patriots right tackle Sebastian Vollmer and right guard Dan Connolly in their Divisional Round game on Sunday. But if Watt is moved along the line, the job of blocking the 6-foot-5, 295-pound man who is arguably the NFL's best defensive player could fall to Mankins.

Mankins explained what makes it so difficult to handle Watt.

"It starts with he's got all the physical tools," Mankins said. "He's big, strong, fast and plays relentless. He's a high motor guy that hustles a lot. He's got a great playing style. That's why he's good."

Watt wasn't dominant in Week 14 on Monday night when the Patriots beat up on the Texans, 42-14, but he was very good. He finished the game with four tackles, a forced fumble and three quarterback hits.

Mankins said that Watt's performance against the Patriots during the regular season will have no bearing on Sunday's Divisional Round game, however. Even though the Patriots offensive line kept him from taking over the game, Watt will undoubtedly present his share of problems once again this time around. He's been too good over the course of this year not to. He had 20.5 sacks, 69 tackles, 4 forced fumbles in the regular season and five tackles and a sack against Cincinnati last week.

"It's gonna be a new challenge every time," Mankins said. "You play against him, you see him on film, you say 'That's a pretty good player right there.' Then you go against him and you really know what he's capable of doing. Experience helps you a little bit, but it still comes down to one man versus him and you either got it or you don't."

Pare 'brings energy' as big-bodied, sixth-round Bruins pick

Pare 'brings energy' as big-bodied, sixth-round Bruins pick

CHICAGO – The Bruins aren’t ever going to shy away from big, strong centers with a willingness to play on the physical side, so it was no surprise they selected big French-Canadian center Cedric Pare in the sixth round of the NHL Draft Saturday at the United Center.

MORE BRUINS

The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Pare was described as “a project” by Bruins assistant general manager Scott Bradley, who said that he’s looking forward to the big-bodied forward playing a top-six role in the QMJHL next season. Pare had five goals and 16 points in 64 games for the Saint John Sea Dogs before posting three points in 18 playoff games. Bradley said the Bruins hope to see more offense as he gets more exposure as a player.

“Pare is a developed kid that we got in the sixth round. He went to the Memorial Cup and we’ve seen good things from him. We think we got good value there,” said Bradley. “He plays with a lot of energy and I think his skating is undervalued. Over the course of the year he really picked it up with his skating, and his stride has lengthened a little bit. We just like that he plays with energy and he scored in the Memorial Cup despite playing a limited role.

“He was playing on the fourth line last year. I think this year he’ll be playing on one of their top lines as a top-six forward and he’ll get a lot of ice time...hopefully get some good development there.”

Pare indicated that the Bruins had shown interest in him throughout the season and he had an idea the Black and Gold might call his name in the later rounds. While there’s always room in the B’s prospect cupboard for a big-bodied center that plays with plenty of energy, it remains to be seen if Pare was worth using a sixth-round pick on when there are plenty of big-bodied hockey players out there willing to play with energy and aggressiveness. 

Bruins tap Maine-bound goalie Swayman in fourth round

Bruins tap Maine-bound goalie Swayman in fourth round

CHICAGO – It was thought the Bruins might swing for the fences with Boston University goalie Jake Oettinger, particularly if they traded down in the first round, but they ended up filling their goalie quota on Saturday in the fourth round of the NHL Draft at the United Center. The B’s selected University of Maine-bound Jeremy Swayman with the 111th pick in the draft after an impressive run for the Alaska native at Sioux Falls as a junior hockey player.

MORE BRUINS

The 6-foot-2, 183-pound Swayman posted a 2.90 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage in 32 games for a poor Sioux City junior team, but distinguished himself with his size, athleticism and competitiveness as the rare goalie prospect to come out of the great state of Alaska. Swayman was eating breakfast in his Alaskan home while watching himself get drafted by the Bruins. Needless to say, he was pumped as he readies for his first season in Hockey East.

“I’ve been working my whole life for this and just to kind of have the notion of, your work has paid off in a small area of time or a small trinket, it’s very worth all of the hard times and tough times, and kind of working at everything for it. It’s kind of a token back and just an incredible opportunity for sure,” said Swayman, who said he models his game after Braden Holtby while also envying Tuukka Rask’s flexibility. “I would describe myself as a challenge goalie. So, a competitive goalie just kind of fighting through traffic at all times. Being able to see the puck from anywhere on the ice, whether there is a screen in front or a point shot and, of course, a point blank shot. Again, I trust my ability on my skates. I have good feet. I can stay up longer than most goalies in situations where they would have to slide. So, I can stay up and cover more net on a backdoor pass, per say. I also like to cut down the angle a lot.”

Bruins assistant GM Scott Bradley admitted that Swayman wasn’t the first choice of everybody at the B’s draft table, but said the scouts were confident making him the pick after another goalie was taken off the board before him. There were three goalies taken in the fourth round, including Prince Albert netminder Ian Scott taken one pick before the B’s selection, so it’s difficult to tell which other goalie Boston had their eyes on.

Clearly, the hope now is that Swayman follows in a proud tradition of stud Black Bears goalies that include Ben Bishop, Jimmy Howard, Scott Darling, Mike Dunham and Garth Snow, and that the B’s have drafted a new goalie of the future with Malcolm Subban and Zane McIntyre in the AHL.

“He’s a goalie that [Bruins goalie coach] Bob Essensa had really liked, and had scouted him. Most of our staff was on board with the goalie. We targeted another goalie, but he just went before our pick,” said Bruins assistant GM Scott Bradley. “We heard good things from [the University of Maine] staff there, and we did our due diligence on him. We’re happy with him.”

It remains to be seen how Swayman develops in college, but the B’s hope it’s a steady, ascending development like that of McIntyre after they drafted him prior to his starring run at North Dakota.