Mesko couldn't see blocked punt coming

697332.jpg

Mesko couldn't see blocked punt coming

FOXBORO -- The blocked punt surprised Zoltan Mesko, too.
"Really what I see is the ball; I concentrate on the ball. There's things that I can control, there's the punting part, and there's things that I can't. But I felt like the operation, the rhythm went alright. Maybe just the protection -- I believe on the left side -- broke down."
That is exactly what happened.
Third quarter. New England is up on Arizona, 9-6. Mesko prepares to punt from the Patriots end zone. The ball is snapped, but ask Mesko is preparing for his drop, Cardinals linebacker Quentin Groves springs up out of his stance and brushes off New England rookie Nate Ebner like lint on a lapel.
Mesko's punt was blocked -- the first time in his three-year career.
It's clear, when watching replays of Groves diving between Mesko's hurdling legs, he didn't even see it coming.
"It's kind of a peripheral thing where you have to have trust in your teammates to get him out of the way," he explained in the post game. "Just like Tom Brady has to wait until the last second sometimes, and then they'll wash him out. It just happened that way.
"It happened so fast. The double tap? (Mesko's foot hitting the ball and the ball hitting Groves) It sounded like one. I didn't know it was blocked. I thought I was going to get another roughing penalty. up until I saw the ball out of the corner of my left eye."
The Cardinals are pesky that way. They've lead the NFL in blocked field goal attempts in each of the last three seasons. Last week against Seattle, Calais Campbell blocked a 50-yard FGA on the Seahawks' first offensive possession of the game.
During last week's preparation, Bill Belichick devoted several sentences to praising Arizona's kick and punt coverage groups, saying "They're a very good special teams unit that we have to worry about every time they're on the field."
Little did he know.
It took the Cardinals 49 seconds after Mesko's blocked punt to cover the two yards needed for a touchdown -- and the lead.
But not unlike teammate Stephen Gostkowski, who missed the 42-yard game-winning kick in the final five seconds, Mesko isn't planning to dwell on what went wrong.
No specialist can afford that luxury.
"Steve put it best: We wouldn't be out there if we didn't know that we risk failure every time. It's on us and how to bounce back, and how we handle it, and that's our job."

Vatrano looking to snap slump for Bruins, who could really use him

Vatrano looking to snap slump for Bruins, who could really use him

BRIGHTON, Mass. – It’s been 11 games and counting without a goal for Bruins winger Frank Vatrano, but the sharp-shooter may be seeing the light at the end of the goal-scoring tunnel.

Vatrano had four shots on goal and a couple of Grade-A scoring chances in Tuesday night’s loss to the Senators and has a combined seven shots on net in the past two games after watching his shots and chances crater in the middle of the goal-scoring drought.

So the 23-year-old East Longmeadow, Mass., native takes heart that a slump-busting event is going to place sooner rather than later.

“Obviously it’s in the back of your head, but you can’t stress on it too much,” said Vatrano, who last scored back on Feb. 26 in a win over the Dallas Stars. “It’s nice to score goals, but the rest of my game needs to take over. That’s when the goals start coming. If I’m moving my feet, being first on the puck and being physical, being hard on it, then that’s when I’m going to get my chances.

“Sometimes it gets away from you, especially when you haven’t scored in a little bit. In the back of your head you think you need to change something, but for me I’m a hard-nosed player, playing hard up and down the wing. Last game I got a bunch of opportunities being hard on the puck, so hopefully I get more of those chances [against Tampa]. Every goal is important right now, so you need to make sure when you get those chances that you’re bearing down.”

One thing that Vatrano, and any number of Bruins players, could do to help the situation is get a little closer to the net and look for a hard-earned bounce or two rather than constantly trying to pick corners on the goalie. That’s something Bruce Cassidy wants to see out of his players as space on the ice gets more crowded and congested in these late season games, but he also wants Vatrano to keep using his best skill: a lightning-quick release and dangerous shot that’s designed to beat even the best goalies from the scoring areas.

“I thought his last game was good in terms of chances,” said Cassidy of Vatrano, who has 10 goals in the 39 games since returning from foot surgery. “When you stop getting chances as a goal-scorer that’s when the red flags really go up. But he needs to keep shooting. His release is usually what catches goalies off-guard, and [Craig] Anderson happened to stop a couple of them.

“He needs to keep getting to the dirty areas and get there even more. A lot of times it’s a greasy one that gets you going. But for him I just highly recommend he keep shooting. That’s what he is, and you want to keep playing to your strengths.”

The bottom line is this: Vatrano is among the most able B’s players when it comes to putting the puck in the net and the Bruins need a guy like that to step up so they’re not solely reliant on Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak goals for victories. Production from the third line has waned lately and the Bruins need it to return at crunch time with wins and points desperately needed.   

 

 

Haggerty's NHL Power Rankings: Playoff format going to irk somebody

powerrankings.jpg

Haggerty's NHL Power Rankings: Playoff format going to irk somebody

Click here for the gallery.