Signs were there for Bruins letdown

642404.jpg

Signs were there for Bruins letdown

RALEIGH, N.C. Claude Julien and several of the Bruins players had been sounding off the warning sirens and caution alarms over the last two weeks.

Bad habits are creeping into the Bruins overall game and pulling them away from near perfection.

Breakout passes are getting sloppy, the action is getting a little too chaotic in their own zone and battles are being lost directly in front of their own net. Its been pretty difficult to miss.

Things have been creeping in the last three or four games, and tonight they bit us, said Patrice Bergeron. It hurt us. Were aware of it. I guess thats the good thing. But weve got to open our eyes and realize we need to play for 60 minutes and be consistent if we want to win.

Worst of all the ever-consistent Bruins arent putting together carbon copy efforts for the 60 full minutes in games, and instead theyre a hockey club overly reliant on an uncanny ability to pull things out in the third period.

Those final period triumphs were allowing the Bs to bank the two points in games they were winning ugly, and so the danger signs went unheeded and unattended. The Bs strolled into Carolina squaring off against an Eastern Conference cellar dweller, and leave Canes Country wondering what happened.

Instead of getting away once again with all of the inconsistencies and gaffes in execution it all came crashing down on the Bruins in a 4-2 loss at the RBC Center.

The Bruins dropped to 0-3 on the season against the Canes, and limped through one of the few lackluster third periods of the entire season. There wasnt much surprise or tremendous anger in the Bs dressing room after the defeat, but instead a resolve that issues need to be ironed out.

Weve talked about that since the Christmas break we havent really put together full 60 minute efforts when you take the Calgary game out of it, said Milan Lucic. It was eventually going to catch up to us. The goal to tie it had eyes before it went in.

But its unfortunate that we had to give up six points this season to the Hurricanes. Weve got to be better no matter who the opponent is.

There was little speed or extra burst to Bostons game, and the contest finished with the Bs on the short end of the registered hits battle, 18-14, in a rare sign of indifference to the physical game. The Hurricanes allowed the Bs to fire off 35 shots on net with everything coming from the perimeter. Normally staunch defenders like Dennis Seidenberg and Gregory Campbell were getting pushed all over the ice, and both finished minus-2 for the night.

As Claude Julien so aptly put it, the Bruins were getting beat at their own game by a team with little to lose.

Weve talked about finding ways to win when things are going well, but tonight we found a way to lose, said Julien. We had control of the gamenot that it was our best game. But we still felt we had a certain control and we had the lead. But we got knocked off the puck too much tonight.

They got it back and they made sure they knew that to do with it. I give them a lot of credit because I thought they played a really good game. They played with a lot of energy and they certainly had more than we did. We didnt seem to have the energy that we normally have. Weve got to get used to this kind of schedule.

On paper the first game of a four-game road trip against a team way out of playoff contention should have had trap written all over it. The Bruins stepped way too predictably into the pitfall.

Oddly enough things seemed like they were going to work out once again for the Black and Gold when Milan Lucic grabbed a loose puck and snapped a high wrister over Cam Wards shoulder for the go-ahead goal to start the third period.

But Cam Ward was able to turn aside a Daniel Paille scoring bid on the shift following Lucics goal, and the Bs domain the third period suddenly became winning time for the hungry, hungry Hurricanes.

A knuckling Justin Faulk shot managed to skip by Seidenbergs head before escaping Tim Thomas, and the Bs netminder never saw Jay Harrisons game-winning goal from the left point through heavy traffic. An empty-netter followed almost immediately and that was that.

It was nearly impossible for the Bruins to heed the ominous signs of a hockey club slipping into inconsistency seriously when the wins were still rolling through the zamboni door. But perhaps now that theyve been humbled by a Canes team that simply wanted it more and a team that seems to have their number the lessons will be accepted with a little more gravity.

The Bruins are viewed by the rest of the NHL as the Stanley Cup champs and the hottest team in hockey over the last three months. Saturday night was just a sample of the wallop that every teams best punch has cocked and ready to deliver. The Bruins need to match that emotion rather than lament the quality of the ice or the puck bounces enjoyed by the opposition.

Excuses are for losers and the Bruins are definitely not in that category. Its just been a long time since they were so clearly the lesser team as they were in Carolina when it came to winning or losing time in the final period.

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.