Spikes must keep emotions in check on Sunday

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Spikes must keep emotions in check on Sunday

INDIANAPOLIS Brandon Spikes plays at the edge of appropriateness.

Its been a habit of his since Florida where he once served a suspension for eye-gouging a University of Georgia running back.

In the AFC Championship against the Ravens, the second-year linebacker got into it a couple of times with Ravens lineman Marshal Yanda. The second dustup started when Spikes pushed Yanda from behind after the whistle. When Yanda retaliated, Spikes faked a heart attack (another longtime ploy the linebackers cultivated).

On Thursday, after Spikes finished replying to a question with the words Release the beast I asked him if he recalled the issues with Yanda.

Who? he asked. After a few more clues, Spikes said, Oh, the lineman. I dont know names, just numbers.

Asked if he will be able to keep his temper under wraps on Sunday, Spikes said, Absolutely. But Im gonna do business as business is being done. Im pretty sure tempersll be flaring out there. Guys are gonna be riled up, its a big stage. Its gonna be fun, man. Im just bringing everything I got and playing every play like its my last.

Given the way hes courted personal foul penalties this season with after-the-whistle stupidity, Spikes doesnt seem to have an appreciation for the damage a 15-yarder in a game of this magnitude can cause.

And, to hear him tell it, the Patriots coaches didn't bring up the Yanda foolishness either.

"Not that I remember, no," Spikes said when asked if he'd been spoken with. "Did(the officials)throw a flag? No? Well then thats just how the games played."

Perhaps. But it isn't normally played that way after you get tagged a time of two. And Spikes would be smart to think twice before getting involved in any message-sending on Sunday.

Bruce Cassidy: Bruins 'have got to have a stronger mental capacity' in times of adversity

Bruce Cassidy: Bruins 'have got to have a stronger mental capacity' in times of adversity

BOSTON – While there were some warning signs over the last few weeks that the Bruins might be getting away from their game, it didn’t really hit home until Thursday night’s frustrating loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. 

The Bruins blew through three different one-goal leads in the second period in the 6-3 loss to the Bolts at TD Garden, and each time surrendered a tying goal to Tampa in less than two minutes after initially scoring. It was a clear indicator that the Bruins weren’t fully focused on the task at hand despite having already lost three games in a row, and that their ability to bounce back from adversity is going away from them again. 

That much was obvious when the bottom dropped out in the third period, and Jonathan Drouin and Nikita Kucherov turned into a two-man Lightning wrecking crew outscoring the Bruins by a 3-0 margin in the final 20 minutes. 

“I think the frustration is more in-game, where we’ve got to have a stronger mental capacity to handle those [challenging] situations in-game. Let’s face it, when you get on a bit of a losing streak, all those things creep in, whether it’s in October or whether it’s in March,” said Bruce Cassidy. “You have doubts, you start pressing, and again, it’s my job to alleviate the kind of attention in those situations.

“But, as I told you, we all have to be accountable and be responsible for ourselves, and that’s where we just need to have better focus and better discipline in those areas. It was there when it was 3-3 [on the scoreboard]. We’ve got to push back after they score, and that’s where I thought we started to come apart a little bit where we should’ve stuck together and stuck with the program. [We needed to] get ourselves slowly back into the game. We had 10 minutes to even the score, and we weren’t able to do it.”

Clearly this wasn’t just the coach alone in his pointed observations, however, as the lack of focus showed unfortunately in a rudderless second period for the Black and Gold where they couldn’t gain any separation from Tampa Bay despite scoring three goals. 

“[It’s] not being focused, not being sharp, and obviously at this time of the year it’s unacceptable, and it’s up on us to be better,” said Bruins captain Zdeno Chara. “Those kinds of situations shouldn’t happen. So, for sure, we need to address those things and hold each other accountable.”

One thing is clear: The Bruins have a lot of work to do if they hope to avoid the same kind of late season tailspin that doomed them each of the last two seasons, and already seems to be happening over their last four losses to varying levels of hockey talent. 

Talking points: Tuukka Rask wasn't good enough vs. Lightning

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Talking points: Tuukka Rask wasn't good enough vs. Lightning

Here are the talking points from the Boston Bruins' 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.