Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Marc Savard is close to returning, and we all knew that they had to shed some salary to clear sufficient cap room for him to return. So the Bruins sent Matt Hunwick and his $1.45 million salary to Colorado. In return, they got Colby Cohen, a 21 year old defenseman out of BU. Cohen is known more for his offense. You may remember him scoring BU's OT game-winner in the NCAA Finals a few years back. Word is, he still needs a lot of work to be a good positional defenseman.
What can you say about this deal. The Bruins trade a decent young defenseman who can contribute on offense, and get back a potentially decent young defenseman who can contribute on offense. But they free up cap space for Savard. And they need Savard.
And while I like that the NHL has a salary cap, I just wish there were more ways for teams to hang on to talent that they develop. Exemptions, or other write-offs would be nice. And it'd also be nice if teams like the Coyotes and Predators could be contracted so that average team revenue wouldn't go down, so the cap wouldn't go down.
Monday, November 29, 2010
The Bruins started the season 7-2-0, and are since 5-6-2. Offensive inconsistency has been the primary culprit for this mediocrity. At the start of the season, there were several forwards (plus Chara) that were red hot. Those hot streaks have cooled down, and now the Bruins have to work desperately for goals. And when they do score, it seems to be more luck than skill.
Not having Krejci and Savard is a big factor. But there really are too many non-scoring forwards on the roster. And last night in Atlanta, Boychuk, Seidenberg, and Chara were the Bruins' leading shooters. Three defensemen, outshooting all other forwards. That shouldn't happen.
Hopefully, when Krejci and Savard return, the goals will also return. Even then, those two are playmakers, not play-finishers. I fear the inconsistency will remain.
For now, the Bruins have to be more disciplined on defense. They're not scoring, but their defensive lapses in the neutral zone make their offensive issues so much worse. They've got to play smarter, and try to get through the offensive droughts without allowing 3 or 4 goals. They've got to find ways to win 1-0 and 2-1. Though, that doesn't frequently happen in the NHL these days.
They're at Philadelphia Wednesday night, and the Flyers are likely the best team they've faced this season. Perhaps that will inspire some focus.
The QB Rating stat, like all statistics, is imperfect. It doesn't, by itself, truly measure how great a quarterback's game/season/career is. But Tom Brady's maximum 158.3 from Thursday's win over the Lions is one time when the QB Rating is spot on.
After struggling to generate a rhythm in the first half, Brady spent the second half dissecting the Lions' defense. He was helped by some big defensive plays, which gave the Pats very good field position. And a 79 yard hook-up with Branch, which was as much the receivers' running as it was Brady's throwing.
And unlike against the Colts, the Patriots' offense maintained their assault. The defense was giving the ball back to Brady, and Brady spread it around to Welker, Gronkowski, and Branch. He added to the Patriots' lead, and what was a back-and-forth 24-24 game to start the 4th, very quickly turned into a slaughter.
I'm not going to dance in the streets for a win over a 2-9 Detroit team. Then again, the Patriots have continually struggled to make in-game adjustments. On offense, and also on defense, they figured out what Detroit was doing, figured out how to defeat it, and applied those adjustments with remarkable success.
Some of the nice looking numbers from the game: Tom Brady was 21/27, completing his last 10 pass attempts, for 341 yards, 4 touchdowns, and the afore-mentioned maximum 158.3 QB Rating.
Branch only caught 3 passes, but for 113 yards and 2 scores. Welker caught 8 passes for 90, and 2 touchdowns. 7 different Patriots caught passes (3 tight-ends, 2 backs, and only 2 WRs). BJG Ellis only ran for 59 yards, but averaged 4.9 per carry, and scored twice.
And how good has Devin McCourty been this season? He's no "shut-down corner," but he's done well in coverage, is a sure tackler, and has a nose for the football. He's a playmaker. Something the Patriots defense has been lacking for a few years.
The Patriots have an extended week to eat Lion leftovers, and prepare for the Jets, who come to town next Monday night. That's a fairly significant game.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
It's a good thing the Tigers weren't also trying to buy Liverpool. In case you haven't heard, the word is that the Tigers have signed Victor Martinez to a 4 year, $50 million deal. I guess that was too much of a commitment for the Red Sox, who once signed JD Drew to a 5 year, $70 million deal. The Sox once spent $51 million just to talk to Matsuzaka. They once gave Mike Lowell a 4 year, $60 million deal. They extended Josh Beckett's deal by 4 years for $68 million. They signed Lackey to a 5 year, $82.5 million deal.
They also just spent nearly half a billion on a soccer team that is over $400 million in debt. But $50 million for a consistent hitting catcher was too much. That was just too much of a commitment for the Red Sox.
I'm tired of hearing John Henry, Tom Werner, and Larry Luchino come on WEEI and pat themselves on the backs for spending the second most money in baseball, for spending their budget. Maybe it's time to raise the budget, guys. The Sox spent the second most last year, and had the 10th overall record. So maybe they should realize "we made some big contract mistakes." And instead of not spending, they could help alleviate those mistakes by spending a little more.
I don't expect them to outbid the Yankees for Cliff Lee. But I do expect them to not lose quality free agents to the Detroit fucking Tigers. Detroit, like every other team in baseball, is looking to improve. The Sox are content to be "contenders." Even though, they're not contenders, not in the AL East.
The Sox owners are not interested in winning. At least, not in baseball anymore. They want to win Premier League titles, and FA Cups. They're bored with the Red Sox. They had our fun, and now they've moved on.
And every bullshit, propaganda explanation we get from the Globe, or from WEEI, or from the Front Office itself, will only piss me off further. How come nobody asks how much the Sox made in 2010? How much was their profit. We KNOW that their payroll was on budget. And they just made a major purchase, so they must have some funds lying around.
I don't care if the Sox have a payroll of $60 million, or $300 million. I WANT THEM TO WIN. I understand that owners can't spend more than they make. But you know what, don't take the profits you make from our team, then use it to buy a second-rate, collapsing soccer team in England. Henry, Werner, and Luchino aren't from here, so they might not realize that we don't like the British here. Maybe we should fill Fenway with water and pour tea in it.
Good luck in Detroit, Victor. The Tigers obviously care more about winning than the Red Sox.
After winning 3 straight against subpar opponents, the Bruins have faltered against a pair of quality teams. They mounted a nice comeback Saturday night to salvage a point against the Kings, but still found themselves down 3-0. That happened again last night, except for the comeback part.
I hate Claude Julien and his "style" of play. He's too static, and that can be seen on the ice. The players don't react and independently adapt to what the opposition does. The Lightning owned the neutral zone with their 1-3-1 alignment, and the Bruins did little to change that.
Under Julien, the Bruins struggle whenever their opponents do anything that isn't standard.
And the Lightning didn't do much standard last night. They're fast, aggressive, deceptive, and always moving forward. I don't recall seeing a Lightning defenseman gather the puck in his zone, wait behind his net for a change, pass to the other defenseman, and continue with a basic A-B-C breakout. Instead, they skated. They pushed.
Rask got another hard luck loss. And while the defensive play of the Bruins was unfortunate, their lack of offense was the real killer. The box score credits the Bruins with 27 shots. I don't remember about 20 of them.
Thankfully, the Bruins will be in Miami Wednesday night to play the lowly Panthers. The B's crushed them 4-0 last week.
Monday, November 22, 2010
I remember the days when the Patriots absolutely owned the Colts. The National Sports Media would drool over Peyton Manning's regular season numbers, then they'd come to Gillette and get pummeled. Since then, the Colts have had the better of the rivalry. They'd won 5 of the last 6, and quite often in dramatic/painful fashion.
That was close to happening again last night. Too close. At times, the Patriots defense allowed some big plays. But they also made big plays, intercepting Manning 3 times. Peyton entered the game having thrown a mere 4 picks all season. He nearly doubled his total in one night of work.
The fact of the matter is the Patriots only scored 10 points in the second half, after putting up 21 in the first. At the beginning of the 4th, they were held to a field goal after driving to the Indianapolis 7. After Indy made it 31-21, the Pats went 3 and out, only taking 40 seconds off the clock. At 31-28, the Pats had a 4 play drive.
We can lament the defense all we want, but they are who they are. They're young, athletic, and inexperienced. If you put them in front of a guy like Manning for long enough, they'll get picked apart.
The offense, however, has experience, has talent, has multiple facets. It simply has to do better at the end of games. It's funny to hear everyone ripping the defense after they collected 3 turnovers and the offense did nothing in the 4th quarter.
But in this NFL, wins are priceless. If I were a Jet fan, I'd be criticizing my team for barely winning game after game. There's no elite team in the League. There's no "balanced" team out there that's very good in all phases of the game.
The Patriots have a very short week before heading to Detroit to play on Thanksgiving. This has trap game written all over it, as it's sandwiched between the Colts and the Jets. Hopefully the Patriots learned some lessons in Cleveland.
Friday, November 19, 2010
Milan Lucic scored a hat-trick last night, which gives him 10 on the season. That surpasses his total for all of 09-10, and he's got more than a good chance at beating his career best of 17 set the season prior. Yet he wasn't the top performer of the night. Tuukka Rask stopped 41 shots en route to a shutout, and his first win of the season.
For good chunks of this game, the Panthers were just a bit better than the Bruins. The Panthers also had 10 minutes worth of Power Play time. Tuukka kept the game even, then kept it at 1-0 for about 30 minutes, waiting for Lucic to explode.
The big difference for Lucic this season has been his skating. He's moving around, getting to pucks, crashing the net. That's how he scored all 3 of his goals (it was a "natural hat-trick" by the way, which means he scored all three in a row, uninterrupted by another player's scoring), by getting himself in position to make plays.
He's also developed a nice in-stride shot. His goals are rarely pretty, but they're never ugly. Being with a guy like Nathan Horton seems to help too. He had an assist on all three of Lucic's goals.
Lucic stands at +12, with 10 goals, and 7 assists. He's only amassed 18 penalty minutes, but that's because he's using his strength to make productive plays, not to send messages. Shawn Thornton can do that quite well.
The Bruins have won 3 straight, but they've hardly faced world-class opposition. Florida have the 5th worst record in the NHL, and the Devils are 3rd worst. The Rangers are tied for 15th in the League.
But wins are wins, hat-tricks are hat-tricks, and shutouts are shutouts. The LA Kings (5th best record) come to town Saturday night.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
There are rumors that Adrian Beltre has been offered a 5 year deal by the Oakland Athletics worth $64 million. The Sox would be fools to match this. Beltre is only 31, but his career is an up and down roller coaster of inconsistency. And he's known for having a big year when his contract is up, only to fall off the next season.
Victor Martinez turns 32 in a few weeks, and he plays a more physically demanding position than Beltre, and he doesn't play it very well. His 2010 campaign wasn't as productive as Beltre's, but it's just one year in a steady stream of consistent performances. He'll hit .280 to .300, with an OBP between .340 and .380, and slug between .460 and .500. Because of this offensive reliability, Victor Martinez is worth a 5 year deal.
Martinez will not catch forever, and should be moved to 1B and/or DH. But he can catch for a year until Ortiz's contract runs out, then move to DH. He's a better hitter when not catching anyway. In the meantime, the Sox can find a more permanent solution to their catching situation.
And that's the other big difference between Beltre and Martinez. The Sox can lose Beltre, then trade for or sign another good corner infielder to replace his production. That's not going to happen very easily at catcher.
Beltre's not worth any deal longer than 3 years. Victor Martinez, due to his consistency, and the immediate lack of depth at his position, is.
This was one of the more boring games of the season. Both the Bruins and Rangers play very defensive styles. "Positional," was the word that best describes it. And if not for breakaway goals from Seguin and Recchi, this game goes the other way. Also, without another Vezinian performance from Tim Thomas, this game goes the other way.
I don't like how Julien is playing Seguin. Lining him with Paille and Thornton is a misuse of talent. Give him two or three shifts with Lucic and Horton. I'd also love to see Seguin and Recchi on the same line. The Bruins are without centers, and it's a good opportunity to move Seguin around as he learns how to be an NHL center. Don't put him on a line with Paille (45 career goals) and Thornton (18 career goals).
I also didn't like how the Bruins played when they went up 3-1. The Rangers became more aggressive on the forecheck, and once again, this baffled the Bruins. Eventually, the turnovers turned into a goal.
The Bruins' Power-Play is now 2 for 19 since Krejci left the lineup. As much as that demonstrates Krejci's cleverness, it also shows a severe lack of offensive talent and wherewithal on this team. Role-players like Jordan Caron and Daniel Paille and even Patrice Bergeron are supposed to be the complimentary pieces to the puzzle, not the core components.
Bruins host the Panthers tonight.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Yesterday, I was very direct in my criticism of Blake Wheeler and Mark Stuart. But today, I have to praise them for what they did last night. They each put up $5,000 to buy tickets for members of our Armed Forces, and encouraged fans to donate money as well. Over $70,000 in tickets were given away to men and women in uniform. As someone with a brother in Afghanistan, and one of my best friend's stationed at Fort Hood, and just as an American, I thought that was pretty cool of Wheeler and Stuart.
And it was especially nice to see them both have a good game. Wheeler firing a sniper shot and Stuart deploying some heavy artillery.
The Bruins hadn't led in a game for over 135 minutes until Michael Ryder squeezed one between Brodeur and the post. Horton also returned to the scoresheet with his 8th. But the real star of the show was Thomas.
A 28 Save Shutout might not seem stunning on paper. But Thomas survived an early onslaught, attacking the puck-carrier in vintage Tim Thomas style, yet remaining square to the shooter at all times. Then in the 3rd, he stayed strong as the Bruins do what they do best: play careless hockey with a 3 goal lead.
Maybe with a healthy Tim Thomas, the Bruins could have preserved their 3-0 lead in Game 7 against Philly. Maybe.
But speaking of last night's 3rd period, it did leave a sour taste in my mouth. With Thomas and Rask, it's hard to imagine blowing a significant number of 3 goal leads in the regular season. But the lack of focus and care in last night's 3rd is indicative of a much more alarming problem.
This team has mood swings. They play with casual overconfidence when they're leading. Instead of smelling blood in the water, or holding their foot down, they ease up. They lose focus, make careless passes in the neutral zone. And against top-tier teams, that will inevitably lead to disaster.
But the Devils are not a top-tier team. They have the 3rd worst record in the NHL, along with the most losses. So I'm not too overly impressed with the Bruins' 3-0 win. But after the last week and a half, I'll take it.
And these guys were funnier when they imitated New Jersey coach John MacLean, not when they mocked him.
And since his name was John MacLean, dressing up as Hans Gruber would have been much funnier.
Bruins at Rangers Wednesday night.
Monday, November 15, 2010
Apart from the 5 goal explosion in the 3rd period of the Pittsburgh game, the Bruins have only managed 4 goals in their last 4 games. To be fair, they're missing Marc Savard: the quarterback of the Power Play unit. And David Krejci: the playmaker that's been spearheading the 1st line. But there are just so many players on this team that simply don't score goals. And that's fine, because they usually do something else. Shawn Thornton and his linemates bring energy. Andrew Ference has become a decent defenseman (when he doesn't try to go beyond being Andrew Ference). And role-players like Daniel Paille can at least participate in a decent penalty-kill.
But what does Blake Wheeler do?
Seriously, what's his purpose?
I'm still no Michael Ryder fan, as he remains a Hab in my eyes (although unlike a Canadien, he actually got penalized for his diving on Saturday). But Ryder has an identity. And in the 30% of the time he's actually playing well, he can score goals.
What's Blake Wheeler, though? Who is Blake Wheeler? What's his identity? Is he a grinder? No. An igniting energy guy? A playmaker? A high slot Glen Murray type? A low slot Mark Recchi type? A fighter? A scrapper? Does he win battles along the boards? Does he trigger the rush through the neutral zone? No. He does nothing but fail.
So many Bruins' offensive possessions end with Blake Wheeler having the last touch. And it's not because he's scored, it's because he's either missed the goal completely, or turned the puck over.
He had an easy scoring opportunity on Saturday. Bergeron made a brilliant drive to the net on a Power Play, found a slit of space between Elliot and the post, and as the puck lazily dribbled across the goal-line, all Wheeler had to do was use his stick as a pool cue and nudge the puck forward. Instead, he missed. Not the net, but the puck. The curved blade of his stick glided over the puck, almost as if Wheeler intended to not score. Then he literally punched the puck over, in a goal that was instantly disallowed.
The announcers called it "unlucky," I call it unimpressive, untalented, and unworthy of a spot on this team.
Oh, and remember when he completely missed the goalmouth on a breakaway? Aiming for Elliot's glove, he hit the glass behind the net.
And then there was the time he tried lobbing the puck into the offensive zone, only to miss all 6,000 square feet of the zone and launch the puck over the glass and into the stands.
It's time for Wheeler and his $2.2 million cap hit to be launched out of Boston, and I don't care if it's a trade, or if he's released, or if he's run out of town, or if he's quietly eliminated by the Newfoundland mafia.
Then there's Stuart. Who, to his credit, serves a purpose. I've always compared Stuart to cavemen, to Neanderthals. And he definitely brings that aggressive, physical savagery to the game. It's slightly scary for opponents when Mark Stuart is on the ice. Unless they're trying to score a goal. In which case, he's quite the helper.
His caveman aggression seems to come with caveman intelligence. And on Saturday, he again was a key part in an opponent's goal. This time, you can say Chris Neil got away with a light bit of interference on Ryder. Then again, Stuart was screening Thomas enough to make Sean Avery jealous and/or proud.
Stuart's giveaways, and his constant mishandling of the puck are verging on Dennis Wideman levels of sabotage. Stuart is a great physical force, but there's a reason why Neanderthals are extinct. And that's what Mark Stuarts should be in Boston.
The Bruins need to get offense from somewhere, but it won't come from the Blake Wheelers of the world. It also won't come from the Shawn Thorntons, Jordan Carons, Gregory Campbells, and Brad Marchands of the world. This team has a lot of fake-depth, in that filling out the lineup isn't a painful struggle, but there are very few truly good players you can put out there.
Goaltending, defense, and a grinding offense. Those are the things this team can do well. And the likes of Blake Wheeler can't grind. Neither can Michael Ryder. And the likes of Mark Stuart can't figure out how to play good defense. Adjustment is needed.
The Bruins host the Devils Monday night.
"The Cleveland game was an aberration." Yes it apparently was. But not to be a total buzzkill, so was this. It's true, the Patriots did go to Pittsburgh and dominate. They played well in all three aspects of the game. And they haven't had a road win this big in a very long time (November 4, 2007 @ Indianapolis, in my opinion).
But let's remember how forlorn we were a week ago. We should try to avoid getting too high after this win. Let's also remember that the Steelers played most of this game without Hines Ward. Taking Hines Ward from Ben Roethlisberger is like taking the bullets out of a gun.
That being said, the biggest difference between this week and last was the play of Tom Brady. He went from barely completing half his passes, to completing about 3/4. He was throwing deep, outside, inside, all over the place. He also ran for a touchdown on a nice goal-line read. When he brings his A Game, the Patriots become a very difficult team to beat. When he doesn't, they're essentially a .500 team.
Gronkowski must have had a good week of practice, as he was Brady's favorite target. And it worked out well. Three TD catches for the tight-end, who caught 5 passes total for 72 yards. 8 different receivers caught passes.
The offensive line has been simply stellar all year long. And the defense finally showed up with a consistent pass rush. But give an assist to Pittsburgh's shaky O-Line for that.
There's still plenty of football left to play, but at least the Pats are back on the right track, have a big road win under their belts, and enter a tough stretch of games on the right foot.
Indianapolis comes to Foxborough on Sunday.
Friday, November 12, 2010
All the hype around Miami, and they just can't get rolling. I'm sure they will, and I doubt they'll endure many more 1-3 stretches, and there's no way they'll remain the 3rd place team in the Southeast Division. But remember when KG and Ray Allen began their Celtics careers? The C's started 07-08 winning 29 of 32 games.
Because the Celtics were a team. The Big Three were mature, and all united with a single goal, and all working under Doc Rivers with a plan to achieve it. The Heat are still working things out. They don't have Doc Rivers. They don't have the leadership of Garnett or Pierce, or the freakish health of Ray Allen. They have Gatorade commercials and jersey sales.
The Celtics got maximum contributions from several sources last night. Ray Allen had a ridiculous night, hitting 7 of 9 three point attempts, finishing with 35. Pierce had 25, and Garnett added 16 plus 13 rebounds. Rondo had 16 assists (he's averaging 14.8). Shaq had 7 rebounds, Glen Davis had 9, and Nate Robinson scored 12 points.
The Celtics are, at the moment, a better team than the Heat. The Heat are younger, so have room to improve and to gel. The Celtics are older, so have room to get injured and fall apart. It's only November.
But, it's very clear that the Heat were grotesquely overhyped. On ESPN.com's NBA page, in between links to "Teams" and "Players," there's a link for the "Heat Index," an entire section of the site dedicated to the preseason #1 Miami Heat. ESPN is ball-washing a 5-4 team.
The 7-2 Celtics are in Memphis tomorrow night.
Until Montreal's 3rd goal, I was going to applaud the Bruins for playing a decent, though not great, game. They were coming off a big comeback win the night before, were up against a good team, and the refs were apparently born in Trois-Rivieres, Quebec. They didn't play bad enough to lose, though they weren't good enough to win either. I felt like they deserved a point, but certainly not two. But in the end, they got none.
The Bruins needed Rask to be nearly perfect, and he wasn't. On the first goal, Subban found a gap between Rask's side and the post. And Gomez's goal came off a juicy rebound, which Rask repeatedly gave up all night. Rask wasn't bad, but he wasn't great. I don't like his style, I don't like how small he is, and I cringe whenever he handles the puck.
Plus/minus is not a stat to take too literally, but in the case of Mark Stuart, it's very telling. It seems like Stuart is always "involved" when the opponent scores. Last night, he misplayed a breakaway, which eventually resulted in Gomez's goal. His +/- is at -1, which doesn't seem horrible until you look at all the other Bruins' defensemen, and their +/-. Chara is +5. Hunwick is +6. Ference is +6. Seidenberg is +5. Boychuk was +3 when he got hurt. Even Adam McQuaid is +1.
I love how physical Mark Stuart is. But technically, he is a mediocre defenseman at best. The Bruins need to shed some salary. I think they could get decent value if they traded Stuart.
After Montreal scored their 3rd goal, the Bruins gave up. That's too bad. I'd like to see this team string together 5 good periods of hockey in a row. Then try to string together 10. They were on the verge of reaching 4 solid periods, until they quit in the middle of the 3rd.
I'm not very impressed by Montreal, though. So that's something. The Bruins host the Senators Saturday night.
Monday, November 08, 2010
This had "trap game" written all over it. Which is why I thought maybe it wouldn't wind up being one. And maybe it wasn't a trap game. In this NFL, every team with a winning record isn't as good as their record suggests. And every team with a losing record isn't as bad as their record suggests. It's all about how you play on Sunday.
And the Patriots played atrociously. It started with one or two players messing up, then seemed to spread like a virus. Gronkowski essentially cost the team 14 points in the first half. I mean, how is it that Dan Connelly is a better returner than Gronkowski?
That being said, the Patriots were worse in the 2nd half. And that was led by Brady. How many passes did he throw poorly? Better question: how few did he throw well? He missed Gronkowski a few times, underthrew, overthrew. He was 19 for 36, barely completing over half his passes. And that was with Hernandez making some absurd catches.
He had ample time. The O-line created pockets big enough for Michael Moore's jeans. But the Browns' coverage was excellent, and you felt the absence of Randy Moss. Well not really Moss, but the theory of Randy Moss. Wes Welker was frequently doubled, and may have missed the attention Moss once drew. Welker probably also misses his old ACL. He's been just a little off all year, even when Moss was around.
Receivers like Tate dropping balls didn't help much. And I went over Gronkowski's struggles.
The defense got manhandled at the line of scrimmage. And at times, looked utterly lost. It was as if the Patriots just found out in the morning that they'd be playing the Browns. They didn't look prepared for anything out of the ordinary. And on the ordinary stuff, Cleveland thoroughly pushed them around.
That being said, they were put in some lousy situations, right off the bat. And they needed the offense to give them a break. Instead, the Browns held the ball for 38 minutes, nearly twice as long as the Patriots. It's no wonder that Hillis ran for 184, and the Browns amassed 230 on the ground.
The commentators kept talking about the "chess match," between Belichick and Mangini. While Cleveland's trick plays and gadgets were well planned and exquisitely timed, this game came down to a few simple non-chess-like things.
#1: The Browns ran the ball well
#2: The Patriots couldn't put drives together (3/11 on 3rd downs)
#3: The Patriots didn't take care of the football
I will say that Belichick has a tendency to overcoach in games like this, when his team isn't executing, and he seems to feel the need to win the game on his own. The squib kick in the 2nd, going for it on 4th down on the Cleveland 24 in the 2nd quarter of a 10 point game (it worked, but I didn't like that decision), challenging Colt McCoy's touchdown.
But ultimately, players play and coaches coach. The Patriots, at least a number of them, didn't play well.
And they'd better spend the week striving to remember how to do so, because they'll be in Pittsburgh soon, where the crowd is louder, where they run the ball, and where they pressure the QB.
Friday, November 05, 2010
I have no idea how Randy Moss will work out for the Titans. But it's likely to work out better than his tenure with the Vikings.
When Moss was traded to Minnesota, everyone thought it was a great deal for them. Even I, who defended Belichick's decision to trade Moss, felt like the Vikings would also benefit from the deal. How could we have been so dumb?
Moss was walking into a situation that was already tumultuous. The Vikings were 1-2, had a quarterback embroiled in an off-the-field sexting scandal, and one of the most dunderheaded head coaches in the League. They went 1-3 with Moss, and it was mostly the fault of their QB and their coach.
But Moss would also be sharing targets with the likes of Harvin and Shiancoe. And Randy, like most diva WRs, does not share well.
The Titans, on the other hand, don't need Moss to dazzle. They just need him to play. Even with Kenny Britt healthy, Moss would be their #1 target. The Titans haven't quite figured out their QB situation, but that's much better than having a prima donna under center. Then there's Jeff Fisher, one of the most respected coaches in the game. The Vikings were a constant tug-of-war between QB and coach. The Titans are Jeff Fisher's team. No doubt about it.
If Randy misses New England, he's in a slightly more similar location now. The Titans are contenders. At 5-3 they're 1/2 game behind the Colts for 1st, and would be a playoff team if the season ended today. The Titans also have the best point differential in the NFL.
In Minnesota, Moss was a fire on a sinking ship. He was the broken windshield wiper on a car with no brakes. Disaster was imminent with or without him, but he didn't help things either.
In Tennessee, he can contribute, be productive, get catches, make plays, and possibly earn a contract. And if he doesn't, the Titans lose absolutely nothing by cutting him loose.
The Patriots didn't need Randy Moss, and were unwilling to risk his antics. They got rid of the tumor before it became a tumor. He could only hurt the Patriots.
And the Vikings were a complete mess with or without Moss, who was just another clown in a circus out there. He couldn't help the Vikings.
But the Titans have room for improvement. They could use Randy Moss, but they still don't need him. They have direction, leadership, a team identity. He can only help the Titans.
Thursday, November 04, 2010
Buffalo came into this game with a 3-7-2 record, and without Ryan Miller. So a Bruins victory was in the cards. However, not in this fashion. The Bruins scored a pair of shorthanded goals as part of a 3-0 first period.
Usually, that means the Bruins will come out flat in the 2nd, but Michael Ryder quickly made it 4-0. At that point, the game was completely decided. The Sabres did break through Thomas, who allowed a season high 2 goals (that's fun to say).
5 goals from 5 players, 9 players had points.
Brad Marchand's goal was the first in his career.
Blake Wheeler finally scored a goal. He's consuming $2.2 million in cap space and is utterly useless. Speaking of which, it's time to trade Daniel Paille. Young forwards like Caron and Marchand play a much more dynamic game. Paille is an adequate penalty-killer, and that's it. He's a poor man's PJ Axelsson, as he doesn't do the little things that PJ once did. He's getting $1.075 to be a healthy scratch.
Lucic scored an empty-netter, his 5th goal of the season. He's healthy, and he's been playing the style of hockey he should be playing. He didn't score goal #5 until February last season.
It's still November. But it's hard not to get excited with a 7-0-0 goalie (best start for a Bruins goalie ever) whose GAA just skyrocketed to 0.72. The penalty-kill unit has scored almost as many goals as its allowed (2 scored, 3 allowed). Goals are coming from everyone. And you've already secured 5 road wins.
The Bruins enter a series of good test games. They're at Washington Friday night, then host the 6-1-2 Blues Saturday night. Then it's at Pittsburgh, then their first meeting with Montreal.
Tuesday, November 02, 2010
Maybe listening to Randy Moss drone about how great it is to be a Patriot got to Logan Mankins. Or maybe he realized he was a football player that wasn't playing football. Or maybe someone from the Patriots said "hey, all BS aside, we need a good player like you." Whatever the reasons, Logan Mankins will reportedly sign a restricted free-agent tender offer. This will return him to the lineup, and allow him to possibly play on Sunday in Cleveland.
It was expected that Mankins would report, but at the November 16th deadline to do so. So why two weeks earlier? That I don't know. But I do know that I'm glad he's back. Connelly has been solid in his place, but against good pass rushes, the entire left side of the line could use some shoring up. Especially on the road. And the Patriots play back-to-back road games in hostile environments before that November 16th deadline.
Monday, November 01, 2010
The Vikings have placed Randy Moss on waivers. This after the headcase receiver caught 1 pass for 8 yards against the Patriots, then held a post game press conference praising his former team.
Moss's 22 receptions (77th in the NFL), and 313 yards (66th) have been more than a little disappointing this season. Although he does have 5 touchdowns (tied for 10th). Moss was often touted for his deep-threat capacities distracting defensive backs. But it's becoming obvious, even to the most ardent Belichick haters, that Moss is also a distraction to his teammates.
Some here think the Patriots might reacquire him. Why not? It's like selling stock in Lehman Brothers when it was at $25, then picking it up at 25 cents. You've already pocketed your money (a 3rd round pick in this case), why not take a freeroll shot at something big?
Then again, why did the stock crash in the first place? Why did the Patriots rush to get him out of here? Maybe he's "learned his lesson," but he's also the kind of guy that never learns a lesson. He's not a good teammate when things aren't going well. And that's when you need to be a good teammate.
I do not want Moss back here. He'll likely get claimed by another team off waivers. But if he falls to the Patriots, I don't want him. His 22 receptions and 313 yards aren't worth it.
If he's picked up, I'll understand. I won't like it, but I'll understand. He's still a talent, and there's not much the Patriots could lose. Then again, it's like a break-up. Belichick broke up with Moss for a reason. Maybe he's learned a lesson. But why did he need to be taught that lesson?