Monday, November 28, 2011

Bruins Back Where They Belong

It took a little more than two weeks for the Bruins' to get back into the mix atop the Northeast Division and Eastern Conference standings. It took a stretch of extraordinary play in order to atone for the lackadaisical start to the season. The Bruins have won 11 of 12, and accumulated 23 points in that stretch. That was after earning only 6 points in their first 10 games. It's almost December, but it sort of feels as though the season is starting over. We're back to Square 1.

The three games over the holiday weekend exemplified some of the Bruins' best qualities, and why they've been able to go on such a run.

Wednesday night Buffalo wanted revenge, both physically and on the scoreboard. The Bruins beat them in both departments. Milan Lucic isn't much of a fighter anymore, but he can still throw down.

The B's fell behind but Seguin scored, then added an assist, then Chara scored on the Power Play. Thomas was unreal in the shootout and the Bruins outlasted the Sabres.

The winning streak came to an end Friday afternoon against Detroit. But it was hardly due to lack of effort. The B's dominated most of the game, Detroit scored a few breakaways, and the Bruins couldn't get any bounces near the net.

Saturday night the Bruins needed two Winnipeg goals and a timeout before waking up. Once they did, they won the battles on the boards, ground out their offense, and played excellent shutdown defense on Winnipeg's talented forwards. Rich Peverley's astute puck-carrying set up a pair of Chris Kelly goals (he has 9 already, his previous career high was 15). Tim Thomas did the rest.

Excellent goaltending, a stingy penalty kill (85% in November), a productive power play unit (22.8% in November), lots of scoring by Seguin (8 goals in November), some timely offensive contributions from Chara (14 points in November), and getting production from guys like Kelly.

That's how the Bruins have gone from the cellar of the Conference to contending for the top spot. They have a big home-and-home series against the Maple Leafs starting Wednesday night in Toronto. They've beaten Toronto twice by a combined score of 13-2, so let's hope that trend continues.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Goodnight, Dream Team

Tom Brady is now 4-0 in his career against the Eagles, and the Patriots improved to 8-3 on the season. It was a nice win, but not particularly impressive. Victory is only as impressive as the opponent. And Philadelphia without Vick isn't a very good team. So let's make fun of the self-anointed "Dream Team" and move on.

The big plays allowed by the Pats' secondary were worrisome. They've typically been able to prevent opponents from torching them so badly. Usually they surrender territory 8 to 15 yards at a time. And if Vince Young had been more consistent, then this game might have been a bit more interesting thanks to those big plays.

The Patriots offense is very good. That's not news. A few key players got back to being involved yesterday. BJG Ellis got the ball 14 times, and although he only got 44 yards, he scored twice, and he helped set-up play-action for Brady. The Patriots ran the ball 36 times

The wide receivers got involved too. Welker caught 8 passes for 115 and a pair of TDs. And Branch caught 6 for 125. The last time the Patriots' top two receiving leaders were actually wide receivers was week 5 against the Jets.

Defensively, it wasn't pretty, but it was effective. Vince Young had a lot to do with that. So did Andy Reid. 4th and 1 on the 3, you have a 6' 5" 235 pound QB and you don't sneak it? Instead you force your inconsistent QB to throw a pass that has little margin for error? Thank you, Andy.

We're not going to learn anything new about the Patriots in these next few weeks. They're up against some weak teams with mediocre to bad quarterbacks. This is time to pile up wins and get into the best playoff position as possible.

Patriots host the winless Colts next Sunday at 1.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo