By Tom E. CurranLet's be honest, the Patriots haven't played anything that approaches the status of a "real" game since Tampa. Andeven that pales in comparison to what they'll do Sunday against the Titans with a fully-developed game plan. Theroster conversation is a little stale,what they'll do, who they'll sign, whether Brian Waters is taking a nap or watching infomercials - it's all just conjecture. We need a game. Badly.And that wasaudible Tuesday as Bill Belichick conducted his conference call with media. News-wise, the only thing kicking is whether the Patriots will puta player on theIR that they can re-activate later in the year. I wondered if tight end Visanthe Shiancoe might be headed there. He's been down for most of camp and, although he's been seen walking through the locker room with a wrap on his lower leg, he seems a candidate. Belichick was having none of that conversation, proclaiming Shiancoe"day-to-day" and saying he wouldalert the press ifwhen anyone gets moved onto IR. A few quick notes from his conference call: ON CHRIS PALMER, TITANS OFFENSIVE COORDINATORBB: Chris and I were together in 96 and I actually worked quite a bit with Chris that year because I was coaching the secondary and he was coaching the quarterbacks. In a lot of the passing drills and so forth we worked with each other, setting things up and just on opposite sides of the ball, especially through training camp and some of the individual drills there during the season. Chris has a real good grasp of the passing game as well as overall offensively. They definitely have elements of the four wide receiver run and shoot type of offense in their system. With Jared Cook as the tight end, hes really flexed out a lot, playing like a wide receiver in that type of offense, although they have versatility with him because he doesnt have to be flexed out. He can be in the backfield protection or on the line in his normal tight end position. They have a good scheme, they definitely try to take advantage of where the defense is weak and they do that by trying to read the coverage pre-snap but also having the receivers adjust their routes after the snap based on what defense youre in. Theyre always attacking your weakness defensively so that will be a big challenge for us to be able to make sure that whatever coverage were in, we know theyre going to the softer spots in the coverage that were able to keep those things tightened up. Chris is a smart guy and he does a real good job offensively and with the passing game and developing young quarterbacks, I might add. ON TITANS RUNNING BACK CHRIS JOHNSONBB: His production speaks for itself. Hes really an outstanding player with the ball in his hands in the passing game, in the running game, inside runs, outside runs, draws, screens. Everybody is at the point of attack because he has the speed to start one way and go the other to get back to the cutback backside of the defense or bounce out in either direction. Really everybody is at the point of attack when he has the ball. Its a big challenge for our defense. Hes very dangerous. Hes had like four touchdowns over 75 yards, something like that. Whenever he gets the ball anywhere on the field, hes just one play away from the end zone. Everybody has to be ready and do their job and make sure that no matter where he hits it, we have to defend it because he can attack anywhere on the field. ON TITANS SAFETY MICHAEL GRIFFINBB: Griffin is one of the better safeties in the league; has been very consistent back there and dependable. Hes very athletic for a safety, runs well, has good quickness, can match up in man-coverage, has range and can cover a lot of ground in the deep part of the field in zone coverage. Hes smart, he anticipates things well: route combinations and things like that. Hes been used both in the deep part of the field as a free safety and then this year theyve played him more in the strong safety type position, but again, sometimes hes back, sometimes hes close to the line hell do both and has done both from either spot. You never know exactly where hes going to be but hes one of those versatile guys that can play well away from the line of scrimmage and play well close to the line in terms of run support, matching tight ends in coverage and then reading the quarterback on the underneath combination routes and zone coverage and so forth. Hes a very good player, versatile player and hes done it now for awhile. Hes experienced but is still a fairly young guy. Hes kind of right there at the prime of his career.
GOLD STAR: Jake DeBrusk gave the Bruins all kinds of energy out of the starting gate, and made a couple of plays that allowed his team to hold a lead despite getting outplayed in the opening 20 minutes. DeBrusk went hard to the net splitting a couple of San Jose defenders on the first goal, and fired a shot on net that created a rebound for Peter Cehlarik to cash in on. Then DeBrusk scored a little bit later on a rush where he beat Brent Burns in a foot race to a loose puck, then whistled a wrist shot past Aaron Dell for his fourth goal of the season. DeBrusk finished with a goal and two points along with a plus-2 and a team-high four shots on net while falling just short of 16 minutes of ice time in the victory. It was a strong effort from DeBrusk shortly after being a healthy scratch, and showed what he’s capable of when he gets his skating legs going.
BLACK EYE: Brent Burns was a complete mess for the Sharks. He was burnt by Jake DeBrusk in each of the first two Bruins goals in the first period with the B’s rookie going right at him with the attack. He also didn’t make it to the net with 12 of the 16 shots that he attempted and Burns finished with seven giveaways as well. It’s been a rough follow-up season for Burns after last year’s Norris Trophy season where he’s tried to do too much for the Sharks, and his game has suffered as a result. That seemed to be the case for Burns against the Bruins as well where his mistakes played a big role in the Sharks dropping the game.
TURNING POINT: The Bruins won the game when they managed to survive an opening 20 minutes where they were outshot 17-5, and even better they had a 2-1 lead based on some offensive fireworks from Jake DeBrusk. They were also aided by a couple of video reviews where the Bruins took a San Jose goal off the board when it was ruled that a crashing Joonas Donskoi punched a puck into the net with his glove. The Peter Cehlarik goal was also upheld at the other end after a challenge from the San Jose bench. It looked like DeBrusk was tripped before he partially crashed into Aaron Dell that set up the Cehlarik goal, and that’s clearly how the referees saw it after reviewing the play.
HONORABLE MENTION: It’s got to be Anton Khudobin, who stopped 36-of-37 shots and improved to 5-0-2 on the season with another strong win aided by a stalwart defensive effort in front of him. Khudobin now has 12 of the 20 points that the Bruins have amassed on the season, and he absolutely rewarded the B’s for opting to go with the Bruins backup for a second game in a row as they ride the hot goaltender. Khudobin was helped by a number of Bruins blocked shots in the third period when the game was still very tight, but it was also about Khudobin coming up with 16 saves in the first period when the Bruins were getting outplayed by the Sharks.
BY THE NUMBERS: 6 – the number of Bruins rookies that have scored their first NHL goals this season, including Peter Cehlarik finally getting his first NHL score Saturday night in his 14th career game.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “We need them. They’re in the lineup and they’re playing significant minutes. We need them to produce for us. Tonight we needed some offense early, and they provided it for us.” – Bruce Cassidy, on the role of the rookies in the win where it was all first-year players Peter Cehlarik, Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen doing the scoring vs. San Jose.
SAN JOSE, Calif. - Anton Khudobin stopped 36 shots to lead the Boston Bruins to a 3-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night.
Peter Cehlarik, Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen scored to help the Bruins get their second straight win after a four-game skid (0-3-1). Boston had totaled nine goals in its previous five games, scoring more than two for just the second time in nine November games.
Khudobin remained unbeaten in regulation (5-0-2) and improved to 4-1 with a 0.99 goals-against average in five games against the Sharks.
Timo Meier scored and Aaron Dell finished with 18 saves for the Sharks, one of the lowest scoring teams in the league. San Jose has been held to two of fewer goals in five of their seven games this month.
Meier gave the Sharks, losers of two straight following wins in six of seven, a short-lived 1-0 lead after tapping in a rebound 4:50 into the game. Daniel O'Regan, making his season debut, won the puck behind the net and skated around to take the shot that bounced to Meier. It was O'Regan's first career assist and second career point.
Cehlarik, in his 14th game, scored his first career goal about 1 1/2 minutes later to tie it for the Bruins.
Boston took the lead on DeBrusk's goal with 9:14 left in the first. Charlie McAvoy cleared a puck in his zone that DeBrusk chased down and easily beat Dell 1-on-1.
Heinen made it 3-1 with 5:51 left in the third. Kevan Miller skated down the ice, drawing all the attention on the right side. He passed across the crease, from where Heinen tapped it in.
The Sharks had a goal negated for the second straight game, this one two minutes in.
NOTES: Sharks F Danny O'Regan was recalled before the game. He's the leading scorer for the Barracuda of the AHL. ... The Sharks have had three consecutive goals reversed after challenges dating to Thursday's game against the Florida Panthers. ... Sharks F Joel Ward has recorded points in six of his last eight games. ... DeBrusk, who assisted on Cehlarik's goal, recorded his first multi-point game since Oct. 14, a span of 14 games.
Bruins: At the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday night.
Sharks: Host the Anaheim Ducks on Monday night.