Bruins

Bounty architect joins the Titans

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Bounty architect joins the Titans

From Comcast SportsNetNASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Gregg Williams knows he's got to prove himself every day.The former Saints defensive coordinator said he received a "great rebirth" Thursday when he was reinstated by the NFL and hired by the Tennessee Titans after serving a nearly yearlong suspension for his role in the New Orleans bounty scandal.But now that he's back in the league, he'll have to change the way he's done things in the past."I've got a very positive outlook on things," Williams said. "I understand and respect the game an awful lot, and the past is the past and what I'm talking about doing right now is creating a resume from this day forward."Williams took the first step when the Titans hired him as a senior assistant coach for defense. Williams thanked Commissioner Roger Goodell for reinstating him while speaking at a news conference."I take full responsibility and apologize for my previous actions, and I've used this year to reorganize my life and put focus on positive energy and positive ways to inspire and coach and motivate in this profession," Williams said, reading from a statement."I'm grateful for this opportunity."The league issued a statement saying that Goodell cited several reasons for reinstating Williams, including Williams accepting responsibility for his role in the bounty program, his commitment to never be involved in any pay for performance system and pledging to teach safe play and respect for the rules."The commissioner emphasized that Williams must fully conform to league rules and will be subject to periodic monitoring to confirm his compliance," the NFL said in its statement.While he was out of football in 2012, Williams started his path back.He said he spoke to football players from the Pop Warner level up to high school over the past year. He also worked with his charity, traveled and tried to improve himself including losing about "a kindergartener" when challenged by his sons to lose weight.Williams, suspended indefinitely last March, now is the last person involved in the scandal to be reinstated by league. New Orleans coach Sean Payton had his suspension lifted on Jan. 22.Saints general manager Mickey Loomis was suspended for eight games and assistant head coach Joe Vitt for six. Four current or former Saints players were also suspended after an investigation found the club had a performance pool offering cash rewards for key plays, including big hits. The player suspensions eventually were overturned.Williams coached for the Saints between 2009 and 2011 and was hired as defensive coordinator by the St. Louis Rams in January 2012 before being suspended. Williams had been free to look for a new job in the NFL since the playoffs started, and now he is returning to the team where he got his start in the league back in 1990 as a quality control assistant.Titans coach Mike Munchak said he spent the past month trying to figure out how to improve his coaching staff and a defense that set a franchise-record giving up 471 points. He immediately thought about Williams, so Munchak said he called Goodell for a long talk to learn about the bounty situation and Williams' status.Munchak said hiring Williams on a one-year contract was "the right thing to do.""What better place for him to come back to for a second opportunity after making some mistakes and to recharge his career going forward," Munchak said."He knows we're going to do things the right way. He knows how we do things. I think he knows changes have to be done maybe in some of the ways he's done things in the past. I think we're on the same page. I think we're excited about the opportunity."Still, this is the NFL, and Williams said an aggressive approach on defense is what people get when he gets a chance to help."It's been my thought process as a player, as a coach, in all the years I've been doing this is that I'd rather be aggressive than passive," Williams said. "And sometimes the fastest approach to getting a job done is being more aggressive, and that can be a style of defense, scheme of defense, attitude of defense. ... I feel like that will always be a huge tenet of the National Football League."How well this move works for both the Titans and Williams remains to be seen.The Titans missed the playoffs in Munchak's first season on a tiebreaker in 2011 before slumping to a 6-10 record in 2012. Fans have not been happy that Munchak has kept Jerry Gray as coordinator after a season when Tennessee also gave up at least 30 points in seven different games and ranked 27th in yards allowed.Munchak previously made only one move on his defensive staff, firing linebackers coach Frank Bush and moving Chet Parlavecchio from assisting with special teams to linebackers coach."The bottom line guys is winning next year," Munchak said. "We know that."Williams and Gray have worked together for years first in Tennessee, then Williams took Gray with him to Buffalo when hired as the Bills head coach in 2001 after four seasons as Tennessee's defensive coordinator under then-coach Jeff Fisher. They worked together in Washington between 2004-07 before Williams went to Jacksonville Jaguars in 2008 and then the Saints.Gray said he told Munchak to bring Williams on in when asked for his opinion of a man who's like a brother. When pressed on who will make the defensive calls in games this season, Gray pointed questions to Munchak who said Gray is the coordinator making the calls "right now."Notes: The Titans face a deadline Friday where they could release Chris Johnson and avoid guaranteeing 9 million of the 10 million salary due in 2013. Munchak said they will be honoring both Johnson's contract and that of safety Michael Griffin, who is due 6.2 million this season.

Bruins get a needed boost from young players in win over Sharks

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Bruins get a needed boost from young players in win over Sharks

Here’s what we learned from the Bruins' 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks at the SAP Center on Saturday night, which gave Boston four of a possible six points in its California road swing.
 
1) The kids stepped up at a great time for the Bruins. Boston needed some young players to step up and fill in for the injured veterans up front, and they got it on Saturday night. Jake DeBrusk was the main playmaker on both goals in the first period, and the Bruins got goals from rookies DeBrusk, Peter Cehlarik and Danton Heinen. It was Cehlarik’s first NHL goal and the 10th point of the season for Heinen, who continues to show signs that he is going to be a productive, reliable winger  even though he didn’t start the season at the NHL level. DeBrusk finished with a goal and an assist and twice used his speed and aggressiveness taking the puck to the net to create scoring chances: On the first goal it was Cehlarik who finished the loose puck after DeBrusk’s net drive created a rebound, and on the second it was DeBrusk simply beating reigning Norris Trophy winner Brent Burns to a race for the puck and then snapping it up and over San Jose backup goalie Aaron Dell. Cehlarik became the sixth Bruins rookie to score the first goal of his NHL career with Boston this season, and it all shows tangible results of the youth movement they were fully embracing this season. There will be peaks and valleys with so many young players in the lineup, but Saturday night turned out to be one of those high-water marks.

2)  At their healthiest, the Bruins can be a fast-skating, skilled team that will be equal parts offense and defense in a hard-working style that features pace and creativity in the offensive zone. The Bruins aren't healthy right now, obviously, and aren’t going to find success that way as attested by the fact that they hadn’t won two games in a row this season until Saturday night in San Jose. With a number of players already out of the lineup, Torey Krug now injured as well and Tuukka Rask taking an extended rest in favor of a red-hot Anton Khudobin, the Bruins are actually playing a very different brand of hockey right now. With Rask not playing -- and not allowing the types of bad or soft goals he's given up so far this year -- they can play a little more conservatively and try to make a two- or three-goal output in a game actually stick as the game-winning margin. Just check the box score,  as the Bruins blocked a whopping 30 shots and conversely the Sharks blocked just 12. Zdeno Chara, Kevan Miller and Robbie O’Gara all had blocked shots in the final few minutes, and Brandon Carlo stepped in front of a wide-open chance for Burns in the third period off a clean offensive zone faceoff win for the Sharks. Those are all gritty, tough plays in the D-zone that you don’t always see, and it perhaps comes a little more naturally when the Bruins are making the clear choice to feature their defense and goaltending right now. It may not be sustainable once Anton Khudobin inevitably cools off a little bit, but for now it’s pretty darn effective.


 
3)  After watching him stop 36 of 37 shots for the win on Saturday night, the Bruins need to see this thing through with Khudobin until he loses a game. Khudobin is 5-0-2 with this season, with a .949 save percentage in three appearances in November. He's playing the best he's played in the last couple of years. Right now Khudobin is actually leading the NHL with a .935 save percentage for the season, and that really contrasts to Rask's .897 save percentage. Certainly part of it is about the Bruins selling out defensively in front of him and blocking 30 shots in the win while knowing they didn’t have to play again until Wednesday night. But it’s also about the Bruins backup goaltender playing himself into a position where the B’s should ride him until he cools down a little bit, and give Rask some more time to figure out what is slowing him down between the pipes right now.
 
PLUS
-- DeBrusk made a couple of big plays in the first period that led to goals for the Bruins, and he finished with a goal, two points, a plus-2 and a team-high four shots on net in 15:49 of ice time. He has a goal and three points in three games since being a healthy scratch last weekend against Toronto.
 
--Khudobin made 16 saves in the first period when the Bruins were outshot 17-5 and it certainly seemed like they were going to get run out of the building. Instead Khudobin stood tall.
 
-- Heinen finished with two goals and three points on the three-game trip and iced the game for the Bruins with a backdoor strike in the third period after Kevan Miller had dashed up the right side of the ice to create the chance. Heinen is pushing up near the Bruins team leaders in some offensive categories and looks like he belongs in the NHL this season.
 
MINUS
-- Burns was burnt on each of the Bruins' two first-period goals, he actually missed the net with 12 of his 16 shot attempts, and he had seven giveaways in a pretty sloppy game managing the puck. Burns hasn’t had a great season to date, and Saturday night was a good example of things not going well for him this year.
 
-- Paul Postma finished with just eight minutes of ice time in the win, and was part of the poor defensive coverage on the Sharks goal by Joonas Donskoi in the first period that ended up getting overturned on video review. Postma didn’t show much else after that only playing a handful of minutes over the remainder of the game, and based on his early performance looks like he’s only going to be a seventh defensemen in Boston.
 
-- Here’s a hearty boo to the 10:30 pm West Coast starts on Saturday night that only the diehards, or those getting paid, are going to closely watch on the weekend leading up to Thanksgiving. Congrats to you if you were one of the lucky ones that decided to stay up and watch a game that didn’t end until after 1 a.m. in the East.  

For Celtics, winning streak is history in the making

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For Celtics, winning streak is history in the making

BOSTON – Beating the Atlanta Hawks 110-99 on Saturday did more than just pad the win total for the Boston Celtics.
 
It moved them even further up the food chain to what has already been a pretty amazing season.
 
Saturday’s win was their 15th straight, which places them in the penthouse of great Celtics runs of success.
 
Only four other teams in this franchise's storied history have won more consecutive games than this year’s group.
 
Here at NBC Sports Boston, we take a look back at the four teams that are ahead of the Celtics in what has been one of the greatest streaks in franchise history.


 
19 straight wins:  Nov. 15, 2008 – Dec. 23, 2008
 
Fresh off claiming Banner 17, the Celtics were determined to take their place among the all-time great Celtics teams by winning a second straight NBA title. They seemed well on their way with a 15-2 start to the season and of course, their 19-game winning streak. But what turned into a season-ending knee injury suffered by Kevin Garnett later in the year derailed their date with destiny and instead ended with them being upset by the Orlando Magic in the second round of the playoffs , brining a quicker-than-expected end to one of the best regular seasons in franchise history.


 
18 straight wins: Feb. 24, 1982 – March 26, 1982
 
Boston was still considered the best team in the East, although Julius Erving and the Philadelphia 76ers were very much closing the gap. The Celtics dodged a number of close calls during the streak with seven games decided by five points or less, including a 98-97 overtime win at Washington in which the Bullets (now Wizards) went into the fourth quarter with a nine-point lead. The Celtics’ streak eventually came to an end at the hands of the Sixers, which, in hindsight, served as a precursor for Boston losing to Dr. J and the Sixers in the playoffs.


 
17 straight wins: Nov. 28, 1959 – Dec. 30, 1959
 
The Celtics were defending NBA champions and seemingly off to a strong start, only to lose back-to-back games to Philadelphia. While it was still early in the season, they knew they had to quickly right the ship. And they did. During the 17-game winning streak, 12 were by double-digits with only three by five points. The streak ended on New Year’s Day 1960. But by then, the Celtics had re-established their presence atop the NBA landscape and would go on to claim the second of eight straight NBA titles.


 
16 straight wins: Dec. 19, 1964 – Jan. 22, 1965
 
There was little doubt in anyone’s mind that this Celtic team was going to have a special season. They got things going with an 11-0 record right out the gate. And they weren’t just winning games; they were thumping teams with flat-out beatdowns, which is evident by their average margin of victory being by 18.5 points per game. That’s not all that surprising when you consider most of Boston’s core group consisted of players in their prime such as Bill Russell and Tommy Heinsohn. The streak began with a double-digit win over the St. Louis Hawks and would roll along for another couple of weeks. During both the start of the season and the 16-game winning streak, both cemented Boston as the team everyone was chasing. And no one caught them. The Celtics continued to be the dominant force in the league and the season ended with another title, which was the franchise’s seventh straight.