FOXBORO -- Tom Brady's weekly "Meet the Press" turn on Wednesdays serves a bigger purpose than just filling airtime, bandwidth and column inches. It is an opportunity for the team's most important player to set the agenda for his teammates. On this Wednesday, a semi-terse Brady stepped to the podium and made it very clear how he's treating Sunday's game in Philly. Like a playoff game. "We're putting it all into this week," Brady said in his opening remarks. "We got a lot on the line. It's a very good team. There's skill at every position. Going on the road and trying to win a tough game on the road at the most important time of the year. It says a lot about (us as a team)."The Patriotshave rebounded fromconsecutive losses to the Giants and Steelers with wins overthe Jets and Chiefs. They hold a two-game lead in the AFC East over the Jets and Bills and -- stepping into a non-conference game -- they actually have some breathing room. But Brady's tone registered urgency. I asked him why. "It's a big week for us," he repeated. "We need to play really well. Certainly better than we played the last few weeks. There's a lot of people on our team and our offense that have taken the challenge that our coach has given us and we're gonna go out there and try to play our best and I think we need to do that."The results are there for the Patriots, but the product is not as polished as it needs to be. Brady has said that over and over again this year. And he realizes that his offense is still trying to establish what it does consistently well as the calendar flips to December. "This is the time of year where it's most important," Brady said. "There's not a lot of games left so when you play a tough team on the road that came off one of the biggest games of their season, you've got everything you could ask for so we'll try to play our best."
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MONTREAL -- The Boston Bruins weren’t about to dance on any Montreal Canadiens’ graves after it was over and done with, but they effectively closed the door on any flickering playoff hopes for the Habs this week. It all ended with Saturday night’s 4-1 win over the Canadiens at the Bell Centre that finished off the sweep of all three meetings between the two arch-rivals over an eight day span, and with the reeling Montreal a stunning 13 points out of a playoff spot in the Atlantic Division.
It was a close game nearly all the way through in Montreal until David Pastrnak and Riley Nash scored in the final few minutes of the third period, but the Bruins outscored the Habs by an 11-5 margin while clearly establishing they were the better team in all three contests. It all makes sense given the opposite directions that the two hockey clubs are headed at this point in the season, and because of that the Bruins were playing it pretty cool after burying the Habs.
“It was kind of a crazy week because we were playing them three times, so we obviously wanted to play good hockey,” said Tuukka Rask, who won all three games vs. the Habs while improving his lifetime record vs. the Habs to 10-15-3 in the process. “[We wanted to] get as many points as possible, and won all of those games along with the one on Long Island. So it was a great week for us.”
Certainly it seemed like there was more genuine emotion from the Bruins in Claude Julien’s return to Boston midweek, and perhaps a little more adrenaline in last weekend’s first game at the Bell Centre where rookies like Jake DeBrusk, Charlie McAvoy and Danton Heinen were dipping their toes into the storied rivalry for the first time.
But on this Saturday night it was more about a complete dismantling of the Bleu, Blanc and Rouge even as the Bruins initially fell down by a goal after a bad McAvoy turnover. Instead it was Boston’s Perfection Line that went to work with an efficient, dominant performance as David Pastrnak scored the game’s first goal and insurance third goal in the third period. They also accounted for the game-winner when Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak hemmed Montreal’s fourth line in the defensive zone, and Torey Krug eventually stepped up and rifled one short side on Carey Price.
Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak combined for two goals, six assists and a plus-8 in the resounding victory over the Habs, and had a dominant 12 of Boston’s 31 shots on net when the final horn had sounded. They simply overwhelmed Montreal with their depth, the high end quality of their lineup and the fact that Boston was rested while the Habs had to play in Washington DC on Friday night in a three games in four days stretch.
All of that allowed the Bruins to drive the final nail into Montreal’s coffin when the game was over, and it furthermore allowed Boston to keep worrying about the teams they’re trying to catch (ahem . . . Tampa Bay Lightning) rather than Eastern Conference bottom-feeders like the Canadiens.
“We talked about doing the job against them and finding a ways to push teams down while gaining ground on the teams above us,” said Patrice Bergeron. “I thought it was a great effort again. We knew that they would be ready for us, but we also knew that they had played last night. So maybe if we had a good start we could jump on them. I thought we had a good game.”
Clearly there have been ebbs and flows to the Bruins/Habs rivalry over their long history together, and both Boston and Montreal have been in the catbird seat at different times even in the recent editions of their history. But right now Boston is beating the Canadiens badly at their own skill and speed game and dominating thing with pure hockey rather than bullying, and that’s got to sting for a Habs group that simply couldn’t compete with the Bruins in three different chances to do so this week.