Bruins

B's players: 'Recchi sees lockout differently now'

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B's players: 'Recchi sees lockout differently now'

Mark Recchis former teammates with the Bruins still love and respect him for the future Hall of Fame legend that he is.

Theres no denying Rexs imprint on the Black and Gold squad that won the Stanley Cup two years ago, and the lessons he taught Bostons young players are still paying dividends to this day.

But those same admiring teammates arent exactly seeing eye-to-eye with Recchi after his pro-owner comments about the lockout earlier this week in the Boston Globe. For those that need a refresher, Recchi essentially advised the 700 plus members of the NHLPA that they needed to cut their losses and take the leagues latest offer before things get worse.

My advice, said Recchi, who owners part of the Kamloops Blazers junior team in British Columbia is that the longer it goes, the worse the offer is going to get for the players.
Hey, Im an owner, too, so I see both sides. We lose money on our team, and obviously thats not the same, the moneys not nearly as significant as in the NHL. But the business dynamics are similar. Weve lost money every year weve owned it.

The longer theyre out, the revenues are going to go down and down. Corporate sponsors arent going to be lining up...so there goes that money. The schedule isnt going to be 82 games, I dont think, at this point. Thats more money lost. So, how are you going to get a better deal? Personally, I think the best time is now.

The NHLPA and Exec Director Donald Fehr have publicly blanched at the idea of moving to 5050 immediately without any guarantee that player contracts will be honored, and the NHL has refused to budge on strict player contract guidelines that will severely limit a players options. Theres also a discrepancy as to how close (the NHLPA believes the two sides are a few hundred million dollars apart) or far (the NHL is saying there could be a billion dollar difference in their proposals) the two sides remain more than 60 days into the lockout.

But Recchi indicated that the players will still make their money in the system being proposed by the NHL, and its up to them to step up and accept it. Give credit where its due: Recchi lived through a pair of work stoppages including a lost season to the lockout in 2004-05. Like his past-generation peers in Jeremy Roenick and Bill Guerin, Recchi has regrets about the full season lost to labor strife.

Shawn Thornton said hes been in regular contact with his beloved former teammate, and knows exactly where Recchi sits on the lockout subject.

Not surprisingly Thornton doesnt agree. But its about more than the make whole provision or the Hockey Related Revenue formula which by the way is no longer an issue.

Ive talked to Rex a lot through this process, and I know where he stands. So its not much of a shock to me, said Thornton. But as far as it goes guys like me probably get screwed more than anybody by this lockout and I wouldnt take this deal. There is stuff in there that just isnt doable for the betterment of the league or the players.

Some of the stuff about the player rights just cant happen. There are some things that they need to move on before accepting.

When asked to elaborate, the Bs enforcer actually referenced the proposed cap on AHL salaries as a sticking point. Adding AHL players to the salary cap would unnecessarily punish longtime AHL veterans like Trent Whitfield, who deserve something for their long years of service and wealth of experience.

No matter what comes out from the other side weve given up a lot: weve given over a billion dollars, we gave a proposal on back-diving contracts and we gave a proposal on capping minor league contracts, said Thornton. I dont think you can cap a guy like Trent Whitfield thats played in that league for 16 years. Hes almost like a member of the Providence staff grooming the kids to be good professionals for when they come up to the NHL level. To take 100,000 from him just isnt right.

I was in that position during the last lockout when I was in the NHL. I went from 125,000 to 75,000 and almost had to sell my house in Oshawa. It sounds tough because I know some people dont even make 75,000, but when you have an agent, you pay rent in two places and you have a family it doesnt go a long way when you only have a ten-year career to earn money. Thats been one of my biggest concerns during the meetings: we shouldnt even be allowed to cap those AHL kids. There is stuff like that where the deal just isnt good enough yet.

Daniel Paille said he gained all manner of respect for Recchi during their two years together in Boston, but the fourth line winger disagreed with the retired forwards call for the players to sign a deal. Recchi has been linked to Dallas Stars owner Tom Gaglardi over the past couple of years as fellow Kamloops residents, and Paille wondered if perhaps that tight relationship has slanted his viewpoint toward the owners.

A guy like Rex is highly respected by everyone and hes only been away from the game for a year, said Paille. But he does see it in a different way now. For him to say the things that he said, I was a little surprised. But hes an owner now and I think he sees it from the business aspect of it. But I think he understands it from the sense of what the players are fighting for, and thats important as well.

While his Bruins teammates had always fully adopted Recchis advice in the recent past, its no surprise theyre going their own way this time around with so much on the line for the present and future of the players.

Khudobin can't save Bruins' goaltending situation

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Khudobin can't save Bruins' goaltending situation

The entire concept of Tuukka Rask getting pushed by one of his backups is based on the backup consistently performing at a high standard, and that wasn’t the case for Anton Khudobin over the weekend.

Just as it isn’t solely the fault of Rask when the Bruins lose, it wasn’t solely the fault of Khudobin that Boston squandered leads of 3-0 and 4-1 in an overtime loss to Buffalo on Saturday night. But Khudobin couldn’t step up and carry the B's when they clearly started losing their edge in the second half of the game, and that inconsistency will certainly make the Bruins pine for a sooner-rather-than-later return of a concussed Rask.

“Erratic,” said coach Bruce Cassidy when asked to describe Khudobin postgame. “He battles. We love that about him. He battled to the end. He certainly made his share of saves. We need to be better in front of him. But there were times that, there were fires that needed to be put out that shouldn’t have been necessary. But that happens sometimes.”

It was certainly too much to expect Khudobin to be perfect, but they just needed him to be good enough to pull them through while they were getting waylaid in the second half of the game. That proved to be a major challenge, given the players the Bruins are missing and the extremely rough night suffered by Torey Krug (minus-3 on Saturday night, and minus-8 for the season). Khudobin finished with 37 stops as a defense corps without Adam McQuaid and Kevan Miller wilted in the third period and the overtime, but he couldn’t make the clean saves for whistles when the team really needed them. Case in point was a Rasmus Ristolainen tester in overtime while the Bruins were in the midst of being outshot by a 6-0 margin in the extra session. Khudobin got a glove on it but couldn’t cleanly catch it for a badly needed stoppage in play at a time when Krug, David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand had been caught on the ice for over two minutes.

"The start was great, and the game was great until we scored the fourth goal, and I think after that, we thought it was an easy game,” said Khudobin. “[The high volume of shots] wasn’t that much difficult, I like shots, like probably every other goalie, but they were crashing the net. They were going hard. There were a lot of deflections, a lot of rebounds, a lot of scrums in front of the net, which were . . .that’s the dangerous part, not just the shots.”

Khudobin, 31, has taken five of a possible six points in the games he's played this season and is off to a solid start with a 2-0-1 record, a 2.98 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage. He looks like he’s going to be a perfectly fine backup, enabling the Bruins to hold Rask to the 55-60 games they’ve forecasted for his peak performance this season.

But Saturday night was a major blow to any hopes that Rask would be pushed competitively by his backup, and that a Khudobin hot streak could spark a slow-starting, and now injured, Rask when he does return.

Instead the Bruins are left to hope they can survive while missing Rask along with a number of other key players, and that the goalie returns sooner than later to a team that can’t survive too many morale-crushing defeats like the choke job against the lowly Sabres.

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Patriots put on another killer performance against Falcons

Patriots put on another killer performance against Falcons

FOXBORO -- Over the Patriots’ 17-year run of excellence, the inevitability of improvement has been a constant.

No matter what’s messed up, no matter how bad it looks, the Patriots will -- almost without exception -- figure it out. There are myriad reasons for that and one of them is that they have the ultimate weapon in quarterback Tom Brady, but he isn’t the bottom-line answer to all of it. The common denominator to why they get better is trust. They buy in. The "Do Your Job” stuff gets co-opted and thrown on T-shirts and beer coozies to the point where it gets trite and worn, but the core belief that the answers they seek are attainable by the players in the room if they do what they’re asked never wavers.

They don’t ever get to a point where they wonder who they are.

PATRIOTS 23, FALCONS 7

The flip side of this is that -- over the same 17-year run -- the Patriots have a tendency to wreck teams.

Hours before the Patriots dismantled the already reeling Falcons, the Seattle Seahawks -- a 10-win team in each of the past two seasons since losing to the Patriots in Super Bowl 49 -- had a sideline dustup where Doug Baldwin, one of their best players and leaders, shoved offensive-line coach Tom Cable. It’s standard fare out there with an immensely talented team that routinely allows itself to devolve into a screaming, finger-pointing mess of men who all seem to believe they know what’s best and that the guy in charge doesn’t know better than they do. And they have Super Bowl 49 to thank for that.

And the same loss of identity seems to be underway in Atlanta, where the Falcons are melting from the head down in the wake of their Super Bowl 51 loss to the Patriots.

Sunday night, in the Super Bowl rematch between two teams that entered the night trying to gain a toehold, New England’s upward climb began. The Falcons, meanwhile, slipped even further from the team that had the Patriots in a chokehold in the third quarter of the Super Bowl but allowed New England to wriggle free and ruin the Falcons' psyche and confidence for the foreseeable future.

After the game, Falcons coach Dan Quinn was saying things like, "Believe in the team, like crazy. We’ve got work to do to get to our standard of ball. And we will work like crazy to do that.”

Bill Belichick, meanwhile, opened his remarks by lauding his team’s preparation.

"I'm really proud of our football team tonight,” said Belichick. "That includes everybody; guys on the practice squad, some of the guys that were inactive and of course all of the players that played and our coaching staff. I just thought they really worked hard this week. We had a very, very productive week. I thought the players were well prepared, ready to go and played hard for 60 minutes in all three phases of the game. We had a lot of contributions from everybody. We played good complementary football. It wasn’t always perfect but we played hard and we competed for 60 minutes and that was off of a real good week of work. Hats off to them. The players did a great job. They went out and played as competitively as they could and tried to play a smart game, made the adjustments, some of the adjustments that they needed to make to some things that Atlanta was doing, some looks that they gave us. [It was] a really good job by our football team tonight. I’m proud of what they did.”

There’s a saying in golf about the key to improvement: The secret is in the dirt. It means that the key isn’t talking about it or thinking about it or watching video, it’s in doing. Over and over again until it’s right and repeatable.

Through the first six games there were myriad issues the Patriots faced on both sides of the ball. Tom Brady was routinely getting bludgeoned and the Patriots' running game was inconsistent.

Sunday night -- even though Brady got banged around some -- there was further improvement and Brady consistently had room to step up and operate. The Pats were so effective on the ground (162 yards on 36 carries) that Brady threw just 29 passes -- the first time this season he’s attempted fewer than 35 and just the fifth time since the start of 2014 he’s thrown fewer than 30 in a regular-season game.

The Patriots couldn’t get control of games and couldn’t get off the field on third down earlier this year. Sunday night, they built a 17-0 lead and the Falcons were 0-for-5 on third down before halftime and 3-for-12 on third and fourth down in the game.

The Patriots consistently had secondary busts and were cutting receivers loose left and right. Six straight quarterbacks of mixed abilities had thrown for more than 300 yards against them. Sunday night there were no obvious breakdowns and Matt Ryan, the defending league MVP, threw for 233.

The Patriots had some bouts of bad tackling and front-seven play. Sunday night, they allowed 120 rushing yards and 37 of those came on Ryan scrambles.

Is everything fixed always and forever? Hardly. But to put this kind of performance together without cornerbacks Eric Rowe and Stephon Gilmore and linebacker Elandon Roberts -- all players who were at or near the top of the depth chart -- was remarkable. Especially against a team with the physical talent and resume of 2016 success Atlanta has.

"I thought we executed our game plan perfectly tonight,” said safety Devin McCourty. "Our coaches have been on us about just make a team make a play to beat us. You know, Julio Jones catch in the end zone, [Mohamed] Sanu’s catch on the 1-yard line -- like, those are great catches. I thought we competed and made them earn every yard. When you go against good teams, that’s what you have to do. We made enough plays. We played really well on third down, which we talked about always helps us when we play well on third down. And then tonight happened to be where we had to play plays on fourth down, and I thought we handled that well. That’s always a little different. It was just, overall, everyone understanding game plan and play-in, play-out, 11 guys on the same page.”

Getting ahead, which has been a point of emphasis the Patriots haven’t been able to satisfy, was a big part of the success, said Belichick.

"We played this game from ahead, that was a switch,” said Belichick. "We hadn’t done a ton of that this year, so that gives you an opportunity to run the ball more. We ran it in the fourth quarter which is another time where you can pile up some runs if you can make first downs. We weren’t able to do that against Tampa. We weren’t able to do it last week against the Jets. We did it tonight, so it was good to get those yards when they knew we were going to run and when we needed to run we got the yards.”

There will be times, too, when the opposition plays right into your hands. Atlanta was hell-bent on getting its mojo back. It wanted to attack. The first time the Falcons rolled the dice on fourth down in the first quarter they lucked out and got nine yards on a fourth-and-seven scramble by Ryan. That drive ended with a blocked field goal.

Near the two-minute warning, set up at the Patriots 48 and trailing 10-0, the Falcons tried it again on fourth-and-six. They threw a low-percentage downfield ball to Mohamed Sanu that missed, and the Patriots took possession and cruised in to make it 17-0. It was a stupid, chest-puffing exercise in bad situational football and it backfired. So, too, was the decision to try a jet sweep on fourth down from the New England 1.

Now the Falcons have that to dwell on. Along with the blown 17-point lead last week against Miami. And the blown 25-point lead in the Super Bowl. The Falcons came into Foxboro and dug themselves deeper.

And the Patriots’ annual climb began.

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