Patriots

Haggerty: Bruins need to start putting up a fight

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Haggerty: Bruins need to start putting up a fight

BUFFALO The Bruins remain Boston's best hope for another pro sports championship in this calendar year, but not if the players arent diligent enough at keeping the competitive fires burning.

Those fires appeared to be extinguished in Wednesday's 6-0 embarrassment at the hands of the also-ran Sabres at the First Niagara Center.

Their disappointment in Wednesday's effort (or lack thereof) was evident when one player let loose with an extremely loud F-bomb from the shower area while Milan Lucic quietly answered a series of somber questions during postgame. It seemed to accurately depict the team's mindset while continuing to stumble their way through games at a .500 clipsince losing an emotional decision to the Vancouver Canucks in their electric rematch in early January.But Shawn Thornton thinks talk, even of the purple variety, is cheap.

You have to battle through it and there wasnt enough of that tonight, said Thornton, who held his second highly critical postgame press conference within the last two weeks. "Everybody could have been better.

I dont know what to say except it wasnt good enough. Regardless of when goals when or werent scored, we werent close to good in the last 40 minutes.If the Bruins have been stupor for the better part of six weeks that's seen them go a truly mediocre4-5-1 in their last nine games, then Wednesday night'spatheticdefeat - the worst in four years dating back to a thrashing at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs - should act as the rock-bottom wake-up call. The Thursday aftermath to the Buffalo debacleshould be akin to walking up after a benderto seethe car parked across the front lawn. It's a warning sign of a hockey team spinning out of control that might just need strong outsidemeasures to right itself if theplayers and coaches can't find answers within the room.

It went from good to bad to worse. Thats basically what happened to us tonight, said coach Claude Julien, whose team suffered its worst loss of the season (and who himself suffered the worst loss of his Boston coaching tenure since an 8-2 drubbing at the hands of the Maple Leafs on March 11, 2008, his first year here). Guys just started getting away from the game plan and it just got worse.

"These kinds of things youre not used to seeing from our hockey club, and it kind of does open your eyes to what happens when you do lose your focus. Maybe we can use this as a really good wakeup call and hopefully we can play better.

The warning signs were everywhere Wednesday night:

Zdeno Chara finished with a minus-3 rating in his worst game of the season, and made mental errors, physical mistakes and failures in judgment while getting sucked into Patrick Kaleta's world of hockey punkdom.

David Krejci looked disinterested, uninspired and completely lacking in urgency, desire and work ethic. He played indifferent defense, was on the ice for a pair of Buffalo goals, and lost 8 of 10 faceoffs. For a guy who vehemently vowed to remain professional no matter what line he was skating on, Krejci appeared unwilling to make a difference against Buffalo. His play all season as a minus defensive player and the great lengths to motivate him are warning signs with the Czech Republic center.

Tuukka Rask was every bit as bad as the skaters in front of him. Sure, the first two goals scored against him in the first period were the results of, respectively, a friendly-fire tipped puck from Gregory Campbell and a defensive breakdown led by Johnny Boychuk. But Rask was having trouble tracking pucks all evening and gave up a bevy of bad rebounds around his net. Julien had seen enough when Rask coughed up another goal on a Tyler Ennis backhander, and replaced him with Tim Thomas. Rask has lost four games in a row in his worst stretch of the season, and couldnt hold things together when the Bruins truly needed him.

And in perhaps the biggest red flag of all, the Bruins seemed to fold their tents at the first sign of adversity. They were the victims of a screwball call by referee Rob Martell, who waved off a Lucic goal that would have tied the score at 1-1 because of what he ruled was goaltender interference by Rich Peverley. Replays showed that Peverley made no significant contact with Sabres goalie Ryan Miller, who was far outside the crease. But instead of continuing to fight, they offered little resistance the rest of the way.

That bothered Thornton.

You cant just shut her down because something doesnt go our way, he said.

Only a handful of Bruins gave anything resembling satisfactory performances, and just Thornton went above and beyond with a pair of fights. The second occured with the game already decided but was the mark of a true NHL enforcer: He defended Benoit Pouliot after Mike Weber attempted to make a run at him in front of the Boston bench.

It was one of those games, said Lucic, who had a sure goal wiped away by the bogus goalie interference call on Peverley. Were not a team that will make excuses or whine about stuff. Its definitely been a while since we had a loss like this.

"Maybe its for the best and maybe its a wakeup call. It shows we need to be much better and we cant take anybody lightly, no matter who they are.

But they've talked like that before; in fact, they were saying the same things Wednesday morning before the game. The Bruins are at one of those turning point times in the season when they'll decide whether they're again championship-worthy, or simply reveal that the flaws are too great to overcome this around with essentially the same case of characters.

Talking the talk is one thing. The question now, after getting humiliated by the NHL's biggest group of underachievers: Can they start walking the walk againbefore more drastic measure need to be taken?

Vikings hold off Lions 30-23 to extend win streak to 7

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Vikings hold off Lions 30-23 to extend win streak to 7

DETROIT = Case Keenum threw for two touchdowns and ran for a score in the first half to give the Minnesota Vikings a double-digit lead and they went on to win a seventh straight game, 30-23 over the Lions in the traditional Thanksgiving Day game in Detroit. Click here to read more. 

Pats can find reasons for thanks everywhere

Pats can find reasons for thanks everywhere

The Patriots hit Thanksgiving with an 8-2 record, a stranglehold on first place in the AFC East, and a rest-of-the-season schedule -- save for the much-anticipated meeting with the Steelers on Dec. 17 -- almost bereft of quality opponents. So they have a lot to be thankful for.

But here are some things you may not be aware of . . . 

SURGICAL-GRADE DIPPED LATEX TUBING

Whoever came up with the stuff Tom Brady's resistance bands are made out of -- it's actually "surgical-grade dipped latex tubing sheathed in ballistic nylon," according to the TB12 website -- probably deserves a tip of the cap from the entire region. The 40-year-old uses the bands extensively as part of his training regimen, and he currently leads the league in passing yards, yards per attempt, quarterback rating, rating under pressure and touchdown-to-interception ratio. 

SUSAN SCARNECCHIA

Offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia was retired just a couple of years ago. He traveled. He spent time with his grandchildren. Then the Patriots called. After some time to think about it -- and after talking it over with his wife Susan -- Scarnecchia opted to come back after two years away from the game. At 69 years old, he's helped this year's unit overcome some early-season struggles, and he still seems to be on top of his game. Think the Patriots are happy he had his wife's blessing to jump back in? 

ELECTRONIC TABLETS

You weren't expecting this, were you? Bill Belichick has said he's not a fan . . . but that's on game days. "I’m done with the tablets," he said last year. "I’ve given them as much time as I can give them. They’re just too undependable for me." But when it comes to players using tablets on their own time? They're incredibly useful. Whereas years ago players would have to come into the facility early or stay late in order to watch extra film, now they can study from the comfort of their own homes, on a team flight, or while riding in a car (as long as they aren't driving). For teams that have players who want to be over-prepared, having access to all-22 video at any time can be an advantage. 

DR. ROBERT WATKINS

Who's this, you ask? He's the Los Angeles-based back specialist who operated on Rob Gronkowski's back last year. He operated on the big tight end in 2009 and 2013, and his latest procedure seems to be holding up as well as possible. Gronkowski quickly regained his strength and athleticism, and he continues to be his team's most dynamic offensive weapon. He has 41 catches for 619 yards and five scores this season, and he's been used extensively as a blocker in the running game and in pass protection. Gronkowski deserves credit -- as does the Patriots medical, training and nutrition staffs -- for being so effective in his return to the field, but the Patriots are probably thankful that last year's back surgery went as well as it did.  

FLOWERS CONSTRUCTION COMPANY

Trey Flowers has been arguably his team's most dependable defender this season. According to Pro Football Focus, he's been on the field for 606 snaps, which is fourth among edge defenders. His 338 pass-rush snaps are second among 4-3 defensive ends, per PFF. He's played through injury at times, and he's remained productive. Against the Raiders he had three quarterback hits and three hurries. So why would the Patriots be thankful for Flowers Construction Co.? That's the Huntsville, Alabama company run by Flowers' father, Robert, who put Trey to work when he was growing up. The work ethic he learned on-site has helped him go from a fourth-round pick who lost most of his rookie season to injury into a playing-time iron man and one of the team's most reliable defenders.

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