Bruins

Haggerty's Bruins-Senators preview

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Haggerty's Bruins-Senators preview

Tonight the Bruins have some new parts to add to what they hope will be a Stanley Cup-winning machine, but the focus remains the same: Beat down your closest opponent. The Senators stand only three points behind Boston in the Northeast Division race, though the Bruins also have four games in hand against trailing Ottawa.

That shouldnt matter to a Bruins team that still hasnt won back-to-back games since the middle of January. Rather than getting caught in Joe Corvo seeking retribution, or in making things easy for the newcomers, the Bruins need to concern themselves with getting results.

Our guys do a pretty job of doing research on the players, their character and everything else around them, said Julien. The chemistry of a team always revolves around the guys in the dressing room, and the guys in the dressing room are good people. You can ask guys like Benoit Pouliot and Joe Corvo that have just come in. Those are guys in their first year and theyd tell you that its amazing how well theyve been treated.

Thats what makes us a good team. They bring everybody else right into the fold. If they dont fit in then they wont be around.

PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRED PUMPED: Theres little question Joe Corvo annoyed the Bs coaching staff by verbally challenging Kyle Turris a day before the big rematch against the Ottawa Senators. The Bs veteran can still salvage a very mediocre season if he can finish with a strong 22 games to end the regular season and that starts tonight in a game he should be highly motivated to play in. It should be interesting to see if he goes after Turris after backing off of his comments from Monday. It's worth noting that his playing time could be in serious jeopardy after the B's acquired two defensemen at the trade deadline.

DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: Ive always said that Id take a puck to the teeth for a chance to play for the Boston Bruins. Now Ill be getting that chance. newly acquired defenseman Mike Mottau, who grew up as a Bruins fan in nearby Avon, Mass.

KEY MATCHUP: The Bruins forwards vs. Ottawa rookie netminder Robin Lehner. The Bs forwards did the job against a shaky Alex Auld on Saturday night, and now theyll have to deal with a promising young goaltender in Lehner looking to step in for Craig Anderson. Lehner is big between the pipes and has plenty of big game experience below the NHL level, but the Bruins still have a chance to rattle the rookies cage a little bit if they can get traffic around the net. Traffic, rebounds and general havoc around the crease were big keys to Saturdays win.

STAT TO WATCH: 1 That's the number of two-day breaks the Bruins have for the rest of the season as theyll be playing 22 games in 40 days for a regular season gauntlet to the finish.

INJURIES: Johnny Boychuk (mild concussion), Rich Peverley (right knee sprain) and Nathan Horton (mild concussion) are out for the Bruins, but Shawn Thornton makes his return after battling a nasty flu that knocked him out for Saturdays game. For Ottawa, goaltender Craig Anderson remains out after cutting his hand with a kitchen knife, and both Peter Regin (shoulder) and Jesse Winchester (concussion) have missed significant time with injuries.

GOALTENDING MATCH-UP: Tim Thomas is expected to get the start against the Ottawa Senators with sterling numbers against them over his career. He is 13-1-0 against Northeast Division opponents this season with 12 straight wins. Robin Lehner made 28 saves in a Sunday victory over the New York Islanders and is at the beginning of his second promotion to the NHL this season. With Anderson injured and Auld struggling, the promising Lehner appears to their only hope between the pipes right now.

Heinen beginning to look like a keeper for Bruins

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Heinen beginning to look like a keeper for Bruins

BRIGHTON, Mass – While it’s still early in the careers of all the young Bruins rookies making their way this season, it sure looks like 22-year-old Danton Heinen is among the B’s youngsters that are here to stay. The former University of Denver standout didn’t make the cut at the end of training camp this season and he failed early last year when it was clear he wasn’t ready during an eight-game audition with the big club.

But Heinen continued to look ready while scoring a pair of goals and three points in the three games on a pivotal road trip through California last week, and is now tied for fifth on the Bruins in points despite missing four games in the AHL. In all, Heinen has four goals and 10 points along with a plus-4 rating in 15 games this season, and is on pace for a really strong 21 goals and 52 points in his first full year.

This has been a really nice step forward for Heinen after being a point-per-game player for Providence during their playoff run last spring.

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“Last year’s playoff did a lot for him. When I saw him playing there, he was a different player than when he’d left [Boston],” said Bruce Cassidy. “There was a willingness to stay in the battle and his growth when it comes to winning pucks…you’ve seen it here. A lot of the things he’s down well are his second and third efforts on the puck where last year I thought he was pushed off the puck pretty easily [at the NHL level].”

There could be a period when his offense slows down or some other part of his game drags his minutes down, but right now he looks like he’s well on his way to establishing himself in a key role with the Black and Gold. The difference has been Heinen increasing his speed and also adding a little more tenacity to the skill and offense package that he was always bringing to the table.  

“I don’t want to say that because when we get our guys healthy then we’ll see where we’re at,” said Bruce Cassidy, when asked if Heinen was a keeper at the NHL level at this point. “But I think he’s certainly shown he’s a much more consistent player than he was last year. He’s probably a bit ahead of the other younger guys because he has gone through a bit of it [at the pro level]. The fact that he’s been able to play in a lot of different situations, play left or right wing, and moved up in the lineup while being very effective with [Sean] Kuraly and [Tim] Schaller down in the lineup, as a coach it’s to have a guy like that who can move around and fit in a lot of different places.

“So he’s certainly helped himself [to stay in the NHL]. I think it’s too early to say if he’s here for good, but I don’t envision him leaving [Boston] anytime soon with the way that he’s played.”

Only time and consistently good play will allow the playmaking Heinen to truly lock up his spot on the NHL roster, but it’s increasingly difficult to envision any scenario where the fifth-round pick isn’t playing an increasingly important role for the Bruins. 

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Speed to burn: Cooks, Brady team up to form most productive deep-ball combo

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Speed to burn: Cooks, Brady team up to form most productive deep-ball combo

The first came in the second quarter, when Brandin Cooks turned on afterburners to beat a Raiders double team and glide underneath a Tom Brady heave for 52 yards. The second came in the third quarter, on the third play from scrimmage of the second half, when Cooks faked an out-route, jetted past rookie corner Obi Melifonwu, and sped into the end zone to make the score 24-0. 

Both deep completions in New England's 33-8 win over Oakland just added to cumulative effect that Cooks has had on the Patriots offense since arriving before the season to become their top deep threat. 

Paired with Brady, Cooks has actually become the most productive deep threat in the NFL. 

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According to Pro Football Focus, Cooks leads all receivers with 431 yards on deep passes (throws that travel 20 yards or more down the field). In second place is Houston's DeAndre Hopkins with 313 yards. 

And Brady, who has long been more effective in the short-to-intermediate range than he has been deep, is now among the league leaders in creating explosive plays from the quarterback position. The Patriots are third in the NFL with 41 pass plays of 20 yards or more, and they are tied for second with nine plays of 40 yards or more. 

"You're always trying to work on that," Brady told WEEI's Kirk and Callahan Show of his team's deep passing game. "It's not one particular year [you work on it]. I think that's been a concerted effort by our entire offense, trying to make more explosive plays in the pass game. 

"Sometimes your offense is built differently. We actually have some guys now that can really get down the field so that becomes more of a point of emphasis. The way Brandin runs, the way that Chris Hogan runs, the way that Phillip Dorsett runs, they're very fast. You need to be able to take advantage of their skill set . . . 

"When we had David Patten we were throwing it deep. I mean, but David Patten didn't run a lot of short routes. I would say Brandin Cooks, in general, he doesn't run a lot of short routes. Everyone has a different role. If we can get by you, I think that's a good place to throw the ball. if we can't, we gotta figure out ways to throw it underneath and different weeks are going to call for different things based on the strengths of the defenses we're playing, too."

A week before beating the Raiders, against the Broncos and their talented corners, the Patriots had less luck pushing the ball down the field -- though they tried to hit Cooks deep multiple times. In Mexico City, Cooks matched up with a weaker secondary, and he wasn't at all slowed by the altitude, catching six passes in all for 149 yards and a score. 

Per PFF, Cooks has seen almost one third of his targets (30 percent) come on deep passes, which is the ninth-highest rate in the league. He's caught all 11 of his catchable deep passes, three of them accounting for scores.

"Obviously when you're throwing the ball 50-60 yards down the field," Brady said, "your chances of completion go down, but if you hit it, it ends up being a very explosive plays and you can change a lot of field position and get a defense really on their heels if they have to defend every blade of grass on the field." 

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