Bruins

It should never get old

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It should never get old

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

On Sunday afternoon, during the third quarter of the Pats games, I flicked over to the Red Zone channel knowing that there was a good chance I wouldnt be back for a while.

At this point the outcome of the game was no longer in question, and really, hadnt been since the first quarter. The Pats were beating up on a team that just had no business sharing the field with them. They were methodically confusing the Bills offense and bulldozing their defense; they were making solid, unexciting work of an inferior opponent. What else were they supposed to do, right? It was Week 16 and they still needed a win to secure home-field advantage. It wasn't time to mess around. So slowly but surely, they strangled the life out of the Bills.

In past years, we'd be forced sit through this kind of merciless beatdown and when I say that, I'm not suggesting that watching the Pats win isn't a ton of fun. It's just that by the second half in Buffalo, it wasn't about the Pats winning; they had already won. They were literally just bleeding the clock.

Meanwhile, a few hundred channels down the digital dial, the rest of the NFL playoff picture was unfolding in real time. I couldn't resist. There was too much great football going on. So, a possession after Rob Gronkowski's touchdown made the score 34-3, I said goodbye to the boring Bills, and hello to Red Zone mayhem.

Ah, there you are Scott Hanson! Been a week already? So, what do you have for us today?

Rams vs. 49ers:

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Of all the dynasties throughout NFL history, the 1980s 49ers are the group who I've always considered to be most similar to the Patriots.

Not identical, of course. But if you had to make the comparison, the Niners probably deserve the nod. Part of that might be due to the lack of other options. After all, the Patriots weren't nearly as mean as those Steelers of the '70s. They didnt have the drama of the '90s Cowboys. And they had a much stronger identity than Joe Gibbs' Redskins. But regardless of that, theres still an undeniable connection with San Francisco.

For one, the BelichickWalsh comparison is interesting. Even though they worked on opposite sides of the ball, they were both evolutionary thinkers, who ultimately changed the way the game was played. They're not your stereotypical, loud, enigmatic coaches. They wereare, for the most part, silent and cerebral. Both built their teams for the long-term success, and never jeopardized the big picture for temporary satisfaction.

Other than the coaches, the BradyMontana comparison is irresistible. Brady is Montana. He grew up watching Joe win Super Bowls. He's carried so much of Montana with him, and its still evident in his game.

Those two pairs, BelichickBrady and WalshMontana, make it work.

The more detailed you get, there are obviously further differences between the two franchises at their peaks. Among them, there's that the Niners won four titles in their decade, while the Pats only won three. The Niners were also a somewhat smoother team; an offensive juggernaut playing up in Northern California, while the Pats were a grittier crew that liked to beat people up in the snow. Most importantly, there's that San Francisco eventually extended its dynasty well into the next decade.

When it was all said and done, starting with their first title in 1981, the 49ers won five Super Bowls in 13 years with two different head coaches and two starting quarterbacks. And even without the Super Bowls, they still competed every year. After that first title, San Francisco made the playoffs in 17 of the next 21 seasons. At one point, they had 16 straight seasons of 10 or more wins. It ended in 1999, when Steve Young suffered his career-ending concussion, but the Niners were back in 2001 and 2002. They were contending again and you wondered if this run would ever end.

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Which brings us back to the Red Zone my distraction from a boring Pats game where the Rams are hosting the San Francisco 49ers.

And this isn't just any 49ers team. This is a 5-9 (now 5-10) team that has become the joke of the most laughable division in the NFL. A team that's eight years removed from its last winning season, and hasn't been to the playoffs since that 2002 campaign. A team which, over that time, has gone a combined 45-82, started 10 different quarterbacks and is now on the prowl for its fifth different head coach. It's a team in disarray.

They were the best. They were the Pats. How far away do those five Super Bowls feel now? And how about those 18 playoffs appearances in 22 years? Is this even the same franchise? With the same, history, hardware and legions of devoted fans and little kids like Tom Brady who grow up dreaming of putting on the uniform?

It is, it just doesnt feel even close. Everythings changed.

Sooner or later, it always does.

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I actually ended up going back and forth between the Red Zone and the Pats game for most of the third quarter, and a little bit of the fourth as well. But down the stretch I got caught up in the Jets, and Jaguars and, yes, even the 49ersRams game, and completely turned my back on Buffalo.

"Pshh, all theyre doing is clinching the AFC East for eighth time in 10 seasons, not to mention home-field advantage throughout the playoffs . . . I need to see which awful team wins the NFC West!"

So I sat, and I watched, and I'm not going to lie: It was a pretty entertaining 30 minutes of football. I didn't feel guilty at all.

But still, when the early games ended I clicked back for the Pats press conferences. I didn't want to miss any of Belichicks fancy zingers.

Anyway, during Tom Bradys presser, someone asked him about all the division titles; what it meant to do it for the eighth time in 10 years:

"It never gets old," he said. "I'll tell you that. We never get tired of winning. Thats what we have been preparing for all offseason and training camp."

He wasnt just saying this, either. This wasn't a tray of crap he was serving up for the microphones. This was genuine emotion. I mean, you'd think that after seven division titles, the eighth wouldnt have much of an effect.

"Oh nice, another division title! Hey, will you do me a favor and just throw it over there with the other ones?"

But that wasnt Tom Brady. Obviously, he knew that the Pats still had an unbelievable amount of work to do, but for him, winning the AFC East meant as much as it did in 2001. To Brady, nothing about that Bills game was uneventful or monotonous. It was all about taking care of business, enjoying every moment of success, taking pride in every worthy accomplishment, but never being satisfied.

It was around this time that I realized my missteps from earlier in the day; when I realized something that Tom Brady clearly already had:

That we better enjoy and appreciate every second of this now, because at some point whether it's 5, 10 or 22 years from now it will come to an end.

Brady should know, too. Just look at his Niners.

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on CSNNE.com. Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

Pastrnak on B's loss: "We kind of stopped playing"

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Pastrnak on B's loss: "We kind of stopped playing"

BOSTON – At the end of the day, it was simply a game where the Bruins allowed themselves to get outworked in the third period and overtime. 

The B’s held a three-goal lead in the second period and still enjoyed a two-goal lead in the third period, but eventually dropped a frustrating, futile 5-4 overtime loss to the Buffalo Sabres at TD Garden on Saturday night. It was clear to most speaking after the game that the Bruins eased up on the gas pedal once they’d scored their fourth goal of the game in the second period, and simply watched as the Sabres stomped all over them in the game’s second half. 

“I think we might have been a little bit too scared to play [in the third period], you know? We tried to just flip the pucks away, and didn’t make any plays trying to get it in the zone. Instead we should have just kept going like we did in the first two periods,” said David Pastrnak, who scored a pair of goals early in the loss to allow the Bruins to build up the three-goal lead. “Obviously we’re disappointed. We got one point. I think we didn’t play our game in the third period. We kind of stopped playing and they were all over us, and you know, it’s on us. We were the ones that gave them their point, but the first two periods were good. It’s just another learning session.”

To Pastrnak’s point, the Bruins were outshot by a 15-6 margin in the final 20 minutes of regulation and 21-6 overall in the third period and overtime prior to Ryan O’Reilly’s game-winner during 3-on-3 play. It was at this point the Bruins certainly missed stalwart stay-at-home defensemen Adam McQuaid and Kevan Miller in the D-zone, and fell short of qualified penalty killers while trying to burn off a Brandon Carlo interference call at the end of the third period. 

All of that caught up to them once the Bruins loosened their grip on the Sabres, but certainly the feeling is that the loss should’ve been avoidable even if some of the circumstances made it difficult for the Black and Gold. It also should have been avoidable against a Sabres hockey club that was dreadful last season, and is again one of the doormats in the Atlantic Division in the early going thus far. 

“Those are the games you can’t lose. We obviously didn’t do the job there in the third and close it out, but we’re going to have to regroup and work on our game and be better for the next one,” said Brad Marchand. “We didn’t play the game we needed to play. We relaxed a bit and we started losing a few battles in the wrong areas, and you know, they just played better than we did.”

It’s mystifying that any team would need a crash-and-born loss like Saturday night in order to learn any lessons moving forward, and it certainly might have been a different story for the Bruins if they weren’t missing a few big defensive pieces. But that’s not how it went down for the Black and Gold as they sagged under rising pressure from the Sabres, and simply stopped working when the chips were on the table late in Saturday night’s game. 

Astros beat Yankees in Game 7 to advance to World Series, 4-0

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Astros beat Yankees in Game 7 to advance to World Series, 4-0

HOUSTON - Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers combined on a three-hitter, Jose Altuve and Evan Gattis homered and the Houston Astros reached the World Series, blanking the New York Yankees 4-0 Saturday night in Game 7 of the AL Championship Series.

Just four years removed from their third straight 100-loss season in 2013, the Astros shut down the Yankees for two straight games after dropping three in a row in the Bronx.

Next up for the Astros: Game 1 of the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night. Houston aces Dallas Keuchel and ALCS MVP Justin Verlander will have plenty of rest, too, before the matchup begins at Dodger Stadium.

Houston has never won even a single World Series game. The only previous time the Astros made it this far, they were a National League team when they were swept by the Chicago White Sox in 2005.

Now, manager A.J. Hinch's club has a chance to win that elusive first title, while trying to boost a region still recovering from Hurricane Harvey.

Houston improved to 6-0 at Minute Maid Park in these playoffs and became the fifth team in major league history to win a seven-game postseason series by winning all four of its home games.

Morton bounced back from a loss in Game 3 to allow two hits over five scoreless innings. Starter-turned-postseason reliever McCullers limited the Yankees to just one hit while fanning six over the next four.

Combined, they throttled the Yankees one last time in Houston. Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and their New York teammates totaled just three runs in the four road games.

CC Sabathia entered the game 10-0 with a 1.69 ERA in 13 starts this season after a Yankees loss. But he struggled with command and was gone with one out in the fourth inning.

Houston was up 2-0 in fifth when former Yankees star Brian McCann came through for the second straight game by hitting a two-run double after snapping an 0-for-20 skid with an ground-rule RBI double to give Houston its first run on Friday night.

The Yankees, trying to reach the World Series for the first time since 2009, lost an elimination game for the first time this season after winning their first four in these playoffs. New York struggled on the road this postseason, with this loss dropping the team to 1-6.