Patriots

MacKinnon makes presence felt for P-Bruins

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MacKinnon makes presence felt for P-Bruins

PROVIDENCE, RI Kyle MacKinnon doesnt do much that will jump out at you on the ice.

Hes got good skating speed and a shot thats true when given the opportunity, but his skills arent flashy or dazzling. At 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds MacKinnon isnt going to stand out for his size or strength, which are both just about "average" for a professional hockey player.

While not having a dominant skill or asset, MacKinnon is the kind of guy that does everything well and showcased that with the overtime game-winning goal in a 3-2 victory over the Adirondack Phantoms on Sunday afternoon at the Dunkin Donuts Center. The center gave the appropriate celebratory fist pump on one knee once the game was decided, and with good reason.  

I havent scored a game-winning goal like that in a whileprobably since junior hockey, said MacKinnon. So I was pretty excited.

The fourth-line Providence forward was able to finish off a sweet Matt Bartkowski pass from behind the net for the game-winner, and has earned the trust of the coaching staff to be on the ice four-on-four in the overtime session.

Were a little like the parent club in Boston where we rely on all 12 forwards and all four lines, said P-Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. Last year he had a quiet 14 goals for us as a rookie, which is pretty good in this league. He can kill penalties and if you need a guy to fill in on the power play he can make a play.

Hes very responsible and hes decent on draws. Theres a lot to like about him as a coach because hes really responsible. Were in so many close games that you need players like that.

The game-winner capped off a solid weekend for MacKinnon, who crammed all three of his goals this season into this past weekend. He snapped off a pair of strikes against the Manchester Monarchs on Friday night and tallied the overtime winner on Sunday, and has managed to make an impact with the limited ice time. Thats part of MacKinnons lot in life, and hes accepted that fully.

You have certain roles on the team: certain guys do certain things, said MacKinnon. I take a lot of pride in my defense. But whenever the coach calls on me to play penalty kill or puts me out there in crunch time situations, youve got to be ready. I was ready when my number was called and I was able to capitalize on it.

Perhaps it shouldnt be a surprise that MacKinnon is a nice fit with the P-Bruins after he put together a solid four-year career in Hockey East with the Providence College Friars. The Rhode Island capital city is like a second home to the California native after he put up 37 goals during his collegiate career, and he just keeps on getting better with the Bruins organization.

Things started slowly for the 25-year-old this season, but this weekends performance showed he can keep improving on the quiet 14 goal AHL season he put up last year as a rookie for the P-Bruins. MacKinnon is too old to be a prospect and was probably never flashy enough to qualify in the first place, but theres always a place in pro hockey for maximum effort guys that seem to get better all the time.

MacKinnon certainly qualifies as that, and the Providence Bruins wouldnt have enjoyed a perfect six-point weekend without him.

Five quick thoughts: Patriots put it all together against Falcons

Five quick thoughts: Patriots put it all together against Falcons

FOXBORO -- Here are some quick-hitting thoughts on the Patriots' 23-7 victory over the Falcons on Sunday night.

1) If the Patriots attacked this game believing that the best defense is a good offense . . . they were right. 

They controlled the ball for more than 18 minutes in the first half and ran for 92 yards on 18 carries (a 5.1 yards per attempt average) with four backs sharing the load. Rex Burkhead gave the team a spark with his speed and vision in his first game back since suffering a rib injury in Week 2. The success the Patriots had running the ball had the added benefit of opening up the play-action pass game and it helped protect Tom Brady. After taking two sacks in the first quarter and a monster hit (penalized for roughing the passer) from Adrian Clayborn in the second, Brady was fairly well-protected. 

PATRIOTS 23, FALCONS 3

2) Tom Brady lamented the fact that he hadn't been more accurate in the red zone of late, but he was better in that area to help the Patriots pad their early lead. 

The Patriots went 2-for-3 in the red zone through the first half, with Brady hitting on touchdown passes to Brandin Cooks (which looked more like an end-around hand-off) and James White. Brady still had moments of inaccuracy. The pass he lofted before being croaked by Clayborn was a bad one that was intercepted. (The pick was wiped after the penalty was enforced.) He threw behind Chris Hogan on multiple occasions. He also had an odd throw float well out of bounds that was intended for Rob Gronkowski. But for the most part he was on point, completing 21 of his first 29 throws for 241 yards. 

3) The Patriots defense showed up in critical moments time and time again in this one. 

They stopped the Falcons twice on fourth down, and they allowed Matt Ryan and his offense to convert on just two of their first nine third-down plays. The Falcons coaching staff deserves plenty of criticism for going for it when they did, but with a banged-up secondary, going against the reigning MVP and one of the best receivers in the league, the Patriots responded.

4) Bill Belichick's run defense was particularly impressive in the first half on Sunday night, helping keep the Falcons from getting anything going until it was too late. 

They allowed just 30 yards on nine attempts in the first two quarters (a 3.3 yards per attempt average), with Malcom Brown, Trey Flowers, Kyle Van Noy, Lawrence Guy and Deatrich Wise all making impressive stops at, near or behind the line of scrimmage. 

5) The Patriots suffered a handful of injuries to key players that will be worth keeping an eye on moving forward. 

Malcom Brown left the game in the second half with an ankle injury. Their top defensive tackle this season, Brown's absence may be one reason for why the Falcons were able to pump up their rushing yardage to triple digits by midway through the fourth quarter. Dont'a Hightower also left the game and was announced as questionable to return with a shoulder injury. Hightower has had a history of shoulder issues and so perhaps this is an older injury that was re-aggravated. Chris Hogan also left the game briefly and was evaluated for a concussion, according to NBC's television broadcast. He later returned.

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