Patriots

Pouliot finally showing some consistency

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Pouliot finally showing some consistency

Benoit Pouliot had quite the reputation preceding him when he arrived in Boston this summer.

He had worn the Blue, Blanc and Rouge of the Montreal Canadiens for the two years prior, and hed nearly taken Johnny Boychuks head off with a flying elbow during last years first round of the playoffs. He even had the hometown TV broadcasters call him one of the biggest busts in NHL history in a fit of pique, but Pouliot never truly struck back or let people see him sweat.

Instead Pouliot went about his business while attempting to build up a strong reputation with the Black and Gold, and hes still standing heading into the playoffs. Pouliot finished the regular season one shy of his career high in goals (16), and he set a new career-high with 32 points.

Theres been a lot of positive stuff. There have been some ups and downs, but a lot more ups. I feel like my confidence is pretty good right now, said the 25-year-old Pouliot, who finished with two goals in his last three games to close out the season. For me it was about learning what was going on down here. The winning streak helped me feel comfortable early on in the season, and allowing me to stay put on the third line has let me get a good feeling with the guys that Im playing with.

It wasnt the most consistent season as Pouliot rode some extreme highs and lows with some very timely, game-winning goals mixed in, but Claude Julien said that the lanky forward finally achieved some consistency over the final five weeks of the season. His forward pairing with Brian Rolston and Chris Kelly has turned the Bs third line into a dangerous combination that give the Bruins three legitimate threats among their forward lines headed into the playoffs.

Hes got 16 goals, right? I think we kind of anticipated thats what he was going to be giving us between that and 20. There were some ups-and-downs in his season, but typically I find that in the last while, hes been the player we were expecting him to be, said Claude Julien. Theres a better stability in his game and theres a consistency that goes with it. Hes played well, that lines played well and you know, so its been refreshing to see that.

We knew the one thing that he wanted to work on was consistency. He is capable of playing well, and theres some spurts where he wasnt as efficient as we knew he could be. But that part of his game has improved. I think hes matured in that area and we got a lot out of him.

So much so that perhaps Pouliot will be returning to the Bruins fold next season as he enters restricted free agency following the season. But that will be up to Pouliot if he can show his consistency and his penchant for creating highlight reel goals once the postseason begins on Thursday night.

Five quick thoughts: Patriots put it all together against Falcons

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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.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE