2018 AFC playoffs

Bruins show why power play is a game-changer for them

Bruins show why power play is a game-changer for them

BOSTON – The Bruins power play was on fire in the final six weeks of the regular season and that is one thing that has completely carried over into the playoffs. 

Buoyed by the trade acquisitions of Rick Nash and Nick Holden and the signing of Ryan Donato from Harvard, along with the talented crew they started with, the Bruins scored on 24 of 69 power plays (35 percent) in March and April while pounding teams with their electric special teams play.

Couple that with the three-power play goals in their 5-1 win over the Maple Leafs in Game 1 on Thursday night, and the Bruins are holding a distinct special-teams advantage over just about everybody they play. 

The wrinkle in Game 1 was that Boston’s second PP unit, led by David Krejci, Charlie McAvoy and David Backes, actually kicked in two of the three power-play goals, but both units kicked in a goal in the first two periods to give the Bruins a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. On the other end, the Bruins penalty kill survived two Toronto power plays in the second period as special teams really proved to be the difference.

“Ultimately [special teams] was the difference. Clearly, in the first half of the game, you don’t know how it’s going to play out at the end. They took a major [in the third], so that obviously forces you on the kill and expend a lot of energy defending as opposed to scoring,” said Bruce Cassidy. “When you’re behind, that’s a problem. But, early in the game, I thought our kill was good. We got some breaks around the net. Looked like there were some pucks there that could have went either way. I know Adam McQuaid saved one and a couple of good sticks there, and Tuukka [Rask] some big saves.

“So, we got through it. Then our power play, we had a good entry and Marchy made a good play [on the first goal]. We had a lot of speed on the entry and that’s what you need against this kill. Then Krech [David Krejci] made a good low play and we finished around the net. That can be a little bit of a difference; we finished one, they didn’t. So it goes the other way, you don’t know how the end is going to be. From there I thought we were a good team, played the right way, and we were able to bring it home.”

That was one of the great things about each of the power play strikes; they were all different flavors. The first was a high-speed Torey Krug rush where he feathered a pass through Leafs defenders to Marchand for the top shelf, backhanded finish, and then in the second period, it was Backes mucking it up in front to smash home a Krejci centering pass for the ultimate game-winning goal.

Finally, in the third with Nazem Kadri done for the night after charging Tommy Wingels in a dangerous, dirty play, Krejci banked one off Frederik Andersen from a bad angle to put the game out of reach while making Toronto pay for their insolence.

It may be difficult for the Leafs coaching staff to break down what needs to be fixed on the PK when the B’s power-play goals were coming in all shapes and sizes.

“The power play was huge for us. The first goal in the first game is always the hardest. We were able to get one in the PP and it was huge for us,” said David Pastrnak. “Great play by Torey [Krug] and Marchy [Brad Marchand]. It was huge. Overall, special teams was good for us tonight. And that played a big part in us winning the game.”

The power play has played a big part in Boston winning games all season and it would appear that is going to be the same song, different verse for the Black and Gold now that the Stanley Cup playoffs are underway.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Of course, Brady posts a playoff hype video

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Of course, Brady posts a playoff hype video

It wouldn't be the playoffs with a Tom Brady hype video.

Here's the Patriots quarterback's Facebook post to get fans, and himself, ready for New England's playoff opener, tonight against the Tennessee Titans at Gillette Stadium. 

It'll be an NFL-record 35th playoff game for TB12 as he begins a 15th postseason that he's hoping will be three games long and ends in a sixth championship. 

PSA

Posted by Tom Brady on Saturday, January 13, 2018

 

Patriots down to Lewis, White at RB with Burkhead expected to be out

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Patriots down to Lewis, White at RB with Burkhead expected to be out

FOXBORO -- Rex Burkhead insisted he'd heard some "good news" about his knee injury recently that had him amped up for the postseason. The news disseminated to the general public on Saturday morning wasn't quite as positive. 

According to ESPN, Burkhead is not expected to be able to play in the Divisional Round matchup between the Patriots and Titans as he continues to deal with an injury he suffered in Week 15 against the Steelers. Burkhead practiced last week but was limited in all three sessions. He's listed as questionable. 

Burkhead met with reporters earlier this week, which was taken as a sign he was progressing and could have a shot to play. 

"I'm just excited . . . After the injury, you never know what is going to happen so that's always in the back of your head," he said at the time. "But when you get good news, it helps you to look forward to these games a little better."

Without Burkhead, the Patriots will rely on Dion Lewis and James White out of the backfield Saturday night. That should be enough in terms of pass-catching prowess for Josh McDaniels and Tom Brady to take care of Tennessee's abysmal work in coverage against receiving backs. They are allowing a league-high 58.3 yards per game on 8.7 targets. 

White has not seen game action since suffering an ankle injury in the regular-season matchup with the Steelers, but the plan all week has been for him to be in uniform. He's listed as questionable but will be a go. 

Mike Gillislee, who has not played since Week 16 with a knee injury of his own, is not expected to play. He practiced just once this week and was limited. He's also listed as questionable.