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Two of the key cogs in this years Bruins teams: Tuukka Rask, and David Pastrnak. (Getty Images).

Despite what the standings may show before the Thanksgiving break, this years Bruins team is on the right track. As of Nov. 23 the B’s currently hold the second Wild Card spot with 22 points and have been playing inspired hockey as of late. Let me speak for the majority of Bruins fans here when I say that I’ve been pleasantly surprised thus far since I wasn’t expecting this team to be as competitive as they are at this point.

My biggest concern entering this season, along with almost everyone who’s followed the B’s the past couple years, was their dull defensive group. On paper, they are one of the worst units in the entire NHL but so far, they’ve managed to not completely sink the teams and fans postseason aspirations. Granted they have had their moments where they look like they’re fishing for swordfish in their own end, however it hasn’t been as bad as it could be. Obviously, the white knight in this case has been the expected-unexpected emergence of Brandon Carlo.

The 19 year-old from Colorado Springs has stepped right into the top pairing alongside Zdeno Chara and has done just about everything that has been asked of him at this point. His big 6’5″ frame knows how to maneuver around the ice and his impressive poise combined with his simple, no-nonsense style of play has absolutely been a welcome addition to the Bruins backend. I will say that he certainly does look his age on the ice at times as he gets thrown around quite a bit and sometimes looks overwhelmed in the D-zone but all that comes down to inexperience and that will improve the more he plays. Basically, I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say Carlo has been a huge reason this team has been as successful as they are in the early-goings of the year.

Behind Carlo and the other five defensemen on the ice stands a man that was on the verge of being run out of Boston this fall in Tuukka Rask. However, after amassing one of the best starts of his career this season recording an 11-3-0 record in 14 appearances, it would be foolish to overlook the contributions Rask has made to the B’s 11-8-0 overall record. To keep it simple, every game Rask hasn’t started the Bruins have lost, and those games were missing the same feel to it with Rask on the bench. Not only that, but for the most part, Rask has been an imposing presence in the crease making the majority of his saves look very easy. If Tuukka can keep this up he’s going to be in contention for the Vezina Trophy at the end of the season, alongside my favorite goalie in the league in Carey Price (sarcasm, of course) and could single-handily lead the B’s to the playoffs for the first time in three seasons.

The last player I’ve noticed more than any other through 19 games has been David Pastrnak. I’m glad to be saying this because I really enjoy what Pastrnak has brought to the table since he’s been on the roster and I think he’s the true goal scorer the Bruins have missed since trading Tyler Seguin. Leading the team with 10 goals, Pastrnak has looked much more confident in the offensive zone stringing together some nice plays with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. The one concern I have surrounding his game though is his health. Similar to Carlo, Pastrnak is a young kid still developing muscle and is more at risk to injury because he’s on the weaker side. It’s been an issue in the past and it has popped up already this season, so if anything will hold him back this year, it’ll be the injury bug. Other than that, it’s clear that his overall game is starting to show improvement as his back-checking alone has improved ten-fold, as well as his defensive game in general, and it’ll be critical once the big games roll around in February and March.

Like I said, while the B’s haven’t been tremendous so far, they also haven’t looked dreadful. This team really didn’t have much roster turnover and the new guys on the roster, with the exception of David Backes, are all young players still trying to fill a role so at least to me, it’s hard to be upset with the results we’ve gotten so far. As a team, they seem to be a lot more likeable than in years past and I feel like that comes from their tendency, at least until now, to not give up in games. Other than an embarrassing 5-0 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Oct. 25 and two 5-2 losses to the New York Rangers, every game they lost was a back-and-forth game that I felt they had a good chance to win.

Look at their most recent game against the St. Louis Blues, a couple bounces go their way and they more-likely-than-not walk away with a win against a predominantly top Western Conference team. A 3-2 loss at Montreal also comes to mind in this example as the B’s were the better team in this game, but just couldn’t muster a goal past Price. This could be the most important aspect to this years team because as we all know, part of the reason they’ve failed to make the playoffs was their inability to win big games down the stretch. If they are showing some heart now, I can’t imagine that’ll disappear once the games become even more important down the line.

When it all boils down to it in April, we’ll look back on this start and the towering play of Carlo, Rask’s extraordinary start, the superb play of Pastrnak, and the overall pride this year’s team possesses and be shocked. Hopefully it’ll be a positive shock because they didn’t get a higher seeding in the playoffs, and not a negative shock if they fail to make the postseason, again. Now that would be something I would not be thankful for.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I am thankful for……….

Bill Belichick – the greatest sports coach of all time – beyond debate now

Tom Brady – I think you would have to say one more Super Bowl and he passes Bill Russell as the greatest player in Boston history – who would imagine that we would ever have that conversation (1. Russell, 2. Brady, 3. Orr, 4. Bird 5. Williams 6. Bird 7. Pedro 8. Esposito 9. Marciano 10. Rodgers 11. Havlicek 12. Neely)

Gronk – Brings fun to the game and the greatest player that position has ever seen – now if he could only stay healthy

Mr. Kraft – Thanks for the team – they can show you every week for giving us this jewel of New England – team is as important as foliage

Terry Francona – I guy who does it old school when baseball was the greatest game

Theo – A person who thinks, creates a plan, acts on it, is patient and sees it come to fruition – hall of famer

Isiah Thomas – the way he gets his shot off in the paint against players more than a foot taller

Brad Stevens – for keeping his composure while I’m yelling at the TV

Tommy Heinsohn and Mike Gorman – The best local broadcasters in a town that used to be filled with them – they deserve a Tommy point

Dan Shaughnessy – for being the best sports writer in a town that used to be filled with them

Bruins – hmm, hmm, they were the team that used to have the most exciting team in town

Boston Marathon – Thanks to the BAA for giving us this harbinger of spring every year

Fenway Park – Hope it stands another 100 years (miss the Boston Garden)

The smell of Italian sausages outside the park

The guy who used to start the Lets Go Bruins chant – when they were relevant

Kevin McHale for his drop step and clothes line of Rambis

To Cam Neely for smashing Claude Lemieux’s head into the Globe sign

To all of you for reading the Top Ten

 

 

1.Patriots vs. 49ers:

 

MISC

 

·         Spend thousands and fly to San Fran and sit in the rain – not priceless

·         Right now I feel like 60% – 40% that Gostkowski is going to hit an extra point

·         Is an extra point to kickers like a closer in a non-close situation?

·         Might be time to upgrade at punter in the offseason

·         The last 2:06 of the 4th quarter took 13 minutes – not good for the league

·         Biggest upset of the day – Cy Jones catching a punt in the rain and not fumbling

 

BRADY

 

·         Moving in the pocket better than ever – without his feet they don’t win the game

·         Thing Brady has done over the year is make millionaires out of everyone around him – McDaniel is an average play caller that looks good with Brady checking at the line and moving in pocket / offensive linemen would be out of the league if Brady didn’t avoid sacks / Receivers have their best years with Brady – David Patten, David Givens, Deion Branch, Bennett, etc.

·         Six games 16 TD to 1 INT (full season pace of 43 TD to 3 INT)

·         Overthrew Edelman at least four times (Edelman targeted 17 times – 8 catches)

·         The TD pass to Malcom Mitchell defied geometry

 

OFFENSE

 

·         I’m back to hating McDaniel – play calling is so vanilla – five straight drives with nothing and you don’t want to try the hurry up

·         I’m bored when the Patriots hand off to Blount

·         The play calling at the end of the first half was disgraceful – thirty yards from field goal position and they running into the line

·         Don’t want to use tight ends?

·         Lewis is dynamic – good game to take some hits and get back out there

·         I think Malcom Mitchell can develop – love his downfield blocking on Blount’s 44 yard run and later on a Blount run

·         UGH! Solder takes away a TD on holding and then jumps early

·         Lewis and White coming out of the back field with Gronk and Bennett – add Hogan, Edelman, Mitchell and Amendola – can McDaniel drive this car?

 

DEFENSE

 

·         Does the defensive line stink or is it me?

·         At one point I saw the following linebackers – Van Noy (got him for a 6th round pick), McClellan (signed as a free agent) and Elandron Roberts (6th round) on the field

·         Chris Long more active – putting some pressure on QB

 

BELICHICK GARB / KRAFT SIGHTINGS

 

·         Huge day for Kraft – End of the first quarter and then CBS knowing they have a hot hand they go back to him again for a heat-check as he celebrated TD five seconds later at 14:55 and then later in the 4th QTR at 14:55 yet again – he can’t be stopped

·         Bill went rain coat with hood and then lost the hood late in the game

 

MISC

 

·         Has Kapernick given the $1mm donation yet – it’s like Paul Gaston’s $100mm suit against the Wall Street Journal for the Reggie Lewis article

·         Chip Kelly looks sad

·         Did Edelman throw his shoulder into the guy on the sideline and then realize he did it and check on him?

·         Patriots took a knee with the over at 51 and the score 30-17 – heard some booing

 

2. Around the NFL –

 

·         Cleveland QB – six QB’s 12 td to 12 INT

·         KC loss helps Pats

·         With 62.5% of the season over the Bengals are 1.5 games out of first with a 3-6-1 record

·         Vinatieri lost his field goal kick streak at 44

·         Is Prescott the MVP or second to Brady – the two of them combined 33 TD to 3 INT

 

3. Celtics / Bruins

 

·         Celtics 4-5 last 9 / Bruins 3-4 last 7

·         Marcus Smart, Green, Jerebko, Olynyk all shooting below 40% – terrible

·         No forward – that has played more than 5 games – averaging over 5 rebounds

·         Bruins season 22% over – Krug and Chara on a pace for 8 goals combined

·         Bruins goalies other than Rask 0-5

 

4. College Football

* I’m a Charlie Strong fan but he wasn’t a good value in Austin – 16 wins in three years / they paid in him close to $15mm in salary, paid Louisville a buyout of $4.5mm to get him and must pay him a $10mm severance – that’s $1.875, 000 a win (BC should make a run at him)

* Baylor Football before 60 minutes piece was introduced on their sex crimes 6-0 / after 0-4

* When was the last time you only saw just one SEC team in the top 12

* BC plays 66th ranked RPI team Wake Forest next week – if they win they are bowl eligible but I would guess they wouldn’t accept a bid seeing the other teams they beat are ranked – 68, 103, 127, 136, 226

* Undefeated Western Michigan can’t get a big bowl seeing they haven’t played one team inside the top 50.

* 1-1 on my picks this weekend – stayed hot with Navy though

 

5. Dick Radatz saved and won a combined 45 games in 1964 which represented 62% of the Red Sox 72 wins

6. Rajon Rondo had three playoff games with at least 19 assists / Bill Russell had seven playoff games with at least 38 rebounds / Sam Jones had two playoff games with at least 48 points

 

7 Old School – Tony Conigliaro got hit every 103 at bats with the Red Sox

 

8 Amazing Sad Stat – Rick Miller in 1978, stole 3 bases but gone thrown out 13 times

9 Just a Little Bit Outside – This quote from George Washington is still relevant – “The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the Veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation.”

 

10.  Randomocity

* Thanksgiving best holiday!

* An observation – I’m fine with protesting (not anarchy) but the cast of Hamilton calling out the Vice President elect, who was in the audience, to make sure he was inclusionary just months after they had a casting call for NON-WHITES only.

Connelly’s Top Ten: Posse!

November 18, 2016 at 9:49pm in Featured, Now!, Top Story

1. Patriots vs. 49ers:

· Belichick 230 wins vs. Bill Walsh 92 wins

· Gronk 69 touchdowns to Dwight Clark’s 48

· Brady 22 playoff wins to Montana 16 playoff wins

· QB’s on the active roster this week – their draft position: Gabbert – 10 / Kapernick – 36 | Garappollo 62 / Brady 199

2. Around the NFL:

If I’m a player in Mexico City I don’t – Continue reading Connelly’s Top Ten: Posse! »

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1. Patriots vs. Seattle:

MISC

· There was a bad feel to this game from the second drive on – disjointed – It was a frustrating game all night

· Tough to watch passive defense and unimaginative play calling

· I would bet that Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins were texting each other watching Russell Wilson do what he wants

· Cy Jones another fumble

· Patriots lucky they didn’t get a flag for coordinated celebration when Devlin joined Blount with the Minutemen

BRADY

· Was average Continue reading Connelly’s Top Ten: Edelman Lays Eggs (so did the coordinators) »

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1. Patriots vs. Seattle:

· Seattle has beaten one team with a winning record this year

· Games away from home last 15 games – record 7-7-1

· Jimmy Graham and Gronk have 125 TD’s between them

· Wilson 16 sacks

· Richard Sherman hasn’t been seen since he was at a loss for words when Malcom Butler stole his Super Bowl

· Pete the poodle back in town where he single handedly dismantled the champion team Bill Parcells built

· Look out for Wagner – insane and relentless

· Lucky no Bennett

· Only thing keeping Patriots from Super Bowl is Brady standing upright

· Is the who did you vote for to Brady the most absurd story – none of your f-ing business

· Cliff Avril and Frank Clark have 15.5 sacks – suit up Bruce Armstrong

MASSACHUSETTS MEDAL OF HONOR WINNER – Alexander Gordon Lyle – Gloucester – 1918 – French front rushed to the front in middle bombardment to administer and save comrade

2. How amazing has the Patriots run been?

· Over the last 96 games – they have only lost THREE games by more than one score – think Continue reading Connelly’s Top Ten – Thank You Veterans! »

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1. Patriots Fun Facts during the bye:

· Five Patriots are on pace for 500 yards in receiving – Gronk, White, Edelman, Hogan, Bennett

· Butler is on pace to deflect 22 passes

· The top three tacklers are from the secondary – Chung, Ryan, McCourty

· 2011-2016 first round picks projected to dress next Sunday – Malcom Brown, Solder

(Collins and Chandler Jones traded, Easley cut, Cy Jones – doghouse) Continue reading Connelly’s Top Ten: We Survived the Bye Week! »

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