Bruins Finish Perfect Homestand with Shootout Victory over Blue Jackets

Tuukka Rask denies Antoine Vermette to secure the shootout victory for the Bruins Thursday night at the TD Garden. The Bruins won their seventh consecutive game. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

The Boston Bruins have shown that when they want to, they can play beautiful hockey, combining explosive scoring with punishing defense and near-perfect goal-tending.

Thursday night at the TD Garden, the Bruins showed they can play ugly and still win. Sometimes, all you need is a goalie.

Tuukka Rask made 30 saves in regulation and overtime, then Rich Peverley and David Krejci scored on Columbus goalie Curtis Sanford during the shootout to give the Bruins a 2-1 shootout victory over the Blue Jackets. With the win, the Bruins completed a perfect 5-0 homestand, won their seventh straight game overall, and moved into a tie for ninth in the Eastern Conference.

Two Shootout Blocks Highlight Big Night from Tuukka Rask

Rask was without question the Bruins’ MVP Thursday night, turning aside 30 shots in 65 minutes of work. He had no problems with single slapshots from lone Blue Jackets, such as center Jeff Carter‘s 46-footer late in the first period, or Derek MacKenzie‘s 42-footer midway through the third.

Rask proved equally impregnable during several short, chaotic offensive flurries by the Blue Jackets. Rask turned aside four shots in 40 seconds late in the second, survived another assault midway through the third, and denied right winger Rick Nash twice in the final two minutes of overtime.

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NFL: No Fantastic Lineups

The Green Bay Packers are undefeated, but they also rank 31st in opponent passing yards. Every other NFL team has flaws just as glaring in an overall mediocre NFL season. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)

Power rankings are really hard. That ESPN.com puts out multiple power rankings each week astounds me.

Picking firsts and lasts are usually pretty easy: there are always a few teams so obviously great or terrible that they need to be in the top- or bottom-five, and then a bit of research usually produces an arguable order. But what are the tangible differences between the 23rd- and 24th-ranked team?

That’s why you never see power rankings from me: They’re so darn time-consuming that I never want to do them.

I tried to do one recently for the NFL. The Colts are obviously last: hard to argue with an 0-10 record. I don’t know the Rams very well, but they seem somehow worse than the Dolphins, whose quarterback I think is secretly a zombie from “The Walking Dead.” So there’s your bottom three.

While trying to figure out the rest of the list, I came to a realization: this year’s NFL is filled with mediocrity! The Packers have the best record, but they can’t run the ball or stop the pass. Without likely MVP Aaron Rodgers – who is just itching for a concussion, given his porous offensive line – this team would be… the Colts.

The 49ers are really good, and they play in the God-awful NFC West (whose other three teams are a combined 8-19), but can they last? The Lions and the Bills started just as strong, but they’ve combined to go 2-6 since Week 6.

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NBA Canceled Through December 15: Is Damage Irreversible?

The emotionless, unsympathetic, inhuman David Stern and Derek Fisher have alienated all but the most diehard NBA fans during a lockout that has now canceled games through December 15. (http://static2.todanoticia.com)

The NBA officially canceled games through December 15 on Tuesday, killing 26 percent of the season. The cancellation came on the same day that the NBPA decertified, with 15 players joining class-action antitrust lawsuits against the league.

With players seeking over $6 billion in damages, it would take a very player-favorable deal to get everyone back to the negotiating table. Meanwhile, every day that basketball isn’t played is another day where non-diehard basketball fans disgustedly give up on the NBA, possibly for good.

Of course, the NFLPA also decertified before a new CBA was finally agreed upon. But the animosity with which both sides have treated each other – the owners’ uncompromising demand for a significantly salary-capped league, the players’ uber-defensive unwillingness to believe their salaries might be dangerously overblown – makes this lockout far more hostile, and far more likely to cause irreparable damage to the NBA.

Because while billionaires and millionaires yell at each other over mere percentages, unemployed, angry, everyday Americans just decide to change the channel.

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Patriots Report Card: Week 10

Andre Carter's franchise-record 4.5 sacks were enough to earn the entire defensive line an A in Sunday's road victory over the New York Jets. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

After weeks of offensive malaise and defensive incompetency, the New England Patriots returned to form Sunday, beating the New York Jets, 37-16. Tom Brady and his receivers picked the defense apart while a team of replacements and nobodies held the Jets’ offense completely in check. The Patriots regained sole possession of the AFC East with a victory so complete that even Bill Belichick showed some emotion.

So who made the high-honor roll, and who had to settle for regular honors? Here are my grades.

Quarterback: A

It took Brady a half to get going, leading to 10 first-half incomplete passes that were just off: too high for Danny Woodhead near the end zone, too far for Deion Branch on a crossing route, etc. But Brady exacted his revenge in the second half, going 14-for-17, including his final 13 passes in a row. Stats like three touchdowns, no picks, 329 yards and a 118.4 QB rating are just too gaudy not to give Brady an A.

Brady’s best drive came at the beginning of the fourth quarter, a 84-yarder that chewed up nearly seven minutes of the game and ended with an 8-yard strike to Branch for the touchdown. On that drive, Brady went 7-7 for 65 yards. He hit five different receivers. For at least one game, Tom Terrific was back.

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Somerville Football Season Ends with Loss to Cambridge

(written, shot, edited and narrated for Somerville Patch)

Somerville quarterback Phoenix Huertas through a second-quarter game-tying touchdown Friday night at Russell Field in Cambridge, but the Cambridge Rindge & Latin Falcons out-gained the Highlanders by over 300 yards, beating the Highlanders, 28-6.

Somerville hung with Cambridge through the first half of Friday’s game. Cambridge struck first when, on fourth-and-goal from the 5, junior Magic Price ran around his offensive line’s right edge, then cut quickly up-field to get into the end zone.

During that 14-play, 73-yard drive, Cambridge running back Shaq Anderson rushed for 35 yards.

Following three-and-outs from both teams, Somerville responded with a strong drive of their own, highlighted by a 20-yard strike from Huertas to senior Devon Hairston at the Falcons’ 18.

Later, on fourth-and-5 from the Falcons’ 13, Huertas took the snap and rolled to his right to buy time. Huertas then floated a pass to senior Carlven Gervais in the end zone to tie the game, 6-6.

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Triple-Double: Bruins Hang Six Goals on Oilers

The Bruins celebrate a second-period goal during Thursday's game against the Oilers at the TD Garden. Joe Corvo had three assists. (Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Edmonton Oilers survived the Boston Bruins’ first two-goal period Thursday night at the TD Garden.

They couldn’t survive the second.

Or the third.

The Bruins scored twice in all three periods Thursday, powering them to a 6-3 victory over the once-streaking Oilers.

The Bruins have now scored 24 goals in their last four games.

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Chelsea Beats Somerville Boys’ Soccer in Overtime of MIAA Divisional Quarter Finals

(written, shot and edited for Somerville Patch)

Chelsea senior Carlos Martinez scored with two minutes left in the first overtime of Wednesday’s MIAA North Division 1 Quarter Finals, giving the Red Devils a 3-2 overtime victory over the Somerville Highlanders. Chelsea advanced to Friday’s divisional semi-finals against Billerica. Greater Boston League-champion Somerville’s amazing season has finally ended.

Somerville’s strong midfielders – in particular Francisco Fernandes Neto, the unflappable sophomore center-mid – kept the ball on Chelsea’s side throughout the game. Because of this, Somerville had far more opportunities to score, but they just couldn’t put the ball away enough.

“We just made them focus on moving the ball to the outside,” Highlander coach George Scarpelli said. “Move the ball to the outside, good things happen. Unfortunately, you don’t capitalize on your chances, and that’s what happens.”

Chelsea, meanwhile, seemed content to pick their moments, then explode out of the midfield before Somerville’s defense could react. This forced several Somerville defensive miscues early in the game.

One such miscue forced goalie Richard Rodrigues out of the goal to try to angle off Chelsea’s Hugo Erazo’s after Erazo got past the defense. Erazo missed his shot, but collected his own rebound and nailed the second just five minutes into the game.

The Highlanders did not panic, however, maintaining the attack-first strategy until sophomore Thayrone Miranda – who had missed earlier on a header near Red Devil goalie Jimmy Funes – broke through the defensive line, faking out his mark before depositing the ball in the net to tie the game 1-1 with 15 minutes left in the half.

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Somerville Volleyball Coach Steven Walker: Season ‘A Huge Turning Point For Our Program’

Somerville girls' volleyball coach Steven Walker led the Highlanders to an 11-7 regular season, a second-place finish at the Greater Boston League tournament, and an opening-round victory in the MIAA State Tournament.

(written for Somerville Patch)

Despite the Somerville girls’ volleyball team’s 3-0 loss to top-seeded Newton North Tuesday night in the MIAA Central-East Division 1 Quarter Finals, Somerville girls’ volleyball coach Steven Walker had nothing but positive things to say about his squad.

“I look at it as a great source of pride,” Walker said of the Highlanders’ 11-7 regular season. “It’s my most successful season as a coach… and from what we can gather, its’ the most successful season that Somerville’s had in quite some time.”

Walker said his team met all of the goals they set out to accomplish: a winning record overall, a strong placement at the Greater Boston League tournament, and a solid performance in the MIAA postseason. The Highlanders finished second in the GBL and swept Madison Park to reach the second round of the postseason – both Highlander girls’ volleyball firsts, according to Walker.

“I think this is a huge turning point for our program,” Walker said. “Learning what success is like, even if it’s just a little bit, even if it is finishing 11-7. If we’re finishing with a winning record, we can come back and really just try to continue this new tradition of playing great volleyball.”

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Patriots Report Card: Week 9

The look says it all: Tom Brady played better than anyone else on his team, but too many mistakes and missed opportunities cost the Patriots Sunday against the Giants. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

The New England Patriots’ 24-20 loss to the New York Giants Sunday featured several firsts. The Patriots lost at home for the first time in 21 games. The Patriots lost two games in a row for the first time since 2006. And the offense failed to score in the first half, also for the first time since 2006.

While Tom Brady did his best to overcome all of that, the defense – which admittedly played very well for the first half – faltered in the fourth quarter, allowing two late-game comeback drives.

Who’s going to Harvard, and who’s falling back on a safety school? Only my grades can say.

Quarterback: B+

Another game, another two-touchdown day for Brady. But it took him far too long to figure out how to beat the Giants’ defense, and he made too many mistakes while doing it. Both interceptions were Brady’s fault: he failed to account for linebacker Michael Boley to start the second quarter, who easily read Brady’s pass, tipping it to Mathias Kiwanuka. Deon Grant‘s interception later happened because Brady threw a bad pass to Rob Gronkowski deep and over the middle. The first pick killed a scoring opportunity, and the second led to the Giants’ first score.

Brady redeemed himself to some extent with two magnificent fourth-quarter drives, capping 80- and 64-yard drives with touchdown strikes to Aaron Hernandez and Gronkowski, but the defense couldn’t hold either lead. A month ago, this offense could put up 30 points or more without even trying. Now, 20 points is a chore. As the commander of this offense, Brady must shoulder the blame.

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A Letter to a Patriot “Cornerback”

Maybe if Kyle Arrington didn't get beat on so many passes like this, the so-called "fake fans" wouldn't always be booing him. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)

Dear Kyle Arrington,

Your recent tweet filled me with concern. You seem so worried that “fake fans” (as you so cleverly hashtagged them) will try to jump back on the Patriot “bandwagon” once your team’s horrific defense improves. The thought of phoney-baloney cheers replacing the ever-present boo-birds currently echoing through Gillette Stadium clearly haunts your dreams.

Since journalists are in many ways “fake fans,” let me assure you – a fake cornerback – that you don’t need to worry: no matter how good the Patriots might get later, fans will never jump on your bandwagon.

Patriots fans do not like you, Arrington. They never have, and they never will.

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