Sunday, November 18, 2007

Strange Brew In Beantown

The Bruins were a team many had picked near or at the bottom in most hockey circles. I had remembered The Hockey News actually picking them 29th or 30th. Well thanks to some stingy goaltending and semi reliable scoring....they are actually 9-6-2 with a little over 20% of the hockey season complete. Boston was thought to be a walkover for most of the Northeast Division but they are finding out very quickly that this team indeed has some talent. They always have really but the question has been and always will long can they keep it together?

The season started off with a five game West Coast Trip...which the first game was a 4-1 disaster where nothing went right and it looked like Dallas was on a roll (funny how things change, right?). The B's then managed to come back and defeat Phoenix 3-1 the next night before losing 2-1 a few nights later to the defending champion Ducks. In what has become a bit of a curious pattern so far...the Bruins occasionally put up a crooked number after weeks of scoring so little. That was quite evident in their 8-6 survival of LA. Manny Fernandez was in net for this one too and eventually would go down with a knee injury...he still hasn't really since much if any ice time since. Phil Kessel's hat trick carried the way as the B's won again 2-1 against the Sharks completing the road trip at 3-2...not too shabby.

After wins against Tampa and the Rangers (Boston's lone shutout came via the shootout)....faceoffs or the lack of winning them came to a head again in an ugly 6-1 loss that many thought may spell doom for the Bruins. It definitely looked bad that 4 of the 6 goals given up came directly off defensive zone faceoffs....something that would make any coach unhappy, particularly Dave Lewis. Yet the turning point would come in a Saturday afternoon tilt against the Philly Flyers. In a 2-1 loss, Patrice Bergeron was going for a puck in his zone and Randy Jones came from behind and checked him into the boards. Bergeron was motionless on the ice for minutes as the crowd gasped in horror. Jones would later receive a 2 game suspension and Bergeron may not play again this season after suffering some fractures and a Grade 3 concussion. It seemed to give them a jump as they defeated Buffalo 4-3..but then the low scoring blues set in again.

For the next 2 seemed Boston could find the net but not be able to put enough behind the goalie and into said net. Scoring 7 goals in a 5 game span is not going to get you many wins (1-2-2 in that span). This led to many questions if the Bruins were going to trade Glen Murray among others who had not really produced and so far the answer is a resounding no. I am sure that may change but right now it seems the Bruins are sailing the ship with what they got. Sure enough when Toronto came to town last night....the B's put another crooked number on the scoreboard.....winning 5-2 to raise their record to the current 9-6-2. Tim Thomas made 34 saves and Peter Schaefer had 2 goals and 1 assist (both goals coming in the third). The four days off and watching tons of video on Toronto proved to be the difference. Players knew where to be....everything clicked at least for one night.

Team MVP: Tim Thomas. No doubt many thought Fernandez would be the starter but Thomas just finds a way to well worm himself into the picture. In 13 games, he has produced a 1.68 GAA...a stellar .950 save percentage and more importantly 7 wins. He has kept the team in games most nights they should have no business being in. He is the reason Boston is above .500 but his durability may also become a concern later. Right now Boston is just trying to find ways to win score just enough. Oddly enough, the goaltending and defense are there for the most part but the offense isn't....something you wouldn't normally associate with the Boston Bruins.

The Bruins are a team in flux right now....they spent their money and now they are stuck with it. The cap issues have hurt this team as far as being able to go out and get some scoring depth. Also, there aren't many takers for an aging scorer like Glen Murray who hasn't been the same since Joe Thornton was traded.....ahhh that T word. The Bruins as a franchise have been definitely hampered since that trade. Goaltending prospects haven't quite worked agents haven't either and not being able to string some games together with some decent goal scoring output may come back to haunt this team later in the season but right now they are making due with what they got...and so far that is good enough.

So do you think Boston is just a mediocre team or are they a couple players away from making the playoffs and maybe winning a round...give us your thoughts and don't mince them...right on The NHL Arena.

~ stevens8204