Toughness, goaltending, and scoring have all led to early season success for the Bruins.
The Bruins finished off the first half of the 2011-2012 NHL season with a lack-luster effort that resulted in a 5-3 loss to the Washington Capitals. Even after the loss, the team still went into the All-Star Break with a phenomenal 31-14-2 record that gives the Bruins 64 points; two points behind the conference leading NY Rangers. Even though we have seen a slight drop-off in the Bruin’s play the last couple of weeks, I don’t think it is any cause for concern. There was no way they could have continued playing at the level they were in December. They had a 10 plus game winning streak and a seven game streak. One in November and one in December. No fan can expect that level of play to continue for very long. I do expect however, a top three finish in the conference, a long playoff run, and maybe, just maybe, another Stanley Cup victory. There are three things that are essential to the Bruins completing these goals.
3rd and 4th line Scoring: The first key that has led to success is the scoring ability of the third and fourth line. If the Bruins want to make deep playoff run the scoring of Rich Peverley, and Chris Kelly in particular must remain at a high level. Also the fourth line’s occasional goals must continue throughout the year. If the Bruins become top-heavy they will not go very far in the playoffs because they do not have the skill on the first two lines to carry the team. Yes, the top line players are very good, but they are not superstar, game-changers that can win a series for the team.
Great Goaltending: The next thing that must continue is the tremendous goaltending the Bruins have been getting from Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask. At this point in the season Tim Thomas is sporting a 20-9-0 record with a 2.12 GAA (goals against average) and a .933 save percentage. Any goalie that stops 93 percent of shots taken on him is a player that can steal a game from any team in the league. Unbelievably, Tuukka has been just as good, earning an 11-5-2 record with a 1.82 GAA and a .938 save percentage that is good for second in the league in both categories. Tuukka is an amazing goalie that would start on just about any team, and it is imperative for him to be a strong back-up so Thomas can be rested going into the playoffs. For the Bruins to be successful down the road both Timmy and Tuukka must remain two of the top goalies in the NHL.
Team Toughness: I have no doubt that toughness will not be a problem for the roster Boston has assembled. The line-up is full of tough players that have no problem protecting their teammates or just dropping their gloves to get the guys going. Lucic, Horton, Chara, McQuaid, Campbell, and Thornton just name a few of the players with fighting majors this year, others have fought as well. The Bruins need this toughness to be a contending team. When opponents fear the Bruins, the Bruins are in control before the game even begins. This showed through last year when the toughness of the Bruins ran the Vancouver Canucks into the ground, and ultimately won the series. Vancouver just couldn’t take the punishment. The Bruins must be the team that doles out the punishment, not take it, to be successful. Other top teams in the league are just as tough as Boston. The Rangers, Penguins, Flyers, and Senators are all playoff teams that are also very rugged, and tough. The Bruins are capable of beating all these teams, but they have to play with the toughness that they have for the last two years. I know that this will not be a problem for the guys on this years Bruins roster.
All of these keys are extremely important for the Bruins if they want to play at a high level and contend for another Stanley Cup Championship.
- Jonathan Duncan