By Mike Miccoli, Boston Bruins correspondent
I spent a good portion watching the NHL All-Star game and its festivities—somewhat of an annual tradition for me, as much as I don’t admit it. From the draft to the game, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it. The biggest surprise for me came on Saturday night; and it had nothing to do with the Skills Competition.
No, it wasn’t so much the display of skills that intrigued me as much as what was said in the pre-show on Versus. While the panelists gave their scripted predictions for end-of-season awards (Skinner, Letang, Thomas, Stamkos, for the big ones), it was the Stanley Cup predictions that caught my attention.
I’ll admit it: even I picked a Vancouver Canucks/Philadelphia Flyers final at the beginning of the season. Now, 50+ games in, it just so happens that those two teams reign supreme in their respective conference. It would be an easy out for the Versus panelists to go with Canucks vs Flyers. In fact, two of three did, with the third selecting the Flyers over the Detroit Red Wings. But it wasn’t until the main host of the show, Bill Patrick made his selection that really surprised me.
Patrick picked the Boston Bruins over the Red Wings in the Stanley Cup Finals. Why? Because (and I’m paraphrasing here) he explained that when the Bruins get hot, they can be dangerous.
The Bruins? Dangerous? With nine wins in their last 12 games, some skaters on the best hot streaks of their careers and a suddenly-potent offense, then, yes…maybe they can be considered dangerous when they get hot.
The Bruins are a streaky team, not that it’s a bad thing. Take the following players, for example. Easily one of the top NHLers since the beginning of 2011, Patrice Bergeron has 14 goals and 29 points in his last 23 games and now leads the Bruins with 44 points. And how about Brad Marchand, who is slowly making a case to be considered for the Calder Trophy, with his nine goals and six assists in his last 16 games. Vezina (and yes, Hart) hopeful Tim Thomas must be included too. Thomas leads the league in goals against average (1.92) and save percentage (.945%) and is tied for tops in wins (25) and shutouts (7). He’s won seven of his last eight games and started the season off winning seven straight, as well.
In 2008-09, the Bruins were amongst the elite teams in the NHL. On this date two years ago, the Bruins had a record of 38-8-5—good enough to be tops in the league. While you could debate whether Boston is once again an elite team (survey says yes) bouncing back from last year’s bumpy bridge year, there’s no doubting the amount of momentum that the Bruins are picking up as the season rolls on.
Of their 50 games, the Bruins have scored 5+ goals in ten games, winning nine of them. They’ve shutout teams eight times and sit in the top ten for goals-for (161, 7th best) and tied for first in goals-against (117).
It’s important to remember too that the Bruins are still without Marc Savard and carried a 14-6-5 record while number 91 was on the ice. Without him, Boston is 16-9-1. A difference maker, he is not; the Bruins are clearly learning how to win without Savard in the lineup. With a decision looming on shutting down Savard for the season, the cap space that the Bruins could gain along with their surplus of picks and prospects could mean a rental finds his way to Boston. This streaking team could actually get better.
The post-lockout Bruins have struggled to find an identity for years. Bruins fans have seen the worst of the worst (2005-06 season) and one of the best statistical teams of the last 15 years (2008-09). Right now, there’s not as much pressure on the B’s as there was last season but just about the same amount of expectations. This is where the Bruins thrive.
Think about this: the Boston Bruins do not have a Steven Stamkos, Sidney Crosby or either of the Sedin twins on their roster. Not every game that the Bruins have won could be considered pretty. Plus, has there been a period of time this season when a Bruins player wasn’t called out, coaches and management included? Look, what made the Bruins great in the past was the fact that the roster consisted of hard-working, blue-collar players. Nothing flashy, just enough to get the job done and to earn a tally in the win column. If you can consider that to be precisely what the Bruins have working for them this season, then maybe they are a dangerous team in the NHL.
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