By Mike Miccoli, Boston Bruins correspondent
Chris Kelly is making a name for himself and is having an impact in almost every playoff game he’s appeared. Brad Marchand has carried his game-play and pest-like antics from his strong rookie campaign into the postseason. Michael Ryder finally showed up to play. Tim Thomas is stealing the show.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before.
In what is commonly known as the second season of hockey, the NHL playoffs are a clean slate for some, another chance for others and a few extra games for stars to shine even brighter. The Boston Bruins are taking full advantage of the NHL’s second season and they’re doing it as a team with some pretty outstanding individual efforts to boast.
It took awhile for the Bruins to warm-up–we’ll use that as an excuse. After spotting two games to the Montreal Canadiens in the first round, the B’s have enjoyed quite the bounce back to success. Boston has gone 6-1 since those first two games, a perfect 4-0 in overtime, the most grueling challenge of the postseason. Keep in mind in the regular season, the Bruins walked away from a 4-0n-4 overtime victorious only once. Now in the second round, the Bruins, as a team, are finding ways to beat the Philadelphia Flyers.
Boston has been successful rolling all four lines and three sets of defensemen with one hot goaltender in net. If it’s truly deep rosters that win championships, the B’s could very well be in luck this season as they hold some of the best depth in the NHL. Though the Bruins have only made it past one round, they’re playing as a team moving towards a much larger goal: the Stanley Cup.
Throughout the regular season, one of the biggest critiques of the Boston Bruins was the lack of a game-breaker. Scan the B’s roster and it’s evident that Boston doesn’t have a superstar capable of being a go-to guy offensively.
Past Cup winners have all had a dangerous, offensive one-two punch, even more deadly when you consider some of their supporting casts. The Blackhawks had Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews (along with Marian Hossa); the Penguins had Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and the Red Wings had Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, to name a few. Even looking around the remaining teams in the playoffs, you’d be able to find the game-breakers in each club (maybe with the exception of Nashville, where essentially, anyone could be the hero).
Boston has been set in its ‘goal-scorer-by-committee’ method for the majority of the playoffs. It’s tough to critique because really, it’s working pretty well. Four different Bruins (David Krejci, Nathan Horton, Kelly and Marchand) have four goals in 9 games, enough to be tops for the team. The best Bruin skater on the ice (hint: it’s Patrice Bergeron) has only two goals, but nine assists through stellar two-way play and strong defensive coverage. Few other teams in the post-season can boast a roster where each of their top-nine forwards are producing on and off the scoresheet.
Defensively, the Bruins have shown some cracks but have also been brilliant when it counts. The best of them all has been Dennis Seidenberg who has logged a total of 257:02 of ice time this playoffs, the most of any other NHL player. Splitting time on both the power play and penalty kill units, Seidenberg has shown flashes of himself from the 2009 playoffs when he was absolutely dominant for the Carolina Hurricanes. Seidenberg is proving just how much he was missed after going down with an injury and missing all of last year’s playoffs. In this series with the Flyers, Seidenberg is a +7 in two games with two assists and only 75 shifts. A workhorse, he is.
Ultimately, the Bruins success falls in the hands of Tim Thomas, who has been riding one of his best streaks of the year. Thomas, who made 52 saves against the Flyers on Monday night, is keeping the Bruins alive. While their scorers and defenders may be engrossed in a team-first atmosphere, it’s Thomas that is anchoring the B’s.
The Bruins can’t let up now, but that’s a well-known fact. Boston coach Claude Julien has made it a point to tell his players to not get comfortable. Until the series is won, it’s still undecided.
The puck is on Boston’s home ice now with the momentum and two playoff wins behind them.
But I’m sure you’ve heard this before.
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