Sunday, January 30, 2011

Beware The Bear! The Boston Bruins Are Coming Out Of Hibernation

With the National Hockey League season at the All-Star break, teams are positioning themselves for the final push towards the Stanley Cup playoffs.

As the standings are as of this moment, the Vancouver Canucks, Detroit Red Wings and Dallas Stars are topping the Western Conference while defending champion Chicago Blackhawks are struggling a bit after making sweeping changes to their roster.

The Eastern Conference is a bit jumbled as the Philadelphia Flyers are in the top spot while the Tampa Bay Lightning continue to shock the NHL by leading the Southeast division by four points over the powerhouse Washington Capitals. The Pittsburgh Penguins are holding their own despite major injuries but perennial power New Jersey Devils are floundering in the NHL cellar.

The team I will focus on has been solid all season and seems to be poised to make a run at not only capturing their division but could make a deep run in the playoffs.

The team?

The Boston Bruins

At the break, the Bruins are the Northeast division leaders with a record of 28-15-7 for 63 points, four points ahead of the Montreal Canadiens and the number three seed in the Eastern Conference. By winning 7 of 10, Boston has shown the defensive prowess head coach Claude Julien's teams are noted for. In that stretch, the Bruins have increased their goal production which has been a sore spot for a few seasons.

Let's briefly break down the Bruins season to this point.

The core of this seasons' team is the defense and goal tending. In fact, the Bruins are the NHL's top defensive team yielding a mere 112 goals in 50 games, with a league leading 8 shutouts and an NHL best .939 save percentage. The defensive corps is lead by leading Norris Trophy candidate Zdeno Chara. The man with the leagues hardest shot leads Boston with a +22 plus/minus rating and has 10 goals from the blue line including 6 on the power play.

Also helping Chara are veteran defensemen Dennis Seidenberg, Andrew Ferrence, and surprising rookie Steven Kampfer. All are on the plus side of the plus/minus ledger and can play the physical game when necessary.

Goalie Tim Thomas is certainly at the top of his game. His 1.81 Goals Against Average is by far and away tops in the league as well as his .950 Save Percentage.... that's point NINE FIFTY! Just think, the Bruins were willing to peddle him away after off-season hip surgery.

Though challenged offensively, Boston has been scoring goals of late. Milan Lucic leads the B's with 20 goals, while Patrice Bergeron has 16 tallies within his team leading 40 points. More is expected from veterans Michael Ryder (14 goals), Nathan Horton (12), Blake Wheeler (10), and David Krejci (7). Youngster Brad Marchand has surprised by potting 13 goals and plays the defensive end superbly with a +21 rating.

Also, the Bruins don't lack for toughness. Resident tough guy Shawn Thornton backs away from nobody for a fight and Lucic, Gregory Campbell, and young blue liner Adam McQuaid will mix it up as well.

As I see it, the Boston Bruins are one goal scorer away from being a serious contender for Lord Stanley's Cup. Boston General Manager Peter Chiarelli isn't afraid to pull the trigger on such a deal and it would be both shocking and disappointing should he not add a sniper.

Beware the Bear!!!


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