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With veterans healthy and youngsters one year wiser, the boys in black and gold are ready to build on a so-so 2007 campaign. Despite getting pummeled in Game 7 against the top seeded Canadiens, the bright spots throughout the season were far from scarce.
After losing their leader early on in Patrice Bergeron, the short term future for the Bruins was looking grim. The team was led by a new coach in Claude Julien, the roster was loaded with kids who couldn’t legally drink champagne if they had a reason to pop it, and Glen Murray was suffering from a severe case of amnesia as he seemingly forgot how to put the puck in the net. The Bruins once again became an afterthought in Boston with the fans getting caught up in the Celtics frenzy.
It wasn’t until late in the season Bruins fans came out of their shells, intrigued by the race to clinch a playoff spot. Once we were officially back to meaningful hockey, those bright spots that the diehards had witnessed all year had turned into shining moments etched in the minds of those lucky enough to have watched.
Phil Kessel established himself as a full-time contributor. Marc Savard was amongst the league leaders in assists nearly all year. Chuck Kobasew (a BC National Champion, by the way) became more of a goal scorer. Marco Sturm even made a few people think twice before still whining about trading Joe Thornton. For the record, we managed to turn the other two guys that came with Sturm into Kobasew and Andrew Alberts.
Zdeno Chara started to earn some money. Shawn Thornton and Milan Lucic had also provided muscle, the latter evolving into a bonafide stud during the Montreal series.
The fact that the Bruins even forced a Game 7 shocked fans and players alike around the NHL (not to mention the unforgettable Game 6), but the beating that the Bruins took at the hands of the Habs during Game 7 surely must’ve left a sour taste in their mouthpieces.
Squaring off with the Habs the other night in Montreal, the Bergeron-led Bruins returned the favor. Bergeron returned to his first game in 11 months with a goal and three assists. Had the game been televised, it would have been rated TV-14 for violence. Credit for that goes largely in part to the whooping that Shawn Thornton laid upon cheap shot artist Steve Begin, only one of four fights that took place in the Bruins preseason opener.
Vladimir Sobotka, the 21-year-old Czech who managed a pair of goals in last year’s playoffs, is another youngster capable of making an impact when called upon. He managed two goals in Monday’s night’s preseason match up.
The Bruins also enter this season with an abundance of depth the goalie position. Manny Fernandez and Tim Thomas will be sharing time with the big boys, while Tukka Rask and South Boston native Kevin Regan expect to be sharing time in Providence (Regan was a Hobey Baker candidate at UNH).
We all know what Thomas is capable of at this point. Though his unorthodox style may raise the blood pressure of Bruin fans, his efficiency has calmed speculation about his possible lack of reliability. Fernandez, on the other hand, was hyped up by the Boston media after coming over in a trade from Minnesota before last season. He started only four games for the B’s before going down with a right knee injury. If he and Thomas can stay healthy, think of it as a poor man’s Hasek/Osgood combo; still pretty damn good.
Forcing a Game 7 was a nice feeling at the time. With low expectation, any success is usually over-praised. The media outlets are yet to learn this, but the Bruins know it. Claude Julien knows it. And after watching how close the Bruins came to knocking off the one seed, you better believe that Patrice Bergeron knows can be the straw that breaks the camels back.
Tags: Andrew Alberts, Bruins, Chuck Kobasew, Claude Julien, Glen Murray, Joe Thornton, Kevin Regan, Manny Fernandez, Marco Sturm, Milan Lucic, Montreal Canadiens, Patrice Bergeron, Phil Kessel, Shawn Thornton, Tim Thomas, Tuukka Rask, Vladimir Sobotka