|Notes and Observations Week 15: Patriots Blow Out Dolphins 41-13; Clinch AFC East||Connelly’s Top Ten: Patriots Defense, Special Teams Carry Home Team||Fantasy Football Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em: Week 15||Right Idea? Red Sox Bring in Rick Porcello, Wade Miley, Justin Masterson|
So with the Bruins on their first four-game winning streak of the year, there are a lot of things that can contribute to those wins. Maybe they happened because Milan Lucic and Marc Savard are now back, or maybe it was the shifting of the lines constantly by Claude Julien. There is also the speculation that the players were not happy with the ice at the TD Garden, and maybe that could be the reason as to why they have begun to win.
Well, I have a different solution to the problem that maybe no one else sees. For avid Bruins fans, there is one person who has not been on the ice in over a week that you may or may not have noticed. Who is that person? He is 35-year-old veteran goalie Tim Thomas. His last game was a 6-5 overtime loss to the 2009 Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins, and while the Pens are very good team, Thomas was not good. He has not played since that game on November 14.
Since Thomas’s undisclosed injury forced him out of action, backup Tuukka Rask has taken control between the pipes and has done something consistently Thomas never did this year: win.
Well, he actually lost the first start after Thomas’s injury to the New York Islanders 4-1, but he hadn’t played in ten days and was a little rusty. Since then, he has been spectacular. He beat Atlanta 4-3, a good Buffalo team 2-1 and then St. Louis Monday night 4-2. Throw in his shootout victory over a tough Wild squad 2-1 on Wednesday, and his record is 7-2-1 on the year, while Thomas’ stands at 5-6-3. Sure, Thomas’ goals-against-average is just 2.33 and he has a solid save-percentage at .920%, but Rask has been better: 2.13 GAA, .924 SV%. Also, he has won games, while Thomas has not.
Thomas was the reason as to why the Bruins lost the game against the Penguins as he went behind the net to get the puck but didn’t get it and Pascal Dupuis picked it up and easily slid it in the empty net for the win. Mistakes like that are mental and should never happen, but it did and Thomas was the man responsible.
With Rask winning games and doing so in a very impressive fashion, don’t be surprised to see him start more and more, even if Thomas is healthy. Rask is the future goalie of this team, like it or not, but that is the truth. He was brought in to win games, the only problem was that no one really expected Thomas to do so well in his old age, so Rask’s development was delayed a little. Now, it might be time for Rask to get his development, only it might come at Thomas’ expense.
With Lucic and Savard back though, the team has turned it around on the offensive end as well. Michael Ryder scored two goals in the Atlanta win, Patrice Bergeron had four assists against St. Louis and a goal against Buffalo and Marco Sturm added a pair of goals in the past four games. This is the Bruins team that we are used to seeing on the ice and it all comes when they are in the midst of a four-game road trip. Maybe they are a better team on the road? That’s debateable but they are playing much better hockey.
They are hitting harder, skating faster, and setting up plays to score. We have the returns of the fighter in Lucic and the playmaker in Savard. Mark Recchi is scoring goals, and Patrice Bergeron is getting back into rhythm. In addition, the Bruins are actually capitalizing on power-play opportunities.
Against the Blues, the B’s were 2-for-3 on the power play and they were 1-for-2 against the Thrashers. Even against the Penguins (in a loss), the Bruins went 1-for-3 with the man advantage. The power play has been the largest struggle for Boston this season, but they have not struggled against the penalty kill surprisingly, as they are ranked fourth in the league. They have scored four of their season total of 12 power-play goals in the past six games, so maybe that’s an indication of what is to come.
Against the Wild, the Bruins scored first, forked over the lead, and managed not to lose. In the shootout, the Bruins picked up the victory on a goal from David Krejci, and a clutch save by Rask against former Bruin Chuck Kobasew.
Whatever the reason is for this recent success, the Bruins just need to keep it up and start thinking about the playoffs, because the way they were looking two weeks ago wasn’t good. I don’t think the Bruins were necessarily doing things wrong; they just couldn’t finish plays and the puck wouldn’t find the net. At times, it looked like they weren’t playing very hard, but with Lucic back I am sure he will get the team into games night in and night out.
The Bruins are now 12-8-4 on the season and are 6-1-3 in their last ten games. So, things are starting to look up for the once mediocre hockey team. Right now, Boston sits in sixth place in the East with 26 points. The teams that rank from 7th to 11th place all have 25 points, so the B’s really need to keep up the momentum if they want to make it to the top of the conference.