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Eight games and 21 days into the November, the Boston Bruins (11-7-0) are still yet to lose this month. On their current eight-game winning streak, which has seen them rocket from last place in the Eastern Conference to just two points out of the Northeast Division lead with two games in hand, the Bruins have outscored their opponents 41-14. While they have topped some of the league’s best teams this month, the Bruins, the league’s hottest team, will be tested by their upcoming schedule, which features three road games out of the five remaining games this month. It will be a difficult test.
Last week’s three games feature the first games that the Bruins came close to losing this month. A back-and-forth game against the New Jersey Devils required the heroics of Brad Marchand and Benoit Pouliot to secure a 4-3 win on Tuesday night and two nights later, the Bruins were taken to a shootout by the Columbus Blue Jackets, the NHL’s worst team. They escaped with a 2-1 victory and quickly reasserted their strength on Saturday night as they beat the New York Islanders 6-0, the fifth time this month that the B’s had rung up six goals (and the second time against the Islanders).
In light of the wonderful holiday the United States is set to celebrate on Thursday, here are a few things I’m thankful for this year:
The Bruins are clearly playing their best hockey of the season and potentially even better than during the Stanley Cup Finals in June. Not only is their trademark defense, led by the epic goaltending tandem of Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask, allowing the fourth-fewest goals on average in the league (2.17), but they are also second in the league in goals per game (3.44). That gives them the highest average goal differential (1.27) and they also have the highest actual goal differential (+25). Right now, the Bruins are playing complete and balanced hockey; can any other team match them?
Tyler Seguin, the team’s leading scorer with 11 goals and 21 points, was held to just one point last week, an assist against the Islanders. While Boston’s offensive productive was comparatively lower last week than the rest of the month, 10 goals in three games is still an impressive clip. How did the Bruins do it without their leading scorer? They spread the scoring around. Andrew Ference, Adam McQuaid, and Shawn Thornton all scored their first goals of the season, while Zdeno Chara and Benoit Pouliot each added their second. Chris Kelley recorded a two-goal, three-point effort against the Islanders, in addition to Patrice Bergeron, Nathan Horton, and Brad Marchand all scoring as well. It’s great to have a sophomore superstar in Seguin to lead the team, but it’s more important to have the supporting cast to contribute to the cause as well.
Before this gets taken the wrong way, I’m not thankful for the NBA Lockout per se. While I prefer ice to parquet at the TD Garden, I love the Boston Celtics and all that they bring to the city, from Ray Allen’s sportsmanship to Aztec Gino’s manthighs. However, the NBA lockout represents a great opportunity for the Bruins to recapture their stake of the city. Yes, last season’s Stanley Cup Championship did that, but absence of basketball and the lack of Patriots during the work week give the Bruins a chance to ensure their victory is not forgotten instead of just being a fleeting moment of glory. For those NBA fans that are new to hockey, feel free to check out ProHockeyTalk’s NHL Primer, which will fill you in on all you need to know about the sport.
Although Marchand may be a huge fan of nicknames – which you have to be when you play on a team with “Soupy” – but, in a shot at 98.5 The Sport’s Hub’s Felger & Mazz, he informed the media that he doesn’t like nicknames that butcher his last name, like Marshmont, which he considers disrespectful. So, be mindful when cheering on
Marshmont Marshy/Squirrel/Rat/Tomahawk/Honey Badger. Honestly, who can blame his distaste for Marshmont with such great nicknames?
Be sure to buy your raffle tickets for a chance to win a Boston Bruins 2011 Stanley Cup Championship ring! All proceeds go to the Boston Bruins Foundation and NHL Alumni Association.
The ballot for the 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game just came out and failed to include Seguin, who who leads the Bruins with goals and points. Give Seguin what he deserves and send him to the NHL All-Star Game: write him in!
Monday, November 21 @ Montréal Canadiens, 7:30 p.m.
The Bruins open this week’s play with a visit to the Bell Centre, the site of their last loss nearly one month ago. (Just in case you forgot about it.) The Canadiens (9-8-3, 21 points) are the worst team in the division, but are only out of first place by three points (how’s that for parity, NBA?). Montréal has alternated wins and losses their last five games, which includes two 4-0 shutouts, the most recent of which ended the New York Rangers’ eight-game winning streak. The most impressive aspect of the Canadiens this season has been their penalty kill, which is fourth-best in the NHL (89.3%), and has allowed just one power play goal this month on 34 kills. In what should be a defensive struggle, the Bruins will need to keep consistent offensive pressure to avoid leaning on Thomas too much and, potentially more importantly, not take stupid penalties. Fortunately, Chara won’t have to worry about being arrested on this trip across the border after Québec authorities decided not to press charges against the league’s tallest player for his hit on Max Pacioretty last season.
Wednesday, November 23 @ Buffalo Sabres, 7 p.m.
Instead of trying to explain with my words what may happen when the Bruins visit the Sabres (12-8-0, 24 points) in Buffalo, here’s a video of what happened last time these two teams collided (NHL newbs, that was funny, so make sure you’re laughing) and a few friendly words from Sabres goalie Ryan Miller. Expect fireworks with a possibility of hockey. Chance of Jack Edwards going crazy: 100%.
Friday, November 25 vs. Detroit Red Wings, 1 p.m.
The Bruins host the Detroit Red Wings (10-7-1, 21 points) in a nationally televised Original-Six matinee matchup the day after Halloween. The Red Wings have been the NHL’s streakiest team this season, opening with five wins before dropping six straight, after which they won four straight, lost two games back-to-back, and won two more. While they are not the dominant team of the past few years, the Red Wings are still one of the league’s best and bring a tough challenge from the Western Conference, against which the Bruins are 2-2-0. It just depends on what streak the Red Wings are skating on.
Saturday, November 26 vs. Winnipeg Jets, 7 p.m.
The Jets’ (8-9-3, 19 points) visit to Boston will be their first since November 21, 1995 and the teams’ first match-up since December 31 of the same year. The Bruins won both games and should win this one as well. The Jets, who relocated from Atlanta (Thrashers) at the end of last season, have the difficulty of playing in the Southeastern Conference despite being located in Manitoba, which might explain why they seem to lose games they should win (like a 2-1 loss to Columbus) and win games they should lose (like a 9-8 win over the Philadelphia Flyers, who seem unable to win against the Jets).
Prediction: win over the Canadiens, loss to the Sabres, wins over the Red Wings & Jets
Sidney Crosby, who has missed 61 games stretching back to last season’s halfway point with post-concussion syndrome, will return to the Pittsburgh Penguins line-up Monday night against the New York Islanders… The Washington Capitals are 3-7-1 since starting the season 7-0-0, leading to speculation about potentially significant organizational changes on the horizon… The St. Louis Blues are 4-0-2 since Ken Hitchcock replaced David Payne as head coach on November 6… The sale of the Dallas Stars to Vancouver billionaire Tom Gaglardi by the bankrupt Hicks Sports Group was approved by a Delaware bankruptcy court and the NHL Board of Governors.