|A Closer Look Into the Bruins First Month of the Season.||Connelly’s Top Ten: Posse!||Connelly’s Top Ten: Edelman Lays Eggs (so did the coordinators)||Connelly’s Top Ten – Thank You Veterans!|
Welcome to the first edition of the weekly Boston Bruins capsule, where the previous week’s Bruins action will be recapped, the top storylines of the team highlighted, the coming week’s games previewed, and news from around the league (usually involving Matt Cooke and Roberto Luongo) provided, all so you can sound intelligent at the office or in between classes.
The upcoming week is the first full week of the season for the Boston Bruins, following last week’s two games. The B’s opened the season last Thursday raising their 2011 Stanley Cup Champions banner to the rafters of the TD Garden, but lost to the Philadelphia Flyers, whom they had swept in the Eastern Conference Semifinals last season, 2-1. They claimed their first win of the season on Saturday, posting a sound 4-1 victory over the semi-new-look Tampa Bay Lightning, whom they had last seen in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals last season.
How about Tyler Seguin, folks? Not even 20 and in just his second season, he is averaging over 16 minutes of ice time and has three assists. Most prognosticators are projecting him to record 25-30 goals, which is a fair goal now that he has solidified a third-line spot. Then there’s Rich Peverly, who has clicked impressively well with linemates Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand (who has brought back the same energy from last year) to notch two goals in Saturday’s win. And then there’s Benoit Pouliot, the summer signing with massive amounts of unrealized potential that is still yet… to… be… realized. In fairness, he is still adjusting and played only 7:42 against Tampa Bay after sitting out against the Flyers in favor of Jordan Caron, with whom he will be battling for the final spot on the third line, alongside Chris Kelly and Tyler Seguin.
The man-advantage went a promising 1-for-5 against Philadelphia and then ran cold against the Lightning, going 0-for-6. Despite the fact the Bruins still won the Cup with an anemic power play, it would be nice if it could to be respectable.
The Bruins have a happy problem when it comes to goaltending, but it requires a very delicate solution. Tim Thomas, two-time Vezina Trophy winner (2009 & 2011) and reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner, is arguably the best goaltender in the league and easily the Bruins’ starter. However, he played 82 games last season, putting a heavy toll on Thomas’s 37-year-old body – heavier than most goalies because of the acrobatic style of goaltending he uses (“the battlefly”). The Bruins have to be cautious after a short off-season in how often they start Thomas so he doesn’t burn out.
Fortunately, the Bruins have back-up Tuukka Rask, who rivals the skill and talent levels of many starting tenders in the league. He’s 24 and has shown the potential to be a future star, notably through winning the starting job away from Thomas at the start of last season. The predicament is how to best split the time between the two to protect Thomas and continue to develop Rask and get him experience, without harming either’s body or psyche. As Thomas started both games last week, expect Rask to get at least one start this week, likely on Monday against the Colorado Avalanche.
Monday, October 10, vs. Colorado Avalanche, 1 p.m.
Simply put, the Colorado Avalanche are bad. They finished last season 5-27-2 and lost their home opener this season to the Detroit Red Wings 3-0, indicating little seems to have changed from last season despite the major off-season trade for goalie Semyon Varlamov. However, the Bruins haven’t been the Avs in Boston since 1998, going 0-4-1 with a tie since then. Brutal, right? To make sure you’re whiplashed between pessimism and optimism before this game, the B’s beat Colorado 6-2 last season and the visitors are 0-5-1 in their last six road openers.
Wednesday, October 12, @ Carolina Hurricanes, 7:30 p.m.
The Bruins’ first road test comes against the Carolina Hurricanes, teams that swapped defensemen, the beloved Kaberle for the loving Joe Corvo, in the offseason. Most preseason predictions had the Hurricanes either finishing in the seventh spot in the East or near the basement, the latter looking more likely after posting 5-1 and 4-3 losses to the Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals (in overtime), respectively, as they bounce between Cam Ward and Brian Boucher in net. They have given up 70 shots and are a great candidate to jumpstart Boston’s power play, being only 7-for-11 on the penalty kill.
Saturday, October 15, @ Chicago Blackhawks, 8:30 p.m.
The Bruins finish their two-game road trip with a quick jaunt to the Central Division for a match-up against the 2010 Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks. Heavily favored to make a run at the Cup again this year, the Blackhawks embarrassingly (at least at this point in the season) split their home-and-away games against the Dallas Stars to open the season, losing 2-1 in Dallas before winning 5-2 at home. Their offensive machine is already pumping this season, with 14 different players registering points (three with two points).
Prediction: wins over Avalanche, Hurricanes, loss to Blackhawks
Matt Cooke is at the center of another questionable hit, but this time he’s the victim. You decide… Roberto Luongo is once again Vancouver’s most talked about Canuck and not for a good reason, after playing horribly in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Are the Bruins still in his head?… The Toronto Maple Leafs are 2-0-0 after former Bruin Phil Kessel notched his third career hat trick in a 6-5 win over the Ottawa Senators. He still clearly doesn’t play defense. (Fine, he was only on the ice for one of the five Ottawa goals.)