Thursday, February 23, 2012

Bruins Break Two Game Losing Streak; End St. Louis' Home Winning Streak

I wrote an article recently (I like the the word "article," it makes me sound important) about why Boston has been in the midst of a painfully mediocre slump. At 11-11-1 in their last 23 games and looking flat, soft, and offensively uninspired it was looking as though the Bruins of November and December were becoming nothing more than a vision in the rear view mirror. It's not to say that all faith was lost in this team. In fact, far from it. Nor is it safe to say, by any means, that this game will act as the stepping stone to an inspiring ('Big Bad') comeback. I will say this though- tonight I saw glimpses of that (Nov, Dec) team in the rear view and they appeared a little bit closer than they have been of late.

It wasn't a perfect game, and once again mistakes in the defensive zone cost them two goals in the first period. Turnovers in their own zone and passing still seem to be an issue with this team, although it seems significantly more acceptable against a Blues team that came into the game with 79 points (4th best in the Western Conference), and riding a 21 game home-streak without a regulation loss. The B's put 4 biscuits in the back of net against a goalie (Brian Elliot) with a highly respectable GAA of 1.56, and save % of .940 (which appears more like the Tim Thomas of last year than Tim himself does this year). Not bad for a team that had been shut out three times in their previous six games.

So what can we attribute this pleasant change to? Well first of all, I will credit the analysts with attributing it to the coaching (line rotation, time of shifts, and an off day for rest), but I am also going to go with the physical factor. Boston came into the game firing on all cylinders (not to try to sound too 'Fast and Furious-ish'). They were fore-checking, back-checking, fighting along the boards, skating hard during puck possessions, and attacking the net. As I had said in my previous post, they are a force to be reckoned with when they play with that true-grit type of style. They have the personnel and talent capable of dominating nearly anyone they step onto the ice with when they show up with their big boy pants on.

Secondly, their puck-handling and number of quality shots on goal appeared to be much sharper, opportunistic, and creative than that of recent games. Marchand, Krejci, and Bergeron in particular seemed to step up their games to that higher level that we are used to seeing from them. It was nice to see, but was also directly affected by everything mentioned above. Scoring stems not from talented shooters, but from skating and creating quality opportunities.

Lastly, defense. What else can you say, except that it showed up? Like I said, you take away the first two goals in that first period, and the turnovers in their own zone, and they played a great game. Tim Thomas had a great game as well, as we generally expect of him.

I'm going to try not to get too excited about this just yet, or expect another fifteen plus game winning streak out of them. But it is exciting to see a quality win, on the road, against a quality opponent like St. Louis. If this team can continue to play like the team that all other teams feared a few months ago then I have a good feeling I won't have too much to bitch about on the hockey front for a while.

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