A breakdown of the players and factors behind the Bruins recent white hot streak.
By: Joe Marraccino (@joecherry89)
Once upon a time, almost a month ago when the Boston Bruins restarted their season after the Olympic break, a 5-4 overtime loss to the lowly Sabres ignited a social media panic amongst Bruins fans venting their frustration. Three days later, a 4-2 loss to the Capitals sent many fans calling for major defensive upgrades with the trade deadline only a few days away. A sluggish restart had many fans ready to push the panic button on a team with a palpable chance to return to their third Stanley Cup finals appearance in four years….
….and then came the twelve-game winning streak. Any complaints? Anyone? Bueller?
Since that March 1 matinee, the Bruins have ripped off an twelve-game win streak which has rocketed them up to the top of the NHL, only a few weeks after they were battling Tampa Bay and Montreal for top spot in their own division. Since then, they have all but surely wrapped up a division title and now have their sights set on the top spot in the conference and have a legitimate chance to win the Presidents Trophy.
How have they been able to get so hot so quickly? In part because of…
– …the scoring of Iginla and the emergence of Sö derberg. When Jarome Iginla signed in Boston over the summer on a one-year deal, some people who remember the fiasco at last year’s deadline were not exactly rolling out the welcome mat for his arrival after spurning the Bruins for the Penguins. Well, I wonder where they are now; Iginla has been a machine, racking up eleven goals and a plus-11 in the past eleven games. Twenty-eight goals on the year leads the Bruins and gives him a chance to be only the third Bruins’ 30-goal scorer in the Claude Julien era (Kessel in 08-09 and Lucic in 10-11). His presence on the top line along with Krejci and Lucic creates matchup nightmares for coaches trying to plan for them. A notoriously slow starter, Iginla has quickly caught fire and proves to be a valuable offensive threat for this team going forward into the playoffs.
As for Carl Sö derberg, someone should tell Marchy that Carl does not have to play like Bergeron. I think “playing like Carl” is working out JUST fine for him. In his last eleven games, Sö derberg has been a key player on the third line along with Eriksson and Kelly. His four goals and six assists and a plus-7 during the streak are made all the more impressive knowing that he has only averaged around fourteen minutes of ice time per game. His presence, along with Eriksson’s speed and Kelly’s grit, make the Bruins third line one of the best, if not THE best, in the entire NHL.
– …the brick walls named Tuukka and Chad. During the last eleven games, the Bruins have limited their opponents to a total of fifteen goals. The goaltending duo of Tuukka and Chad Johnson have been spectacular tending the Bruins net over these last eleven games. Coming off of signing a long-term deal in the offseason, Tuukka has proved he’s worth every penny. In his seven starts, he has only allowed eleven goals including a shutout against a powerful Capitals offense. When he’s been the backup, Johnson has been more than a serviceable backup. In his five starts, Johnson has only given up six goals including, most recently, an impressive 31 save shutout against a young, fast, and skilled Colorado Avalanche squad. For a guy who has been criticized by a majority of Bruins fans all season, Johnson has been great lately, reducing his overall goals against to an impressive 2.04 on the season. Tuukka and Chad have teamed up to shut down opposing offenses and give the Bruins a ton of confidence knowing they have a chance to win every night with either of their goaltenders. That goes a long way, especially for a team with Cup aspirations.
– ….a strong penalty kill. One of the major worries of this team when Seidenberg went down became the penalty kill, which mightily struggled to cope with his loss for a two month stretch between his injury in December and right up to the Olympic break. During this streak, the PK has only allowed three power play goals against in 34 opportunities, a 91.2% success rate. A commitment to team defense, strong goaltending, and blocking shots have boosted the PK to its old self, which has always been a strength of this team ever since Claude took the helm. It is tough to replace Seidenberg for sure and the real test will come in the playoffs, but the Bruins, at least for now, are doing more than a serviceable job killing penalties.
The Bruins have been picking up steam after their two game post-Olympic sluggish start, rapidly turning into a runaway train of momentum that will be difficult to stop come playoff time. Bruins fans all around New England should not be concerned if the team is peaking too soon. Instead, we should look at it as a preview to what could be this spring…
…and I like what I see. Buckle up Bruins fans; if this is what we are gonna see during the playoffs, it is going to be a fun spring.
Joe Marraccino is a guest blogger for Chowdaheadz and can be reached on Twitter @JoeCherry89.
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