I'm really impressed with Marco Sturm. I hadn't read it elsewhere, but the "Sturminator" has slowly but surely turned into a great two-way player. The first time I noticed it was when PJ Axelsson was out and he left a huge hole to fill on the penalty kill. It's difficult not to notice that PJ clears the zone more often than any other player, and if you can't clear the zone you are in trouble. It was Sturm who stepped up into his vacant position. PJ was barely missed! And since then Sturm has been a big reason why the Bruins PK has been much improved. But not only that, but he's often to be found out there quietly back checking 5 on 5. Sturm, who usually gets noticed because he now leads the Bruins in scoring with 24 goals, is also a healthy +8, second only to Axelsson among Bruins forwards. You heard it here first--if he keeps this up Sturm could be a Selke candidate some day.
I'm really impressed with Phil Kessel. It's been fun watching him change from a raw kid who looked like he was scared to death out there into a smarter, feistier, more confident and more physical player. The great thing about Kessel is that he just keeps improving. Not by leaps and bounds, but by small, sure steps. His youthful bad habits have been painful to watch at times, yet one by one they slowly shrink and disappear. Most recently he had been flying into the offensive zone only to turn the puck over, creating a rush the other way. I kept saying to myself that it was only a matter of time before the team got burned, and sure enough, in the recent OT loss against the Panthers it was one of these rushes that led to the losing goal. But the great thing about Kessel is that he hasn't made that mistake again. Suddenly he's being more creative entering the zone and doing a much better job protecting the puck. Kessel has 32 points on the season and has improved to -5. It may seem odd to say for a kid who made the NHL at 19, but I think Kessel is a late bloomer. I think in ten years this guy is going to be considered one of the great forwards of his generation.
I'm really impressed with David Krejci. Once he finally got his first goal in that shootout winner he went on a three-game scoring streak. But more importantly, in the last couple of games he's raised his overall level of play dramatically. Where Kessel has taken months to improve Krejci has exploded overnight. Suddenly brimming with confidence he's playing with enormous energy and grit. Mark my words, when the Bruins make the playoffs he's going to be a huge contributor. In 43 games David Krejci has 18 points and is a -7. Those numbers are somewhat misleading because they reflect his youthful lack of confidence, which has now very suddenly come to an end.
I'm really impressed with Milan Lucic. I almost didn't mention "Looch." Not because I don't think he is impressive--he's downright awesome! It's just that if you are reading this and haven't heard about his exploits then you must have been under a rock somewhere. This huge kid is going to be the dominant power forward in the NHL. Milan Lucic has 21 points, is -2, and at 19 has already beaten the crap out of just about every tough guy in the NHL.
To those fans out there who gave up on the Bruins when the lockout came or when Thornton was traded, I say, wake up! The future of the Bruins is brighter than it's been since... well, 1967.