Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Ten Streak

The regular season is a long haul. Typically there is a memorable game here, a blowout there, a few forgettable losses, and on to the next. But something magical happened for the Bruins in November 2011: a memorable ten game stretch with a full season's worth of highlights.

The Bruins began the season looking good, playing sharp, yet losing consistently. In the first ten games of the season they only managed 3 wins. The Cup Champs found themselves in last place in the conference and second to last in the league.

But November brought winds of change. It started in Ottawa with a 5-3 win. Ottawa scored first. Then Shawn Thornton fought Zenon Konopka and after that the Bs picked up their play and dominated the rest of the game. Next up was the Conference leading Maple Leafs, a team the Bruins have owned for some time now. One of their three wins in October had been a 6-2 bashing of the Leafs and the Bruins continued their domination with a 7-0 drubbing and a Tim Thomas shutout. Tyler Seguin got his first career hat trick. The third game was another blowout, this time 6-2 over the Islanders. These two games made for a good confidence builder and Tuuka Rask got his first win of the season. The next two games were also blowouts where the Bruins beat both Edmonton and Buffalo 6-2. It is rare for an Eastern Conference team to go on such a blowout bender. These games were fun to watch. During this time Tyler Seguin reached second place in the league in goal scoring and he was the NHL player of the week.

Next up, Buffalo. This game was memorable for Lucic's hit on goaltender Ryan Miller. Miller came way out to play the puck as Lucic was racing for it. Rather than step aside at the last moment Looch put his shoulder down and Miller went flying. Now I'm an old-timer, so I really didn't get why this was a big deal. In the old days a goaltender gave up his special protection when he left the crease. That's the whole reason the crease is there in the first place. Goaltenders get themselves in vulnerable positions when they are trying to make a save, and it makes sense not to have open season on them. But this wasn't that situation. Miller was out playing the puck watching Lucic come at him. I'm sorry that Miller suffered some sort of whiplash injury, but I don't see why a goaltender in that position should be treated any differently than any other player.

Next the Bruins pitted their five-game winning streak against the visiting New Jersey Devils. This was a memorable game, not because it was a blowout, but because the Devils challenged the Bruins defensively in a way other recent teams hadn't. There would be no 6-goal victory against the Devils. It was tied 1-1 going into the 3rd and both teams kept scoring. It was finally ended by Benoit Pouliot late, giving the Bruins a hard-fought 4-3 victory.

The Columbus Blue Jackets visited the Garden next. This game was surprisingly close, with Blue Jackets bringing an A+ effort against the Cup Champs. It went to a  shootout where Rich Peverly scored first and David Krejci won it.

The Bruins took a  respite from their tight games with a trip to visit the Islanders, where they returned to their dominant ways, winning 6-0. Timmy got another shutout. 

Next the Bruins traveled into hostile territory to play the hated Canadiens for the third time this season. Montreal had won the first two in October, and the Bruins had something to prove. Andrew Ference's first period goal stood and the Bruins won 1-0. Another shutout for Thomas.

Next up was one of the most anticipated games of the season thus far. The Sabres hosted the Bruins for their first meeting since the Lucic hit on Miller. The Sabres were looking to redeem themselves and end the Bruins winning streak at nine. They had done some soul searching after their placid response to the Lucic hit. They were pumped and so were their fans. The Sabres brought their A+ game and the first period ended with the Bruins looking beaten down, hapless, and losing 2-0. The crowd booed Lucic the whole night and the first time he appeared on the ice Paul Gaustad took him on in a fight for the Sabres honor. Lucic clearly won the bout but Gaustad and the Sabres got high marks for stepping up, if a bit late. In a memorable showing of character themselves, the Bruins fought back and tied the game late, sending it to OT. Again it was Pouliot who scored to end it in the shootout, after nine consecutive saves by Thomas and Miller. Tim Thomas stood on his head this game and all agreed he was the number one star.

The streak ended at ten with a shootout loss to the visiting Red Wings on the day after Thanksgiving. The most striking thing about this winning streak was the string of blowouts, but the tough games were memorable too.

During this streak the Bruins scored 47 goals, allowing only 17. Tim Thomas had three shutouts, allowing only 11 goals on 240 shots, for a save "percentage" of 0.954 and a GAA of 1.57. Tyler Seguin scored 8 goals, with Bergeron, Lucic and Marchand each tallying 5. Horton managed 4, and the rest were spread out among the team, including two each for defensemen Chara, Boychuck and Ference.

Some people don't even follow the regular season, tuning in only if their team makes the playoffs. Those people don't know how much hockey they are missing!

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