Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Spirit is Back in Saint Louis

The Bruins of the fall of 2011 made a rare appearance in Saint Louis last night. I almost didn't recognize them it's been so long.

The Bruins started out like they have started in every other game lately, with a good strong effort. I can just imagine coaches around the NHL telling their teams to bend but not break in the early going as the B's come on hard; weather the storm and then get an opportunistic goal and you can beat these guys. But this time there was a difference. The B's effort was rewarded with an early Marchand goal. Before you knew it, it was 2-0 and the B's were looking lucky for a change.

But then the Bruins started to fall apart defensively, as we have come to expect of late. Even Tim Thomas looked a bit off and the next thing you know it was all tied up. But late in the period the Bruins broke with their recent habits yet again. Rather than give up a goal late in the period they scored one!

In the second the Bruins finally remembered how to play good team defense. They didn't get a lot of scoring opportunities, but they took charge in their own end. By the end of the second, they were starting to look like their old selves again defensively.

I don't know what was up with Thomas! He was wildly throwing his body around in the same way that he did three years ago, causing many a commentator to pull out his hair. But it seemed to work, just as it had then (he won the Vezina that year).

It was in the third period that the Bruins finally got all the way back to their dominating form. Building off their good defensive play, they started getting chances the other way. Marchand scored again to extend their lead to two, and they kept the pressure on for most of the rest of the period.

Some things to note: the Bruins scored four goals against the stingiest team in the NHL, a team that has allowed just 1.9 goals per game. The Blues were also 26-4-4 at home, and last lost at home in regulation Dec. 3.

This game reminds us of what some of the more fickle fans and media types had so quickly forgotten. The Bruins are an elite team. Even with the injuries and poor recent performances, this team can dominate. It is normal for teams to lose their focus at certain points during the season. What truly matters is what happens at playoff time.

Some fans seem to go a bit crazy as the trade deadline looms. Sure the Bruins have cap space and sure they could use some more depth. But what some people seem to have forgotten is that at this time of year you don't get something for nothing. Obtaining a Rick Nash would mean giving up Bergeron and/or Rask or last year's first rounder at the very least. There is just no way that makes any sense. Not only would that not truly help the team, but it isn't consistent with the approach that Bruins GM Peter Chiarelly has used to build his team. It takes real hubris to second guess a guy who built a Stanley Cup champion.

When I look at the Bruins I see a team that can go deep in the playoffs. The one thing I think they are missing is a player like Mark Recchi who can stand in front of the net to force those close-in garbage goals. That is an essential element of a champion team. But that does not mean that a player like Bergeron or Marchand can't perform this role if called upon. As always, in the end how far they go this year will depend on how much they want it.

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