I can only blame my sporadic updates on the end-of-semester crunch, which I am happy to report, is over. In order to re-kindle my creative juices, I felt like going on a bit of a rant about a few players who are stepping up this season:
Patrice Bergeron has finally become the player that we all knew he could be; strong on his skates, smart with the puck, always makes the right play, and when he feels like it, can flat out run people over. The Bruins have won three of the past five games, and Patrice Bergeron has had a least a point in all three (1-5=6; he did not record a point in the two losses to MTL and NYI). At face value his overall stats don’t grab you, but Patrice is bringing an attitude and determination that I haven’t seen from him since his pre-concussion days. Look for him to continue to be the offensive leader on this team (along with Savard).
From offense to defense —
It’s safe to say that it’s officially Tuukka Time here in Boston. His .932 save percentage and 1.97 Goals Against Average rank him 2nd and 3rd in the league respectively. With all the great moves the Bruins made this offseason, (yes, I loved the Kessel move) the only contract I am questioning is the one gifted to Tim Thomas. Sure, Thomas is a man that deserves a break and has probably earned the money simply because he’s been through so much to reach this point, but from a business standpoint, it doesn’t make much sense….I’m rambling; back to Rask: I’ve been to ten or so games so far this year and Rask has probably played in half of them and I can tell you that Rask is truly a sight to behold. The one thing that sticks out to me every game is how calm he is when the storm around the net is at is most fierce. His side to side movement is incredibly fluid and he almost never loses sight of the puck and it’s for that reason that he is able to direct nearly every rebound away from the front of the net.
Rask was slated for no more than 25 games this season, however a “lower body injury” to Thomas (purportedly a broken hand suffered after the OT loss to Pitt…wall punch???) has caused the young netminder to play in 14 games to this point. With more than 50 games remaining, I would expect Rask to play in at least 20, giving him closer to 35 starts (in the pre-season I predicted Rask would see as many as 30 starts). First Toronto gave us Rask for Raycroft and now, with their draft picks in our back pocket, Kessel and the Leafs are in last place, making it more likely that the Bruins will have a top 5 pick in the next draft. From now on, whenever Peter Chiarelli sees “Burke, Brian” on his caller-ID, he’ll pick it up on the first ring.
On the whole, the Bruins are finally playing better, more consistent hockey. The incredible struggles they underwent during October are behind them and they’re back in the top third of the Eastern Conference where they belong.
HOT: Tuukka Rask, Patrice Bergeron, Michael Ryder (he’s going to score five goals in the next eight games…just wait)
NOT: Tim Thomas, Dennis Wideman (always and forever), Blake Wheeler (three goals since Nov. 1)