Boston Bruins Overachievers Flying Under the Radar

Wayne WhittakerCorrespondent IJanuary 7, 2009

As if fans of the Boston Bruins needed another reason to déteste the Montreal Canadiens.

The city of Montreal will be hosting this year's NHL All-Star game.

Unsure of how many Canadiens' players would be on the roster, the (ever-classy) Hab-faithful took matters into their own hands by using automated computer programs to rig the outcome.

Suffice it to say that 60 percent of the Eastern Conference's starting lineup will have very little traveling to do come Jan. 25.

The Canadien fans, however, can not be faulted for the snubbing of one particular player from the All-Star roster. The NHL didn't feel Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas was an All-Star caliber player, and neglected to put his name on the ballot.

Two other notable names are missing from the starting lineup—Marc Savard and Zdeno Chara, whose combined contributions have helped the Black and Gold find a place to stay: The top of the Eastern Conference.

Oh Captain, My Captain...

There's no denying the impact of Zdeno Chara's on-ice presence. The towering defenseman is currently in possession of a plus/minus rating of plus-17, racking up seven goals and 15 assists in the 40 games he's played thus far. 

If that weren't enough to solidify his role as the Boston Bruins' captain, the leadership he displays on ice rivals that of any player who wears the "C" on their sweater.

When the Buffalo Sabre Boris Valabik decided to push around the Bruins leading scorer Phil Kessel, it took no more than five seconds for Chara to come to the defense of his teammate.

No Longer A "One Zone" Player

Marc Savard is arguably the most underrated player in the National Hockey League.

Check the stats, Savard is currently tied for the best plus-minus in the league (with fellow Bruin Dennis Wideman). He's also sitting in forth place in points, behind heavy-hitters Evgeni Malkin, Alex Ovechkin, and Sidney Crosby.

Last year former Bruins general manager Harry Sinden called for the trade of Savard, saying:

"I'm not a fan of his. He's one of these guys who has batting average but no runs batted in. You know what I mean? He gets a lot of points. He's a good player, I'm just not a fan."

I don't think it comes as a surprise to many Bruins fans that Sinden has (once again) been proved very wrong.

"I'd rather look ugly making a save than look pretty being scored on."

We've all heard the story of Tim Thomas—the blue collar goaltender who could win the award for "most likely to be the subject of a Bruce Springsteen song." He's fought for what is rightly his, and proved the critics and cynics all wrong en route to becoming one of the elite goaltenders in professional hockey today.

Thomas provided the foundation on which GM Peter Chiarelli has built the Bruins of today.

Imagine knowing that if you let in three or more goals in an evening, you may not play the next game. That's the kind of pressure that has been put on Thomas, who has been sharing the netminding duties with Manny Fernandez. But time and time again, Thomas is the difference-maker.

41 Down, 41 To Go...

Tomorrow night the Bruins will closeout the first half of this NHL season with a game against the Ottawa Senators. The hub of hockey is buzzing over the potential of this team.

Fans have come to expect the Killer B's to give 100 percent ever night. And looking ahead, there's no reason to expect anything less.

The Trio of Chara, Savard, and Thomas may not be starting the All-Star game, but at this pace, they may be starting in a Stanley Cup Finals game. Which do you think matters more to them?