The Ties That Bind: The Bruins' Chemistry Equation Can't Be Beat

Wayne Whittaker@@WayneTwittakerCorrespondent IJanuary 15, 2009

Long before Mike Milbury's job was writing wry witticisms for forgettable Bruins' pregame shows, he was a hockey coach. Milbury, surprisingly enough, was the last coach to lead the Boston Bruins to the Stanley Cup Finals.

This was 19 years ago.

And at the core of that classic team was a tandem of goaltenders with contradicting styles and a unified goal. Reggie Lemelin and Andy Moog shared the blue crease for most of the regular season and portions of the playoffs in the 1989-1990 season.

The battling B's are in a similar situation today, with both Tim Thomas and Manny Fernandez playing at an All-Star caliber.

General manager Peter Chiarelli will have an interesting decision to make when this season ends, when both goaltenders enter free agency.

But it sure doesn't look like there will be a move before then. With his sights on the playoffs, Chiarelli has mentioned the importance of having two strong goalies down the long road towards Lord Stanley's Cup.

Goalie 1 and 1A (neither position designated to either player) have put up spectacular numbers thus far.

Tim Thomas ranks second in the NHL with a 2.04 goals against average, and a .935 save percentage. While Manny Fernandez posts 2.07 GAA and a .928 save percentage, good for forth in the NHL.

Trading either Thomas or Fernandez could be costly mistake for the Bruins. Even with Tuuka Rask waiting in the wings, the young Bruin can't compete with the 1-2 knockout goaltender combination this team has found.


Wait, We Have Injuries?

It may be hard to believe, but Eastern Conference leading Bruins are dealing with some pretty serious injury issues.

-Marco Sturm will miss the rest of the season after undergoing surgery last Tuesday.

-Patrice Bergeron has returned to practices, but there is still no timetable for his return to on-ice action.

-Aaron Ward left the game after a borderline hit from behind against the B's arch nemesis Montreal Canadiens Tuesday and is expected to miss at least the next two games.

-Andrew Ference continues to make progress after suffering from a broken leg in a previous meeting with the Habs. And although he is said to have had a "minor setback", the Bruins can expect him back shortly after the All-star break.

-Milan Lucic has been mysteriously absent from recent contests, with the team citing an "upper body injury". The twenty year old said he could be back within the next few games when questioned after yesterday's practice in Wilmington, MA.

-Phil Kessel was placed on Injured Reserve with mono. Chiarelli said he could miss two weeks to a month, but knowing Kessel's work ethic (he missed 12 games with cancer...) he'll be back as soon as he can.

Even with this seemingly endless list of setbacks, the Bruins have yet to stumble. The call-ups from Providence have fit into coach Claude Julien's system quite well.

6'3" power forward Byron Bitz has been impressive since taking the drive up to Causeway Street.

Old faithful, Vladimir Sobotka has filled his role quite well, with the exception of last week's game against Ottawa where he was a plus/minus of -2 in just under ten minutes of ice time. But don't expect that trend to continue for one of Boston's most reliable back-ups.


Looking Ahead

After extending their hold of the Northeast Division to 12 points with a win over the Canadiens Tuesday, the Bruins hit the road for a couple of games.

As for the rest of January, Ovechkin's Capitals will get a visit from the Bruins twice this month, split between Washington and the Garden.

But the highlight of this month's schedule actually carries over into February with a huge last weekend. The Bruins will face the New York Rangers on the 31st of January, and then travel up to Montreal for the next installment of this heated rivalry.

The first half of the season has come to a close. So far the Bruins have played as well as they ever have, and it's hard to imagine that changing over the next few months. Julien's boys will look to take momentum into the playoffs, as well as a President's Trophy.