Most fans of the Boston Bruins do not remember what they were doing on March 8, 2010. Remind them that it was the day after Pittsburgh Penguin Matt Cooke ended the season of Boston's Marc Savard, and they will not hide the disgust and anger they harbor towards Cooke especially since Savard will miss the remainder of the 2010-2011 season after incurring his second concussion in eleven months. Cooke had nothing to do with this second head injury, but people in Boston believe it was Cooke's check that facilitated Savard's health issues.
While the Boston faithful are quick to express their opinions of Mr. Cooke, they have been just as quick to voice their frustration with the lack of "toughness" from the Bruins players. The Boston Bruins were regarded as a soft team. One that could be pushed around even in their own building. The folks who called the sports talk radio programs wondered what had happened to their big, bad Bruins and worse, they questioned if the team they were watching really was a team in every sense of the word. Boston players and management argued to the contrary to try to convince Bruins Nation that they were a group who would stand up for each other although it was hard for those who bought the tickets to see that.
After the Great Playoff Collapse of 2010 versus Philadelphia, most of New England wondered if its team would regain the grit and aggressiveness that defined Boston Bruin hockey. It appeared that "old time, Eddie Shore hockey" was dead and gone.
The organization had some decisions to make. Rumors existed throughout the summer that Marc Savard and goaltender Tim Thomas were being shopped for trade. Thomas had had a sub par season and an injured hip and it was unknown whether Savard was going to be the player he was before incurring the concussion. Fans clamored for change. General manager Peter Chiarelli went to work and added forwards Nathan Horton and Gregory Campbell from the Florida Panthers. The GM drafted highly touted Ontario Hockey League phenom Tyler Seguin and fans began to take notice that the franchise was indeed making changes but as the adage goes, "the proof is in the pudding" and everyone wanted to see how the 2010-2011 edition would differ from the 2009-2010 team.
Training camp began and to the surprise of many, Savard and Thomas were still members of the club. Seguin continued to bring optimism by starting the season on the NHL roster while other young players such as Brad Marchand and Jordan Caron, cracked the lineup and brought the enthusiasm that rookies bring to the rink day in and day out. The veterans committed themselves to doing whatever it takes to make the fans forget the playoff loss to Philadelphia and when opening night arrived against the Phoenix Coyotes in the Czech Republic, the Bruins were ready to show the hockey world this was a different team, a more determined team, one that would take that extra step to ensure success. This was a hungry group of hockey players and it showed from the opening face off against the Coyotes.
As the 2010-2011 season has progressed, the group of players who wear the black and gold have become a team. The general consensus is that the defining moment came on November 6, 2010, when defenseman Andrew Ference objected to the hard check delivered on teammate Mark Recchi by St.Louis Blues forward David Backes and dropped the gloves with Backes. This action taken by Ference was a welcomed sight to Bruins fans and the bandwagon began to fill up again. All of a sudden, "toughness" had returned to Boston.
Since that night, Bruins players have been jumping in to help teammates or to make statements to their opponents on a routine basis. The most recent occurrences came in games against the Dallas Stars and Montreal Canadiens.
Boston leads the National Hockey League in fighting majors this season with fifty-four. This, of course, will not be the only factor that could lead the Bruins to the Stanley Cup Championship, but it has come as a welcome addition to the skill sets each member of the club brings to the table. Boston has skilled players in Bergeron, Krejci, Seguin, Horton, Recchi, and rookie Steven Kampfer. The organization has grinders in the likes of Marchand, Milan Lucic, Campbell, and Shawn Thornton. On the blue line, Boston is led by Dennis Seidenberg, and Ference, while Johnny Boychuk, Adam McQuaid, and Mark Stuart provide muscle and of course, captain Zdeno Chara is an All Star. The goaltending is as solid as it has been in quite some time with All Star Tim Thomas having a career year. Thomas is the leading candidate for the Vezina and Hart Trophies. Back up netminder, Tuukka Rask, is not enjoying the success he did last season but he can win on any given night.
The culture of the organization has changed and the message has been sent that this club will not back down from anyone. That change has brought a maturity and new found hunger. Management is looking to add a player, or players, who can match the club's intensity and drive for a Stanley Cup. When that happens, all of the pieces will be in place and the fans will expect nothing less than their Bruins participating in the 2011 Stanley Cup parade.