The Boston Bruins are now 12 games into the 2008-2009 season. What have we learned about the team so far? Here’s my listing of five things I like about the team and five things they need to work on to become a better team.
1. The Boston Bruins Truly Exemplify the Word 'Team'
If any of you had the chance to watch the Bruins play the Stars on Nov. 1, you know what I’m talking about. Shawn Thornton came off the bench to go after Steve Ott after a cheap shot on Stephane Yelle. Marc Savard jumped on Sean Avery after Avery rammed Milan Lucic into the boards. In the years that Marc Savard’s been in the NHL, I’ve never seen him in a fight. He didn’t hesitate at all when it came to getting even with Avery. Outstanding team play.
2. Phil Kessel Is Finally Finding His Game
Kessel has become a three-zone player. His engine is constantly going no matter where he is on the ice. He’s got speed, he hustles back on defense, and he forechecks and harasses the other team in their own zone. He is finally showing the maturity and skills all Bruins fans were waiting for.
3. Tim Thomas Is a Big Time Goalie
Others in the league, notably Brodeur, Giguere, Luongo, Nabokov, and Osgood, get more attention. The “Tank” just brings it every game he plays. Without him on the swing through Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver, the Bs go 0-3, not 2-1.
4. Blake Wheeler Is the Real Deal
He still has some developing to do, but he’s shown he can score, he can feed his teammates, and he can play the body and control the puck.
5. Patrice Bergeron Is Playing as If Last Year Never Happened
Many fans were worried that Bergeron would come back without the same fire and grit he had before. They were right. He came back with more fire and grit than he had before. He hasn’t completely found his scoring touch, but he’s getting back to where he was before his concussion. Just watch the highlight of him beating Turco from behind the net.
1. The Penalty Kill
Can it get any worse? Actually, it can, but things have been looking better. Including the Dallas game, opponents have gone 2-for-16 against the Bruins in their last four games. It’s an improvement, but it has to keep getting better for the Bruins to be a real threat.
2. Manny Fernandez Is Not Yet the Kind of Goalie He Was in Minnesota
I thought last year that the trade for Manny was one the Bs had to make. I still think it was a good trade. He’s recovering from knee surgery, and he still isn’t back to where the Bruins need him to be. With Thomas playing out of his mind, Manny may not get the chance to play as much as he’d like to this year.
3. Michael Ryder Has Got to Start Scoring More
When you invest $12 million for a right wing sniper, you’ve got to get at least 25-30 goals from that player. So far he’s got two goals. He’s only taking about three shots per game. He’s got to be more of a presence with the first line and he’s got to take advantage of his time on the power play. The biggest thing he’s got going for him right now is that he’s plus-7, tied for the team lead so far.
4. Marco Sturm Has Got to Start Scoring More
He doesn’t make as much as Ryder, but he’s definitely expected to put 25-30 goals in the net this year. He seemed to find a groove against Dallas, scoring two goals. More is expected of him to be successful.
5. Zdeno Chara Is Not Playing His Normal Type of Game
So far, he’s got three assists and is minus-1. Watching him the past few games, it seems as if he’s hesitant to unload that slap shot of his. His offseason surgery may have something to do with that.
I’ve been lucky to watch most of the Bruins games so far this year. They seemed to find their game at home against Pittsburgh and on the road against Buffalo, even though they lost both games in shootouts. The game at home against Toronto was embarrassing, to say the least. Then they got back to what wins them games, shutting out Vancouver and Edmonton before losing to Calgary.
It’s easy to see the differences between this year’s team and last year’s team. Both teams play with an amount of heart and emotion and commitment to give their best at all times. However, this team, with Bergeron back, Kessel playing like he is, Thomas standing on his head in the net, and young guys like Wheeler developing and playing well, is much more talented than last year’s. If they can continue to improve and play as a team, there’s no telling how far they can go.