|The Boston Bruins were never keen on using the “Stanley Cup hangover” excuse for their poor start to this season. Coming off one of the most exciting Cup Finals in years – going the full seven games with the Vancouver Canucks after going down 2-0 in the series – the opening of 2011-12 figured to be a challenge for head coach Claude Julien’s squad. They went 3-6-1 in their first 10 games and closed the month of October with a 4-5-1 record, causing the locals to get slightly restless even with another championship banner in the rafters of TD Garden. |
General manager Peter Chiarelli elected to let his club steady itself, and he is being rewarded. The Bruins have taken advantage of a home-heavy schedule in November, and after defeating the New Jersey Devils 4-3 on Tuesday night, have won six straight games and are just four points out of the Northeast Division lead. The most encouraging sign for the hard-working Bruins is that they’ve found another level offensively since the dawn of November. They have scored an astounding 34 goals in their last six games, including a 7-0 win over the high-flying Toronto Maple Leafs on Nov. 5 at Air Canada Centre.
Without a doubt, the strength of the Bruins is their depth. They relied heavily on all four lines during their playoff run a year ago, and are reaping the benefits of being patient with Tyler Seguin. The No. 2 overall pick behind Taylor Hall in 2010, Seguin was not pushed into a prominent role right off the bat in Boston, primarily due to veterans playing well higher in the lineup. Julien wanted to ease him into the NHL, and Seguin responded with a strong postseason and a torrid start to this season. The 19-year-old leads the Bruins in goals (11) and scoring (20 points) through 16 games.
Up front, Boston sports one of the strongest forward groups in the Northeast. Patrice Bergeron, Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton and second-year winger Brad Marchand carry the offensive load for the Bruins, who have five players with at least 13 points already. Chiarelli and Julien have assembled a sturdy bottom-six group, led by Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley – two players that also contributed to the offense last year for Boston. Shawn Thornton is known as one of the league’s toughest customers, forming a formidable duo with Gregory Campbell on the fourth line.
Zdeno Chara headlines the back end for Boston, which is both mobile and physical. Johnny Boychuck emerged as a solid NHL player a year ago and the Bruins are getting a lot of mileage and minutes from veteran Dennis Seidenberg. Offseason trade pick-up Joe Corvo has eight assists so far, and the Bruins also expect Andrew Ference to be recovered from an injury fairly soon.
| || || |
|Prospal (5) ||Seguin (11) |
|Prospal (9) ||Chara (12) |
|Prospal (14) ||Seguin (20) |
|Dorsett (45) ||Marchand (35) |
|MacKenzie (+4) ||Seguin (+15) |
|Mason (3-12-1) |
|Thomas (7-4-0) |
|Mason (3.63) ||Thomas (2.09) |
|Mason (.875) ||Thomas (.927) || |
|• The Bruins conclude their five-game home stand tonight (4-0-0 thus far) and are looking to sweep a home stand of five-or-more games for the first time since going 5-0-0 from Nov. 29-Dec. 11, 1986. This is the final game of a season-opening stretch in which they have played 13 of their first 17 games on home ice. |
• Columbus will look to pick up its first road win of the season tonight against the Bruins. The club is 0-7-0 away from Nationwide Arena to open the season, the deepest the club has gone into the season without a road win since 2003-04 (15 games).
• Tonight marks the first of two meetings overall and lone meeting at TD Garden this season between the Blue Jackets and Bruins. Columbus is 5-4-1 all-time against Boston, including a 3-2-1 mark at TD Garden. The Jackets won the last meeting in Boston 3-2 on Jan. 21, 2010.
•Mark Letestu, acquired from Pittsburgh in exchange for a fourth round pick in the 2012 Entry Draft on Nov. 8, scored a goal in his debut with the club on Nov. 10 vs. Chicago and was +2 on Nov. 12 vs. Winnipeg. He has goals in two of his three games with the club after scoring his second Tuesday against Minnesota.
• Nikita Nikitin, acquired from St. Louis in exchange for Kris Russell on Nov. 11, picked up an assist on Ryan Johansen’s game-winning goal, logged a career-high 24:57 of ice time, had two hits, two blocked shots and was +1 in his CBJ debut vs. Winnipeg on Nov. 12. He added his second helper of the season Tuesday against Minnesota and logged 24:55 of ice time.
LW - #63
• The early consensus was that Marchand could play a bottom-six role on a good team and occasionally chip in offensively. He has turned those expectations upside down, scoring 21 goals last year in the regular season and 11 goals in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
• Fun fact about Marchand? He scored the NHL's first goal of the 2011-12 season, and also scored the final goal of the 2010-11 campaign with an empty-net tally on June 15, 2011 in game seven of the Stanley Cup Final in Vancouver.
LW Kristian Huselius (upper body); indefinitely
D Radek Martinek (concussion); indefinitely