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Let’s get reacquainted

by Staff Writer / Boston Bruins
That was a fairly entertaining All-Star Game last night -- especially with Zdeno Chara scoring two goals. His fine performance followed Phil Kessel’s hat trick in the YoungStars Game -- so it was a pretty productive break for the B’s.

That being said, however, I am glad the games count from here on in.

Let’s take a look at the Eastern Conference standings:

Place, Team, GP, Pts
1.* Buffalo, 49, 70
2.* New Jersey, 48, 63
3.* Atlanta, 50, 62
4. Montreal, 49, 59
5. Ottawa, 50, 58
6. Carolina, 50, 56
7. Tampa Bay, 50, 54
8. Pittsburgh, 46, 50
9. NY Rangers, 48, 50
10. Toronto, 49, 50
11. Boston, 46, 48
12. NY Islanders, 47, 48
13. Washington, 48, 47
14. Florida, 50, 46
15. Philadelphia, 47, 27
* = Division Leader

And the Northeast Division standings:

Northeast, GP, W - L - OTL, Pts
Buffalo, 49,33 - 12 - 4, 70
Montreal, 49, 27 - 17 - 5, 59
Ottawa, 50, 28 - 20 - 2, 58
Toronto, 49, 22 - 21 - 6, 50
Boston, 46, 22 - 20 - 4, 48

As you can see, the Bruins still have the advantage of games in hand.

Unfortunately, so does Pittsburgh -- one of the Bruins chief rivals.

Many pundits are saying that bubble teams are fighting for one of eight playoff spots -- I tend to believe that those teams are fighting for spots number four through eight (5 spots) as the Divisional leaders are most likely set -- Buffalo in particular would be hard for anyone to catch, and unless New Jersey and Atlanta falter, they seem to be in good shape in second and third.

So, beyond Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto, the B’s must endeavor to make up ground on the New York Rangers, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and Carolina while fending off the Islanders, Caps, Panthers and Flyers.

Yuck -- parity is scary.

Buuuuuuuuuuut, if the Bruins are able to win those games in hand, Boston looks to be able to fight for the middle playoff berths (four through six). If not, they will be relegated to fighting for their playoff lives and the seventh and eighth spot.

Just to give us a reminder, let’s take a look at the Bruins statistical leaders:

Player, G - A - Pts
Marc Savard, 18 - 44 - 62
Patrice Bergeron, 15 - 32 - 47
Glen Murray, 22 - 15 - 37
Zdeno Chara, 8 - 22 - 30
Brad Boyes,8 - 18 - 26

And goaltending:

Player, GP, W-L-OTL, GAA, SV%
Tim Thomas, 37, 19 - 13 - 3, 3.28, .901
Hannu Toivonen, 13, 3 - 6 - 1, 4.00, .881

Needless to say, would-be All-Star center Marc Savard and folk hero goalie Tim Thomas have been very important to the club.

Savard remains seventh in the league in scoring with 62 points and is the emotional catalyst in the locker room. Patrice Bergeron has played major minutes versus the top lines and centers of nearly every team, and in nearly every situation imaginable, so he has also been invaluable. Glen Murray’s 22 goals are not far behind the league leaders in that category and he has scored some really big goals for the Bruins throughout the first half.

Meanwhile, Thomas is not on the goaltending leader board for anything besides shots faced (9th at 1122) and saves (11th at 1011), but he remains the team’s emotional catalyst on the ice and has basically kept Boston in any game he has played. Besides a couple of burps, his puck stopping has been the difference between the B’s being an also ran and fighting for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

That being said -- he can’t do it alone. And the reemergence of Hannu Toivonen will certainly help Boston through the very tight schedule of the second half. Beyond that, it is obvious that the two friends will push each other in competition for playing time down the stretch. That should certainly elevate both goalie’s game.

While GM Peter Chiarelli is on record as to his looking for any additions that may help the club, you could easily say that if the Bruins were simply more consistent, they could make some serious hay in the standings department without changing a thing.
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