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Bruins invested themselves in overcoming poor start

by Dan Rosen / NHL.com
BOSTON -- Tim Thomas sees similarities between his path to NHL stardom and the Bruins' drastic turnaround from a team in disarray through October to one that is surging in November.

It's about a mentality, one he had to develop 10 years ago and the Bruins had to copy three weeks ago.

"I didn't get my NHL break and chance until I had totally given up on it," Thomas told NHL.com Thursday morning at TD Garden. "A lot of things in life happen to turn out that way. I don't want to say in any way that we just gave up; it just came. It wasn't something that we manufactured."

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Thomas said nobody authored a rah-rah speech at any point in October, when the Bruins were 3-7-0 and last in the Eastern Conference. In fact, he can't pinpoint anything tangible that has led Boston to its 6-0 record, including a 34-13 goal-differential, in November.

"It wasn't, 'We're going to turn it around today, finally,' " the Bruins goalie said."We tried that for four games and it didn't work. We just had to let it come. A watched pot never boils."

Then don't look now, because the Bruins are scorching hot and bubbling over as they prepare for Thursday night's game against Columbus.

The reason for their success is once again about a mentality, one that you can't win without.

"The word that pops into my head is invested," Thomas said. "We're mentally invested. We're physically invested. We're emotionally invested."

The investment is paying off.

For example, the Bruins are finding each other with tape-to-tape passes, something that didn't happen in October, when they scored only 21 goals in 10 games and had a power play that was just 5-for-39.

They lost four one-goal games last month, but basically had no chance of getting that extra goal or two because they just weren't invested enough to make it happen.

"I thought our whole game was at a slower pace," coach Claude Julien said. "It was tough to make tape-to-tape passes early on. Mentally we just couldn't get it going, and that was the biggest challenge. Everybody tested well in training camp and everybody was in great shape, so there were no issues as far as conditioning. It was more of a mental thing."

Not everybody looks at the Cup run last year and the summer with Stanley as the excuse for why October was such a bad month. Boston tough guy Shawn Thornton, who waited until the seventh game to have his first fight, another sign of how detached this Bruins team was, said the team simply wasn't playing well.

"Whether that has something to do with June or not I haven't got a clue," he said. "I know that we just weren't playing good enough and in the last couple of weeks we're back to doing the things that made us successful."

One of those things is getting the puck out of their own end, which has resulted in fewer shots against (29.7 per game in October vs. 26.6 in November), and in a much smoother transition game. It has led to more time with the puck in the offensive zone.

"It's a snowball effect," Chris Kelly told NHL.com. "They all go hand-in-hand. And especially this month we have played the game the way we're capable of playing it, and that's resulted in 34 goals in six games."
"The word that pops into my head is invested.  We're mentally invested. We're physically invested. We're emotionally invested." -- Tim Thomas
The Bruins are even averaging slightly less shots on goal per game (33.4 in October vs. 33.0 in November), but they've been far more dangerous with more players contributing.

Fourteen players have combined for 34 goals in November as opposed to 10 for 21 goals last month. Thornton, Benoit Pouliot, Johnny Boychuk, Gregory Campbell and Jordan Caron have combined for seven goals this month after getting blanked last month.

Then there are the stars, such as Tyler Seguin, who already has seven goals in November after scoring four in October. Brad Marchand has four goals this month after he scored only two last month. Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton, David Krejci and Kelly have also scored more through six games this month as opposed to 10 last month.

Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron have combined for 15 assists during the six-game winning streak. Joe Corvo has four assists in the last four games after dishing out only three in the first 12 games. Rich Peverley has six points in November, and he missed two of the games.

"We're a proud group here, a proud team and no one wanted to be embarrassed," Kelly said. "No one wants to play at home and lose back-to-back games or how many games we lost at home and have fans disappointed, questioning your abilities and questioning if last year was a fluke. Collectively as a group, we needed to be better."

They have been, but the Bruins still woke up Thursday knowing they were last in the Northeast Division and 11th in the Eastern Conference. Sure, they have games in hand on every team ahead of them except the Rangers and Capitals, but the standings offer the proof that they are not where they need to be just yet.

"We can't blow it up and think that we're good," Thornton said. "We're not even in a playoff position yet."

"The smaller picture has always served us better, but at the same time you look (at the standings)," added Julien. "We have to keep plugging our way through and work our way up, get ourselves in a position to where we can stay in that top-eight group. We're not there now, so there is no reason for us to get comfortable or confident."

They should as long as they stay invested in 2011-12.

"It was a short summer, a lot of Stanley Cup celebrations, so on and so forth," Julien said. "We came back and thought we were ready for the season, and realized quickly that no, we weren't. We had to get over that hurdle, and once we got over it we started seeing the old Bruins again."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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