GAME DAY: at Boston
Jackets begin fathers trip in Beantown
WATCH: FOX Sports Ohio (HD) | LISTEN: 97.1 The Fan & BlueJackets.com
|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.