Bruins Win Fourth Straight Game on the Road, Rask and Marchand Continue to Step Up

Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask makes a save against Casey Cizikas (2/26/13)

Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask makes a save against Casey Cizikas.  It was one of 36 saves in the game.

Last night the Bruins continued their domination of both the New York Islanders and the Eastern Conference.  With a 4-1 win, they finished their five game road trip with four straight wins.  They’re having their best start to a season in 36 years with a 12-2-2 record (and 8-1-1 on the road)!  They also showed that they still own the Islanders, with a record of 17-4-1 in past 22 games against them.  What’s even better, though, is that this great start has been made possible by the efforts of the entire team.  Unlike the Islanders, who have very strong first line while the rest of them are weak, the Bruins have a team full of solid producers.

However, while the whole team has made contributions, I would like to point out the key players.  The first, and probably the biggest question in everybody’s mind is Tuukka Rask.  With superstar goalie Tim Thomas out of the picture, the fans wondered if Rask would be able to step up and be a solid #1.  Well, as I’ve been saying, he has, he is, and he will.  Last night he gave a stellar performance with a 0.973 Save Percentage and a season-high 36 saves (on 37 shots), including five saves on all five shots during Islanders power plays.. and some of those save were truly amazing and even unexpected.  In the last two games, he has made a whopping 70 saves on 72 shots (including 12 of 12 during penalty kills).  In the last four games, he has a 4-0-0 record with a 1.50 GAA and .950 Save Percentage.  In his last seven games, he has a 6-0-1 record, having not allowed more than two goals per game.  He currently leads the league for goalies with 10 wins.  I think it’s safe to say he is a #1 goalie and we can feel comfortable with him in net!

The other player I’d like to give some praise to is Brad Marchand, and he deserves every bit of it.  When he first joined the Bruins two years ago, he was mainly an instigator, getting under the opponents’ skin and taking them out of their element.  While this is still important, and he still does it (to a lesser extent), he has become so much more this season.  I think we can now safely say he is one of the elite offensive players.  It looks like he spent some time during the off-season working on his shot because he definitely now has what Jack Edwards called a “scorer’s release.”  In a split second he can put a shot on net, and not just a shot in the dark, but a precise shot, aiming for the area of the net with the highest chance to score.  Three games ago, when the Bruins played the Tampa Bay Lightning, he scored a goal and had only one less goal on the season than Steven Stamkos, who is the league leader and has been the past few years.  He scored again in last night’s game and now has 10 goals in the 16 games the Bruins have played so far this season.. and he actually missed one of those games.  I think it says something that he leads the team, even with so many capable scorers, including Tyler Seguin, who is highly skilled and was expected to be the team’s goal leader from the moment we got him two years ago.

If he continued at this pace he would score 30 goals in this shortened 48 game season.. and in a full 82 game season, he would score a whopping 51 goals!!  That’s up there with Steven Stamkos and Evgeni Malkin, and even beyond what Marian Gaborik, Alex Ovechkin, Daniel Sedin, Sidney Crosby and other league leaders have scored in the last few years.  It’s also almost about 2.5 times the number of goals he scored in the last two years.  While this is just a projection based on his current pace, it’s certainly feasible.  He is currently tied for fifth in the league in goals with the likes of Patrick Kane and other elite scorers, only four behind the leader.  He knows how to score and is fourth in shooting percentage at 34.5%.. but if you take out the top two, who have only taken 2 and 3 shots, he would be second!  He is also tied for second in shot-handed goals with one (the leader has two) and is tied for second in game-winning goals with three (the leader has four).  He’s currently riding a four game point streak with three goals and two assists in that span.  I’m amazed and highly optimistic about his future, as all Bruins fans should be.

There are a few other key contributors who I’d like to mention.  First, there’s Tyler Seguin, who is tied for second in the league for +/- rating with a +13 (only one behind the leader).  While it seems playing in Switzerland during the NHL lockout has affected him, he seems to be getting back to where he should be in terms of production.

There’s also defenseman Zdeno Chara who had been solid as usual, but surprised everyone in the game before last with a demonstration of superb offensive skill.  When the Bruins where in Florida playing the Panthers, he rushed into the offensive zone along with the rest of the team.  He then turned backwards to get a pass that was a little behind him and rotated back around, essentially doing a 360 around a Panthers defenseman.  He then stick handled around another defenseman and quickly took a backhand shot that perfectly went through the gap above the goalie’s shoulder into the top corner of the net for a goal.  That’s not just amazing for a big man or a defenseman, but for a player in any position.  (see the video below)

Lastly, there’s Patrice Bergeron, who I can’t say enough about.  He is not only a good scorer, but is consistently a great playmaker, one of if not the best defensive forward in the league, and one of the top faceoff winners.  He is currently tied for seventh in +/- rating with a +11.  He is also the main reason why the Bruins lead the league in faceoff win percentage (57%), having won 61.7% himself.

On a side-note, there were a few things worth highlighting from the game before last against he Florida Panthers.  First, there was the blown call by the refs when Milan Lucic got cross-checked/boarded.  The Panthers’ Mike Weaver came from behind with Lucic unaware and cross-checked him into the boards.. and no call!  WTF refs?!?!  That’s an extremely dangerous hit and there’s a reason that two types of penalties could’ve applies to it.  At least it was great to see Lucic get right up and react himself by pushing Weaver down and pounding him a few times.  Then when the stupid refs called a penalty on Lucic, I also like that he yelled at them.  Even when he was in the penalty box he kept yelling.  I don’t care that referee Chris Lee then called a 10 minute misconduct on him like cops who love their power too much and give tickets for anything.. even when there is no real reason.  Some would say he should’ve kept his mouth shut but I think he did the right thing yelling at the refs.  They deserved and needed a yelling at.  It’s bad enough that players these days don’t respect each other anymore and give these dangerous hits (Matt Cooke is the prime example), but now the refs are going to look the other way and allow it?  They have every right to be yelled at.  Oh and hey Chris Lee, suck my ass!  You’re certainly good at it.

On the Panthers game, I also want to give props to Tuukka Rask once again.  He made 34 saves on 35 shots!  So far this season our defense has helped him out a lot by keeping opponents to usually only about 25 shots that he needs to make saves on.  Still, it’s great to know that when they don’t perform that well, he can still stop the extra shots.

Lastly I absolutely have to mention that in the Panthers game, the Bruins were 100% on the power play!  Well, it was only one for one, but still, Bruins fans know that their power play has been struggling for years.  So this was a good sign.  Furthermore, after that game, they had scored on four of their last firve power plays!  Hopefully that trend continues!

With so much production from the whole team, the Bruins are one of the most solid teams in the league right now.  They are the best in at least the Eastern Conference.  While they are one point behind the conference leading Montreal Canadiens, they’ve played three fewer games (and four fewer than some other teams).  We’re tied for third in wins with 12 (and points with 26), but have between one and four games in hand on the teams above us.  So if we had played as many games as everyone one else, it’s likely that we would lead the league in all of these stats.  We’re also second in terms of least regulation losses with only two (the leader has none).  Another amazing stat is that we lead the league in penalty kill percentage at a whopping 95.1%, and what’s more, we’ve killed 24 consecutive penalties!  We’re tied for first in winning percentage when scoring first, as well as winning percentage when leading after one period, both at 100%.

The future looks very promising for the Bruins and fans should feel really good about them.  The true test is what’s ahead, though, as they will have 34 games in 62 days and 17 in March alone.  But if that worries you, just look back at all of the stats I’ve mentioned and realize that even if they drop off, we’ll still be in a great position for the playoffs.  I just can’t get enough of this team right now and I’m totally psyched for the rest of this season!

2/24/13: Bruins at Panthers - Final Score (4-1 Bruins)

Here’s a video of Zdeno Chara’s amazing goal against the Panthers:

Here’s a video of the blown call on Milan Lucic getting boarded:

Here’s a video recap of the 2/24 game against the Panthers:

– – –

2/24/13: Bruins at Islanders - Final Score (4-1 Bruins)

Here’s a video of Brad Marchand’s 10th goal of the season:

Here’s a video of the great play leading to David Krejci’s goal:

Here’s a video recap of the 2/26 game against the Islanders:

Thanks for reading,
Matt

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About bost0nfire

Here in Boston, our pro sports teams won seven championships in a decade, with all teams accounted for. That means the Bruins, Celtics, Red Sox, and yes the New England Patriots.. they did play in Boston at one time after all.. and they're still our team. So, I declare Boston to be the City of Champions. ... Check us out on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/b0stonwins?ref=hl ... Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/BostonWins_Blog ... **** READER DISCRETION ADVISED: Adult Language may be used.
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