It's the same weapon that has seemingly been disarmed in Buffalo.
After struggling to produce offense from the blue line for much of the season, the Bruins' defensemen have been piling up points of late. Zdeno Chara has led the way with 6-5-11 totals in his last 10 games, including his first career hat trick against Carolina on Monday.
But while the captain has been the most prodigious scorer on the back end, the most important player in the transformation may be rookie Steven Kampfer. Since being recalled from Providence last month, Kampfer has been a sparkplug for the offense, providing much-needed speed, mobility and scoring from the blue line. Kampfer has four goals since his recall, which trails just Chara's 10 among Boston defensemen, and seven points in his last 12 games despite suffering a broken nose on an errant stick from Chara on Monday.
Kampfer's knack for picking the right times to jump up into the attack has proven contagious, with the rest of the defensemen also finding their offensive games of late. Dennis Seidenberg has 2-6-8 totals over the last 10 games, Adam McQuaid has three assists in the last four, Mark Stuart scored his first goal of the season in his first game back from a broken hand on Monday, then Johnny Boychuk finally scored his first of the year on Tuesday.
In all, Boston's blueliners have combined for eight goals in the last four games, including five in a sweep of a home-and-home series with Carolina.
"This is what we've been preaching all year, we've just been getting better at it," Bruins coach Claude Julien said after Monday's 7-0 win over the Hurricanes, which featured four goals and four assists from defensemen. "That's basically it. We've always encouraged our D's to go up the ice. One thing we've worked on is probably our neutral-zone regroups and attacking with some speed. So again, in doing that and in encouraging our D's to move the puck whenever the ice is available, it's kind of going hand-in-hand and giving us a better attack."
The Sabres, meanwhile, are trending in the opposite direction. Getting offense from their defense had been a strength for the Sabres, but the Buffalo blueliners have gone ice cold. Buffalo hasn't had any goals from a defenseman in the last four games.
Tyler Myers, who had 11 goals and 48 points en route to winning the Calder Trophy last season, has just two points in his last eight games and hasn't scored a goal in his last 24, a span dating back to Nov. 15. And he's far from alone.
Jordan Leopold, who leads the Sabres' defensemen with 10 goals, has none in the last four games, while ex-Bruin Steve Montador has none in the last six. The drought is even longer for another former Bruin, as Shaone Morrisonn has no goals in 31 games this year, Andrej Sekera last scored 32 games ago on Nov. 3 and Chris Butler has not found the back of the net in 21 games.
Overall, the defensemen from Buffalo and Boston have combined for exactly 82 points each, with the Sabres actually scoring 23 goals from the blue line to the Bruins' 22. But while opponents have shut down Buffalo's strikes from the blue line, the Bruins have finally found the range this month, and that's helped explain why Boston heads into Thursday's showdown atop the Northeast Division, while last year's champs in Buffalo sit eight points out of the final playoff spot.
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